I read the Friday before that Devo was going to be playing in town as a part of a party for MacWorld. I bought a ticket via the Devo site. I had to go to the MacWorld ticket line to get my tickets, however. That was a hassle because of the long lines. The show started off with a video introduction from General Boy. He told us of the types of people (hippies, punks, yuppies) we may see at the show, and how'd they act. Then the band came on stage. They started out in their yellow environment suits and red energy dome hats. The first part of the set was mostly synthesizers (with one guitar). They played all the hits, and most of "Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!" One of the thing I liked was that Devo really looked liked guys in their late 50s, completely rocking out, just as odd as ever. During the song "Uncontrollable Urge," Mark Mothersbaugh started ripping the environment suits off the rest of the band members. It seemed as if this were the uncontrollable urge. At the end of the song, they were in the standard black Devo t-shirt, black shorts, black knee pads, and Doc Marten boots. This was also when they pulled out all of the guitars. For one song (I think "Gut Feeling") Bob1 had a narrow guitar. During one part of the song, where the guitar part goes crazy and suddenly all of the strings popped off like crazy. There were photographers there, and they even got a picture of me (I'm in the background, facing away from the camera on the left). The set ended with "Beautiful World," sung by Booji Boy, who sings and talks in a falsetto that has to be heard to be believed. He taped his glasses across the mask with black gaffer tape, which looked like Elvis style side burns at first glance. He also wore gospel singer style robes (with Booji Boy embroidered across his shoulders), and sang in a Devo meets Booji Boy meets gospel style. Towards the end of the song, Booji Boy told us all how it is. And he said, all in falsetto, "I'm not too good at math, but I think the last time we were here was New Year's Eve 1981. And back then we were all convinced that computers were evil. But now that doesn't seem to be what people think. So when you all go home tonight, well you probably are all staying at hotels, so when you go back to your hotel, open the window, unplug the computer from the Internet, and throw the computer out the window!" He and the band then went back into "Beautiful World" and Booji Boy threw super balls all over from a fanny pack hidden under his robes. Now after an hour and a half, I've finally seen Devo.
During this in-store appearance, they didn't play any songs off of the Stephen Malkmus record I have, nor any Pavement. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the show. They played for about an hour for free, and signed stuff afterwards. I snapped a photo with my iPhone. He looked exactly as I remember him when I first saw Pavement. He seemed to be standing with the same stoop while singing. There was lots of music geek banter on stage, that I couldn't even try to compete with.
I didn't know anything about this show before we went. I hadn't seen many shows lately, so I asked Aram what he was interested in, as nothing had struck me while reading the listings. Once we got to this show, I learned he's from Wisconsin, and that the band name is pronounced like conifer, not Bon Jovi. It was interesting folkish rock. He has a pretty deep speaking voice, but sings in a falsetto.
This is a band of a friend of my neighbor David, who also happens to be named David. The bar is in the Dogpatch, and the stage is down in an actual basement. I say actual, because I say I have a basement, but it isn't underground. This one is underground. That's unusual here in San Francisco. The basement was decked out with old first class airplane seats (complete with armrest ashtrays). They also had the curved inner window panels from an airplane lining one of the walls. The band was garage rock with a great guitar sound. There was a dude there wearing slotted white sunglasses, somewhat like what I imagine Max Headroom would wear. I only mention it because as I was driving back home (yeah I drove), I saw a woman in the car beside me also wearing slotted sunglasses, but they were pink. I think I'm spotting an upcoming trend here. Time shall tell. Since I'm very out of the loop, I'm probably spotting a trend on the wane!
Kodiak Roots is my friend Bek. I met her through her brother, who used to live in the same building as Aram. I referred her to a job at Blurb. She worked there for about a year before deciding to give music a go as a career. So she set up a show at the always interesting Hotel Utah as her send off. Bek has a wonderful voice, and writes so many songs I have no idea how she remembers them all. As part of her set, she had various friends come up to play with her on accordian, cello, and vocals. Her backing band was a few of the guys that backed her when she lived in Santa Barbara. They were the last band to play, and they did strongly influenced by the 1970s rock. I rather liked the guitars, but I was so damn tired I left about 12:30 AM.
I'd heard of Banyan, especially after seeing Dos with some friends. It has Mike Watt and Stephen Perkins. I'd sum it up as rhythm heavy jams, but that sounds bad. They apparently had a new guitarist. There was a guy on a trumpet, and for most of the set, Steve MacKay of the Stooges joined them. In honor they played a Stooges cover (I think it was 1970). One of the more interesting things about this band is that they have live painting going on during the show. There's a huge translucent white canvas behind the drummer. It's backlit, and the painter uses some really wet looking paint. He's up there painting, and you find yourself watching a lot of him. This is despite the band being energetic and interesting to watch. Many of the paintings I saw had a strange creatures and hot woman aesthetic. At some point the artist would decide that he was done, and would take a picture. He'd then somehow mutate or completely erase the current painting to start the next one. Interestingly, they sold prints of previous paintings at the merch table. Interesting show and a small venue.
