43 Songs About 43 Presidencies
My first big find of the fest: These guys are indeed billed as you see here, but according to their label's Web site, the "band" itself seems to be called: Of Great and Mortal Men. Yet according to Pitchfork, the project they're plugging (still to be released, apparently) goes by the full name: Of Great and Mortal Men: 43 Songs About 43 Presidencies.
Tonight, we get a total of 6 guys playing 8 songs about 8 presidencies, some with the band's introductory explanations as noted: "Rutherford B. Hayes" (mostly about his beard), "George H.W. Bush," "Zachary Taylor" ("he had the most face"), "Andrew Jackson" ("he was a jerk; he was, like, a genocidal f---wad, so f--- him!"), "Warren G. Harding," "Benjamin Harrison," "Ronald Reagan," and one of the generals who became President, though they don't say (and I can't catch) which one.
Leading the festivities is Christian Kiefer (at left in photo), who wrote the songs with Matthew Gerken and Jefferson Pitcher. And the songs are great. "Hayes" is hard Americana, "Taylor" breaks into a spirited hoedown, "Reagan" comes across like a truly touching Steve Earle song (I kid you not), and "Jackson" — ooooo, this is the best, a real scary thing, like the Coen Brothers taking over A Prairie Home Companion. The band is ragged but right, with a remarkable lead guitarist. By all means, track down the three-disc boxed set whenever it sees the light of day.