By Yvonne Zusel
See more shots in our The Stiletto Formal slideshow
When you see an electric cello leaning against a chair during sound check at a rock show, you know you're not in for...well, a typical rock show.
Hometown favorite The Stiletto Formal - which prominently features Sunny Davis' cello-playing - took to the stage at the Clubhouse last night in support of their debut full-length CD Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta!, and they were determined to prove their record-deal-worthiness, dammit.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much of a crowd to prove their worthiness to. The Clubhouse was close to a third full for much of the opening sets, provided by Goodnight Darling, Pistol Kiss Radio and Seconds to Breathe. The area in front of the stage filled up a bit more when Stiletto took the stage, but not much.
No matter. Frontman Kyle Howard, who, with his longish red curls is rock's much hotter answer to Tiny Tim of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" fame, brought more energy to the almost-hour long set than a lot of jaded, been-there-done-that rockers sometimes bring for their one hit song. These people are excited about their album, and they want you to be, too.
"We just released a record, it's no big deal or anything," percussionist/bassist Paul Neely cheekily joked with the crowd early in the set.
From blazing openers "Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta!" and "The Fall of Ambrose Bierce," to the insistent, pounding drums of "6 P.M. Your Time," Howard, with assists from Davis, Neely, guitarist Jimi Lamp and drummer Pat McCarthy, never showed signs of wear. Howard even made like a member of Arcade Fire during a couple of songs, alternating between singing, playing the keyboard and banging on a set of standing drums with Neely.
During "We Are All Muckrakers," Howard's mic cord got wrapped up in a kicked-over mic stand, and instead of wasting precious time to untangle it, Howard spent the remainder of the show dragging the stand around like a Radio Flyer wagon.
The dearth of fans was made up for by the enthusiasm of the people who were there. Throughout the set, people danced, pounded their hands on the edge of the stage, assisted the band in handclaps and sang along with the sometimes hard-to-decipher lyrics. Nobody was standing still. There were a couple of early Halloween-costumed showgoers in the form of a jester and The Joker who stood in the front row and seemed to know most of the words to most of the songs. They were too busy rocking out to care that they looked a bit silly being at a show a week before Halloween and already in costume.
By the end of the encore, Howard was on the floor, thrashing around, shaking a set of yellow maracas and tossing those red curls all over the stage. Their music might not be everybody's bag, but few would deny the band that sings, "The dancehall's sinking/We will not lie here," is telling the honest-to-goodness truth.
They will refuse to lie there again tonight at 7 p.m. at a 21+ show at Rogue Bar, 423 N. Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale.