Friday, December 10, 2010

Warpaint, December 10 at the Troubadour

I had seen Warpaint just a few weeks before, opening for the XX, but I got obsessed with their album only after that and a smaller show seemed more appropriate anyway. The first show at the Troubadour sold out but they added another (on an even easier night) so Carla and I went. At the show before, they seemed so tight and professional, as they should be to make the best impression as an opener, but at the club show they were looser, more casual, and a little rougher, though their sound didn’t suffer a bit; more like a band that actually wasn’t expected to be the next big thing. Being in that enclosed space among a devoted, rapt audience (most of which were probably friends and family or have been following them around L.A. since the beginning), along with some beautiful and rich music, it was a hypnotic experience. Even if they didn’t explode in popularity right away, hopefully they’ll keep gigging until they make it big like they’re supposed to. It certainly doesn’t hurt to play every festival they got invited to (the ones for hip, good music, not always the alt-rock radio stations). Why don’t they team up with the Like and rock out with all the all-girl L.A. bands? (Also to make it easier to see these local bands that I inexplicably kept missing for years.)

Warpaint’s set-list:
"Set Your Arms Down"


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Faith No More, November 30 at the Palladium

I’ve never been an enormous Faith No More fan but I wanted to see if they were capable of putting on more of a show than they did with all the novelties at Coachella. I thought for sure that they could rock out a lot more with their own show and didn’t have to rely on joke-covers. As it turns out, doing a longer show only meant more silliness. Not that they couldn’t rock out. When they got down to it they rocked harder than nearly any other act I've ever seen. They might be old guys now they have the experience and the songs to play hard, loud, and fast. Their first song of the night, the now-old joke of "Reunited" hung notes in the air that were supported only by the anticipation of what song they were going to tear into when they finally got the funny (to them, at least) out of the way. And when they finally got to it they exploded. When they were on, they were on fire and right on target; when they weren't it was just more novelty songs, which might have broken the consistency of the show but at the same time, maybe it paced them so they could get through the whole thing. It was definitely an old-school crowd but there's a lot that the younger set could learn from them -- namely, if you're going to joke around on stage, be ready to bring it after you're done with the punchline.I met up with Ahmed for the show but we couldn't find Andrew (though younger than me, a much bigger FNM fan).

I met up with Ahmed for the show but we couldn't find Andrew (though younger than me, a much bigger FNM fan).

Faith No More’s set-list:
"Reunited" (Peaches & Herb cover)
"From Out of Nowhere"
"Everything's Ruined"
"Surprise! You're Dead!"
"Poker Face" (Lady Gaga cover) intro/"Chinese Arithmetic"
"Last Cup of Sorrow"
"Cuckoo for Caca"
"Easy" (The Commodores cover)
"Midlife Crisis"
"The Gentle Art of Making Enemies"
"I Started a Joke" (Bee Gees cover)
"Ashes to Ashes"
"Just a Man"
"Chariots of Fire" (Vangelis cover)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weezer/Best Coast, November 27 at the Gibson Amphitheater

Sometime in the late summer or early fall the tickets for the short Weezer tour went on sale. Of course Noa had to go. I would have skipped it, having had my fill of Weezer for a while, but they did the one thing that could get me to see their concert: They committed to playing all of Pinkerton. While I can’t say that I love Weezer anymore, I will have Pinkerton on my top 100 albums of all time for a long time. So I told her I was in and we planned to get together for it. (She also had tickets for the night before, when they were playing the Blue Album but that was way more than I needed.) As it turned out, Noa got sick and she had to give up her tickets (and she had to have been deathly ill for her to miss those shows). I don’t remember what she did with the first night’s tickets but since I was going to the second night I took the other ticket she had and, since she was with me, took Carla with me. Noa gets her tickets through e-mail nowadays and I didn’t think I’d have a problem printing out the tickets on my own but I had printer problems (yet again. That printer didn't last much longer after that) and I knew that I couldn’t take it to Kinko’s (since we had a problem with accessing the site there before). I had a bit of luck and was able to get the printer to work but it was nearly at the last minute and we rushed to Universal, getting there in the nick of time to see Best Coast, but only because we valet-parked (and that cost $25). Best Coast is another local band that I’ve missed until they got (relatively) big but that they were opening was another clincher in the deal for me to go to this show. Live, they were a little flat, only showing that their debut album owed much of its thrill to the production but it was still a good enough performance, especially considering they weren’t really built to play a place like the Gibson. Weezer went on, beginning not with Pinkerton but with a best-of set showcasing pretty much post-Pinkerton, an era when Rivers decided to go along with his fame and become a real, full-time musician, though it might also be argued that it was when he approached it as a job and lost the spark that made the band’s early stuff so loose and fun. It could also explain why they did this full-album cash-grab, since they could feel their relevancy slipping away as Rivers kept pooping out new music, perpetually with lessening returns, and felt that they could get the spotlight again, playing their most beloved albums, even if they hadn’t played more than a sparse spattering of Pinkerton since they originally toured (limply) for it and, as it's said, an album that Rivers would rather forget. Also goes to show why Rivers has let go of the control over the band that he held with an iron fist in the past: by letting the other guys write or sing some of the new material, he can care even less and the rest of the guys are happy, even if they suck. At least Rivers was smart enough to get an awesome drummer to replace Pat when he decided to play guitar, which also means that Rivers doesn't even have to play guitar anyone, though with Josh Freese on drums, it only shows how much a marginal drummer Pat is. There’s so little that Rivers does with the band anymore, it’s a surprise he even shows up for the shows. As for Pinkerton itself, the performance was mostly flat and joyless, which is mostly what it was on the album, on purpose, and while that was part of the album's charm, it doesn't work as well live, and so to say it was even more flat and joyless in concert is remarkable. It wasn’t bad (and credit for playing two B-sides, including "Suzanne," secretly one of their best songs), since the songs were still the same, but it was clear that they engaged a lot less with their own material than the audience did, which is sad since it's sad that Pinkerton was the start of the mass-market emo movement. The kids at that show grew up with and were built from that album so they probably didn’t notice or care that it was a lackluster performance. Even though I knew that it wasn’t going to be a great performance, I still had to go, to experience all of those songs performed live all at one time, especially since they'll probably never bother to do it again, if they even play any of those songs at one of their standard shows. It could be either good luck or bad luck that Weezer are still together so it’s fortunate to get to see their best songs performed, even if it's by the modern-day version of Cuomo and the band. It was probably the only way to make their newer music sound vibrant and exciting, to do a set of songs they were playing begrudgingly against a set of stuff they actually wanted to do. But really, if they played all of their stuff like the set they played before Pinkerton, they might be able to reach the heights they once (almost) had (as long as they keep away from the stuff from the accursed Red Album).

