Show Review: Murder By Death with Ha Ha Tonka and Linfinity at Slim’s, 4/08/2010

by Carla Deasy on April 9, 2010

Murder By Death, killing it.

I was excited for the opportunity to see Murder By Death again.  The last time I had seen them was at 12 Galaxies on July 12, 2004.  An eternity ago, as that venue doesn’t even exist anymore.   Murder by Death was at the beginning of their career and their 2002 debut album Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing has forever been a favorite of mine since I first heard it back then.  Actually, that’s all I’ve really known of them, and I was fine with it because I loved it so much.  So in gearing up to see this show, I gave their new album Good Morning, Magpie a listen.  Boy was I surprised that they barely sounded like the same band!   I had to get my hands on everything in between to catch up to how they’ve been developing over the years, as they’ve been working hard putting out albums every two years.

In working to switch gears with Murder By Death, I had to learn to forget the rushing walls of orchestrated sound that would fall and swoop around me.  There are still remnants of it with Sarah Balliet’s electric cello, though the sound has morphed into this dark, longing, whimsical, old west melange.  For me, Good Morning, Magpie kept on bringing up Nick Cave meets Magnetic Fields meets Johnny Cash.  Lead singer Adam Turla has actually changed his vocals along the way to something more along the lines of Cash’s rich baritone.  The album did have some areas where it veered into a rockabilly-esque sound that irritated me, but there were some solid songs on there.  I was excited to go to Slim’s and see them live again eight years later.


Opening up the evening was the band Linfinity from Brooklyn, New York, who immediately pulled us into their psychedelic gypsy den.  Lead singer Dylan Von Wagner is a sleeker Vincent Gallo whose eyes seemed to push out of his head when he got a bit excited, which was frequently.  His voice could go from haunting ballads to garage punk a la The Cramps.  The music was well orchestrated, with a number of talented musicians: Grant Zubritsky -Bass, Russ Lemkin-Drums/Mastermind, Josh Collins-guitar, Megan Berson-Violin/Viola, Omer Shemesh-Keys.  I don’t know which one of them was playing the electric mandolin, but that was a great instrument to hear.  Combined with Megan Berson’s violin, the whole band had an longing sound that pulled at my heart in a way that made it rush heavily in my chest.  Their cover of Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” was a good choice for them to close with.  It suited them nicely.  Their album was about to go on sale later this month, and they had some copies for sale.  Listening to them online right now and remembering them from last night, I’m kicking myself for not grabbing one.

Ha Ha Tonka

I think a good amount of the crowd showed up for Ha Ha Tonka, who was the lively middle child of the evening.  They’re touring with Murder By Death and Linfinity, bringing us music by way of the Ozarks in Southern Missouri.  I was standing next to some girls who were friends with the band (saw them chatting with drummer Lennon Bone), and they were going so wild that this girl with the technicolor hair kept getting in my camera’s view and spoiling some really great shots.  Ha Ha Tonka is a bunch of boys looking cute in their ’70s jeans and cowboy boots.   Their sound was just how they looked, slightly indie rock with heavy doses of country, southern rock and classic rock.  Lead singer and guitarist Brian Roberts was as sweet and charming as could be.  Silly stories, and telling the crowd how thankful he was that we gave them a chance to play, it was *sniff sniff* enough to make your momma proud.  They had a great energy, jumping and dancing, and people were singing along and totally rocking out with them.  Brett Anderson (keys, guitar and vocals) sang a love song that Lucas Long (bass) told us that we should grab hold of our pretties to listen to.  And you gotta listen to a man like Long when he’s got the most beautiful curly hair that I’ve seen in ages.  Normally, just hearing them they wouldn’t be my thing, but they’re such great performers that I really enjoyed their show.

Murder By Death

Murder By Death took the stage, decorated with light-filled birdcages and strange glass bottles rigged up to a stand.  They played songs from many of their different albums.  The memorable songs for me were “Comin’ Home” from Red Of Tooth and Claw, and “The Day” and “You Don’t Miss Twice (When You’re Shaving with a Knife)” from the new album.  These songs are both dark and silly, and it was a joy to hear Turla’s voice in person.

Admittedly, though, my eyes kept coming back to cellist Sarah Balliet.  I kept thinking about a couple of my Spinning Platters colleagues, and how swoon-worthy they’d find her.  She was gorgeous, but it was the way that she moved with her electric cello that was so mesmerizing, as well as the sound she pulled from it.  And while I wasn’t sure I was going to like this new material, seeing them perform it live really brought me into the music.  They’re definitely a band that’s great to see live, as I think your ears hear more with all the instruments in front of you.

And I’ve got to say, I almost bought those red long johns from Murder By Death’s merch table.  They were freaking awesome!  Too bad I’m unemployed.  I’d look silly anyway.


Photos by Carla Deasy

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ryan April 12, 2010 at 12:25 am

Don’t forget Ha Ha Tonka’s a capella performance, or their cover of Black Betty!!


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