By Jon Stone | @jwstone - May 1, 2010
Last night was a night of firsts for me: First time out to Allerton, a quaint little nature and art preserve in Monticello, IL and the site of the Kalyx Center and the fourth stop on Daytrotter's Barnstormer III tour. (I got lost, but it was a scenic lostness.) It was my first time seeing any of the bands on the bill (Ra Ra Riot, Delta Spirit, Free Energy, Nathaniel Rateliff, Pearly Gate Music). And for Daytrotter's Barnstormer tour, now in its third run, this was a first-ever stop in Illinois, even though they are based in Rock Island.
MOB loves Daytrotter. In fact, it is difficult (and perhaps downright impossible) to think of an organization that does more for the artist. Where else can you find (legal) download access to literally hundreds of artists and thousands of songs? So, big shout out to our friends at Daytrotter for the tour and for just being plain awesome.
The show last night was, as I said, in a barn on/near the Alleton complex called the Kalyx center. It's what they call a "new" barn and set up for this kind of thing, but still the aura of the place is like no other music venue I've ever been to. New or not, we were in a barn! And there was the threat of storm outside! Barnstormer!
Pearly Gate Music kicked, or maybe more apropos, nudged things off in a quiet way. Zach Tillman plays a heavily reverb- effected nylon string guitar. Too effected for my tastes, and I wasn't quite sure what to make of his set -- that ironic hipster mustache and deer sweater maybe spoke too loudly on their own. I was glad, however, when he brought out a second singer, a female vocalist who balanced the irony a bit with what appeared to be downright affection for her musical partner, with pretty harmonies to boot.
I should say upfront, I suppose, that I was most looking forward to seeing Nathaniel Rateliff and Delta Spirit, so no disrespect intended up there.
Rateliff's debut drops in just a few short days (it's great and is already available digitally) and his upcoming shows opening for The Tallest Man on Earth (with a stop at the Pabst on May 25th) are something to be pined over. Rateliff's set was amazing and perfect for a venue like this. On his own, his style is easy enough to describe -- nylon string strumming singer/song-writers aren't that uncommon these days (see above). But his talent in that position is much less common and his band fills things out in a way that is downright startling (in that pleasantly surprised, exciting kind of way). Upright bass; great keyboardist; minimalist, nuanced guitars; a drummer who used mallets as often as sticks; and songs where most of the band sings harmony vocals and the rest seem to be singing along anyway. This is a band to watch. Rateliff's set ended up being my favorite of the evening, I was entranced by this band and can not wait to see them again soon.
On a kind of sweet note, and as an indication of how awesome and engaged he is, I noticed Daytrotter Sean singing along to nearly every word of the set -- he'd do the same thing during Delta Spirit's.
Free Energy was up next. I must not go to many parties because maybe this kind of band is more common than I am aware of, but seriously, Free Energy wants to party. And party they did. They never actually played Thin Lizzy's "The Boys are Back in Town," but, man, every song had that vibe. The gaggle of sorority girls up front dancing loved it, and I think that, actually, was the point.
The barn -- excuse me, Kalyx Center -- was torn down and restored onto the property here near Allerton and in that restoration got three large plate-glass windows. Each of the bands set up and played in front of those windows. After all that Free Energy, Delta Spirit went on and immediately the temperature rose so I thought that it might be fun to listen to the band from outside, watching them from behind through the huge windows. It was. The rain came down in a drizzle and the band absolutely killed inside. Not only could I hear things perfectly, but the best part about that arrangement was that I could see the reactions of the audience to the music. They were reveling in it. Reveling in a band that, judging from the crowds present at each of the performances, was the evening's main event. I loved Delta Spirit's energy and heart. Oh, and the drumming. Near the beginning of the set the band had two drummers going in a rhythm that could have been pulled off a college drumline -- without those funny hats. It was rad. Delta Spirit ruled the roost, er, barn. Oh, and the gaggle of sorority girls I was talking about all came out to join me out back -- "oh, good!" one of them exclaimed. "It's so much easier to dance out here!" And they all commenced twirling in the light rain.
Ra Ra Riot closed the show and though the crowd had dispersed significantly, they still put on a good show. They, for me, are in that category of bands that end up sounding just a little bit better live than they do on the record, which makes them worth while, but not terribly memorable (see disclaimer above).
Rateliff ended his set by saying something that i think summed up the whole night perfectly. He said, "We may not know each other but we can all love each other for one night I guess." And in a barn, deep in Monticello, we did.
Drop a comment if you attended one of the Barnstormer shows. Tell us your highlights!
*thanks to justine b. for the borrowed photo. See more photos here.