Friday, Nov. 4, Melody Inn.
The album cover of Bloomington-based Secrets Between Sailors’ second LP, “Now Hear This,” depicts a young woman with a 12-inch kitchen knife in her hand, intent on stabbing the young man she's embracing in the back. The image is fraught with symbolism; a lover hugs you with one arm, while preparing to kill you with the other.
The connection between this stark image and SBS’s fun-loving, free-wheeling stage persona is not immediately apparent. On stage, the band cracks jokes with each other and the audience, some of which you understand, others which seem like inside jokes or the tail-ends of long patterns of fragmentary thought. Basically, they seem like fun guys who simply love to play music. If there’s any element of heartbreak or emotional torture to their music, it doesn’t show up on stage. To uncover that, you must listen to their lyrics much more closely, which is difficult at a live show.
On Friday night, the band trotted out some of the best cuts from the album, which was officially released last month. Surrounded by friends and fellow musicians, members of the band mingled and drank from the Melody’s notorious Miller High Life tap, a free perk to musicians who play there.
Opening with “A Song About Motorcycles,” SBS played a relatively short but powerful set, unleashing their raw but well-arranged rock and roll upon a nice-sized and eager Melody crowd, most of whom were standing by the time the band went on. Next, they played “Sundowner,” a punkier track that makes especially nice use of the trumpet by Andrew Hartman. The trumpet is not a particularly “punk” instrument, but they manage to pull it off well.
Three songs in, SBS got to the heart of their new album with the track “Lioness.” If there’s pain and anger to be found in SBS music—and there is—“Lioness” is a pretty good place to start (“We were dancing to the radio/didn’t hear you coming when you cut my throat”). Lead-singer Kyle Burkett’s smoky, almost strained voice gives the song a palpable feeling of desperate longing. They performed the song pretty true to the recorded version, with some extra guitar interludes by Andreas Evaristo, who splits guitar duties with Burkett. Though kind of tucked away in the back, Evaristo’s licks came to the front all night, always filling in at just the right time.
Burkett filled in for Lindsey Helling, who usually sings “The Way You Are,” a song with a more pop-ish vibe that put the band’s strong guitar work on display once again. After admonishing the audience to practice safe sex “when you take that boy or girl home tonight,” the band played “The Drummer Song,” another notable track. Quite fittingly, Kyle Collins’ fast, punk-influenced drumming was put on display.
Opening up for SBS was a line-up that included some close personal friends of Burkett and SBS. Muncie-based Everything, Now! played just before SBS. Known as an experimental band that delves into different genres, EN played with kind of a country-ish, rockabilly plod to their set.
Chicago-based Vamos got up before them. This band is hard to classify, but they definitely “lay down the pain,” as Burkett said onstage. Vamos seemed a little rough around the edges on Friday. Whether that effect was intentional or not, they played with a gritty, in-your-face kind of sound that featured a lot of cymbal work and a spooky, distorted guitar sound. The heavy basslines and tambourine served to mask some of the imperfections in their otherwise crowd-pleasing set.
Opening up the night was Indy-based They’ve Shot Flanigan, another guitar-heavy band, this one a bit more on the metal side and echoing some of the leaden, freight-train guitar lines of Led Zeppelin. TSF have their own upcoming album release party on Dec. 10 at Wheeler Arts Community Theatre.