Rediscovering the electric guitar with The Meligrove Band, at Hailey's, Denton, Texas, October 15

by Fred
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Requisitions: two Excedrin gel capsules. A plate of migas, from Cafe Brazil. A spot of tea.

Cochlear implants.

Abacus (of Sleep Whale), The Meligrove Band and Born Ruffians were in the neighborhood last night, and stopped by Haileys for a nightcap. This is roughly where our column is chased out of city limits, but we didn’t stick around for Born Ruffians.

This page, you see, is Meligrove country.

Sound check either started late, or simply took far too much time: the doors opened roughly an hour behind schedule, and the waiting audience gradually filed from the front door and well into the street. We all sent texts and tweets complaining about the delay, listening to the clamor of Born Ruffians getting it all sussed out. We would learn a bit later that Meligrove did not sound check at all before taking the stage, but more on that in a moment.

Abacus began well after 10:00pm: a one-man DJ/producer (his given name is Spencer Stephenson, and we understand that the alias is provisional, so be advised.) The set was bewilderingly short, and scattershot. Some eastern-infused electronica, some straight-up trip hop, maybe more. He chatted at the audience some, but we couldn’t make out a word. More than anything, though, this was an obvious mismatch for The Meligrove Band’s decadent muscle and Born Ruffians’ bookish swagger.

Meligrove took the helm sometime around pumpkin hour, and no sound check meant no piano (relevant because several tracks on Planets Conspire were composed on piano: “Isle of View,” “I’m Easy,” the title cut, you name it). Brian O’Reilly had his capital synth (think “Make Believe It” and “Racing to Shimmering Lights”), but there was only one real solution for the missing hardware.

The guitar.

Our favorite Torontonians started heavy and stayed heavy, strafing us with “Halflight” and “Really Want It” before we could blink. Darcy Rego and Jason Nunes both sing lead, and are both naturally gifted live vocalists. No Auto Tune or burials-at-reverb here. The womenfolk complained about the mix, and admittedly the signature harmonies were partially forgotten under guitar and drum. This way anticipated favorites like “Make Believe It” and “Our Love Will Make the World Go Round” gave way to one-night-only preferences like “Ghosts at My Back” and “Ages & Stages.” We can’t stress this enough: it wasn’t texture, nuance, harmony, tact, or negative space. It really was all about the guitar.

The set was cruelly short. After eight cuts, Rego gave the audience the two-song warning. We would have been content to watch for another hour or more. The final tally: six tracks from Shimmering Lights, three from Planets Conspire, and one from–? Err, yeah. Let’s just say the present correspondent doesn’t need the Excedrin for tennis elbow.

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