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Monday, 17 February 2014 12:21

Concert review: Communist Daughter (with Last to Show First to Go) gets intimate in I Went to a Show's headquarters, Saturday, February 15

Communist Daughter at IWTAS house concert Communist Daughter at IWTAS house concert Abby Gillardi
Written by Kyle Kapper
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The last time Communist Daughter was in St. Louis, the band had driven all night to get here from Boston. Only five people saw that Cicero's gig, but fortunately one of those five people was Janet Rhoads of AM NOON PM (and KDHX).

Wanting their next local appearance to be more special, band leaders Johnny and Molly Solomon reached out to Rhoads, who (with I Went to a Show's help) arranged for a much warmer welcome at IWTAS headquarters in Soulard.

Armed with just an acoustic guitar and two voices, the Solomons arrived at the house show representing one-third of Communist Daughter proper. "The two most important members," Johnny quipped early on to the sold-out crowd of 40. Many of the night's numbers evoked a stripped-down Of Monsters & Men and were introduced by candid stories, as often as not involving Johnny's struggles with drug addiction.

The bittersweet humor of their anecdotes sometimes lightened the mood, such as when Johnny had to get a rehab clinic's permission for Molly to join him in watching "Grey's Anatomy," which at the time was spotlighting a couple of Communist Daughter songs (a credit they admit to blushing at). With the help of time passing, the Solomons are now able to laugh as they recall such absurd episodes from their past.

Other memories remain visibly heartbreaking to the pair, like when Johnny reached such lows that Molly broke up with him. "I wish I didn't have to love you this way," they sang in "Don't Remember Me." "Remember the man I'm wanting to be."

The show became such an intimate affair, and the bond between lyricists and listeners so palpable, that stifled crying could be heard coming from the audience.

Dylan once said, "Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections," and that truism was on full display in the person of Molly Solomon last night. Her beautiful voice fell mostly silent between songs, but the joy in her smile made one thing clear: none is happier than she that her husband has been clean for years.

Things have improved for the Solomons to such an extent, in fact, that happiness has encroached on their songwriting. Realizing that "no one wants to hear songs" about their happily married life, they began penning lyrics which give voice to the suffering of others, a cause that might please Johnny Solomon's mother, who once hoped he would become a priest.

"Fortunate Son," for instance, tells the story of a man whose mother wouldn't let him go to war while his brother died in battle. And "Balboa Bridge," a new addition to the Communist Daughter repertoire from an album to be released in the fall, commemorates a site so popular with suicide jumpers that officials had to erect fences across its edges.

In addition to the variety of lyrical inspirations, Communist Daughter's catalogue demonstrates a range of stylistic muses as well. "City Love" closed out the set squarely in Bon Iver territory, while "Not the Kid" rocked the crowd with its "Kind of a Drag" bass line. The Solomons even obliged a request, dusting off a verse from "Heart Attack," which they hadn't played in a year.

Last to Show First to Go provided a thunderous counterpoint to Communist Daughter, infusing jump blues into the small space with the help of three electrics, a keyboard, trumpet and full drums. A slow-burn cover of Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me to Do" was a crowd favorite, and the eight-minute anthem "Pay the Price" closed out the night.

Earlier in its set, with the Solomons watching from the stairwell, Last to Show performed "Subtle Blend," a track from its latest EP, "Everything's Fine, America," which perhaps paid tribute to the guests of honor and articulated what many in the audience would later tell Johnny and Molly: "Come back as often as you can."

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