Weezer’s set-list:
"Pork and Beans"
"The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)"
"Perfect Situation" (with Jorge Garcia)
"Dope Nose" (Scott Shriner sang, Rivers played guitar)
"Island in the Sun" (with Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast)
"Hash Pipe"
"You Gave Your Love to Me Softly"
"Only in Dreams"


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Greg Dulli, November 16 at the Troubadour

I’ve seen Greg Dulli before, back in the day with the Afghan Whigs then later with the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins, even a night co-billed with Mark Lanegan (though pretty much still the Gutter Twins), and it was always a great show, but in his later groups he's seemed like he was always holding something back. With the Whigs he was chatty and cantankerous (and probably also drunk and/or high); these days he's trying to be cool in front of Lanegan, say, or maybe just getting older and sober and letting his songs -- the good, new ones -- speak from themselves. As it was, this was billed as a show featuring not the band but the man himself so it could have gone anywhere, and that was the fun of it: was he going to show off the new stuff or would he reach deep into the catalog or could it be a bunch of covers (as he’s known to whip out spontaneously) or maybe be a little of all of that? Was he going to rock out or was he going to keep it cool and low? He certainly had a smorgasbord of material -- even just originals -- to choose from. Even with only two other band members -- and one of them being a violinist/cellist/upright bass player; no drummer -- he can still fill a room, with people and with sound. Even playing stripped-down, the band still rocked-out as much as if they were a full band (though the Troubadour's sound-system and the relatively small space could get some of the credit. It's never sounded better, though it helps that there was little distortion in the music and there wasn't a bunch of extra noise in it). He started out (only 20 minutes late) with what some might have considered an acoustic set then he brought out a very special guest -- the Whigs' bassist, John Curley -- and it suddenly became a very special, near-Afghan Whigs show, the closest we've gotten in more than 10 years. Curley fit in just fine with the band, playing mostly later Whigs numbers, but for the real fans that were there (and how many weren't long-time Whigs fans from way back when?), it was as close to rapturous as anything could get. Even for those few songs, it would have been more than enough, for the price of the ticket and for a satisfactory show by the current version of a rock star (in his own mind if not in fact). Of course Lanegan came out to guest for a song and Petra Haden also appeared, to play some of the new songs that she helped record. The rest of the show was, indeed, a mix of the stuff by rest of his groups, certainly his right to play, including stuff from the soon-to-be-released new Twilight Singers album, and it all sounded great. Though still the highpoint would be the Whigs stuff, the stuff that really rocked out, though “Teenage Wristband” never disappoints in that regard (but of course you knew I would have to say that). Carla and I went with Cid & John and we all waited around afterward for Dulli to come out to the merch table to sign stuff (something I likely wouldn't have done if I were there alone). Of course we were at the front of the line. I’ve met him before and I had nothing for him to sign this time but I still had to make an effort to engage him somehow, if only to have an etched memory of the event, so I said I was a fan and asked if there was any chance for the Whigs to get back together, maybe even to play Coachella. To the latter question he said, “It’s too hot,” then for the former, “Ain’t gonna happen, dude.” Though it makes me wonder: if he’s still cool with Curley, and they could get a new drummer (as the Whigs had a revolving cast in their day), and obviously Dulli doesn’t mind playing the old stuff (unless he was just doing it to include some Whigs stuff for his solo show since he knew the audience would expect it), and if it’s not legalities stopping them from getting back together (since those kinds of things can be worked around), and assuming it’s not McCollum holding them back (though I would guess that this is the main reason), then what’s the deal? Maybe we should have waited at the back of the line so I would have had time to get a more complete answer. Then again, the music always speaks for itself, the man’s new stuff is still good, and the old stuff was magic for back then and it's good now in its recorded form. That’s all we need. Though it’s nice when you get more than you were expecting.

Greg Dulli's set-list:
"St. Gregory"
"God's Children"
"Blackbird & The Fox"
"Bonnie Brae"
"A Love Supreme"/"Please Stay (Once You Go Away)"
"The Killer"
"What Jail is Like"
"Let Me Lie To You"
"Forty Dollars"
"Step Into The Light"
"If I Were Going"
"Summer's Kiss"
"Follow You Down"
"The Stations"
"Never Seen No Devil"

"Candy Cane Crawl"
"Down the Line" (José González cover)
"Teenage Wristband"
"The Twilite Kid"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ghostland Observatory, November 4 at Club Nokia

Rachel’s birthday happened to be the same day as the Ghostland Observatory show so it was decided that that was what we were going to do that night to celebrate, also a Thursday, often the best night to go out. There was a group of us, most of the drinking group at the time, and we had drinks and dinner at the adjacent Trader Vic’s beforehand, an added significance of the event being when Carla met a lot of my L.A. friends. This time Club Nokia wasn’t a bad place for the show, not being so packed that we couldn’t get around, dance if we wanted to, and not so exclusive that the only place we were allowed to stand was a three-foot square at the very back of the place. Jenn had been raving about Ghostland for years, and I missed them at Coachella and other fests I’ve been to, so I was glad to finally see them, though I was not versed at all in them. The laser-light show would have been enough even without the music. As it was, I don’t recall any of the music they played since I was busy dancing and being silly and then, during the encore, um, hanging out with Carla back by the bar.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, October 30 at the El Rey

The Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan show I might have skipped, as much as I like Campbell on album and Lanegan on anything, but Carla was all in for it. She got us tickets, which were bafflingly not sold out, and it was a Friday, at the end of the day of celebrating Halloween at work. We were even able to make our way to within ten feet of the stage, though that show was more about the music than people on stage. To even further make that point, in standard stage lighting for a concert Campbell and the band were lit well but Lanegan was, more than likely, purposely outside of a spotlight. He wasn't harder to see so much as dimly lit to enhance his physical darkness and gloom, the contrast with Campbell's light and beauty being what makes their music so fascinating, listenable, and unique. Lanegan might have been adding some dark to the light but the brightness was also able to shine into his dimness. The music was its own slow, pretty thrill, an old-school country twang at parts, some bits from Campbell's cello that would have been suitable for slow-dancing (if anyone in L.A. ever did that in public). Opener Willie Mason (whose performance we missed) came on stage to reprise some of the parts he did on the most recent record, and Victoria Williams came by for a cameo, but none of the extra performers ever distracted from the two main stars, carefully balancing each other out between darkness and light. (I couldn’t find the set-list for the show that we were at but the songs and order seemed very similar for the other shows on that tour that I found.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Electric Six, October 22 at the Key Club

One of the things that attracted me initially to Carla, when we were still talking online and before we had met in person, was that she know who the Electric Six were, much less was a fan, even more much less saw them at the Troubadour years ago, before I even knew about them. I had had a ticket from months before (even without a plan to go with someone) and I mentioned to Carla about going and she dug one up from a blogger she knew so we were set for another show together. We hit the sushi place across the street beforehand, a ritual shared with a number of concert-companions before a lot of shows (but a special dinner for us), and got in to the show just in time to get a drink and find somewhere to stand (in this case near the back of the place/near the entrance, but in a place as small as the Key Club, still a great line to see the stage). At this point the yearly Electric Six show is just a regular event and the set list changes only to accommodate a few new songs and Dick's jokes, which are different enough since last time to make you think that he probably uses the same cracks from show to show (as reported that he said the same things about his drummer being the glue of the band the night before in San Diego) but remembers the ones he used last time. But I have yet to be to an Electric Six show that was any less than thoroughly awesome (though if I had to count something off for this one I would say I was bummed by the exclusion of "Improper Dancing" and the extra song they wedge into it) and I might have to admit to being distracted but Carla was as into the show as I was and we rocked out (as we do). Then as soon as the show was over we were out.

