So many people didn't get to see Neutral Milk Hotel the first time around. Apparently their albums are some of Merge's best-sellers. So Jeff Mangum went on a tour to play the songs. I'm pretty sure there was only one song I hadn't heard before. The set was mostly him singing along with an acoustic guitar. His voice sure is something to hear. It's far more controlled nowadays (at least to my ear). People were loving the set. So many classics played like you haven't heard them before. It would be nice if a live album was released. It is always interesting to hear artists do their own work later in their lives to see what they bring to it.
At this show Yo La Tengo played the sound track to an interesting documentary about Buckminster Fuller. It was narrated live by the director Sam Green. It was a fun documentary about an interesting guy presented in an interesting way. Rose and I got pretty good seats in the theatre as well. A great & unique night out.
I got to go to this show with Aram. He had told me beforehand the secret guest was Michael Nesmith from the Monkees. He played plenty of songs from his post-Monkees albums. They were country-inflected, and clearly personal in nature. The pianist from Lambchop backed him up. Lambchop came up and played with a smaller band than I had seen back at Merge 20. The funny thing was afterwards, when we were out after the show, they were out to dinner in my neighborhood and 2/3 of Yo La Tengo shows up to join them. I was a little too tipsy to handle this, so I went on home.
This was a terrific show to raise money for the Henry Miller Memorial Library. I was already familiar with Joanna Newsom and Philip Glass. Tim Fain is a terrific violin player that blew my socks off. They played some songs and trios, duos, and solo. The sound was great. Philip Glass played a song that he had done in the past where Allen Ginsberg read his poetry and Philip Glass had written the music. Thankfully he had recorded Ginsberg reading a great poem "Wichita Vortex Sutra". This was terribly moving. The entire show was superb.
I think we got there just as Jonathan Richman started. It was fun to see him on such a large stage. He thanked Wilco for letting him open a few shows. During the Wilco set, Jeff Tweedy compared Jonathan Richman to many stalwarts of music, and thanked him for opening. The Wilco set was another great set by a band that knows exactly what they are doing. During the encore, they played "Via Chicago". The fun thing was while this can sound like a "Wilco song", the back half of the stage spontaneously broke out into some crazy punk rock jazz freak out, while the front of the stage kept the harmonies going as if nothing was going on. It was so abrupt it, that for a moment I seriously thought someone had dropped the live sound and was blasting some other record. I'd really not heard anything like it before. Most everyone around also was caught off guard as well. It's always good to hear something new after seeing shows for so long. It was a great night.
It was another memorable David Byrne show. He put out an album with St. Vincent. They played songs from this new record, as well as classic David Byrne, Talking Heads, and St. Vincent songs. They were backed by around 8 to 10 horn players (and a drummer and keyboard player off to the sides). The two of them both played guitar. The stage was wide open in the center, with just two microphone stands for the stars. The horn players would march or dance around the two of them while playing. It was really fun to watch. St. Vincent would also do this funny stutter step dance quite often. It's really great watching David Byrne perform. The shows he sets up are just so fun and not like anything I've seen before.
When I read about this show, it seemed like it be interesting to see them somewhere I'd never seen them. They were also going to be playing Slim's in San Francisco, which just isn't a good place to see shows. So this venue is an old movie theatre where many of the seats have been torn out. The old concession stand was now a bar where they served 20 ounce beers. It wasn't very happening on this Wednesday evening. When we arrived there were nearly 20 people sitting at some tables & chairs set out in the back of the auditorium. There was a lone guy on the stage. He had long hair, and walked around speaking into the microphone while music played on a CD in the background. On occasion, as the story required, he'd play a synthesizer or a guitar along with the CD. The story was barely coherent, and it left you with a feeling that here was a guy on stage that knew the sound guy at the venue. He constantly cajoled him to let him open and this was his chance to perform. His set actually made Rose angry. Once Aram showed up, he told us it was Matthew Friedberger, once of Champaign. The set was such that the crowd was a little hard on him, laughing out loud. So then The Sea And Cake came out and played a great set. The opener was soon forgotten. They had Doug McCombs on bass, which I hadn't seen before. It was an intimate show, since I'm pretty sure I haven't ever seen them play to as small as a crowd as this since I first saw them in 1994. More people filtered in after the opener and were standing up in front; some were even dancing. It was cool to see them in a small setting; I'll have to keep an eye out for more shows here.