May 8, 2007

Starlight Mints stay solid with borrowed guitars

The usual horde of patrons was absent from Abbey Pub Thursday night, as Thax Douglas delivered another moving prelude to what would be a solid night of music.

The opener, Canasta, describe themselves as a standard rock setup augmented by piano, violin, keyboard, and trombone to help them craft a more ambitious strain of majestic, ultra-melodic, orchestral pop. They succeed largely because of their lead vocalist’s cheesy, over-polished tone. In his solo act, the Starlight Mints’ Ryan Lindsey sports an under-polished, emo-derivative amalgamation of canned drum-tones, keyboards, and minor key progressions accompanied by typical nasal death-wish vocals producing an altogether agreeable experience. The Starlight Mints, on the other hand, are best described by Wikipedia as “a quirky quartet from Norman, OK renowned for creative juxtaposition of classical and pop elements in their music.”

The first set was Canasta, and for those who’ve heard their album, We Were Set Up, what you hear is what you get. These guys were spot-on every note, harping on major keys with lead vocals you love to hate (Matt Priest). Just when you’ve pinned down his style, he takes a turn, accompanying himself with either a five-string bass or trombone. Keys and violin accompany the vocal melody throughout, but the percussion drove this show home with a beat worthy of an energetic mob. The dozen bobble-heads down front were sad to see them go, with Ryan Lindsey of the Mints up next.

Coming off of a solid solo album, Lindsey’s performance can only be described as poor execution of a great product. Canned drums overpowering the guitar, muddy vocals, and persistent feedback seemed to have driven this set to an early grave, but once Lindsey took command of percussion, things picked up. Playing guitar or keys with his right hand and percussion with the left while maintaining introspective emo tones, this one-man-band should have been a sight to see. Unfortunately, only a handful of numbers from his album, White Paper Beds, survived the ordeal.

The reason for this all became clear when the Starlight Mints took the stage and explained how the city of St. Paul had broken the lock to their trailer and stolen all of their keys and guitars, a flute, and all the merchandise. That said, Canasta provided gear for the evening—including the makeshift setup for Lindsey. As a side note, they had won a DVD of The Wedding Crashers for five dollars at a rest-station, which they persistently attempted to sell for $15.

No one would have suspected equipment troubles from the Mints’ performance, though, which opened with a poem in the midst of an eerie intro tone evolving into a bassy cascade in darkness. As the Mints took the stage, a beam of light filled several white panels from an LCD projector, the light source for the remainder of the set. Whether they were swirls, expanding circles in circles, or black cats, these patterns complimented Allen Vest’s quirky vocals perfectly. Much of their set consisted of tracks from their latest album, Dowaton, but it also featured music from two previous releases, The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of and Built on Squares. Their percussion was not as simple as Canasta’s, but there were plenty of people dancing to their hearts’ content as Vest crooned to a tune you’d expect from Saturday morning cartoons. All in all, if this show were taking place again tonight, I would definitely attend.