Saturday, May 9, 2009

Paleface Rules

So, as I mentioned earlier in the week, last night's show in the Beachland Tavern featured Paleface. I'd not seen Paleface live before, but had been drawn in initially by his history with and critical comparisons to Daniel Johnston.

Last night's show was one of those where I was super-tired, there were tons of other cool things going down around Cleveland, and I spent the whole day tinkering with the notion of not going. Once I got there, though, I was really glad I went.

Prior to the show, though, I had as fine a time as one can have in Cleveland in the spring. I started off with a quick stop at Front Room Gallery for the ice cream party/John G. exhibit closing, where I scored a copy of Shiner 2 and some cookies on my way out the door. Then to Tremont, where I bumped into a friend at Visible Voice, got an awesome spring blazer for CHEAP at Southside Concierge, and checked out the exhibits at Doubting Thomas and Asterisk, before heading east.

Arriving at ArtsCollinwood, I was very pleased to see a full house at the newly-opened Waterloo Cafe and, even more so, a platter of the most delicious chicken satay I've ever had, chicken which no doubt was not for me, but for the folks invited to the design opening, but whatever. Then a beer at Music Saves when I picked up my copy of the new Cheval Sombre album, which (a) is great and (b) reminds me of "Stoned & Dethroned" era JAMC crossed with Luna, which makes sense given that Dean & Britta play on the album.

And then it was time for Paleface. In my enjoyment of All Things Cleveland, I missed the opening band, but heard from Mo, Paleface's drummer, that they were quite good. The second band was tuning as I walked in, a trio of what I'm pretty sure were high school girls, a conclusion based on the ubiquitous presence of parents and giggled gossip overheard among their fans about which graduation party to attend this weekend. Still, the gals weren't bad - the songwriting was weak, as you'd expect, but the guitar player has a future and the drummer was doing some interesting things. (Incidentally, I was later told that this drummer plays with Jessica Lea Mayfield, which is impressive.)

Finally, Paleface and Mo took the stage. I must say this about the duo, they are a physically imposing pair. Mo is absolutely beautiful, a stunning Puerto Rican turned New Yorker turned North Carolinian with a super-charged smile, an intoxicating accent, and some serious energy behind the kit. And Paleface is like something out of a Nordic myth, large and blonde and featured. The physicality of their movements, especially his, adds to the feeling, with the drummer all arms akimbo and the guitarist dancing and spinning and yowling with lips shaking and hair shagging and his trademark pork pie hat blowing off early into the set.

Some long-time fans in the crowd burnished the vibe, especially during interactions with Mo and when Paleface dusted off a few old ditties, especially a spoken-word, Beck-esque hootenanny, "Styrofoam Cheeseburger." (The Beck reference is apt, considering the two guys came up together, former friends whose lives have intersected in strange ways and somehow include Andy Warhol, which I learned when I recommended PF and Mo check out the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh, where they are performing this evening.)

The band played most of the tracks of its new record, "The Show Is On The Road," burning down the room with tracks like You Are The Girl and the album's title track, but they also busted out favorites from other recent records like Kick This Jam and Dancin' Daze.

Perhaps the best moments were when PF took a break between songs and chatted with his obvious fans. He started talking about how he and Mo toured in a '94 Buick and that while he loved the fans, he unfortunately couldn't bring them on tour with him. This prompted a dude in the back to say that he, too, drove a 94 Buick, which led to stage-based commiseration about the shitting paint jobs of that particular model. PF defended the car's engine, though seemed a touch rattled when the dude told him to beware the car's sway bar stabilizer.

They closed out the regular set with a bad-ass song I'd heard many times before, "Burn & Rob," which PF said he wrote in his youth in sympathy to Rob Halford and Judas Priest having to go to court to defend themselves against the notion that their music caused teen suicide. After the song ended, PF threw his hands up in the air and announced, "Citizens of Cleveland ... ... ... Watch Out. ... ... ... Ok, that's it." And left the stage.

He was back momentarily, though, for a three-song encore, which included his early-90s anti-folk college radio hit "There's Something About A Truck" (which had a great lyric about whiskey, rock, and McDonalds" that I stupidly didn't write down and now can't find on the internet) and "Dancin' Daze".

After the set, I got to chat a little with PF, and heard some great stories about his early New York years, including the time Daniel Johnston stayed with him during his ill-fated NYC trip. Those of you that have seen the tremendous documentary "The Devil & Daniel Johnston" will know the trip of which I speak. Next time PF & Mo come through Clevo, be sure to catch them - the guy has been around the block and has the chops and tales to show for it. Paleface has evolved considerably over the past two decades, with very different song structure and sonic orientation than he started out with back in the day, but one thing stays the same: he still brings it on stage. The investment of your evening next time around will definitely pay off.

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