Tuesday, November 08, 2011

throwing sparks into a starless sky

The least interesting thing you can ask me is how many times I've seen a band or a musician. I stopped counting a long time ago, but I also know numbers don't tell the whole story. Though this blog makes my obsessions abundantly clear, there are certain bands I love that will never show up in these posts, while others are woefully underrepresented. It's always a kind of a homecoming to write about the latter group, even if it means I've been an idiot to ignore them for as long I have. Crooked Fingers' show at the Mercury Lounge once more proved me a fool, a lesson for which I'm grateful.

Crooked Fingers, Mercury Lounge, November 4, 2011: Good lord, has it been six years since I last saw Crooked Fingers? I've liked the band ever since I first saw them (actually, Eric Bachmann solo) opening for Wilco in 2002, and I've attended a decent number of their shows since then. Of course, the Archers of Loaf reunion took some time, but I have to admit I've fallen behind on the band's recent work. Thus, I'm far from the best authority to report on this show -- but I'm going to do it anyway.

Crooked Fingers, Mercury Lounge, 11-04-11

As a wayward fan, I appreciated the old stuff more and was happy to hear the inclusion of such songs as "Crowned in Chrome" and "New Drink for the Old Drunk." Eric shot down a request for "Sweet Maria" on account of all the cussing, but "Angelina" was a worthy substitution. An oldie furnished one of the loveliest moments of the night: a duet between Eric and singer/multi-instrumentalist Liz Durrett on "Sleep All Summer." She stepped up to the mic several other times during the show, lending her Beth Orton-like vocals to fresh and classic tracks, even if it led Eric to comment that they shouldn't let him sing while Liz is around.

Since I can't tell you which new titles they played, I'll instead comment on more obvious elements, such as the fact that this four-piece formation was, in a word, rocking. As soon as the bass kicked in, I immediately thought this may have been the fullest sound I've heard from the band, though I reserve the right to change my mind upon the event of my next Crooked Fingers gig. Right or wrong, I think of Crooked Fingers as a folk/songwriter outfit, but with the addition of two keyboards, they pulled off at least a couple of big, pop-sounding songs.

I'm absolutely positive I'll see Crooked Fingers again soon enough -- at least, before another six years have passed. But if this turns out to be their last concert appearance I catch, I won't be disappointed. For one thing, this intimate venue, a devoted crowd, and an amenable band made for a perfect combination. My favorite exchange of banter for the night started when a guy in the crowd yelled out that he loved the old stuff. A woman, apparently on her own accord, shot back that the new stuff is good too. Eric, meanwhile, heard it as something else altogether, jokingly taking the artist's view that none of it was good enough.

Crooked Fingers, Mercury Lounge, 11-04-11

Chatter aside, it came back to the tunes, which is my preference anyway. For the encore, Eric and Liz returned to the stage for "Your Control" unplugged, a musician trick I eat up every time. The full band then closed out with "Typhoon," a song as epic as its title suggests. Liz even broke a string while playing, if that gives you an idea of its intensity.

See also:
» you may be sweet talking, daddy


kate said...

Had the chance to catch a show a night or two later in Cambridge and it was amazing. I've managed to see Mr. Bachmann perform at least twice a year over the last fifteen years and it never gets old. This is my first year missing the Mercury Lounge performance and I'm kicking myself for it.

pneyu said...

Hi Kate, thanks for reading! I'm kicking myself for being so negligent of Crooked Fingers over the last several years. Depending on how the Thanksgiving prep goes, I'm going to try to hit their show back here in SF later this month. And agreed -- their gigs are amazing!