The Electric Six’s set-list:

"After Hours"
"Be My Dark Angel"
"Gay Bar"
"Gay Bar Part 2"
"She's White"
"Body Shot"
"Jam It In the Hole"
"The Future is in the Future"
"Bite Me"
"Formula 409"
"American Cheese"
"Danger! High Voltage"
"I Buy the Drugs"
"Down At McDonnelzz"

"Rubberband Man"
"Dance Epidemic"
"Dance Pattern"
"Dance Commander"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Interpol, October 19 at the Fox Theater

Amazingly, I think I've only seen Interpol a few times, mostly at festivals. They were doing a show at the Greek, and Vanessa invited me to go, but it was on the same weekend of my nieces' birthday party so I couldn't do it. But they were doing a show at the Fox in Pomona and that would be easy enough for me to get to after work. I went online as soon as they went on sale to get one ticket, assuming no one would want to drive all the out there with me for the show, and I got a general admission balcony seat, though I don't remember if I had an option for a floor ticket or not; the balcony was more expensive and I might have thought I would prefer to sit, I don't recall. In the time between getting the ticket and the show I met Carla and I invited her to the show. For some reason it didn't even cross my mind that the show might be sold out. She worked her contacts to try to get a ticket but it didn't happen. She went on Craigslist and there were plenty of tickets for the floor but nothing for the balcony. There were a few options that we had, including showing up and trying to get a ticket from a scalper or someone whose guest stiffed them for the show, but instead she got a pair of floor tickets and I lined up someone to buy my ticket from me. Of course there were a few problems with that plan: the tickets she got, which she picked up less than two hours before the show, could be fake and the guy who wanted my ticket could stand me up. However, we had no reason to fear. Everything went off exactly how it was planned, even leaving us a good half an hour before the band went on to get a drink. I might have gone on about how nice the Fox Theater is and it's true every time. A bit of a pain that the restrooms are upstairs and across the way but it's a minor complaint compared to how great the place is, to say nothing of the free parking. We didn't bother with openers White Rabbits. We didn't get much closer than the second-to-back section but the only reason to get close to the stage is to see what the guys are wearing that night. I thought it was odd that they were going on so early, at 9:15, but they went on right on the dot and didn't stop playing until more than an hour and later, taking a quick break before the encore, then three more songs for a show that was close to two hours. That's the best value I've had for a show in a while. And it was a great show, as it always is with those guys, even if their newer material isn't quite as strong as the older stuff, and that they hardly played anything off the first album. But it was great. And I really don't have much else to say about it except that it was a great night with Carla.

Interpol's set-list:

"Slow Hands"
"Take You On A Cruise"
"Rest My Chemistry"
"Summer Well"
"Memory Serves"
"Leif Erikson"
"Say Hello To The Angels"
"Try It On"
"Not Even Jail"

"Hands Away"

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mumford & Sons, October 18 at the Palladium

I have to admit I wasn't really into Mumford & Sons before the show. Vanessa suggested going and got the tickets and I went along, mostly just for a night out, but I got a copy of the album and it was pleasant but nothing that really got me going or that I wanted to listen to it repeatedly except for becoming familiar with the songs to get ready for the show. I wouldn't even have been able to imagine how they had gotten so big – selling out the Palladium, which is not a small place, and tickets going for at least $100 online. I probably wouldn't even have heard of those guys if it wasn't for Vanessa, though I noticed that they had played Lollapalooza, if that's remarkable. But I had a feeling that there was something in the music that sounded flatter on record than it does live. And indeed, I was right. There were a whole lot of people there, mostly in their 30s it seemed to me (I guess I could just relate to them physically), and they were really into it, more than I would have guessed. It was about four or five songs in that I realized that the band hadn't even yet used the drum kit that was set up behind them. This band, a group of Englishmen playing bluegrass, looking and sounding like Ozark hicks, were really getting a few thousand L.A. hipsters moving? It was a pretty amazing sight. Even more to the point, they played their last song completely without electricity, completely unplugged, not even with microphones, and it would have been hard to hear them across an empty room, much less among those few thousand people trying to be silent, but they did it. There were angry shushs and surely a few that thought this was just another show in L.A. that they could freely conduct a conversation through, but it was at a point where you could hear the air-conditioning above. If you would have told me that you could get that at a show in the city I wouldn't have believed you. It's a band that you have to see live to really get. I reckon I'll listen to the album differently now, though I'd rather see them in concert, to get the full effect.

Vanessa and I didn't get messy (or at least I didn't) but we did okay. And it was a rainy night. A shame that people from dreary England come to California and it has to be one of the few days of the year when it rains.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The National, October 16 at the Fox Theater

As is often the case when having a daughter that I spend time with on alternating weekends, I can't plan far in advance for the end of the week, sometimes not more than just a few weeks at a time, and while I usually have a schedule flexible enough that this isn't a problem for a lot of other plans, it can make getting tickets to shows difficult when they go on sale months ahead of happening. I had missed the National on their L.A. date, which was at the beginning of their tour, before the new album had come out, but they did a show in Pomona, just outside of L.A. (another great thing about being a concert fan in this city). When I found out a few weeks before that I had the weekend of that show open, I got a ticket. To be honest, I didn't rush since I just didn't love their newest album, High Violet, for which they were touring. After Boxer I got all the albums before that and I loved them all, though I knew they wouldn't play anything before Alligator in concert. They were getting a considerably higher profile for the newest stuff, which I only started warming up to right before the show, and they were playing bigger venues (hopefully the Greek the next time, as they would be more than perfect there), and it was good that they were getting the exposure they deserved, I just wish I myself could have been more engaged in the material. But I got two general admission balcony tickets anyway, one for Jaime, who I was going to shows with at the time. It was on a Saturday so I didn't have to rush out to Pomona, and we got there early enough to get an awful Mexican dinner beforehand, skipping opener Owen Pallett, who I had seen at Coachella anyway. We got in about 20 minutes before the band were slated to go on, and some of that was chewed up by the line for the restroom, and when I went to scout the balcony 10 minutes before the band went on there was barely a seat. I finally found two seats way over on the right side, near the top, and they were still great seats, as the venue is small enough that you can see the band clearly from anywhere up above, and while we were just lucky to have found seats together, I have to wonder what happens when there aren't enough seats to accommodate everyone at a sold-out show. Luckily we didn't have to test it. The show itself was filled with wonderful music but it was unextraordinary. It wasn't like the band was going to whip out surprise covers or special guests; they're only concerned with making great, tuneful, dark yet beautiful music. And my calling it unextraordinary actually isn't to be demeaning at all or say that there was anything at all in the world wrong with it, though I have to say that even live the newer stuff didn't set me on fire. But the stuff from Boxer and Alligator were barn-burners and it all did fit really well together. They ended with a track that they performed with a stage full of unplugged instruments, even singing without amplification, letting the audience fill the place with song for them. It was a quiet moment (out of necessity) but wonderful, pulling all the passionate fans into song with them, bringing everyone together for just a few moments in time. Jaime had a great time, and I turned her into a fan of the band, though we broke off our relationship a few days later. Hopefully the band doesn't split up now, at the current height of their success, since from here there's every reason to think they could go even higher. The Hollywood Bowl could be a good place for them too (and not just there opening for R.E.M.)

