I was at Mississippi Nights for a concert and got the weird feeling that it is one of those last few unadulterated places to see a good rock n'roll show. It gets really smokey, the band is easy to see from pretty much anywhere in the room. The ceilings are low and there aren't many seats. You stand watching musicians you've only heard on cd make their lovely art in the foggy darkness, and it's loud enough to rattle your bones a little. I'm not really sure why, but I like pretty much everything about it, and have a sneaking suspicion that it's only a matter of time before they bulldoze it and put in its place a parking garage for a riverboat casino. And if I'm around St. Louis on that day, I will shake my angry fist at the establishment and shed a tear for the happy memories being razed to the ground.
The show I saw was Sufjan Stevens and the Illinoisemakers, and it was a really, really, really great show. They were like a happy sad cheer squad in navy blue University of Illinois t-shirts. The music from the newest in the 50 states project, Illinois, was alternately pep-squad-esque and melancholy. It was weird, beautiful, haunting, spiritual and unexpected, and for those reasons found a comfortable place in my heart, which often feels life in those same rhythms. They did cheers with hand motions and pom poms, had a trombone and tambourine in several songs, and did a pyramid. For that end of summer but not yet fall night, I couldn't stop smiling. It makes you want to get out that dusty banjo or old kazoo and start playing your heart out.