Show Review: The Clientele, Beach House, Electric Soft Parade @ Casbah, 5/22/07

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.”