Posted by: Cory | March 31, 2008

Review: The Weakerthans @ Mad Hatter – 3/28

The Weakerthans came to Covington’s Mad Hatter last Friday and put on a show I’ve been waiting years to hear. I was worried that the set wouldn’t translate as well from the albums to the live show. The Weakerthans are a very lyric-driven band…more treble than bass…and often that doesn’t come through in a live performance. Combine that with the venue…a small dive that feels sort of like Cahoots, with a stage that is raised only about one foot…and you get a recipe for massacring the studio sound these guys make. Lucky for us…that didn’t happen.

The show opened up with Christine Fellows. I regretfully didn’t get to fully hear her set but I heard enough to say I’d pay to see her again, but not enough to comment further. AA Bondy came up next & I really enjoyed his set. Just a man & his guitar, he played a very Dylan-esque style, very harmonica driven. His recent album, American Hearts, received a 7.3 from Pitchfork which says a lot. Each of his songs however was very depressing, with titles such as I Killed Myself When I Was Young. However it never felt sad for the sake of sadness…there was a definite air of authenticity.

The second song of the set was about and dedicated to Huner S. Thompson. He mentioned that in the dressing room that there was a tree with Silver Leaves & a portrait of Hunter Thompson, which reminded him of this song. Someone in the crowd asked whether or not you could smoke the silver leaves, to which he suggested it would probably be a lot like a bad mining job, but noted you’d probably still get high as there is always a trade off.

Two songs later, he told us of a dream he’d had about getting drunk with Nick Cave in a Gov’t theme park. He went to find his girl when two bratty flight attendants said that his girl now worked for the King of Afghanistan. That was it…but a view into his mind nevertheless.

Interestingly, A.A. mentioned that he was considering getting his law degree & noted that the next few songs might be on his next album if he decided against it. That brings up an interesting thought to me. I view every musician as a career musician, but that really isn’t the case. When I saw Jens Lekman I spoke with the opener, Totally Michael, who was considering foregoing music to become a comedian. Another local talent is heading to law school as well in the next few months. All of that made for an ironic transition when he said any kid reading at 17 months old should be stoned to death. All in all, I was very happy with the set.

Next up were the Weakerthans. I mentioned already that the Weakerthans are a very lyric-driven band, which shocked me when I realized exactly how talented their guitarist was. He came out with an incredibly spacey and unique sound. He was incredibly charismatic as well. At one point, he ran down into the crowd past me with his guitar & rocked out in the crowd for a bit.

As for John, it’s impossible to speak of him without refer to his lyrics. Some notable ones from the night include “I wonder whether the landlord had fixed the cracks I stared at”, “Now that the furniture is returned to its Goodwill home”, “I’ve Got this store bought way of saying I’m ok”, “sharp edge of the century”, “I’m weary with right angles, abbreviated daylight”. You read those words and there is nothing blatantly profound in them. Only their beautiful simplicity. It’s a definite and delicate sort of poetic honesty. That’s what drew me to the Weakerthans in the first place. I think that is the reason I’ve always been a bigger fan of the first album. I feel it focuses more on lyrics whereas the later albums put more emphasis on the guitar riffs. That said, they’re still more lyrical than any other band out there.

I was incredibly excited to hear One Great City, Civil Twilight, Futon Revolutionist, and Reconstruction Site. There were all very much crowd favorites as well, as the energy levels of the crowd visibly rose. John really seemed to enjoy the crowd and even came out to take a photo or two of the crowd. The respect was mutual as he even received a gift after the performance, which I believe (but can’t be quite sure) was baked goods. A nice act, but surely he wouldn’t eat food given to him by complete strangers. It was funny to see John and to think about his old Propaghandi days. In fact, someone from the crowd yelled out a request for John to play Gifts…the song I’ve always quietly asked them to play myself…but John just responded that it was from another decade, and refused to play it. Nevertheless…I cannot recommend strongly enough seeing these guys in concert if you ever get the chance. I can only hope they’re coming back soon.

For setlists & photos,

A.A. Bondy
Witness Blues
Against the Morning
There’s a Reason
I’m on Fire
American Hearts
Among the Pines
Black Rain
Vice Rag
Ode to a Vampire
I Killed Myself When I Was Young

The Weakerthans
Our Retired Explorer
Civil Twilight
Sun in an Empty Room
Night Windows
The Reasons
Tournament of Hearts
Reconstruction Site
Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure
Left & Leaving
I was a Futon Revolutionist
Plea from a Cat Named Virtute

One Great City
This is a Fire Door Never Leave Open

A.A. Bondy

The Weakerthans

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