GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS at the Music Gallery, April 2. Tickets: $8-$10. Attendance: sold out (200). Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Not since a brief stint in a baptist youth group have I spent a Saturday night sitting cross-legged on a church floor. And while church is generally the last place I wanna be on a Saturday evening, whoever booked Tony Dekker and his Great Lake Swimmers into the Music Gallery should be sent a fruit basket tout de suite.
Not only does the place have stellar acoustics perfectly suited to the Swimmers' songs of death and devotion, but the tranquil and respectful atmosphere also forces patrons to ditch their booze, take a seat and actually listen to the music for a change. No mid-set smoke breaks or text messaging here, folks.
Making good use of the quiet vibe and the audience's rapt attention, a slightly anxious-looking Dekker (dressed in a jacket and tie) went for the soft sell, too, opting for a slow, steady build that showcased his lofty voice and gave his backing band a chance to shine in a restrained and tasteful performance.
After a pair of solo acoustic numbers, Dekker invited the band onstage and kicked into the charming Let's Trade Skins, taken from their fantastic new Bodies And Minds LP. Well, "kicked into" might be a bit of an overstatement. Awash in Wurlitzer, plinking banjo and gentle guitar, the mood was obviously reflective. Armed with a pair of brushes, even skins man Colin Huebert was playing softer than any drummer in recent memory. It almost looked like he was air-drumming.
"Thank you for coming," said Dekker to a round of rapturous applause. "I thought I'd have trouble filling this place."
Don't be so modest, dude. Despite the melancholy tone of the material, there was a celebratory vibe in the house. A guy in a tiger suit was even running around snapping photos.
By mid-set, Huebert had swapped the brushes for actual drumsticks, banjo player Erik Arneson was holding a Telecaster and the band was practically rocking out. As Dekker says himself on Let's Trade Skins: "Tonight is party time, but quiet and sublime."