Bishop Allen | 03.12.07

bishopallenMost of the show played like a best-of showcase for their 2006 monthly EP project.


w/Bryan Scary, Say Hi to Your Mom
Mojo's, Columbia, Mo.

Hipsters love gimmicks. Sufjan Stevens has gained wild publicity with his 50 states project, as did the Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs. Young indie pop group Bishop Allen took their own stab at an ambitious project in 2006. The Brooklyn natives self released a four song EP every month last year, which passed mostly unnoticed aside from mildly obsessive bloggers. Now that they're done churning out songs at uncanny rate, Bishop Allen has time to take their newly expanded song catalog on tour. On their way to Austin for SXSW, the band stopped in Columbia.

The night started with the wildly energetic Bryan Scary playing to a nearly empty Mojo's (I think there were six people besides me in the club). Still the dismal crowd did not hinder the band's energy. With their makeup and costumes, the band tore through a dizzy spectacle of theatrics and pop songs, reminding me of a demented carnival. Following this surprisingly fun performance was a set from Say Hi to Your Mom. The guitar/keys/drum trio played one of the most bland, boring shows I've seen in a long time. Without a single catchy riff or toe-tapping beat, the band played their songs without a hint of showmanship. Thirty minutes have never passed more slowly at a concert.


After a frantic sound check and a band pep-talk huddle, Bishop Allen was ready to play. The six-piece band looked quite crammed on the tiny Mojo's stage. Sadly, though, the sound technician was having a great deal of difficulty and the first few songs were plagued by broken microphones and unheard vocals. Though singer Justin Rice was obviously frustrated with the situation, he didn't let it affect his performance. Guitarist/ukulele player Christian Rudder's spirits did not seem to take a scratch from the sound difficulties, as he backed fellow frontman Rice perfectly. The band kicked off their show with "Busted Heart," a highlight from their 2003 debut (and only full LP) Charm School.

Most of the show played like a best-of showcase for their 2006 monthly EP project. With an enthralling mix of guitars, horns, ukulele, and glockenspiel, the band sounded tight and cohesive. The range of atmosphere they displayed was uncanny. The songs ranged from the jangle pop of "Click Click Click Click" to the folk of "Castanets" to the moody emotion of "Flight 180." They rocked the crowd with the set closer "Little Black Ache," a pop song with enough rockin' fun to get anyone's hips shaking. After a mere 45 minutes, the set ended all too quickly.

This young band was really a treat to watch. If they continue to hone their songcraft, I can see them developing into an indie-pop sensation on par with the likes of the Shins. Bishop Allen recently signed with the brand-new Secretly Canadian spinoff label Dead Oceans. This could be just the publicity push they need to gain the rabid fan base they deserve. If you haven't checked them out, their monthly EPs are all available for mail order or digital download on their Web site for $5 apiece. | Pete Wissinger

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