I went with a few friends from Blurb. Among other things, Kimya Dawson is featured on the Juno soundrack. I haven't heard it nor seen the movie yet, although I hear it's good. Her first song was a depressing one, but as the show went on it got lighter. I enjoyed her kids songs. She had a few kids come out to play with her for those songs. We were drinking beer in the lobby during most of the middle band, since they don't let beer into the auditorium. Such a shame. They had a nice 60's sound, and all dressed kinda goofy. Alysha said that they all looked like they were in a different band. One guy was in a Hawaiian shirt, another in pajamas with a knit hat, and the last two were wearing black ties and white shirts. We think they were Spanish. The opener was a French one man band. It was a pretty cool set. There was one song about how you play music is your sweat, and that this is very unique and recognizable. The sound in the place was wonderful. It seemed unusual to have such lo-fi songs in such a place, but they sounded great.
This was an excellent show. The band sounded great. I've been thinking and saying that they are a little jammy, and it surprises me that I don't find this annoying. I love the guitar sounds. The drummer is wonderful, and the bass was big. It was mostly songs off the latest album. Otherwise I recognized one from his first solo record, one I didn't know, and they closed with a cover (although I didn't know that until my friend told me they were talking about that, which I missed somehow). We were wondering if they'd ever consider doing a Pavement cover or not. My guess is no. I liked The Joggers, although they had a couple too many songs where there was a backing track, despite the fact they had a regular 4 piece band up there.
The first band played Cheap Trick style 70s pop rock in my estimation. It was fun. I think the song that sticks out most is one called "So Cool". The bass player looked about 16 or something, and he passes as a Peter Brady doppleganger as well. The second band was more punk rock. The headliner is why Jeff wanted to go. This band is psychedelic rock, no doubt about it. It's a simple three piece line up, and sounds great. The singer occasionally uses a crazy echo reverb on his vocals, that at the same time it sounds familar, sounds crazy. Sometimes the singer looks a little too nervous. There were small band of an interesting breed of Mission hipsters at the show. They kinda dress like it is 1974 without any irony.
If you've never been to The Fillmore, it's almost a museum. When you walk in, there is always a greeter, saying "Welcome to The Fillmore!" And they say it to everyone. They also have a basket of free apples. The first floor lobby is covered with various photos of the acts that have played The Fillmore (or one of its previous incarnations, or Winterlands). When you go upstairs, there's a back room and a side balcony. Each have posters in frames from shows at The Fillmore covering their walls 20 feet up. So people mill about looking and pointing at the posters. I'm not making fun; I've done this too. I think they rotate the posters. It's a fine place to see a show, even if the floor always seems a little sticky. Artists will get caught up in it too, saying how cool it is to be playing there. So anyways, I got to this show, and up in the back room they usually have someone playing an acoustic set or some such. Typically I wouldn't even mention it, but the guy playing tonight was unique. It was just him and his acoustic guitar (and I had bought my first acoustic guitar earlier that day, so that's also probably why I watched him). He was playing funny songs. One was sung in the manner of Johnny Cash & June Carter's "We got married in a fever...", but his went "We got married in a WalMart...". I only heard 3 songs or so, all funny. He had a pretty good voice to go along with musically referencing Johnny Cash. The funny thing to me was he was an Indian guy. I love cross cultural juxtapositions like this such as Toshio Hirano. Actually, they should do a show together. When I was going to this show, I didn't even know if I wanted to see the opener (I had no idea who they were). So I got to see this guy, and the opener. What an opener! About 3 minutes into the first song, I was wondering how the headliner would top their energy. I really like it when I see a band I don't know rocking out. White Denim have an interesting retro vibe that rocks. I'd describe them as having an early 1970s boogie rock vibe. It rocks, but you can dance to it. Describing music nearly always sounds lame, sorry about that. I heard some Pete Townshend, some James Gang. He does use a tool that will capture a snippet of his guitar playing, and then loops it over again and again. Some points are deducted for that, but overall they are just so fun. The rhythm section was great. They had the crowd cheering after their songs, and for a band that I've since found out doesn't have anything but an iTunes EP out, I think that's pretty damn good. So I was worried for Tapes 'n Tapes. They came out and played many of the hits off their first album, if not the entire album. They played their new ones as well, which I wasn't familiar with. I really liked their drummer. He was in back with a simple kit, and he was very deliberate about everything he was doing. They were good, but they just couldn't match the intensity of White Denim.
They have a subdued vibe while on stage. In fact I was thinking they look very much not like a rock band, which I actually liked. I was imagining them in a movie as a band in a scene that really rocked, but didn't look like they rocked. I'd say they played about half songs I had heard before and half I hadn't. I enjoyed them all. Surprisingly there weren't too many people at the show, but it was a hot night in San Francisco. I can imagine many people staying home, sitting on the stoop, hanging out. I actually rode my bike to the show without a jacket... at night! For those of you not from around here, that happens about 3 times a year. On record Radar Bros. use a lot of piano and other intstrumentaion. I was surprised to discover that it sounded just as great as a four piece. I was watching how he played his guitar more. I have a feeling I'm going to be doing that at shows more often now. Many of their songs are in 3/4 waltz time; some folks were actually literally waltzing around. As I said, there weren't too many people at the show. And you could tell something about the types of people who go see Radar Bros. shows. They were all standing back and away from each other, about 20 feet from the stage, observing. No one was up front. I really like the singer's voice. Great show.
