Yeah, it’s just been one of those weeks. I’ve also got two travel blogs that I’m hoping to write up soon, involving both Harrisburg and Penn State. But for now, feist your eyes on my photos from The Clientele, Beach House, and Electric Soft Parade show at the Casbah last week.
Electric Soft Parade opened. They were the least mellow band of the evening, and as such the lights were the brightest for their set:
Beach House was up next, but I didn’t take that many photos because visually they weren’t very exciting. Also, it was a bit too mellow for me that evening, so I retired to the back booth for most of their set.
Closing the show was The Clientele. They put on an amazing set, which was also quite mellow, but poppy enough to keep me awake and interested. Their songs are always beautiful, and the adjective that keeps popping into my head when I listen to their music is “lush.” It just seems fitting.
The rest of the photos, as always, can be found here.
aka “Avoiding Mom while she stresses about a family picnic.”
Just read an interesting article on PDN (that’s Photo District News) about Flickr and its potential as a marketing tool for professional photographers. Neat stuff, and it would make my life a whole lot easier if Flickr decided to set up some sort of ecommerce tools to go with its site. Which reminds me, I need to update my “real” photography website. Well, I needed to do that about two months ago. Anyone want to design some sort of logo for me? I’m shit at graphic design…
I also stumbled upon this interesting news while perusing Pitchfork’s site.
Together with our friends at FUZE, we’re calling all fans for a chance to see the summer’s most cutting-edge festival up close and personal—and be a part of it behind the scenes!
We’ll pick the best review, photo and poster—and we’ll fly each winner and their guest to Chicago, put them up in a hotel for the weekend, and give them $500 cash and two VIP passes to the festival.
But that’s not all. The writer of the winning review will get to review this year’s festival—and their article will be excerpted on Pitchforkmusicfestival.com. The winning photographer will join Pitchfork’s official photo crew for the weekend. And the winning poster artist will see a limited edition of their work printed up and for sale on the festival grounds!
There’s three ways to play.
Upload an audio review you or a blog entry about last year’s Pitchfork festival, or about any of the bands on this year’s incredible lineup.
1. Submissions must be between 300-500 words or if audio no longer than 5 minutes in duration.
2. Audio submissions should be in mp3 format.
3. Fuze Bevarage and the Pitchfork Music Festival retain all rights to submitted material
4. Fuze Beverage and the Pitchfork Music Festival retain rights to reproduce and distribute submitted material
Enter an image you took at Pitchfork last year—or another recent concert you’ve attended.
1. Contestants are allowed to submit up to 10 photos
2. Fuze Beverage and the Pitchfork Music Festival retain all rights to submitted material
3. Fuze Beverage and the Pitchfork Music Festival retain rights to reproduce and distribute submitted material
Design a poster for our Friday night collaboration with All Tomorrow’s Parties, featuring Sonic Youth, GZA & Slint.
1. All designs must use only 2 colors and be no larger than 14 x 19 inches and on plain white background.
2. Fuze Beverage and the Pitchfork Music Festival retain all rights to submitted material.
3. Fuze Beverage and the Pitchfork Music Festival retain rights to reproduce and distribute submitted material
So what are you waiting for? Get to work on those contest entries, and make sure you submit them no later than June 15th. When you’re ready, you can submit them via this Imeem page . See you at this summer!
Yeah. I’m in for the photography bit. Was toying around with the idea of going to the festival anyway (cheap! fun! excuse to visit Chicago!!), but maybe I have a shot in hell of going for free with someone else, getting some spending cash, and being able to take photos of awesome bands there. Now I just have to figure out my 10 best images…hmmm this is going to be tough.
No photos from The Clientele show just yet. I personally was grumpy on Wednesday, and my laptop computer has been grumpy Thursday to the present. I think there’s some sort of loose connection inside, because it seems to not really want to power on sometimes, and if it is working, and then you move it the wrong way, it freezes up. And not the kind of freezing that’s fixed with Ctrl-Alt-Del. It just…stops. Only way to fix it is with a hard shutdown. Ouch.
And that’s unlikely to be resolved until I can find a set of small screwdrivers. I have two such sets in my apartment in San Diego, but so far have been unable to locate one in my parents’ house. I’m sure there are several, it’s just a function of me never really having lived here (they moved to a new house while I was in undergrad), plus my inability to deal with multi-roomed houses. Seriously, I lived in a dorm or studio apartment all through undergrad, and now a one-bedroom in San Diego. There’s so much space in which to put things. Weird.
At any rate, while I’m missing a ton of cool things in San Diego this weekend, it’s nice to be home. I forgot how green vegetation could be. I forgot what humidity feels like. I forgot how awesome it is to be on your back porch and feel a thunderstorm approaching. First the wind picks up ever-so-slightly. Then the temperature starts to drop, subtly at first, then quickly. Then more wind, knocking still-living leaves off the tree branches. It’s not until that point that you hear the first rumble of thunder. That’s when you start looking for the clouds and the rain off in the distance. And while most people loathe the coming of rain, we East Coasters look forward to the thunderstorms, the sometimes daily respite from the onslaught of heat and humidity. Not to mention that the rainfall is vital to some folks in this area – farm country is only minutes away, in reality. Hoping to get up to some of that on Monday, if my plan to visit State College for half a day pans out. I’ve been dying for some Penn State Creamery ice cream and some Spat’s crab and corn chowder. Not to mention the chance to photograph something non-music related (also hoping to head to downtown Harrisburg tomorrow to see what I can see in this so-called city).
Anyway, those are my lame excuses for not posting recently. Oh, and the wedding – my reason for being home, after all – went off without a hitch last night. The couple seemed amazingly happy together, my whole family got drunk (we were seated at the “rowdy table”- all 6 of us, plus an aunt who’s a saint and her husband, who’s, well, a bit of a trouble-maker). Took a bunch of photos with the point and shoot on the dance floor, smoked a cigar with dad, little sister, and little brother, hung out with some cool cousins, and ended the night at a party in my aunt’s ex-husband’s hotel room, which conveniently shared a connecting door with our hotel room. Brunch this morning was a little more…subdued. A good trip so far, and now I just hope I can avoid family drama until Tuesday when I return to sunny (or maybe not-so-much) San Diego.
You ever have one of those mornings where you go to put your contacts in and it feels like you’re rubbing a piece of burlap against your naked eyeball? Yeah, this morning was one of those for me. It’s a sure sign that a) your contacts haven’t been out of your eyes long enough, which means that b) you haven’t slept nearly as much as you should have.
Four hours, to be exact. Asleep at 2AM, awake at 6AM. Goddamn 8AM journal club on Wednesdays. Goddamn good Casbah shows Tuesday nights. It’s a recipe for disaster. Or, in my case, a recipe for taking a 3o minute nap in the Biomedical Sciences Library between journal club and showing up in lab.
Feeling a little bit more human after the power nap spent curled up across an armchair and an ottoman. So I’m going to try to do the show last night justice in text right now, with photos to follow whenever my eyes stop yelling at me.
We showed up at the Casbah around 9PM, because I wanted to make sure to catch all 3 acts last night. I saw the Electric Soft Parade last time they came through town and played a free show at the Casbah. They were great then, and even better this time around. I recognized a few of the songs, most noticeably “If That’s the Case, Then I Don’t Know,” which is the current single off of their new album No Need to Be Downhearted. Pretty good for the fact that I didn’t have their CD and had only seen them live once before. In between songs, the band joked about being jet-lagged – San Diego has been graced with both their first “proper” U.S. show (back in March, immediately after they played SXSW) and the first show on their current U.S. tour. Despite the time difference, the band played a pretty tight set, and Tom White (vocals/guitar) wasn’t lacking in either charisma or wit.
The Electric Soft Parade was definitely the most upbeat band of the evening, and after their set they hung around for awhile. I ended up talking to Matt (the bassist) after their set while I was looking around for Tom, so I could introduce myself as “that chick who took a bunch of photos at your gig in March.” Had an interesting convo with Matt about travelling (jet-lag included) and the difference between the East and West Coast.
After that, I headed back inside to regroup with my friends and check out Beach House, a two-piece band from Baltimore whose self-titled debut was well-received by the indie blogger nation. I downloaded said CD off of eMusic back in January, and it was definitely solid, but not something that managed to stay in rotation. Too ambient, I guess. At any rate, as soon as they set up and started playing, I snapped all of 9 photos, determined that they were probably going to be pretty boring visually, and headed back to the table we had snagged by the bar. We listened to a few songs that were very pretty, but very, ummm, coma-inducing? I don’t know, I just can’t get into that type of music live. I feel like I’d be better off listening to it on CD at home, curled up under covers, with the freedom to take a nap if I so desired. Shortly into their set, we headed to the back booth to chill for the rest of their set. It seemed like they were well-received by at least some of the crowd, however, including a group of about 6 “San Diego type” guys who were posted at the very front of the crowd before the band even began. Maybe it was their name that attracted them. Who knows?
