To say that John Vanderslice is down-to-earth is a vast understatement. At his Billiken Club show last night, the personable singer-songwriter milled around the venue before and after the show chatting with basically everyone he saw -- and even a short conversation with him made one feel like you were old friends. (Check out his ongoing tour blog here for more insight.)
And what other musician would decree that for the encore (a moving "Nikki Oh Nikki"), the entire club was going outside? Yes, outside -- like a Pied Piper of indie rock, Vanderslice lead his band (bass drum in tow) and a 100-person-plus crowd into the damp night, and performed the song in the dewy, post-rain yard outside the venue.
This field trip capped a show that felt similarly intimate, as he performed songs spanning his entire career -- including "Up Above the Sea," "Trance Manual," "Time Travel is Lonely" and "Pale Horse." Vanderslice's songs sound much more indebted to the acoustic-folk of the Decemberists live than on disc -- his voice even resembled a less-nasal Colin Meloy -- but his affable personality and intricate, keyboard-laden songs were mesmerizing.
As we've talked about before, on this tour, he's extended an open invitation for guests to come onstage and play songs with him -- and the cameo from local mandolinist Lucas on the song "White Plains" (and his turn on lead vocals on "Letter to the East Coast") was nothing short of impressive. Lucas, are you in a band? Email me!
Opener St. Vincent was equally astounding. Using an array of gadgets and effects to augment her (at times searing, at times delicate) folk-rock-drone, the artist (a.k.a. Annie Clark) resembled Cat Power as if she had grown up in Paris or the female equivalent of Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, with hints of Regina Spektor's playfulness and the sophisticated cool of Nouvelle Vague thrown in for good measure. Even Vanderslice tapped me on the shoulder excitedly before she launched into her final song, a quiet, emotional version of Jackson Browne's "These Days."
Please see a post and photos from STLog's new friend Joe Williams at musicsucks.net -- a recent Internet discovery by clubs editor Christian Schaeffer that's an impressive document of the shows going on around St. Louis. He took this video of my favorite Vanderslice song, "Exodus Damage" below. Enjoy!