Thursday, May 21, 2015


I think Vanek sums up Missoula's Magpies here, where he leads with "The Magpies are one of those bands that you're certain you've heard before the first time you hear them. They've got that built-in familiarity, and kind of walk the well-worn streets of slacker mode independent rock that all kinds of great bands have."

It's a solid review. What's subtlety sitting behind it is this quartet hones that slacker vibe with some superb musicianship. Tolan, Sam, Hank, and Jamie continually impress me with not only how much they grow between each song, each show, and each record, but also how they constantly tweak everything. They're never satisfied. I can't say when I first saw Magpies, but I can say that before I had, it was prefaced with "You have to see them!" and "Why haven't you seen them?" and "How haven't you seen them yet?" The "how" was particularly puzzling because these cats play almost every chance they can. They practice, record, and tour like most of us make coffee in the morning -- it's what oxygenates their brains.

So .... the first time. I was impressed, but I think there was something lacking for me. It wasn't anything they weren't doing or anything they were doing that didn't sit right. The energy is always there, and for a time my favorite thing was watching Sam and Tolan adjust to different drumming styles after the Daver hung up his sticks (so to speak). Tolan and Sam have a definite chemistry that's palpable in all things they do. Shit, they could coax a herd of cats to keep time for them. Add in Hank and, eventually, Jamie, and everything is coming up tornadoes.

Tornadoes is a perfect metaphor for them. It's a controlled, well-harnessed, sustained burst of chaos that appears to meander effortlessly with its explosive force. The guitars are pitch perfect as they lead and underscore the vocals, which, given Sam and Tolan's dynamic, weave together two voices from opposite sides of the spectrum; punctuated by the seemingly deliberate but always powerful and fluid drums, Magpies confidently move between songs, allowing for the music to do the work for them. In the end, isn't that what every band wants? From my perspective, they get the best of both worlds. There's the tireless, yeoman effort attached to the celebration and fun of creating and living their music, and we're all the better for it. Check out this video created by Hanks son, Cade:

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