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Thursday, March 5, 2015 |  Madison, WI: -3.0° F  Fair
The Daily
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Pale Young Gentlemen rollick for a full house at Cafe Montmartre
Ariel McClain with Tamara Backus and Council of Strings join in for the CD release party
Elizabeth Weamer is the not-so-secret weapon for the Pale Young Gentlemen.
Credit:Kiki Schueler

Despite the steamy conditions in the Café Montmartre on Friday night, the Pale Young Gentlemen were all about looking good for their CD release show in front of a packed house (a crowd estimated at 200 by the door guy). "We're all wearing red," keyboardist/vocalist Mike Reisenauer pointed out. "That's called coordination." And that wasn't the end of his fashion tips, "Suspenders are hot in case you were wondering," he added, showing off his. "They're hotter than they look."

Of course, the lankily charming frontman could have also mentioned there wasn't any avoiding being hot in the greenhouse that was the Momo tonight. The crowd packed the tiny bar, with quite a few fans spilling over into the Sidecar. Listening to the 10 songs on their debut CD, it is easy to see what everyone is so enthusiastic about. Pale Young Gentlemen is an infectious collection of rollicking, gypsy-influenced tunes.

Coming early in the set, not to mention a whole day early, "Saturday Night" was just one of many show-stoppers. "Oh Saturday night, what a friend you are, I'm falling prey to your drink and your charms," Reisenauer confessed conspiratorially over alternately pounded and tickled keyboard flourishes.

On that song, and honestly pretty much every other one, the not-so-secret weapon is cellist Elizabeth Weamer. Not only did she make the band sound good, she also made them look good, upping the fashion ante with her satin skirt and red high heels.

Throughout their set, the hum of chatter in the tiny bar threatened to overcome the music, so occasionally Reisenauer took measures to make us pay attention. "This next song is very new, and it's about sex!" he announced. "I knew I could get some cheers," he concluded, clearly elated. Other times it took the riotous rush of a circus-on-speed song like the barreling "An Appeal to St Peter" to quiet them.

Even though the quintet succeeded intermittently in quieting the crowd, the two openers never had a chance. Dubbed Council of Strings by Reisenauer, the trio of violists up first were little more than background music, even though they featured, to my great delight, the extremely talented Jen Clare Paulsen, a member of Chris Mills' City that Works big band.

Middle act, Ariel McClain (who "dropped out of school to write songs about drinking and heartache" according to her MySpace page) was joined by Tamara Backus. As she strummed the guitar, the two harmonized on an impressive collection of McClain's original songs before finishing with the classic "Long Black Veil." Acting as self-described therapy, songs like the memorable "I Thought I Could Trick You" (the line finishes "into falling in love with me, until you realized I'm f*cking nuts"--um, brilliant!) demonstrated impressive skill with a lyric.

Shhhhh people, pay attention, there's some great local music going on here.

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