THE TWO-MINUTE MIRACLES with GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS and the FEMBOTS at Healey's, December 5. Tickets: $8. Attendance: 240. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
It's always satisfying to see a fella who's done really great stuff for other people shine on his own terms. That's how I felt at the Two-Minute Miracles ' CD release gig at Healey's last Friday night, standing in a jam-packed room of boozy fans who were all showin' the love for Andy Magoffin 's moment in the spotlight. Magoffin's produced so many stellar albums for other local musicians, it's almost an indie rock cliché. This year alone he's lent his House of Miracles studio wizardry to the Hidden Cameras, Jim Guthrie, the Parkas, the Barmitzvah Brothers, Detective Kalita and, like, a kajillion more bands jonesing for his ability to craft layered, multi-dimensional pop gems.
But since the dude's famous for being the man behind the curtain, it's easy to forget he's also a remarkable songwriter in his own right. While the Miracles' great new Volume III: The Silence Of Animals (Teenage USA) is a good reminder, I was kinda worried about whether a guy so comfortable in the studio could work a live crowd. But Magoffin didn't disappoint.
He had two tough acts to follow. Of course, labelmates the Great Lake Swimmers had a tough time fighting the beer-fuelled bar chatter and clinking bottles. The band hunkered down and sat at the front of the stage to murmur their hushed indie twang lullabies. If you listened really, really closely, vocalist/guitarist Tony Dekker 's Ben Harper-meets-Bonnie Prince Billy whisper could crack your heart into a million tiny pieces, but even the banjo licks and lazy drumming weren't enough juice to make people shut up. They also weren't enough juice to distract the many couples making out from each other's tonsils. Ah, love. So disconcerting.
The fabulous Fembots fared better, mostly cuz their brand of junk-shop murder ballads and sinister cinematic hoedowns are turbo-charged with ecstatic flailing energy. Remember that back-porch country jam band led by Vic Chesnutt in Sling Blade? That's them. Backed by intense drummer Nathan Lawr and Julie Penner 's awesome violin prowess, Dave MacKinnon and Brian Poirier were captivating, if occasionally off-key.
But Magoffin and his Miracles were pretty, uh, miraculous. Magoffin's got an easy onstage energy and ability to connect with the audience - you felt like the guy was your new best friend, which is probably why he's such a good producer. Barmitzvah Brother Jenny Mitchell shook her moneymaker throughout even the downtempo numbers as the band sailed through an eclectic set drawing from all three volumes of their eccentric pop mastery, pulling off ballsy rockers as easily as sissy love songs (Stall Tactics, off their newest record, was killer) jumping from the Threepenny Operatic swagger of the Kinks' Alcohol to the shimmery, wistful title track from The Silence Of Animals.
Magoffin filters out all the excess. And the experience of watching his tight band barrel through their set was exhilarating.