Death + Taxes

Last night I was able to catch the Death & Taxes Tour (sponsored by Death + Taxes Magazine) here in Minneapolis. Headlining was Jesse Malin, whom I’ve known and loved for years, with support provided by LA band Acute and a newly reformed and re-invented Wisconsin band, the Wildbirds.

The first set was provided by Acute, who have recently released their disc Arms Around A Stranger. Get your hands on a copy, I enjoy the album quite a bit. Although Minnesotans are intrinsically pleasant and agreeable people by nature, the reasonably sized crowd seemed to genuinely enjoy the the unassuming mien and non-complacent songs the band had to offer. I’d venture to say that we appreciated the band even more as a result of the spectacle that took place on stage following them, but I’d be discounting the crowd’s immediate fondness for them.

I’ve seen the Wildbirds perform before, albeit under far different circumstances, and was expecting some semblance of enjoyment as it related to those past experiences. In the past year or so, the Wildbirds have undergone not only a name change, but a complete stylistic change as well. Although I love and enjoy the band’s most recent EP, their performance left a bit to be desired. Namely, the antics of vocalist Nick Stuart had most of the crowd reeling with distaste. It’s no secret that a mildly inebriated frontman is a bit charming and generally makes for a more engaging performance, but being completely tanked is not only tasteless, but absolutely senseless as well. I’ll say it again, I do thoroughly enjoy this band, and would likely venture out to see them play again. I just hope the outcome is a bit different. The band is gearing up to release their debut full length (as the Wildbirds) next month.

The Wildbirds – Way Down Low

It was clear who the crowd came to see, and after a set of an hour and a half, most of us were more than contented. Jesse banged out mostly electric based pop tunes tunes from his new disc, Glitter In The Gutter, but was happy to please the obvious sub-crowd of “life-and-death” fans with tracks like Brooklyn, Swingin’ Man, Wendy, and Riding On A Subway. Not only did he charm the crowd with his sometimes inarticulate rantings on politics, Cracker Barrel, Myspace and the current state of the music business (he’s the old-fashioned, indie record store type, if you couldn’t conclude), but he scored extra points with his Minneapolis related covers. At one point, the whole crowd, along with Jesse, sat on the venue’s floor while he covered “Bastards of Young”. Though the cover appears on Glitter in the Gutter, I think he was expecting a gleeful sing-along, but, unfortunately, the Replacements reference seemed to have been lost on the majority of the crowd. He later covered the Hold Steady’s “You Can Make Him Like You” acoustically. Near the end of the night, both support acts were invited on stage to channel Wayne Coyne in their rendition of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.” Jesse, you’re invited back. And sooner rather than later.

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