Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mood Area 52 and Golem at the Indigo District

When I heard that Mood Area 52 would be playing at the Indigo District, my feelings were mixed. They were one of my favorite local bands when I was in college and I had been looking forward to seeing them play again. However, I was never able to stand the Indigo District. When I last lived in Eugene, it had a painful and justified reputation as a hipster joint, the sort of pretentious hangout that usually doesn't survive in this town. I'd been given no indication that it had changed in the preceding years, so I bought a ticket to the concert with some reservations.

Things started badly. The Indigo District is a bar, but the show was all-ages. This involved a tad bit of finagling to make sure the bar and concert crowds were separate, and the subsequent set-up basically meant you could not have drinks in the concert area. You could either drink and try and hear the music, or not drink and watch the band, or go back and forth. Basically a pain in the ass, especially considering that, by my estimate, 95% of the audience was over 21. The show should have either been made 21-and-over or been moved to the WOW Hall, which is better suited for all ages shows.

But once Mood Area 52 hit the stage, things picked up. This was for two reasons: The first is that they are a hell of a band. The second is that a crazy-eyed, long-legged young woman in nylons and a short skirt danced smoothly and sensually through most of the band's set.

Mood Area 52 are that rarest of musical outfits: a tango band. As tango has nearly zero presence in American popular music, the pure novelty of the group is enough to make them interesting. That they are also a tight and highly skilled group of musicians insures that the novelty never wears thin. The last time I saw the group, they were strictly instrumental. They have since added a female vocalist and perform a fair number of Tom Waits-ish jazz and tango numbers. While I wasn't too sure about hearing the band do anything other than instrumentals at first, I now fully support the decision. The vocals take what had been an interesting intellectual abstraction and give it a new intensity. The group will have a new album coming out in a month or so. I'm looking forward to seeing how it comes out.

Golem took the stage next. A NYC group that specializes in another style of music with little popular presence in the US, in this case Eastern European folk, the band is a raucous and energetic mix of musicians. Containing drums, electric bass, accordion, violin, trombone and a tambourine-shaking vocalist, the group plays a highly propulsive style of music that is tailor-made for pumping your fist in the air shouting "Oy Oy Oy" and then smashing a glass on the floor.

The set was marked by a drinking song, a song about cats, a song about the rent being due, a song about Poland and a song about loving someone who broke your heart (the latter sung in Yiddish).

When all was said and done, the concert could be considered no less than a success. I just wish it had been held somewhere else.

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