Sunday, November 30, 2008

Live Review: These United States @ Black Cat, November 22

Alas and alack, it's the end of the line for These United States. After one tour after another, not to mention those two little albums they put out over the course of the year 2008, November 22nd marked the end of the performance portion of TUS's banner 365 days. And it is with a certain amount of shit-eating smugness, dear friends, that I relate to you just what a fine, fine specimen of a syonara show it was. I had been alight with anticipation to see just how the new songs from Crimes would sound live, and while I knew I wouldn't be disappointed, my expectations were exceeded song after song after song.

It was a cozy, celebratory set, full of glad tidings and giddy smiles. As previously documented, Jesse Elliott is far and away one of my favorite music-makers these days, and he demonstrated (as did everyone involved) just what it is that makes him such a rarity among his peers: the sheer joy that he gets from the music. All through the set he beamed with pride, laughed with abandon, and smiled a hundred humble smiles. While the band was rolling down the river of "Pleasure & Pain & Pride & Me", I thought to myself how wonderful it is to see a band enjoy themselves so much. The members of These United States love what they do, and gosh almighty does it show. The entire band, in this instance the band being comprised of Jesse, Robby, Tom, and Justin, knocked my socks off (tights, technically, as it was a rather chilly evening after all) musically.
What began with the mighty "Six Fast Bulets (Five Complaints) did not let up for an instant. They brought the rock, the folk, the country, the soul, and laid it all out there in their undeniable, effortless way. By the time they played "Get Yourself Home (In Search of the Mistress Whose Kisses Are Famous)", I scribbled that this was easily the best I've seen them play. The presence of my favorite TUS song, the delicately beatific (slightly less fragile when live) "Study the Moon", solidified the night as a winner.

In my notes I equated the rise of the band to one of those cartoon snowballs, such as you might see in an episode of Scooby Doo, for example, rolling down a mountain and growing larger and faster with each rotation and picking up any Fred, Shaggy, or Scooby (and any of a variety of nefarious villains) that happen to be in its way, arms and legs and skis sticking out all sorts of akimbo. The point of such an analogy is this: These United States is a very, very good band. Not only are they a good band, but they pretty much took my breath away at this show. I'm already looking forward to see just what 2009 holds for my favorite DC/Lexington hybrid (and I sure do hope it involves many, many more shows).

In closing, I've probably already said it before, but go ahead and jump on the TUS bandwagon now, while the getting's good. You can sit right next to me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Untitled Interview #15: Starring Jesse Elliott (These United States)

Some people are music personified, they embody musicality so much that all they can do is play and play and get their sonic innards outside into the world. Jesse Elliott is one of that rare breed of folks. He seems to eat, drink, and sleep, maybe even breathe music. And it's obvious he loves it. It's almost as if he's bemused when he sings, and you can almost see Elliott smiling when listening to a These United States album. Go see them live and you will see it. As I've said before, he's on a different page than most, and you know it immediately. Elliott is by far one of my most favorite souls in the DC music scene, and I'm fairly certain you'll feel the same once you meet him. These United States is becoming quite a band of road warriors, so I predict plenty of chances to take in the joyous spectacle that becomes a TUS gig. In the meantime, well, here's a few good words from the man himself.

Les Enfants Terribles
: How the hell are you?
Jesse Elliott: Yes!

LET: What was the last song you listened to?
JE: "Out at Sea" by Salt-Water-Shoes from Austin.

LET: Playing music is ___
JE: All that's left sometimes.

LET: What album most made you realize that you wanted to make music?
JE: Midnight Vultures.

LET: Beatles or Stones?
JE: Dylan.

LET: What're your top 5 albums?
JE: Right now, and in no particular order:
Slow Gems (Kitty Hawk)
Loaded (Velvet Underground)
Perseverance (Percee P)
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Neko Case)
Cheekbone Hollows (The Childballads)

LET: Favorite music-related movie?
JE: The Muppet Movie.

LET: What city or venue would you like to play, but haven't yet been to?
JE: Tokyo.

LET: Half-full or half-empty?
JE: Overflowing.

LET: Apart from your band, which of your peers do you think is making the best music these days?
JE: Cotton Jones.

LET: What's the first thing you think when you wake up in the morning?
JE: Where are we?

LET: The greatest record store in the world is:
JE: Spillers Records, Cardiff, Wales.

LET: What's the longest flight you've ever been on, and where were you going?
JE: Chicago to Copenhagen, delayed, 24 hours.

LET: Shaken or stirred?
JE: Splashed!

LET: If you weren't in a band, you'd be:
JE: On a Mountain.

LET: You just went on another gigantic tour. How do you get mentally prepared for such long spans of being in new places all the time?
JE: Maps!

LET: What color croquet mallet would you choose for playing with the Queen of Hearts?
JE: Black.

LET: Which feels better: leaving to go on tour, or coming home from a tour?
JE: Being there.

LET: Best song ever written?
JE: “A Change is Gonna Come”.