Saturday Night: listenlisten At The Mink

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Photos by Marc Brubaker
listenlisten, sIngs, Two Star Symphony
The Backroom at the Mink
December 4, 2010

A few hours before listenlisten's headlining spot at the Mink Saturday night, some friends asked Aftermath to pin down the band's sound. A visiting couple was stopping by the bar for the first time and wanted to know what the band was like. Hard, soft, heavy, shambolic...

We couldn't think of a reference point. Someone said Arcade Fire, another said folk. Somewhere in there, Aftermath remembers blurting out that they sound like creaky wooden floors, dust, antique oil lamps flickering and a time when things were slower and more methodical, and hearts broke easier.

Nobody heard that because we said it quietly, to ourselves. People don't want answers like that from a stranger at a bar on a Saturday.

listenlisten's new album, dog, continues the track of their last, Hymns From Rhodesia, but with more grime and grit. There is something that feels like home in the music of listenlisten for us. Maybe we live in a different time in our head from whence listenlisten comes. The jury is still out on that.

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Two Star Symphony
The whole night was dedicated to the small treasures in life. Openers Two Star Symphony hushed up the crowd upstairs, or at least tried to very hard. The classical group plays movements that demand silence, not just out of respect, but because it's not meant to be background music.

Beers clinking into garbage bins and drunken giggles throw you out of the fantasy. The dude doing sarcastic ballet plies at the back of the room during Two Star's set was a letdown, but only because his form was rusty.

Brett Taylor's band sIngs made an appearance Saturday, pared down to just Taylor on drums, guitar, loops and pedals. Purported to be the final sIngs gig for a few months, it was a quick affair from Taylor, and not at all the multi-piece performance pieces from around the time the LP Hells came out in April.

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sIngs
Saturday's set was a firm reminder of how well Taylor melds family drama with his trademark tinkering sound. We'll see what's in store for the project when it gets reactivated.

John "Little Red" Trower's knife-throwing act brought the night back to the era from which listenlisten's sound hails. Trower's set began with the elderly man eating fire, before moving onto knife-throwing.

Aftermath stood a few feet directly behind him and were aghast and stunned by the whole thing. Per human nature, we couldn't look away. He threw knives at his assistant, who at one point was spinning on his platform. It was funny - part of us was scared to look, but the other part of us knew that he was a skilled artist.

But still, thoughts ran that maybe, just maybe, Saturday night would have been the night he finally fouled up. It was a reminder of what old-school entertainment was like, where it took skill and craft to bring the crowd to oohs and aahhs, instead of computers and whatnot. It's life and death.

It was a stunning warm-up for listenlisten, who sing mostly about death, dying, struggle and, ultimately, life.

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