It has been nearly a month since this show happened, and I’m just now sitting down to reflect upon it. Time passes strangely and swiftly sometimes.
I was introduced to the music of Federale through the soundtrack for Ana Lily Amirpour’s stylish vampire western, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. After seeing the film, and then buying the soundtrack, I realized that all of my favorite songs were performed by Federale. The band’s music is a love letter to spaghetti westerns and euro horror films, and the love can be heard in everything they do.
So, of course I had to go see them play.
I hadn’t previously heard the other three bands, and I was curious to discover what the evening held in store.
I got to the Elbo Room early and quickly snapped up a copy of the new Federale LP, “All the Colours of the Dark” (released by soundtrack label, Death Waltz Records), the cover of which would be just as at home on the poster for an Italian horror film from the seventies or eighties. The title too, come to think of it.
The first band out of the chute was The Spiral Electric, who started off strong. One of the members introduced the first song by announcing that they’d just got back from the desert with a head full of “this”, which cued the band to launch into some serious southwest desert worship by way of a gritty spaghetti western, or perhaps Calexico. It’s a good sound, invoking specific scenery and attendant associations. Unfortunately, the majority of the set was a bit more mundane, in an inoffensive indie psych rock sort of way. Not bad, but not especially memorable either. In fact, I’m struggling to remember it now (in their defense, it has been awhile...).
Dirty Denim was next, playing a fun set of punk-inflected garage rock. It was relatively primitive stuff, but the band did feature a couple of multi-instrumentalists, with the guitarist and drummer briefly switching places and the keyboardist occasionally switching to guitar.
Their set was energetic and fun, and although I didn’t feel the need to buy their music, I enjoyed it.
The Asteroid #4 proved to be purveyors of languid psych rock, and featured none other than Nick Castro (who has played with In Gowan Ring, not to mention releasing music under his own name) on keyboards. The music was okay, but as with the other two openers, nothing that set my world on fire.
Projections, courtesy of White Light Prism, flickered behind and across the bands. This helped keep the show visually interesting.
Federale finally arrived on stage at an hour late enough that I was afraid to look at the time (it was a work night, after all), and played a set that pulled heavily from their new release (which was unheard by me at the time). The music throughout was filmic, and transported the listener into all sorts of dangerous and desolate situations. All seven band members performed with flair, but the band’s secret weapon is the incredible voice of vocalist/keyboardist Maria Karlin. She hits those shiver-inducing high notes with aplomb.
Introducing the title track of the new album, bassist/vocalist Collin Hegna announced that he’d created a new genre of Lee Hazelwood-influenced music, called “Creepy Lee”. His voice is definitely reminiscent of Hazelwood, and the band definitely injects a certain amount of horror film creepiness into the proceedings, so it makes sense to me.
The trumpet player embellished the songs with a high, lonely layer of brass, and proved to be adept with a percussive clapper instrument that sounded like a whip. When he first used it, I thought he was actually smacking the microphone in front of him. The drummer, in addition to his drum set, played electronic percussion.
Long story short, Federale’s set was extremely satisfying, but I didn’t get home until nearly 3:00 AM. That’s a bit late for a work night. The next day, despite my less than four hours of sleep, I decided it was totally worth it. The new album will most likely be on my "best of the year" list too.