At first, things didn’t look very promising for Golden Smog’s set Sunday at the Cedar Cultural Center. Headlining the all-star Kill Kancer tribute to the late Karl Mueller (click here for the full concert review), the Smog crew twice bungled the opening of “You Make It Easy” just two songs into its set – yeah, their own song, and quite an ironically titled one at that. Then different members and stage staff fumbled around with trying to get the band’s one and only acoustic guitar to come through the speakers. “This is classic Golden Smog right here,” Dan Murphy cracked. Gary Louris later quipped in another messy moment, “We should’ve had one more practice. Or maybe one more drink.”
The big band with the small rehearsal history mostly got its act together, though, and it actually seemed to be at its best when it was letting some of its “new members” help steer the ship, including Chan Pohling and Janey Winterbauer. Jessy Greene also added tasty fiddle parts throughout. Sunday’s set list was heavy on songs from the Smog’s 2006 record “Another Fine Day” and surprisingly devoid of better-known older tunes. Especially missed were Murphy’s best stuff (the Soul Asylum guitarist only sang lead once, in “Corvette”). At least the pre-encore singalong of “Until You Came Along” provided the good kind of classic-Smog fix. Here’s the full set list:
Won’t Be Coming Home / You Make It Easy / Starman (David Bowie) / I Can / Think About Yourself / If I Only Had a Car / Sunday Morning Coming Down (Kris Kristofferson, sung by Chan Pohling) / Femme Fatale (Velvet Underground, sung by Janey Winterbauer) / Making Waves / Glad and Sorry (The Faces) / Cure for This (sung by Winterbauer) / Listen Joe / Corvette / Girlfriend (The Suburbs) / Without You (Harry Nilsson-via-Badfinger) / Until You Came Along ENCORE: Signed D.C. (from Love's debut album, sung by Kraig Johnson) / Revolution Blues (Neil Young)
There were some funny and touching moments earlier in the tribute show, too, a fundraiser for the Minnesota Medical Foundation via the Karl Fund. During his wonderful tear of a set with his blues-stomping band Dark Click, the ever-mouthy Curtiss A joked that he was going to call the band “Curtiss A’s Blue Unit… but that didn’t sound right.” He also smirkingly commented, “I got to meet the Howler kid tonight. It’s not why I took the gig, but it was a nice bonus.”
That Howler kid, Jordan Gatesmith, was atypically quiet and humble between songs and really put on a brave showing Sunday that provided him with more bragging rights. He displayed impressive, surf-licking guitar chops in “Wailing (Making Out)” and especially “Beach Sluts,” and the songs came off fine without his noisemaking band. The noise came later in the Magnolias’ blasting performance, far and away the only set of the night where the word “tight” could be applied, and it firmly applied. "Tight" certainly didn’t fit the O’Jeez “reunion” with Dave Pirner (on drums, vocals), Johnson (bass, vocals) and Greene (guitar, vocals), although their set of five original songs actually sounded a little more rehearsed than the one and only time I saw them on tour in the late-‘90s. It looked as if they were having even more fun this time around, though.