Last Night: Trashcan Sinatras and Mike Viola
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Better Than: The Cookie-Monster-on-Ativan noise at the DNA Lounge down the street.
As we rounded the corner of 11th Street, we saw a huge tour bus with lots of people lingering outside. Good, I thought -- they're all here to see Trashcan Sinatras. As we got nearer, we saw that the crowd was composed of black-clad, extravagantly eyelinered creatures of the night. Industrial rockers 16 Volt were terrorizing their fans at the DNA Lounge. Things were altogether more sedate a few doors down at Slim's, but the crowd was no less dedicated.
This was my second Trashcans review in a year. Their latest album, In the Music, has finally received a stateside release with extra live tracks, so the band is touring again in support of it. I asked singer Frank Reader what I should write this time around. "We'll be bigger and better," he promised. "And we have written some new songs!" In our Q&A last week, Reader says he doesn't want his band to be a well-kept secret: "That's part of what drives us out of our houses and away from our recipe books -- the urge to get our music heard by more and more lovely people."
Mike Viola, a cheeky chappie who is powerpop personified, warmed up the audience with a solo set that took in some of his soundtrack-for-hire songs, including the theme for That Thing You Do! and "Beautiful Ride" from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. He goofed and teased and finally played a couple of salacious verses from "Furry Walls," his and Dan Bern's contribution to the new Russell Brand and Jonah Hill movie, Get Him to the Greek.
After a brief break, the venue was humming with anticipation when Dennis the Menace from KUSF came onstage to introduce the band. Fans were pressed against the stage at the front, many holding camera phones aloft. Eric Carmen's incredibly tall stunt double blocked my view. One couple began smooching during the first chords of the opening song, In the Music's "I Wish You'd Met Her," and didn't let up for the rest of the show.
The Trashcan Sinatras are just regular guys. They offer no pyrotechnics, no fancy backdrops, no giant lemon, no gold lamé suits. But they know how to make a beautiful noise. So, yes, the guitars chime. The harmonies soar. Thoughtful and melodic Scots bands are like catnip to a certain demographic (see also: Teenage Fanclub, Belle and Sebastian, even Del Amitri and Travis back in the day).
The set jumped around between older favorites and songs from the new album. There was "Send for Henny," from 1993's I've Seen Everything, alongside "Astronomy," introduced by guitarist and vocalist John Douglas as being about how we "look up at all the stars, and you can't touch any of them."
Reader announced, "This song is for all the girls in the audience," and the band played the title track from In the Music, whose lyrics speak of sweet romance: "You hold me in your arms, I'll hold you in mine/We'll fill the in between with the music that we make in love." At the back of the venue, a man in a gas station jacket waltzed and twirled with his beau. He goofily knocked his knees together while she stared adoringly up at him and they mouthed the words to the songs to each other. Back at the front, everyone who wasn't smooching was mouthing the words too. This was real lovers' rock.
Things fell dark onstage for "I Hung My Harp Upon the Willows," the four guitarists standing still as the drums rumbled and rolled behind them. New song "I See the Moon" was soft and sleepy, while old favorite "Hayfever" briefly kicked out the jams.
Douglas dedicated the night's set to the recently deceased Dennis Hopper before they played "Oranges and Apples," a tribute to another out-there former drug casualty, Syd Barrett. Encores included "Got Carried Away" and "The Engine," before the band strolled modestly offstage to rapturous applause. The Trashcan Sinatras are truly a dance band for swinging lovers.