The National's set-list:
"Anyone's Ghost"
"Mistaken For Strangers"
"Bloodbuzz Ohio"
"Slow Show"
"Squalor Victoria"
"Afraid Of Everyone"
"Conversation 16"
"Apartment Story"
"Daughters Of The Soho Riots"
"Fake Empire"

"Mr. November"
"Terrible Love"
"About Today"
"Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Miike Snow, October 15 at the Wiltern

Noa invited me to the Miike Snow show and I had the night free so I was in (Ghazaleh went too). I can't say I'm a gigantic fan: I saw them at Lollapalooza and liked them enough to get the album, and I saw a bit of them at Coachella, but I wouldn't have shelled out the cash to see the show alone. They're a group of producers who can write some really catchy stuff (having done some big-deal stuff for Britney Spears, which likely bankrolled their own material) and decided to make their own album, which is fairly faceless but it's agreeable enough. It could be a pop album if they had a good singer or a broad personality behind it but they have to settle for being a marginal indie-pop band, weird since there's a European sensibility to their music but also making them a bit exotic and sexy. We got there early enough to see opener MNDR, who was some chick with an effects board and a screen behind her that changed when the music/noise changed and I couldn't make out what she was singing and it was probably better on album but live it was just some boring techno and a chick dancing weird. Then Mark Ronson & the Business Intl., who could have just done a bunch of covers and left it at that. But the music was actually fairly catchy and well-performed and the covers (which Ronson built his first album from) that were played were agreeable enough, though Radiohead's “Just” as the second song was trying too hard. You could do worse with a performance by a producer-turned-musician. Our seats weren't great, which was a bit rough since I'm so used to standing on the floor or at least being at the front of the balcony, but considering that Noa got the tickets just a few weeks before the show, and for some reason it sold out after that, they weren't too bad. Besides, we got a good view of the stage and the Wiltern isn't so gigantic that a far-away seat ruins a show. Miike Snow went on, after an achingly long introduction, with fog machines layering the entire stage and everything else under smoke, which stayed for the entire show, usually obscuring anyone playing or being present on-stage. There were a few times that there was someone visible on stage but I couldn't tell you what they looked like or what they were wearing or if they were wearing those masks or not. It was a pretty standard show -- some good tunes but only so much of a set you can milk from one album. Stage banter was far from the centerpiece of the show and they let the music speak for themselves. The crowd was into it, maybe more than they should have been for a band of aging producers in masks but it speaks for the catchiness of the music and how quickly each song gets to its hook. Also, it was a Friday night and there were drinks. The show's structure was fine, clearly saving "Animal", their biggest hit (if they had one) for the end, except that there was some technical problem and they ended the show before they played it. I couldn't tell what the problem was, maybe something on-stage, but they stopped after a little over an hour and said that they would start the show again once they fixed what was broken. This stretched into a long intermission but there was still hope. As they were getting set up again they even played a few beats from "Animal", clearly as a test, and the crowd would have gone crazy if it hadn't been over as quickly as it began. They finally came back and played what would have been the first song in an encore, but not "Animal", then said good-bye and slank off the stage with no further sound coming from them. The crowd held their breaths, hoping that there was still hope, that maybe this was the end of a standard show and that they would come back for a real encore (or just a proper ending to the concert) or to play their biggest song, to this point suspiciously absent, but it just didn't happen. By the time the house-lights came up, everyone knew there was no point in arguing and it was just over. This wasn't the type of crowd to riot. It would have been a suitable show, and a band doesn't have to play their hits for it to be a good performance, but that a favorite song by a band who haven't proven themselves beyond ten songs wasn't played, whether it was through their own fault or otherwise, left a bad taste. Even worse that it was the last show on their tour. It's likely they'll be back but hopefully that show won't be a permanent bad mark on them. Just as well if it is, since they'll just go on being producers and probably have an even better career than performing the music themselves. But if there was anyone on the fence about them, that incident could be just the thing to prove there won't be much of an enduring interest in them. You can't cover a fatal error in a show with a mask or a fog machine.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bettie Serveert, October 13 at Spaceland

Some bands are together longer than what might be best for them. Though it isn't always a horrible thing when they do. Bettie Serveert – a Dutch indie-pop-rock band fronted by a cute Canadian chick who defies all age – are one of my favoritest bands and it's always a pleasure to see them when they play in town (though I had to miss them the last time they played, three years ago). If there's any recognition of them at all it's from the early '90s when they were signed to Matador, when that label was coming up with Liz Phair and Guided By Voices and such. They were never the marquee band on the label but people seemed to know them and they toured like crazy, getting a lot of recognition as openers. They turned in some amazing albums, ones that are enough to propel them to some kind of success even today. But it was after that heyday that they released Dust Bunnies (still one of my all-time favorite albums) and they got dropped by Matador and it seemed like they've been downhill since. Switching from small-label to smaller-label is never great and it doesn't hurt that the band has always had a goofy name (no, they're a band, no one is called "Bettie", and the name comes from a Dutch translation of a tennis term). They've still made fantastic albums, including the should-have-been classic Log 22, but they've gained no traction for such great music. Maybe whoever controls what music gets popular already wrote them off and they've never been able to recover, no matter how great their music is and how they've held together as a band (though they're only now just starting to look their ages). As it is now, they keep playing smaller venues; I skipped going to a show they did at the Palace in '92 and the last time I saw them was at the Troubadour – I didn't think they'd get smaller than that but then their last L.A. show was at Spaceland, as well as this one, and you can't get tinier than that unless you're playing my living room. At this show there were fliers for a show they were doing the next night, at Rock n' Roll Pizza, where surely they were relegated to being just some band in the background while people are more concerned about eating bad food. They steadfastly stay together, still making music and touring like they never left their heyday. They may not be gaining fans because they're not more popular and they may be playing the smallest places possible but they're still great, as it turns out. All of their albums have some immediately catchy moments but to really get them they have to grow on you, their newest, Pharmacy of Love, being no exception. Live, they're always a great, energetic, gracious, rock-out band. At this show the first few songs had a really wonky sound-mix, with the vocals too low after the first song (though Carol has the confidence to sing opener “Palomine” like she always has, which she has) but you can't blame that for the place not being able to contain guitars and drums that are better fit for a bigger venue. The band is always appreciative of whoever comes out to see them, which in this case was probably less than 100 people. I would have paid more than $13.02 to see them play a bigger place, which they deserve. A band that's been around for almost 20 years, and with nine terrific albums to their name, also need longer than a measly hour (and two songs for an encore, which, predictably, came off of Palomine), but they did a nice survey of their new album and a bit off the other albums (though, unfortunately, not a thing from Lamprey. They did a cover of a song from what I thought they said was a band called Mossy, though I couldn't find the lyrics, and their last song ground into something that was a lot like "I Wanna Be Your Dog" but with Carol hollering at the top of her lungs and the band tearing into some gnarly material). They do what they can. And there's always hope that they'll beat some kind of odds and one of their songs will get picked up for something mass-market and the world can discover them again for the first time. If they broke up now they'd be even more forgotten than they are now so it's a pleasure to see them still giving it their all and making music and playing shows like they're a big band on an impressive trajectory. The Fling opened and I didn't see them.

