Angels Of Light | Tractor Tavern Live | Review | Kim Leidich

Gira's demeanor is serious but not without a sense of humor

The venue a band plays often says a fair bit about the music. After all, would you expect Josh Groban to play CBGB? On their first time around in Seattle, Angels of Light played the old Fenix Underground, a bar synonymous with booking the likes of Switchblade Symphony, Pigface and The Genitorturers. The crowd was predominantly the Goth set lingering over conversation and musings on M. Gira's former band, Swans. There was much conversation through the entire set and more than a few people trailing out after the first few songs of the set. Even more flocked to the merch table, bought a t-shirt and left. This time around Gira brought Angels of Light to the Tractor Tavern, an entirely different beast. Well, not even a beast, more like a mustang. The Tractor has seen the likes of bands like The Handsome Family, Low, Neko Case, Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys. And it seems altogether a much more appropriate venue for his music. Touring behind Angels of Light's latest release, Sing Other People, Gira brought with him his latest musical discovery/project Akron/Family as both an opening and backing band. The Family took the stage dressed in an assortment of flannel and heavily bearded, looking more lumberjack-bohemian than anything else. Exuding that new band smell, their intensity as they began their set was undeniable. Although the songs lose their fragile, controlled quality live, they managed to take on an altogether more raw, foot-stomping collective quality a sound that seemed to fit just as perfectly. Gira walked nonchalantly on stage, plunked down what appeared to be a plastic bag of provisions (throat lozenges, guitar picks, strings), tuned his guitar and launched right into "To Live Through Someone." Gira's demeanor is serious but not without a sense of humor. He is, after all, sporting cowboy boots, tweed pants and his usual suspenders, looking like a character straight from a Steinbeck novel. "I love you Michael!" elicited the following response, "Not even my wife loves me that way." When the fan responded with, "I do" Gira shivered and feigned good-natured (albeit genuine) disgust. There's no warming for Gira, he's right here in it from the moment he starts to play. "My Sister Said" achieved that simple beauty it has on the album with the almost droning vocals of AK forming a singular sound. A nice contrast to Gira's thick and somber voice. As he pounded out "New York Girls" his eyes rolled back in his head as he thrashed back and forth, a line of spittle trailing through the air. All that flailing propelled a lozenge through the air across the stage. You can't say the man isn't in to his music. Akron Family's backing is seemingly a perfect landscape to Gira's powerhouse of a voice juxtaposed against often stark but never desolate lyrics. The simple prairie-esque sound of "My Sister Said" melted right in to On The Mountain. He has been quoted as a fan of Bob Dylan and honored that with a cover of "I Pity The Poor Immigrant" from Dylan's John Wesley Harding album, an album Gira said he had memorized when he was a boy of 13. This time around the crowd was mesmerized and hooted for more. Gira promised he'd be back and seemed genuinely grateful for the crowd response. "It's nice to be somewhere where people actually listen to the music," he commented. Stetson in hand, the serious looking figure actually did a little lighthearted dance before leaving the stage. Let's hope he will be back, soon.