Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Band of Skulls @ Fubar 8/24/09

Arriving hours before the concert began, my friend Matt and I pulled up next to Fubar around 7pm on a Monday night to find all three members of Band of Skulls standing on the sidewalk not more than fifteen feet from where we parked the car. They had a couple guitars and were about to head down to a nearby restaurant for a quick bite before the show. We waited the appropriate non-stalker-ish time before we followed. At that point neither I nor my friend Matt had the courage to attempt contact, so we sat a few tables over from the band and had a drink. After a short time we walked back down the street to Fubar where the show was later going to take place.

Walking inside was a bit of a shock to the system due to the fact that there was hardly anybody there. A few people were tuning some instruments as we walked past the stage to the back of the room where the '21 and over' section started. After inquiring at the bar I discovered that the Skulls would be playing around 10pm, meaning we were very very early. Deciding the time should be used wisely I threw away my earlier plan of staying sober and decided to get another drink. This is the point where I was introduced to Sol, quite possibly the best Mexican beer I have ever had. Best described as a better tasting Corona with a hint of vanilla, Sol is now one of my favorite beers.

We listened to an acoustic one-man outfit serenade the total of 5 people in the room for awhile before deciding to go wandering. After getting our hands stamped we walked outside to an empty street and noticed that the members of Band of Skulls were now relaxing in a booth at the front of the empty bar. At this point I was hit with the honest truth, no one was coming to this show. We had left Springfield early and flew down the highway to St. Louis expecting a packed and maybe even sold out show. Instead we stumbled onto a rare opportunity, to see a great band in a very intimate, low key setting before the rest of the world caught on to how good they really were.

After a short adventure around the historic district of St. Louis in search of a sharpie we returned to Fubar. I took in the last few songs of a band Matt described as "Modest Mouse meets Fallout Boy," before deciding to go make contact with the members of Band of Skulls. I picked up an LP of Baby Darling Doll Face Honey for $15 at the merch table and walked over to the bass player for Band of Skulls, Emma Richardson, still sitting with her band mates in their booth. The best way to describe her reaction to my autograph inquiry would be... exhilarated amazement. With an excited "Of course!" she ripped the album out of my hands and started tearing the plastic wrapping off. She pulled a folded poster out of the sleeve that I hadn't even known was there and asked my name before signing it.

The poster was a large reproduction of one of Emma Richardsons' paintings. As she handed the album to guitarist Russell Marsden I asked her about the painting and the album cover. It was indeed from her gallery "Meat Me At The Butchers," but as she informed me, had been cut in half and mirrored for the cover which she wasn't too happy about. Matt showed up shortly with his own purchased LP to be signed, which Emma again tore the plastic off in search of the poster. After all three members had signed our LPs we talked a little about their tour so far and the fact that we had drove two hours to see them. "We wanted to catch you before you get so big that we'll have to pay $80 for a ticket to a stadium show," I told them. "That would be great," Russell replied,"not that you have to pay $80 but that we would have lots of people come to see us." He continued to tell about how they had played an early set at Lallapalooza and mentioned how few people had showed up. I wanted to bring up the alarming lack of people at the current show but didn't have the courage.

Band of Skulls played a powerhouse of a set to a not so packed crowd of 23 fans. It was pure rock n' roll with driving guitar riffs and deep bass grooves. Many small venues suffer acoustically from their design, but Fubar sounded very good with the small exception of the low volume of Emmas' mic. They played most of the songs from their new album including "Light Of the morning," "Fires," "Blood," and my favorite "Cold Fame." They ended the show with the song "Impossible" and walked off the stage while the sound system replayed the last few fuzzy guitar cords over and over. A great ending to an amazing show.

After the show we went back over to the other bar where the band was meeting with all the fans who had come to see them play. They signed albums and posters and listened to fans profess their love for the new album. I was able to overhear a middle aged man tell his story to Emma about how he was there to get a autograph for his son who was a giant fan but couldn't be there because it was a school night. We were able to talk to Emma a little about their show and the importance of artist having sharpies at shows, after which I gave her the one we had quested for earlier. The 70s band Heart came up in our conversation and I was amazed to learn that she had never heard of them. Later I mentioned this fact to their drummer Matthew Hayward. He laughed and scolded Emma, "What!? You've never heard of Heart!" after which two girls at the table started to sing "Magic Man."

As a joke Emma and Matthew both signed a small poster with personal messages for one of my co-workers, Beth, who loves Heart. Emmas' message was about how she didn't know who Heart was but was sure they rocked. Matthews' message was "Beth!! You like Heart!? I like Heart! Lets get together!" (It is also funny to note that when I gave Beth the poster the next day she was listening to Heart in her office.) We left St. Louis near 1am to begin our long trip back to Springfield, the car ride spent listening to Band of Skulls and talking about the show.

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