Sunday, August 24, 2008

Das Fun Haus: One

In October of 2006, when we signed the lease for 423 W. Vernon here in Normal, I was in the middle of reading Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s brilliant Please Kill Me. All we knew at that point was that we were going to have house shows. So when the question of what to call the house was, the natural answer for me was The Fun House, after the house The Stooges lived in and named their second album after. And Peter, the German major, added the twist of calling it Das Fun Haus.

Last year was great. Hardcore bands. Punk bands. Country bands. Folk bands. Straight edge. Solo acts. Whether the mayhem of Cross Examination or the catastrophe that was The Beauty Shop. It was unbelievable. And this year, I’m excited to chronicle the experience, posting about each show we have.

For our first show of the year, we had:

I don’t play solo shows often, but there are songs that I write that just don’t fit with Endless Mike. I tried to keep the set as short and as upbeat as possible. From the moment we planned the show I knew I wanted to start by covering The Hold Steady’s “Constructive Summer,” declaring that even though school had started, we still had time to “build something this summer.” I played four originals and planned to close with the Smoking Popes’ “Megan.” Though at the suggestion of my roommate Joey, I also played The Lawrence Arms song “100 Resolutions” which was really just me playing guitar for everyone to sing along.

Thom Crawford came next with his blend of dirty folk, “cornfield blues.” Thom puts together a mass of bluesy folk guitar with a throaty voice laced in misery. His guitar work resonates the tone that Rick Rubin put forth on Cash’s American Recordings­—not for the faint of heart. It’s depressing music, but it’s also unbelievably well written and heartfelt. On Thom’s myspace he has just loaded a new set of demos, and you can also get a free download of his release There Is Nothing Creepy About Being A Mess...

Ian Reynold plays in the tradition of Elliott Smith, except that Mr. Smith couldn’t hold a note compared to the pipes Ian’s got. The kid can fucking sing. And he writes some very intricate guitar melodies, keeping things even more interesting. Ian is one of my favorite solo performers to watch. He made a fantastic record this summer called See Thru Stars—I’ve got it, it’s excellent.

Playing their first show, Random Candy was the only full band of the night, putting together a blend of power pop and soul. They didn’t know they were a soul band yet though. Their faster songs were very reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub, but they also had some slow jams that were suggestive of a Motown influence. I tried to be their Jimmy Rabbitte, telling Pat Klazca, “come on, say it loud, ‘I’m black and I’m proud.’” We settled on the fact that he should just start listening to The Temptations and Otis. It was a fun set, a good party band. And Pat has some majestic mannerisms.

Maribelle is the side project of A. Ross, guitarist of DuPage County hardcore kings Weekend Nachos. A. Ross writes beautiful tunes, and is talented and comfortable enough with these songs to the point where he knows exactly how they should be played. Exactly. In the I’m Your Man documentary, Leonard Cohen talks about how songs took him, months, sometimes years to finish because he wanted them to be perfect. Aaron’s understanding of his songs and maturity as a musician allows for him to present what he’s written with a brilliant minimalism that is perfectly fitting. I was happy to see him.

It was an amazing way to start out the year. All the bands were people we knew and the turn-out was solid. It was a good welcome back. With love, and trust, and shows, all school year.