By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Jul 20, 2006 at 7:40 AM
For as much of a music fan that I am, I must admit that, unless its reputation precedes it in a favorable manner, an opening band is an experience I more often than not forgo in the interest of spending as little time -- and money on beer -- as possible in what is usually a dank and sweaty venue.

This past Memorial Day weekend would have normally been no exception, except that I had arrived early in Chicago for the Murder By Death show at The Metro, and frankly, I had nowhere else to go.
As it turns out, this extra hour of my life couldn't have been better spent. A well-dressed, talkative and jovial Jack White look-a-like took the stage, introduced himself as Langhorne Slim and proceeded to charm a packed Metro crowd -- consisting mostly of your standard hipster clientele -- into a knee-slapping, banjo-induced ho-down of sorts.

As he waxed on about things like the Grateful Dead actually being pretty good, I thought the whole affair seemed a bit silly. But as the show went on, his rather high-pitched vocals somehow sounding as bluesy and authentic as any down-by-the-river type, it hit me that this guy was actually pretty damn good himself.

And I'm 98 percent sure it wasn't the slew of $6 beers I tried so hard not to spill as I danced.

So when I noticed on Tuesday that Mr. Slim was making a somewhat under-the-radar appearance at The Rave Bar last night, I knew the amount of fun and entertainment this 25-year-old New Yorker could provide would more than outweigh the $10 bucks I'd pay to get in.

I was right.

As my friends and I enjoyed a pre-show beer at the Ambassador Hotel bar, in walked Mr. Slim, alone and on the hunt for a “cold” red wine. We got his attention, waved him over to our table and he sat down.

"Hi, I’m Langhorne," he said, later admitting a plethora of information, including his real name (Shawn), his ignorance of YouTube (despite there being numerous Langhorne Slim videos in its catalog) and the fact that he had spent the past two days in Milwaukee and had (gasp!) gone swimming in Lake Michigan.

Twenty minutes later he realized it was show time, and, taking his lead, my friends and I slammed our respective drinks and headed with him to The Rave Bar. Stand-up bass player and drummer waiting for him on stage, Langhorne dove headfirst into his hybrid of folk, roots and indie what-have-you ditties and proceeded to hilariously ad-lib his way through the next two hours. There were times when the laughter from the crowd was louder than his vocals.

That’s not to say he didn’t play some songs completely straightforward -- "By The Time The Sun’s Gone Down," the almost title track from last year’s "When The Sun’s Gone Down" full-length, surfaced without much variation, I think -- but the bulk of this man’s live show value is his uncanny ability to make up clever new verse to his songs as he goes.

Hey, the first song on 2004's "Electric Love Letter" EP explains it all: "I can’t tell my future/I can’t tell my past/Might as well be Langhorne Slim."

Now folks, watch him cut!
Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”