At the time I sat down to compose this debrief of the Owen show at Bottom of the Hill last Thursday, I was simultaneously in deep conversation with a friend debating the best Owen records. The contenders were the tightly crafted, mid-discography At Home With Owen, and the earlier I Do Perceive, executed in the classic sound that felt right out of the dust of Kinsella’s best known venture, American Football.
The debate could literally go on forever, but what it implies is that Mike Kinsella has a pure songwriting ability that keeps fans coming back for the same songs, in the same venue, over and over again. This was probably my third Owen show at Bottom of the Hill, and the setlist hardly changes. What’s more, it almost always includes a couple false starts to verses, pauses for cell phone feedback, constant beer banter or tasteless jokes, much to the elation of his longtime fans in the audience.
So, there’s always a comical aspect to Mike Kinsella’s sets. He puts himself out there honestly, with full vulnerability, no matter what — playing solo acoustic on a stool, with only his own personal initiative pushing him (or, delaying him) through his set. His onstage stunt last week involved first, this cover of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.” Straightforward, it sounded as if he went into it blindly after hearing the hit on the radio once or twice. Regardless, Kinsella nails it better than his own songs, in some ways.
Next, he starts playing “Dancing on My Own” on YouTube through his iPhone, proceeding to ask a member of the crowd to hold his phone up to the microphone while he runs upstairs to grab another beer…
We’ll keep this short and sweet. If you enjoy the cover, he has others recorded: “Femme Fatale” by The Velvet Underground, “Girlfriend in a Coma” by The Smiths, “More Than Words” by Extreme and “Stolen Bike” by Bruce Springsteen, to name a few.
Owen played with Laura Stevenson and Shawn Alpay at Bottom of the Hill on August 1. For more music involving Mike Kinsella, check out his latest project Their/They’re/There, which released an EP on Polyvinyl earlier this year.