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Culture Reviews
Sixteen Tons 
By Ryan Macalino
16 Tons. That Wednesday night double-CD release party for Lambchop was a familiar sight. The vibe was happening, and the growing crowd of 20-something’s was visibly hungry for this American act to perform. There was something in this atmosphere of bohemians, bar stars and mid-level managers (and expats, too!) that got me a little worried… What’s going to happen when Lambchop steps in?

I was very lucky to receive advance copies of their CDs (Aw C’mon and No, You C’mon) about two weeks before the concert. Not ever having listened to this Nashville band’s music beforehand, I really dug the stuff they brought out. It seemed to have this “easy like Sunday morning” feel to it, just perfect for tea on a rainy day or maybe a Whiskey Sour in a quiet, smoky lounge...

“Hello, hello!”

At Kurt Wagner’s entrance 5 minutes to 11, the band was welcomed by the generous applause of a packed crowd. Again, I felt like their music didn’t really fit the usual energy of the 16 Tons setting. Getting primed for the concert with the usual dance fare, I figured it would be too difficult to get into Lambchop’s unique, subdued tunes.

By the time the band got into their fourth song, the crowd had already diminished a little bit. It was a shame some missed the melodic “Nothing Adventurous Please”, as the wicked slide guitar worked magic in the air worthy of Duane Allman. The band was beginning to look very comfortable. Coincidentally, the fragrant smell of melon-mix flavored tobacco in kalian was also in the air, and a friend was eager to say that the band looked so cool they had to be smoking something (albeit something else).

Later on, the band played “Sunrise”, one of the stronger songs in the new CD set. I could really dig Wagner’s breezy narrative-style singing combined with the light-jazzy instrumentation. Interwoven with the countermelody from Ozzy Osbourne’s “Paranoid”, the song achieved a perfection that proved you can simultaneously enjoy such musical genres and not be 40.

The band continued on to play a few more nice instrumentals, slow jams, and older faster releases. The standout track in this mix had to be “The Lone Official”, a nice instrumental that had the band jamming – quite frankly, playing their asses off. Their collective gel was most fluid here, and everyone played in fine form, much to the crowd’s delight.

Taking a bit of a break before the finale, Wagner cracked a few jokes and talked to the crowd, later saying that they’ve been “touring all over the place”, and that Moscow was their “crowning glory”. This didn’t make too much sense to me at the time, but the crowd was visibly very pleased. Once the applause had subsided, the band continued to their finale.

“Steve McQueen” is their strongest new track in many ways, and deserved its place as the ‘finale’. But despite its drawn-out subtlety (which fits Lambchop exactly), its restrained nature by design makes the listener want more. As a result, the band was all-too-eager to respond to shouts for an encore, performing some faster songs to leave the listeners on a high note.

Needless to say, I found the music very enjoyable, but it’s easy for me to say that not everyone would agree. The concert was definitely something unexpected for the crowd, and by the encore only about half remained. I’m glad 16 Tons invited Lambchop to play, breaking formula a little bit and drawing more expats to the scene. Perhaps they did the right thing; but maybe a livelier, hipper set would have been more audience-friendly? My personal opinion would have been for a different venue – a quiet, smoky lounge would have been ideal.

But perhaps after repeatedly performing in this type of setting, 16 Tons was a welcome change for Lambchop. After all, they did say that this concert was their “crowning glory”. Watching the band stay on to sign autographs and talk to some fans, I’m inclined to believe them.

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