This show, the first of five in seven days for me (or six in 10 days or eight in one month (if you count the GBV show), I did alone. I wasn't going to miss it though I couldn't get anyone to come out even for the price of two beers. Oh well. They, like many, missed it and hopefully they'll come to regret it.

Bettie Serveert's set-list:
“Love Lee”
“Don't Touch That Dial”
“Deny All”
“Log 22”
“Private Suit”
cover by Mossy?
“White Dogs”

"Kid's Allright"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Arcade Fire, October 7 at the Shrine

When tickets went on sale for the Arcade Fire show I sent out an e-mail to my concert-buddies months in advance and couldn’t drum up much interest. The band had headlined Lollapalooza just a short while before and, seeing that they were on an upward trajectory, it would seem like anyone would regret missing the chance to see them at such a (relatively) tiny place before they got so big that they wouldn't play anywhere smaller than arenas. Ghazaleh was in, though, and I’d actually never before hung out with her aside from when we were in a group. After the $20 parking, we got our seats, which were near the back but on the floor; the Shrine is never too huge to not have a good seat anyway. We waited it out, sitting through Colin Stetson, some dude playing a bunch of instruments and not singing and generally making noise (urging Ghazelah to talk over him). It was a small price to pay for when the Arcade Fire took the stage. There isn't much I can say about the band’s concerts that hasn’t been said before (even by me): They’re one of the best live bands going and they have made some incredibly thrilling music (though occasionally inconsistent). They’re the kind of band making rapturous anthems that’s been lost in a world of rock bands who lost the nerve or didn’t have the talent in the first place and the indie bands who don’t have much interest in turning the volume up or connecting with the audience, much less the rest of the world. It’s a challenge for a band to make anthems that will actually be performed at a place large enough to accommodate an audience that has the volume and heart enough to fill the venue with the sound of voices singing along to those songs but the Arcade Fire broke through and they continued to go upwards from there. It wasn’t too much time after that that they won an Album of the Year Grammy and headlined Coachella, among other festivals. And I can say I saw them before they played stadiums.

Arcade Fire’s set-list:
"Ready to Start"
"Month of May"
"Neighborhood #2 (Laika)"
"No Cars Go"
"Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"
"Modern Man"
"The Suburbs"
"The Suburbs (Continued)"
"Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)"
"Crown of Love"
"Deep Blue"
"We Used to Wait"
"Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)"
"Rebellion (Lies)"

"Keep the Car Running"
"Wake Up"

Monday, October 4, 2010

Guided By Voices, October 4 at the Wiltern

I didn't go. I had a ticket, I was excited to go, I had it on my calendar... and I missed it. I had the wrong date on my calendar and I didn't check the ticket when I got it. The funny thing is (if this is funny at all, which it isn't) is that I had the correct date on my calendar but something happened, I must have read it somewhere, and I thought that the show was on Tuesday, not Monday, and I thought enough of it to change it. I have the correct date right there on my calendar, crossed-out and switched to the next day. I thought that was my night off for the week and maybe if I had gone home I might have checked the ticket and rushed to get to the show but as it was I went out for drinks with friends and that was a good time but it wasn't Guided By Voices. Just about every show I was going to in a very busy fall were bands I'd seen before, most more than once, or bands that I know I'd see again, bands that have been around and will be around, but this GBV show was going to be the special one. I got into them after they broke up in '04 and I never expected for them to get back together so that I could see them. We had planned to go to the Matador At 21 show in Vegas and we didn't get tickets for that and we were bummed but I realized that the main reason I was crushed was because I wouldn't get to see GBV. I was overjoyed when I got a ticket for the full show and that was the one show I wanted to go to most all year (with perhaps the exception of Coachella). And I missed it. Seatgeek even found tickets for $6 to go. I suppose I got over it, but it will linger as my #1 concert regret. And completely my fault.

If I had gone, the set-list was:
"A Salty Salute"
"Shocker in Gloomtown"
"Tractor Rape Chain"
"Pimple Zoo"
"Closer You Are"
"Buzzards and Dreadful Crows"
"Break Even"
"My Valuable Hunting Knife"
"Cut-Out Witch"
"Hot Freaks"
"A Good Flying Bird"
"Striped White Jets"
"Matter Eater Lad"
"The Gold Heart Mountaintop Queen Directory"
"Awful Bliss"
"14 Cheerleader Coldfront"
"Quality of Armor"
"Gold Star for Robot Boy"
"Dodging Invisible Rays"
"Gleemer (The Deeds of Fertile Jim)"
"Queen of Cans and Jars"
"Unleashed! The Large Hearted Boy"
"Echos Myron"
"My Impression Now"
"I am a Scientist"
"My Son Cool"
"Game of Pricks"
"Smothered in Hugs"

"Postal Blowfish"
"Don't Stop Now"
"Motor Away"

"Johnny Appleseed"
"Weed King"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pavement/Sonic Youth/No Age, September 30 at the Hollywood Bowl

I had been dating Jaime and she goes to a lot of shows and has a lot of contacts, including a friend who works at the Hollywood Bowl. I wasn't really planning on going to the show, since I had already seen my definitive Pavement show at the Coachella, and I can give or take Sonic Youth shows, but she got tickets and I was free that night so we went. The tickets were in a box at the front, just behind the VIP boxes, but still by far the best seats that I've ever had at the Bowl. I could actually look levelly at the band on stage. Even better, the tickets were free. It's good to know people. (Though it was hardly sold-out and the day of the show I found front-row-center tickets for just over face value.) The show was as I expected it to be, though Sonic Youth played their old stuff, from well before I had ever heard of them, and that was a bit of a treat. I'm always so hot n' cold with No Age: I've liked them sometimes but here they were a lot of noise. Notable is the schedule that all the bands were on. I thought it was a bit odd that the show was starting as late as 8, which meant they'd have to really keep it moving to make the inevitable curfew. No Age went on right at that time and I don't think I've ever seen a faster break-down and set-up between bands in all the shows I've ever been to. Lee turned around the digital counter from the stage that counted down how long the band had on stage, likely showing their displeasure at being rushed (though anything that makes Sonic Youth play tighter is fine with me). After Sonic Youth, we peed and got popcorn and were standing in line for a beer when Pavement went on, meaning there was about 15 minutes between the headlining bands. When they really want to move them through they can. Pavement probably play looser when they're doing a show where they don't have an early curfew but all the times I've seen them they're pressed for time, which is probably good since they'd probably be annoying if they were slacking too much. And at 11 sharp they were done and the show was over. I can't fault the Bowl for having a curfew, since it's probably more their neighbors' doing than their own wishes, but it's a shame you can't get a later show there, or one that doesn't seem like it's in a big hurry.

