Saturday, August 29, 2009

The National/Cass McCombs, August 29 at the Wiltern

The National had played Outside lands in San Francisco on Friday so it was easy enough for them to play a one-off show in L.A., maybe to cover their traveling costs or just to make getting out worth more than one show. I've never seen them as a popular or well-known band (they opened for Modest Mouse opening for R.E.M. two years before) but they'd played just about every American festival for the last year and I certainly won't complain about any venue they play in town; if they can sell the Wiltern then it's good to be in the company of so many people who have great taste in music. The shows I'd seen there recently had started at 9:15, and there wasn't a set-time posted on Twitter, so I got there closer to 8:30, just in case, but I was informed at the door that they weren't going on until 10:30. There isn't anything to do in the area so I got a decent place on the floor and stood. I had some text-messages to get me through but it was mostly something close to meditation. I thought the opener, Cass McCombs (a band, not one person, apparently) might be a good distraction but it wasn't much to talk about; kinda low-beat roots-rock, minus an overly hippie vibe but more denim jackets. Finally the National went on and all was forgiven. They didn't do much new stuff, if any at all, but they played every simmeringly-intense song like it had been a hit. Matt Berninger always seems to be a few short verses away from breaking down but that could be an effect of the music, a show, or the wine he was swigging. The band is appropriately tight and the performance worked well in the dim lights and minimal stage set-up. And indeed, enough people there knew they were in exactly the right place to be.

The National's set-list:
“Start A War“
“Mistaken For Strangers“
“Secret Meeting“
“Baby, We'll Be Fine“
“Slow Show“
“Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks“
“Squalor Victoria“
“All The Wine“
“Apartment Story“
“Bloodbuzz Ohio“
“Fake Empire“

“Green Gloves“
“Mr. November“
“About Today“

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Franz Ferdinand, August 27 at the Palladium

Vanessa and I had the Franz Ferdinand tickets from the Dead Weather show two nights before and we had texted Ahmed and Rachel and they were in for the show as well. Like I did for the other show I rode my bike to the NoHo subway station and rode to the Hollywood & Vine stop, to meet the others for a drink before the show, which of course led to more drinking at the show. I hadn't had high expectations for the show; if the ticket had cost more than $10 or if Vanessa wasn't so excited about it I would have skipped it. Franz's performance at Coachella in 2006 was definitive for me, enough that I didn't feel I had to see them there again in '09 and I wasn't really into their new album at the time anyway. But it didn't matter at the show, since it'd didn't matter what the songs were or how they'd played them in the past. The place exploded into a free-for-all dance-party (at least for us, aided by being fairly intoxicated). They played all the best stuff from the first two albums with an invigorated energy that would make you think it was the first date of the tour, and not just a stop since they were in town opening for Green Day, and the new stuff took on a life of it own well beyond how it was captured on the album. The venue itself, the Palladium, was also a revelation. It had always been my least favorite place to see shows, for various reasons, but it had been remodeled the year before and this was my first visit since then. (And I hated the old version so much that I didn't want to go to the new one until I had to.) The new place was a vast improvement, with an interior that looked brand-new, a superior sound-system, and bouncers as pleasant as anywhere else. Suddenly the place became one of my favorite places for concerts and I would eagerly go there again. We left and were on such a high that bacon-wrapped street-dogs seemed like a good idea, then we got on the train and split up. When we got back to NoHo I talked Rachel into going to Big Wang's for more beer (for me, not her) and when I went back to the station I found that my bicycle had been stolen. It was a lot of mixed feelings, that horrible, dirty feeling of being violated, but on top of a great night with friends and a great show, and I was also pretty drunk. It took me a few days to recover from it all.

Franz Ferdinand's set-list:

"Bite Hard"
"The Dark of the Matinée"
"No You Girls"
"Van Tango"
"This Fire"
"Turn It On"
"Can't Stop Feeling"
"Walk Away"
"Do You Want To"
"Take Me Out"
"What She Came For"
"The Fallen"

"Darts of Pleasure"
"Auf Achse"
"Lucid Dreams

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Dead Weather, August 25 at the Wiltern

Monday morning I sent an e-mail to my concert buddies saying that Austin City Limits for this year (in October) probably wouldn't work. Vanessa e-mailed me back saying that we should try to catch the Dead Weather when they were in town. I didn't know if she was joking so I asked her if she knew that they were playing the Wiltern that very night. She said we had to go, and I was in, so she went there before the show to get some scalped tickets and I rode my bike to the train station then took the train to the Wiltern. Vanessa had the tickets so we had time to get drinks at the restaurant next door, then some other drinks when we got into the place and during the show. They were selling tickets for the Franz Ferdinand show on Thursday for $10 so we got on that. As for the Dead Weather show itself: you keep wanting to see Jack White's new group as a band but you can't help but experience it as being Jack White, even when he's behind the drums and singing barely half the time. It never hurts that the rest of his band melt into the background. Even snarling vixen Alison Mossheart (more in her element in the Kills) can't quite keep up. Jack finally completes being a one-man band by becoming a full-time drummer for a while, making you wonder why he collaborates with anyone else at all. The band seemed to try to cover themselves with volume and strobe-lights for a while, until Jack started singing and the crowd got into it. It seemed like this band had a lot of hype behind them for a while, and the music is probably great, but it seemed that everyone moved on right after, eagerly anticipating Jack White's next, other new band. As it was, none of the songs sunk in with me, though I admit to not being familiar with this material at that time. But Vanessa and I were drinking and having a good time so the rest didn't matter so much.

