This was one of those Sunday shows where a lot of people showed up and everybody seemed to be very into all of the artists on the bill, from the opening set from The Don'ts and Be Carefuls all the way to the end, through Nurses. The headliners took the stage with Aaron Chapman meekly saying, "We're Nurses. Thank you for coming," and then starting off with the dreamlike, kaleidoscopic layers of sound heard on "Dancing Grass." The outfit performed most of its latest record, Dracula, along with a couple of songs from Apple's Acre at the very end.
John Bowers and James Mitchell seemed to give each song a solid coherence with the rhythms, while Bowers triggered sampled keyboard lines at the appropriate moments. Looking often to Bowers for cues in timing, Chapman cradled his guitar high against his body during interludes when he wasn't singing, and he would also crouch down as though some force not fully in his conscious control were moving through him.
There weren't any distracting visuals, and the subtly panoramic sound of the band's songs was immediately engaging on its own and complemented Chapman's unique presence as a frontman. He looked like he could be the son of Greg Sage, with a fragile but engaging presence. Over the course of the set, Chapman looked both surprised and pleased when the audience cheered enthusiastically after every song.
At least two guys in the crowd had recently moved here from Louisiana and were clearly excited they were getting the chance to see Nurses in a smaller club. The whole place seemed to feel the same way. When the set ended, everyone wanted Nurses to play another song, and the guys obliged, treating us to the charmingly amusing "Technicolor."
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Just before Nurses, The Don'ts And Be Carefuls offered up a set that served as a dance party from beginning to end. Opening with "The Still Favorites," The Don'ts clearly had some fans in the audience. With more than a handful of people singing along, the band fed on that energy and turned in a show worthy of the adulation.
Drummer Luke Hunter James-Erickson spent the entire show not only providing the perfect texture, the perfect accents and a steady beat, but he showed that he is one of the most sonically versatile drummers around. Between percussive textures and keeping the rhythm flowing alongside Cody Witsken's melodic bass lines, it was just interesting watching and listening to James-Erickson change the moods with his shift in focus on the kit around him.
Over the course of eight songs, The Don'ts performed a bit from their 2009 EP, Risk Assessment, but mostly the material came from 2011's Sun Hits. Halfway through the set, Casey Banker introduced a new number that featured Witsken playing the bass parts on a keypad device. Between that and Paul Banker's moody keyboard work and Banker's particular singing for the song, at first the song sounded like M83 with better percussion, but then later recalled New Order's "Thieves Like Us" with its use of space, a simple melody but layers of beautiful sounds. The band ended its set ended with "You've Been Warned."
The whole show started with an opening set from Erika Ryann with just her and an Ibanez hollow body guitar. Her guitar tones were bright but not piercing, like early-era Galaxie 500, and her vocal style sounded a bit like late-career Chrissie Hynde and Jeff Buckley without the ghostly moods. Threads of Jeff Fahey influence, direct or otherwise, could also be heard in her intricate but spare guitar work. The songs were filled with feeling of loss and longing, but the sense of resignation kept it from tipping over into self-pity.
She garnered a few laughs when she said one of her songs was called "I Never Want to Be Sober Again," and then followed that up with a song she said was about someone who is very important to her life called "Fuck the Dishes." At times bittersweet, Ryann's set conjured images of an artist finding a box of postcards and taking cues from the images and words to create a set list on the spot. While the music was obviously well-practiced, it also felt very organic and off the cuff.
Personal Bias: I think Nurses put out one of the best covertly experimental pop albums of 2011 with Dracula.
Random Detail: Ran into Gregg Ziemba of Rubedo and Alan Andrews of The Photo Atlas at the show.
By the Way: You actually can have a well-attended show on a Sunday.
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