Musical musings: Spoon, The Whiles

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Thoughts on a couple shows from last weekend:

Spoon and Times New Viking at Skully's Music Diner

Seems like TNV is opening every show I go to these days. I could get used to that, except I still hate how the soundfolks at these big places jack up Beth Murphy's keyboard way higher than Jared Phillips' guitar. At Sunday's special "private party" in Skully's, drummer Adam Elliott reacted against all the attention a certain outlandish local got in the press last week with a little screed at the end of "Teenagelust!" On record, it's "Necropolis is up next-ah!" On this night, it was "Zachery Allan Starkey is not up next-ah!" I smell a headline-grabbing beef! Call the NME! As for the music, it was decent, but the band seemed to be less into its fuzz-scuzz-buzz than usual. Maybe that's because they were limited to only six or seven songs, leaving out that home stretch when they really get going. Oh well. I guess they can't be transcendent every time.

Spoon, however, fit that description. They played a long, full, satisfying set, lacking only the pre-Girls Can Tell material they seem to have forsaken. Britt Daniel's vocals were strong and clear as he led his band through the songs with authority. The new songs blended in seamlessly with classics such as "The Way We Get By," "The Beast and Dragon, Adored" and "Jonathan Fisk," adding new ripples to the Spoon formula without rocking the boat too much. Not that rocking the boat would have been a bad thing; as often is the case at Spoon shows, the highlight was "Paper Tiger," which goes from an anomaly on record to a whole different animal on stage. The band patiently builds a minimalist, noisy soundscape, drawing it out until tension peaks. Then the melody and bass kick in, and the song takes shape like an apparition. It wastes no time making its mark, then disappears back into the ether. That song alone would have been worth a bucketful of the free drink tickets that were floating around at the Jack Daniel's-sponsored show.

The Whiles and Miranda Sound at Little Brother's

The previous night at Little Brother's, local folk-pop would-be hitmakers The Whiles celebrated the release of their new Sleeper's Wake. But first came sets from folkie Hal Hixson (missed him, sorry) and "indie pop chargers" Miranda Sound. It was good to hear a new song or two in the MS mix—their sets were getting dangerously close to uniform, with the same few songs always popping up around the same time in the sequence. "Close Calls," "The Lull of Youngstown" and "Jackson Milton" are great songs, but the set needed something new, and the band thankfully provided that with a keyboard-centric new number (and possibly one more; I can't remember). Watching the set continue to change and grow should be a pleasure.

Then it was Whiles time. Although songwriter Joe Peppercorn has stepped in beautifully for the more delicate but departed Zach Prout on vocals, his shortcomings as a front man come into focus a bit more in the live setting. His brand of charisma is introverted and dorky, and his voice isn't built to dominate a room, even if its rough corners suit the band ably on record. You can tell his development as a singer is a few years behind his development as a songwriter, but given his experience in both fields, that's no surprise. I suspect he'll only continue to improve on both fronts.

One other complaint: Even if the band doesn't normally play with a piano on stage, they should have made an exception for this show. (Dan Gerken on cello was a nice touch, though.) Still, all those nagging drawbacks didn't really subtract from the spirit or enjoyment of the "CD relief party." The Whiles played long and hard, and nearly every song was a delight, culminating with a beautiful rendition of "Annie With Your Green Eyes Darkening" to end the main set. The often understated band rocked like it handed rocked all night, bringing the evening to a gorgeous climax.