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.