Saturday, March 3, 2007


Part of the fun of performing live music is all the surprises that come down the pike: what bands you get put on a bill with, where you play, what kind of crowd is at the venue, how the venue treats you, etc...

Last night we played a show at The High Dive in Champaign, IL. I thought it would be, as the name implies, kind of a dive. Wrong. It was actually one of the nicest places I've ever played. It was clean. It was well laid out (a large bar in-the-round that wraps around a two-story wall that divides the venue, stage and plenty of space on one side, lounge and booths on the other side, pool tables upstairs, large smoking deck out back). The lights were great and run really well (good balance between ambience and spots). And probably the best sound system I've ever heard in a place that size (probably around 500-600 capacity). There was great equipment, but the caliber of the audio was largely due to Jimmy, the sound guy. He really knew what he was doing. That was awesome. How many times do you tell the sound guy what you need in the monitor and he just says, "Sorry, can't do that." Not Jimmy. He pulls cords and makes it happen. And he actually spent time eq-ing the lows on Talia's cello to minimize feedback. Killer.

The other suprise was the "genres" of the other bands. Especially when you're new in town, you get put on bills that don't necessarily reflect the style of your music. Last night was one of those gigs. And I don't mean for that to come across as a bad thing. Sometimes it's really fun to get pushed out of your boundaries. You make new friends. You make new fans. It's part of the beauty of live music.

We opened the night to a pretty small crowd. That kind of comes with the territory of being the early evening opening act, but last night it was particularly bad as "unofficial" (a campus wide drinking holiday that the UIUC crowd really goes in for) did a number on our numbers. Anybody in the student crowd who would've been coming to see us play had likely started drinking at 9am, so were in no shape to walk, let alone get across town to the High Dive. But the sound was fantastic, we played a tight set, and those who were there really dug it (and Andy and Jodi finally made it out to a show!)... a great experience and one that I hope we can repeat on another night that doesn't conflict with the campus's largest drinking holiday.

After us was a band called The Fuz. They were definitely very, very "jammy." Their set lasted nearly an hour, and I think they played maybe five songs. But they were good at what they were doing, they were definitely having fun, and they brought out a good crowd that was obviously there to see them. It's been a while (the days of shooting photos for John Mullins Band) since I've been in that type of a patchouli/hemp fueled throng. ps The guitar player looks exactly like George Michael, Jason Bateman's character's son from Arrested Development.

The second band was the VilleBillies from Louisville, KY. I had heard a couple of their songs on MySpace, and I was thinking kind of "Kid Rock meets Limp Bizkit," but seeing them live caused me to rethink that. There were ten guys on stage. That in itself is a force to be reckoned with. They've got kind of a "southern rock with rap" thing going. To re-label the previous hybrid mentioned, I'd say they were more like a cross of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Eminem with a little Rage Against the Machine thrown in for good measure. And I actually mean that in a good way. They played music that had the "you must sing along" feel of classic southern rock, but the chest thumping crowd pumping drive of "new" rap. It really won the crowd over. I could see them totally ripping up a huge crowd at an outdoor festival. The bass player had a six string bass, and was definitely a driving factor in their music. They used a lot of loops and the drum machine, but the drummer kept it going throughout, and he was no slouch. Adam was probably my favorite. He played the acoustic guitar and the banjo, and definitely added the southern flavor to the stage presence. Not necessarily the kind of music I'd listen to at home, but damn they were fun in a club setting.

The last band was Eclectic Theory. You wouldn't believe me if I told you, so I'm just going to post a clip I video'd with my phone at the show (turn your audio way down; it's "concert volume" captured with a phone, so the audio is less than stellar).

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