Archive for Friday, January 11, 2008

Bailiff getting the hang of ‘this music thing’

By Andy Downing

January 11, 2008

When Bailiff played its first show on a snowy Wednesday night in April, thetrio expected the venue to be half empty. Instead, the Beat Kitchen wasjampacked for its six-song set, a turn of events that left the band membersshaken and its frontman considering an early retirement.

“I just remember not being able to hear anything,” says singer/guitaristJosh Siegel. “I felt like I couldn’t hear my voice. I couldn’t hear the drumseven though they were extremely loud. I remember thinking, ‘This is the wayit’s going to be forever?’ At that point, I didn’t know if I could do thismusic thing.”

Fortunately, Siegel’s anxieties faded after the first performance; Bailiffhas now played more than a dozen local gigs and is primed for its Saturdayreturn to the Beat Kitchen in celebration of the release of its first EP, “MmHmm.” Evan Sult, drummer for Bound Stems and Harvey Danger, was one of thosein attendance for that first show. In a testimonial posted to the band’sMySpace site, Sult offers the three-piece his unabashed praise: “There’s noone jumping around slinging sweat and drawing a lot of attention, but they’resomehow mesmerizing.”

“Mm Hmm” continues that effect, sounding at once effortless and scaryintense. The band works tension and release to perfection on songs such as”Even I Know the Rain” and “What I Was,” building from a spectral chime to athunderous, foundation-rattling groove on the latter. All four EP cuts haveroots in the blues – the three bandmates are fans of Buddy Guy’s “Sweet Tea”– but the crew frequently stretches this influence until it’s distorted andunrecognizable.

Working with engineer Brian Zeiske at Gallery of Carpet Studio, the bandconcentrated on recreating its live sound (listeners can hear the woodenrattle of Ren Mathew’s drumsticks at the onset of “Even I Know the Rain”),preferring to record to 2-inch tape rather than use digital equipment. Itwas, says bassist Marc Bonadies, an effort to preserve the raw feel of thesongs.

That’s not to say that the band is ignorant of music’s ongoing digitalrevolution. Siegel notes that CDs and digital music files are becomingmore-or-less promotional tools – aural advertisements designed to getlisteners out for the live performances. With that in mind, the trio isplanning to spend as much of 2008 as possible crammed in a van, crisscrossingthe country.

“It’s the reason we’re all in this band,” says the newly confidentfrontman. “Now we’re ready to get out there and do the work.”

\Elmore James Jr.

When blues legend Elmore James died in Chicago in 1963 of a heart attack,he left behind a plethora of classic songs (“Dust My Broom,” “The Sky IsCrying”), a wide-ranging influence (everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Frank Zappa)and a son, Elmore James Jr., who has chosen to follow in his famous father’sfootsteps.

Along with his band, the Broom Dusters Blues Band – named for his pop’smost famous song – James Jr. tackles tunes popularized by James Sr. and hiscontemporaries. And because precious little remains to document James’ liveprowess (there are no known live recordings or photos of him performing),witnessing his son play those classic slide guitar riffs is the closest mostwill ever come to experiencing the original.


Big and getting bigger, so stand back

When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave.

Price: $7; 773-281-4444

\Elmore James Jr.

Not the original, but it still rocks

When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Bill’s Blues, 1029 Davis St., Evanston

Price: $10; 847-424-9800