June 10, 2012

“I will try and know whatever I try, I will be gone but not forever”

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Cumulus ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

The real truth about it is no one gets it right The real truth about it is we’re all supposed to try

- “Farewell Transmission”

For those who gathered on stage and off Tuesday night at The Barboza to honor the contributions that Jason Molina has made to all of our lives, the feeling in the room was distinctly different from nearly every benefit show I’ve attended. Those that I spoke with almost all had a personal story to relate about what Molina’s music meant to them, or having met the man himself in past years. He and his bands have provided inspiration for so many, and for many others at a critical time in our lives his songs were an indication that we were not alone in our deepest of miseries.

I walked in on Bellingham’s Keaton Collective tearing through a set of Magnolia Electric Company jams, the three electric guitars ably matching the density of the original songs. Someone remarked that the covers up to this point had been pretty straight. I responded that though that might be so, and as much as we’re drawn to his lyrical output, for over a decade Molina has been also cultivating a muscular guitar-driven aesthetic that at least to my mind wasn’t simply a retread of the previous three decades. That the Keaton Collective were reverently flexing their own muscles in this way felt right. As the night went on though, bands who weren’t equipped with all those axes began taking more liberties to customize their covers while still meeting the substance of the songs head on.

Prior to Cataldo’s set, benefit organizer Mark Baumgarten related that he’d received a call the day before, and that none other than Molina himself was on the end of the line wanting to send his appreciation for everyone’s concern and efforts. Then the reading of a message of assurance and thanks that Molina had later posted to Facebook marked a public acknowledgement of our concern that amounted to a strange moment of triumph and a lifting of the spirits in the room that I’ve never experienced at a benefit show like this. I think everyone just wanted to know Jason was okay, and now we do.

The generally acoustic Cataldo appropriately seized the energy of the moment, lead singer Eric Anderson at times bouncing around on stage and singing with more grit than we ever see from his mellow acoustic pop outfit. Their chosen four songs represented a batch of what I think are some of Molina’s most iconic in both sound and state of mind. The opening duo of “The Dark Don’t Hide It” into “Doing Something Wrong” are two of my all-time favorites, and when sung by Anderson it seemed like they could’ve been written by him and come from the same cycle of songs as his most recent record Prison Boxing (Sound on the Sound’s #4 Best Northwest Record of 2011). Closing with “Farewell Transmission” Cataldo delivered the song of the night, in that moment fully transforming from a subtle pop band into psych experimentalists.

Headliner Pickwick’s two songs were both deep cuts they’d reworked, and by their treatment you’d never know they were a soul band. Still present was the dark cloud, but they’d taken liberties and were going full on psych, a lot like they did for a Damien Jurado cover earlier this year. Their first song saw almost the entire band in a percussion role and getting weird, working on a throbbing rhythm with wood block and cowbell for the entire length. After telling a nice story about how Molina’s music brought this band closer together, the night’s closer of “Pyramid Electric Company” saw the six going on a full on acid trip (see the video of the story and the song below) channeling something like a Fear of Music era David Byrne and Co doing “Memories Can’t Wait.” They keep warning me that their new record won’t be quite like what anyone expects. Their approach to this song is the strongest indicator of that impending change yet.

A huge thanks goes to Mark Baumgarten for making this happen. It was a night for the ages. A full setlist of songs is below the fold.

 

 

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Cumulus ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

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Mark Baumgarten reads a message from Jason Molina himself ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

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Cataldo ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

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Jason Dodson ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

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Ben Fisher ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

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Cumulus and Ben Fisher ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

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Pickwick ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

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Pickwick ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

-Trever Hadley- “Leave the City” “Nightshift Lullaby” “North Star”

-Song Sparrow Research- “Hammer Down” “Give Something Away Every Day” “The Old Black Hen”

-Keaton Collective- “Just Be Simple” “No Moon on the Water” “Don’t Fade On Me” “Such Pretty Eyes for a Snake”

-Cumulus- “Hard to Love a Man” “Long Desert Train” “Get Out, Get Out, Get Out”

-Lotte Kestner- “Being in Love” “Lioness”

-Cataldo- “Doing Something Wrong” “The Dark Don’t Hide It” “O Grace” “Farewell Transmission”

-Jason Dodson- “Blue Chicago Moon” “Hold On Magnolia”

-Ben Fisher- “Alone With The Owl” “Northstar Blues” duet with Alexandra from Cumulus “Coxcomb Red” “Talk To Me Devil, Again”

-Pickwick - “Lightning Risked it All” “Pyramid Elec Co”

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