Homecoming shows for young local bands that have been out on national tours usually have exceptionally great energy. The bands are road-weary but well-oiled machines, typically playing solid sets to appreciative fans eager to have them back. In the case of the Schoolyard Heroes' triumphant return at El Corazon on Saturday, the mutual appreciation was broadly in effect. The all-ages crowd bristled with energy, hugging the stage and shout-singing along with every word. More than a few eager fans couldn't contain their affection, crowd surfing or just jumping up onstage to sing and dance along with artfully tattered frontwoman Ryann Donnelly. Dressed in a torn black-and-white tutu and wailing with her signature impassioned urgency, Donnelly seemed as hypnotized by the crowd as they were by her, a reciprocal perspective that she confirmed when I chatted with her Monday morning. "I felt like I was more enthralled by the audience than they were by us," she said. "I don't take our fans for granted, and I don't know how we got so lucky."
Schoolyard Heroes at Bumbershoot 2007When: 3:15 p.m., Monday, Sept. 3Where: Exhibition Hall
While her humility is admirable, I'd say luck doesn't have squat to do with it. Schoolyard Heroes have been armed with both preternatural talent and a tireless work ethic since their inception in 2003. As previously reported in these pages, the band recently signed to journalist Sarah Lewtinn's Def Jam/Island "incubator label," Stolen Transmission, a shrewd move that will undoubtedly help them reach an even broader audience than they enjoyed on this last tour with goth-tinged punk rockers (and labelmates) the Horrors. They recently completed work on their third record, Abominations, a heart-stopping onslaught of gothic operatics fused to bludgeoning metallic riffs that are as melodic as they are merciless. That art-school-by-way-of-back-alley approach is the perfect tonic for thirsty fans of smart, dark-hearted rock who listen outside the Hot Topic box.
It's also the perfect project to be helmed by famed producer John Goodmanson, the brain behind the sound of such landmark records as Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out and Team Dresch's Personal Best. "We kind of went off the other stuff that he did that we were fans of," says Donnelly. "Those last two Blood Brothers records he did were incredible—they're also sort of scattered and all over the place like us. Plus, he has lots of experience working with female voices, like [the Gossip's] Beth Ditto and Sleater-Kinney. He can take all that chaos and keep it separated." Indeed, when I sat down to listen to the new record, I was struck by how beautifully controlled and balanced the new material sounded, even as Donnelly's gorgeous, classically trained soprano (she began studying opera at age 14) scales wickedly precipitous heights and bassist Jonah Bergman, guitarist Steve Bonnell, and drummer Brian Turner crash and bash wildly around her. "I should have figured this out by now, but musically it makes sense—it's a logical place for us to be going," explains Donnelly. "We've figured out how to write songs that really complement what we do [sonically]." Abominations won't be out till mid-September, and Schoolyard Heroes will be taking the summer off until they play Bumbershoot on Monday, Sept. 3.
Romantically inclined pop-rock outfit the Divorce will head out on a permanent vacation after they play their final two shows at the Crocodile this Saturday, June 30. I'll spare you all the bad Divorce-getting-divorced jokes and instead leave you with the happy news of Sub Pop's recent marriage to U.K. pop-punk cheerleaders the Go! Team. The local label signed the superhero-channeling, adrenaline-accelerating outfit last week and will release Proof of Youth, the band's sophomore effort, stateside on Sept. 11.