Saturday, June 14, 2008

Iron & Wine at the Pag'

I hadn't planned on attending the Iron & Wine show last night at St. Louis' Pageant, but a connection provided me with a free ticket that I couldn't refuse. So, I made the two-hour trek to the "Gateway City" to see bushy-bearded Sam Beam perform his brand of folk rock for his one stop in Misery.

Now, it should be noted that I have both seen Iron & Wine before and have just missed them on occasion as well. The first time I saw Beam was in an opening slot for Isaac Brock's side-project, Ugly Casanova. No one, including me, paid much attention to the quiet band as we drank and talked through their set. It never occurred to me what I had missed until my sister gave me their debut on Sub Pop several months later. After that, I was hooked on Beam's back porch, southern style stories about ashes, sleeping dogs, and intoxicated mothers.

The next time I had a chance to see the band was at the Wexner Center for the Arts' Black Box. Iron & Wine opened for Broadcast for a very odd pairing. Anyway, in the very, very intimate setting of the black box, Iron & Wine put on as beautiful a selection of music as I have ever heard. The hush tones that drew me in from the beginning were there and the emotion behind Beam's dark, southern tales were present as well. I remember my sister crying the music was so captivating. Needless to say, we were spent by the time Broadcast played and left for the evening.

Since that memorable show, I have had near-misses with Beam and co. While searching COMO for a home, we learned that Iron & Wine were playing the Blue Note and there were tickets still available. The problem was this thing called "work". Going to the show would have required me to miss an additional day of work just to drive back to Ohio. It didn't happen.

Then, later that same year, in the middle of the summer, Iron & Wine came to Columbus. There were two problems with this. First, the band was playing the Newport. The Newport is this larger version of the Note with the distinguished title of longest running rock venue in the US. They have also kept the same shitty sound system for all those 40 or 50 years (don't quote me on the years). this meant that the soft, intimate sounds I liked so much in Iron & Wine would be lost and badly distorted by the Newport's lame-ass system. Secondly, I really needed to study for my Master's exam. Luckily, a very drunk "friend" called me that night from the venue to let me know I hadn't missed anything.

This brings me to last night. Openers The Uglysuit were OK. They were basically dirty hippies who tried to start a roots-rock band but discovered Pavement along the way. The band claimed that their album was coming out on Quarterstick/Touch and Go. I won't bash this band. They do what they do well, but I'm surprised they're on such a reputable indie label with such a mainstream sound. Either way, they intrigued me when they sounded like Explosions in the Sky but lost me when they threw the dirty mops atop their head like they were in Pearl Jam circa 1992.

Iron & Wine served the audience a treat by only featuring Beam and his sister for the first couple of songs. The Pag' did a surprisingly nice job on the sound. The hushed tones and quiet delivery of the Beam siblings came across well in the cavernous venue. The backing band eventually came out and unexpected intimacy continued. The show was so quiet I didn't even need my earplugs.

Iron & Wine played a well-rounded mix of old and new, making me almost wish I had purchased my ticket. And since the ticket was free and I have things to do this morning (blogging about it all being one of them), I left the venue early. Luckily, a service called recorded the show and will make it available (for a nominal fee) some time today. If anyone is interested, you can email me to get the code to download your own recording of the show.

I'll be back over the next few days with some reviews of both the long overdue (Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Joan of Arc) and the brand-spankin'-new (Silver Jews, Wolf Parade). As mentioned before, I have a beer tasting to attend that will surely inspire a post. I have my Laugunitas IPA and Southern Tier Trippel ready to go. Maybe I'll even write about that whole parenthood thing.

Stay tuned.

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