Sean Renner, My Molly & Last to Show First to Go @ Jefferson Warehouse
Tough decisions were made Friday night. The Black Keys were playing Chaifetz Arena, Off Broadway had a jam-packed REM tribute show, and Oberhofer played The Luminary. Plus there was probably some sporting event. I don’t know. But I made up my mind about what I was going to do two weeks ago, after my third spin of Sean Renner’s latest release, Seven Days (Morning Bird Records).
Renner came to St. Louis as part of his tour in support of this record. The liner notes, and the artist himself, tell the story about how he recorded the entire album, in solitude, in seven days last February, as an answer to a challenge from label-mate Abi Robins, who was trying to help him stop sabotaging his work with self-imposed perfectionism. The songs are remarkably complex for such a quick turnaround. But the album retains the immediacy and intensity of spirit that further tinkering might well have destroyed.
Watching him recreate that immediacy at Jefferson Warehouse was a delight. As with most looping artists (of which I am a collector: Kishi Bashi, Owen Pallett, Syna So Pro, D.M. Stith and Andrew Bird), you can’t really tell they’re looping artists from their recordings. I love loopers because they get on stage with their wits, a couple of instruments and some microphones, then leave themselves completely at the mercy of their recording technology and their own physical coordination.
In addition to live percussion looping, Renner pulled in synthesizer beats and distorted versions of his own voice, plus sound samples gifted to him by his friends and family during weeks before he started recording. As part of the introduction of each song, he revealed what extra sounds we’d hear: a broken hammer dulcimer, a cork pop, rare Moog synthesizer samples, a table saw, a leaf sucker. Some of the sounds are discernible, some are slowed down, sped up, pitched and chopped into unrecognizable bits. This was how the artist built in the spirit of collaboration and community that he liked, while respecting his rapid-fire recording schedule.
Highlight of the night, for me, was Renner’s performance of his song, “Guthrie, OK.” The haze on the vocals and the tribal electronic percussion channeled the gravity and intensity of the 80′s classic, “Life in a Northern Town” by The Dream Academy. Sean Renner has roots here in St. Louis (both his parents were in the audience), so I’m hoping he’ll make it back here soon and we can offer him a proper audience then.
Two local bands also played the Warehouse Friday night. Last to Show First to Go and Morning Bird Records label-mates, My Molly. Both of these bands have the unfortunate distinction of being UTTERLY PHENOMENAL, and not having nearly enough people interested in them. Apparently people have a problem with blistering talent coupled with unabashed earnestness.
Fine, y’all. More for me. Not really, though. Both of these bands deserve a broader audience.
I’ve been following My Molly since they used to play at The Stone Spiral in Maplewood, under the delightful moniker “Fishbowl Buttons.” By way of introduction, they have this random, unattributed quote from a You Tube commenter highlighted on their Facebook page: “You two may look like losers, but you EFFING ROCK!”
Rebecca and Mallory don’t even look like losers, but they do EFFING ROCK. It is never clear how these two manage to fully fill a room with sound with only the power of their voices, an acoustic guitar, and various percussion instruments, but you often find yourself staring at them with your mouth hanging open. Friday night was no exception. “Tie me to the Mast (The Siren Song)” in particular, was just devastating.
Their set was over too soon, as evidenced by the demands of Becky’s mom that they perform an encore song, their unrehearsed, yet exceptionally brilliant mash-up of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and The Cranberries’ “Zombie.”
And ending the night on a crazy note, Last to Show First to Go piles on stage, five members strong, and they played a nice long set for us.
I don’t normally cover LTSFTG because I love them too much and it embarrasses me to fangirl out on people I have to see all the time (yes, I have limits!). But they shouldn’t suffer for my awkardness. Bredon, Mikey, Miriam, Jay, and Phil were in really fine form Friday night, and I SO WISH YOU HAD SEEN IT. They played new songs! They played old songs! And they dedicated Andrew Bird’s “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” to me.
If you’ve never seen Last to Show First to Go, TREAT YOSELF. They are exasperatingly awesome. So good you want to punch them.