Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Capstan Shafts | Stannard Church | Oct 6

I followed the sign that said "Stannard 3 miles --->" which took me to a classic Vermont unmarked four-way intersection. It's pitch black, foggy and the rain is keeping the wipers busy. Geez, even the weather is playing a part in maintaining the mystery surrounding The Capstan Shafts.

Having nothing to go on, I guessed straight and drove three miles before the dirt road turned into a class 4 impassable road. Damn it. So, I returned to the intersection and tried another option. This one led me to a gas station where I was able to ask for some help.

"Could you help me out? I'm looking for Stannard Church."

The guy looks at his wife and turns back to me lifting the bill of his ball cap. "What's going on up there tonight? There's been a few people coming by here tonight looking for it."

With that, he sent me back to the befuddling intersection and sent me on option #3. A few miles later up another dirt road, in the middle of the woods, I see a lantern lit church with a bunch of cars park along the road. The Stannard Church.

The church is basically a one room box with a small alter at the front of the room, about ten rows of pews, high ceiling,long tall narrow windows and about a hundred candles scattered around the room for lighting. It was a pretty magical scene. In fact, despite four bands being on the bill, the headliner was the church itself. It's century old walls and boards gave every musicians music a warm glow and the place's history and simple beauty gave the entire evening a certain reverence.

Due to my unplanned tour of the backroads of Greensboro and Stannard, I arrived about halfway through Joanna Kunin's set. She was playing piano and singing while a guy accompanied her on a variety of instruments. While Kunin's music isn't what I typically listen to, in that setting, it sounded really nice.

Next up was the man that had generated all of the buzz for this show, The Capstan Shafts; or, as the government refers to him, Dean Wells. On his recordings he plays guitar, drums and bass. However, I didn't know whether he was going to play alone or bring along some fellow musicians to play the other parts. It turned out to be the former which is fine and worked very well in that setting. However, I'd love to hear him with a backing band in the future.

Wells immediately blasted through his first song which ended with a storm of applause. Wells seemed a bit uneasy with the expression of glee from the fans at the show but also was genuinely pleased, excited and appreciative. At one point, following a burst of applause, he said something like, "I know it sounds cliche but I really appreciate that."

Wells also realized that with his songs only lasting a minute that constant ovation at the end of each song would stretch the night beyond its prescribed length. So, he started bundling the songs into three-packs which worked well. Between packs of songs, Wells, would stop to drink some coffee (clearly the comparisons to GBV stop with their beverages of choice) and read through a long list of songs.

At one point, Wells asked about requests so I suggested "Carbon Neutral Enterprise". Wells smiled and said, "You'd think I'd know these songs since they're all the same three chords but I really don't know that song. I don't remember how it starts." Then someone suggested "61 Sideburns" which he did thankfully know and played.

Overall, it was a fun half-hour of music with lots of catchy tunes. Wells personality on stage in endearing in its honesty. He's slightly uncomfortable in the limelight of the stage but so are most people during their first show. Just look how David Berman of The Silver Jews grew in confidence as his inaugural tour rolled on last year. However, Wells didn't cover up that discomfort on stage by trying to be someone he isn't. He was just a guy with a guitar and a long list of cool tunes to play.

Next up was Horse Feathers from Portland, OR. They weren't originally on the bill but had played in Burlington the night before, heard about the show going on in Stannard and asked to be a part of the show. I'm glad they did because, while their music had never grabbed me in the past, I'm now a fan. It's a soft, layered, beautiful sound that exhibits excellent control of the building and releasing of tension. In that setting with the candles running low, it was a perfect sound.

Unfortunately, I had to get home to relieve the babysitter. So, I had to leave before their set was over. I entirely missed Casey Dienel and the Flapjacks who also heard about the show and decided to stop by to play a set on their way up to the Pop Montreal festival. It sucked having to leave early but my main reason for going was to catch The Capstan Shafts which I did. So, I was happy.

On the way out, I saw Wells outside the church, shook his hand and wished him luck with his show at CMJ in NYC. "Thanks. I'll need it."

UPDATE: Nick over at Angioplasty Media has posted his review of the show also. He was able to stick around for the full sets from Horse Feathers and Casey Dienel so he has more to say about them.

UPDATE AGAIN: You can find the mp3 files from the videos below in this post.


Due to the church being so dark, the videos are largely a black screen except for when someone takes a picture and the flash lights the room. However, the camera captured the sound pretty well so they're worth posting. I have part of a Horse Feathers tune on video also. I'll try to post that one tomorrow. I need to get some sleep before driving up to Montreal for The National tomorrow night.


Dan said...

dean wells is a lefty!

thanks for this post!

Will said...

Seconded. Wish I could've been there.

Flatlander said...

I completely missed the fact he was a lefty until this morning when I was thinking back on the show. I guess I was just caught up in the show.

Tick Tick said...

Thanks so much for coming to the show last night! Great post! No More wondering about dean!

Anonymous said...

Wow, he actually exists.

Anonymous said...

And I'm left handed in a right handed world...looking for my lovely ambidextrous girl...

thanks for the report!

blacksoxfan said...

Eh, not relevant to the show, but there is a band called the the Dropkick Murphys coming to Higher Ground in November and I was wondering if you were going to go to that.

not ymous said...

shit - he is cute.

Flatlander said...

BlackSox, I'm probably not going to hit that show. I've heard the DM and while they were OK, they didn't get me excited. Plus, between Sharon Jones, Cass McCombs and Elvis Perkins, I think I'll be spending enough time at Higher Ground in November.

not ymous, yeh, perhaps it's my "Montpelier bias" but I wasn't expecting someone from Lyndonville to looks so stylish and hip. He definitely has the jawline for rock stardom.

Anonymous said...

I am so jealous.
Eggnog from New Zealand