Senex sum

That’s “I’m old” in Latin, for those of you playing along at home. Old enough to think that maybe I should have thought twice about going to the Pernice Brothers show last night, since it started at 9 and there were four bands on the bill. Rolling in at 2 am last night, with ringing ears, an aching back, and falling eyelids, my only thought was: totally worth it.

The Tractor is one of those real joys of a music venue: big square empty room with bare brick walls, split in two with the bigger rectangle for the stage and the floor. Intimate, in a “put your drink on the stage next to the set list and dance” kind of way. Even in the intimacy, the first act, Jose Ayerve of the Portland (Maine) band Spouse, looked small up on stage by himself, strumming his electric—until he started singing. Big voice this guy has. Some of the vocal licks on his English songs reminded me of a less arty Bono. Good songs too.

The second band, Sparrow, hailed from Canada by way of (apparently) Belle and Sebastian. With a nebbishy lead vocalist who sang barely audibly hunched over the keyboard, every song played in a mid-tempo 6/8, and a cellist who played five lines a song (you could only tell by watching her bow), I wasn’t too impressed. In fact, the best part of the evening was the bassist’s joke to the sound man: “Can we get a little more guitar in the monitors? And a lot more cello? … And can you give me a bigger penis, please? … And how about some more stage presence over there?” (this last directed at the vocalist). (Hmm: If Jessamyn is right, I’ll now find my site unreadable at libraries, particularly in Toppenish.)

Warren Zanes and his trio, on the other hand, had stage presence to spare. Ex of the Del Fuegos, most recently of a PhD program at Rochester, his trio was tight and rocking, with a bouncy backbeat to kill for, killer guitar, and tight three part vocal harmonies over these insanely catchy pop songs. Definitely worth seeking out the long-delayed album.

And speaking of insanely catchy pop songs… the Pernice Brothers. Where their music, great though it is, can occasionally sound thin and precious on disc (see the downloads at EMusic), in person Joe and the band rocked hard. With three guitars and a bass, the group pulled off beautiful precise sounds that you’d expect to take months of overtracking in the studio—and made it sound easy. And Joe Pernice, despite looking a little like a shorter Philip Greenspun, comes across more like Elvis Costello when he steps up to the mic, at least in terms of sheer intensity. What a killer set—and a great Pretenders cover in the encores, as well as a dusted off Scud Mountain Boys song with an unprintable name.

Now as I sit at our patio table with a cup of tea, hugging the dwindling shade and looking up at the sky-blue sky (yes, the satellites are out tonight), I think, maybe there’s no such thing as too old to stay out until two am at a great rock show. Just, too old to get up before 10 am the next day.

(Postscript: I had forgotten how good Nightwatch Dark Amber is. Worth a full tasting note if I can find some more.)