Mark Eitzel and Howe Gelb look to the future as they approach three decades in indie rock | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Mark Eitzel and Howe Gelb look to the future as they approach three decades in indie rock 

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click to enlarge Mark Eitzel

Mark Eitzel

courtesy the artist

This bill brings together two veteran eccentrics who’ve been indie-rock staples since the late 80s: Mark Eitzel, who made his name with American Music Club, and Howe Gelb, who usually records with a revolving cast under the name Giant Sand. Each is supporting strong new work, and neither has shown any inclination to reduce himself to nostalgic resuscitations of his more popular early catalog. Eitzel’s Hey Mr Ferryman (Merge) is as good as any of his solo records; the sleek, richly melodic songs employ the often hilariously self-aware sense of pathos that’s always distinguished him from indie rock’s mope brigade. “Spent the last ten years / Trying to waste half an hour,” he sings on opener “The Last Ten Years,” and the next 11 songs address various kinds of failure, heartbreak, and loneliness with his typical mix of sentiment and wit. Eitzel is accompanied at this show by pianist Patrick Main, while Gelb will play the piano himself—as he does on the recent Future Standards (Fire), a collection of originals that seem to aspire to the Great American Songbook. Most of them are love songs, though Gelb gives them a spin with his trademark wordplay (“There’s something in the water / Beside a moon that don’t know when to quit”) and absurdist sensibility. His half-sung vocals tend to undercut the pretty grace of the quiet, gently swinging piano-trio settings, but then again, he’s always been a stick-in-the-spokes sort of guy—and as though in spite of himself, his phrasing is pleasingly sly.   v

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