23 February 2010

signs of livestock: feb '10

my show-going's been slow-going for a minute – been doing a fair amount of preview coverage for cp, but, until last week, hadn't really managed to see much live music at all this year.

[though that's discounting the obvious live musical highlight of the year so far, the 69 love songs cover party (that link leads to PW, the sworn enemy, but there are some pretty nice pix there - check the skeptical stair-sitters in #16) masterminded by sam and adam, which was a righteous blast. i got to sing three of my faves too: "i think i need a new heart," "long-forgotten fairy tale," and "busby berkeley dreams," plus impromptu group vox on "i'm sorry i love you." it only took us around four hours to get through, by my count, 57 out of the 69 – no "two kinds of people," alas – pretty damn freaking awesome.]

otherwise, i was foiled in attempts to see nneka and tape because of the snow (the former i just couldn't convince myself or anyone else to brave the blizz for; the latter was canceled but i didn't realize that until i'd trudged all the way there, listening to the utterly lovely new eluvium flutter all over me with the flakes), and to see la roux (about whom i wrote a "one track mind" that didn't even make it to the web, or not yet at least) due to crazy incomprehensible booking/cancellation/rebooking shenanigans (ok, technically i could have gone to see her/them/whatevs at the roxxy nightclub "shred your ex" party on valentine's friday, but $20 cover + 1:00am set time + dubious delaware ave setting are a pretty rough sell, even for me.) and i missed pink skull and memory tapes too, though i particularly enjoyed blurbing the latter.

ok, but: did see the shy, pseudonymous swedish mope sisters (kinda like the musical moron twins), taken by trees and el perro del mar (not actual sisters, but sisters from another mister), on a valen'sdate. not sure why it took me so long to realize (and it wasn't necessarily extra great shakes live), but that taken album (east of eden – should have taken a hint from it being named after my quasi-favorite book) is really pretty lovely stuff, and quite upfront and accessible too (as opposed to the somewhat floaty and indistinct love is not pop, which i do also like quite a bit, but is difficult to even grasp onto enough to really love.) sarah a. is, however, a more interesting presence than victoria b. she's kinda weird in fact. looks like this:

better: saw british retro-pop goofball v.v. brown, who has been making significant inroads on my heart, at the somewhat unpromising (but potentially up-and-coming as a half-decent west-of-the-schuylkil venue? hm...) marbar.

she didn't have a parasol, or lighting that was at all decent; she was wearing what she describes as "geisha hat" that hid her hair and to some extent her face, and lit from below by a frantic color-flashing light (once they rigged it up, about halfway into the set) that did cool and disorienting things to her plaid pants. this felt like a very silly show – there were only maybe twenty people in the crowd, for one thing – but she was loving it, bubbly, alternately endearing for her giddy showmanship and her enthusiastically genuine personability – anyway completely lovable. she seemed just tickled to be here, her first time in philly, asked us what she should do (i wish i knew how to answer that question... somebody shouted out "standard tap" and then explained that they had "pub food," which made her just light up, and ask if she could get a good cup of english tea anywhere) and seemed almost as surprised that we didn't respond with unbridled enthusiasm when she asked about drake (before turning in a kick-ass cover of "best i ever had" – "i thought you loved hip-hop in philadelphia!?") as she was that we had come there to see her and actually knew her songs (she was going to skip "crying blood," but made the mistake of mentioning it and then the crowd wouldn't let her not do it – complete with a reggae "remix" recap.) she opened with my current fave "everybody" (sung thru a megaphone) and closed with "shark in the water," what an undeniable feel-good hit, don't know how i was so tentative about it at first...

and, last night, i faced the rains and trains to see nosaj thing and daedelus (and jogger too, but i only ended up catching the last two numbers of their unwieldy drill'n'bass/screamo/psych/folk/glitch-pop/whatever weirdness....guess i'll puzzle that out later.) it was the "magical properties tour (check out this v. awesome poster), a celebration of daedelus' new label, which doesn't seem to be very well organized as far as having any sort of web presence, or any actual releases, current or future, apart from the jogger debut and even that only barely seems to exist (if it makes it into the amg database, it'll only be thanks to my persistent nagging), but good on them putting the tour together, good idea, good work.

nosaj (whose name seems to be pronounced somewhat differently by his various friends/tourmates) was unbelievably sick. and slick. he played mostly his own music, including the bulk of drift, but with copious amounts of live tweaking and twiddling, amping it up with a brilliant sense of dancefloor pacing, and moving fluidly and almost imperceptibly from one track to the next, occasionally slipping in some other nuggets by the likes of busta rhymes, portishead ("wandering star"), wu tang, flying lotus (i think?), and what must have been zapp (or possibly dâm-funk...need to get my ears on that.) all pretty excellent to move to (better if i hadn't been clutching my coat under my arm) but the best part might have been just watching young mr. thing, aka jason chung (who was wearing a similar if not the same plaid button-down as in this picture, and snazzy-looking watch), as he tended to his knobs and sampler pads with a nonchalant precision, making understated but palpably pleasurable effect-twisting wrist-flicks with off-hand grace. sweet sweet.

alfred daedelus darlington weisberg-roberts was up next and last. strange sort of feeling to be seeing him in the flesh, this funny little fellow who's done so much to charm me over the past decade, through his distinctly unique presentation (visual and verbal as well as musical) as much as anything – with his records too, for sure (invention and, particularly, of snowdonia), though somewhat troublingly less so starting around 2006's denies the days demise. i can't quite put my finger on what's changed in my appreciation for his music (even as my amg compatriots continue to rave over it) – sure, his style has developed in some identifiable ways, but i'm not quite sure why it doesn't do it for me as much now.

it is nice that he seems to have more friends to play with now. for a long time it felt like he seemed sort of off in his own world; occasionally setting-up slightly incongruous rendezvous with the cali undie rap world, anticon and ilk (q.v. the weather), but mostly content (and at his best) as a lone operator. but these days he's (apparently) something of a linchpin of a bona-fide scene, even an elder-statesmen of sorts, perhaps, and now with his own label to boot. (again, apparently.) well. his introductory statement to the crowd, made some flusteredly, was rather touching: "i just want to let you know, if you don't already, that everybody who's up here really means it...terribly so."

he announced that he'd play "some fun stuff and then some dirty stuff and then back to fun stuff." "what's the difference" someone shouted, and he smiled meek assent, but in fact i couldn't really figure out what he meant, as his set felt relatively consistent in tone throughout, building fairly quickly to a level of activity that, while fun for a while and intermittently, mostly felt closer to dirty – in the messy sense, and not the fun one. he was using the monome...his monome – actually, two of them, one smaller one (which he only picked up occasionally and rotated around to make the LEDs all slide to one side and the sound go all squelchy) and the big 256-button one, which he had angled toward us (like in the picture, though he wasn't quite so snazzily dressed last night.) it was certainly mesmerizing to watch him dance his fingers around the grid, and try to figure out all the sequences he was setting in motion.

frankly, though, the music coming out of the speakers just got to be too much to handle. it felt sort of like an especially unhinged girl talk set, except that only a small fraction of the samples were recognizable. stylistically it was all over the place, though heavily electronic, but ranging from dubstep to disco to hip-hop to synth-cheese to doo-wop to soul. i'm pretty sure there was a beirut song in there, one of the few instances of the polyrhythmic juxtapositions (a 6/8 strum pattern against the steady 4/4) that make some of his early productions so tantalizing. i only recognized a handful of his own tracks (i haven't spent all that much time with his latest, love to make music to, but i would have expected to know more from that if nothing else), though he did drop in one of my very favorites, "something bells," butting it up against some early stevie wonder (was it "uptight"? can't remember now), but it left before the real climax.

eh, it was at least interesting, for a while, and maybe it would have been more fun if i'd been dancing more (though, i did try and couldn't really get into it), but on the whole it felt like the (admittedly very cool) technical aspects of using the monome as a performance tool were getting in the way of the musicality that's been so pivotal in his past work. oh well...

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