Sunday, December 2, 2007

Cake, December 2 at the Grove

Cake played the Grove in Anaheim. I'd heard of the venue but had never been there and this was my first chance. It's a good place: real clean, spacious, great sound, modern, and plenty of free parking. Jen is a big Cake fan and I like the band enough that I thought it might be a good show. And it was. Apparently it was for some festival with other bands I hadn’t heard of (which apparently included the Brazilian Girls, Oakley Hall, Detroit Cobras, King City, Agent Ribbons, and the Saltex Brujo -- still bands I haven't heard of. Apparently Cake did that festival tour for a few years, a few times includ the Flaming Lips, Modest Mouse, Cheap Trick, Gogol Bordello and Tegan and Sara. How are those guys able to headline shows with those bands?), which we missed because we decided to go to Disneyland for the evening beforehand instead. But we got there in time to see Cake and they ran down all the hits and the crowd was into it. And Jen was excited to be there. Sometimes it’s fun to take a chance on a band you don’t know and hear something new (except for the stuff that got killed to death on the radio)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

PJ Harvey, October 27 at the Orpheum

Seeing PJ Harvey should be an event when she comes to any town, especially since this U.S. tour only had two dates (in L.A. and in New York). At the Orpheum Theater downtown, which is nice enough, but it's certainly a theater, maybe not the best place for a rock show but small enough that any seat is a great seat (if you can get a ticket and somehow I got lucky enough). Seeing the stage for PJ's show sparsely set up with only a piano, a keyboard, and a few other instrument accouterments, knowing she was going to be playing alone (though "alone" can sometimes mean with only one or two musicians accompanying her), it also meant that the night's show might not completely rock out (not that you would always go to a PJ show to "rock out" but some of her stuff certainly does rock out and it's nice to know that she's not going to have to limit herself). White Chalk, the album she was touring then, is completely piano-based and while it's another great album by her, there was an apprehension that she might not be reaching into her back-catalog. Those fears were completely dismissed when she walked on stage with a guitar (balanced by her wearing a long, antique dress) and, without looking up, slowly burned into "To Bring You My Love" and blew everyone's heads off. Still on the guitar she did a few older songs, which certainly did rock out, even all by herself. She went to the piano and played some lovely (well, for her. Also, quite creepy) songs then back to the guitar then to the keyboard, etc., with the only accompaniment being the roadie that brought out or took away her guitar and helped her set up the instruments. 100% Polly Jean Harvey, all night. And her songs are so short, especially the new ones, that it seems like she played dozens (easily reaching way into her old stuff), even though she didn't play for more than an hour and a half. Polly swore off touring on her last tour and she didn't go back again for that tour but I'm glad she did that show. There was something magical about that evening, with the entrancing songs and the perfect setting and the love from the crowd, that maybe a show like that wouldn't happen again. I can't always say that about every show I'm at but I'm glad it was that night. (Also, a friend told me later that Trent Reznor was there. Oh well. It's L.A.)

Heath went with me to that show, I think the last one we went to together while he still lived here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gogol Bordello, October 25 at the Mayan

I had seen Gogol Bordello earlier in the year at Coachella and it was a life-changing experience, which I told about in great detail to anyone who would listen, so I was baffled when I had an extra ticket for the show at the Mayan. I showed up early to try to sell it, which didn't happen, though I asked a few people there if they wanted it but they probably wouldn't be there and in line if they didn't have a ticket, then a homeless-looking guy bought it from me for $15. I had paid $34 for it originally and would have taken $20 but I didn't expect at that point to get anything for it anyway. Apparently he sold it to someone a few places back from me in line for $30. I never realized that that was how the scam worked. I've always seen people outside a show asking to buy tickets, more often than not they don't even know who's playing, but I always assumed that it was because they couldn't solicit selling a ticket as that would be scalping, and asking to buy one is legal but it shows they are brokering tickets, either selling or buying. In any case, I still got money for it so I didn't mind so much. I got there early enough to have to stand around in the Mayan for about three hours, and tolerating something called the Dub Trio that was opening, but it was worth it. I've seen the Bordello a number of times since then and I've never seen such a vibrant, exciting, energetic, rock-out band in all my years, and it's better to see them in a tiny places that they can test the limits of rather than a giant field at a festival which is nearly impossible to fill. I can't even say I always love the music but the show is spectacular.

I don't go to the Mayan often for shows but when I've gone before it's been a good time. It's in a rough part of downtown L.A. so you have to be a bit careful where you park and it's probably best to have someone with you but the venue itself is fantastic -- good sound, cool place, and some great acts that come through often. It's been a few years since I've been there and it would have been another great show that night except for the assholes that run the place. When you go to a show there's always the guy that tears your ticket or, these days, scans it. I've been to hundreds of shows and I've kept my tickets from every single one (except for one but that's another story); I even used to have a display of them all where I used to live (which would take up the entire wall if I had it now). That night at the Mayan, the guy at the door took my ticket and tossed it in a bin behind him. Hey, man, I wanted to keep that ticket -- but he told me that I could get it after the show. Well, that made me plenty uncomfortable, that there was a chance I wasn't going to get the ticket back and that in all the other shows I've ever been to they hadn't done that and I didn't see the reason to do it anyway, but maybe that's how it was done there and, hey, maybe I really would get the ticket back and I was already holding up the line. Sure enough, after the show I went up to the same guy to get my ticket back and he tried to dismiss me with some "the promoter came and took them all" or some other crap. In his defense, he was apologetic – once I got in his face -- about whatever excuse he was trying to pass by me but it was still crap. There were other people trying to get their tickets back -- other people that were being lied to -- so it wasn't just me. Not that the "manager" (or whatever he was) was any help and not that anybody else from the Mayan had any interest in actually listening to me. Strangely, the ticket broker actually replied to my e-mail to get the ticket back but they had no idea what I was talking about. I talked to the contact over e-mail for a while and she explained that that night at the show there was a problem with the scanning machine so they had to have the tickets -- the whole thing, apparently, for some reason -- to track the attendance. But she sent me a ticket. So it all worked out. I can't say it was the Mayan's fault but after all it hasn't really affected how I feel about the venue. And the broker was amazingly cool about it. It doesn't make up for the "convenience charges" but for just a little while they got a pass.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Jesus + Mary Chain/Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, October 23 at the Wiltern

I wanted more of The Jesus and Mary Chain than I got at Coachella. To my surprise Ahmed is a fan so we made plans to go, even got tickets for the floor at the Wiltern. It seems to be a fairly regular thing that groups from years past get back together, legendary ones or otherwise, no matter how many promises they make that they would never do so, and even a band that doesn't have any new material can put on a show worth seeing (especially since no one wants to hear material made 20 years after the group's creative- and drug-peak); most of the time all anyone wants from these groups are the hits anyway, anything else is extra. And there was some extra at this show, though the hits (like "Head On") came early so the really casual fans could leave. The Wiltern had to contain their sound and maybe the group were sober and too overweight to be real punk rock anymore but I'd like to imagine it was nearly as good a show as they'd ever done, balanced by the fact that it wasn't truncated by a fistfight between the brothers. As great as they were, they were almost blown off the stage by openers Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I'll always give JAMC the win in case of a tie but BRMC were really quite good, better than I'd seen them before, just putting their heads down and playing some solid, bottom-heavy rock. Originally to open was, I think, the Soulsavers, or something that involved Mark Lanegan, and I think Evan Dando played before both groups but we missed the rest.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Electric Six, October 20 at the Casbah

I'd seen the Electric Six numerous times before but this was the first time in San Diego and the first time I'd been to the Casbah. Brian was down there and the show worked out for us, on a Saturday night, maybe their first show in what would become a yearly, early-autumn appearance at the venue. Matt was with us that night too. That night the Casbah became one of my favorite venues: divey but with history, not too big but separated with another bar in the back if the opening band sucks, chatty bartenders who will tell you about No Doubt and Social D (and nearly any other decent band that came up or started in sourthern California) playing there back in the day. It would have been a great night at a bar even if we hadn't been there to see the band. There were a number of people I talked to there who just stopped by the place to hang out and didn't even know what band was playing. Not great for the band (if they can't win over the fans) but a commendation about how cool the place is. I saw Dick, wearing a T-shirt and wool beanie, hanging out at the merch booth right before, and asked if they were going to play "Dance Epidemic" (which had been in my head all day) and he said "We'd be fools not to." Well, duh. Yeah, dumb question. As always before and after, the Six were awesome, playing all the hits, though I don't remember a lot of it because we had hours to kill before the show and we drank considerably. After the show I nabbed the set list from the stage and gave it as a present to Matt, who's always a cool guy. This was also the night that I talked the four girls we'd met there into coming back to Brian's place, but that isn't a story for this blog.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Arcade Fire/LCD Soundsystem, September 20 at the Hollywood Bowl

The Arcade Fire show last week at the Hollywood Bowl was nearly the same one as the one at the Greek a few months ago (same set list as far as I could tell, and Regina seemed to be the only one who changed outfits) but that's not a crime. It's a great show, one I could see once a month and never get tired of. Arcade Fire were already playing the Bowl with only two albums to their credit but you could see their trajectory from their first album, that it was only a matter of time before they played arenas. The Bowl's soundsystem isn't always equipped for rock shows like that but, hey, it's the Bowl. But Arcade Fire need that big, wide-open space to really let their music free. And LCD Soundsystem, the openers, are fantastic. I couldn't quite appreciate both LCD and Neon Bible until later, well after the show, when I really got into those. Maybe this show was just forward thinking.

