Got Down, Stayed Down

November 16, 2009 § 1 Comment

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down at Warehouse Live, 11 November 2009.

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Thao thrashes with the Get Down Stay Down

The gentlemen of the Get Down Stay Down, fresh off the road from Louisiana, have manners. Bassist Adam Thompson and drummer Willis Thompson (no relation) set up the Warehouse Live studio stage for their leading lady; they perform all the last-minute sound checks, clear away the opening Portland Cello Project’s four music stands and chairs, and make sure everything’s in place.

When Thao emerges, she takes the left side of the stage and leaves the center empty.  Her microphone is coyly placed—there’s nothing diva about this setup—but she doesn’t stay coy for long.  “Oh, geography is gonna make a mess of me,” she sings, and it’s suddenly clear that the Thompsons left her a good, old-fashioned space to thrash around in.  Her energy is refreshing, fierce, and her audience is largely undeserving of it this early in the evening; some folks still hover near the bar or hang back, wondering whether or not they want to get down towards the front and stay there.

But Thao’s energy compels even the hangers-back to push closer, and as she moves into “Beat (Health, Life, and Fire),” the first track from her 2008 album We Brave Bee Stings & All, she’s still using center stage to throw her head around and stomp the red cowboy boots we want to think she wore especially for us.  When she and bassist Thompson grab pairs of drumsticks and bang out a full-band drum solo, the stage feels full and the studio space, even on a Wednesday, swells.

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The stage setup isn’t the only geographical concern for the band.  The tight performances of Thao’s most upbeat tunes, culled mostly from Bee Stings despite her newest album’s recent release, are strung together by the continuing narrative of the band’s near inability to make it to Houston from Louisiana.  The stage banter’s limited, but with the energy she conserves by not chatting, Thao maintains a high level of swagger and stomp that compliments her combination finger-pick-and-finger-thrash style of playing.

The band makes it through the night just like their van—that’s right, folks—without throwing on the brakes.  They close the set with “The Gift,” a pensive, gentle song from the new record, Know Better Learn Faster, but are coaxed back out for one more song, an extended jam on the quirky “Feet Asleep.”  Our encore claps all seem to say, “One busted van and two rentals later, we’re so glad you made the drive.”

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