Pavement's set-list:
"Cut Your Hair"
"Gold Soundz"
"Shady Lane"
"Rattled By The Rush"
"Silence Kit"
"Date With Ikea"
"Spit on a Stranger"
"Heckler Spray"
"In the Mouth a Desert"
"Summer Babe"
"Stop Breathing"
"Range Life"

Sonic Youth's set-list:
"The Sprawl"
"Cross The Breeze"
"Stereo Sanctity"
"Hey Joni"
"Death Valley '69"
"Shadow of a Doubt"
"Brother James"
"White Cross"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

the XX/Warpaint, September 22 at the Palladium

I got the XXs' debut album because there was all sorts of talk about it and I wanted to see what the big deal was about. I thought it was a little sleepy at first but after listening to it (a lot) more I really got into it and got more out of it upon each listen, the mark of the best albums. I had caught a little of them at Coachella but knew that that venue was the wrong place for them, as well as the wrong time of day (you know, when the sun was out). Andrew and Rick were planning to go to this show so I got a ticket too. (Sometimes I follow but if it's about finding something new and good then I don't mind at all.) I wouldn’t have thought that that band would fill up the Palladium (or, much less, the Fonda or the Wiltern a few months before) but they did it. I also never would have thought that they would have the crowd they did: I thought they were a buzz band, something for hipsters, but the median age there was probably half of mine. The band members are young but does that translate to having a young audience too? Not that it matters (except for being the old guy in the crowd that we used to make fun of years ago). The show itself was fairly predictable, the band doing a run-through of the album, which is short enough, making for a fairly short show, though no more could be expected from a young just starting out who drew the card for a great album and a lot of acclaim. On their next tour they'll have more material and make a better showing at doing a proper headlining show. A lot of wearing black, a lot of dim mood-lighting, never playing with more volume or energy than you could get from the album -- nothing wrong with that but certainly no surprises. Warpaint opened. They’re a local band (though they've gone well beyond that in the time since) and they’d played around a lot but somehow I constantly missed them. They were tight and professional, more cool than cold, though either could have worked, featuring layers upon layers of low-key distortion, but they showed that they could easily be headlining that stage before too long. And they'll do it when they have more than an hour of material to fill it with.

The XX’s set-list:
"Heart Skipped A Beat"
"Basic Space"
"Teardrops" (Womack & Womack cover)
"Night Time"


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Scissor Sisters, September 11 at the Palladium

A review for this show without the G-word: Scissor Sisters are best known for their flamboyant party anthems but there’s actually a lot more depth to their music than that. One of their (relative) hits was a cover of “Comfortably Numb”, for Pete’s sake. As much as there is a range of emotions and experiences on their albums, in concert it’s all flamboyant party anthems. And it makes for a pretty great party. The band know how to bring it, and they’re actually more of a well-rounded rock band than one might expect. In the studio Jake is clearly the frontman, surely one of their best assets, one of the funnest and most unique singers in rock today (especially since Erasure never had much interest in being fun), but live, Ana takes center-stage, probably more than she should -- she’s good at being back-up but seeing a confident, aggressive woman on that stage kinda works against their image. And Jake looks better in tight, black leather. The rare band that can rock a tiny club as much as hold down a slot at a festival -- the Palladium maybe being a split between those two, and a good venue for them. The only bummer from that night was Casey Spooner doing something that might be called opening, though all he did was sing -- barely capable at that -- with moldy, pre-programmed beats and none of the music engaging at all. His suit easily upstaged him. Luckily, he was smart enough to not out-live his welcome (or maybe we just got there late) and applause was polite for him, but maybe that was just because everyone wanted him off the stage. Or maybe he has a deal with West Hollywood, all of whom showed up that night. Noa and I (fresh from dinner at Roscoe’s across the street -- some of the only breasts we saw that night) were clearly the only straight ones there. Sure were a whole lot of dudes there that were really... happy.

Scissor Sisters’ set-list:
"Night Work"
"Any Which Way"
"She's My Man"
"Something Like This"
"Whole New Way"
"Tits on the Radio"
"Harder You Get"
"Running Out"
"Take Your Mama"
"Kiss You Off"
"I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
"Skin Tight"
"Skin This Cat"
"Fire with Fire"
"Paul McCartney"
"Night Life"

"Comfortably Numb" (Pink Floyd cover)
"Invisible Light"
"Filthy/Gorgeous" (with "Electrobix" snippet)


Saturday, September 4, 2010

FYF Fest, September 4 in Los Angeles

I didn't go to the FYF Fest festival. It's not even right to write a review of it here but I had bought the ticket so maybe it still counts. I've never flaked on a concert but sometimes there's nothing you can do. I couldn't do laundry two nights before so I had to do it that morning, which made me a little late to leave to Anaheim, where I had to go to register for the half-marathon I ran the next day, and there was traffic on the way there, then a bit of traffic on the way back, I went through downtown when I should have taken the 605 to Pasadena, then a little while on the train to get there, and I was at the festival at 3, to see Best Coast at 3:30, but I had to leave at 4, and it could have worked if I would have been able to get my ticket quickly and cruise right in but when I stepped off the train, the line for will-call was almost to the train, at least three hours (there was some chick about a third of the way up that was complaining very loudly on her phone that she had already been in line for an hour) and I knew that there was no time, since it took me 20 minutes just to find out that the will-call line was the one I was supposed to be in. Oh well. I heard it was a great festival except for the lines for everything. It was a great line-up, with a lot of bands I'd heard about but hadn't actually heard. I hop to go next year (if they even have). And they refunded my money so no harm, no foul. I got to ride the Gold Line for the first time and it was an adventure to go on. And the race on Sunday went real well but that's another story.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Lollapalooza, August 6 to 8 in Chicago

They say that if something happens three times then it establishes a pattern so I reckon that my going to Lollapalooza is a pattern. What started as a one-time summer trip became a second time because it worked with other plans then Jones suggested going again and I had no reason not to. Jones had also lined up a place for us to stay, crashing with his best friend’s brother’s best friend (or something like that). It was a nice pad, within walking distance of the subway, and in a little neighborhood near Wrigley Field with some bars and places to get after-show dinner. The whole trip went well, as it usually does, and I don’t even remember much more than what we did so that’s probably a good sign.

The festival itself was the same as it had been before. There were some minor adjustments, changing the location of one of the smaller stages, stretching the field out so there was more room, and opening one of the streets so there was a direct walkway from one end of the park to the other (though it still took a while). I liked the line-up but I wasn’t particularly excited about it and I couldn’t figure out why until I got into the show the first day: I realized it was because I had seen most of the acts before, most of them even recently. I was still a fan of the bands but for most of them it was just another show. The New Pornographers touring with Neko and Dan would have been a huge deal but this was just another stop for them, though still a solid performance. Neko was wearing a jaunty hat and joked about the heat (which wasn’t really all that bad). I was actually excited to see Friday’s headliner Lady Gaga, which perplexed my friends when I told them that I wanted to see her, but I explained that she was the only big name there that I hadn’t seen before. Even still, we went over to check her out just see what it was about, but it seemed like an elaborate stage-show and the music wasn’t at all engaging and there were actually a mess of people that showed so there wasn’t much point in watching idly from as far away as we were. (That said, we couldn't get away from her all weekend: Her music on jukeboxes in bars we went to, on the TV as we were in the apartment in the morning before heading out, in cars as they drove by us on the street. She was the thing that summer, apparently.) Instead that night we saw the Strokes, who I’ve seen numerous times before, and they turned in a good set, though no new stuff (always a double-edged sword), but there wasn’t much reason for us to stay for the whole thing so we bailed and beat the crowd out. Another notable act from the day were the Black Keys, which I didn’t really know but Jones really wanted to see. It wasn’t until after that weekend that I became a fan of theirs so this set went through me, though it was well-constructed, just not much for a first-time listener. They certainly didn’t jump around the stage or make a spectacle of themselves. We also checked out Matt & Kim while having a beer on hill nearby and wandered by Chromeo at some point and they sounded better to me than they have before. The first act we saw of the day was American Bang, which we saw just to see a band, and they weren't more notable beyond that.

We wandered in on a beautiful Saturday afternoon for the second day. It was a lot of going back and forth between stages and grazing the bands: the tail-end of Rogue Wave (who we’d seen there before), the beginning of Blues Traveler while we got our first beer of the day, and I have in my notes that we heard Slightly Stoopid but I don’t remember it so we must have wandered by at some point. The first big band of the day for us was Stars, who I’ve been a fan of for years but Jones didn’t know them. They did a bright, energetic afternoon show, as they’re always expected to. I’ve seen them so often in the light, it would be weird to see them in the evening or indoors now. I’d like to think that their performance converted Jones into a fan. Next we went to see Gogol Bordello on the main stage. As much as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their live show in the past and as much as I would recommend them to anyone who enjoys live performances, I was actually a bit reluctant to see them, since I’ve seen it before and I knew it would just wear me out, but I couldn’t find anyone playing opposite them that I was interested in and this was only Jones’ second time (though in the same place). I knew it wouldn’t be my last time seeing them. The next band up, across the field, was my revelation for the festival. I was headed to see Metric but Jones suggested seeing AFI. I knew of the band, had had one of their albums at one point, but they didn't do anything for me before and I was happy with my plan to skip them. But I went over to hang out with Jones and they were amazing. Of course it was helped that I was largely unfamiliar with them and that they were meant for a bigger venue since the stage could barely contain their volume and the energy of Davey Havok, one of the best frontmen in rock right now, to my utter shock. That band played like this was the last show they would ever do and they tore it down. Absolutely amazing. It might be that they've built their reputation on their live performances rather than on their music so much. I didn’t rush out to get any of their music but if they played a festival I was at again I’d want to check them out. Then we made our way over to the other end of the park, heard Metric’s last song (“Stadium Love,” which I had had in my head for the most of the weekend), then saw Spoon. Their performance was mostly inert, though that’s usually their speed so this isn’t an insult, but the material from their newest album dragged the usual show down a bit, and they didn’t seem interested in playing above just slightly interested. I have no idea how Phoenix got to headline a festival like Lollapalooza but it didn’t matter because we had nothing to do with them. So that left Green Day for us. I remember when Green Day was still playing clubs so it’s strange to me to see them headlining a festival and playing to potentially 75,000 people. But they’re also a band that’s been around for a while, racking up a whole lot of music over a whole lot of albums, and they’re had a massive change in musical styles in the last few years. How to appease fans of all sides of their music? Cleanly divide it up. It was a clever move. They played the new stuff first, as bands often will, and didn’t stray from their last two albums for the first half of their almost-two-hour set. This way they could get their new stuff out of the way and the newer generation of fans that claim that stuff as their own could have their own show. Then Billy Joe pulled out his old, beat-up, turquoise guitar and it was a klaxon for the old-school party that would be the rest of the show. It was all terribly familiar, and surely they’ve played those songs a thousand times or more, but they tore into the songs like they were having the same party that the crowd was having. It could have been an act, and they probably do the same every night, but at taht moment on that evening it was convincing. It might have been obvious that they were sick of playing “Longview” by pulling someone from the crowd onto the stage to sing the song (which apparently they do at every show now). The guy they picked really brought it. He had the song down cold and he jumped around the stage like he’d always been in the band. Billy Joe even presented him the guitar he was playing. Strangely enough, it was a highlight. Green Day even made it seem like they were making it up as they went along, breaking into spontaneous medleys of classic guitar-rock tracks (too many to note here) and if it was fun for them, it was fun for the crowd. If you’re a band that came from where Green Day is and you’re at where they are now, that was the way to do a show. Playing “Hitchin’ a Ride” did it for me and I could go home happy at any point after that. And we did leave early, again to beat the crowd, knowing we’d probably only hear more of a bunch of songs we already knew anyway.

