Monday, May 3, 2010

Show Review: Murder By Death, Ha Ha Tonka, Linfinity

May 1, 2010

Saturday I was at the Murder By Death show at Cafe 9. I knew it was sold out, and I knew it was going to be crowded, but I still couldn't believe how tight people were actually packed into Cafe 9 even before the show started. Already a warm day, the place was doomed to be heat up quick, and it was a really hot and sweaty night, and if you squinted, you could've sworn you were in a backwoods Georgia dive bar, not in the middle of New Haven. It turns out this fit the bill perfectly, because dark southern rock was exactly what we all came to see.


Linfinity somehow squeezed onto an already tiny stage completely littered with pedalboards, mandolins and guitars of all sizes. They played a variety of hazy, musically dense, gypsy rock songs. No two songs were alike, shifting from bouncy to depressingly dark in a matter of seconds. The set began with lilting violin and ethereal mandolin, but on some songs there were some heavy slide guitar riffs and really bombastic buildups to their songs. It's impossible when talking about them not to make comparisons to DeVotchKa, and their lead singer Dylan Von Wagner's voice reminded me a lot of Nick Urata's caterwaul. They had a great stage presence, with Von Wagner's facial expressions and seizure-like movements attracting a lot of attention. There was even a cover of the Talking Heads and even a round of Happy Birthday sung for Megan Berson, their violinist. All in all, they were a great opening act.


The next band, Ha Ha Tonka, really surprised me. I had only briefly listened to a few of their songs on myspace before seeing them, and I kind of knew before going that I was going to like them, but I never imagined what they were actually like onstage. We were treated to some great southern-fried folk rock, complete with four-part harmonies, floor stomping, and bent guitar solos. These guys are from the Ozarks, and that's clearly a fact they want to hammer home. They were having a hell of a lot of fun, which was rubbing off on the crowd. They brought the energy down a notch in the middle of the show for acapella "Hangman" which was eerie and at one point, frontman Brian Roberts asked "do you guys like Ram Jam?" and they launched into Black Betty, which was great. Since it was also Brett Anderson's (guitar/mandolin/vocals) birthday, they led us through a second rendition of "Happy Birthday" for the night. Remember how I said earlier that the stage was crowded? Well, for the last song they invited a ton of people from the crowd up on stage to make whatever kind of noise they could to break the record number of people on Cafe 9's stage, which they easily did.


I honestly thought that the Murder By Death set would be a step back from the energetic blast of Ha Ha Tonka, but after a painfully lengthy soundcheck they completely blew the doors down. The whiskey-soaked croak of frontman Adam Turla's baritone vocals, and the sweeping strings of Sarah Balliet's cello mixed beautifully. It's not really evident on their recordings, but between the bass, drums, cello, and vocals, the music itself is all blasting low-end. Even the keys, played by newcomer to the band Dagan Thogerson Scott from Okkervil River*, were an octave below where I expected them. Thogerson also played double-duty on trumpet and maracas. Their set was sprinkled with plenty of songs from their previous albums, but they threw in a lot of new songs, too; including a killer rendition of "King Of The Gutters, Prince Of The Dogs." It may have been hot in the bar, but that couldn't stop their bourbon-fueled onslaught, and they still made sure their tunes were cold and dark. They kept the momentum going all night, and between songs Turla kept the crowd entertained with hilarious stage banter, bashing the new incredibly shitty ICP video, Yale and local pizza joint Marco Polo. There was even a little action from side-project Mustache featuring Adam Turla (aka Travis Falcontamer) and Ben the merch dude (aka Jessie Grizzlebottom). I guess you had to be there. Anyway, it was a hell of a show.

Linfinity:

Ha Ha Tonka:


Murder By Death:







photos by Ruby Arguilla Tull.

*Dagan is the drummer. Thanks for the clarification, anonymoose

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

"the usual flannel-only crew???" not sure what nights you go but you're definitely not describing my usual experience at C9.

JH said...

i meant at manic shows not at cafe 9 - typo

JH said...

line deleted altogether because it's stupid

JD said...

C9 is awesome and all jokes mean nothing but love, not to mention John and I both being totally part of the very flannel wearing crowd that this was about. John, grow a pair and put the line back. It was funny. Petty complainers can go piss on Brushback's page, because he can have more fun with such stupid nonsense. Meanwhile, good show review, and stellar photos, Ruby!!

Anonymous said...

Marco polo pizza does suck... Someone should have brought them to Wooster street!

Brushback said...

Woa, controversy!

Those are some of the best pictures I've ever seen taken at Cafe Nine.

JD said...

Seriously - Ruby is pretty sick with the camera.

lukedringoli said...

Great pictures, Ruby! Dug your review too, John. Seeing Adam and Ben play ridiculous Mustache songs (this was after most everyone had filtered out) was a highlight for me.

JH said...

I honestly have no idea how Ruby took those pics in Cafe 9. The place was dark as hell and full of whiskey haze.

Anonymous said...

manic success!

Anonymous said...

Great review and even better pictures. The night was captured perfectly.

One note though, Dagan is the drummer. The new guy playing keys + everything else under the sun is Scott from Okkerville river.

JH said...

good to know!