Smile Politely

New Ruins, The Championship and Tractor Kings: Mike ‘n Molly’s, Oct. 23, 2008

A few choice regulars braved the storm Thursday night to see New Ruins, The Championship and Tractor Kings play an intimate show at Mike ‘n Molly’s.

I was branded on the way in as an underage infidel and headed up the treacherous stairs to Mike ‘n Molly’s dimly-lit attic. Caleb Means of New Ruins thanked everyone for braving the elements, and the band began playing their energizing set. Roy Ewing’s lanky arms slammed into the drums, and they played so hard a glass fell off the table. New Ruins played a wide mix of old and new material including a personal favorite “I’ll Sleep in Your House”. Means and Elzie Sexton’s gruff vocals rang through the steamy attic, and they played an extra song at a friend’s request.

The Championship from Milwaukee played their last night of the tour on Thursday, and there were a grand total of six people there to see it. They played a beautiful folk rock set of ballads from their new record Midnight Golden. The crowd simply didn’t do the band justice. Their throaty vocals, lap steel and harmonica create the perfect music for driving down the highway, feet out the window and cigarette in hand.

When The Tractor Kings took the stage, the audience had grown with close friends and regulars. They wasted no time and began with a frenzy of strumming. Jake Fleischil thanked the audience several times and told them he sincerely loved them all. One guy had the smoothest Mick Jagger moves, and there was an abundance of cat calls and audience sing-a-longs. The crowd was jovial, and I felt like I was being let in on a local secret. The toasty attic was filled with Bob Dylan-esque music and the best feeling I’ve ever gotten from a show.

There are bands that epitomize the rock star look but barely feign an interest in how to actually play quality music. Then there are the people who don’t priss themselves up, but know how to break the fuck down. Who would you rather see?

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