The Dead Weather's set-list:
"60 Feet Tall"
"Bone House"
"Hang You From The Heavens"
"You Just Can't Win " (Them)
"So Far From Your Weapon"
"I Cut Like A Buffalo"
"Rocking Horse"
"I Can't Hear You"
"No Horse"
"No Hassle Night"
"Will There Be Enough Water?"
"Forever My Queen" (Pentagram)
"Treat Me Like Your Mother"
"New Pony " (Bob Dylan)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunset Junction, August 23 in Silver Lake

Sunset Junction was more being at a street-fair with friends more than a concert. I love street-fairs and I like to visit and support local events but the year's line-up of music acts didn't really turn me on but Vanessa and Rachel wanted to go so I was in. There were probably better days for me: I was hung over and had been up with a girl the previous night/morning. But hanging out with Vanessa and Rachel is always a good day so I got better. I'm not so concerned about the political debacle between the event and the local residents, and I know the festival has changed since its early days (when it was free) and there was probably something to be said about 76% of the crowd being very gay men, but I was more concerned with just hanging out and seeing stuff (but not eating stuff since I wasn't up to it, and not buying anything because Vanessa got the hat I would have bought before me). As far as the music we sampled a few acts: Arrested Development, Morris Day & the Time (which might have had more weight if I had seen Purple Rain for the first time sooner than six months after this), a few others I can't remember, but we only watched for a little while then moved on. The music might give a centerpiece for the event but there's plenty of other stuff to do there on a beautiful California summer day, surrounded by all sorts of L.A. and Hollywood's residents.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lollapalooza, August 8 & 9 in Chicago

Lollapalooza and Wizard World Chicago were the same weekend -- one way or another I was going to be in Chicago the first weekend of August. The original plan, as orchestrated with Seth and including Bart and possibly others, was to do both events... somehow. Lolla's Friday line-up was the weakest and with less of a crowd that would be the best day for a comics convention, then Saturday was good for Lolla but Sunday was even better as far as I was concerned. Seth had to bail at the last minute though Bart was still in, even though he isn't much of a comics fan. I flew in on Wednesday and stayed with my cousin, then went to Rosemont (on the outskirts of Chicago, nearer to the O'Hare airport) to check into the hotel and meet up with the others and register for the convention. It all turned out to work fine: Friday was the convention, though by the time we got down there we had about three hours to get it all in. I had just done the big San Diego convention two weeks before and didn't have any great (or even good) expectations for another one, so I didn't care about missing the greatest part of it. I thought about getting up early to hit the convention for a little bit before the concert over the weekend but I just couldn't get it together. Then I heard afterward that the convention turned out to be pretty good after all. Oh well.

Bart was still in for Saturday so we headed over on the train (a nice benefit for being in town and Chicago having a suitable mass-transit system). We got in, no problem, and apparently it had just rained so the ground was muddy but the air was clear. I got Bart to see the Living Things, putting on their reliable brand of cock-sure, politically-tinged rock, and I think I converted him into a fan; In turn he got me to check out Miike Snow and they were interesting enough (with or without masks) to check out and enjoy when I got back home; Ida Maria brought shame to the organizers for putting her on a side-stage so early in the day but was sexier than anyone there -- band or spectator -- fanning her ever-present gold dress in the heat and showing lots of luscious skin. As it wasn't enough she closed with "I Wanna Be Your Dog", which tried desperately to win the competition for sloppiest cover, though it's the rare song that sounds better when it's the messiest it can get (though never possibly messier than the original); Glasvegas seemed out of place in the sun but at least they didn't look like douchebags when wearing sunglasses appropriately, when outside not inside. And getting from one side of the park is a pain, making me miss "Geraldine", which they inexplicably played first again; TV on the Radio have nearly made their name on inconsistent shows but this was one of the good ones, if a bit mellow (enough that I was able to take a short nap but you really can't blame me: it was hot and I was tired and we had been drinking since we got there); The choice of headliners that night was a tough one: Tool or Yeah Yeah Yeahs. (If it had been the Beastie Boys like was originally planned, this would have been an easy decision.) I might have gone with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, even after seeing them twice that tour already, and I've seen Tool even more than that, but Bart had never seen them and needed to so that wasn't a problem for me. They're the type of band that, while solid musicians, if you've seen then show, with the planned, filmed visuals and rigid set-list, you're probably good for a while if you're not a huge fan. And I'd seen the show. They play so tight, and of course they're tethered to the film playing behind them, that the performance seems staid and sterile and, if the music wasn't so great and you weren't waiting to see if Maynard would do something weird, would probably be fairly dull. Though I hadn't seen them on their previous tour so almost half the material was new to me in a live setting, though the older visuals were the best ones, and ones I'd seen repeatedly before. And in case they needed it, they pulled out "Aenima" which would win over my review that day (though a bit incongruous played outside of southern California). And credit Maynard with keeping it interesting, this time dressing, for some reason, as a cop (lost to us, for how far back we were standing). Then the show let out and Bart and I took the train back to the hotel to meet up with our friends who had been there for the convention, and there's a story about naked women in the opposite hotel wing but that's for somewhere else.

Sunday was when Bart flew back so I was left to do the best day of the show alone. I hurried in to see the Airborne Toxic Event in time and ended up catching some of Bat for Lashes. Also, the dickhead at the gate didn't want to let me keep my ticket -- apparently it was more important that it gets thrown away after it was scanned (or the guy the day before was cool enough to let me keep that day's ticket) -- so that didn't start the day well. But Bat for Lashes were great, laying down celebratory hymns that miraculously worked as well under the sun than at night; Another sold set from the Airborne Toxic Event at the height of the day's heat (which was also particularly humid as it had rained the day before), and good to see that people clear across the country from L.A. also appreciate them. They got a good crowd, playing the main stage; The Raveonettes were also great, turning in some promising tunes from their forthcoming album but also including "Attack of the Ghost Riders"; I had seen Neko Case recently so I ditched the later part of her set. Even in the wet heat she was lovely. Seeing her I happened to be near the autograph tent while the Airborne Toxic Event were singing and with herculean effort I avoided approaching them and making an ass of myself. The wisdom of age (and knowing my own tendencies), I suppose; I didn't know Passion Pit at the time but I'd read everywhere that they were the new, great thing so I checked them out. It's easy to feel like an outsider when everyone around you knows the music and you don't but it was so joyous that it was easy to get caught up in it; The two main draws of the festival for me were on Sunday: Lou Reed and Snoop Dogg. I like both gentlemen (Lou Reed for his Velvet Underground stuff and Snoop Dogg because he's Snoop Dogg) but they hadn't played any festival I'd been to recently and I probably wouldn't go to one of their individual shows. As luck would have it, they were both playing at the same time. If I had known Lou Reed wouldn't be bothering with any of his best (or decent) stuff then I would have seen Snoop. I knew Lou was a notoriously prickly individual but I had held out hope. His set, which started 15 minutes late (which wouldn't normally bother me but this was a festival. I don't care if it was an equipment problem. Shit like that affects the entire day, for everyone), began strong with a rocked-up version of "Sweet Jane", which would have set a great pace if the rest of it wasn't sub-par solo material and songs about New York, while played with a crack backing band, were the kind of stuff that gives legendary-but-post-peak musicians a bad name. By the time he got to his tenth minute of feedback for some song, I was done with it and with him. I didn't think he had much set left but apparently he closed with "Waiting for the Man". Ha, you got me, Lou. You fuckhead; I've become so proprietary with the Silversun Pickups that it didn't seem right to see them rocking a show outside of southern California. They started strong and ended strong. It's great to see a rock band that doesn't feel compelled to play a bunch of ballads for whatever reason that bands play a bunch of ballads at a summer festival for tens of thousands of people; At that point in the day I could have left, having to decide between headliners Jane's Addiction and the Killers. Tough choice, and I wouldn't really win either way. I went with Jane's, taking my time getting over there. I watched from the back, some freakish, messy, and ill-advised circus of a show, Perry throwing everything at the audience like he needed to distract from the music or just burn headliner money. As I sat, having not much else to do, I wondered why I'm not a bigger fan of Jane's: Navarro is one of my favorite guitarists, Perkins is a remarkable drummer, Avery was back with the band, and the songs are a bit druggy (a little embarrassing and forced nowadays when the band is supposed to be sober) but perfect for their place and time. It occurred to me: I can't stand Perry Farrell. He's a crappy singer and an annoying performer, and he's such an irritating clown that I want to slap his irritating clown face every time I see it. On the best day his awful singing could have been compensated by his outlandish behavior but that was 20 years ago when everyone was on drugs. Now, I respect the man greatly: he nearly invented the sustainable American rock festival and he changed "alternative rock" in the early '90s. But I cannot stand the man himself. The band played versions of their tunes even more monstrous and rocked-out than they've been before (though, unfortunately but understandably, nothing from the underrated Strays), even making "Been Caught Stealing" tolerable, until Farrell stomped out whatever fire the songs had with the ear-piercing bullshit coming out of his mouth. I probably missed something but I just felt I had to leave, even before the festival was officially over. I went back to the hotel and took a nice, long bath.