Jon Carroll had an article in the SF Chronicle this week about "comfort music", which he describes variously as "music that has been very, very good to us all throughout our lives..the music you listen to when you need to listen to music..stuff that has lingered with you, sometimes for decades, and that you're always happy to hear again"
I knew exactly what Carroll was talking about because I read the article while riding the Bart to see Fountains of Wayne at the Cafe du Nord. FoW are like comfort music to me, a band that I always turn to during troubled times. Their songs are hooky and melodic, with lyrics that tell stories about everyday life.
This week's shows were billed as "acoustic", but it was the full band with acoustic guitars, electric bass, and drums. They played a handful of songs from their upcoming album (a summer song called "A Summer Place" and a road song called "Road Song" ) and many more from their previous four albums, and after every single one I was thinking "I like that last one. Wait, this one is good too!" Every FoW song sounded like an old favorite to me, even the ones I'd never heard before.
Midway through the set, Adam Schlesinger switched from bass to piano, and they broke out some of their quieter songs like "I-95" and "Valley Winter Song" (now reborn as an LL Bean ad). They also played a mellowed out version of "Stacy's Mom" which sounded like grafting its words to Jellyfish's "I Wanna Stay Home". It's hard to play that song acoustically without the prominent synthesizer hook.
They did the two fire songs from their last two albums ("Fire Island" and "Fire In The Canyon") with opening act Mike Viola on bass and backing vocals. These are two of my least favorite FoW songs (not as bad as "Planet of Weed") but these performances gave them new life.
Mike Viola is most famous for singing Schlesinger's theme from "That Thing You Do!" (which they sadly didn't play), but he's a fine pop craftsman in his own right. I arrived midway through is opening set (because I didn't know he was opening the show), but enjoyed what I saw of his set with bassist Kelly Jones. They played songs from Mike's latest album Lurch (one of 2f's top albums of 2008 well worth an emusic download), newer songs, and oldies from his days with the Candy Butchers. The entire evening was a big dish of comfort for popheads like me.