So I flew out to Chicago, and drove down to Champaign-Urbana for this 1993 Reunion show. So did lots of friends from back in the day. I remember seeing Driver Has No Cash back in the day, but I never wrote it down. Just more proof this web site will never be complete. Their thing is that that they play covers with a ukelele plugged into a Marshall riffing power chords, a toy drum kit mastered by Bob Rising, and a really tall guy singing. Bob's face is very memorable. The songs really weren't. Next up was Corn Dolly. They never really caught my fancy back in the day, but hearing them this time, it was much more interesting than I remember. I missed the start of Dick Justice, where apparently they had the real Dick Justice introduce them. You see, Dick Justice is the man who was the Dean of Students at U of I. I got in a little bit later. They put on a fun rocking set while all wearing matching outfits. The singer Jim went through a list of so many bands from back in the day during some song. He mentioned many you can find on this here web site! I like to think there was no way he could have made that list without my site, but then sometimes I do have an ego. I'm not sure I ever saw The Moon Seven Times back in the day or not. I'm sure they were at a Band Jam or something. I watched a little bit of their set, but it really isn't my thing. I think the best way to sum up Mother is to say incredible! They sounded tight and the songs are great. If they didn't play all of "Gold Record", they sure came close. They also played the b-side to "USA Capable" and some songs off of the first Menthol record. Everyone was jumping and singing along. They did a kick ass set, and Baltie mentioned this was Mother's farewell show, as they had never really had one. Such a shame, since they had what I'd consider a flawless set. "Aw, hell yeah!" Last up was Honcho Overload. I've compared lots of bands I've seen over the years to Honcho. With Honcho, you can tell they're having lots of fun, and it's chaotic and funny and over the top and rocking and full of smoke machines and strobe lights. It's a hard bar to meet. So until this day, whenever I see a band with one of those things, I'll compare them back to Honcho, and grade them. They usually don't make it. I laughed to myself seeing Bill stand in his classic pint of beer in one hand, his other hand in his pocket standing in front of the mic pose. There were no pearl necklaces to be seen. They started off slow with "Bug" and then played all the hits. "Zodiac", "Comfortable", "Horse", "Miserable", etc. There was lots of smoke machines and strobe lights. They updated their stage presence for the 21st century by having a video projected behind them for one song once the smoke cleared. Once again, everyone was jumping around screaming the words out loud. "I'll be playing at the Blind Pig, playing with my best friends, and I won't remember you. No I won't remember you. And I hope, I hope you feel miserable. I hope you feel terrible. I hope you feel bad." "Miserable" sure is odd when mixed in with this show. But it is the anthem of Champaign-Urbana circa 1993, I guess. They closed with "Headless" and Jason from Steakdaddy Six came up on stage to share lead vocals. I had a blast, and everyone I talked to had a blast too. It seemed we didn't leave the place for a long time afterwards either. We were probably not wanting it to end.
What a beautiful place to see a show, but it's hard to get to on top of Nob Hill! The stage is nearly in the round; it sticks out into the audience so that they are surrounded on 3 sides. Aziz Ansari (he played the fruit cart vendor who didn't like New Zealanders) opened with a comedy set. Flight of the Conchords played quite a few songs from the show (with slightly different lyrics, I think). They played one (the ballad about mistaken identity) I've seen online, and a few I haven't heard before. In between songs they'd tell stories. For example, they were surprised that everyone already knew they were staying at the Hilton. And of course they told us about their rock star life, such as Jermaine got 14 blow jobs before the show. Everyone wanted Bret to have their baby, and he wasn't so sure what he'd do with everyone else's babies, but he was happy to help out. They also asked everyone to help save the whales, since they can't do it for themselves. How can they dial 911 with their flippers, after all? So I won't paraphrase anymore of their jokes. The sound was a little muddy in the balcony, and since everyone was laughing so much you didn't care. The audience clearly adored them. Instead of just one lonely Mel, there was a room full of fans. I still wish Mel was there.
I hadn't seen R.E.M. in 19 years. I had heard good things about their new album (from multiple sources), and when Alysha from Blurb invited me along, I couldn't say no. A nice summer evening at the Greek Theatre? Of course. Johnny Marr is now in Modest Mouse. He's a cool looking cat, and oddly enough, he has tattoos. Lots of folks really like Modest Mouse. I seen them, I've heard them. I think they are fine, but I just don't understand some people's devotion. When people ask if I like Modest Mouse (and this has happened often), I'll say I don't have any, and they will always say "You don't have any Modest Mouse?!". As if I'm not fullfilling some expectation of theirs. Anyways, the singer wasn't nearly as angry in between songs as I recall him being in the past. They had a big band this time out, including two drummers, Steakdaddy Six-style. R.E.M. came out just before dusk. Peter Buck has lots of plastic dinosaurs attached to his amps, which brought a smile to Alysha's face. He also had what appeared to be 20 guitars backstage. The stage was pretty cool. It had these hanging transparent drapes of multi-colored lights (probably LEDs) that would have live video of the show. It was cut up into 4 vertical rectangles, arranged in a mod fashion. It looked really cool. The band sounded great. They played lots of hits (and even left out some hits, surprisingly). I had found my old Work Tour t-shirt from 1987 (yes I still have 21 year old t-shirts!), and wore it to the show. It still fit fine. "I wore my 21 year Work Tour t-shirt to the show, and it fit fine!" In honor of the shirt, they played quite a few songs from Document. They even played "Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)", off of their first EP, Chronic Town! I really like how Mike Mills and Michael Stipe's voices sound together. Stipe introduced their drummer as Bill Rieflin, and Alysha leaned over and said, "Isn't that the drummer for Ministry and Revolting Cocks?" I quickly look it up using Safari on iPhone and confirmed it! So if you look back at shows I saw in 1987, I actually saw the drummer before I saw R.E.M. 19 years ago and saw him again the same year! Ahh! They sounded great, and I really like those old songs. I have them all on vinyl, so I'll have to pull them out.
