FUNERALS ARE GAY. When I die I want a wake, and I want Crooked Fingers to be the house band. Eric Bachmann's music has always been perfect for wakes, even back when he played indierock in Archers of Loaf. Unlike a lotta sadsack singers, our man Eric knows that sadness and joy don't always come separate. He understands that a Mariachi's AY-YI-YI-YIIII isn't always celebratory, that sometimes it's a howl of despair. Or that unaccompanied banjo or booze-joint piano can tear your heart right out, but it can also make you crazy with happiness--or both. It's those complexities that he brings into Crooked Fingers--the best songs of which I envision my friends and family getting royally tore up to, while I lay cold as lunchmeat on a table with coins over my eyes.
Crooked Fingers' music has changed a lot over the years--from unrealized back porch Americana to clean Neil Diamond pop-folk to gothic Appalachian. The band's new record, Dignity and Shame, is brassy and busy and has the castanets-clacking rhythm of old Spanish bullfight records. And with that new Flamenco spirit, we see the band becoming more of what it always was: romantic and theatrical, swooning in delirious love/death tales, epic in emotional scope.
To go along with the revamped sound, the newly transplanted Seattleite Bachmann is touring with a guitarist/lap-steel player, a drummer, a pianist, and the all-important bullring trumpeter. He's also bringing an old face out of the indierock bone yard: Archers' bassist Matt Gentling. It's a big change after the bass/drums/Bachmann minimalism of the past few tours.
First time I saw the Crooks was at the Meow Meow in 2001, with that very lineup, and things were hushy and intimate, inspiring even the squealiest fanaticos de Bright Eyes (who were headlining) to sit cross-legged like patient kindergartners at story time. This tour promises more of a punch--though the kind that, afterwards, feels like a kiss.