Nilsson Night at Mercy Lounge 7/2/09

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Brendan Benson
  • Brendan Benson

Slideshows? Well, there's this one, and then there's this one, too.

We are fans of cover songs, benefit shows and the Mercy Lounge, so the "Me and My Arrow: A Tribute to Nilsson" shindig Thursday night seemed like a killer way to kick off 4th of July Weekend. And speaking of America, it was a benefit show to help cover the medical bills of Oblio's Terry Price, who has been diagnosed with Bell's Palsy. Sure, Americans may let artists and the working man fall through the health care cracks, but at least we come together to help out our friends and get drunk in the meantime. USA!   

Strolling in uncharacteristically early, we had little more to do than stand on the balcony and confide to our companions that we were woefully ignorant of the Nilsson catalog. Their heads shaking in synchronized shame, our friends informed The Spin that Oblio (the band) was named after Oblio (the character) from a 1971 cartoon musical enthusiastically titled The Point! with story and songs written by Harry Nilsson. We were also told that we probably knew at least five Nilsson songs. It sounded like a challenge. We happily accepted.

Though charmed by the trombone employed by James Wallace and the Naked Light, the digression to the narration from The Point! grated more than a little. However, "Are You Sleeping" was the first song we recognized and we managed to coast on that jaunty melody into The Features' set. They performed as we had never seen them before--sitting down with Matt Pelham gently twanging on a banjo. One of the three songs in their set was dedicated to Pelham's first love, Shelly Duval. Adorable.

Heypenny was up next, and they played another song we knew, "Coconut," which they played as if it had been filtered through a '90s teen movie. It was at this point we hazily realized that every song had been performed with the last 40 years of rock history seeping though. This suspicion was justified by a (nameless?) cobbled-together Nashvillian supergroup featuring Grimey, Hotpipes' Jon Rogers, Marc Pisapia, The Raconteurs' Brendan Benson and My Morning Jacket's Carl Broemel, who pulled out "Without You" (3), which thankfully sounded nothing like the Mariah Carey version we are all-too-familiar with.

Eureka Gold played the Best Song, "One" (4), and also performed what seemed to be the only cover immune to reinterpretation: "Everybody's Talking" (5). It was just as gentle as one would expect, and performed in such a straightforward manner it was disarming. Pico vs Island Trees were next, and The Spin was elsewhere, but we did manage to catch the closing act from the hosts of the evening, Oblio. The night made us realize that the melodic flourishes and poppy digressions that we so love from local bands can come from a variety of influences--even if we thought we only knew that one song from that movie.

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