Josh said it best. "I wouldn't come out for one band on a Sunday night, but for these two..."
It was a fabulous bill for an off night like Sunday and after a non-stop Halloween weekend at that.
I found my friends waiting at the bar and we immediately adjourned to the front table for the best possible view.
Music geeks at Table 1.
Local singer/songwriter Clint Maul was on first and started right on time. If The Camel isn't careful, people will begin to think they can do timely shows.
Even the often-problematic sound proved to be a non-issue tonight.
Clint did a handful of his famously short songs and closed with Do-Over," a song about relationships, one of many we heard tonight.
A friend had turned me on to the next band, Strand of Oaks, after listening to them obsessively the past few weeks.
Once I began doing the same, I felt her passion.
Well, maybe not the full extent of it ("Man, I really can't wait. I'm going to die so please bring your CPR manual."), but I was definitely hooked.
Their sound turned out to be everything we'd hoped for.
Mesmerizing and passionate with obtuse lyrics, they at times reminded me of post-rock (minus the vocals of course) and my friend of '80s classic rock with a little ambient sound thrown in.
Lead singer Tim tried describing his looks as like those of Frodo (and his bandmates as elves) and that devolved to Dildo, which made the audience laugh.
"It's good to laugh because these songs are f**king sad!" he told the crowd.
And they were, but beautifully sad, entrancingly sad, especially those written right after his house burned down and he got dumped.
The trio covered Moby and played a song about John Belushi's drug dealer in addition to playing a lot off their new critically-acclaimed album.
Tim said he tended to hurry through their set because of his eagerness to hear Crooked Fingers, understandable but the crowd would have loved a longer set.
Luckily, my friend has already asked them to come back to play a house show. Score.
And then the tall one ascended the stage with his band. Eric Bachmann's band Crooked Fingers were the main event tonight.
His wit became apparent at once.
"Thanks for coming out on the Sabbath. Except the Sabbath was really yesterday."
There's something wonderful about his voice; you hear the weariness of a life lived and with his tendency toward confessional songs, you feel like he's singing the journal of it all.
At one point he introduced his band, thanked them and thanked Strand of Oaks and Clint.
"I'm thanking everyone except Jesus," he said. "I hope that doesn't offend you. I doubt it does."
Band member Liz added her beautiful voice to the mix, killing it on "Your Control," a song on which the band originally dueted with Neko Case.
But the standout song of the evening was both voices on "Sleep All Summer," as achingly romantic a song as anyone has ever written.
We take our empty hearts and fill them up with broken things
To hang on humming wire like cheap lamps down a dead end street
Close your weary eyes until the wintertime
And every time we turn away, it hits me like a tidal wave
I would change for you, but babe, that doesn't mean I'll be a better man
Give the ocean what I took from you
So one day you could find it in the sand
And hold it in your hands again
Their emotional intensity had the crowd holding their breath until the last note.
And that was noteworthy, too. The people who came out tonight for this show were die hard fans.
You could have heard a pin drop during Crooked Fingers' set and that included the bar area, a true rarity.
Okay, what is this place and what have you done with the Camel?
And can this be the new Camel reality?