Friday, May 20, 2011

Pygmalion Day 2: Those Darlins

by Jon Stone | @jwstone - September 27, 2010

I've been looking forward to seeing Those Darlins play again ever since they (insert music-blogger hyperbole) last year at the Highdive. That night they played way too well for the smallish audience that had gathered to see them. I knew it was just a matter of time before things kicked in and last night it was clear that they have. The crowd at the Independant Media Center was much larger, but that wasn't the only thing that was different. Those Darlins have metamorphosed. They are no longer the FOB (fresh out of the barn) dirty dixie chicks group that I saw (and loved, let's not forget) last year. Carter family covers? Gone. The hits, i.e. "Snaggletooth Mamma" & "The Whole Damn Thing"? Totally absent from last night's set. In fact, I think one of the only songs they played last night off of their 2009 eponymous album (and certainly the only "hit") was "Wild One" (I'm pretty sure I heard "Who's that Knockin' at My Window," too. Hit?).

Instead we got a band that has turned the dial from country-punk to a decidedly punk*/sexy sixties rock. That asterisk constitutes a now-subtle nod to their Tennessee roots which, as they have said themselves, shows up mostly in a not-easily-repressed southern accent. Not that I think they are repressing their roots, but surely the Darlins I heard last night have grown up significantly in the last year of road-weary touring. Part of that growing up included some battle scars, including the unfortunate injury (broken arm) of baritone uke player Nikki Darlin.

But maybe that injury wasn't so unfortunate because it was Nikki Darlin that shined last night. All three girls have swagger, but woah, when Nikki Darlin put down her ukelele and took the mic in front of some of Those Darlins' new material, the band transformed from the tin-roof tanned trio I was familiar with into a different thing all together. Nikki has the strongest voice of the three and when she is singing lead other crazy stuff started to happen: Jessi Darlin (or what you could see of her behind her huge Epiphone hallow-body) started playing these psychedelic rock riffs and solos that I didn't realize she was capable of. Also, at least once during the growing-evermore-frenzied set, every member of the band found their way out into the audience. Over and over, my friend and I turned to each other open-mouthed, both thinking the same thing: Who is this band?

Jarring as this Patsy Cline to Janis Joplin move seemed, the punk germ was always there. I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised. Now that we know that Those Darlins are not just about a single formula, it will be fun to watch what other shapes they can take.

I also took in sets from the Mean Lids (a great local string band that I feel connected to, if tangentially: Matt Turino, who plays fiddle in the band, is the son of an Ethnomusicology professor on campus that I am currently taking banjo lessons from. woo!), the Duke of Uke and his Novelty Orchestra (also local, these folks do it up as a multi-instrumental 7-piece), and I also caught the first half of the band Psychic Twin, Erin Fein of Headlights' new sequencer-and-keyboards driven band. If you like Headlights, be sure to watch for Psychic Twin -- I think they may be even better.


I'm off again. Looking forward to sets from Colour Revolt, +/- (plus/minus), and Cut Chemist tonight!

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