Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Youth Group/Nico Stai/Useless Keys, May 19 at the Troubadour

Vanessa wanted to see Nico Stai because she saw him on YouTube and thought he was cute. I heard the Youth Group album was good so I downloaded it and while I didn't think it was great at the time, I could check them out. Of course we drank considerably before the show. Vanessa also thought the singer of the Useless Keys, a local band, was cute, despite -- or maybe because -- he was about half her age. Apparently Nico Stai had a song on a TV show and, for the first time I'd ever been to a concert, not only was the crowd not mostly male but it was overwhelmingly female (and, unfortunately, mostly my age, from what I could tell). Most of the not-packed crowd cleared after him and then it was Youth Group, who had a bit of a down-beat, James-type vibe, and they didn't sell me any further on their music but I didn't mind them. A night out, in any case, and Vanessa owed me a show for a band she didn't know anything about.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Giant Drag, May 16 at the Troubadour

I had gotten the ticket for the Weenie Roast and gave it some thought: that would be during the day and the Giant Drag show would be at night -- couldn't I do both? I'd just have to leave early (I could miss Weezer or the Kings of Leon) and high-tail it back and hope for no traffic. So I got a ticket for both and crossed my fingers that I could make it work. I thought it would be close so I left the Weenie Roast with a few hours to spare and still had time to stop in for drinks at a friend's party in Burbank. I got to the Troubadour during the opener, in time enough to go to the upstairs bar and have a drink. (I very rarely drink alone but I wanted to celebrate pulling off my plan.) This show was actually an event, being the third or so time that Micah had rejoined the band, and they weren't doing any other shows. They're local (Silver Lake) but they hadn't played in a while and you never know how many more shows they may do or if they will even do any more (despite there only being two people in the band (usually)). Really, if it had to come down to it, I would have picked this show over the Weenie Roast. And Annie didn't disappoint. It'd been four years since Hearts & Unicorns so there was some new stuff but she's a gifted performer and she knew how to balance the set. In-between banter about stopping smoking and label troubles and whatever else she wanted to talk about in that squeaky, little-girl voice, along with the music, and I, for one, was mesmerized. If the White Stripes can play arenas, I don't understand why Giant Drag can't at least get more material to be distributed.

KROQ Weenie Roast, May 16 at Verizon Amphitheater

After the Doves show, I stayed in Orange County overnight (though the drive back home and back to Irvine again wouldn't have killed me) then having lunch with Josh before heading over, I got to the KROQ Weenie Roast. This used to be an amazing festival show that alt-rock radio kings KROQ would put on through the year in the '90s with bands you wouldn't believe, and I didn't go to any of those then (though not for lack of trying), but most of the shows have gone to crap, getting some big names but generally nothing I would want to see (though I went to one a few years ago, when they had some bands worth seeing). And people still go to the show and it still sells out. This year I already knew about the Giant Drag show for the same night, and I thought I might be able to get a ticket for the Weenie Roast, so I felt I had to decide between the two. But Weenie Roast tickets usually sell out instantly so I figured I would leave the decision to fate, try to get a ticket and if it didn't work then go to the Giant Drag show in L.A. instead. I went online when the Weenie Roast tickets went on sale, within a week or so of the show, and as quickly as I went to the LiveNation site, one came up (just one, since I decided it would just be easier to go alone). The best seat was in Loge, which is usually where I sit when I'm there, or worse, and it's fine but it's nothing to fight for. So there was Loge and Terrace behind that then the Lawn. I could pass. But I hung around the site, just to see how quickly it would sell out, for my own curiosity. Sure enough, next it was down to Terrace and Lawn. Half a minute later, just Lawn. But I kept going and refreshed the page and somehow an Orchestra seat came up. I don't know how these things work but I know an opportunity when I see it so I jumped on it and got the ticket. Row Q, most of the way up the section, off to the side, but still closer to the stage than any other time I've been there. So not only did I get a ticket but I got a really good one. As it turns out, when I got there, early enough to see White Lies (the first band on the main stage), barely anyone else was there and I saw no reason to be a goon and stick to my assigned seat. I nonchalantly walked to the front of the section, to the third row (not wanting to be too obvious about it), and watched from there, then Cage the Elephant, which were some ridiculousness, but the singer had a lot of energy, singing while walking up through the middle of the place (and within feet of me). The two bands I had come there to see, the Airborne Toxic Event and the Silversun Pickups, were next, and I got to see them from that close but the seats had started to fill with tools so I moved it back, finally going to my seat, to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs turn in another great performance. They seem to change up their set for every show, never relying too much on the first album and "Maps" but having the confidence to push their new stuff, which is better than the crowd wants to pay attention to. I wasn't there for Weezer, especially seeing their disappointing and way-too-big show just a few months before but here, the size of the amphitheater was perfect for them and it reflected on Rivers, who, while also not playing guitar but rather jumping around the stage and singing, seemed like he was actually having a good time, which lightened the mood of everyone on stage, giving for a better performance than they've probably done in a while. Apparently Josh Freese was on drums, playing below his ability, but leaving Pat to play guitar and hey, man, whatever. Weezer switched from being the last act on the bill of the end of the day to instead around 5, and I don't know what went into that decision but a more than noticeable portion of the audience cleared after that, maybe more than half. It also made it so I didn't have to stay until the very end (if I even felt like that much like seeing Weezer) so I could leave to get back to L.A. in time. I stuck around to see the first half of Jimmy Eat World's set, which was mostly from Bleed American, which is all I would want to see, but it's sad that the band has to rely on material from such a while ago. I had no problem missing Rancid and Kings of Leon, who are apparently a big enough draw to play last, but I heard some of their set on the radio later that night and they sounded all right. As it was, I left in time to get back to L.A., went to the parking lot, which was devoid of people, and some girl walking in asked for my ticket, thinking it might work (I would bet my teeth that it didn't), but I gave it to her anyway, leaving one of the rare times that I didn't keep the ticket to a show. Of course I'd say the best performance of the day was the Airborne Toxic Event, even though they changed it up by making about half of their set new or unreleased stuff, or at least stuff I hadn't heard, which was an odd decision, being the only time they'd play such a big show for KROQ and playing a set that might not play to the crowd who, at best, only know the stuff on the radio. Though it was the first spark of life in the crowd for the day when the band went into "Sometime Around Midnight", though I suddenly realized I'd have to share that song with a lot of people, whether I wanted to or not.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Doves, May 15 at House of Blues Anaheim

Doves are one of my favorite bands and I've seen them when they come to town, especially after missing the show from the tour for their first album and after seeing an amazing show from the tour of their second album. They were going to play the Wiltern in L.A. on a Saturday but I thought I might have my daughter that weekend so I opted for the Friday show in Anaheim, which would have been easier to schedule. The House of Blues is about a quarter the size of the Wiltern, the parking is plentiful and free, and there's stuff to do in the area before the show (being Downtown Disney). The downside would be that I wouldn't get anyone to make the drive to go to the show with me but it could happen that they wouldn't go to the L.A. show either. As it turned out, the show put me in Orange County the night before the KROQ show the next day, which was perfect. I took off early from work (in Santa Monica) and made the drive, getting there in plenty of time. Downtown Disney doesn't have much for me personally so I got to take in the opening acts. Some awful thing called Pop Noir were the first openers, doing a cover of New Order's "Temptation", the thought of which would have been bad enough but the execution was even worse. Next was Wild Light, another American band trying to sound British, this time ripping off Razorlight, making little sense, though if they got even a dozen fans in the U.S., it would be more than Razorlight have. Finally Doves came on and they turned in a solid show, not quite transcendent but more than should be expected from a stoic British band, buoyed only by excellent songs. Their Some Cities album had left me a bit cold but after seeing them play those songs and being more worn and comfortable with them brought me around to them a lot more (even though I'd seen them play those songs on that tour). The new Kingdom of Rust stuff was a cut above, though still not to the level of their first two albums, but they shouldn't be marked off for that. Still a fine show, though a shame that they didn't get more recognition or get around to more of the American summer festivals (or even an appearance at Coachella that they could make).

Doves' set-list:
"Winter Hill"
"Almost Lost Myself"
"The Greatest Denier"
"Kingdom of Rust"
"Black And White Town"
"The Outsiders"
"Caught By The River"

"Here It Comes"
"The Last Broadcast"
"There Goes The Fear"