While waiting out the rest of their set, I saw Tom and Matt (drums this time, not bass) of Electric Soft Parade over by the merch booth, so I went over to say hi. They were glad to meet me and almost gushed about the photos I took at their last gig. It was nice to hear their reaction. Tom promised to get me a CD in return for using some photos on their MySpace page, but their merch guy was nowhere to be found, so I told him I’d catch up with him after The Clientele’s set.
At that point, I rounded up the troops and went back inside to snag a good photo-taking spot for The Clientele. I managed to get a position off to the left of center stage, right in front of the keyboard/violinist, with a clear line of sight to the microphone where I assumed singer Alasdair MacLean would be. However, I was mildly chagrined when an older gent sat down on a stool behind me and had the gall to tap me on the shoulder and ask, “Could I get a line of sight here?” like it was his divine right. I stammered out a “Well, yeah, if I can manage it,” while holding my camera in his face. It’s not like I think it’s my divine right as a photographer to have a clear view to the front – actually I hate self-important photographers who get in everyone’s way just because they think they’re more important than the average fan. That’s why I made sure to get my spot ahead of time. But don’t fucking sit down on a stool behind someone who’s already been standing in the front waiting for the band to go on, and then expect to have a view of the show! End rant. And by the way, did anyone else notice an abnormally large number of older (40+) folks at that show? Very strange Casbah demographic last night…
Anyway, the band took the stage, I snapped a bunch of shots during the first three songs, and then moved back to concentrate on listening to their lush Simon & Garfunkel meets The Monkees (in a good way) melodies. It was a very quiet show for the Casbah (I went sans earplugs for most of it), which unfortunately meant some folks in the audience felt free to have conversations over top of it. That’s what the back room is for, folks. Stop messing with the vibe. They opened with “Since K Got Over Me” off of Strange Geometry and followed it up with a mix of songs off all their albums, including the new one, God Save the Clientele. Despite being sick, Alasdair’s vocals sounded beautifully breathy as always. Apart from some violin feedback which got worked out in the middle of the set (while Alasdair quipped, “I wish I knew some jokes”), the band sounded wonderful. It’s just too bad that their mellow set was infringed upon by the talkers in the room. At any rate, it was still a very enjoyable evening.
After they finished, I headed back to the patio and merch table to mingle. Finally got that ESP CD from Tom, and then ended up talking to Dialed In Rosey for awhile. She introduced me to Dave from vMix, who was telling me about some photography zines I have to check out (he was really thrilled with the Quiet Life Camera Club). Mingled with the gents from ESP some more – although I read today on their wikipedia site that the band members are “well regarded to be arrogant and aloof in conversations with their fans.” Huh. Maybe the jet-lag made them friendlier?
Ended up hanging around until about 1:15, when we got chased out by the Casbah’s staff. Headed home, uploaded my photos to my computer and just generally screwed around while waiting for the adrenaline rush of the show to wear off. That’s probably the worst part of good Casbah shows – they run late, and I’m always wide awake afterwards. Doesn’t make for such a good follow-up morning. But whatcha gonna do? I’ll have 5 days back on the East Coast with the family (starting tomorrow) during which to catch up on my sleep. What it all comes down to in the end, as far as lack of sleep goes, is the question, “Was it worth it?” In the case of last night, the answer was a resounding, “Yes.”
Say what you want about the pretentiousness of Pitchfork’s album reviews, but in my opinion, their review of The National’s new CD Boxer (out today!!!) is spot on. I already gushed about this album a few posts down, so I’ll spare you the idolatry here. All I have to say is, go buy this album. NOW. I plan on stopping at M-Theory on my way home to pick up the hard copy of it, even though I’ve had a leaked version for over a month now. I plan on building a shrine to it and Alligator later today. Just kidding. Or am I?
