A few weeks ago I got the rare privilege of seeing one of my favorite bands of all time play a house party in my hometown of Las Vegas. I fell in love with Trashcan Sinatras back in 1990. I was a proud subscriber to one Sassy Magazine which had a monthly column called "Cute Band Alert." One month Trashcan Sinatras was the "cute band" and I immediately bought their debut album, Cake. I have been a loyal Trashcan fan ever since. Although they never broke big in the U.S. they do have a strong cult following of which these house parties were born. You can read about the first house party they played in Portland, OR here. When I heard through their official band newsletter that TCS would be playing a Vegas house party, I didn't balk at the $100 price tag, but instead looked at it as the opportunity to see for the first time a band I've loved for twenty years in an intimate and unique setting.
Now that I have had the experience I would have paid double that. I arrived an hour before the show start time with a dozen cupcakes from Retro Bakery and a case of Stella Artois. Yes, this party was pot luck and byob. The first thing I noticed as I came through the door was lead singer Frank Reader wandering around the house talking on a cell phone!!! I introduced myself to the few people in the room and then stood quietly, sipping a beer, and trying not to appear as excited as I felt as I noticed other band members mingling about.
The show itself consisted of two stripped down sets. Stephen Douglas played on a limited drums/percussion setup, Paul Livingston played an electric guitar, Frank Reader and John Douglas played acoustic guitars. They used no bass guitar. Lee Grant, our party host, was invited to play his own piano with the band on one song, A Coda. The forty-five or so guests stood or sat in folding chairs in a semi-circle around the band. The band was friendly, surprisingly funny, and seemed genuinely pleased to be playing for us all.
There was a break after the first set and I went onto the back porch where I had a smoke and some conversation with John Douglas and was soon joined by Stephen Douglas and Paul Livingston, who bummed a few drags off my cigarette. I offered him his own, but he only wanted a few drags off mine, if that was all right. It was. We shared a smoke. We all talked about their tour, which was ending soon, about Scotland (where Stephen and John still live) and L.A. (where Paul and Frank now live) about Las Vegas, and about music of course. Paul Livingston said the first concert he ever went to was The Smiths (!) in '85 or '86. There was then much discussion about Johnny Marr as a guitarist and how it seems that he's never been able to shine as much as he did with The Smiths and why don't they just get back together already! I eventually got up the courage to explain my discovery of them through Sassy magazine, which Stephen laughed at and said he actually remembered, although he would have called them scruffy back then rather than cute.
After a longer second set where the ease and comfort between band and audience grew to a level that really brought home to everyone what a special and unique experience this really was, the night ended. The band started tearing down their equipment but were also very happy to sign posters, t-shirts, or anything else you might want them to sign, and take pictures with people. They also sold flash drives with the audio of concert we had just witnessed burned to them. They are trying to make a bit of money after all. I bought a poster, had each band member sign it, bought a flash drive, and a t-shirt that reads, Trashcan Sinatras - Legendary Scottish Band. How awesome is that?
Here's the setlist followed by photos of the show and a video of Lee playing piano on A Coda with the band:
Easy On The Eye
All The Dark Horses
Only Tongue Can Tell
I Wish You'd Met Her
I Hung My Harp Upon The Willows
How Can I Apply?
Got Carried Away
Send For Henny
In The Music
To Sir With Love
I See The Moon
I've Seen Everything
Oranges and Apples
The Best Man's Fall
Trashcan Sinatras: Legendary Scottish Band
From left to right: Stephen Douglas, Paul Livingston, Frank Reader, John Douglas
Lee Grant at piano, John Douglas
Mr. Frank Reader
Sharing some beers and smokes at intermission. That's me smiling all goofily at Paul Livingston.
Frank signing my posters. I'm probably saying something very gushy and ridiculous.
Me and Paul Livingston, he was super sweet. They all were.