PAPER ARROWS:LOOK ALIVE CD Release Show Schubas Tavern – Chicago, IL 7:00 PM March 2, 2008 By Jeremy M. Hagee
Schubas Tavern (http://www.schubas.com/music.aspx) is a small venue in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood, featuring bands of various genres seven days a week.On the southeast corner of Belmont and Southport Avenues, the building was erected in 1903 by the Schlitz Brewery and remains true to its original design as a classic neo-Gothic Chicago bar—complete with ornate copper ceiling tiles, antique light fixtures, and tile flooring.Immediately entering, one encounters a mahogany bar that runs down the right side of the room, ending at a small foyer that leads into the live performance room holding the day’s special musical performances.The staff and fellow patrons were all friendly and relaxed, eschewing any pretense in favor of a welcoming atmosphere. The live performance room is close, but not cramped.There is a row of quaint benches resembling church pews along the right wall, perpendicular to the stage, and brass hooks affixed to the left and right side walls for patrons to hang their coats (sufficiently compensating for the lack of a coat check).In the back, right corner there is a small bar, which was just the right size to serve the patrons in the room, but still remain tucked away and appropriately secondary to the main attraction.The stage is prominent, but not overwhelming.The musicians on-stage (five, total) had sufficient room to perform and interact with each other, still closely situated in a way that reflected the overall intimate layout of the venue.
There was a respectable crowd for the debut CD release of the Paper Arrows’ Look Alive, an all-ages group that ranged from (I am guessing) around three to sixty years old.The crowd density was loose enough that you could move comfortably about the room (the small children chasing each other around the room certainly had no problems), but it was still a robust, enthusiastic group of fans supporting the Paper Arrows’ big night.The audience interacted with the band and vice versa.
THE MUSIC The Set List
“Look Alive,” the album’s title track, was also the opening song of Paper Arrows’ set.The instrumentation and vocals were very nice, with an uplifting feel.The lyrics were a bit trite for my taste (“Look alive.The lights are shining, in your eyes, and the way is clear…For you to see that love can cure this—the misery—and wipe away your tears.But it all comes down to you.”).The band showed that they are gifted musicians who can play well in an ensemble, but lead singer and songwriter Joe Goodkin did not show off his poeticism just yet.This was a safe song, unlikely to garner much criticism or praise.It left me hoping for more.
Paper Arrows followed with “Why I Had to Fall,” a folksy ballad with rich guitar and backup vocals and a lyrical mandolin, played beautifully by backup guitarist and album producer, Jay Marino.The lyrics in this piece were much more heartfelt, expressing optimism and redemption in the face of discontent and hypocrisy.
“Turn” was a happy-go-lucky song with widespread appeal.Like the first song, the lyrics were relatively simplistic (Refrain:“I won’t turn my back on love.”), but they are appropriate to the jovial beat and tune.This piece again reinforced that Paper Arrows is a polished band, both instrumentally and vocally.
“Again and Again” was performed as an acoustic solo by Joe Goodkin on Look Alive, but the band chose to play it full ensemble for the show.It was a beautiful adaptation.Having heard both the live ensemble performance and the acoustic version on the album, I am very impressed with how nicely it worked with the whole band.This was the first big chance for Darren Garvey to show that he was not just a typical “drummer,” but a full-fledged percussionist.While characteristically simple, the lyrics in this song were very poetic, singing of new beginnings between two weary lovers.Goodkin’s voice was rich and showed great control and expressiveness.
“Skeletonskinandsky” finally showed Goodkin’s poetic potential.It was a beautiful song about the struggle to pull out of daily monotony and hold onto our deepest passions.Goodkin reached into his upper register to serenade the audience about his passion for writing music.
Goodkin told the audience that he wanted to perform their next song—a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Hey Hey What can I do?”—so that he could sing the lyrics “I gotta woman, wanna ball all day” in front of his mother.That got a good laugh from the audience.The band gave a very entertaining rendition of the classic Zeppelin tune and at the end, Goodkin announced, “Update:My mother is shocked!”
Next, Goodkin said that he “wanted to take things from ridiculous to sublime” and performed “December Static.” The band delivered on their promise of sublime, with a haunting song about breakup and regret.Again, Darren Garvey shined with his nuanced use of the percussion and the entire ensemble slowly built to an ethereal climax that carried through the latter half of the song.
“Travesty in Blue” had a very Counting Crows sound.I am not quite sure what it is about other than a storm over Lake Michigan, but it was a nice piece.
“Fight” was another song Paper Arrows performed with the full ensemble, even though it was an acoustic track on the album.Again, the full ensemble integrated seamlessly and added a lot of depth to the song.Percussion and keyboards were very effective in the live adaptation.
“Come Home” was a powerful song where Goodkin strained his voice for an expressive effect, choosing raw emotion over depth of timbre.Backup vocals were particularly well-executed in this piece, echoing the lead singer’s pain in the loss of a companion.
“When You Left” was the only song that the band left as a solo acoustic piece for this performance.It was an appropriate choice.Joe Goodkin seemed to channel Rufus Wainwright with a pure upper register, complete with sorrowfully drawn-out phrasing and perfectly controlled vibrato.The song was barely a minute and a half long, saying all it needed to say, ending with the words “I can’t believe you’re gone.”
Paper Arrows ended their show with a cover of Bob Dylan’s classic “I Shall Be Released.”The band went out showing off what great performers they really are.The backup guitarist, Jay Marino, wailed on a 12-string for an amazing solo.They took on the song with their own style and did an excellent job of it.Prior to recognizing the song as a Bob Dylan cover, I noted that Goodkin sounded remarkably like Jakob Dylan (Bob’s son, lead singer of The Wallflowers), which is indicative of how the rendition was both contemporary and authentic.The crowd, including myself, thoroughly appreciated it. Final Thoughts
Overall, it was an excellent show.Paper Arrows clearly enjoyed every second of their performance, but still took their music very seriously.Every member of the band was remarkably talented and they played together flawlessly.At the end of the performance, the band members mingled with the crowd.Schubas’ staff gave out free copies of Look Alive to everyone who came to the release show.I will certainly listen to my copy frequently and look forward to going to their shows and (hopefully) more album releases in the future.