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Saying Goodbye to Beulah (or So They Say)

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In support of their recent Velocette Records release called Yoko, San Francisco-based sextet Beulah rolled through Minneapolis’s 400 Bar this week. Over the course of the last five years, Beulah has been one of the most consistently creative bands on the indie circuit, thanks in part to lead singer Miles Kurosky’s well-documented great attention to detail.

On Monday night, Miles proved himself to be the heart and soul of the band not only in the studio, but also on stage. Conceding that his energy level had dissipated due to deteriorating health (the flu) and exhaustion from the band’s five-week tour, Kurosky came on stage with vigor and determined to make the band’s supposedly final stop in Minneapolis a memorable one. Donning a t-shirt with Johnny Cash giving the bird, Kurosky engaged the audience for the duration of the set. When a woman yelled out, “I like your shirt!”, Miles turned to her and said, “You want it? Come up after the show, and I’ll give it to you.” For the single encore, Miles entertained requests from the audience, with the caveat that the fan had to come up and sing, dance, or play tambourines or maracas. This clearly made for an entertaining conclusion.

The band’s performance itself was especially noteworthy in that it struck a delicate balance between songs old and new, straight-forward and experimental. Beulah did not focus its set list entirely on the tracks from the solid new album, Yoko, though it did play several songs off the album. Instead, it mixed the 90-minute set up with songs from each album, including, from the band’s first (and only) Elephant 6 release, Handsome Western States, “Disco: The Secretaries Blues” and “I Love John, She Loves Paul” (the latter of the two tracks was also the A-Side to the band’s first seven-inch single, A Small Cattle Drive in a Snow Storm also released on Elephant 6).

Some of the night’s best tracks, though, came from the band’s masterpiece album, When Your Heartstrings Break, including “Sunday Under Glass”, “Score from Augusta” and “If We Can Land on the Moon…”. The set also included “Matter vs. Space” and “Emma Blowgun’s Last Stand” with perfectly-timed, distortion-filled intros. In that vein, Beulah brilliantly pulled off alternate intros to a few other songs, which added to the originality and creativity of the performance.

But Beulah also busted out its best tracks from the band’s third full-length, The Coast Is Never Clear, including “What Will You Do When Your Suntan Fades?”, a slide-guitar-less (to my disappointment) “Gravity’s Bringing Us Down” and the gorgeous “Gene Autry” (see video here), among others. And Beulah clearly did not neglect the album it was touring to support, having played at least seven of the ten Yoko tracks.

The icing on the cake was one piece of merchandise: a (autographed) disc of four-track Yoko demos mirroring the album in song order (album cover shown on right). With respect to song content, the acoustic demos vary quite substantially from the official release. Music fans will appreciate the rare opportunity to witness the evolution of an album. If enough demos CDs remain following the tour, you can purchase one for a measly ten bucks at Velocette’s website. What are you waiting for?

NMWYH Concert Rating: 1/2 out of 5. If you have not had the opportunity to catch Beulah and you live in Seattle or San Francisco, you still have a chance. Don’t miss one of the best live acts around. As for the band breaking up, why don’t you ask them what the deal is.

For more musings on independent rock, please visit No Matter What You Heard.

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