I am well aware that the Tomorrow Never Knows Fest has been put behind us and we have moved on. Seeing as I am usually about 2 weeks late in everything I do, the timing seemed appropriate to chime in on a few more bands from the fest, namely Skybox, Dr. Dog and Mucca Pazza.
I’ll begin with Skybox who took the stage on the first night of the festival. This is only my second time having the pleasure of catching Skybox, but both performances have left me with the feeling that this band is carving a place uniquely their own. The whole band seems so self assured in their path musically that it radiates live. They bring some serious confidence to the stage that is equaled, if not surpassed, by their ability to perform. While the band may not be completely above comparison it would be difficult to stick them with a single label. They are able to blend so many musical elements well, it begins to feel distinctly their own. In a broad sense they mix a little bit of rock and a little bit of pop in a fairly unorthodox way. There is almost a vaudeville quality to their live show that is felt in both the music and performance. In watching Skybox live it becomes evident that this band loves playing music. It looks like Chicagoans will have another chance to catch them at Subterranean on Feb. 3rd, before they head out on an extended tour. It is highly recommended to do so.
Download: Skybox - "Various Kitchen Utensils"
While listening to a Dr. Dog recording may entice one to see the band live, it will never prepare fully prepare you for it. Their approach to recording and performing live, while equally skilled and entertaining, seems to be drastically different. Listening to their most recent release, Takers and Leavers, one can expect to hear wonderful instrumentation mixed with sweet flowing melodies and light breezy vocals. I would not use any of those words to describe their live set, which is its own animal entirely. As I go back and listen to that EP I am not even certain it is the same band. The live show has a “shoot to kill” approach. The bands appearance struck me as a cross between punk indifference and Appalachia. From the first note there was not a body in the room that wasn’t at least aware of their presence. As soon as I learned they hailed from Philadelphia a small piece of the puzzle seemed to fall into place, although I really can’t elaborate on why. They thrashed and stomped about the Schubas stage, which incidentally never seemed so dangerously small. I think it a small miracle no one took a guitar neck to the face. The madness of their set was magnified when contrasted with earlier acts that night, which seemed to be lacking in intensity. During one interaction with the audience, in which a fan apparently asked them to slow it down, the guitarist reminded that us they are fans of punk and promptly turned to his bandmates to say, “Play the next one faster.” They complied.
Download: Dr. Dog - "California"
Words will do little to convey what occurred at Schubas on Saturday Night when Mucca Pazza marched into the room. It was the musical/performance equivalent to a punch in the face, immediately disarming but altogether reviving. It was disoriented mayhem that lead to alluring spectacle. Mucca Pazza marched its 25 plus members into the room and did not let up until the very last member had marched back out. Consisting of seemingly endless drums and horns, a megaphone and cheerleaders, all donning uniforms of varying colors and vintage, they seemed to inhabit the entire room. If a marching band appeared in the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas they would have looked like Mucca Pazza. This spectacle had the crowd swaying in sync, dodging nomadic band members and screaming “Pazza” in response to the band’s cheer of “Mucca.” They file themselves, according to their MySpace page, as a “Punk Circus Marching Band or Nerd-Core (Nerd Corps?)” That is probably as good a definition as any I could manufacture, so I will leave well enough alone. Since I was unable to attend Sunday night’s show, Mucca Pazza made for the perfect closer to some excellent nights of music.