#WMS 2012 recap: Curious Theatre
If Cooke packed the theater to its breaking point, then the soulful, frenetic quintet known as A. Tom Collins just broke it. But then, no venue is quite large enough for frontman Aaron Collins, who skipped Westword's introduction, demanded those stuck standing do their lurking at the front of the stage, and whipped the band into a frenzy as he shouted the set's first lines, "Take me to the hospital ..." He's lucky he didn't have to go there: As the rest of the group loosed savage trumpet and sax to match his grit with guts, Collins jumped from stage to balcony, climbed it like Tarzan and cavorted with his upper-deck fans before returning to the stage, tucking his green ruffled underwear back into his jeans and forging on.
Brian Landis Folkins Aaron Collins of A. Tom Collins performing at the Curious Theatre at the 2012 Westword Music Showcase.
Ethereal lead singer Julia LiBassi of the Raven and the Writing Desk unleashed a storm indoors within one minute of opening her mouth. The band's cloudy backing video certainly helped, but it was LiBassi's wild, witchy vocals (like a breathier but better-adjusted Fiona Apple) that drew the crowd in and tossed them about through bouts of gypsy jazz, Nick Cave carnival jams and propulsive atmospherica. Funneled through a dark symphony of violin, electric guitar and percussion, LiBassi and her Alice in Wonderland-inspired outfit traveled in and out of the rabbit hole with alarming agility.
Brian Landis Folkins The Raven and the Writing Desk performing at the Curious Theatre during the 2012 Westword Music Showcase.
The largest, most attention-grabbing detail of Fairchildren's humble, haunting sound is Julie Davis' upright bass. But while its presence is powerful, its effects are minimal: Fairchildren is the stuff of lovely, eerie nightmares -- all stark, bleak melody that wanders through cryptic lyrics and lost piano to find footing in small, if consistently lush, statements. As she passed her bow across her bass strings yesterday afternoon, Davis craned her neck and focused on the ceiling, as if searching for the subjects she channeled in song.
Brian Landis Folkins Danielle Anderson of Danielle Ate the Sandwich performing at the 2012 Westword Music Showcase.
Any Danielle Ate the Sandwich set is as heavy on humor as it is on talent, and her fourth appearance at the showcase was the raunchy rule, not an exception. After opening with captivating new single (seriously, watch the video) "Faith In a Man," Anderson and bassist Dennis Bigelow passed out gold paper crowns, the hilarious if not particularly high-impact advertising strategy for the band's latest album, Like a King.
"Does anyone have the record yet?" Anderson quizzed the crowd, and then, "Has anyone touched themselves to it yet?" Both questions earned raised hands, which then clapped along through "Pet Store," "American Dream," "Handsome Girl" and a reworked rendition of "Rich Girl" that featured both TLC's "Scrubs" and a freestyle rap, "But I'm trying to cut down on those," Anderson promises.
Brian Landis Folkins John Common and Blinding Flashes of Light performing at the Curious Theatre during the 2012 Westword Music Showcase.
Heavy on the effects pedals and light on breaks, John Common and Blinding Flashes of Light closed out the Curious Theatre's lineup with ambitious, emotive folk-rock with a distinctly Southern watermark. Backed by wild keys and bold bass, Common and spiritual vocalist Jess DeNicola tossed their powerful vocals back and forth, answering the band's instrumental drama with romantic, then nostalgic, then brazenly hopeful soul stylings. With such lyrical maturity and emotional showmanship, it's hard not to believe in whatever they croon. It's even harder not to sing along.
-- Kelsey Whipple
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