American Music Club

In 2001, while I was living in Mark Eitzel’s hometown of San Francisco, I saw him play at the Great American Music Hall as part of the annual Noise Pop Festival. Eitzel is notoriously passionate about his music and stories abound about his being brought to tears by the memory of the songs he sings while he’s playing them. On this night, however, the spirit was more a mix of frustration and contrition. He was trying out new material and just couldn’t seem to hit the right notes. Plus, he’d been preceded to the stage by Bright Eyes and he seemed self-conscious and intimidated by Connor Oberst’s raw yet nearly flawless performance. Eitzel is a consummate musician, and on that night it seemed apparent that the old adage applied and he just didn’t want to have to follow Oberst’s act. Which was too bad, because many times I’ve seen Eitzel, both solo and with American Music Club, play warm, intimate sets that command your attention like the glow of a single candle in darkness. Likewise, the songs that American Music Club have made since reforming almost four years ago after a decade-long break are certainly older, wiser and more refined. But they’re hardly workmanlike — Eitzel and crew are much less concerned about what we all think, and we think it’s all the better as a result.