I went to this show with my friend Erika. We made it just in time for his set. As usual, he was solo with a guitar, both electric and acoustic. Apparently, he had a cold, and wondered aloud if it would be a 3 cup of tea night. He played songs I can recall from back in the day, as well as some of the Woody Guthrie songs he did with Wilco. As like the last time I saw him, it was equal parts music and talking. He'd talk about the songs (especially the Woody ones) and about politics. He said that America had inspired hope in the world by nominating Obama. He also rallied against cynicism. He's an earnest man with an interesting voice.
He was as endearing and quirky as always. Nowadays I pay lots of attention to how people play their guitar, hoping I can learn something new. First of all, Jonathan doesn't use a strap. He kind of tucks it under his right arm. He likes to toss it around when he's dancing, so perhaps that makes it easier. He also holds the guitar closer and further from the mic, and positions it so that the mic lines up below the bridge or at the sound hole. It creates all sorts of different sounds. He played the song about knowing he wanted to live in the city when he was really young because of the smells, such as bus fumes and grease. He played a song that had a nice punk rock feel to it about how you could use a cellphone, but he wasn't. When he's at the beach, he's at the beach. When he's walking down the street, he's walking down the street. There was a song about his new adventure, not like the adventures when he was 19. It was about aging, and I thought a clear reference to "19 In Naples". There was another song about his mother's death, which contrasted with the big audience sing along of "Dancing in a Lesbian Bar". He's talented as can be, and his songs continue to be just as fun as his performances.
I was invited to this show the day before by my friend Arshad. I hadn't listened to Feist before. I'd actually say I'd never heard her, but people told me I must have seen the iPod ad. Looking it up now, I remember the commercial. So this was one of those pleasantly surprising shows where I go not knowing anything (well, I did listen to 4 songs on her myspace page), and I wind up having a great time. The opener was also Canadian, super energetic, and had great poppy songs. They conveniently hung signs with the song's title for each song. It took awhile for Feist to come on stage. Once she did, she popped up behind a screen, and sang a song in profile a cappella. The effect was to make her look like a shadow puppet, foreshadowing of the effects for the rest of the show. I like her voice and I like her songs. The shadow puppets light show was pretty darn cool. There were two women at some sort of a light table creating scenes that would be projected behind the stage. They get lots of points in my book for being out in the open so that we could wonder how they did it, and also be very impressed that it wasn't computer animation. Feist was also quite funny. She'd interject comments and jokes into her lyrics. Once she said someone's iPod was freaking her out with all of its wild colors (I assume it was some iPhone with an application from the App Store). At the end of the song she apologized, saying something about really liking iPods. At another point she was taking requests from, or just chatting with the audience up front. We could only hear her, of course. During this she said "Someone just invoked Canada in a negative way. Security! Security!" Very funny. Then another time someone was talking so loud on a cellphone we could hear her up near the back of the seated area. Feist sang through her acoustic piano song during an encore about how annoying Ms. Cell Phone was. At the end of the song, she apologized to the audience for ruining a song, but added how great Ms. Chatty must be feeling now. Frankly, I liked her frankness, and her show.
This year I've been feeling like I haven't been seeing shows of bands I don't know. This was why I was ready to see Feist without knowing her, as well as The Hold Steady. I think I had read about them on Pitchfork, and all I remember is that they were supposed to be like classic rock. Well I'd say that this band writes anthems. They seem to be about messed up people that the singer has known (I assume they are personal songs). Lots of mentions about getting high, as well as a shout out to 7 Seconds. The band has very dedicated fans. I think Jennifer & I were the only people in the place who didn't know all of the sing along choruses (chorii?). The singer was sufficiently dorky. The lead guitarist's glasses and haircut reminded me of pictures of my former Uncle Al from 1975 (it's the tattoos that broke the spell). It was hotter than hell in there, so we didn't stay for the encore. I'm sure people sang along to more songs I've never heard. We were both surprised a band we hadn't heard had so many fans! They were good though.
This was one of those last minute shows. Meaning the tickets were announced about 2 hours before they went on sale about 3 days before the show. So I was hitting refresh often for about an hour, but I finally got through. I figured Beck would be good to see in a small venue. You see his face out quite a bit (he was in the center of the iTunes Music Store poster hanging at Apple for a long time), and there he was 20 feet away. He mostly sang with his eyes closed, and when he'd open them, they seemed to be focused about 500 feet back (about a block outside of the club). I guess that's hard to adjust from bigger venues? He played the hits and quite a few I didn't know. So for years now, I've always been noticing when a band has an Apple notebook up on stage. This marks the first show where I saw an iPod Touch in use during the show. Beck was most likely using this program (I couldn't quite see the screen, so I'm not sure) to make scratching sounds during a rap portion of the show. You heard it here first. It was a good show, but not a great one. He didn't seem as jazzed as the audience, who were excited about seeing Beck in a small place.
It had been about 10 years since I'd seen either of these bands. Bimbo's is a wonderful place to see a show. The place looks about 1963. I'm sure for a long time that wasn't cool, but then it eventually came out the other side, and now it's cool again. It has tables in the back, which I'd never ventured towards before. We arrived a little early, so we sat back there for a drink. Trans Am came on, and we remained there since the view was great. Trans Am did plenty of the hits from back in the day. They also had some newer ones, including the ones with the vocoder vocals that turned me off so much 10 years ago. What a terse review that was too. Anyways, I enjoyed the set. Polvo soon came on and they brought their guitars. I've seen them before, but I don't remember watching so much. One guitarist (Ash Bowie) does most of the crazy licks, and after seeing them play an entire set, you decide that this is one of Polvo's most distinctive sounds. I also heard much more heavy metal riffage than I think I'm used to from the albums. One of the cool things about this reunion (there's been so many bands reuniting over the years!) is that they were not afraid at all to mess with their songs. They changed them up quite a bit, making them interesting yet again. They even did a cover of "Mexican Radio", which the internet tells me they covered on a compilation back in the day. They also played two new songs! Great set, I'm so glad I got to see them play again.
I went with my friend Colleen to this one. Mirah and crew sang 12 songs about bugs, and then a couple more. The bug songs were accompanied by a video of animations of the bugs and the subjects of the songs. These were made out of household items (cords, glasses frames, etc). These animations were something else. The seating here is terrible. I couldn't wait to stand up.
Quasi was good. I hadn't seen them in years, nor have I listened to them. I think I liked the guitar songs better than the keyboard songs. Built To Spill played the album "Perfect from Now On" in its entirety. They were all wearing t-shirts. It looked like 1993 up there. I don't have this album, but I enjoy Built To Spill. Everyone was going crazy for songs I hadn't heard, but sounded like Built To Spill (of course). After the album they played a few other songs, but I left before the encore. I had to get up early to ride my bicycle 50 miles to work.
This was a conversation with Stephin Merritt kind of thing, but they played about 5 songs at the end, so here it is in my show listings. He can be kind of a jerk, and probably wouldn't mind if you told him so. He spoke of many things he doesn't like; in fact one audience member asked him what he did like, and he didn't answer. As you can guess, he likes humor in his songs. He's pretty funny too. One of the more interesting moments in the conversation was that he likes creating musical plays, because when people attend they must listen to the lyrics before the music. He's then in control of what they hear before and after a song as well. Sounds like a director to me. The songs were played on ukulele and the interviewer actually played accordion.
This was a hot ticket and a sold out show. As is typical for new bands, I knew nothing about this band beforehand. The opener that we saw was very hard for this crowd to swallow. He's just a guy playing either fiddle, banjo, or guitar while singing in a folksy, old timey way. He was quite good. His hair was parted in such a way that I haven't seen in ages. The crowd was very excited when Fleet Foxes came on stage. Once they did, I realized that many of them had been hanging out in back near us watching the opener as well. They sing in four part harmonies, with a mellow vibe. It's quite pretty. The only guy up there not singing harmony doesn't have a beard; I assume there's a relation. I wound up buying the album, so I guess I liked it.
Michael Jak seriously bought these ticket 5 months before the show! I think that may be the record for a show I've gone to. Spoon puts on a great show. He (the band is really the man) has a style that sounds a little mid seventies and early eighties, but with a twist. There's a lot of Beatles in there too. Great catchy tunes. I think when I've seen him in the past he's played an acoustic guitar with pickups and pedals, but this time out it was a hollow body electric. They also had 3 horns on the side that rounded out the sound very nicely. It would have been cool to have them playing on more songs. There was one song in the middle that sounded like some sort of a late eighties alternative dance song or something like that with all the keyboards in there. You knew it was modern because of all the bass in there however. There were lots of people there. Probably a lot of them saw my friend Ted video taping the show with his digital camera (he started out just taking pictures). He was holding the camera up over his head. Right before what turned out to be the last song, a security guy came up, grabbed Ted from behind, and asked him to come with him. They deleted Ted's videos (not the pictures) and checked his camera at the coat check for the rest of the show. Oh, and I couldn't believe it, but the 3 people I went with have lived in San Francisco just about as long as me, and they had never seen a show at the Fillmore! This was my 24th. Who's crazier?
I like the way that The New Year uses dynamics. They can start quiet and build up so that it is getting imperceptibly louder until you're really rocking. They also have nice concise songs, there isn't much there that shouldn't be there. I'm not sure if I realized this when I've seen them in the past, but both brothers sing. It was a low key Bottom of the Hill show. As is typical, it went later than you'd expect. Jay Ryan had made three posters for the show; I got the west coast version that had a sad lonely broken down bicycle in a field.
I went to this show with my friend Jennifer visiting from Texas. When I lived in Austin, she'd be at with many of the same shows I saw. She was the one who told me she didn't like the standard Emo's $2 cover charge. I said, well this show would easily cost $12 in Chicago, so it's good to me. She said it used to be free. I guess that $2 is a hell of a lot more than zero. The opener were 3 older guys with a younger rhythm section. Their songs were very early 80s punk rock. The singer was a big guy who simply could not sit still (which to me was a large part of the 80s punk rock feel). It was funny to me, but Jennifer said it got old fast. So for this show, Mission of Burma played the album "Signals, Calls, And Marches" in its entirety. To mix it up, they didn't play it in order, which I thought was a nice touch. These songs are very early 1980s punk rock, but also have some very rocking indie grunge thing going on as well. Which is why I was there, I'm sure. So Bob Weston was up by the sound booth manipulating the live sound. He'd loop it, put it on delays, speed it up, slow it down. It was a much cooler effect than how gimicky it sounded when I had read about it. They simply rocked. After finishing playing the album, the drummer joked that they were now taking requests for other albums to play in their entirety. Instead they played a few more rocking songs. Awesome night out. Oh, Mission of Burma winds up being the 900th live band I've seen that I've managed to track here!
I learned of this show and bought tickets months in advance. I hadn't caught them before, and I was looking forward to it. It was expensive, and at a place I've never gone to, the cavernous Concourse. The line outside was long as can be; they didn't open the doors until the last moment. They handed everyone earplugs as they went in. I'd read (on the Internet) that My Bloody Valentine had spent $300,000 on their sound system for this tour. Aram had just seen them at All Tomorrow's Parties in New York, so he had prepared us that it was going to be the loudest thing we had ever seen or heard, as the case may be. We got a nice spot towards the front, probably about 75 feet from the stage. First up were two keyboards that were playing a drone that would ease in and out of phase with each other. It was at a level of sound and frequency which made you feel slightly queasy. She also played a little bit of flute towards the end. Next up was Spectrum. They came out back lit. The singer is from an old favorite band of mine, Spacemen 3. They even played a few Spacemen 3 songs, including their cover of Mudhoney's "When Tomorrow Hits"! They played "Revolution" too. Man that band struck me in 1989. They have strange combo of Manchester shoe gaze and good old American grunge going on. What a perfect bridge for me back then. So I was really happy. Then My Bloody Valentine came on! There was lots of smoke, and lots of lights flashing. The band didn't say anything, which didn't really change except for a "Thank you" a couple of times through the set. It was loud. So loud. So loud I can't even explain how loud it was. It felt like electricity is the best way I can explain it. They played hits. They played things I didn't know. It was wonderful. Despite being so loud, you could hear everything. I could hear the vocals (granted mixed at low levels much like the records). One thing that really came across live that frankly doesn't on the records is that they have a rocking rhythm section! Tight and hard driving. It was mixed so well so loud that I could still hear the cymbals crashing during the 25 odd minute long airplane jets wall of sound that closed out the show. We went home, and I was wiped. The show had worn me out and excited me so much that I couldn't sleep. I was still all wound up from how awesome and electric the show was!
We walked downstairs right after the Bonnie 'Prince' Billy show upstairs, and the band started up soon thereafter. Jon Langford cracked lots of jokes before the set and in between songs. He mentioned the drummer is from Pilson, and the other guitarist is from Milwaukee. There's a mandolin player. They do some covers and generally rock. They had a cute fiddle player as well. Sally Timms sang two songs with them. We left a little early because we were beat.
This was a wonderful show. He had a 6 person band while he played kazoo and sang. They actually played a few songs I've heard before this time around. Will Oldham seemed very excited during the show. He was wearing denim overalls and a white shirt. When he'd sing, he'd do all sorts of odd stances; standing on one leg while the other was held up out in front of him, or crossed over his other leg as if he were sitting down. He'd sometimes swing his lifted leg from the knee down. I really like his voice, and in this particular place, you could hear him very well. His band was great. In particular, the fiddle player had a wonderful voice. In recent albums, he has sang with a strong voiced woman, and this time was no different. We were up in the balcony here, and we could see everyone. Whenever Oldham and the fiddler (whose name I regrettably forget now) sang a song together, they'd be looking right at each other across the stage. These are typically love songs, and it felt pretty intense to me. Oldham has some salty lyrics in his love songs, making it funny at the same time. There were jokes told about medical marijuana in San Francisco, as compared to Kentucky weed. For the last song, the band spread out in the hall singing and playing out loud. They walked all around. Oldham quite nicely danced with a woman while singing. They marched out one by one up the stairs to the balcony we were on to end the show. All who was left was the guy who couldn't really march, playing an upright bass. The crowd clapped and sang along. Another great show.
Deerhoof always entertain. We got there just before they started. We were a little late because my friend Dave had met a girl at bar we had a drink at before the show. I was watching the Cubs lose the series with some old friends from Champaign I happened to run into. I look over and suddenly Dave is talking to a very cute girl. We had even called to see if there were tickets left for her too. I texted him that he should blow off the show, but he didn't get my message. So we left a little later, without the girl. So Deerhoof is a four piece again with a new guitar player. This time around I don't think the drummer sang any songs, which is different. They played lots of new songs; I think the album came out the Tuesday after this show. Yay Deerhoof!
This was once again a part of the wonderful Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, held in Golden Gate Park. This was my third visit to this huge yearly show. I went along with Jeff & Kate and we staked out a pretty good seat at the Star Stage. When we got there Bill Kirchen was already playing. We got to hear the great song about his Model A breaking down again. This is the one where he does about 8 bar covers of about 100 songs or something like that. Next up was Texas' own Riders in the Sky. They are a four piece cowboy band, wearing the hats, boots and fringe that apparently goes along with that. They were great. They were funny as hell too. They told a story about a song about heading west, and one says, well we're almost to the end! We better make a decision soon! One guy, who had already played his face (tapping on his cheeks near the mic to get a hollow, horse walking type of sound) when into a story about meeting Eminem at the Grammys. Then he went into a rap, yes, a rap about hitting his face and ending with him saying that it was a combination of cowboy and rap music. What's it called, another band member asked. Cowbay rap. Crap. So punny! I then left the Star Stage to see Bonnie 'Prince' Billy again since his show from two nights was so great. They played a different set. They again included songs I've heard before, including one off of the Matt Sweeney & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy album. The fiddle player's voice was wonderful again. I think I have a crush on her. I didn't get one, but they had passed out kazoo's to some of the crowd so they could play along. They were embossed with his name and "Go Blow!". He mentioned something about adopting 'Prince' in his name much like Nat 'King' Cole. I was standing near the sound guys, and they got a kick out of his antics on stage. Will Oldham also told the crowd how happy he was to be playing at this show along with what he thinks are many of the best singers he knows in the English language. I went back to the Star Stage and saw Elvis Costello play along with Bill Kirchen. They did a few old Elvis Costello songs ("Blood & Chocolate"; "Peace, Love & Understanding", and more), and a few covers, including a Grateful Dead song which got the hippies dancing. Soon enough, Emmylou Harris came out. They then proceeded to sing Gram Parson's wonderful song "Love Hurts"! It was awesome. This is the kind of thing that could only happen at this festival. Next up was Gogol Bordello who got the crowed into quite a tizzy. So many people showed up for them and danced. There were lots of cute girls dancing, I'll give them that. Last up while the sun was getting low in the sky and the temperature was dropping was a Jon Spencer band. It was more rockabilly than I've heard before. However, it was still Jon Spencer. He does an interesting stylistic mix of James Brown and Elvis. Jeff pointed out that the last time he had seen Jon Spencer was with me when I visited North Carolina. That was the last time I'd seen him as well. And yes, for this band, Jon Spencer would yell "Heavy Trash!" just as often as he'd yell "Blues Explosion!" back in the day. After this we went back to my house for Little Star pizza and wine. What a great day.
I was really excited about this show. It was known that he'd be playing songs he'd done with Eno in the past. These are some of my favorite Talking Heads songs. It was at the beautiful Davies as well. We got there just in time. Some guys in front of use got there nearly an hour late and then left early. I think they must have been crazy. Anyways David and the band all walk out wearing white from head to toe. There was a standing ovation that he had to wait for before he could speak. Then he told the crowd that he'd be playing songs he had done with Brian Eno on their new album and in the past. Someone then yelled out "Talking Heads!" and David said, "Yes, that one." They did not disappoint. They played "I Zimbra", "Houses In Motion", "Heaven", "Cross Eyed and Painless", "Once in a Lifetime", "Life in Wartime", "Take Me to the River", and "The Great Curve". They even played a song off of My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, I'm pretty sure it was "America Is Waiting"! That album was all tape samples, so it was awesome to see it live. The crowd was going nuts for this show. I will admit I was too. Slowly during the entire show people were running down the aisles towards the stage so they could dance to the music. During the third song, three dancers (part of the show) jumped out on stage; also all dressed in white. I never ever thought I'd say this, but the dancers were awesome! They had so much energy and the dances were all so quirky in a David Byrne dancing sort of way. David was choreographed into the dances too while playing his guitar. For example, he'd step back from his microphone just as one of the dancers wizzed in front of him. There was another great song off the new album where they were all (including David) sitting on office chairs at the front of the stage and would slowly turn themselves around. During a song from the Catherine Wheel, the dancers did neat waving hand motions framing David like a wheel. During "Life During Wartime" two of the dancers held out their arms at arms length, touching each other's fingers. The third would then do the chopping arm motion from the video across the others' arms. When she finished with one, they'd jump to the other side so that it continued across the entire stage. They also did the arms pumping walk across the stage while raising and lowering their height, again, just like the video. David's voice and style were just as great as ever. It was odd that he was playing a guitar without and discernable amplifiers, and getting feedback at times too. Not sure how that's done. By the end of the show, there were three standing ovations altogether. The band and dancers stood to the ovations. It was clear that David wanted to say something, but the crowd was just too loud. David asked them to make way for The Extra Action Marching Band, who by then we realized was amassing in the aisles in the back of the theatre. The David & band left the stage, while the marching back marched down right past us to the stage. They were lead by lets say marshalls waving big flags and cheerleaders in skimpy black sequined outfits (including a dude) with silver pom poms. The entire band got onto stage, and during their second punk rock march, the cheerleaders had climbed into the audience climbling over chairs and back. Probably the most chaos the Davis Symphony Hall has seen, I'd reckon. Then at the end of that, David & band & dancers walk back out on stage the the entire freaking place is lit up with white lights, the marching band is all across the back, the cheerleaders are all in front with the dancers and the pompoms and they break into "Burning Down The House"! Jesus it was awesome! The crowd and the band were all going crazy. It was wonderful. It was all so well done, so professional and over the top and awesome. This simply goes down as one of the best shows I've ever seen.
Hank IV entertained once again. We were up front, and it was loud up there. The singer mentioned something about how old he was, and how more people ought to be doing what they were doing. I told one of the guitarists afterwards how much I liked the show, and how I had just seen them with Mission Of Burma. He said that Bob Weston had mastered their record, and invited them on the Mission of Burma tour on the west coast! Pretty cool. Killdozer was loud and funny. My ears were ringing for days after this show.
This event was called Barack 'n Roll. It was to raise money for people to go to swing states and canvas for Obama. The opener had seven people on stage. Their singer really seemed to have listened to plenty of Wilco. That winds up being the 1500th set I've seen. Next up was John Doe, solo. He alternated between acoustic and electric guitars. He said he didn't mind people talking, as he was there to help. But you can't help thinking to yourself that he wouldn't have brought it up if it wasn't affecting him. He played many of what he called his love songs.
Stereolab played lots of old and new songs. Laetita looked and sounded as beautiful as ever. This time around they had a background singer. The last time I saw them I remember how much I missed it. The unusual thing was this singer was a guy. He'd sing pretty quietly, not falsetto, so it lent a different take on the songs. The band also seemed more into it than other times I've seen them. Laetita apparently had a sore throat, and she played with Monade as well. At one point during the show I was thinking about how long Stereolab had been around: nearly 20 years! The songs sound great; I hope they keep coming back.
I had first bought a record of theirs only a year ago. But I had heard of them for years. R.E.M. had done a Pylon cover on their b-sides record, "Dead Letter Office". The Pylon record is great; it sounds like something I can't believe I hadn't heard earlier. Their influence was pretty damn big. So they were on tour for this re-release, as far I know. They started out with lots of the older songs and they sounded so good. The crowd was dancing up a sweat. The singer even pulled a few on stage to dance along. All the band but the singer were dressed in their "Cool" t-shirt. They pretty much just rocked out and kept the talk down to "Thank you". I was dancing myself. The crowd was surprisingly skewed younger rather than older, which was nice. I love seeing bands like this rock. They seem like real people really rocking.
The Sea And Cake sounded great. They are such a tight band. The drummer was mixing it up by putting a little regular half beat into typical songs. They played lots of hits, and lots of new ones. They played one I couldn't place; I can only assume it is on the EP I don't own. Aram knows their sound guy. When I asked him what he does when he isn't their sound guy, he described himself as the sound guy to the over 40 band set. This was a very good time.
The opener was interesting. A Farfisa, a standard rock 3 piece, and lots of delay on the vocals. Oh, and they played only 5 songs in about 40 minutes or so. They have a drone, where they will get into a groove and play the same thing over and over. They had echoes of Spacemen 3 and early 90s shoegazer in there. One song sounded strangely like Devo slowed down. I think that it's surprising how garagey this sounded, and it brought all three styles together in a nice way. When I got the ticket for the show in the mail, I thought it was strange that they had a typo in their name, but no, that is how they spell it. The main attraction was on next, and they don't look much different than I remember. They played lots of really great songs that I hadn't heard before, and they played all the hits I remember too! Mark Arm has an awesome voice, I'm not sure if it is that it fits their music so well, or if it defines their music, but it works well. For many of the songs I hadn't heard before, Mark didn't play guitar. So during these time he could act more like Iggy Pop. There's a lot of Iggy in Mudhoney. They made some reference to some band being on a reunion tour, which I took to mean that they aren't on a reunion tour. Man, they've been going at it for 20 years. That just sounds crazy when you say it out loud. The Stooges had started out 20 years before Mudhoney had started. Anyways, I'm digressing. I loved Mudhoney back in the day. They are just as fun and loud and rocking today as when I first got to see them play.
Apple typically has Beer Bashes every 3rd Friday or so, more during the summer. They'll set up the newest gear Apple just announced, or the fitness center will have kiosks, things like that. Earlier in the week the Beer Bash was announced as sponsored by iTunes, and would have a special musical guest. We speculated about who it may be. In the past, Apple has had a mixed bag of acts show up for events, although none that I can recall at a Beer Bash. The place was more packed than I've ever seen it. It was actually kind of nutso in there. The beer was free, and you can drink quite a bit of free beer in an hour. Finally around 5 PM, the head of iTunes, Eddy Cue, gave the cue to Mr. Jones, who bounded out and sang "It's Not Unusual". He and his band sounded great. Of course they also played "What's New Pussycat". They played a few new songs (one of which features fairly distorted guitar) and some Christmas tunes. In all, I think they only played about 30 minutes. It sure was a fun and funny way to end the year at work!