14 March 2007

Milquetoast @ Lizard Lounge

Tuesday night saw Hazel Levy and Milquetoast playing at the Lizard Lounge. Hazel started off the night with her square, easy, unadorned stage presence and flowing songs that don't leave much impression after they end--like a musical palate cleanser; it's a challenge to stand out as a singer-songwriter, with so many around. She did say one thing I remembered: "It's hard to sound rock'n'roll by yourself." Which is true, and might partially explain one really awful show.

Milquetoast started out with Jimmy McAndrew solo for a couple of songs, then joined by cellist Robin Ryczek (Jethro Tull's cellist, no less), and then finally by bassist Joe Mageary and drummer Panama Quinn. With each new addition the sound of the band made more sense, and by the time the full arrangement was reached, it was a dynamic, nimble, driving sound. Cellos are beginning to pop up in indie music (Zoe Keating, Hilary Hahn with And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead), and it's easy to see why: they can (and in this case, did) take a band's sound from driving and intelligent to layered and interesting.

Tess of Miss Tess and the Bon Ton Parade guest-harmonized on Static Cleanse, and that was my favorite song of the night; the extra harmony balanced the song nicely between graceful and strong. Million Ways was another standout, with the clockwork energy in its repetitive chords.

Although it's clear live that it's a young band--not always prepared to start or end together, uncertain about banter--their material, stage presence, and performance were strong enough to make it a night well spent.

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