Every once in a while, ISU feels like a "legitimate" college town. Every time I've been to any larger university, it seems like there are constant live music performances that stray away from standard bar-band territory. Most Big Ten school campuses seem to have a real DIY sort of atmosphere among an at least measurable part of the student population, and ISU just does not have that at all. There's a tangible atmosphere of complete and total apathy surrounding campus here, and it goes way beyond the sports teams. It just seems that people can't really give a fuck about anything - Kanye West couldn't even sell out Redbird Arena (though ticket prices were somewhat to blame), and the Smashing Pumpkins show at Braden Auditorium has generated barely any buzz around town despite selling out.
Live music - at least the kind that I'm interested in experiencing - is a definite rarity here in Normal. Thankfully, some very close friends of mine as Das Fun Haus (myspace.com/dasfunhaus) are working very hard to change that. This past Friday was the second show that they've had in their basement, and from what I've heard both times have been a rousing success.
Friday night was dubbed "Alt-Country" night at the Fun Haus, which I guess is a fair enough name for what went on display. Admittedly, I wasn't too blown away by the show until Elephant Gun came on, but for the sake of fairness I will mention the other two bands as well. Bridges Burning (myspace.com/bridgesburningnow) were two local kids with acoustic guitars with the general shout-along Against Me!-ish sound that I just really can't get into at all. Some girl who was shouting along also really got on my nerves, which admittedly has nothing to do with the band themselves. Mayhew the Traitor (myspace.com/mayhewthetraitor) are a three-piece who play some dreamy, jangly folk-rock that erred on the side of jam-band one or two times. I was into it.
There was a decent-sized crowd at the house, but not many people were in the basement until Elephant Gun set up, at which point it became pretty packed. The crowd itself was a rather interesting mix - your usual art major hipster types, hardcore/metal dudes, and "normal" looking college kids - but every single person in the room was very into it. The show flier described Elephant Gun (myspace.com/elephantgunchicago) as "think Uncle Tupelo, and if that means nothing to you then think about what happens when kids that have an appreciation for Hank Williams have an equal appreciation for The Replacements," which I don't entirely agree with, but still gives a pretty good idea of the general sound. The band incorporates a rather normal 3-acoustic guitar, bass, organ, multiple singer setup - occasionally featuring trumpet, tambourine and harmonica. The whole set was an absolute blast - from what I've heard online it seems the live set has much more energy (not to say the recorded material was bad at all) . I'd describe it as indie but with a very distinct country-flavored, folk sound - foot-stomping music.
The night was great - a bunch of people crowded into a hot basement dancing and having fun to some absolutely stellar music. This shit seems pretty heartfelt and genuine, it's obvious everyone who played Friday was there because they loved what they did. I left with a smile on my face.