From the first time I saw the flyer for this show, I knew I’d be in attendance. Not only was the lineup what you might call a compilation of Riverwest All-Stars, but it served as a send-off party to two notable musicians. Alex Shah has been playing bass with Myles Coyne for the past several years, but after finding himself busy with his own project, Ugly Brothers, he decided to step down. On a more heartbreaking note (and perhaps I’m biased), this was Jordan Maye’s last performance before moving to Los Angeles. Maye, like Shah, has been playing in the Riverwest scene for quite a while and has become quite a fixture, performing with Lousy Trouts in addition to Myles Coyne and Meat Greeter.
I have to fess up and admit that I showed up at Linneman’s right after Caley Conway finished up her show-opening set. I am not a stranger to this lady’s music, and I can only assume it went as swimmingly as it usually does. She opted to play solo, instead of with her full band. When I went to apologize for my absence, she divulged that she opened her set with “The Cheese Song,” which I have dubbed the catchiest song written about lactose intolerance.
Next up was Myles Coyne. The set started with a few intimate tunes with Coyne on guitar, Maye on mandolin, and Gina Romantini, who I know best for her work on violin with Trapper Schoepp and the Shades. The trio invited the rest of the band on stage, including Shah, Steve Vorass Jr., and Victor Buell IV. Adding to the charismatic frontman’s nature, Shah’s persistent bass lines, Vorass’s crisp drumming, and Buell’s melodic guitar solos rounded out an already-cohesive sound. They performed songs from the band’s 2013 release, Take Things As They Come, including the album’s namesake, “The Windy City,” and “My Grandmother’s House,” as well as newer songs. Mid-set, Coyne serenaded Maye and Shah with an impromptu Muppet Christmas cover of “The Love We Found” (cue warm fuzzies!).
Next to the stage was Donovan the Shark, a relatively newer band from the area. Fronted by Michael Swan, it seems they have solidified their lineup with James Sauer, Johanna Rose, Amanda Langley, and Rob Westrick. Swan’s higher-register, poppy voice is refreshing, particularly when paired with Sauer’s harmonies, who also adds a soulful feel with his guitar parts. Rose, who turns everything she plays to gold (literally, with glitter and rhinestones), fits seamlessly with this lineup utilizing her knowledge of upright bass and bowing techniques to add something extra. My eyes always went to Langley during the performance, as she switched between three different instruments. It’s not atypical to see a violin player doubling as a mandolin player, but she also pulled out an Omnichord. This was the first set I had seen with Westrick on drums, and I certainly hope it won’t be my last. The group played only a seven song set (highlights include “Strive” and “10 Year Plan”) that left me hoping for expansion in the future.
Closing out the night was Meat Greeter, with their second and probably last set for the foreseeable future. This dream team of goofball musicians consists of Shah, Maye, Jay Joslyn, and Alex Heaton, who switched instruments throughout their entire set. Shah found it fitting to undergo an outfit change during his downtime, where his plain tshirt was replaced with a turtleneck patterned with holly and an atrocious holiday vest. To kick off the set, Joslyn proudly proclaimed, “This song is all about hanging out at Burger King for a really long time,” before launching into “Spectator Sport,” a track not found on their recent release, don’t tickle me; I’m mad at you. A raucous set, peppered with Shah unncessarily screaming into the mic between songs, had the audience dancing and was a loud end to the otherwise calmer show.