My biggest problem with We Leave at Midnight is that guitarist and lead vocalist John Dailey comes from some podunk about 90 miles north of here. I don’t recall the name, just something about “live music capital” of the something or other. Whatever. The rest of the band’s bona-fide SA, from keyboardist Chris Guerra (also of Morris Orchids) and drummer Adam White (Big Soy), to guitarist Cris Galvan (who reminds the audience to tip the servers at Blue Star, where he works as a waiter) and first-name-only bassist Tito (Can we suggest a bass-off with Buttercup’s Odie?) There’s not much else to complain about, so I suggest we adopt them as our own. Four-fifths of the team claims the 210, and WLAM is most definitely a team effort.
Opener “Take What I Need” establishes the formula early on — five guys playing relatively intricate individual pieces that are all interrelated when you look at the big picture. That pretty much describes every song ever, but the catch is each part of “What I Need” is distractingly cool-
sounding on its own. The studio-mixed version available at myspace.com/weleaveatmidnight offers an extremely subdued experience, allowing you to sample each flavor in conservative quantities. Live, when each instrument, from Guerra’s twinkling keys to Tito’s sleigh bells, is mic’ed just about equally, the effect is more like hooking an industrial hose pipe to a candy factory. But while navigating through the chaotically stacked pretty layers might make your legs wobble, it probably won’t give you a tummy ache. “You crawl on your knees, clawing at the hinges of the door,” Dailey says of a lover fleeing his admitted selfishness, and, for once, the bitter really does make the sweet taste sweeter.
As if there weren’t enough notes to go around, “C major/ A minor” (several songs on the band’s set list are untitled, designated only by the generic names the band remembers them by) requires Galvan to swap his electric six-string for an acoustic with six more. “Twelve-stringer humdinger!” he shouts, and while the brighter melody enhances the song, the conspicuous consumption is regrettable in a global recession. You can’t help but think of the poor band onstage in some less-fortunate place, producing only silence because WLAM already played their share of chords.
“We used a 12-string two songs ago,” Galvan announces like a magician between tricks before “New Folk Tune,” “and now we’re going to use capos for this one. Just trying to change it up.” Also changing it up: A harmonica (played in a neck-holder, Neil Young-style, by Dailey) and both sleigh bells and maracas. Somehow, none of this feels like overkill. It almost certainly is overkill, but it doesn’t feel like it, at least to the audience.
“Play that song again,” shouts someone in the crowd.
“We play that song once,” Galvan retorts. “I’m sweatier than Jesus up here.”
“Play the ‘nanny, nanny, nanny’ song,” shouts someone else.
We Leave at Midnight don’t have a real name for that one, either, but they should think of one. “Old New Song,” the show’s closer, is also probably the best of the night. Dailey and Galvan’s complementary melodic leads and call-and-
response vocals glide across Tito’s bass line as it morphs from Motown bounce to garage sock-hop, and the crowd dances and whistles along. But maybe too much of a good thing does lead to acid reflux.
“I threw up in my mouth just now,” Galvan says, dismissing demands for an encore, “so that’s the end of the set.” — Jeremy Martin