(photo credit, from previous nights show in Austin)
Last week Elvis Perkins brought stopped through Louisville and brought along with him a merry band of players which was a really nice surprise as we walked into Zanzabar. Given that his first album, Ash Wednesday, was so quiet and set in solitude he could have easily pulled off a solo set but instead the show was much more like his newest album and that was a true treasure. With The Woes and AA Bondy joining Elvis on the bill, and on stage, it was quiet a night at the small new venue.
Since Zanzabar is a new place that not many ENS readers have had a chance to visit yet let me spend a minute to introduce you to it. Set near the campus of University of Louisville it is fairly comparable to The Comet in Northside here in town probably putting capacity around 150 or so and it was jam packed last Wednesday. The performance area is in the back of the room and doesnâ€™t allow for easy access on and off stage; itâ€™s only about fifteen feet wide which made what happened through the night even more impressive and more fun.
While the night opened with New York Cityâ€™s The Woes, we only caught the last few songs of their set. My impression, which was echoed by more than a few folks around us, was that The Woes were heavily under the influence of Tom Waits with some extra horns and a bit more of a bluegrass slant. AA Bondy took the stage after The Woes and put on a nice show. He focused on songs from his newest release When the Devilâ€™s Loose and the stylistic play that goes along with it. About halfway though through the set he did chase off the rest of the band and played a show stopping solo â€œBlack Rain, Black Rainâ€ from his 2007 release American Hearts. AA invited some horns from The Woes up for some songs and was joined by Elvis for the closer of his set. The collaborative effort carried over to the main set featuring Elvis Perkin In Dearland.
While the anticipation for Elvis and his band had been building through the evening when they finally did take the stage they did not disappoint. Opening with â€œWhile You Were Sleepingâ€ from Ash Wednesday it was clear we were in for a treat. The song which is a little stark on his album Ash Wednesday came to life here with horns and an organ. He followed with â€œHeyâ€ and was joined on drums by what can best be described as a marching drum kit. The band also played a few from their Doomsday EP including â€œSlow Doomsdayâ€ (with AA Bondy on guitar of course) which couldnâ€™t have been more appropriately named and apparently is in line with Elvisâ€™ original vision for the song. The slowdown completely changed the effect of the song from a parade about death to a slow death march.
As the set wore on it was clear that Elvis was comfortable in his own skin with his players alongside of him. This was a little surprising given that the â€œIn Dearlandâ€ part of his repertoire is relatively new, but seems to make total sense. The horns and the organs are a great accompaniment to his obsession with death as it adds a New Orleans influence to his songs. This was especially evident on the slow burner, â€œSleep Sandwichâ€ with a wonderful trumpet alongside Elvis throughout. Another one that stood out was â€œStop Drop and Rock and Rollâ€ which sounded like Bill Haleyâ€™s â€œRock Around the Clockâ€ but with original lyrics. While this was a unique song for Elvis and his band, it definitely fit in with what he was trying to accomplish.
The main set closed out with â€œShampooâ€ which must get some serious radio airplay in Louisville as seemingly everyone knew every word. And with that, the band exited stage right. As mentioned before though, they really couldnâ€™t go anywhere and immediately returned for a two song encore. â€œAlright, weâ€™ll play Mayday for Christâ€™s sakeâ€ Elvis said jokingly as he introduced the number from â€œAsh Wednesdayâ€. For the final song of the night he invited everyone back on stage which meant eleven folks crammed themselves around the stage area and they played through the album version of â€œDoomsdayâ€ with literally horn players spilling into the crowd. It was a wonderful ending to a night that featured so much collaboration that the lines were a little blurry about who played with whom and considering that The Woes were only with this crew for the one night in Louisville it was truly a one of a kind.