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Melodious Owl and Revolver Modele at Melissa Maerz's going away party (Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005, Turf Club, St. Paul)
Melodious Owl (left to right Wes Statler, Joe Berns and Jon Kuder) in an unsually quiet moment at the Triple Rock - Photo by Peter Rudrud.

By Cyn Collins

This was my first time seeing Melodious Owl (whom I have taken to calling “Me! Ow!). I was immediately bemused and amused by their quirky stage antics and even stranger electronic music. Their over-the-top campiness and cheesy ‘80’s pop and new-wave references filled me with childlike delight and brought the sort of giddy laughter usually induced by nitrous oxide.

Me! Ow! employed so many unusual vocalizations and a plethora of recognizable references that my friend and I spent the show giving other looks of awe, and saying things like, “I can’t believe they’re doing this and making it sound new!” and “This is so FUN!”

It’s as if the members of Melodious Owl had listened to hundreds of ‘80’s records hundreds of times, sifted the best bits and condensed them into each song.” (Those records might actually have been available to them as lead singer, Wes Statler’s dad is Chuck Statler, one of the fathers of the modern music video). I could so easily hear The Cars, Blondie, Cyndi Lauper, Prince, the Cure and more.

The posturing of suit and tie wearing lead singer, Wes Statler, reverentially mocked the likes of Jagger, David Byrne, and Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and made the show as amusing to watch as it was to listen to. With his hands often in his sculpted Andy Warhol hair, gesticulating wildly and swiveling hips, Statler emitted tremolo and vibrato vocalizations of fast fun electronic songs, tonight changing many of the lyrics to “Melissa,” in honor of Melissa Maerz to whom this night was dedicated as she departs the City Pages for a new job as reviews editor at Spin Magazine.

It was difficult to discern some of the lyrics as the overall layers of sound seemed more the focus; but getting people to dance and have fun seemed the true goal of the music. Audience favorites were “Andrew” (renamed Melissa for tonight), “Touch Me(lissa),” and “Who’s Got Who.” Much mock angst was present in the nervous, stressed vocals and the rapid drum machine rhythms, barely grounded by the chilled “serious” guitar of Joe Berns. The many beeps, clicks, pops, squeaks, and yelps that emanated from bespectacled Jon Kuder’s sax and synthesizer, and Statler’s vocals and synthesizer (who more than once reminded me of the campy theatrics of Mark Mallman) created infectious dance rhythms. So infectious apparently, that I even caught David de Young dancing, who professed to me in an email that, “I don’t normally dance at rock shows in the US.” De Young has also referred to Melodious Owl alternately as “a hoot and a half” and “an electronic force of nature.”

Statler asked the audience to get out their cell phones, “the new form of appreciation replacing the Bic lighter,” which surprised me because I thought I had come up with that idea at the Ike Reilly at the Triple Rock the night of my first “How Was the Show.com” review. People enthusiastically rushed to their purses and back pockets to pull out their phones and wave them in the air to “Telephone," which featured phone-like beeps and clicks.

The fever became a frenzy as Melodious Owl did “Dance Fever Revisited,” a song with such cheesy lyrics I was compelled to shake my head and say, “I can’t believe they’re doing this! And they make it so fun!” It was all such delightfully mindless and escapist fun, a great way to take your mind off just about everything and dance yourself silly.

Next up Revolver Modele played an excellent show that I won’t write about here. (See my Varsity Theatre review for a recent account of one of their performances.)

Closing out the night was Friends Like These, a band whom Melissa Maertz had written about in one of my favorite articles by her, “Ten Days on the Road with Friends Like These.”

FLT is consistently a crowd favorite, gaining many new fans each time they play. The band told stories about being on the road with Melissa and how they would miss her. Tonight they got their traditional equipment breakdown out of the way about 5 minutes in, and this time not taking more than one minute to remedy. “What’s an FLT show without a breakdown?” John Solomon quipped.

FLT had sent email bulletins that they were going to try to play as drunk as they could tonight, as they’d already played the England Swings event earlier this same evening. If that goal was accomplished, and it seemed it was, there was a little more stagger to the swagger at this show, though they played as well as ever, maybe even better.

People moved close to the stage to dance and listen. The crowd was inspired by wild music and drink and started a game of hat toss with the band. Between several songs the crowd chanted, “Steve, Steve. . . “enticing the charming bassist Steve Murray to come forth and shake hands with his fans. They ran through the “British Invasion” songs they’d done earlier at First Avenue, Solomon saying, “Make requests. . . if we know it, we’ll play it. But we don’t know many covers.”

A band mate requested in John’s ear, “Miss You,” to which John replied, “Ah! A request we know!” The crowd sang along, especially enthusiastic about the “whoo hooooo ooo whoo” chorus, and one guy got on stage and started sharing the lead vocals with Solomon. Melissa Maertz also got on stage and helped Murrary play bass, danced and did back up vocals. This inspired more people to get onstage and help out on vocals and percussion, including Dave Campbell and Jake Hyer on cowbell. As drinks flowed, a house full of people sang along to the Franz Ferdinand cover “Take Me Out,” and Queen cover “Fat-bottom Girls.”

The party ended with a huge cake and conversation. Melissa Maerz was certainly sent off in style, and much fun was had by all.

Cyn Collins is at cyn.collins[at]howwastheshow.com.