Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Brunettes, 9/25 - Madison, WI

Maybe it was the slightly cooler air, maybe it was just because today was not a Monday, but for the first time since I got here a little over a year ago, I genuinely have to applaud a Madison crowd at a show. I've been to far too many shows that have been filled to the bursting points, where bands have played their hearts out to Madison crowds who clapped loudly, but ultimately just stood there despite some seriously foot-tap inspiring numbers. Actually, I should modify my first sentence to say "almost for the first time" since I just remembered how good the crowd was for the Mosquitos last September. My memory is hazy, but I think that may have been my first Madison show, and it gave me quite the amazing expectations for crowd behavior since almost every one of the 30 or so people there were dancing like no one was watching. Even I was dancing, and at that point, dancing at shows was not something I did often. It's still really not; I'll definitely move, but unless I'm drunk and with people who are dancing, I'll just bob and sway in place, occasionally doing a little more.

Most surprising is that sometimes I'll be among the most energetic at a show, despite my lack of anything more than the in-place-rock-out action. Whenever this happens, I feel sorry partially for the band but mostly for the crowd, who obviously being detained in Madison against their will upon seeing the "No Vacancy" signs in Williamsburg.

Tonight, however, things were different. It's a little disheartening to see a pretty empty room for a great indie pop band from New Zealand, and even moreso when everyone is sitting at tables or at the bar, leaving a huge gap front and center. I would have moved up there, but I was ultimately worried about blocking the views of the people at the front tables, and since I could see pretty well from where I was, I just stood there. I just stood there*.

After about two songs, though, Heather (as we Americans say it, we were told...as opposed to Heh-thah, as she pronounced her own name) beckoned us forward to occupy the empty space in front of the stage. "It'll make the show better for us," she said, and surprisingly, I wasn't the only one making my way up there. Within seconds, none of the seats were occupied and Madison's indie poppers were standing at attention, waiting for dancing orders. Not wanting to keep us in suspense, the Brunettes immediately got our feet moving and kept them moving for quite a while. For the most part, feet-moving was as far as crowd motion went until the band called for a "dance competition" during "Mars Loves Venus" that got everyone doing their favorite routine. Seriously, it was crazy. At that point I decided that I don't like this band, I love this band. The scene transformed so quickly that you'd never have known that at one point in the evening you could count thirty-seven people in the crowd, all of whom were sitting down. From this point on the cheers after every song rivaled what I heard at the absolutely packed Andrew Bird show last week, and there were maybe 8% as many people here as were there.

Dancing did not stop at the end of the competition song, but rather continued until the end of their set. The Brunettes left because of time restrictions, but had to come back for an unanticipated encore song because of the relentless cheering. It was LOUD. And persistent. I clapped, I hollered, I cheered when they came back. What did they play? The rarely performed cover of "Born to Run". I don't really like the work of the Boss, but this song was great. The Brunettes tore it up, much like they tore up the stage at the High Noon Saloon during every other one of their songs. They played "Mars Loves Venus", "The Moon and June Stuff" (a personal favorite from their first album), "Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks" (another favorite off of that album of the same name), "Polyester Loves Acetate", and an especially rambunctious "Baby" (B-A, B-Y!). "Baby" was the song that actually made me think the live recording does not do the song justice. Lately I've been on this huge horns kick, and seeing a band with a trumpet and saxophone player just makes me giddy with excitement. When those two brasses transform a fairly innocuous song into something so unabashedly influenced by Motown soul and 60s girl groups, you know you've hit the jackpot. Undoubtedly the highlight of the night, the horns on "Baby" are still playing in my head. For reference, I've been jamming to Len Barry's "1-2-3" and Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up" all week, almost obsessively. Horns are awesome, just ask Camera Obscura ("If Looks Could Kill," perhaps?).

A few more notes about the show:
1.) there were six people on stage, and not one of them had blond, red, or black hair. This band's name is very appropriate.
2.) Madison's Brunettes fans dress like hipsters more than the fans of any other band I've seen here, but they're not as pretentious or unwilling to have fun.
3.) For a while I was trying to figure out if the guitarist was Bret from Flight of the Conchords, though it became pretty obvious that he wasn't. There I go, stereotyping New Zealanders again. Sorry, Steve (that guy's real name).
4.) Indie pop fans are cute, and indie pop bands are cute.
5.) I bought a shirt that I'm pretty sure is slightly too small for me, but in the light it looked ok.

Anti-bears: 4.8. I had a great time. It was a great show.
Bears: 0.8. There could have been more people, but the ones who were there were awesome.

*Did you catch this Flight of the Conchords reference? Watch Episode 2 or the "Inner City Pressure" video on youtube.


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