Sunday, November 16, 2008

Feed Your Head at the American Legion

Saturday night (November 15, 2008) I was off to the American Legion Post 206 in Highland Park and this time I intended to find it. In September I had attempted to see My Secret Alphabet there and couldn't find it, so armed with maps, schedules and addresses this time, I found this incredible venue.

It truly is an American Legion, complete with a right-wing bartender regaling patrons with horror stories of schools that won't allow the Pledge of Allegiance. I had to wonder what he thought of the freaky indie-rockers who flooded the place (Actually he was very accommodating and professional).

Eddie Figueroa had invited me out to see his band, My Secret Alphabet, who's CD I had enjoyed. Getting there around 9:15, I was one of about 10 people in the place. And it's big! And empty! The bar is typical American Legion decor, and fascinating because of it. But across the hall is the auditorium, which can only be described as 1960's Indiana high school auditorium ambiance, or like where Carrie got that bucket of pig's blood from her classmates.

Fortunately they turn off the lights in the room and highlight the stage so one can enjoy the bare black brick back wall adorned with an old jukebox and an old cigarette machine. Eddie Figueroa came over and introduced himself and My Secret Alphabet got the evening off to an atmospheric start. I enjoyed their music and its hazy psychedelic sound. Heavy with ambient bass and guitar, Eddie drones his vocals sideways into the microphone, treating his voice as just another instrument in their oceanic sound. They played about 5 or 6 songs to an ever expanding audience.

I'll try to remember some details. Had a nice time sitting at the bar with Matt of Manhattan Murder Mystery, who was there early even though they didn't play till past midnight. Is there anyone who shows up more, in support of the local music community? Got a nice drink from John of Seasons, which helped turn the evening into a big swirl of positive sensations.

Someone ran into the bar and said Auto-Erotix sounded like Depeche Mode so I went over to hear that. They did indeed have that sound, but with a Morrissey-like lead singer. Their dreamy, hypnotic dance electronica-music had a few audience members dancing their heads off.

I think Elaine Layabout and Rob Danson (Death To Anders) had arrived by now, and we were joined by Stephen Sigl of The Happy Casualties. The place wasn't crowded, but I heard more than one of us say that this venue is an instant favorite, even though most had never been there before.

The Health Club came on and I really enjoyed their set. Had spoken with bass player Katya earlier, who I'd met last week at Pehrspace, but was happy to become reacquainted. The more I hear their songs the more they grow on me. They have a kind of primitive take on indie-rock that I like. Totally unpretentious. Occupying a stylistic space somewhere between Death to Anders and Manhattan Murder Mystery. Or like Thailand, they strip their music down to the essentials.

The next band is known as Seasons, but tonight they were Seasons Manhattan Murder Mystery Health Club and what a set it was. These guys are such musicians, and to be joined by Matt of MMM on accordion, it was really spectacular! Good thing the stage is large enough to hold a band of 18 (and a jukebox and a cigarette machine).

Nik holds center stage in Seasons by the extraordinary quality of his singing, beginning with "Song That You Know", which shows the full range of his gifts. It's also probably my favorite song at the moment. But all members of this population-heavy band perform musical miracles, even the tambourine players...especially the tambourine players.

Sometimes rhythm dominates, sometimes melody, sometimes vocals, which makes it hard to define their sound. Somehow it just reminds me of when the circus comes to town.

Since seeing them last I've become addicted to their 12-song CD and to hear the songs I've come to love live was a treat. And the sound at the American Legion was pretty wonderful, too.

O.K., the final band was supposed to be Manhattan Murder Mystery, but instead we got Manhattan Murder Mystery Seasons Health Club. Not exactly unrelated to the last band, but different nonetheless.

It's not enough that these bands are superior bands on their own, but do they have to combine and make an equally superior offshoot band? Jesus Christ! What are they trying to do to me?

To hear those wonderful songs with all those voices, and "Ulysses" is such an amazing song, I just wish I had something recorded. Matthew Teardrop writes some of my favorite songs in this whole genre and I was happy to hear "Pancho Villa" and "Ugly Women", too. I wasn't sure Matt would hit the floor (it was a good few feet down from the stage) but you can't keep this man confined to the stage. It happened and it was great to stand right next to him as he wailed away with his voice and his guitar. When Manhattan Murder Mystery finally plays the Greek or the Bowl will he end up in the picnic baskets among the wine bottles? Actually, I'd love to see that!


1 comment:


I was there as well. It was a great time! Glad you documented it. See ya around!