by Jack Diablo
Venue: Cafe Eleven
Date: June 11, 2009
At first I had planned on writing a letter to Holopaw asking them why on earth they didn’t have a drummer. When they opened for Elvis Perkins in Dearland, I was blown away by their music and the vocal stylings of John Orth, but I couldn’t shake my annoyance at the complete lack of a rhythm section. It’s a particular pet peeve of mine that I usually reserve for electronic bands who play with a pre-recorded drum track but in this case I was even more disturbed. With five, yes five, string instruments carrying the melody, the sound seemed empty without some form of percussion to drive the ensemble. Granted, not every song required it and the music was certainly more vocally driven than anything else but when the lead singer is tapping his foot, slapping his leg and looking around for those essential rhythm cues, it’s time to invest in at least a shaker or a tambourine.
But come to find out they do have a drummer, he just wasn’t there this particular evening. A shame really, because as one, it was almost a deal-breaker for me. However, as previously mentioned, John Orth’s voice is truly something to behold. So it comes as no surprise that Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock was so taken by those pipes as to set them up with studio time and facilitate a record deal with none other than Sub Pop. This was my first experience with the Gainesville band but I will be sure to follow them more closely in the future.
As good as Holopaw is, they couldn’t steal the show from Elvis. Perkins, that is, along with his new band Dearland. Before the show, I spotted Dearland but Perkins remained mysteriously out of sight. Eventually he emerged from the tour van clad in all white, refreshed from what could only have been a much-needed nap to whispers of, “That’s him,” from a few shy fans in attendance. At first, I thought he was playing the rock star diva role, but upon considering his upbringing (the son of actors) and the vibe he gives off in recorded interviews, I concluded that he’s just they type of guy who appreciates a little privacy. And his stage performance confirmed this. He was neither cocky nor pretentious, but actually seemed a little shy and reserved yet completely comfortable in front of a crowd.
During the show, he belted ballads right alongside stomping, fun folk-rock tunes. You might expect his performance to be a somber affair considering his past, but it was quite the contrary. When drummer, Nick Kinsey, picks up the marching bass drum on Hey it makes you want to jump on stage on dance around. The gospel-like I Heard Your Voice in Dresden, practically demands hand-waving and will surely touch your soul. Although it was the first time hearing some of the songs from the new album, they sounded familiar enough in relation to Elvis’s solo debut. And I was pleased when he played many of those songs from the first record.
All in all, it was a lot of fun. Even slightly sadder songs like 123 Goodbye have an element of joy in them, or perhaps hope is a better word. And with a title as bleak as Doomsday, you’d think it would be a dirge-like downer, but as they closed with it, St. Augustine erupted in a full-on revival fit for the big tent.
Elvis Perkins in Dearland just finished a tour in support of Bon Iver and left Florida after the Cafe Eleven show to play at Bonaroo. They have a few more American tour dates, including several festivals, before heading to Europe in September.
EPiD – http://elvisperkinsindearland.com
Holopaw – http://myspace.com/holopaw
Cafe Eleven – http://cafeeleven.com
Elvis Perkins in Dearland w/ Holopaw
by Jack Diablo