15 July 2007

summer stock

whoa hi! what was i supposed to be writing? about how i'm such a foggy fogy that all the music i care about is indy rock oldsters from way back in the ninetees? like em tortoise and mirah and spoon [see above], all of whom i went to see perform in the past week. despite that they haven't even put out any worthwhile new music since like 2001, or 2004, or well last tuesday, respectively. i mean [more accurately/less pointedly] i've been liking these bands since i was in college(!), which in point of fact was not in the 90s, and nor was mirah's recording career. [bbut still it's like i'm stuck in time and i can never advance and embrace new music, right? or wait, my top 5-ish albums of last year were by artists that didn't even exist when i was in college. k nm.]

briefly then:

whom i have been wanting to see forever, since somebody told me once that you don't even get the full genius of their compositions til you see them replicate them live. worth the wait? well they hardly even looked at the audience, much less deigned to speak - that was borderline obnoxious. one of them (john mcentire, i hope? that's who it was in my mind) was at least smiling and seeming to enjoy himself.

as well he should, rocking the rock out double-drummer-style, with both kits front and center (that's right, shove the guitarist and bassist upstage), flanking the central keyboard/control module, whence dude'd plunk something cryptic but with unflinching hep. and the mallets, of course, further out on either side of the stage. perchance the gentlemen would rotate.

it was fun - the gentlemen can groove, and the selections are trés well-apportioned, and precisely familiar, as promised (i recognized almost every piece, mostly from the last two albums, though i could only hazard a guess at a couple titles.) discomfitingly mannered for such fluid, empathetic sound, but: exactly what you'd expect, really. neat to run into caroline, with whom i saw my very first post-rock show way back (gybe!, pre-!-shift) in u-city-ish (the long-since defunct 4040) even if she didn't want to talk to me (?)

the charmer. second time this year (fourth overall?). no surprises, is good news. well, she did do three ten-second preview-snippets-cum-guessing-games from the bugs project - which were predictably adorable (logan was annoyed about this...why?) they had t-shirts for that, but no cds. best part, i must admit, was the encore of "cold, cold water"...there's just no arguing with a great song. also: opening folker benjy ferree got kinda obnoxious, but pulled out a surprisingly affecting magfields cover ("grand canyon") to close his set.

whoooo! gonna be writing and writing about spoon this week/month/year, i can tell. so just on the show then: well first off i ran all the way w/ heavy backpack from the wrong subway stop (rector st.) after twofold subway idiocy and general underpreparation, which ended up actually working out ok because i completely missed the rain at that end of the ride. and also they hadn't started, though i was 15m late, it took them another good half-hour, but [blablabla] good pre-show tunes, fittingly motown-heavy, plus "mannish boy," and then, for no reason, right as they took the stage [to fiddle about some more], the opening tracks of illinois(e). ok whatever.

this band....well, should i get into our history together? ell, this post is already getting hella selfy. [it's not, obv., just about being a certain age, or in college, but about developing a personal relationship with the makers of music; most folks just have the time/inclination/emotional latitude to make those attachments in adolescence/academia...] *

the show: better than last summer @p4k, when they were weirdly (slightly) disappointing, and bantered inanely. took a few numbers to really get off the ground. but by an amped-up (+drums) "small stakes" and the horns entrance for "underdog" (!!)...they were off. so glad they're playing "stay don't go" live now, albeit w/o beatbox. most of the new record, selections from the last couple. most exciting was "take a walk." "jon fisk" w/ horns, also excellent. they played most of the songs that had been in my head the preceding week, so well done there.

honestly, spoon are just frigging sexy - i can't think of another band that gets me hot and bothered just watching them play (or even, as earlier that day, strutting down broadway listening to them ga ga in my headphones.) it's everything - every adjective that's overused to talk about their stark, sleek, lean, muscular, gritty, edgy, intense, intimate, dark, rock, music, the tension and release, lyrical (and vocal) obliquity occasionally letting up to reveal warm, brooding emotional core, like art-damaged deep soulful vacant eyes, and then there's britt's physical presence, the guitar in his hands, the jeans on his legs, the spiky of his tousle - faux-punx indeed - and they let you in it with them - being there makes you (me) seductive, toothsome, devastating, too. it'd seem they're hipster-cad-unattainable, but there it is for the taking, and that's why maybe spoon are Great, not just for indies, it's a democratic rock-band sex hip you can access too. so yeah i was dancing and rocking/freaking out basically the whole time - not many other people were - silly them. but i caught some knowing nods. also good flirting on the subway back. knuffnow.

i also sawr:

last night. won tickets. (thanks aka!) cool beans. never been to the mann before. colin claimed they'd never played with an orchestra before, but that's clearly a lie. i guess he meant before this tour. (but that their only other experience with strings was a quartet from the portland youth orch? doesn't make much sense either.)

the decemberists with an orchestra did make plenty of sense, at least as realized in this instance: the arrangements were rich, varied, and well-suited to the songs, and complex enough that i was reasonably impressed by how well the mann pops pulled them off after presumably minimal rehearsals. and they were featured on all but one or two numbers in an hour-and-a-quarter set.

weirdly (for a rock show) it started on time: we strolled into the amphitheater at 8:13 and just caught the second and final utterance of "fontanelle" in "the crane wife parts 1 and 2," which by itunes arithmetic means they must have started at four after. too bad, that's the nicest song on the new record. actually though they didn't end up playing much else from crane wife - just "o valencia" (the "hit"?) and unaccompanied "perfect crime" (er, "2") (meh.) strange set list - "the infanta" and "we both go down together" and "l.a. i'm yours" were all pleasant to hear, but nothing particularly moved me - i guess their coolest move was playing the entirety of the tain ep, complete with time signature wankery, zeppelin-isms galore, and a melodica/mandolin hornpipe breakdown, with meloy on drums. hadn't heard that before; it's pretty neat. [disappointing: despite the month, they didn't play "july, july!", which i'd just described to matt as the only rock song they ever made..."ok, well, maybe the closest they ever got to making a rock song."]

gotta say though...apart from a couple of songs ("grace cathedral hill," "leslie anne levine," "red right ankle"), and fewer of them with each successive album, the decemberists have long since been a band that other people are much more excited about than me. (my parents, for example.) which is okay. it's nice to listen to things that other people like, even if they're not your favorite. it just turns out that what i liked most about them - the unassuming prettiness of some of the simpler, sweeter, not necessarily clever songs on their first album - arguably their less distinctive side - is not what they focused on developing in their later work, or what brought them a larger audience.

but it has been funny to observe their progression, since i first checked them out, for some reason i can't even remember now (a blanket music connection?) when they were still on hush. actually, come to think of it, and not to play the cred card, really, they're one of a surprising number of bands (arcade fire, sufjan, shins) that i got into, basically, before the hype kicked in, who have since managed to disappoint me to a greater or lesser extent, on their way to becoming more or less the figureheads of the indie universe. not, i swear, because of that becoming. (also, sufjan hasn't really disappointed me; i guess i just wasn't super-super-enthused about him for too long beyond the filial novelty kicks of a concept album about my dad's home state.) the strokes, on the other hand, ["pre-hype strokes" is pretty much an oxymoron, but i did see 'em open for gbv, if that counts] seem to have somehow reverted from practically-mainstream to practically-indie, and i still like them just fine. so whatever that says.

anyway. several enjoyable evenings. too many convoluted thoughts about my relationship to indirok that aren't that worth gettting into. a blog post: one in a continuing series! also, sat next to j valocchi, of the phl weekly, and friend, at the dec's show, so hi to them if they stop by here.

*[first band, as it happens, i ever blogged about, fwtw. seen em 5 times now; they put me in their album art; i won their shirts and tix and records etc. etc. you know. matt and i listened to their entire discography (well, i still don't have that lafitte single) the other day, and...yeah, well i love them. new record kicks kicks kicks. more s(p)oon.]

1 comment:

Dr. Jazz Ph.D. said...

That pretty much sums it all up. Nice detail.