Lawrence Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin

Tom Pilcher

WLFM certainly set the bar high for their concerts in future years with last Saturday’s showcase featuring Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Drew Danburry and The Chairs. Despite what their name might suggest, SSLYBY is an indie-pop group from Missouri and not a Russian comedy band. The band, part of Polyvinyl Records’ roster, is one of the biggest to come to Lawrence this year, and has had features written about them in Spin magazine and numerous influential music blogs.
Lawrence’s own The Chairs opened the night, playing to an already packed coffeehouse, a rarity for concerts held there. The group just self-released its first full-length album, titled “Laugh, It’s a Fright,” and the group’s set highlighted many of the songs from this release.
Despite the inherent problems with the old sound system in the coffeehouse, The Chairs actually got a decent mix out of it, the only downside being the slightly overpowering keyboard. The band seems to be shifting from the longer, slow-building songs that they played first term, instead focusing on more upbeat and interesting vocal and guitar melodies and more rhythmic drum and bass grooves. As usual, they ended their set with a crowd favorite: their bass-led cover of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.”
After moving the mass of pedals and power strips from the stage, Drew Danburry and his small band took the stage. Hailing from Utah, Drew Danburry plays upbeat, folksy songs on acoustic guitar, harmonica and sometimes ukulele, backed by a drummer and a bass player. Save some people in the front, the crowd seemed more or less indifferent to his music and talked through much of his set, making it hard to hear the quieter parts of his songs.
Normally, noise would never be a problem at the often poorly attended concerts in the Coffeehouse, but the standing-room-only crowd forced Danburry to ask everyone to quiet down for a few songs. However, he did make use of the anxious crowd on a few songs that required everyone to sing along, even remarking that it was the best crowd participation he had ever heard on one tune. Danburry did hush the crowd for his last tune, which he played on ukulele without his band. The tune was a calming, fitting end to an otherwise upbeat set, and after quietly singing the last notes nearly two feet away from the microphone, Danburry ended his set.
Rounding out the unofficial “Polyvinyl Records Week” at Lawrence – Headlights, another artist on the label, played in the coffeehouse March 31 – Missouri’s Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin took the stage quietly and unassumingly, and proceeded to stun everyone with a trebly blend of guitars and tight, danceable drum and bass grooves.
The group received a huge surge of internet buzz in 2006 with their debut album “Broom” and released another well-received album called “Pershing” last April. Their set highlighted the more poppy, guitar-driven tunes from “Pershing,” but they also played older fan favorites “I Am Warm & Powerful” and “Oregon Girl” in an encore. It is easy to see why the group created such internet buzz, because their energetic set got the usually unenthusiastic coffeehouse crowd to not only stand up, but also to move around and dance.
SSLYBY’s music serves as a testament to well-written pop songs everywhere, because even though their music is not overwhelmingly complex, the separate parts of their songs complement each other well, in turn creating great pop songs. Rather than playing the fastest, most complex parts imaginable, the drummer and bass player – who switched instruments midway through the set – locked in to tight, energetic rhythms that did not bog down the nimble, interlocking guitar lines. One of the most interesting things about the group is the two lead singers: the drummer and lead guitar player traded off lead and backing vocal duties, and midway through the set, the drummer switched to guitar, the bass player to drums and the guitar player to bass.
On “Broom” especially and sometimes on “Pershing,” SSLYBY sounds rather lo-fi because of the recording quality -“Broom” was recorded in one member’s house- but also because of the mixed acoustic/electric instrumentation and the unique vocal melodies. In this live setting, one could hear their lo-fi leanings at times, but the set was on the whole much more focused on the more upbeat songs from the two albums. The crowd responded with much dancing and merriment, causing the lead singer to remark that the concert was better than the one they played the night before at UW-Madison.
For WLFM’s first and possibly only concert of the year, last Saturday’s show marked a huge success for the radio station and proved that Lawrentians will in fact listen to music outside of the chapel or Harper Hall that has no conductor or sheet music. The next concert in the coffeehouse will be April 18, featuring Chicago rock group Athens and a to-be-determined opener from Lawrence.