Live Review: Head of Femur; Two Gallants sign to The Creek

Category: Blog — @ 12:23 pm July 12, 2005

The last time I saw the Femur they were a small band of three or four musicians pounding out proggy noise with the exuberance of a child begging for attention. And they got it. They deserved it. Their sound has grown a lot in the past couple years. So has the band. Once a trio, last night no less than eight musicians were on stage playing everything from trombone to trumpet to violin. Still, its frontman Matt Focht, guitarist/vocalist Mike Elsener and drummer Ben Armstrong who are at the core of the outfit, orchestrating all the beautiful noise in a much more traditional fashion then when they started. Let me put it this way, instead of straight-up indie prog, Femur — who always carried a burden of influences on their songwriting shoulders — at one point sounded like the reincarnation of The Band playing an obscure Mott the Hoople tune with the help of Consafos guitarist Billy Talbot Jr. (the progeny of Crazy Horse’s Billy Talbot). It was one of many highlights that included a fine mix of songs off Hysterical Stars (the new one) and Ringodom of Proctor (the old one), as well as a cover of Elvis Costello’s “What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding?” It was all good.

Femur is probably the first among the current-day indie flock that epitomizes that sunshine, good-times, Sunday-in-the-park-stoned sound of classic roots and prog rock ’60s and ’70s bands like Blood Sweat and Tears, The Moody Blues, Procol Harum, King Crimson and The Nice. And they do it seemingly without even trying. My problem with the scores of neu-retro acts like The Shins, New Pornographers, and Of Montreal is that while their music is catchy and kitschy, their obvious retro-adulation is clearly orchestrated and always forced. Femur sounds like Femur because that’s what Femur is. Sure, it’s obvious that they grew up listening to their great-uncle’s record collection, but the honesty, purity and hippyness of their sound is impossible to deny. They’re at Knickerbocker’s in Lincoln tonight again with Kite Pilot and Consafos.

In the Old News Dept: Saddle Creek Records will be releasing the next full length by San Francisco duo Two Gallants. I (and most of Omaha it seems) knew about this for months, but try as I might no one from Creek would confirm it. Hmmm… Two Gallants… What did I say about their show last January when they opened for Rogue Wave at Sokol Underground? “Two Gallants, a drum-and-guitar duo, opened the show with a set of long, three-quarter-time ballads that married Arlo Guthrie with Janis Joplin (sort of) to create a nasal-esque folk-blues ‘explosion’ that seemed to go on and on. Every tune felt three minutes too long, but I guess the guy had a story to tell.” Now I remember those guys. They wound up playing in Omaha a second time, and that’s when they caught Creek’s ear, or so I’m told. On paper, they seem like an ill fit for a label that has little use for obvious retrograde noodling (if you don’t count The Faint), but who can argue with Creek’s record of success? It’s also been pointed out that this is the first band signed with absolutely no ties to any other band on the label. They’ll be playing the Saddle Creek Records’ CMJ showcase at The Bowery Ballroom in Sept. 16, and will be headed back to Omaha for a gig with Holy Ghost Revival Sept. 30.

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