After Brooklyn folk quartet Hem played a set as sweet and peaceful as a mother's touch, nearly lulling us to the sleep of a breast-fed infant -- and after we had refueled at the bar -- we jumped to our feet the instant Elvis bashed out his first chord. We were about 30 feet from the sparkly-boot-wearing Englishman, and about 7 feet from the massive clump of speakers delivering his unwavering, soulful yowl to the audience.
When I say we, however, I do not mean the entire audience -- I mean just me and Alexi. He and I danced happily through one and a half songs while the rest of the audience remained seated (except for a pocket of resistance across the theater and down front), until a middle-aged woman sitting behind us politely asked if we would move to the side so that she and her lazy-ass husband could passively enjoy the show. We slumped down in our seats, spirits crushed, hatred for all baby boomers roiling in our hearts.
Costello played like an over-rockin' man-machine for two hours before his first encore, running down all his hits and then some. We struck up a conversation with Hem singer Sally Ellyson, who had emerged to watch the show, and she told us that Costello had taken a cortisone injection in his throat that day just so he could perform. (Throat problems had forced him to postpone his KC engagement in May; this was the makeup date.) In spite of that, Costello played like we were the best crowd ever -- he even took a seat in the front row, inviting two undeserving attendees to sit on the stage while he played "Alison" from the audience. And still, the roomful of old farts could not muster the enthusiasm to stand.
Fortunately, there was no such shortage of crowd enthusiasm the following night at the Pitch Music Showcase, which brought more than two dozen local bands and musicians to multiple Westport venues. My goal for the evening was to see a little of every act while neither drinking too much nor making an ass of myself in front of local musicians and Pitch readers. I failed on all counts, but damn, I had a good time.
Throughout the night, it was as hard to stay in one place as it was to tear away from any single show. Party central was the Hurricane, where a cast of incredible DJs (BillPile, Steve Thorell and Paul DeMatteo) and the inimitable Mac Lethal threw down on the deck while rock bands rotated on the stage inside -- with the notable exception of hip-hop live-killers SoundsGood, who stepped in to take the Stella Link's spot. I was bummed to have missed punk upstarts Flee the Seen rock the house, but I did witness the Sound and the Fury pound out a slab of riff-licious rock while fans sang along with deserving Best Male Vocalist nominee Jeff Wood.
The Dark Horse Tavern was even more tightly packed than the Hurricane, and the open window behind the stage didn't do any favors for the string section of In the Pines. But even first-timers to this Best New Act nominee came away raving. The venue was so crowded by the time Namelessnumberheadman took the stage that I had no other way of showing my appreciation than to hop up to the open window and swing my light pen in the air over the head of drummer Andrew Sallee, who was kind not to jab me in the gut with a drumstick.
The Beaumont was jumping, but it was no problem to rush to the front and commence fist-pumping right in front of the PA when the Roman Numerals were ruling the stage. One of the night's finest moments occurred when the band invited Doris Henson singer Matt Dunehoo to belt out vocals on the new "Deep Loft," which, apart from being a kickass song, represents the unity of two generations of Kansas City rockers.
McCoy's offered more laid-back environs, but the air heated up when teenage R&B quartet E-Vent took the stage in matching Royals jerseys -- also in various stages of undress -- and worked the half-empty room like it was the Apollo.
The night came to a climax, though, at the Hurricane during the Litigators' show. Up for Best New Act, Best Rock and Best Live Act, the Litigators take rock and roll back to the days when Jerry Lee Lewis made conservative parents lose sleep at night worrying that modern music was turning their kids into sex-crazed lunatics.
People in the rollicking crowd were slinging drinks into the air, and the band was a jumble of floored musicians by the end of most numbers. Some guy in the front row handed lead singer Jeremiah Kidwell a can of PBR, evidently hoping the punch-drunk frontman would shower the crowd with it. Instead, Kidwell took a big mouthful of beer, bent down and spewed it straight into the mouth of the unsuspecting fan, whose face was upturned, mouth open, like a baby bird.
It's a tradition among Pitch music editors to bestow a few unofficial awards to special showcase performances, so I'll note a few briefly, but first: Come to the awards show Friday night at the Uptown and find out who the hell won. Host Brodie Rush is hilarious and amazingly talented, and the whole thing will be a blast, I swear.
Best Hooies!: the Wilders, who stood in a country cluster onstage in their classy garb and proved themselves the most fun and adorable traditional band of any kind in the Midwest.
Best Example of Owning It: Onemilliontinytinyjesuses, who didn't care that their Catholic cardinal outfits, golden robot helmets, and dissonant electroclash were out of place at the Beaumont. (We booked them there just to test them, heh, heh.)
Best Rescue: Millage Gilbert and his band, who, when Boy Big didn't show up to play, gladly added an extra hour to their set.
Best Musician Not Nominated for an Award: bearded Westport street guitarist James Champ, who jammed on the sidewalk outside Kelly's for spare change and smiles.
Best Sideman: my wife, Adrienne, who looked good, partied hard and bought us hot dogs at the end of the night.