One really good thing that has happened to me in the last two months is becoming a fan of the Whiskeybelles. I can't explain exactly what happened--I guess it's just one of those things you have to enjoy and try not to overanalyze. In true Mike style, I arrived more than fashionably late to the party. Or, let's hope not! The Whiskeybelles have been performing since 2010 or so and somehow managed to escape my attention until last summer. As I recall, I visited their website while looking at acts performing at the summer concert series at nearby Pere Marquette Park. I walked by the late June gig and caught a couple songs, then made the mistake of filing it in my "Fun Things to Do Later" bin. Fortunately, it didn't stay there.
They played at Potawatomi about six weeks ago, and that's when the ball really got rolling. The first of two memorable scenarios unfolded. A group of twentysomethings walked in and just really proceeded to not only ignore the concert, but to talk loudly through the show, provoking hostile glances from people who were trying to enjoy the performance. I suppose the most authentic and sincere reaction was the one I was closest to carrying out. (Mind you, I was on about drink eight of the evening at this point.) I would--and probably should--have said: "Take fifteen minutes of your Millennial life and learn what a beautiful, sexy woman looks like." I ended up just sitting closer, but towards the end of the first set, one of the women in the group at the bar shouted out, "Go big or go home!" I don't remember what exactly went through my mind, but I'm pretty sure it was something along the lines of "How about you go home?" (The group's lyrics would have provided a much better comeback. Later, I'd learn that the group's signature tune features the line, "I'll take your woman in a barroom brawl.")
This probably sounds more hostile than it really should. I sincerely feel sorry for those people. I'm sure there's some more friendly way to communicate my enthusiasm, but in a context like that, it feels destined to be like trying to go ice fishing by scattering a few drops of hot water on the ice, when what you really need is an awl. And you could say that is my feeling about the Whiskeybelles. I feel like they should be more aggressive. On New Year's Eve, more memorable scenarios unfolded. Towards the end of an otherwise well-received gig, seemingly oblivious Cafe Centraal patrons went through the buffet line, just a few feet in front of the stage. I thought to myself, "This is NOT right!" Obviously, I don't get a vote. However, if only by coincidence, there are signs that they are moving in a better direction.
A couple weeks ago, the group was one of the first to appear at this year's Local Coverage benefit at Turner Hall. By some weird constellation of events, the staging and lighting made the gig look arguably way more commercial than in the past. Though better videos have been made of the Whiskeybelles, I'm really pleased with the way that this one turned out. The opening song revealed multiple time signatures and other increasingly sophisticated touches, pointing out intriguing possibilities for an evolution of the band's sound.