Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Saul Williams, March 25 at the Troubadour

I didn’t know anything about Saul Williams except that Trent Reznor had produced his new album but Andrew, a NIN fan dedicated enough to have an interest in Reznor's other projects, said it would be a great show so I went along, also with Vanessa. And it was. The Troubadour is a great place to see a concerts but the sound can be muddy for voices, which makes it poor for a show where there can be a lot of talking if not rapping, which actually didn’t hurt Saul Williams’ performance as everyone in the crowd was shouting along to his words, including the spoken-word parts. But even if you scored it only on the music it would still be a success, getting big chunks of dance-industrial with the weirdo rap, making for an interesting experiment (and perhaps even better on disc). And the fact that I got street parking made for a great evening as well as being with my friends. And maybe Reznor was in the audience that night? Who knows?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nada Surf/Sea Wolf, March 19 at the Fonda

Seth got me into Nada Surf a few years ago and Vanessa got tickets for the Fonda show so we checked them out. Their early stuff was scrappy, indie-pop-punk, in the Weezer mold (their first album was even produced by Ric Ocasek) and they were popular for a little while due to a song called, aptly enough, "Popular", which I think was used as the theme for some TV show. I couldn't tolerate the song then and Seth said they'd never played it in all the times he'd seen them in concert but, just my luck, they played it that night at our show. At least the rest of the set was good. Their stuff after that first album was a lot more M.O.R. and fairly breezy but in concert it was heavier. Vanessa said it seemed liked there was some inspirational/religious themes going on with their music but I have to say I enjoyed it just because it was good to see a band that actually seemed to be really excited about playing live. Openers Sea Wolf, a local band who apparently had some songs on the radio, were great. I picked up their album later on.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Nellie Mckay, March 14 at Largo

One of the best things about living in the Los Angeles areas is the kind of special shows you can get to. Nearly every band comes through town (or at least close enough), as well as the secret shows, warm-up dates, beginning or ending a tour (sometimes both), and big acts doing shows in small places. Nellie McKay isn’t a big name but she should be. She also doesn’t tour (though she toured enough a few years ago to open for Alanis Morrissette, I recall reading) and she’s not well-known (though she had a short article in Rolling Stone and they rated Get Away from Me, her first album four stars (still underrated)) but she does shows here and there, usually a few in L.A. every few months, and usually at Largo, when it was at the old location on Fairfax, which at least used to be a small restaurant/bar that hosts low-key acts (often Jon Brion and sometimes Aimee Mann) and comedy (Sarah Silverman and David Cross are there so much you’d think they live there). Vanessa had never been there (though she’s lived about two blocks away from there for years) so I made dinner reservations for the show (having dinner there is how you reserve a place for the show). At a small place like that, any seat is near the stage but we were only a few feet away. Ms. McKay came out and played a charming set, mostly on piano but also some ukulele and she worked the crowd until there couldn’t have been even one person who wasn’t under her spell. I told Vanessa that she didn’t need to know the songs since it was more about the show than hearing familiar songs and McKay played a few songs even I hadn’t heard (including feminist anthem "Mother of Pearl" and "Zombie"), surely some new songs she’d been working on, and probably some old ones I just hadn’t heard. Between songs she told jokes and it was hard to tell what was practiced and what was just coming to her at the time. I don’t know if the loopy blonde is a character that McKay is playing or if that’s really her (the ditzy genius) but whoever she really is, she puts on a fun show. She probably isn’t playing anywhere near you but if she is, you really ought to go. She’ll probably be playing somewhere small.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Raveonettes/Be Your Own Pet, March 4 at the El Rey

The Raveonettes and Be Your Own Pet aren't two groups that you would normally think go together. I happen to be a fan of both and I would maybe-probably go to see each individually but put them together and it's an essential show. There were a lot of people at the El Rey that were there to see each seperately but I can't imagine there were many people who would have hated the others' music, as disparate as those two groups might be. Be Your Own Pet might have always been an opening band at that kind of venue, only because they can do a full set of their scrappy, teenaged thrash-pop songs, about 20 songs, in less than 30 minutes, but it's a crying shame that Paramore -- who ripped off everything about BYOP (including their home-town) but were more palatable and far less fun -- are big and BYOP aren't. The Raveonettes play '50s/'60s-retro surf-sex rock and not much fun (compared to BYOP) but it's well-crafted and seductive and entrancing. So if you think of it as seeing two really great bands quite possibly at their peak at this moment, then they absolutely fit for a great show. It was shortly after that that BYOP broke up and, one of my great regrets, that was the one time I got to see them, even sadder because I got even more into them after that. In any case, Vanessa went with me to that show since she's a Raveonettes fan but I couldn't quite get her into BYOP.

The Raveonettes' set-list:
"Dead Sound"
"That Great Love Sound"
"Let's Rave On"
"Red Tan"
"Love In A Trashcan"
"Expelled From Love"
"Attack of the Ghost Riders"
"You Want The Candy"
"Black Satin"
"French Disko"
"'Aly, Walk With Me"