Sometimes ironic conflation, the combination of two sonically different forces, or two things that just don’t make sense together… winds up working. PB&J, ethereal whale sounds travelling through dense oceans, Gary Busey and Keanu Reeves in Point Break – all things that are inherently different but somehow come together perfectly. Harmony, people.
Plagued by a broken projector (and performing essentially in the dark – thus no photos), Adult Fur’s performance lacked the “show” necessary to give non-instrumentalist electronic music needs to pull off live performance to an audience. With white sheets hung up with black yarn in place of his planned women in white dresses, Ryan McNeely’s set felt like one of those “skinny” menu options. Still tasty, still interesting, but not enough to placate one’s hunger for something substantial.
If the projector hadn’t broken, if his back-up ladies had shown up, and if The Last Unicorn would have been playing on those blank white sheets to accompany Adult Fur’s set (a combination of Adult Fur and ii), undoubtedly the show would have come together. Both Adult Fur and ii are great albums, but rendered without any sort of manual performance, they fail to achieve enigma or art – key elements to live electronic music. And it begets the question: What could McNeely do if he set out to create a performance that comfortably combined the aural and visual? Is there a possibility for a performance art piece or an installation that would move a crowd? Those are things for the man at the helm of Adult Fur to mull over.
In contrast, Theodore took 20 minutes to set their stage up. The stage included just them, their instruments and their amps, and they proceeded to throw comfortable confidence and bravado at the audience with an opening Americana-cized “Ave Maria.” Before one verse was over, everyone in the place was silenced and at full attention. Sadly, this captivation is a rare feat for a local band in St. Louis, but Theodore is one that does not disappoint.
Theodore delivers a HUGE performance. Even the lead singer’s unbuttoned flannel became symbolic of the band’s comfort on stage. Theodore is a band talented enough to make the audience care. If you peered into the clusters of Crack Fox patrons, mostly affable, bike-riding, hash-smoking hipster-types and spritely but grubby looking, late-twenty- and early-thirty-something, eternally youthful romancers of wanderlust… you would have seen the majority craning their necks around one another to see and stamping their feet along with Theodore’s music.
Theodore’s music was well-constructed (and even their cover of Harry Nilson’s cover of “Save the Last Dance For Me” was nothing short of gorgeous. I can still hear that chorus), their performance enigmatic, nuanced, and irreverent. Theodore played like they owed it, to make the audience feel something. Singer Justin Kinkel-Schuster has a raspy howl that is emotional enough to help make sense of it all and feral enough to glide gracefully over the band’s enormous instrumental prowess. They could command a much larger venue, and I look forward to the day they hypnotize venues of 500+ audiences hanging on every note.
Which brings me back to this notion of the juxtaposition. Adult Fur and Theodore are two completely different acts: one deserving of space at The Pulitzer to provide the soundtrack for the night, and the other inching toward the marquee of The Pageant. Separately they are wonderful. Together, they fell flat.
If you’re interested in checking more from Justin Kinkel-Schuster, see him in Phantom Limb at the Billiken Club tomorrow, October 15th, opening for The Felice Brothers and Gill Landry of Old Crow Medicine Show. Eleven contributor Jarred Gastreich has put together a Show-Me Show of Phantom Limb, here: