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Tilly and the Wall, This Week at Legends

Patrick Griffin | Thursday, February 5, 2009

How does watching a musical group from the small-scale music scene of Omaha, Neb., that is missing a fundamental instrument, and that recently appeared on “Sesame Street” sound as an idea for a Saturday night activity? Before entirely writing off Legends of Notre Dame’s latest performer, try and get to know Tilly and the Wall. Named after a popular children’s book by Leo Lionni, the band is much more than child’s play.

When Tilly and the Wall take the stage on Saturday night at Legends Nightclub, you may assume that a vital part of the band’s setup is missing. However, rest assured that once the show starts, you will be pleasantly surprised with the bands minor shortcoming. Tilly and the Wall does not have a drummer in their lineup.

Instead, member Jamie Pressnall accounts for the majority of the group’s percussion arrangements with her feet; she is a tap dancer. This unique feature may be lost on recorded tracks, fading into the background of songs as a monotonous, yet driving, beat. However, the distinctive substitute is sure to be noticed on stage.

The indie group’s journey began in 2001. The band’s members united after the liquidation of several groups, most notably, folk artist Conor Oberst’s Park Ave., in the Omaha area.

The final ensemble includes the previously mentioned Pressnall (then Jamie Williams), her future husband, guitarist and vocalist Derek Pressnall, vocalist and bassist Neely Jenkins, keyboardist Nick White, and lead vocalist Kianna Alarid. Since Tilly and the Wall’s conception, the band has released three full-length albums, all of which were recorded under Conor Oberst’s label Team Love Records.

“Wild Like Children,” the band’s first full-length album, was released in 2004. The album launched Tilly and the Wall onto the indie music scene and earned the band the opportunity to tour with acclaimed artists like Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, and Of Montreal.

Tilly and the Wall’s follow-up to “Wild Like Children” was entitled “Bottoms of Barrels,” and was released in May of 2006. While tracks such as “Bad Education” and “Rainbows in the Dark” garnered notable Internet traffic, the band was busy appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman, touring with folk sweetheart Jenny Lewis, and performing at the 2007 Coachella Music Festival.

Tilly and the Wall’s latest effort, “o,” has afforded the group the most acclaim to date. The singles “Beat Control” and “Alligator Skin” have received considerable recognition among indie music fans, and the album’s release even sparked an exclusive PBS television performance on the popular children’s show “Sesame Street.” In 2008, Tilly and the Wall performed their own modern rendition of the ABCs. The unique performance featured the participation of young “Sesame Street” fans, as the band stomped in time while wearing colorful clothing.

Though the band is still on the rise, Tilly and the Wall will surprise you with a toy box full of simple and memorable guitar hooks, cheery bass, techno beats, and interactive percussion.

The group’s vocals, led by Alarid, call to mind the sweepingly smooth style of Jenny Lewis and the innocent bounciness of Feist. All of the band’s elements fold together nicely to make a sound that may be better to see than to hear.

The Tilly and the Wall concert is open to all Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students free of charge. The show begins Saturday night at 10 p.m. at Legends.