On Saturday night the Texans took the stage at the Gramophone in St. Louis. And by took, I really mean took over. The dozen plus members left no inch of the stage uncovered. Like a clown car, the tiny stage miraculously had room for two cellos, a trumpet, three saxophones, two guitars, drums, a keyboard, a banjo, a mandolin, two violins, an upright bass, a bassoon and an accordion.
I had the pleasure of speaking to the accordion player's father who was more than eager to give me the inside scoop on this odd conglomeration of musicians. Mother Falcon grew out of a core group of students who wanted to jam after orchestra practice ended. The idea to form a band seemed to be the perfect solution to the group's urge to keep playing. Six years later, MF has grown in size to a reported 17 members. I still haven't decided if the gang is a classically influenced rock band, or a rock-influenced classical ensemble. The songs are an elegant mix of the two.
Listing all of the musicians who contributed their considerable talents to the night's performance is too daunting a task for this reviewer. This effort would be meaningless in any event because any type of connection between musician and role flew out the window the moment the guitar player blew the trumpet and the cellist took over the keyboard. It seemed like almost everyone was a multi-instrumentalist, yet everyone had a place.
Mother Falcon was an experience for the eyes as well as the ears. It was almost hypnotic to watch the bows move in unison over the violins and cellos. This movement made the performance so dynamic, yet the overarching sound was very well-composed. There were some moments where, if I closed my eyes, I could have easily been sitting in Powell Hall. Then, in other moments, the drums and guitar kicked in and the sound was looser and more bombastic.
The middle of the set featured a sampling of Radiohead songs which were lush and complicated. Plucked violin strings sounded like rain drops, and the deep, heavy sound of the bass and bassoon gave certain songs a feeling of seriousness and gravity. There was even a dose of guitar twang to complement the mandolin. Towards the end of the show, one of the three saxophonists stepped off the stage and played near the water cooler on the bar. None of the songs the musicians of Mother Falcon performed, or the way they performed them, let the audience off the hook. They were all having such a great time playing for us that there was no choice but to have a great time listening. Overall, their set was breathtaking and joyous. This marked the group's first appearance in St. Louis and hopefully they'll make a return trip soon.
Local band Union Tree Review opened the show. Formed just three years ago by singer/guitarist Tawaine Noah, UTR stands out in very deep pool of local talent. What impressed me about the band was how polished and professional its sound was. The musicians did several songs from their sophomore release, "Death and Other Forms of Relaxation" and a few from their upcoming third record, "Enjoy the Weather." The group's mature and nuanced compositions were a perfect lead in to the headliners.