Sleepytime Gorilla Museum Rocks (as promised)

Wow. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum put on one hell of a show, as usual, at the Double Door last night; it was every bit as good as I said it would be. To see what I said it would be, click here. To see me repeat myself in a review as well as some more drunken pictures, continue on…st_artsy_small.JPGNils Frykdahl of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, taken by Dobro Dan of the I’m Not Drunk, I’m an Artist museumSurprisingly, I almost didn’t get in. Doors were at 9:00, show at 10:00, and I got down there at about 9:45 to find a huge line stretching South down Damen. I’m not sure if everyone got in or not, but I’m pretty sure that it sold out, and I got in right at the tail end. It was pretty cool to see such a big turnout for these guys.The crowd wasn’t as diverse as it has been in the past when I’ve gone to see them. I saw a few guys in Mr. Bungle wear (maybe because the Secret Chiefs 3 were playing, but Sleepytime Gorilla Museum definitely attracts the Mr. Bungle crowd), a few girls, but mostly 20-30ish white guys in hooded sweatshirts and other relatively normal states of dress.At about 10:30, the Secret Chiefs 3 went on. I’d never heard them before, and I predicted that they were gonna suck, but they weren’t as bad as I thought they were going to be. Instrumentation was bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, violin, viola, esraj and sarangi (both Indian instruments, I think). There was a lot of instrument trading going on, and everyone in the band played at least a couple of different instruments throughout the set. They came out dressed in these hooded monk robe things, and then played a bunch of middle-eastern tinged prog-y instrumentals, no singing at all. They were all OK on their instruments, but I thought it was pretty boring for the most part. Maybe I’m too old and my attention span has become too short for this kind of straight-up instrumental prog rock, or maybe I’m still carrying a subconscious grudge against Mr. Bungle for sucking so bad after showing so much promise (the Secret Chiefs 3 guitar player was in Mr. Bungle). The crowd seemed to be into it though, as evidenced by a guy behind me shouting “Fuck yeah! That was fucking sick, dude!” after every single song. I guess for me, it came down to the fact that they didn’t really look like they were having too much fun up there. The guy who played violin for most of the show was scowling the whole time, which may or may not have been part of the act, and the only tiny smile I saw was from Trey Spruance (the guitar and saz player) after they came back on stage to do an encore (about a minute after everyone had stopped clapping). The verdict: Eh.A quick side note: I spent most of their encore at the bar downstairs. I really like seeing stuff at the Double Door because it’s usually not crowded down there for some reason, even if the rest of the place is packed. Weird.Out came SGM, dressed in these weird white homemade-looking patchy dresses and ghoulish black and white makeup. They looked sufficiently creepy and proceeded to play a long set full of their own kind of prog-y rock/metal stuff, with guitar, bass, drums, percussion, violin and vocals. There were a couple of homemade instruments: the bass player sometimes played this long slide-bass thing. The violin player sometimes played what looked like a smaller higher-pitched version of that slide bass, and even played a bass harmonica on one song (and instrument that I wouldn’t have a chance at identifying had they not said what it was on stage). They played a couple of songs off of a new album that they have coming out soon, which were a little slower and spacier than the older songs they played, which definitely rocked out more.st_karla_harmonica.jpgCarla Kihlstedt of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, playing a bass harmonicaThey are all amazing musicians, and musically, for someone with no attention span like me, they put on quite a satisfying show. Every one of the musicians is in constant motion (which is my non-alcohol-related exuse for the crappiness of the pictures). There’s always a million things going on at once, and it all makes musical sense. Where’s that sizzle coming from? It can’t be from Michael Mellender (the percussionist), because he’s got both of his hands on a trumpet at the moment… Hmm… Oh, there it is: it’s Dan Rathbun (the bass player), dropping a thin sheet of metal on his homemade slide bass thing. I had a great time just trying to figure out where all the sounds were coming from. One disappointing thing was that I couldn’t see Matthias Bossi, the drummer, very well. He’s an awesome and precise drummer with a really natural and fluid feel, and he’s a blast to watch. The last few times I’ve seen them, they’ve hidden him in the back for some reason. From what I could see this time, he was playing a four-piece kit which was pretty amazing because he made it sound about four times that size.st_bass_light.jpgDan Rathbun of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, seting up a really cool homemade slide-bass thingst_3.jpgFrom L to R: Carla Kihlstedt, Michael Mellender and Nils Frykdahl of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, rocking out and getting drunkenly photographedIn between songs, Nils Frykdahl (the guitarist and lead singer) would talk to the audience in these kind of half-English half-made-up phrases, and improvise (I think) all sorts of funny nonsense stories (one about John Wayne that involved, among other things, him hatching from an egg laid by his hermaphrodite father). It was pretty ridiculous and funny most of the time, and at any given point, you could catch the rest of the band smiling and trying to hold back laughter. Even Nils himself lost it for a brief moment during the John Wayne story.And that’s what I love about these guys. They look like they’re having so much fun every single time I see them. They make it look easy, and they make the musician in me want to quit playing bluegrass and start playing artsy-fartsy prog rock, no matter how much trash I may talk about it at any other time. They take themselves just seriously enough, but not too seriously. For me anyways, they straddle that line better than any other art/prog rock group that I’ve seen. I think they’re coming back to Chicago in May or June, and you should definitely check them out, even if you’re not into this kind of stuff (trust me, I’m not either).

2 Comments so far

  1. DC_Darpino (unregistered) on March 21st, 2007 @ 10:49 am

    Great write-up!

    I write music reviews for the DC site. Sometimes it feels like a thankless task, but hey we get to see great bands and occasionally find out some other music freak out there is reading!

    Keep the show reviews coming!


  2. taaneu (unregistered) on March 31st, 2007 @ 12:02 am

    I went to see the next to last show in LA at the El Rey. What you’ve described, I experienced. Plus a little more because they were closer to home, I expect.

    SGM are the key to the vaults of the music of the future. Acutally, maybe not the key; perhaps the dynamite.



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