Sleeping in the Aviary; August 29, 2009; PA’s Lounge, Somerville, MA
I’ve seen Sleeping in the Aviary many times at several venues, but I’ve never seen them outside of Madison. So a show at PA’s Lounge in Somerville, Mass, the night before the Bloodshot Records 15th Anniversary show hit town was all the reason I needed to buy a plane ticket.
This was date number twenty-something on a tour that began after their High Noon Saloon appearance earlier this month. As the tour dwindles down, it seems for the most part to be a success. They’ve played for bigger crowds in every city than they had the time before, owing to word-of-mouth publicity. An even more important measure of success, and one they are very proud of, is that they haven’t had to get a hotel or sleep in the van yet. Still, they all seemed exhausted, relying on their stock of organic energy drink Kaboom to get going. The Minneapolis-based beverage company went under, but somehow lead singer/guitarist Eliot Kozel has access to its overstock.
PA’s Lounge is a curious venue. The music room, with its three-inch stage (OK, maybe it was six), is to the right of the front door, the bar to the left. Oddly enough, most folks hung out in the music room, and there were never more than a few people sitting at the bar when I went in for another Harpoon IPA. In terms of numbers, tonight’s show had to be a bit of a disappointment after playing for a hundred plus on several stops. At its largest, the crowd couldn’t have been more than 40 people. There were three other bands on the bill, and each seemed to have their supporters, but only final band Hands and Knees was actually any good. First band Feather and Folly, a girl duo, were irritating in the vein of the Secret Wedding Party, but the Aviary boys thought they had an “aaaawwww” effect (which is also why Kozel claims bassist Phil Mahlstadt is in the band).
SITA’s set was a whirlwind thirty minutes. With four bands on the bill and a 1 a.m. bar time, I guess they didn’t have a choice, but I was a little disappointed. Still, it was an entertaining set, devoid by necessity of some of the crazier antics endemic to their Madison shows. Kozel did take advantage of a wide window ledge and crawled up there to play a song behind the curtain, leaving only the head of his guitar and one holey sock covered foot visible. The set featured several of the songs from last year’s excellent Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel in addition to a few newer songs. Mahlstadt took over lead vocal duties twice. The first was for the morbid but amusing “My Body is a Basement,” which features the line “I used to be good at writing clever metaphors” (think about it), from the recent Southside Cemetery Choir CD. The second was for his song from their split 7” with the Hussy. I have the record, but being without a record player, I hadn’t yet heard “Radiowaves,” a chunk of power pop that recalls Possum Dixon in their heyday.
The newest addition to their catalog may also be their most perverse. Within the first twenty seconds of the song we learn that “she forgot the safety word, now she’s dead,” its unsettling nature belied by a bouncy accordion line courtesy of Celeste Heule. She also provides the ghostly saw that accents the chilly “Gas Mask Blues” with its shiver-inducing final line, “If I have a daughter I don’t know what I will do, ’cause I’m gonna want to hit her when she looks like you.” It’s a little disconcerting that four people so perpetually cheerful make such dark, death-obsessed music, but maybe that is why I love them so much.