Review: Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Phantom Family Halo at the Clifton Center [music]

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What a show Sunday night- It was my first time at the Clifton Center, and the theater was a nice, intimately scaled-down alternative to the Palace or the Brown. It was just a little creepy when we first walked through the scarlet curtain entrance, straight out of the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks, complete with a soundtrack that might have fit that show if David Lynch had delved yet deeper into that dark night of the soul. It was the Phantom Family Halo, starting the night off right, and very, very loud. Like a hypnotic, swelling wave behind a demented beard of droning bees.

Not only do they have one of the coolest band names around, they're another Louisville-based band keeping the city on the musical map with their inventive, heavy form of psychadelic southern goth-rock. Small wonder they fit nicely in that same wolfpack that brought us Will Oldham and Slint. In fact, before finishing their set, "Phantom" frontman Dominic Cipolla called Will Oldham and Wild and Wooly Video owner/ Slint bassist Todd Brashear up to the stage for a hardcore cover of an Everly Brothers song: "I Wonder If I Care as Much". Awesome. The Phantom Family Halo can jam, and they're definitely another local group to keep an eye out for.

After a brief intermission, Will Oldham returned to the stage as Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, introduced by his band the Cairo Gang (Emmett Kelly on guitar and Angel Olsen on backing vocals) in classic rockabilly, Johnny Cash fashion. The setlist was spread evenly over his immense catalog, and included a few tunes from his latest album, Wolfroy Goes to Town. If you're familiar with Oldham's music, you should know that his live shows are a sight to behold. Like a jazz artist, he never does one song the same way twice. Yet, the crowd favorites are still easily recognized and cherished for the novelty he adds to them on the spot. His classic "Ohio River Boat Song" was met with dozens of cheers, hoots and hollers in the middle of performance. The same went for an even more up-tempo version of "Easy Does It", from Lie Down in the Light (2008), and one of my favorites. Another track from that album, "You Want that Picture," made excellent use of Angel Olsen and Emmett Kelly's vocals, harmonizing with the rugged, soulful cry of the Bonnie 'Prince'.

It was a great night for the Clifton Center. I look forward to attending future events, and would definitely see another Bonnie 'Prince' Billy show there. It's refreshing and heartwarming to see such an internationally renowned talent return to his "old home place" to show some love.     

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