No wallflowers

Pub date July 1, 2008
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

… And you shall know Tilly and the Wall by their tap-dancing rather than their drumming, their girl-gang vocals, their dazzling finery, the virtual — and at times, I swear, literal — confetti in the air. So is it any shock that the Omaha, Neb., five-piece, once better known as a Bright Eyes spin-off, has become one of the most beloved live indie acts to still hop in a van and hit the road? Nonetheless, the ensemble, which more often resembles a hyperpositive winsome art project than your average stony-faced indie rock unit, has weathered its share of audience adversity.

"We once played a coffeehouse, opening for Pedro the Lion, and there was one guy sitting in front, sawing logs," muses vocalist Neely Jenkins from Omaha, thinking back on the band’s oddest performances. "We were like, ‘Really? We’re that boring? We gotta do something.’<0x2009>"

Hence the Tilly and the Wall approach: no snores, no folded-arms bores, and this time out, a crew member devoted to lights. "Having gone to shows since I was in junior high, I know what shows excite me," says Jenkins, 34, who once performed with tap-dancing bandmate Jamie Pressnall in Conor Oberst’s poppy Park Ave. "It is nice to have something to look at, to make it more fun and more visually stimuutf8g. Especially now because tickets are so expensive — you better put on a good show."

The wild children of the Midwest are attempting to hold their fans’ attention offstage as well with their latest, third full-length, a multitextured affair enigmatically titled O (Team Love), after the oval frame that will surround the various, limited-edition, handmade prints created by friends. The covers’ collages, watercolors, and cartoonish imagery visually parallels the collaborative approach of Tilly and the Wall, touching on O‘s new moods and musical turns, which capture both feisty girl-group pop ("Blood Flowers") and sample-propelled Of Montreal–like psych-bounce ("Chandelier Lake").

"Our sounds have been sort of lighter, but our subject matter has always been a little bit darker," Jenkins explains. "I feel like there were some more truthful feelings in this one. It wasn’t just the happier side of life. It wasn’t a cover. There was some real stuff going on."


Tues/8, 9 p.m., $17

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF