Seeing Arkansas-based Chase Pagan perform for the first time “is akin to reading Nabokov novels in their original post-it note format, you get the gist but it leaves one wanting more.”  That’s what a writer said who came to his first Pagan show tonight, and it stuck, since it was pretty amusing and seemed to make sense.  Meanwhile, he also compared Pagan (favorably) to a male version of CocoRosie and a more masculine Devendra Barnhart, but without Barnhart’s “annoying beard and voice.”

This writer, let’s just call him Smith, had previously never even heard a Chase Pagan song, and was immediately impressed.  Smith found Pagan’s language clever, appreciating lyrics like “No one knows how to live until they are old and then they hope to live just a day longer.”  Though he didn’t specifically mention Pagan’s vocal dynamics, his humor, that fearsome falsetto or the array of piano or guitar-based songs that flit from 20′s vaudevillian to folky hymnal, or cheeky to droll, in a flash, I know Smith was struck by those positives too.

He was especially keen on Pagan’s quirky, Eleanor Rigby-esque love song, “John & Betty”, from the forthcoming second album, Bells & Whistles, centered around a prostitute and her john.  Their relationship has grown happily beyond a working one, with talk of meeting her parents and perhaps even bending towards marriage, because that way, as Betty reminds him, “He won’t have to pay.”  Smith hopes that someday Pagan will continue their story in a part deux of sorts, which could reveal what actually happens when they visit the parents.  Does either pretend to be an orthodontist, a lawyer or at least a believer in Jesus and will they fail each test?

Though Pagan’s set tonight didn’t include “Spanish Tongue” or “Push My Buttons”, perhaps the biggest hits from his debut, he did play a couple of older standouts, including “Oh, Musica!” and “Waltzing in the Sky”, for those of us who have seen him quite a few times and who, like my friend KK, might enjoy singing along to the tunes they know.

Though I’m not quite sure why it wasn’t in the cards for Chase Pagan to be opening up for White Rabbits on this same night at Bowery Ballroom, (since he would have been the perfect fit), this was a damn fine show.  Pagan will be back soon after the June release of Bells & Whistles, so keep your eye out for him.–MVW, with Tim Nestor