Vermillion Lies @ The Black Sheep

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Kim Boekbinder tap dancing with a marionette.  Vermillion Lies @ The Black Sheep.  March 5, 2008.

If you don’t feel like reading this long review, just read the next sentence. Vermillion Lies is a lot of fun for first graders, college kids, and your parents, though it’s not exactly “family” entertainment.

The Boekbinder sisters describe childhood as a traveling family talent show, and both allegedly spent time in “clown boot camp.” All grown up now, Zoe and Kim tour with a cast of supporting musicians and dancers under the name Vermillion Lies. With influences like The Muppets, Tiny Tim, and Tom Waits, their sound is a twisted mixture of vaudevillian pomp, bar stomp, folk, and outright silliness.

I caught Vermillion Lies’ performance at The Black Sheep in Ashland last night. Believe it or not, at least a dozen first graders were in attendance, not to mention a hundred much bigger kids.

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Zoe Boekbinder honkin’ on a kazoo.  Vermillion Lies @ The Black Sheep.Â


Sing along, scream along, pick up a steel pot and bang along—VL is all about participation. Oakland’s VL may be the only living band that tours with chests of barbecue grills, typewriters, costumes, marionettes, plastic lobsters, and so on.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they carry more props than traditional musical gear. The genius of VL is seeing Zoe and Kim make musical sense of unlikely instruments, always with biting wit and show(wo)manship.

Placed at center stage Wednesday evening was a chest of VL’s various goodies (many of which were rescued from the dump).  Between songs, the audience would yell, “What’s in the box?”Â

To which Zoe or Kim would reply: “A gas can!” or “An egg beater!” or “A thermos!”

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What’s in the box?  Vermillion Lies @ The Black Sheep.Â


By the end of the night, the tables in The Black Sheep were strewn with brightly colored scarves, top hats, beads, and lobsters. I hope the girls got all their stuff back. Rumor has it a crustacean friend tragically went missing at a show, and things haven’t been quite the same ever since.

Vermillion Lies have toured the world—they’re a hit in Russia and Portugal—and are on their way across the U.S. this spring. They also have a new record out called (surprise!) What’s In the Box?

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Backup musician Myles Boisen dons a polar bear hat for the song “Global Warming.”  Vermillion Lies @ The Black Sheep.Â

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I am a musician, a journalist, and a music fan. Life is awesome. I play music, write about music, photograph music, listen to music, and ride my big bad motorcycle. I also cook and wash dishes for rent money.

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