With three of Madison's dearest bands on the docket, the Crystal Corner Bar was the place to be on Saturday night for music lovers looking to escape the wintry weather. The Shabelles, The Buffali and The Treats all took the stage at this Willy Street institution, filling the venue and heating it (literally) to scorching.
Openers The Shabelles put on a typically fun set, playing such favorites as "Right Wing Girlfriend" and busting out keyboardist Ropin' Rodeo Nate's saxophone for the do-wop ditty "Something is Starting." It's hard not to love this band, simply because they're so endearing. The music is endearing, the lyrics are endearing, and the banter among the bandmates is doubly endearing. The Shabelles don't try to be anything they're not; they're simply themselves, and the result is nothing if not lovable.
Returning to the local circuit after doubling in size was the quirky, if not aggravating, The Buffali. Led by the perky Clare Fehsenfeld on keyboards/guitar and Andrew Yonda on bass, the newly-minted quartet seems better suited for community theatre and neighborhood festivals than sustaining a bar audience for an entire set. Ms. Fehsenfeld's voice, although lovely, is shrill after awhile, and her overly animated gesticulations and repartee with Mr. Yonda are reminiscent of Gershwin musical fare. Their energy and good humor are admirable, but tongue-in-cheek is a tricky thing to master -- especially at the down-home Crystal Corner.
The night was dominated, though, by the electricity of The Treats, whose hour-long set had enough grit and verve to keep this attendee warm for her entire trip home. Drawing heavily from classic rock and roll, the trio let 'er rip last night. They jolted a weary audience with their fiery sound, including songs like "Ever Been Down" and "You Don't Have to Change" from their latest album, Reservoir Tales, and a particularly hot Ray Charles/Talking Heads cover.
Hunky frontman Andrew Isham bears an eerie likeness to Jack White, both in his admirable guitar soloing and enigmatic stage presence. Add to the mix an equally talented brother on the drums and a solid bassist in Tim Payne, and you've got a band that's tight enough for the big time.
The Treats are the latest and best reminder to keep seeing local music -- because once in awhile you can still stumble on something completely extraordinary in the midst of the usual productions. Go see this band. With their passion and drive, it can only get better from here.