Dave Tieff – Live @ The Nut

Dave Tieff
Live @ The Nut

Dave Tieff is the charismatic frontman of the Baltimore-based band Laughing Colors. Despite a large, devoted following, somehow that band never managed to succeed the way that others had. Their shows in Baltimore would fill some of the larger venues, yet even in Washington, just down the road, they would often play small bars filled more with drink-seekers than fans. Over time, the band honed their sound from edgy alternative rock to more radio-friendly rock, resulting in their most recent effort, Nothing But Sky, which is somewhat disappointing. Perhaps my tastes have just changed since the days of eagerly looking forward to seeing this band play and singing along to all the songs.
For some time now, Tieff has played solo shows during the week at Coconuts in Baltimore, and this album is taken from those sessions. He would also highlight some of those solo songs during the Laughing Colors set. Despite the fact that his acoustic guitar playing isn’t the greatest, he has a penchant for clever – if not downright hilarious – lyrics and a strong voice that make these songs fun. And the reason I’m reviewing this album is because some of these songs simply have to be heard to be believed. They are quite often a riot.
I bought this album to hear the ditties that he used to play with Laughing Colors that made the crowd laugh. “The Country Song” is a goofy homage to rednecks and incest, and “Don’t Tell the CIA” – included in two versions here – is an abbreviation-heavy rant about drugs; as always, even Tieff’s drug-focused friends are presented with a wink and nod, as if we’ve all been there and can laugh about the experiences now. (In on song, he includes the line emphatically, “Well joke them if they can’t take a fuck.”) Another drug-reference song, “The War on Drugs,” was included on one of Laughing Colors’ live album, but the lyrics are changed a bit on both the live and studio tracks here. This song is unbelievably good, with lyrics like “and they told me that life was fair. But I can’t smoke a plant that was made by God, but I can kill my wife if I’m a football player.”
The other songs here are hit and miss. In terms of humor, “Lesbians on Heroin” and the traditional ultra-dirty folk song “Lupe” (the only non-original song here) are both highlights, while his version of Laughing Colors songs “7-11 Blues” and “Head Wide Open” are nothing without the band. Then there’s some assorted filler that is far less fun without the live setting.
Tieff was always what made Laughing Colors shows so fun. The perfect frontman, he loved the crowd, and they loved him. That’s what made this band’s live shows so incredibly good, even for folks who didn’t care much for their studio albums. Even though my tastes have changed, I miss this band’s high-energy live shows, and I miss Tieff’s little solo asides. That’s why this album is a happy find – fun, amusing, raunchy, what more could you want?