Middle Distance Runner, Eulogies, and Greycoats at the 7th Street Entry (3/23/09)
It was a cold and rainy March evening in the Twin Cities where glassy reflecting pools made for poor driving conditions. Yet there were those who had decided early on that the 7th Street Entry was offering a night worth braving, and they gradually filed in one after another as the hour struck nine. For some, Greycoats were the attraction, a local band that for more than a couple years have honed their sounds and skills within wine and beer venues alike. But for others, the lure was for something from without. Two bands touring just two days from SXSW, Eulogies and Middle Distance Runner.
I arrived in a bit of a panic. While arranging my schedule I had marked the concert time as 9:00PM, but an 8:00PM listing on the venue website had me second guessing. I had no pen and paper. During my rush out the door I had forgotten the simplest of tools and arrived ill-prepared. Such carelessness.
Jon Reine and Greycoats took the stage shortly after 9:00PM. Only a year ago I had seen Greycoats at the Turf Club on my birthday, but something had changed. Perhaps it was another year of experience on the band’s part, or perhaps it was my failing memory, but they were tighter than I remembered. Reine would approach the microphone eyes closed, and entice the audience to follow suit through smoothly delivered words. On occasion bassist Matt Patrick would add harmonies to Reine’s melodies, while drummer Mike Smith and keys player Titus Decker added to the chorus as less occasioned. I leaned against a wall, sipping a $2.50 PBR, and caught glimpses of Reine toggling his effect pedals for feedback. At one moment he even role-played a classic vision of Jimi Hendrix, bringing the mid-section of his guitar to his face, and testing the effectiveness of his lips over a pick (at least that’s how it appeared). Back and forth, song to song, the band led the audience down paths of hard rock softened by the incidental ballad, courtesy of Greycoats. How spoiled we Minnesotans can be with our musicians.
The whole evening carried a sense of camaraderie. Friends of my own who had never met were brought together for the first time, and the same was true for the bands. Eulogies and Middle Distance Runner had met down at SXSW and were now touring together. The previous evening they had played in Des Moines, Iowa to a particularly small crowd, but they were pleased that folks in the Twin Cities had turned out in nearly three times the numbers. As Eulogies took the stage smokers rushed in and the Entry stage shook.
Eulogies is a band unassuming in appearance yet assertive in performance. Frontman Peter Walker has the appearance of a respectable balladeer one might see on a bustling market corner, but onstage he leads Eulogies’ rock n’ roll barrages. At one climactic point in the show he and bassist Garrett Deloian sang in tandem as the band’s crescendo threatened to raise the old buildings metal rafters. The looks on the faces of those bearing witness was priceless. How deceiving appearances may be!
Drummer Chris Reynolds held everything together as homespun images chosen by Eulogies displayed like holograms on the bass head. But perhaps the most accidentally iconic of the group was guitarist Drew Phillips, whose silhouette motioned back and forth below the bright lights of the Entry stage. Phillips’ performance during the song “The Fight (I’ve Come to Like)” sticks with me, sweat dripping from his dangling brown hair. To some, any image of sweat brings recoil, but in the right setting it’s a true symbol of rock n’ roll. Phillips captured it that evening, as did a photographer. My friend immediately purchased an album.
Before their performance I spoke with some of the members of Middle Distance Runner. They mildly complained about the cold of Minnesota versus their hometown of D.C. I mildly reminded them how mild it actually was. MDR are Prince fans, Springsteen fans, and in all respects, they seem fans of people. Their sociability offstage is only eclipsed by their engaging behavior onstage, and they worked it like none other that evening.
As much as I eschew comparisons of one artist to another, I could not help but be reminded of Jack White’s vocal style when Stephen Kilroy of MDR belted forth. Truly, this is a compliment, and Kilroy’s funky delivery is one worth catching live. Throughout the night he shuffled between guitar and keys, as bassist Tony Acampora and keyboardist/guitarist Jay Smith traded off harmonies. Erik Dean played the most aggressive drum set of the evening, exercising crash and ride symbols relentlessly through energetic tune after tune. And Allan Chappellear, well, what didn’t he do? Somewhere between guitar soloing, using the shaker, and adding hand claps, he managed to provide a few laughs by invading Acampora’s personal space. Details aside, he did it all very, very well. MDR brings a boisterously exciting live show that mustn’t be missed! Well, at least not again.
Goodbye, Sweet Youth, Goodbye by: Greycoats
The Fight (I’ve Come to Like) (Homespun Sessions) by: Eulogies
The Sun and Earth by: Middle Distance Runner