Thursday, May 12, 2005

Varsity Theater fun, past and future (Valet, Ike Reilly, the Junkyard Lilies, Ryan Sutter and the Painted Saints

The beautiful newly renovated Varsity Theater has been back in full swing for about a month now. It's an ever-changing versatile space featuring psychedelic projections on the wall as you walk into the deep space, warm bluelight glow from fun cozy crawlspaces under the "bleachers" which to me seem inspired by sci-fi writer William Gibson's small Japanese sleeping pods, and one girl said, "Chucky Cheese for adults!" inciting delight, intrigue, and playfulness that Jason McLean is renowned for in his forward-thinking vision.

Currently there are couches, stuffed chairs at many levels with numerous warmly lit white linen tableclothed tables at many levels so the sightlines are great whereever you are. There is a wide selection of beverages with a range of prices, some beer and wine as low as $3 - $4.

April 30, Beltane, was a great lineup of Tin Horn, James Apollo, and Valet. James Apollo was excellent, with a full band and a big sound, moving from 50's be bop Buddy Holly and Elvis styled songs to Cal-Mex rhythms remniscent of Calexico. The young Apollo combines an old spirit with a youthful verve and has an excellent voice.

Those of us who were there felt lucky to see Valet in one of their rare appearances, playing at a venue that was a great match for their quieter, more introspective music. Their slow, poetic lyricism wroughtwith melancholy, wry humor, and bittersweet pangs of memory, loss, and desire for the future could be clearly heard in these environs where the crowds were evidently really listening. The theatrical and dreamlike tone of the Varsity nudges people to sit back and let the dreamy music wash over them. . . it's easy to feel relaxed and want to stay awhile and absorb everything. There's also plenty of room toward the back to visit with friends if one prefers. Valet played songs from their 2004 CD Life on the Installment Plan, such as "Manifesto," "Havana," "Bring Back the Firing Squad," "George Best vs. Michael Stone," and "Journalists." I have no favorites among the storytelling songs, as I enjoy all of them equally. I see that Valet plays again on May 21 at the Spot Art Gallery with 10 Ton Bridge, and Big Rhombus.

The superior lighting and sound systerm were useful at the packed Ike Reilly show recently on May 1 Sunday night, where he played for a few hours to a very enthusiastic wild crowd (as usual). This is the best environment I've seen Ike in to date, as his voice and music was loud and clear, without the buzz or earpain that other sound systems sometimes encompass. He and his great looking band, looked more spectacular than ever. There was plenty of room to move and dance in spite of the crowd and to spot friends due to the various levels and vantage points. It was a treat to be able to stand on the steps right near the stage and see and hear them in all their exciting energy and nuances, without the sound hurting the ears.

A couple shows that I'm looking forward to in the future calendar of the Varsity are: Classical Indian Music at 5 pm, Tues. May 24, and The Junkyard Lilies, and Ryan Sutter and the Painted Saints. The Junkyard Lilies, featuring 3 members of Hungry Horse, are cited from a 2003 City Pages article -- " “Indeed, like their influences--Neil Young, Uncle Tupelo, the Jayhawks--Hungry Horse's moody, dirty guitars evoke a world of farmhouse husbands and wives abandoned by their spouses, drunken friends in pickup trucks, outcasts driving off to Nashville to find a change of scenery." Painted Saints are, cited by Jason as: "a spaghetti western/gypsy/chamber country/sad bastard school
of music. They write tin can and twine romances in a color of rust with backdrops of long wind swept open roads framed by tangled barbed wire and naked telephone poles." With a description like that, how can I not go?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did you make it to this show? What did you think?