By no means am I a music reviewer, but I know when I dig a band. Devotchka is a new favorite of mine for sure.
This past week, I was in Aspen for the Aspen Live 05 conference, a music industry gathering to yap about trends, beefs, etc. chaired by Jim Lewi from CAA. (By the way, you have to admire a conference in a ski town that doesn't start until 3:45 each day. Way to be, Jim.)
One night, the itinerary took us from our gracious hosts at the Hotel Jerome to the famous Belly-Up music club owned by friend and local legend Michael Goldberg. As we were wrapping up the academic portion of the evening, in walked a sharp looking group, anachronistically dressed, and toting a smattering of band camp instruments.
Clad in ruffled formal wear, they took the stage and promptly removed accordions and violins from cases and readied a big sousaphone illuminated with Christmas lights. The lead singer, a shoe-in for Morrissey, gripped an old style mic and kicked off the most surprisingly entertaining set I have experienced in a long time.
The only way I can attempt to describe Devotchka's music is to relate the imagery it evokes for me. Some songs have me leaving Santa Fe driving down to that proverbial barren Mexican highway. Some having me lamenting a non-existent Czech girl who left me alone staring into my Budvar. Even when apparently rejoicing, the scenes they paint are dark and hazy. Yet, I have had their disc on repeat all day.
A big part of enjoying these guys is seeing them live on stage. A groovy chick playing sousaphone when not tugging on an upright bass? A drummer who jumps in on trumpet from time to time? Accordion that makes the girls in the audience go crazy between violin solos? Driving, dirty guitar the foundation for an echoing croon? Toss in a theremin for good measure. Such fun times. The Belly-Up's stage was the optimal playspace for this cathartic crew.
It makes perfect sense that these guys have opened for Gogol Bordello, the Dresden Dolls, and Ozomatli. Each solid pairings, as diverse as they all are. And, it is very cool that KCRW had these guys in for a set. But, I was pleasantly surprised to see that NPR's All Things Considered had featured them, a testament to their originality and impact.