Keith Fullerton Whitman photo taken by me at the Boston MFA
Hands & Knees photo taken by Frankie Two Thumbs in Baltimore
I'm a big fan of Keith Fullerton Whitman and his many aliases, but specifically when he goes by his own name. Last night, he played a showed at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge along with locals Hands & Knees and Mystery Palace from Minneapolis. I went to see KFW as I had never heard of these other bands and it seemed like most of the other people at the show were doing the same thing. Keith went on third, after Hands & Knees and Paper Summer (who I missed) but before Mystery Palace. There weren't very many people there to being with, maybe 30 or 40, but after Keith went on, everybody left and there was only about 6 or 7 people around when Mystery Palace went on. Aaaawkwaard.
Hands & Knees were decent enough. A four piece that sounded like a more countrified Modest Mouse, especially in the vocals department, fronted by a guy that looked like a cross between Ryan Stiles and Jude Law. And maybe a bit of Larry Bird thrown in for good measure. It was fun and I enjoyed it but I had my mind set on other things....
Those that came to see Mr. Whitman weren't disappointed. He had a relatively short set, 20 or 25 minutes, but it was time well spent. He started with his usual electronic type stuff but then it transformed into a gorgeous drone. I'm not going to lie, I like KFW best when he drones. His electronic stuff is really good, I love it, but it's his drones that really keep me coming back for more. Last night, he had a strange tiny, boxy guitar that was missing a head and tuning knobs. With it, he crafted beautiful noises that were altered by his Mac laptop, similar in fashion to clicky sounds of Willits, Hecker, and Fennesz. It was a mostly low volume affair but at one point, the sound picked up and it just became a wall of beauty. It was the kind of noise that you just close your eyes and let it wash over you. Something that definitely should be experienced live. Completely worth the $8 admission.
I probably should have done my homework before I went to the show last night, or maybe even just followed everyone else's cue and left when they did because it would have been nice to end the show with Keith's set. But no, I had to stick around and see what was so mysterious about these Minnesotan palaces. Let me start by saying that they weren't bad. It was just really something I didn't like. Maybe I'd call Mystery Palace electro-funk. Or maybe I'd try to conjure up sounds of Junior Boys making experimental porn music. Whatever you want to call it, it wasn't for me. Too much funky bass. And it didn't help them at all that they had seriously bizarre feedback issues with the mics. I stuck around for two songs, all the while debating how long I would stay, how many more chances I would give them. After the second song, the singer said to all 6 of us, "Thanks for sticking around guys." They started their third song and I couldn't take it any more. I walked out. Mystery Palace, if you guys are reading this, I apologize. That's very unlike me to leave in the middle of a set, but I just couldn't handle it after Keith. Maybe you'll find a bigger, more friendly crowd at your next show.