Thursday, October 16, 2008

Week at the Epiphany

After months of curiosity as to what this new "Epiphany" venue is, I finally got to experience it not one, not two, but three times in the past week for what proved to be three very different nights. The venue itself is great; the space is beautiful and makes for a very interesting backdrop to whatever music is playing (being a church and all), and the sound is very good even in light of the high ceilings- vocals in particular sounded wonderful throughout the various shows. I'd wondered going in what the pew situation would be, since it is still an active church. It appears that for bigger and more high-energy shows, all the pews are cleared off to the side to make room, while smaller and quieter shows keep them in place so we can pray to the altar of rock. If shows that used to be booked at Logan Square Auditorium start moving to the Epiphany instead, I would not complain.

Dan Deacon's Baltimore Round Robin- "Eyes Night" 10/10/08
Dan Deacon's Baltimore Round Robin- "Feet Night" 10/10/08
I've been talking up this Round Robin event for awhile now, because the concept is just so fascinating- 12 bands set up in a circle around the audience, each playing only 1 song at a time as they go through 3 rounds total. The reality of the two nights didn't quite live up to expectations; though it was still a fun and interesting experience to be a part of, there were some aspects that left a little to be desired.

"Eyes Night" featured chiller, folkier music while "Feet Night" focused on the crazy, spazzier side of the Baltimore music scene. It became apparent, however, that there isn't as much folk as there is spaz to fill up a 12-band round robin, so for every actual band that played on "Eyes" night, there was a performance art piece or a video set to music to fill the space. While interesting to a point (and still representative of what's going on in the B-More art scene, I'm sure), it definitely disrupted the flow of the show, and after the third or fourth neon-colored video, the novelty wore off a bit. I was also expecting the bands to go directly around in a circle; instead, the pattern around the circle was haphazard (though they followed the same pattern for each round, which the kids were pretty good at picking up on). It was kind of cool to wait for the next spotlight to light up over a band and watch the entire crowd move towards the next musician in sync; hwoever, while this mass movement was a calm, quiet stroll on "Eyes Night", it was a frenzied mow-down on "Feet Night" that left us scared we were standing in front of the next band. Did I mention that average age of the crowd decreased about 10 years from Eyes to Feet?

The only bands I was familiar with going into the weekend were Beach House, Dan Deacon and Videohippos, and I was hoping to discover something new considering the showcase approach. Unfortunately, even though I was impressed by some of the sounds I heard from the other lesser-known bands, I will never know how to look them up because we had no means of figuring out which band was which. Very few of the bands ever introduced themselves, and there were no signs or maps to explain who was set up where.

As a result, Beach House was the highlight of the weekend for me and left me hoping they'd make their next tour stop at the Ephiphany. Victoria LeGrand's voice sounded incredible in the church, and the setting was just so perfect for their somber organ sounds. If only I could have heard more than 4 songs . . . but alas, that is the point of the Round Robin.

Mirah 10/15/08
Last night I headed back to Ashland and Adams to catch Mirah in what turned out to be a solo show for her, after seeing her with a small backing band at Logan Square Auditorium 2 years ago. Though her sweetness and humor always carry her through a show and make her a treat to watch, I think the band helps her flesh out her songs a bit more in a live setting, giving them more power. Apparently earlier in the week she badly cut her pinky finger, requiring her to develop a playlist of pinky-free songs. I'm guessing the majority of C'Mon Miracle, then, requires some pinky, because after opening with my favorite Mirah song, "We're Both So Sorry," she didn't play much else from it. We were treated to a few new songs from her forthcoming album (due in March), a couple a capella sing-a-longs from her children's album about bugs, and some lesser-known Advisory Committee tracks (i.e., not "Cold Cold Water", which must use some serious pinky). I did really enjoy her rendition of "The Garden" to close out the set, where she just had the audience stomp and clap a rhythm for her to sing over- it was a good use of audience participation for a great song (and I'm generally anti-audience participation). Overall, the set seemed quite short considering the size of Mirah's catalog, which I will again attribute to the Great Pinky Disaster of 2008 (at one point in a song she stopped and said "ow! I guess that song has pinky in it!").

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