Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Erin McKeown -- "Sing You Sinners"

Erin's show at Club Cafe March 3 was my first introduction to her live act. The place was sold out for the first show - not sure how the second show faired but I'd guess that it wasn't sold out based on Erin's cajoling the audience several times to "stick around for absolute insanity and general mayhem" that might ensue later. I had to wonder how many Erin McKeown fans there might be in Pittsburgh when I saw she was playing two shows back to back. I figured it was a good portence for her live side. I was kee-rekt! In a few more years, she might sell out two shows in one night.

Theresa and I mistook her similarly coiffed drummer, Allison Miller, for Erin when she and keyboardist Todd Sickafoose strolled through the front door 10 minutes before show time. Although, in retrospect, Allison's hair was much more controlled and intentional. Not that Erin's hair isn't, mind you. She intentionally cuts it herself and gels certain sections for maximum volume (I learned this by reading her myspace blog - evidently, she receives a ton of emails asking her how she makes her hair do "that" which, if you've never seen her live, shall remain a mystery). The overall effect, however, is random hair. I dug it.

She's a waif on stage, standing under 5' 2", with powerful runners' legs usually posed in a wide- open guitar-wailing stance and a smile that appears frequently as more of a commanding grin. She owns the stage and works the audience like a seasoned pro. I was amazed at how much voice eminated from this tiny, charismatic woman. For this tour, she and Allison sport neckties over collared shirts with a tee shirt underneath and bitchin' worn out shoes. The familiar tattoo of her birth date peers out from her shirt sleeve as a constant reminder to her and the audience - that this woman has come far in her 28 years and has a lot of options for growth. The fact that she tours endlessly (averaging 200 shows a year) lends credence to her love of music and her fans. And the fact that she doesn't own a TV.

The audience was a really mixed bag. There were two much older couples (let's guess 60's or older) with seats that were hard to come by and, we assumed, parents of the keyboardist and some other relations (we swore one woman looked like Erin's mother which could be since they live in Virginia, I believe) with a horde of twenty somethings seated up front on the floor with sprinklings of 30-and 40- somethings mingled within. It's always nice to see such diversity in a music venue.

Erin's newest CD might be pegged as yet another artist's attempt to redo the classic jazz songs of the 20's through the 50's but do not be mistaken with face value. Her take on these gems is unique and decidedly tongue in cheek. She culls out the dark and sexy side of these songs to claim them as her own. Theresa and I had fun trying to guess which songs Erin wrote and which were truly jazz classics although Theresa has an uber grasp of all things jazz and old, correcting my disillusioned assumptions quickly. Take for instance "If You a Viper" which starts out:

"Dreamed about a reefer 5 feet long, mighty miff but not too strong, you'll be high but not for long ... if you a viper"

Could have been written yesterday, I reckoned. But I'd be wrong. This little ditty was written in 1938 and Erin does it great (insert her onstage 30 second inhale and exhale) justice with her interpretation. Fabulous stuff! And fun, fun, fun!

You'll get all of the insight and subliminal "outsight" from Ms. McKeown at her live show. I wouldn't want to spoil all the fun and the absolutely uplifting take on an interesting period of music. She's a fantastic guitarist and vocalist. Allison Miller is only icing on the cake with her mean drumming and their rehearsed "Erin throws Allison's cymbal on the ground" interaction toward the later half of the show. It's all well worth the small price of admission.

Erin has a brandy spanking new CD due out this summer. Evidently, Sing You Sinners was only a time-killer of pure desire in her march toward funky creation. With a smile and talent like hers, she can't lose. Check out her web site for more information on this diverse indie artist.

Oh ... and Bruce? Thanks for the kick in the arse! Congrats to you and your fiance!