- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

No wonder the music industry is imploding: Amateurs such as the cast of “A Mighty Wind” can sing, play instruments and sound passably like professionals.

So what do we need the real thing for?

Of course, the multitalented ensemble — comprising three fictional folk acts from the ‘60s, the New Main Street Singers, the Folksmen and Mitch & Mickey — is supposed to be a joke.

But since the days of “This Is Spinal Tap” and the latter-day mockumentary trilogy that began with “Waiting for Guffman,” Christopher Guest and company have always been on the knife’s edge of being too good: of being just musically proficient enough to blur the line between satire and tribute.



At the first of two sold-out shows Sunday night at the 9:30 Club, the “Mighty Wind” revue — touring select cities to promote the movie’s release on DVD with bonus musical footage — drew the kind of cheers that few actual rock stars ever hear, while the cast members all remained firmly in character.

Those who’ve seen “Wind” — an art-house hit that did particularly well in the Washington area — will remember the New Main Street Singers, all clad in preppy blue and yellow, smiles pasted permanently to their faces.

The eight-member group — the “neuftet” was short one singer, explained John Michael Higgins, aka Terry Bohner — ran through all its faux favorites, such as “Just That Kinda Day,” the hilarious Bible lesson “The Good Book Song” and their signature tune, “The New Main Street Rag.”

Parker Posey did her spunky cheerleader dance like only she can, and the flamboyant Mr. Higgins slipped out of his buoyant character to let loose the best one-liner of the evening: “Beautiful town … beautiful neighborhood,” he deadpanned to knowing laughs from an older audience perhaps unaccustomed to the dodgier parts of Northwest Washington.

The Folksmen — Mr. Guest (a multi-instrumentalist on banjo, mandolin and guitar), Michael McKean (guitar) and Harry Shearer (upright bass, played in drag) — came next. “Old Joe’s Place,” “Blood On the Coal” and a bluegrassified cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” were hysterical.

What wasn’t funny — what was darn impressive — was the fact that the group’s three-part harmonies were spot-on and that Mr. McKean’s voice, in particular, was big, booming and pitch-perfect.

Ditto for Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, who play the ex-spouse duo Mitch & Mickey: he a beady-eyed burnout, she a bourgeois wife of a catheter magnate. They sang well; he tuned his guitar to dropped-D; she played an autoharp for real.

And “One More Time” is actually a very pretty song.

There were non-musical “Mighty Winders,” too.

Bob Balaban, as the neurotic Jonathan Steinbloom, emceed the show, as he did in the movie, and Jennifer Coolidge, playing the buxom ditz Amber Cole, made a surprise appearance.

“A Mighty Wind” is a movie, after all.

Remind me, again, why I should pay top dollar to see musical acts that don’t also make me laugh.

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