A while back I once read an interview with Califone’s Tim Rutili about how their songs translated into a live setting. He replied to the interviewer, "We’re trying to forget what we recorded and just play the songs".
As a musician, I find that I am consistently intrigued with the non traditional and genre crossing band arrangements. Enter Califone: Joe Adamik (drums), Jim Becker (banjo, violin), Ben Massarella (percussion), and Tim Rutili (vocals, guitar, keyboards).
I have to be honest when I say that I have only recently become familiar with this band’s sound. I have not drifted far from their latest release Roots and Crowns but have purchased several tracks from their back catalog (Heron King Blues, Roomsound and Quicksand/Cradlesnakes) which I found to be equally as impressive.
Playing to a respectable sized crowd on Friday (indeed surprising due to The Hold Steady’s sold out show in town) Califone began their show at the High Noon Saloon. After Rutil’s opening prayer and avant-guard keyboard number, he pulled out his acoustic and broke into the familiar chords from "Spider's House". The crowd seemed to suddenly become more focused and direct their energy to the band. The High Noon Saloon can be a phenomenal place to witness a rock show, but sometimes the subtle sounds from an acoustic guitar can easily get lost in the mix. And unfortunately at times (throughout the night), this was the case.
By the time the driving rhythm of Pink and Sour began the audience was in the groove. I was pleased to hear how they held onto the song for a while and strayed off into the darkness for a while. Mixing the tribal rhythms with Rutili’s effects loops made for an entrancing version. It was fascinating to witness Massarella in action; picking up random percussive instruments, staying in time and holding the songs together. Overall I would say that this show was more than expected from Califone after comparing them to their recordings. I was impressed by the dynamics of this band and would see them again.
Madison Music Review is looking forward (and so should you) to their upcoming show at the Pitchfork Music Festival on Saturday, July 14th (Chicago). If you get the chance, make sure to catch them as well as the other acts on July 13 and 15th.
(all photos by AM)