I don't remember who I went to that show with. I want to say I was with Vanessa but I went to the Greek show with her and she generally wouldn't go to a show twice. I'd also say Jerry but that's only because he lives across the street from there and I always assume I'm at shows there with him because it's so accessible for him.

Arcade Fire's set-list:
"Black Mirror"
"Keep the Car Running"
"Neighborhood #2 (Laika)"
"No Cars Go"
"(Antichrist Television Blues)"
"My Body Is a Cage"
"Ocean of Noise"
"Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)"
"Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)"
"Rebellion (Lies)"

"The Well and the Lighthouse"
"Wake Up"

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wilco, August 29 at the Greek

Wilco were at the Greek the night after the Crowded House show. I got into the show a good 30 minutes late since Dave was late -- we didn't realize they would start so punctually. I never thought about it but there's probably a curfew up there, being near a ritzy neighborhood so most of the shows there start very much on time so they can get done before it's too late. But I got to hear all of it and they played for almost two hours so I don't feel like I missed anything. I always expect them to be more of a loose jam-band but at this show they played their songs tight and there wasn't much messing around. They played all the stuff you'd expect them to (especially if you only know them from the last few albums), including a lot off Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, "Impossible Germany" (one of the best and prettiest songs of the year), and what seemed like a 30 minute long version of "Spiders (Kidsmoke)". Nels Cline is insane, almost a better guitarist than the music needs. Our seats were on the terrace -- not great but, well, the band isn't much to look at but the music of their live show just about can't be beat.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Crowded House/Pete Yorn, August 28 at the Greek

Crowded House playing the Greek on perhaps the most beautiful night of the summer and you might think that it was the best show they'd ever done. They're a band that by now should probably wait until the very end to play their biggest song, "Don't Dream It's Over", but they played it halfway through without making a big deal about it and knew that they had enough other songs that were just as good and they knew the audience didn't need the same trick that could be played by a one-hit-wonder band. They did some off their first album and didn't play anything off their second album until the very end. Other than that, they mostly stuck to stuff off the new album, which sounded better live, and their best songs, not necessarily their singles, including a version of "Whispers and Moans" that sounded better live than on the album (but sadly, no "Chocolate Cake"). There was a moment during "Fall At Your Feet" that Finn repeated the last verse and could have played it off but after the song was over he jokingly made note of it and how the audience sang along anyway and he repeated the lines, more with the audience again than the rest of the band and it turned out to be one of the show's loveliest moments. The guys in the band also bantered easily with each other, like the band had never broken up before. Pete Yorn opened the show, wisely sticking to his first album and the few good cuts on his third, then-current album (though no "Undercover"). However, something odd really happened at the end of his set that made me rethink any live performance by any band: he said that people at Bonnaroo asked him to play his cover of Peter, Bjorn & John's "Young Folks" so he played it again, closing with it. Now, I've seen enough shows and I've seen a lot of bands do a lot of covers but this one seemed really odd. Most new bands that are headlining off their first album will often play a cover or two to fill out their set. Yorn has three albums out, along with a number of non-album tracks. And most bands that play covers of old songs, stuff that's often universally recognized. "Young Folks" just got big a few months ago. And PB&J are still touring now off of that song (as a matter of fact, they were in L.A. just two weeks later). Though that song by them is bigger than any of Yorn's stuff. And ending the set with it? It was a fine version but the fact that he played it just seemed very... bizarre. Lots of housewives there. Paul was supposed to go with me but he couldn't make it so he sent Nancy instead and we had just as good a time.

Crowded House's set-list:
"Something So Strong"
"Say That Again"
"Don't Stop Now"
"Fall At Your Feet"
"English Trees"
"Message Boy" (Split Enz cover)
"Walked Her Way Down"
"Whispers and Moans"
"Silent House"
"Private Universe"
"To Paris"
"Don't Dream It's Over"
"Happy Together" (The Turtles cover)
"Pineapple Head"
"Holy Smoke" (Split Enz cover)
"Pour Le Monde"
"Locked Out"
"Distant Sun"

"Weather With You"
"World Where You Live"
"Mean To Me"
"Better Be Home Soon"