elvis1.jpg
Click the photo for an audio slideshow of the band's performance. Photos by Laura Musselman.

When: March 30, 2007
Where:
Tractor Tavern
Would Meatface Approve?

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Last Night: Elvis Perkins in Dearland

Opening hearts, eyes, and minds.

elvis1.jpg
Click the photo for an audio slideshow of the band's performance. Photos by Laura Musselman.

When: March 30, 2007
Where:
Tractor Tavern
Would Meatface Approve? Meatface has a beard, no?
And the Hipsters? Four eyes always see eye to eye, ay.

Tonight was a night of firsts: My first time to see a show at Tractor; My first Shiner Bock since Texas; My first time ever hearing a note of Elvis Perkins. Somehow, all three - The Tractor, The Shiner, and Elvis’ fey and grim acoutifolk stylings complimented one another in the most direct way. Everything fit right in and I was right there in it. In all its sadness and melancholy and willful pursuit, his performance last night was striking, a chain reaction of hit-and-runs that hurt and kept on a-going.

Perkins took the stage right at ten, backed by a three piece band the bespeckeled songwriter later referred to as "The Dearlanders". The drummer stepped out of the 19th century with a mallet and large drum slung over his shoulder by a strap, the bassist assumed position behind his upright, and the keyboard player/guitarist/trombone player(!) remained hunched over on the keys for the hymn-like opening song, “Good Friday,” a handpicked slice of downbeat Americana “where the Captain of America lies through his face.”

They followed suit and picked up the crowd with “May Day!,” a nice little toe tapper that coincidently placed Elvis directly between the two large red T’s on the backdrop. Tractor Tavern. Toe Tapper. It all makes sense. They took it up a notch on “Hey”, where Nicholas Kinsey and bassist Brigham Brough laid into one another with their instruments, triggering the sea of bodies in the audience to clap, move, and shake. Elvis slowed down the next, where he brought on a female singer for a duet that mirrored Gram and Emmylou. It was sweet and sad.

There were plenty of moments like these, the emotional rollercoaster of turbulent ups and downs that kept myself and the sold out room on our toes and heels. Behind Perkins nasally Jeff Mangum-ish vocal, is a grieving man, where an incredible amount of sadness and tragedy are peppered in his interpretively open lyrics and the tone could not be any more apparent. I later learned from photographer Laura Musselman that his actor father, Anthony Perkins (Psycho) died of A.I.D.S. in 1992, and his mother’s fate was sealed after she boarded flight 11 on September 11, 2001. Many reviews of his new record, Ash Wednesday, correlate these two events to why he sounds so sad. Maybe so. But in sadness, there’s a happiness to bring you back on your feet.

The title track was definitely getting chummy with all the embracing couples, something I described in my notes as “bonafide, laaaaay with my baaaaaby, fuck music.” Maybe it stood out because I was alone, seeing everyone having a good time, smiling, and singing, but there was a nice groove to it all and I could totally see getting on to it. And if on cue, he got the crowd to sing-a-long to the beginning verse of “Yellow Submarine” before closing the forty-five minute set all by his lonesome.

Perkins returned by himself and was later joined by the band for, how Perkins charmingly described it, an “over indulgent encore or second set.” They played “While You Were Sleeping” by request before an audience who remained quiet during the slow-burners (an invitation to chatter), and gave their absolute undivided attention, emotionally bound to his pleading, despairing messages. They closed the night with a single-song second encore, where the quartet sang a traditional delta blues song about some “Sweet Rosie Anna.” It was a bittersweet break-up to have the fulfilling night of what felt like minutes come to an end.

I missed the opening act Let’s Go Sailing, so have no idea what they sounded like. Two things instantly sprung to mind when I saw the name: Loggins and Messina’s Full Sail and fond boating memories – recreational and competitive – on the lake, just dad and I. I guess I didn’t miss much, said a fella named Cole. Then again, I don’t really enjoy Loggins and Messina or miss rigging a sailboat on cold, wet Sunday mornings.

 
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