The CD is also available via iTunes, for those of you too lazy/impatient to pick it up at the store. It comes with two bonus tracks (“Blank Slate” and “Santa Clara”) which I am in the process of picking up myself right now. Do it. You know you want to.
Off. The. Hook.
Yes, this was an event that warrants some outdated slang usage. There was an amazing crowd vibe, amazing bands, and some amazing “vs.” costumes (props to “Scissors” for wrapping her legs in duct tape…ouchie). Also, an amazing house.
The basement, where the bands played, had a mostly white ceiling that was extremely low. Maybe not so great for the vertically inclined folks there (I think the ceiling capped out about a foot over my head), but awesome for using the Canon Speedlite flash that I rented for the evening. I could bounce that light all over the place, which made it easy to avoid having to use direct flash and overexpose the shit out of people’s faces. And the beauty of using flash was that I could shoot at ISO 200 as opposed to 1600, which means the photos are a lot less grainy/noisey. Awesome. I’m totally sold on this flash – too bad it costs $280. Ebay, here I come!
The sound was surprisingly good for the space as well. The Muslims were up first, and they got the crowd a’rocking with their brand of garagey rock. I was into them from the first song. And here’s the disadvantage of holding a camera plus shoe-mounted flash during a show – I couldn’t rock out the way I wanted to. Not to mention trying to stay still while actually talking the phtoos. These guys (and girl) made me want to dance my ass off. Loved, loved, loved, their sound. When/where can I get a CD???
In between band sets, pretty much everyone left the stuffiness of the basement for the backyard (a backyard! In San Diego! Almost as rare as a basement!). I opted to stand in the super long line for the one bathroom in the house (one of the few downsides to the “venue,” but I can deal with that any day), so I missed pretty much all of the DJ set. We got back into the basement just as Grand Ole Party was finishing setting up, and it was pretty packed. I managed to sneak up front on the side of the DJ table, but it seemed as though there was no getting closer. But as fortune would have it, I managed to catch the DJ’s (Ruggy I think he said his name was) eye, pointed at myself, pointed at the empty spot next to him behind the
DJ table, then pointed at my camera. He waved me to come on over. I don’t think I’ve ever had a hand signal conversation that communicated so well.
After I precariously positioned myself behind said table, Grand Ole Party started playing. Again, I was sold on them during the first song. Very funky, very White Stripesy rock, if the White Stripes had a kickass bassist. Somehow managed to leave without getting one of their free demo CDs (where can I get one???), but I cannot wait until their full-length comes out. Fall sometime, they said. I’ll mark my calendar. Everyone in the basement was packed in super close to the front, but it was weird to look back and see half the room empty. Especially considering that the last time I tried to see Grand Ole Party at the Tower Bar, we couldn’t get in the door. But it didn’t really matter, because the entire crowd was with them, pretty much moving back and forth in a wave as they danced. Amazing, I say again.
Didn’t stay for the second DJ set, because my feet hurt from the heels I was wearing (stupid shoe choice) and I was pretty damn tired out after expending all that energy seeing The Muslims and Grand Ole Party. Those bands know how to get people moving and shaking, and it was great to see them in that sort of house party environment. It was like all those parties you go to in high school or college, where your friend’s band is playing in the living room or basement. Except this time the bands actually rocked and the cops didn’t show up, but the neighbors did. To party, of course.
More band photos and crowd shots here.
Every once in awhile, I cruise through my concert photography sets on Flickr, mostly out of curiousity to see which sets are being viewed the most.
Imagine my surprise when I saw that my Electric Soft Parade set, which I don’t really consider to be my strongest overall, has 92 views. Are there more fans of the Electric Soft Parade than I realized? Strange.
The two runners up are the Bright Eyes and The New Motherfuckers/Fifty on Their Heels sets, both at 39 views currently. Most of which can probably be attributed to SD: Dialed In and Cat Dirt Sez linkage (thanks guys!).
Anyway, this is turning out to be a pretty banal post, so I’ll leave it at that. I’m off to Lake Arrowhead in a few hours to attend a retreat for my Ph.D. program. So probably no new posts in the next few days, but I’ll be back this weekend.
Disclaimer: The National has been, hands-down, my favorite band ever since Alligator sunk itself into a location deep in my brain, where it still resides.
That being said, I was absolutely terrified to listen to their new album, Boxer, which is now streaming on their MySpace page and is set to be released next Tuesday. Alligator was just such a perfect album. There are so many intertwining delicacies in it’s melodies, and so many intricate subtleties to its lyrics, all of which are immaculately translated in their live show.
But Boxer, which I literally listened to with crossed-fingers, is just as good as Alligator. There is not a weak song on the album, and several of them will continue to give me chills for months, perhaps years to come. Out of so many outstanding tracks, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’m going to go with “Start a War,” although that decision may be biased by this excellent Take-Away Show. While none of the songs failed to strike me upon first listen, all of them have continued to grow on me. They get exponentially better upon each listen, as I find myself delving further and further into the song structures. You could lose yourself for days in piano lines and brass sections, or in Berninger’s vocals. But even with the addition of more instrumentation, nothing ever sounds overblown. Everything is just…perfect.
Why are you still reading this review? Go out and buy Alligator if you don’t already have it, preorder Boxer, then sit back and stream the album. This band could never disappoint you. Oh, and buy tickets to their show at the Casbah with the Broken West on June 25th. I bought mine the minute they went on sale back in April, and there’s more than a slight chance that I’ve been counting down the days every since.
I have to admit, I was a bit dubious about this show at first. A friend had recalled seeing Bright Eyes at Coachella a few years back, and to his ears, the band sounded less than great at that time. Also, it was at Soma – chances were high that it was going to be overrun by tearful, whiny 16-year-old girls accompanied by their vertically challenged, emo-boyfriends who would cringe to hear them yell, “I love you, Conor!” Maybe I’m just getting old.
But I was pleasantly surprised by both the band’s set and the crowd. There was a fair number of older folks who came out for the show. And even the younger crowd was pretty respectful. I learned that having a photo pass to a show at Soma still means you’re on your own to fight through the crowd to get up to the photo pit. However, I also learned that if you apologize for squeezing past people and explain that you have a photo pass and need to get to the pit, most of the time they are immediately in awe and utterly helpful. Even to the extent of telling the people around them to let you through.
But back to the band’s sound. It was quite a treat to listen to fully orchestrated versions of Bright Eyes’ usually low-fi songs. Some people noted that he didn’t play many of his older songs, but I don’t fault Conor for that. For one, he’s on tour for a new album that was just released. And two, most of his older songs are pretty stripped down, and it takes a lot of time and work to build up an orchestrated version. And the visuals were pretty amazing too, from the band dressed all in white under blacklights, to the flower-draped stage, to the projection screen behind the stage displaying real-time images created by a Conor’s friend back at the soundbooth. And did I mention there were three percussion setups on the stage?
Rosey from SD: Dialed In snagged a photo of the setlist that was much better than mine, taken guerilla-style from the photo pit (what can I say – low lighting means wide-open aperture, which means super shallow depth of field). But according to my notes during the show, there were a few changes. There was another song in between the sped-up version of “First Day of My Life” and “Four Winds,” one which I was unfamiliar with. The snippet of lyric that I managed to write down was “don’t ever buy nothing from a man named Truth.” However, they didn’t finish out this song – as Conor said, it was “a song to stall on.” Then they launched into “Four Winds,” which is a great song, but I can never help thinking that the string melody line sounds like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” What am I doing thinking of that song in May?
They also threw in “If the Brakeman Turns My Way” after “Cleanse Song,” which I was happy about since, with it’s Counting Crows-style chorus, is my favorite song off his new record. He even called his old friend and co-writer Jason out on stage to help him with it. It was quite a moment. After “Cleanse Song,” they skipped “Lime Tree” and jumped right into “I Believe In Symmetry,” which dissolved into a huge rocker of a song. It being about 10:30 at this time, I correctly guessed that this would be their regular set closer. After about a 10 minute encore break, the band came back on stage to play rousing renditions of “Goldmine Gutted,” and “Road to Joy,” before ending their set promptly at 11PM. As everyone filed out of the great concrete heart of Soma, I don’t think anyone would have argued with Conor when he said, “One more time for the best band I’ve ever had.”
Click here for the rest of my photos.
I fussed about a lot with my eMusic downloads for this month. They refresh on the 15th, and except for the Mono album, I just managed to use up the rest of my downloads yesterday. Which was fortunate, because The Clientele released their new album just this week, and it’s fan-fucking-tastic. So without further ado, here’s the list:
- Mono, You Are There – because I was reviewing their show at the Casbah and wanted to at least know what their newest album sounded like.
- The Clientele, God Save the Clientele – because I really like Strange Geometry and I’m reviewing their show at the Casbah on May 22nd.
- Au Revoir Simone, Verses Of Comfort, Assurance & Salvation – I think this album was just added to eMusic, even though it was released in 2006. I’ve been meaning to check oiut this band but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
- The Sea and Cake, Everybody – Again, I’ve heard a lot about this band and have been meaning to check them out. They’re playing the Belly Up on May 21st.
- Someone Still Love You Boris Yeltsin, Not Worth Fighting [single] – I really really like this band and am really curious to hear their second album, considering the first one was pretty perfect pop music.
And that’s a wrap. Only four days until I get to start thinking about what else I want. Now taking suggestions…
Go here to check them out.
Show review and select shots will be posted here as soon as I get to them. Possibly tomorrow, but no guarantees, considering it’s my birthday and all! Wow, hard to believe I’ve been alive for a quarter of a century.
And now I can rent a car without a hassle. Woohoo!
I realized that one of my photos from the Thermals show would work very well in the America theme, which is also scheduled for Issue 11 (submissions close in 30 days!). So, go vote for this one too!
…on my JPG Mag photo submission.
I decided to go with the Mute Math photo. The number of votes a photo receives factor somehow into whether or not a photo gets published, so go vote for mine now. Please…pretty please? Cherries on top?
Having no previous plans for Friday night, I jumped at Cat Dirt’s invitation to come check out The New Motherfuckers and Fifty on Their Heels at the Beauty Bar. I’d only really been to the Beauty Bar once before, and that was shortly after Halloween. That time, I wore my Halloween costume, which consisted of a red sequined dress which fit like Cinderella’s glass slipper and a pair of knee-high white go-go boots. It’s a testament to the patrons of the Beauty Bar that no one thought it was a Halloween costume, and several random people asked me where I got the dress. The answer? For $7 at a thrift store. I don’t understand anyone who would pay more for such a ridiculous outfit, but hey, whatever floats your boat. Anyway.
Got to the show around 10 and had a little bit of time to play around with my camera and my DIY flash-fix for the evening. I don’t have an off-camera flash that will synch with my camera, and there was no way I was going to get any photos in that lighting without flash. So I followed a Flickr friend’s advice and used a few pieces of surgical tape over my on-camera flash to soften it up a bit and diffuse it a little. I think it actually worked pretty well and let enough natural light come through so as to not make my photos look completely washed out.
Back to the music. The New Motherfuckers, a band from LA, took the stage first. They consisted of two guitarists (one of whom occasionally played the keyboard, while the other was the vocalist), a bassist, and a drummer. They put on a solid set of punky, New Wave-y songs which reminded me a bit of the Talking Heads. Or, as Pete put it, “their singer is definitely a David Byrne disciple.” Nothing wrong with that in my book. Afterwards, the singer handed out some free CDs, and I was happy to relieve him of one of them.
The crowd was fairly sparse during the opening set, but filled in nicely once Fifty on Their Heels took the stage. I saw Fifty on Their Heels open for Snowden a few months back at the Casbah, and I liked what I heard then. I liked it even more Friday night. They play old school punk rock – remember when punk rock used to actually have melodies? I was definitely digging their pared down setup of bassist, guitarist/singer, and drummer. Something that managed to escape my notice when I first saw them was how damn good their bassist is. I think a lot of the melody I was picking up in their songs was coming from him. And I also loved the fact that Junior Metro (guitarist and singer) was all over the stage, even jumping into the crowd a few times, and bringing the mic stand into the crowd for their final song. The crowd was really digging them, and I was too. As both a photographer and a fan of live music, I can’t stand it when a band doesn’t move around on stage. It’s just boring, and really, at that point I can just go home and listen to their CD. But both Fifty on Their Heels and The New Motherfuckers brought a ton of energy to the stage, and it translated well into the crowd.
The rest of the photos are here.
