On a cool July night, I joined several patrons at a local establishment in enjoying a cold beer and fried food while waiting for the doors to open at The Sylvee.
Two very different bands were about to perform. The opener, BODEGA, is an upstart punk band out of Bushwick. The main act, Spoon, was founded in 1993 and has released a half dozen albums to universal acclaim from critics.
As I stood in the general admission standing area of The Sylvee, Madison’s premiere music venue, I struck up a conversation with a man named Nathan standing by a charging station and drinking an IPA.
Like most people, he was here to see Spoon. He was introduced to the band in 2004 while living in Portland just out of college. I asked him if he, like me, was seeing them for the first time. He had seen them more times than he could count. As he started to tell a story about one of the times he had seen them, the lights went down and the two of us fell silent as we turned our attention to the stage.
As their name suggests, BODEGA is a punk band hailing from Brooklyn. As a hazy set of blue and purple lights started to shine across the stage, a voiceover played through the speakers asking, “what is the difference between an artist and an advertiser?”
The quintet featured two guitarists, two percussionists, two vocalists and a bassist. The band was all aligned, nobody standing in front of the others. The percussionists elected to stand for the duration of their set, often swaying and dancing as they played.
BODEGA set the tone for their set immediately. From their first song, their lyrics were interspersed with distorted trill solos off the guitar as well as vocal interludes between each track to tie together their conceptually linked songs. The crowd — which skewed older than college-aged--- listened intently… especially as lead singer Ben Hozie mentioned Spoon and told the audience to, “do [yourselves] a favor and have a fun fucking night!” to a round of raucous cheers.
After a brief intermission, the lights went back down before the stage lights shot out in red upon a black background in the same shades of the cover art to the Spoon’s newest album, “Lucifer on the Sofa.” As expected, the band started their set with “Held,” the first track off their latest album. As the group reached the guitar heavy bridge of their opener, flashing white lights complemented the deeper tones around them as the faces behind the silhouettes came into view. The crowd got louder and bodies started moving in the standing area along with the band’s tones.
The group then followed up their opener with “The Devil & Mister Jones,” another track from their latest album. The song ends with a naturally building ensemble, which was carried directly into the opening bass riff of “Don’t you Evah,” one of the band’s bigger hits off of the 2007 album “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.”
After teasing the crowd with an extended intro that featured a good deal of guitar noodling, the music paused for a moment as the three leading guitarists all jumped in sync and landed with a chord leading into the song's lyrics. It was evident which of the evening’s performers had been together for six years and which had been touring for twenty six years. These guys were professionals.
Spoon continued to seamlessly weave one track into the next, adding “Do You” and “My Mathematical Mind” into their set and stitching together four different songs from four different albums without a break. After their four song amalgamation, the group took a break to do some crowdwork, spending some time to talk about the city of Madison while plugging their new album and merch.
The mood turned softer at this point in the night. The lights dimmed to a serene purple color to match the album art from “They Want My Soul” while they played “Inside Out” — which spent 20 weeks on the Billboard Top 100 chart in 2015. They also switched out their instruments for a quick acoustic-led run for “The Underdog” and “I Summon You” before moving back to electric for a grungier feel to close out their set.
The crowd wanted more as chants of “Spoon! Spoon! Spoon!” rang out across the theater. It’s not a particularly good word for chanting, but it was enough to bring the band out for an encore.
The opening to their encore was a cover of “Isolation” by John Lennon, which was an interesting choice. . The exclusive use of piano and vocals for the first minute and a half of the song offered a chance to show off the versatility of the group as well as provide another minute for the band to collect themselves.
After two more tracks, Spoon invited BODEGA back out onto the stage to perform with them. The two groups have been touring together throughout the Midwest and had clearly established a chemistry on the stage, finishing the evening with the thumping track “Rent I Pay”.
My sisters, who are seven and nine years older than me, who like Nathan are closer in age to the average Spoon fan in attendance, have each seen Spoon live twice.They couldn’t recommend it to me enough, and it was easy to see why. Having the opportunity to see them myself, I can confirm that there’s always a good time to be had when an experienced band takes the stage.