As happens fairly regularly, the band I knew nothing about turned out to be the highlight of the evening. Missing Players are a trio on bass/lead vocals, drums, and keyboard/flute/harmonica/vocals. Additionally, they had a guitarist/sax player throughout their set, and two more musicians on baritone sax and trumpet for most of the set (these additional musicians are all members of The Panda Conspiracy). As you might guess from the lineup, their music was eclectic. Early in the set, just as I was thinking they sounded like early '90s grunge rock, I realized they were playing a cover of "Rooster" by Alice in Chains. Later, they were at their bluesiest when covering "French Fries with Pepper" by Morphine. Most of their music though was original, ranging between those styles and touching on art/prog-rock as well, including a long instrumental featuring the flute and the horn section. I enjoyed the variety of the sound as well as the obvious talent of the musicians, and I'll be interested to see how they develop.
Just last month when I was looking for a show to attend in February, I learned about vocalist Emilia, and her backing band including Michael Queyrouze on guitar, Kent Halvorsen on keyboard, and KJ Sawka on drums and electronics. Sawka's involvement was how I learned of that show, as I'm a fan of his earlier project Siamese and his current solo work. At the time I thought the group sounded pretty good, but they didn't really grab me. This time, Emilia opened her set with a pair of backup dancers for the first song, which struck me as a mere gimmick rather than a serious artistic decision. There's no denying the musical ability of her backup musicians, nor her own fine voice, and most of the audience seemed very enthusiastic, with a lot of dancing in the crowd. However, as her set continued, I did not find myself warming up to her performance, and eventually I simply grew bored. I talked with an audience member near the end of her set, and we agreed that Emilia's act seemed too calculated, substituting the pretense of being a rockstar for true passion in the music. That's not to say that Emilia doesn't actually care about her music, but her performance felt a bit hollow to me. I won't be deliberately avoiding her shows in the future, but I won't make a point of attending, either.
Like Emilia, I had seen Miss Solar System once before, in January. That show had only instrumentalists Daniel H (synths and live guitar) and Rob Anonymous (programming, samples, and synths), as their vocalist Miranda Rose was ill. My reaction at the time was that they lacked something to make them stand out, and the lacking element was probably their missing vocalist. This show proved me at least partly correct. Rose's soaring, soulful vocals did provide a nice contrast to the electronic beats, beeps, and swirls, complementing their sound well. At the same time, although I did enjoy their music, I still felt less enthusiastic than I'd expected. Unlike with Emilia, I can't attribute it to a perceived flaw on the band's part; they simply didn't find their way deep inside me and pull out the urge to dance. I ended the evening pleased to have seen them; although I'm not particularly eager to do so again, they're still a selling point for potential future shows, again unlike Emilia.
Next month I have something of a dilemma. Annuals are back in town on the 21st, opening for Blonde Redhead at The Showbox. I really enjoyed the Annuals when I saw them last month, and Blonde Redhead is one of those bands I neither know nor remember as well as I think I should. However, Beehive are playing a show the same night in the Lower Level of the Capitol Hill Arts Center, and I definitely want to continue supporting them by attending their shows. Hmm, on their website they're promising a long set with lots of new material. Decisions, decisions...