Afterwards, Gabe Vega was DJing, so Pete and I hung out and danced for awhile. Why don’t more DJ’s play Blur songs? But then we got a little fed up with the fact that the dance floor is also the hallway between the stage, the bathrooms, and the bar, and that you couldn’t bust a move without bumping into someone. So we headed off to the Whistlestop to meet up with Erin and Tim, but ended up heading out of there pretty quickly as well. Mostly because I couldn’t deal with the fact that my hair reeked of smoke (thanks to the Beauty Bar and their “patio” which is really a tent with no ventilation whatsoever) and my allergies were starting to kick in. I have no idea how I used to manage to go out in bars in PA where smoking is still allowed.
I’m not going to lie. By Tuesday of last week, I was already so tired that I was ready for a night in. But I managed to get tickets for Damien Rice back when it was a sold out show at the Spreckles Theater as a favor for my friend Shannon, so I was locked into reviewing it. And even though I was pretty exhausted, I figured a night out under the stars listening to some melancholy music accompanied by cello was almost as good as a night in on my couch. I’d spent a lot of time listening to O over the years, even if I hadn’t had a chance to pick up Rice’s new CD 9.
So Shannon picked me up and we headed over to SDSU. After scoring some sweet street parking, we wandered around the campus for a bit before finding the Open Air Theater. I haven’t been there since back in 2004 when I went to the FM94.9 Independence Jam, managed to miss half of Death Cab’s set, enjoyed Franz Ferdinand’s set, was thoroughly entranced by Muse’s set, and then left before the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s even finished. But we found the venue, ran into Heather yet again, then settled into our seats, which were good enough for us to not even try to abandon when Damien invited everyone to move down into the empty seats up front.
The first 5 songs were a mix of new songs from 9 (“9 Crimes,” “Coconut Skins,” “The Animals Were Gone”) and some older songs (“Baby Sister,” “Woman Like a Man”). “Woman Like a Man” was definitely a standout, with lyrics like ” You wanna get boned/You wanna get stoned/You wanna get a room like no-one else” contrasting with a sweet, innocent cello melody. The rest of the songs mixed in some of O‘s standouts, including “Cannonball,” “Volcanoes,” and “Older Chests.” In the midst of all this, the band decided to do a random improvised song, asking the audience for 3 chords (Am, G, C) and a subject (Rachel the newscaster). They actually ended up pulling “Rachel the newscaster” up on stage to perform a “news rap.” Naturally, the lyrics she came up with were a little disjointed – hell, if I were unexpectedly pulled up on stage in front of a bunch of people, I don’t even know if I’d be able to remember what my own name was. But it was really interesting to see the whole band come together so quickly on this jam, even while they switched up instruments. And watching Damien come up with lyrics and backing vocals was quite hilarious.
After this improv jam, the band closed with “Delicate,” and “I Remember.” Both songs are extremely emotional, and it was nice to experience them while sitting under a blanket with the cover of night above. However, if one thing was missing from the show, it was Lisa Hannigan on backing and sometimes, as in the case of “I Remember,” lead vocals. I look forward to seeing how her solo career progresses, but it was extremely strange to hear Damien singing the lines that I was so familiar with coming from her. But hey, such is life, right?
After an extremely short encore break, Damien returned to the stage to conclude with “The Blower’s Daughter,” and “Cheers Darlin.” The latter song was actually more of a theatrical performance, because instead of a band, he was singing to a backing track, while smoking a cigarette and drinking wine that was poured by someone dressed as a waiter in a fancy restaurant. Which, if you’re at all familiar with the song, fits unusually well, and it was a good way to end the evening. I left the show feeling utterly relaxed and happy to be in bed by 11PM for once. Ah, but such was not to be. No sooner had I gotten home than Pete called to say that him and the gang (including soon-to-be San Francisco resident Jessica) were at the Whistlestop. Living as close as I do, the only possible response was, “Order me a drink, and I’ll be there in 10 minutes.”
Additional concert notes:
- Celloist Vyvienne Long played one of her songs about halfway through the regular set. It was a very Lily Allen-esque song called “Never Leave You,” containing lyrics like “I know you’re selfish and I know you’re cold/But I know you’ll still be shakin’ it when you’re 65 years old.” Tres amusing.
- Apparantly timpani sticks used in the place of drumsticks is the new hot trick. First saw it during The National’s set last October, and have since seen it with Do Make Say Think, A Northern Chorus, Explosions in the Sky, Republic of Letters, and Damien Rice. Am I just noticing it more, or is it really something that’s being picked up by more bands recently? At any rate, I love it.