Few bands instantly clicked with me the way The Theater Fire did. Many moons ago two friends and myself went to see a Blue Mountain reunion show at the Granada (the bottom is a recording from that night actually). Three bands would go up that night, and I wound up loving the opener more than the band I came there to see that night. The Theater Fire is a 5-6-ish group of multi-instrumentalist country wizards. I say wizards, because they make such painfully good music seem effortless.
They managed three albums during their run; a self-titled debut, Everybody has a Dark Side, and then Matter and Light. To call them a country band, would be a frustrating understatement. Their sound pulls from all of the influences that originally created country, while still sounding fresh and relevant. They perfectly blend in zydeco, old school gospel, early rock, and mariachi can’t forget those Spanish horns. Some songs evoke riding on horseback (The Desert), others call in the sounds of the rail road (Tease The Hangman), somber dirges (Pallbearer’s Fall), the steel guitar tinged memories of the past (Swimming), and epic southern instrumentals that would give Quentin Tarantino the shivers (El Chupacava), and that’s all just from their first album.
When I saw them at the Granada they were promoting their new CD, Everybody Has a Dark Side, now one of my favorite albums from the past ten years. It starts off with the hauntingly prophetic Kicking Up the Darkness, which really set the tone for the album perfectly. The steel, accordion, keys, and horns all create a wonderfully desperate soundscape. Barrel Riders brings in the whimsy while setting the stage for a song about a fad from another time, managing through rhythm and lyrics to transmit the laughable scene to auditory life. Land of Nod, fuck yes, such a relaxing song. Again, using only the necessary ingredients to piece together the right sounds for a catchy, enjoyable, relaxable song. Hey Jimmy hits the ground running, because, well, he has to. It’s another wonderful story song, with another fitting musical arrangement. The album ends with Members of the Show Em How Its Done which can be seen at the bottom.
Unfortunately there isn’t much of their third album, Matter and Light, that I can link to here. Fortunately one of the best is, Swashbuckler Blues. That live clip shows the care going into the different elements, regardless of how tiny they may be to the song. That slow intro, letting each of the pieces settle right into place always gives me a smile. I also always appreciated the phrasing of “it’s strange how I and my old man”, using I instead “me and my” for some reason always stuck out to me. The only other one on shareable is Dahl Parts. It starts off with a fun little guitar and xylophone setting the pace, before far more serious lyrics start setting the scene. No chorus here, just a few dark descriptions, and a haunting horn.
At that seems to be about where the band left us, with three wonderful albums and no filler. They managed to strike that perfect balance when recording that captures the individual elements and the desired end result, without over producing and killing the warmth of their work. The Theater Fire manages to to live on that short list of bands who has zero skippable songs. As usual, if you like what you hear, purchase their tunes which are available on most major sites. So, below I leave you a great song to end on, from the night that started it all 🙂