Sunday, August 21, 2011

Concert Review: Tally Hall in Pittsburgh, PA

 Photo by Gareth Sedam

Last night marked my third time seeing Tally Hall live, and let me say, it does not get old. Without even realizing it, I selected the second and final dates of this tour to attend. They were lively and wonderful in the beginning, and not any less impressive by the end of their tour. The set list was entirely different for this show (which I imagine was for the sake of their own sanity, but it was a pleasant change for me as well).

We arrived in Millvale/Pittsburgh shortly after 6. The area was unlike any surrounding a venue I have ever seen. It was a tiny village with lots of San Franciscan hills and a converted church theater smack dab in the middle. My brother thought we were going to die driving down the steep brick road Mr. Small's theater was on.

April Smith and Casey Shea were both unable to perform last night, so SleepyV opened up with a very energetic set. SleepyV's lineup included guitar, bass, drums, and trumpet. I have to say, trumpet in a rock/pop band lineup wasn't something I expected. The crowd was very receptive of SleepyV, clapping and cheering even though they were complete strangers to more than half of the audience.

I was afraid for a moment that Tally Hall had gotten too big to do their own sound checks, but they did. I'm not convinced that they will on a future tour, they seem to have collected quite the fan-base at this point. I was in the second row, so I had a much better view at this show than Ann Arbor (not as close as San Francisco though). And it was great. I could swear that Joe was looking directly in my direction, so I didn't take many pictures because it felt strangely rude. They played "Greener," which is one of my favorites (I have many). And once again, they ran "Never Meant To Know" into "Pure Imagination," which I have a very strong love for. Bora sang lead for a verse of "Pure Imagination," and his voice was lovely. They did a legitimate encore this time, they left the stage and everything. When the lights finally came up, I was still hoping it wasn't over.

They came out and met the fans as usual, and I was able to finally complete the signatures on my CD liner notes. This was the first show that I didn't talk to Andrew, which was a little weird for me, but I got his signature at the San Francisco show when he was the only one I got to meet properly because of the limited time Rooney meet-and-greet. Bora did notice, as Andrew did, that I have the "old school" Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum. I hate to shatter anyone's illusions by telling them that I ordered it from FYE in 2009 when I became a fan of them. I didn't really talk to Zubin or Ross because I didn't know what to say. I got a picture with Joe and then after my brother had gotten his ticket signed and I was walking away, he called us back and gave us a hug. I was a little confused by that, in part because I thought he was going for a handshake at first. He told us "And...see you again?" which made me wonder whether he recognized us from Ann Arbor or was just inviting us to future shows. We did stand near him for a really long time in Ann Arbor, waiting to get a picture and then finally giving up.

It was a really great show, with a wonderful audience and a powerful energy that's amazing for any kind of show and surprising for the last date in the tour.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Comparing and Contrasting: Tally Hall Vs. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

When quirky modern rock band Tally Hall are being discussed, names like The Beatles, Weezer, Mumford & Sons, Cake and They Might Be Giants get thrown around a lot. No one can quite put a finger on their sound. This is mostly due to the fact that their sound is very uniquely their own. Even through their multi-genre first album (Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum), they managed to maintain a consistent sound and feel, which they really smoothed out for this year's Good & Evil.

Tally Hall (left to right): Ross Federman, Zubin Sedghi, Joe Hawley, Andrew Horowitz and Rob Cantor.

However, I must also throw my own two-cents worth into the mix of bands being compared to Tally Hall. From almost the first time I listened to them, they have reminded me of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

The Bonzos (left to right, top row): Neil Innes, Vivian Stanshall, "Legs" Larry Smith 
(Second row): Dennis Cowan, Roger Ruskin Spear and  Rodney "Rhino" Desborough Slater.

The Bonzos (as I will henceforth refer to them) were a quirky musical group from the 60s. Like Tally Hall, The Bonzos are quite versatile in their styles, while still maintaining a central sound. Similar to the Andrew Horowitz songs on Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum, The Bonzo's utilized lead keys (courtesy of Neil Innes) and Dixieland jazz. Some songs bordered on vaudeville, others almost parodied early Elvis, while others still slid into the heading of "mainstream rock." Several Bonzos songs even have the islander/Jamaican feel of Joe Hawley's "Banana Man."

"Banana Man" by Tally Hall

"Look Out, There's a Monster Coming" by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

The vibrant personalities in each band also make for a comparison. Tally Hall use their tie colours as nicknames, while Vivian Stanshall christened The Bonzos with nicknames like "Rhino." The Bonzos supplemented their acts with comedic interludes and short skits, Tally Hall had an amusing internet show (Tally Hall's Internet Show). Both groups seem quick on their feet with one-liners.

"The Intro and the Outro"

And whereas The Bonzos performed on British children's show (and Monty Python forerunner) Do Not Adjust Your Set, Tally Hall wrote and sang all the songs in Disney's Happy Monster Band

But perhaps the most beautiful similarity between the two groups comes from watching them perform: they both seem to be having a lot of fun playing their music.I'm not saying that Tally Hall has copied The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. The groups are very different. All I'm saying is, I think fans of one of these bands would feel right at home with the other.

Recommended Tracks:
If you enjoy:
Banana Man by Tally Hall -  Look Out, There's A Monster Coming by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
The Whole World and You by Tally Hall - Jollity Farm by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
Hidden In the Sand by Tally Hall -  Hello Mabel by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

Other recommended Tally Hall tracks:

Other Recommended tracks by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band: