- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

Anyone who has happened to hear the band Rilo Kiley play in the District is part of a pretty exclusive
group the few times the group has been in town, the crowds haven't exactly been overwhelming.
In fact, at one venue, the four-member band outnumbered the audience.
"There were literally two people there," recalls singer-guitarist Jenny Lewis over the phone from her home in Los Angeles.
It's a day before her tour kicks off and things are a little hectic as she finishes her last-minute packing, but she's still excited to be on the road again.
"It's always really fun to tour with your friends. It's like a big traveling circus," she says.
Rilo Kiley joins Mayday and The Good Life at the Black Cat on Saturday, as part of a month-long tour.
A lot has changed since Rilo Kiley's last low-profile stop in the District. The band now has a tour manager, has released an epic sophomore record, "The Execution of All Things," was profiled in Spin Magazine and has seen the tiny label it signed to Saddle Creek Records grow in stature.
All three bands on this tour are part of the Saddle Creek roster, an up-and-coming outfit out of Omaha, Neb., that boasts some of the best independent artists in music today. That's a boon to people who like to hear a little bit of everything in a concert, and should draw even more people to the Black Cat this time around.
"All the bands in Saddle Creek have that common thread, but I think everyone's kind of doing something different," Miss Lewis says. "We're incredibly fortunate to be in great company. Any time I hear a new song from any one of those guys it completely devastates my insides."
Miss Lewis is modest about her own band's accomplishments, but the group which also features Blake Sennet (guitar and vocals), Pierre de Reeder (bass) and Jason Boesel (drums) is one of the label's new shining stars, even if they are on the West Coast instead of Omaha.
It was a chance encounter with a member of the band Superchunk that led Rilo Kiley to meet The Good Life and to encounter Saddle Creek Records.
"It was a long drive through Omaha to check out the studio in Lincoln," Miss Lewis says. "But I knew immediately…. About a month later we signed with Saddle Creek."
Listening to "The Execution of All Things," it's hard to believe the band hasn't been recording for decades. The production is multilayered and rich, with everything from keyboards and strings to pedal steel guitar, vibraphone and French horn put into the mix.
Miss Lewis and Mr. Sennet also trade off vocal duties on songs that are mostly catchy, often haunting and sometimes utterly beautiful.
According to Miss Lewis, "Execution" was quite a leap forward from the group's first record, "Take Offs and Landings."
"This was a unique experience because our other recording attempts were done completely at home," she says. "A lot of the songs didn't have much of a chance to develop."
They went into the Nebraska studio with producer Mike Mogis, whom Miss Lewis describes as an "amazing dude," and turned rough demos of new songs into a rich album. The tight-knit Omaha music community also turned out to help including members of The Good Life and Bright Eyes. Even a French horn player, from a music shop down the street from the studio, was put into the mix.
Of course, Miss Lewis and Mr. Sennet have also appeared on other bands' records, though sometimes in rather unusual ways. One day Conor Oberst, singer and songwriter behind Bright Eyes, asked the two to take a tape recorder with them as they drove in a van around town.
"We forgot it was on and we started to bicker, like we always do," Miss Lewis says.
It was quite a surprise, then, when months later she heard that conversation open up the new Bright Eyes record "Lifted, or the Story is in the Soil Keep Your Ear to the Ground."
For the current tour, Rilo Kiley won't be using the 15-piece band that Bright Eyes used, opting for the easier route of sampling some of the more unique elements (like that pedal steel guitar).
"From our first record to the "Execution of All Things" our goal was to have something recorded that represented our live feel more," Miss Lewis says.
"We're more of a rock band and we want to do the record justice and play the songs as we played them as a band."

Few bands have as strange a profile as Godspeed You Black Emperor, yet few can offer up as good a live show.
For just $12 at the 9:30 Club Tuesday, music fans get a collective chamber rock experience with a typical lineup that includes three guitars, two basses, French horn, violin, viola, cello and percussion. Not to mention a visual projection show that plays in the background, to which the group's songs act as a surreal accompaniment.
The Montreal band shuns media attention and therefore remains fairly mysterious, preferring to speak through its albums instead. Its latest, "Yanqui U.X.O.," is what might have happened had Bach's Brandenburg concertos been written by Brian Eno instead it's rock as orchestra, with only a few tracks and no clear "hooks" or vocals.
Godspeed is known for crescendos that last for 20 minutes, and listening to a group build up and build up without release can be exhausting. Yet it's also a musical experience one isn't likely to have very often.

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