Live: the Lemonheads at Warsaw, 07.19.07


In Florida, not Poland

July 19th, 2007

By David Marchese

The first sounds squeezed from the Lemonheads last night were enough to make a fan’s heart sink. The drums rumbled, the bass burbled, and a rail thin Evan Dando, his lank, stringy blond hair leaking out from under a hardhat, spewed some Sabbathian scree from his SG. But soon enough the sludge softened into the folky chord progression of a fifteen-year-old fave called “Confetti.” On one level, the band’s opening psych-out was spiritually in line with their songs’ sentiments of dashed dreams and foiled expectations. But on another level, the brevity of the strange sign-on suggested that Dando and Co. (Bill Stevenson on drums, Karl Alvarez on bass) understood that the crowd had come to relive old memories, not make new ones. Dando’s shaggy dog tales of post-acne, pre-job soul-searching are really no greater than the sum of the influences of a hardcore kid with a Gram Parsons fixation—the latter of which was made explicit with a mid-set cover of the cosmic cowboy’s “A Song for You.” But when Dando ambled into one of his more cleverly affecting set of changes—the dude has the minor fall, major lift thing down pat—and rolled his sensitive stoner-slacker slur into motion, the effect on anyone who initially heard and loved these songs between the ages of, say, 14 and 23 had to be like an instant timewarp; a cruise through your old neighborhood with the ghosts of a broken heart and an old friend sitting shotgun.

Given the sensibly coiffed and nicely-dressed audience’s general posture improvement whenever Dando dug into his back catalogue (something he did often; the set was especially rich with songs from 1992’s pocket classic, “It’s a Shame About Ray”) it seemed the trip down memory lane was a welcome one. The only clue that Dando and his alpine cheekbones were less than thrilled to be playing madeleine music was his insistence on ending nearly every number with shrieking feedback. No post-song cuddling for this guy. The sonic shrapnel sounded like a series of passive-aggressive fuck yous to a crowd yearning just to sing along to near-perfect bubblegrunge gems like “Rudderless,” “Alison’s Starting to Happen” and “Big Gay Heart.” But rather small acts of petulance than the sad, narcotized haze of Dando’s drug days, back when a song like “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You” rang uncomfortably true. If Dando’s choice of headwear implied a man doing a job, his choice of material and some diligent, if not quite vigorous, performances demonstrated a solid work ethic. If pandering always sounded as charming as the Lemonheads did last night, it wouldn’t be such a bad word.