Concert review: The Trashcan Sinatras, Legendary Scottish Band

Forgive the decision to use first person for this one, but the editorial ‘we’ just doesn’t apply here.

I am not one for acoustic shows. Whenever I see a guy with an acoustic guitar anymore, I want to pull a Bluto and smash it to bits. This from a guy who did an acoustic gig with his brother the weekend of his wedding. I blame Jack Johnson, really. That whole surfer/hippie scratcha scratcha scratcha thing just bores me. Long story short, when I saw that my beloved Trashcan Sinatras were coming to Dayton to play the Canal Street Tavern, I was in. When I saw it was an acoustic show, I was slightly less in.

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Boy, did they show me. Breaking the evening into two sets, and playing requests submitted in advance online by their fans, the Trashcans positively soared. The harmony vocals by the Douglas brothers (Jon on guitar, Stephen on drums) stood out much better in the acoustic setting, and the band shrewdly mixed in a few electric instruments to give the overall sound a little more thump. Smart move, that.

The set list was divine, showcasing each of the band’s five albums relatively equally. From what my friends who saw them in Cleveland said, though, they’re shaking up the set list drastically each night, so you might hear six of the songs they played here. The main focus, of course, was on In the Music, the band’s newest album, from which they played six of the album’s 10 tracks. Guitarist Paul Livingston sat in the back on a chair, staring at his (electric) guitar as if there wasn’t anyone else in the room (think Johnny Greenwood, without the floppy hair), while drummer Stephen Douglas had the coolest “acoustic” drum setup you’ve ever seen. The kick drum was digital, just a pedal with a pre-amp that gave extra impact to the various shakers, bongos, triangles and snare hits (brushes, of course) that he mixed in. Also, he had a tambourine on his left foot. Very cute.

The star of the show, though, was lead singer Frank Reader, whose voice sounds just as pure as it did when the band dropped their debut Cake in 1990. And speaking of Cake, what a nice surprise to hear the band break out not just “Obscurity Knocks” and “Only Tongue Can Tell,” the album’s two singles, but also “Drunken Chorus,” A B-side from the Cake years. The most pleasant surprise, however, was the inclusion of three songs from the band’s rare 1996 album A Happy Pocket (which goes for upwards of 50 bucks on Amazon), finishing the evening with a rousing version of “The Therapist.”

You have to hand it to bands like the Trashcans. The new album isn’t selling because no one buys records anymore (though I saw them sell a few copies at the show), and the tickets were cheap ($12, holler), so they’re probably not making much on those. I hope they’re shifting a lot of merchandise – they were selling flash drives containing the evening’s performance shortly after the show – because it would be a shame to see a band like this pack it in due to financial constraints, especially when they have proven time and again that they still have so much to offer. There are only a few dates left on the tour, so if you live in any of the following cities, go. You shannae regret it.

March 24 St. Louis, Mo Firebird (acoustic)
March 26 Minneapolis, Mn Cedar Cultural Center
March 27 Kansas City, Mo Knuckleheads (acoustic)
March 28 Denver, Co The Walnut Room (acoustic)
March 29 Salt Lake City, Ut The State Room (acoustic)
March 31 Los Angeles, Ca The Bootleg Theater (acoustic)

  

The Trashcan Sinatras’ Paul Livingston gets “Into the Music”

Most other bands would long have since wilted in the face of the many different types of adversity faced by the Trashcan Sinatras, but — much to the joy of discerning pop fans all over the world — they’re still kicking. In fact, they’ve completed a new album, the soon-to-be-released In the Music, and are embarking on their first American tour in five years. To celebrate the occasion, guitarist Paul Livingston sat down for a chat with Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker, who just so happens to be a fan from way back. As you can imagine, the interview was a rather informal affair, touching on everything from the heartbreak of dealing with labels going out of business to tour preparations to what it was like to have Carly Simon appear on the new album. Sadly, it turns out the meeting wasn’t, well, a meeting at all:

After we recorded the backing tracks in New York, the producer, Andy Chase, was going to set up a studio at his house in Martha’s Vineyard. And he said, “Come on, Carly Simon lives here.” And we were floored, and thought, “That would be great if we could meet her.” And so he asked her to sing on a song, and we got her a lot of the songs we were working on. But the disappointing thing was, when we were in Martha’s Vineyard, she was in New York. So we didn’t meet her, which is kind of a bummer.

Also kind of a bummer? The label behind the Sinatras’ last album, Weightlifting, imploding before it had a chance to make the band any money. Mr. Livingston is pretty genteel about the whole affair, however, saying:

It was a kick in the teeth, but at that point, we didn’t get down about it. We just smiled and moved on. That sort of shit happens all the time. And it’s nothing personal, you know? You just gotta laugh and shake your head.

For more of the interview — including how the band is adjusting to Livingston’s Southern California move, rumors of their back catalog getting the reissue treatment, and who will buy whom a drink when Livingston and Medsker meet up in Chicago — follow this link!

  

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