Califone, The Sian Alice Group And Paper Castles At The Monkey House Sunday October 18, 2009

Words by Tim Lewis.

I was bored. It had been a while since I’d been out to anything and I was bored. This show caught my eye in 7 Days and it also caught Nathan’s. We chatted about it on the day of show and I was on the fence. He seemed to have motivation and as I finished work at 6:30 the timing seemed fine.

He stopped over around 9 and we hung out for a bit. Mike decided he was up for some music so we slowly got it together and headed for the Monkey. We were running late and I was thinking we would miss Paper Castles but they were still on when we arrived. I remember liking them a lot the one time I saw them before. Seeing them again reiterated those feelings. We only caught a song and a half ,but it was amazing, and the last song really soared at the end. I must see them again. Soon would be nice.

Next up was the Sian Alice Group from London. I knew nothing about them. I had checked out Califone on their MySpace and they sounded a bit Bowie or Lou Reedish at times, but I never made it to check out Sian. Oh well, how better to listen to a band than live? I chatted with Kevin from Lendway during the break and he said they were kind of trancy. Cool.

After a short set break the Sian Alice Group was set to go. From the first note I was sucked in. I swayed back and forth a bit looking for the groove, and found it quick. The music unfolded and filled the room with lush sound. They were tight and the songs sounded great. The dark trancy zoning was balanced by rock and roll fire. I was in heaven. I’ve always loved the trance sound but hated the 4/4 electronic dance beat that always comes with it. This was trance done with an alive and living feel, and melted time into an extended pure moment.

The show was over almost before it began. They might have played 45 minutes or an hour or 5 hours or a minute. Time seemed to not matter when they played, and the wonder of how I felt that night is still with me today. If you ever get a chance to see this band, GO!

During the set break, I went to the merch table to buy a disc, then chatted with Mike and Nathan for a bit. Califone took a while to set up and then took a while to sound check and took a while to get going. It was one of the longer set breaks I’ve seen in a while.

Eventually Califone started to play. 7Days described them as playing damaged art rock. That sounds pretty cool and with the feel of their MySpace songs, I thought it might be fun. I was wrong. I’m not sure what it was, but I just could not engage with them. With Sian I slipped into the first couple of notes and stayed, but with Califone I stayed until the last note of the evening, but never made it in. They played well, with lots of nuance and power, but there was just something missing.

Towards the end Nathan and I hung out at the back of the bar and chatted. We stayed until they were done. Most of the audience had left by the time they wrapped up, including Mike.

In the end I paid $12 for a band I did not like, but loved the openers so much, I easily got my money’s worth. It’s funny how it works sometimes. I gambled on live music, lost what I thought I might win, but won on the unknown. It was so worth it.

This post was originally published by Tim Lewis at his personal blog,