Help Wanted Nights
First up to play was The Fourth of July, all the way from Lawrence, Kansas. With country-style guitar progressions and Brendan Hangauer's "matter-of-fact" style of singing, their music had a quirky charm about it. Halfway though the set Brendan stopped to joke that the band wasn't going to play the next song and explained, "Last night was my twenty-seventh birthday, and I've got a hangover that just started five minutes ago." The ballad "Why Did I Drink So Much Last Night?" followed, and was about, well, just what its title implies. After the song, Hangauer smiled while pointing towards the merchandise tables, saying, "This one's definitely on our new hit album."
As I made my way back to the table to pick up their album, I saw Ryan Fox (guitar and keyboards for The Good Life). He's about a head taller than I am, with a full beard and black-rimmed glasses. At the beginning of our conversation I slipped up, accidentally calling his band Cursive, Tim Kasher's (lead singer of The Good Life) other band. He quickly corrects me, saying, "You mean The Good Life." All I could do was hit my forehead and swear at my stupidity. Luckily, he let it slide and continued to talk with me. I asked about the theme behind The Good Life's latest album Help Wanted Nights. Ryan looked over at a copy of the album on vinyl that was sitting on the merch table just behind me. "It's an open-ended compliment to a screenplay that Tim wrote, and works as its soundtrack. I'm really happy with it. It's less produced than our last album, and more about the sound of the band just playing in a room," he said. I later asked Kasher the premise of the screenplay. "It's about stranger whose car breaks down in a small town, and the story of him interacting with the locals," he said.
As I finished talking with Ryan, he noticed Stefanie Drootin (bass), and introduced me. "Would you mind if we talked outside?" she asked. I agreed and met her on Mohawk Street a few minutes later. She was sitting with Roger Lewis (the drummer) on the front step of a haggard building. They both had freshly-lit cigarettes as I plopped down on the grubby sidewalk in front of them.
Stefanie's tattoo of ledger lines with two dots to the right of a crescent shape stole my eyes as I talked to her. "What do you guys think of Buffalo?" I asked. Stefanie shrugged her shoulders and tilted her head. The expression on her face told me that Buffalo is just another city. I asked what they thought of Help Wanted Nights. Roger gestured with his cigarette as an extension of his words. "I feel that it's the best work I've done since I've been recording music." Stefanie followed, saying, "It's definitely the album that we set out to make, I'm very happy with it." They both finished their cigarettes, and Stefanie was the first to head back into the bar. I shook her hand as she left. Roger started to get up, paused to ask my name, and finally headed in.
Back inside, Luke Temple and his band were playing. With drumming that's reminiscent of battle, it's hard to understand how Luke's muse-like voice blended so nicely. Although they weren't as well-received as The Fourth of July, he and his band put on a solid performance.
The Good Life's first song, "Your Share of Men," is straight off their latest release. Although it would be a "slow song" for most bands, it is a moderately paced song for this otherwise mellow band. The slow tempo focuses the listener on Kasher's voice and lyrics. His distinguished style of singing makes up much of the band's charm. During "A New Friend," Stefanie bobbed and weaved as she played her bass, sinking and rising with the tempo. At the beginning of their third song the band circled Roger and they danced through the introduction. His face was very expressive, biting his bottom lip as he drummed.
I noticed that Kasher closed his eyes while he sang "Album of the Year." He stumbled towards the microphone like a drunk sliding in for a sloppy kiss with the bottle that blessed him only moments before. Later, I asked Tim how he came upon his distinctive style of singing. "I've gone through many versions of the closest portrayal of who I am. I've tripped up along the way, but now feel like I'm coming very close," he answered.
After hearing the audience sing louder than a lead singer for the first time at any concert, I begin to sing too. Tim, Stefanie, and Ryan rapidly strummed their instruments like hippies who just finished playing "Kumbaya." Tim noticed that the crowd didn't know the words to most of songs from Help Wanted Nights yet. He teased us, saying, "We're really glad that you guys came out, but couldn't you rip the new stuff off the Internet?"
The Good Life finished their set with breath-taking improvisation that served as an unforgettable transition from "O'Rourke's, 1:20 A.M." to "Notes in His Pockets." As the music finally died down, a roar of applause filled the room. To see such immense talent out of three different acts at one show is truly breathtaking. Although it sounds awfully childish, this show may go down as the best that I've ever attended.
LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3