I’m writing this while trying to wind down from Pygmalion ’06, so excuse the possible overtones of whininess, bitchiness and other emotions that might seep out of the ink. That said … wow, Champaign-Urbana. What an absolutely great weekend of music, right here in our little town. The only sad part about being a person in charge of a festival is that you don’t really get to see all of the sets that you want to. Well, that, and also that sometimes you end up being called an asshole by a band that apparently can’t read e-mail properly. Yeah, that was fun.
My weekend highlights: Murder By Death, with the world’s rocking-est cello player; playing percussion with Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s along with Josh Lucas (of the Tractor Kings), who took an errant tambourine to the penis; seeing Salaryman rock the fuck out; finding out that people had come from all over the U.S., including scenic New Jersey; Pulsar47 officially claiming the title of “Best CU Indie-Instrumental-Experimental Band-see them if you get a chance; secret shows at Cafe Paradiso that everyone knew about; the drunk girl who pulled a monitor off of the stage and onto herself during Lorenzo Goetz’s set – please come to more shows and act stupid; the troublemaker I saw at the Blind Pig who was being pinned by four guys while waiting for the cops – hey man, it’s not so convincing when you tell people you’re going to kick their asses while your face is pressed into the pavement; hearing that Headlights killed at their show – congrats, guys; and of course, being told that I’m an asshole by a rude and apparently illiterate band.
Getting on to shows that you can actually still see, there’s a show tonight (Sept. 28) at the Courtyard Cafe featuring Harvey Danger. No, seriously, Harvey Danger is playing. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, they’re the band that did “Flagpole Sitta.” No, they didn’t fall off the planet after that. They continued to tour, write and record. And you know what? They put out a fantastic album in 2005. Somehow, the cover is only $5, and showtime is 8 p.m., meaning there’s plenty of time after to go out. Yes, it sucks that the Courtyard has no alcohol, and yes, parking is a bitch, but the show will be worth it.
If you’re looking for a show that is more on the quiet (and cheap) side, head over to the Aroma Cafe to catch the return of Joni Laurence, with Angie Heaton. The show starts at 8 p.m., and is free. But make sure to throw a couple bucks in the tip jar, cheap-ass. After that you could head over to Cowboy Monkey to show your own singing chops off. Just sign up for Live Karaoke Band and get onstage-the band will take it from there (10 p.m., $5).
Friday night head to the Illini Union again to catch elsinore and Lorenzo Goetz, with ostinato (Charlottesville, VA) as a part of “Rock the Vote.” Instead of the Courtyard stage, this show will take place in the I-Rooms, located right behind the Courtyard stage. I hear free stuff might be given away. The show starts at 9 p.m., and is apparently some sort of battle of the bands, which I’m assuming involves some sort of brawl, which will be won on the tank-topped shoulders of Lorenzo Goetz bassist Eric Fisher. That guy can throw down.
Also on Friday, in a venue that allows you to drink and smoke, is the Heavy Trash/Sadies show at Cowboy Monkey. The show was originally an early show at Highdive, but has been moved and pushed back to 10 p.m. Tickets are $10. Heavy Trash features Jon Spencer (of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, which you’d imagine he was a pretty big part of).
Sunday night, Cowboy Monkey hosts Bailey, 21 Knots, Watery Domestic, and Bastian (9:30 p.m., $TBA, which I think is Aramaic). Bailey is one of my favorite local acts, managing to fuse great songwriting and acoustic guitar with electronic beats and weird sounds. The new lineup of Watery Domestic will play an acoustic set.
Looking ahead to next week, Yonder Mountain String Band will unleash two nights of music upon Campustown at the Canopy Club on Tuesday and Wednesday, with tickets at $20. This one would be worth calling mom and dad and telling them that you’ve already blown your money for the semester on unexpected beer and Gumby’s costs. Tell them that this time it’s reeeeeeeaaaaally important. Go and marvel at the heavy smells of patchouli, veggie burritos and pot that will cover the entire block and hopefully help mask the lingering aroma of dirty indie musicians and hipsters that sweated through their vintage t-shirts while dancing to Of Montreal at Pygmalion.
Band of the week: Well, okay, it’s not a band. Caleb Engstrom managed to slay me on Saturday at his secret Paradiso show with David Bazan. In the middle of a hectic weekend, after very little sleep, I wasn’t planning on having a musical revelation. It’s a bit hard to explain just how good the guy is, but that day he put on a flawless performance. His songwriting is top-notch, and he knows exactly how to use his voice. His set equaled for sure, and perhaps topped, the best of the other sets that I was able to catch over the weekend. Do yourself a favor and check out myspace.com/calebengstrom. Oh, and David Bazan was also extraordinary.
Mike Ingram is a musician and booking agent. He lives in Champaign and loves the fall. He says you should go to Curtis Orchard as soon as possible. He apologizes to anyone he might have been short with last weekend, or to anyone that he didn’t do the stop-and-chat with when running between venues. He has been eating a lot of dumplings from the Esquire lately. You can reach him to discuss those marvelous little treats at email@example.com.