Two Cow Garage & Grand Champeen | 05.19.07

live_2cowWhile still ear-splittingly loud, and while sharing a similar punk-rock ethos, Two Cow Garage's set had more space in it than Grand Champeen's, both between songs, as they frequently paused to drink or relight their cigarettes, and within them, as they backed off just enough to let daylight into the lyrics.

 

 

 

 

Off Broadway, St Louis

Saturday night's bill of Grand Champeen and Two Cow Garage was a brilliant, smoky, sweaty combination. The two bands beautifully complimented each other as they each threw down blistering, high-energy sets. While they shared a palpable joy for being onstage, their sounds and songs contrasted each other enough to highlight their respective strengths.

Grand Champeen followed a great opening set by St Louis' Miles of Wire. Touring in support of the release of their newest album, Dial "T" for This, Grand Champeen's set list was almost entirely comprised of songs off of the new disc. Combining grungy, twangy guitar tones with soaring, gorgeous pop melodies and tight harmonies, the album is tight and polished. The live show stayed true to the close, structured arrangements on record—except that they threw down with an exhausting, sweaty, punk-rock ruthlessness. They rarely paused between songs; indeed, they often ran directly from one into another. Their enthusiasm was infectious, as frontman Channing Lewis repeatedly hopped from one end of the Marshall stack-crowded stage to another. And you've got to love any band where one of the members sings along to the choruses despite not being provided with a microphone—as was the case with frenetic drummer Ned Stewart. The only downside of their set was that the music was so loud and harried that the lyrics were often essentially inaudible. But given the strengths of their chops, the beauty of their melodies, and the energy with which they played, this was not nearly as much of a tragedy as it might have been.

After a relatively short stage change, Two Cow Garage went on to celebrate the release of their newest, III. They might be an even more demonstrative band than Grand Champeen, which is no mean feat. Micah Schnabel probably cannot match Channing Lewis' vertical clearance in onstage guitar acrobatics, but Schnabel definitely has superior face-twisting, guitar-thrashing heroics. And Two Cow's playing was grittier and looser, a nice contrast to Champeen's sheen. While still ear-splittingly loud, and while sharing a similar punk-rock ethos, their set had more space in it than Grand Champeen's, both between songs, as they frequently paused to drink or relight their cigarettes, and within them, as they backed off just enough to let daylight into the lyrics. Schnabel has become a very good songwriter with a keen eye for small-town, broken-down detail. On the new album, he's penned lines like "There's a TV set on a Peavey amplifier/ I'm lying in bed, watching The Outsiders" from "No Shame." But the best line he's written might be "Eating powdered milk and Cheerios with a black and burnt up spoon" from the brilliant, unreleased scorcher "Florida Sunshine" that closed the set. It was followed by a short, perfunctory break before a pummeling encore of Neil Young's "Ohio."

Two Cow Garage went into the studio to record III with the goal of expanding their songwriting capabilities. As they embark on their tour to support the album, it is clear that they succeeded. A mini-set of "Should've California" followed by "No Shame" was the emotional highpoint of the night. Two Cow likely struggled with the decision to continue as a band before the recording of III; being at Off Broadway Saturday night was to reap the benefit of their decision to keep on the road. Because along with their growing maturity as songwriters, equally evident is their strength as live performers. There cannot be more than a handful of bands more engaging than Two Cow Garage.

And the same goes for Grand Champeen. While Two Cow Garage is looser and shaggier, Grand Champeen is more polished, with a sound lean and biting. Both of these groups are road warriors, touring supporting great new albums. And both deserve to be seen as soon as they come to your town. | Brad Proctor

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply