Monday, October 19, 2009

The Bob Mould Band, October 19 at the Troubadour

The Bob Mould Band didn't put on another incendiary show like they did at Coachella but they didn't have to. Once I saw them at the festival, though, I knew I had to check him/them out again for a full show. I've been a big Sugar fan since the early '90s but never got to see them when they were together. The Coachella performance was amazing, and was all that I could ask for. Maybe Bob had more to prove there or he knew that he had a more captive audience that might be there for other bands and he wanted to really sell himself to them or he was pissed about having such an early slot. Whatever it was, I could be a fan for life just for that Coachella performance if nothing else, though that's not to say that there was a thing in the world wrong with the Troubadour show. Just as many Sugar songs and, predictably, more from his newest solo work. I didn't have any Hüsker Dü stuff until just before this so I didn't know any of that, though what he played of it (seeing the crowd's reaction to it, knowing that that was the classic stuff), was great. I'd love to get a set-list so I could see what I heard but didn't realize the greatness of at the time (except that I recognized "New Day Rising" toward the end) but I couldn't find anything. Bob's solo stuff was always hit or miss with me, as I always liked the raw volume of Sugar and his stuff without them is sometimes too acoustic or too experiments, but he mixed it all up together really well, starting with Sugar tracks, going through solo stuff, and ending with mostly Hüsker Dü. As a retrospective of a career up to this point, it was well-rounded and sounded great and in a great venue for it. Opening for him was Spiral Stairs, the other guy from Pavement, and it was a likable set but I never got around to investigating the music more.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thom Yorke, October 5 at the Orpheum Theater

I found out that Thom Yorke was playing a solo show in L.A. just two night before the tickets went on sale, and even then I only lucked into the information and probably wouldn't have found out otherwise (thanks, Consequence of Sound!). Now, you know I'm a big Radiohead fan, even more for the weird, experimental stuff they do, but Thom's solo album usually just goes through me. Frankly, I probably could have lived if I missed the show, but seeing Thom on his own, especially when he wasn't doing a full tour at the time, seemed interesting. What put me over the top was that he had Flea on bass. How does that happen? I thought I'd give it a shot. I was working at a place in Hollywood and planned to get in at 10 a.m., which was also the time when the tickets went on sale. I called my mom to see if she could go on to get tickets for me but she was busy that morning. It would have been easy enough to get to work early but there was street-cleaning that day so I had to park a few blocks away and didn't get in and on the computer until after 10, and didn't even think about it until a quarter after. I'd been to the Orpheum Theater before and knew it was a tiny place and that those tickets would go quickly but I'm not the kind of person to just dismiss it and my curiosity got me to see if the tickets had, indeed, gone that quickly. I logged on to the site to look around and clicked on the event and somehow tickets were still on sale. I clicked through to get a pair and they came up with something in "BOX R", whatever that was. Well, they were tickets, so I went for it. And I got them -- a pair of tickets for a Thom Yorke show a tiny fraction of the size of a place he would normally play at. Surely I'd get someone to go with me or I could scalp them later. I didn't give my amazement at getting tickets too much time but I had to line up someone to go in less than two weeks from then. I started e-mailing and texting around, a few passing interests (Vanessa was almost a go, and she realized later that she should have taken me up on it; Jerry, the only bigger Radiohead fan than me, was out of town), but on the off-chance I texted Seth, who is in Kansas with a wife and kid, and he was interested. We got on the phone and talked it over. By the end of the day he had booked a plane ticket to come to L.A. for two days, to make it to the show. He flew in on the Sunday before and, amidst a flurry of activity, we spent Monday in Hollywood before heading downtown for the show. Thom had played the Orpheum the night before and also a secret show over the weekend and the only thing I read was that he played all or most of The Eraser. Turns out we had box seats, like the ones that presidents get shot in. The Orpheum is such a small place that we could have been in the last row and still have been closer than we'd ever been at any Radiohead show, but the box seats were right off the stage, and we happened to be in the second row of them (after assuming we could push our luck to the very limit and mistakenly thinking we were in the very front, mostly because there was no one sitting in those seats when we got there, but we ended up making friends with the people in that section. We found out that they had paid a few hundred dollars for their tickets). We could have jumped off the seats and been on the stage, we were that close (though from that angle we couldn't see the right third of the stage. I didn't even know Thom had had a guitarist the whole time). Some art-thing called Lucky Dragon opened. Probably the most obscure local band that Thom had heard, fair enough. Finally Thom's new band went on stage, including Flea, and knocked out The Eraser in its entirety. Suddenly the entire album, seeing it performed there in front of me and feeling a part of it, inside of it, it all made sense to me. Not that a live experience should be necessary to enjoying an album but it definitely opened it up to me. Thom's band were mostly studio guys and it showed but that stiffness contributed well to the sterile, sometimes airless spaces of the nooks and crannies of the album. The band included his producer, the legendary Nigel Godrich, defying some kind of record-making rule of producers playing live shows, but it makes perfect sense, in trying to recreate those soundscapes, that there couldn't have been a person brought on that could do it better than the one who helped create them in the first place. It was a high-wire experience, trying to redo live what had been done in the confines of a studio but it worked. Even with Flea, who played other instruments as well as the bass, showed amazing constraint, to the point where you wonder why he was there in the first place, if for no other reason other than just wanting to be part of the music and because he's a superhuman musician. A short break then Thom and company came back to do more stuff, including Radiohead b-side "Paperbag Writer" and some new tunes which were welcomed by the crowd (a rare feat, since they usually only want the stuff they know already. Clearly there were a lot of serious music fans in the audience, which shouldn't be a surprise since The Eraser wasn't exactly a huge hit and wouldn't really turn on any casual Radiohead fan). Drinks before the show, drinks after the show, it was a great night. It was amazing to have Seth come out just for a show but I think it was worth his while. Thom knows how to put on a show, even when -- or maybe especially when -- he's on his own.

Thom Yorke's set-list:
"The Eraser"
"The Clock"
"Black Swan"
"Skip Divided"
"Atoms For Peace"
"And It Rained All Night"
"Harrowdown Hill"
"Cymbal Rush"

"Lotus Flower"
"Open The Floodgates"
"Super Collider"
"Paperbag Writer"
"Judge, Jury & Executioner"
"The Hollow Earth"
"Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses"