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Supercontinents, Vampires and Guitar CPR

August 30, 2009

Will Knauer performing guitar CPR.

Will Knauer performing guitar CPR.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
August 29, 2009
Illini Union Courtyard Cafe – Champaign, IL

It amazes me that Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, a four-piece from Springfield, MO, have not reached a higher status in the musical world.

It begs the question: What makes a band a success?

Everything that would seem to make a band a commercial boon is present among the impressive set lists that this band can throw together. Looking back, there were many songs I really enjoy (“Oceanographer,” “Some Constellation,” and “You Could Write a Book” specifically) that were omitted; but I still came away from their performance with a feeling of satisfaction.

SSLYBY have been touring extensively since signing to Champaign’s own Polyvinyl Records in 2006, and have released two full length albums in that time. Their sound has a wonderfully poppy quality to it without forgetting its own origins in punk music: at the same time, however, the band can blend in elements of reggae and folk without making it sound too forced or uncomfortable. The end product is a completely enjoyable, unique brand of pop music that can become downright infectious.

Saturday night in Champaign these Missouri boys did their best to plant a line or two in to the audiences mind and keep it there for a long time.

This is not the first time I have seen SSLYBY live before, having attended a concert in Normal about a year ago, but this experience was just as enjoyable. On Saturday the band did face a few problems, one being the low level of their vocals in the PA, which was completely out of their control (and not something uncommon for shows at the Union). The other issue may have had something to do with the venue as well: the lack of intimacy within the performance area led to awkward stage presence from all of the members of the band.

Those issues aside, the music that the band performed was well above par, and certainly sounded like a band who had toured in support of their material for a while.

The exciting part for me as a fan to see at a concert is a version of the song that differs from the studio version, subtly or not. Boris came through in that aspect by adding little flourishes to some songs or taking away some from others to create a new sonic landscape and a new feeling to several of their songs.

The most notable examples from their set were the beautiful chorus effect from the dual guitars in “Glue Girls” and of the bass and guitar playing in harmony on “House Fire.”

Some critics have pointed out the bands’ inability to create a stir from the audience with their subject matter; on Saturday, however, the band roused up more than just some slick dance moves from an over-zealous freshman, and moved the whole crowd out of their static stances. Even the slower numbers, like “I am Warm and Powerful” and “Pangaea” (which features one of my favorite lines: “Pangaea, we used to be together, why’d we have to drift apart”), were played with enthusiasm and vigor that excited the crowd.

The band offered a bevy of new material, which they divulged would be recorded in the coming weeks in preparation for an album release early in the new year.

These fresh cuts particularly moved the audience and incited some eager cheers along with some heavy head bobbing. The most impressive of these being “All Hail Dracula,” which was fast, arguably the most fun and certainly destined for greatness given the current status of vampires in popular culture.

Another new song, which was not named by the band, had much more of a folk feeling to it than anything the band has done before. This new element of their sound was done very delicately, and though it was aurally different than previous, it retained the endearing aspects of the bands prior work and showed a more mature look of a band expanding their sound profile.

The best part of the evening, however, would have to have been the two-song encore.

After the band finished their planned set of songs they said goodnight but could not even make it off the stage before being called back for a second helping. Graciously obliging the crowd the foursome launched in to a fast and heavy version of “Boring Fountain” which drowned out slowly only to come back for a reprise which led directly to the beginning of a hard rocking take on “Anne Elephant.”

The encore displayed a side of the band that was only evident in music videos prior to Saturday. The band went full-tilt on their two songs and really played with passion and as they did so you could see how much fun they were having. The joy and exuberance that singer/bass player/guitarist John Cardwell displayed while picking out improvised solos and the aggressiveness that Phil Dickey played drums with were evident and infectious among the crowd.

As the band wrapped up their encore even guitarist Will Knauer’s joy was irrepresible as he sat performing CPR on his guitar while his band mates left the stage.

While SSLYBY haven’t made it big yet, it seems that they are on the edge of reaching that elusive success.

I think that I could be happy seeing them play free shows on college campuses forever, though.

Eds. Note: I apologize for the lousy quality of the picture, I hope in the future to have more high quality photos from shows. For now I hope that you will not hold the cell phone picture against me.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. kyled permalink
    August 30, 2009 8:18 pm

    yay good review! im glad there werent any big words 🙂 you shoulda told me you were going!

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