Milagres: Birds sing in the key of H

Milagres (Brooklyn, NY)
Fingers of the Sun (Denver, CO)
Dear Rabbit (Colorado Springs, CO)

Red Raven, Pueblo, CO
April 3, 2011

Tonight they will fall asleep to The Life Aquatic, but as they leave the stage, they express the desire to score a soundtrack to the film backing them on the 20 foot movie screen, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s one of my favorites, but I’ve been purposefully trying to avoid it lately, without much luck, as it’s the second time that day I encounter it. (Not a good post-break-up movie.) But here, accompanied by the music of Milagres, it’s the best reintroduction to the movie one could possibly hope for. The Wurlitzer-sounding keys begin, and a second keyboard pierces the groove, closing their set with “Glowing Mouth.” It’s easy to detect why two of the members list Radiohead as their current influence, especially when I search for a song off the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack that “Glowing Mouth” reminds me of. The five-piece group is effects-heavy, vocal and instrumentally, some songs feature a two drummers or keyboardists. At least 3 of them had pedal boards with multiple units attached. Watching their footwork was every bit as mesmerizing as the sound they created.

Blast this! Milagres – Glowing Mouth (Radio Edit) (Right-click to download.)

After the set, I approach the first member to stop packing up equipment and take a seat on one of the comfy couches in the middle of the music hall. Chris Brazee, the keyboardist tries to send me away, Kyle Wilson (the lead singer) usually handles the interviews. But he quickly loosens up, and talks about that day’s 10-hour drive, with near white-out conditions in Wyoming en route from Ogden, Utah. This is their last self-booked tour. They recently signed with the label Kill Rock Stars, who also once represented the Decemberists. He can’t name his top three current favorite albums, even though Master of Puppets is what comes up on his iPod, it doesn’t make it on his list. He’s really stuck on PJ Harvey’s new album, Let England Shake, and only the back end of the new Radiohead album, though the front end is growing on him.

No one wants to repeat each other’s selections. And they don’t always want me to tell you what they really said, sometimes making them feel overexposed when I write it down anyway. Eric Schwortz (guitar, electronic drums, backing vox) picks a band that is also from Brooklyn, Hooray For Earth, as well as Low’s new album and Jose Gonzalez of the Swedish band Junip, which he says makes for good driving music. Fraser McCulloch (bass, keys, backing vox) picks his new labelmate Deerhoof, Glass Ghost and the song “New York Groove” by Hello. No one ever sticks to the rules, because the rules are, there are no rules. Obviously. Steve Keventhal, the drummer, can’t decide either- something between Deerhoof, The National and Queen, among others. Eric interjects that Steve can also play some mean piano and guitar covers, along with his stick skills. He lists my ever-favorite Guitar Hero 5 Vampire Weekend song, “A-Punk.”

The opening act stops by, thinking he is leaving, but I see him later on, when both of our eyes are blinking, heavy-laden with sleep. Dear Rabbit killed it tonight. He live looped layers of acoustic guitar and mellow trumpet, a la Andrew Bird, and then sang into his guitar pickups for yet another layer. I tell my friend Peter, “See why I want him to do a Devotchka cover?” One level of reward for his Kickstarter campaign means he is obliged to record it, and I’ve convinced him to let me appear on it. For his last song, he asked the concert-goers to follow him if he left the stage. As promised, he unplugged and walked off stage-right into the intimate foyer where an old out-of-tune piano sat waiting, and England and I were ready to follow him. In this room, with the faded yellow lights, red plaster peeling from the window, and turn-of-the-century wiring, we traveled back in time, and Dear Rabbit was our soundtrack.

Things settle down, and no one goes to sleep as early as they predict. First, there are rounds of intellectual discussion about things like the lack of good public transportation around the US (wouldn’t it be cool if it were like in “Minority Report”?), under-age drinking, and getting signed to a label too young, before you’ve had time to develop a musical identity. Eric’s post office in NY has been rated the worst for theft in the nation and Kyle recently realized that Eric didn’t know you can leave outgoing mail in your mailbox if you’re anywhere in the country except NYC. They’d rather I didn’t tell you these things also. They’d rather me tell you they were surrounded by throngs hot girls and were wasted the entire night, but this isn’t true. However, there are multiple cats who have come down from the owners’ apartment upstairs, and Murphy, the dog, sporting a wig. This is how they want to conduct interviews from now on, with lots of animals bounding around.

Kyle and I discuss books, though everything I ask if he has read (David Sedaris, Malcolm Gladwell) is something that Eric has read, but not him. Despite our different tastes (he’s in the middle of a Steinbeck novel), Kyle suggests that “Everything is Illuminated” will be received well in my life right now. We disagree about who co-wrote the Where the Wild Things Are screenplay with Spike Jones. Eric and Kyle are both convinced that it is Charlie Kaufman, but I know it is TED wish prize winner Dave Eggers. Even though I couldn’t remember his name, I’ll never forget his talk “Once Upon a School.” Kyle thinks long and hard about his three choices before arriving at Sharon Van Etton’s album Because I Was In Love, Kanye West, and the boom metal band Mournful Congregation, the description of which reminds me of Danzig’s Black Aria that I listened to half my lifetime ago. We also marvel at how NY doesn’t hear of any of the west coast or mid-west bands, and vice versa, though they are opening for a sold out concert in NY for Minus the Bear- a Seattle band. Their publicist hadn’t yet announced this as of that night, not that it mattered since it was already sold out.

As I walk down the steep stairs to the outside, where snow covers my car, and where the traffic has quieted, I think how perfect the music was for the mood of this night. We were supposed to be in Denver at that moment, and even though my early tomorrow is going to be rough, I’m glad I convinced Peter to come down instead. They are playing the Walnut Room there tomorrow. I fully expect to hear about Milagres much more in the future.

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