Sunday we changed it up: Jones suggested skipping the first half of the day at the festival and go to a Cubs game instead. My first instinct was to bristle at the idea -- we were there for the festival, after all -- but then I realized I could live without yet another day at the festival and that a baseball game could be a lot of fun. The stadium was actually within walking distance of where we were staying and it was easy to get some scalped tickets for some good seats. I couldn’t tell you what actually happened during the game, I don’t even remember the name of the lady sitting next to me that was chatting me up, and I don’t even think I was drinking (I might even have been hung over that day), but I was glad we did it. From there it was easy enough to get back on the train and ride to the festival and we got enough music for the day as we needed. We wandered around and saw bits of Yeasayer and Mutemeath but not enough of them to really move a needle. We went back to stake out a place for the main attraction of the day and ended up seeing Wolfmother, which was more of a deal for Jones than for me, but they certainly rocked out, enough that it seemed like a short set. From there we sat on the hill and drank beer and heard Cypress Hill from across the field, luckily far enough that we didn’t have to hear them clearly or get a contact high. The main attraction for the day, if not the whole festival, was Soundgarden. Jones is a considerably bigger fan than I am but I knew the significance of seeing them there: a newly resurrected, near-legendary band from the early-’90s golden era of “alternative” music and the heyday of grunge, if not being one of its godfathers, playing one of their only shows for the year. I might have picked to see opposing headliner Arcade Fire instead but I knew that that band were at the beginning of their cycle and seeing Soundgarden again might not come soon. I was absolutely confident that we made the right choice. We got close enough to get a good position and the crowd never got rough or rowdy (surprisingly, maybe owing to the aging state of the audience). I only knew their most popular stuff and songs from their last album (as unpopular of being a fan of that is) but their other, earlier, more obscure stuff rocked out so hard that it didn’t matter. The band seemed older but happier and more comfortable being together than they used to be. Cornell might even have been in his own world and doing this reunion because everything else he’s done since they broke up hasn’t worked out (spectacularly in some cases) but he kept it together and hit all high notes. They didn’t even take the route of having extra musicians to help them out on the difficult parts. No stage banter or much acknowledgment to the crowd but they spoke with pure, loud rock music and that was enough. If they only played one show before disappearing again for forever, this one would be enough. If you’re going to get a headliner to rock a crowd, this is how to do it. We didn’t even leave early to beat the crowd; we left with the rest of the crowd after having our heads blown off and we were completely okay with that.

Bands I missed: the Constellations, the Walkmen (played before we got there on Friday); Wavves (wasn’t into them at the time); Devo (playing against the New Pornographers); the Dirty Projectors (because there were 30 other bands at that minute that I would have preferred); Warpaint (playing against Stars); the XX, Grizzly Bear (playing against Against Me!, Gogol Bordello, and AFI); Social Distortion (playing against Spoon -- that was a tough choice, one I might have redone if I could); Empire of the Sun (who I wanted to see because of the Sleepy Jackson, but I couldn’t convince Seth and Green Day won out); the Cribs (played before we got there on Sunday); Mumford & Sons (who I didn’t discover until later, and I still probably would have seen Hockey instead); X Japan (who I didn’t know, and still don’t, but I think I saw a member or two of their band the next day at the airport); MGMT (playing against Wolfmother, and even though I’m not a big Wolfmother fan, I still would have preferred the latter band); the National (to say I saw Cypress Hill instead of them would go against everything I’ve ever done or been as a concert-goer but in all honesty we were in position to see Soundgarden).

Soundgarden's set-list:
"Searching With My Good Eye Closed"
"Rusty Cage"
"Blow Up The Outside World"
"Let Me Drown"
"Jesus Christ Pose"
"Fell On Black Days"
"Ugly Truth"
"Get On The Snake"
"Burden In My Hand"
"Black Hole Sun"
"4th Of July"

"Face Pollution"
"Like Suicide"
"Slaves & Bulldozers"

Green Day's set-list:
"Song of the Century"
"21st Century Breakdown"
"Know Your Enemy"
"East Jesus Nowhere"
"Give Me Novacaine"
"Are We the Waiting"
"St. Jimmy"
"Boulevard of Broken Dreams"
"Nice Guys Finish Last"
"Paper Lanterns"
"2000 Light Years Away"
"Hitchin' a Ride"
"When I Come Around"
"Iron Man"/"Ain't Talkin' Bout Love"/"Sweet Child O' Mine"/"Highway to Hell"
"Brain Stew"
"Basket Case"
"King for a Day"
"Shout"/"Chicago"/"Satisfaction"/"Hey Jude"
"21 Guns"

"American Idiot"
"Jesus of Suburbia"

"She's a Rebel"
"Wake Me Up When September Ends"
"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)"

The Strokes' set-list:
"New York City Cops"
"The Modern Age"
"Hard to Explain"
"What Ever Happened?"
"You Only Live Once"
"Is This It"
"Vision of Division"
"I Can't Win"
"Last Nite"
"Under Control"
"Heart in a Cage"
"Take It or Leave It"

Wolfmother's set-list:
"Cosmic Egg"
"New Moon Rising"
"White Unicorn"
"California Queen"
"Mind's Eye"
"Joker & The Thief"

The Black Keys' set-list:
"Girl Is On My Mind"
"Strange Times"
"The Breaks"
"Stack Shot Billy"
"Same Old Thing"
"Everlasting Light"
"Next Girl"
"Chop and Change"
"Tighten Up"
"She's Long Gone"
"Ten Cent Pistol"
"Your Touch"
"I'll Be Your Man"
"I Got Mine"

Spoon's set-list:
"Me and the Bean"
"Nobody Gets Me But You"
"The Underdog"
"Stay Don't Go"
"Don't You Evah"
"Written in Reverse"
"Got Nuffin"
"The Ghost of You Lingers"
"Modern World" (Wolf Parade cover)
"I Turn My Camera On"
"Trouble Comes Running"
"My Mathematical Mind"
"I Summon You"
"Don't Make Me a Target"
"You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb"
"Jonathon Fisk"
"Black Like Me"

Gogol Bordello's set-list:
"Not A Crime"
"Wonderlust King"
"My Companjera"
"Tribal Connection"
"Trans-Continental Hustle"
"Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher)"
"Break the Spell"
"Immigrant Punk"
"Pala Tute"
"Start Wearing Purple"
"Sacred Darling"

Stars' set-list:
"How Much More"
"Set Yourself on Fire"
"The Passenger"
"One More Night"
"We Don't Want Your Body"
"Ageless Beauty"
"Going, Going, Gone"
"I Died So I Could Haunt You"
"Elevator Love Letter"
"Wasted Daylight"
"Take Me to the Riot"
"Your Ex-Lover is Dead"

AFI's set-list:
"Girl's Not Grey"
"The Leaving Song Pt. II"
"I Am Trying Very Hard to Be Here"
"Kill Caustic"
"End Transmission"
"Love Is a Many Splendored Thing"
"Beautiful Thieves"
"Dancing Through Sunday"
"The Days of the Phoenix"
"Veronica Sawyer Smokes"
"Silver and Cold"
"Miss Murder"
"Love Like Winter"

Matt & Kim's set-list:
"I Wanna"
"Better Off Alone" (Alice DeeJay cover)
"Lessons Learned"
"Yea Yeah"
"Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The New Pornographers, July 20 at the Henry Fonda Theater

I've seen the New Pornographers before and they were always a good show but I always knew there was something missing. It was obvious that something was Neko Case, who also performed on the group's albums but hadn't toured with them for as long as I had been a fan (or ever). In that time she had also become probably a bigger name than the New Porns (the group probably wouldn't be able to play the Greek Theater but she did) and yet she still performed on the albums, never overwhelming the other considerable talent on them, though she could have easily, but being one more, solid element in a poppy mixture that always makes their albums a consistent thrill to listen to. Her own albums are great but they're different animals; where she might do an alt-country thing solo, she could do indie-pop with the New Porns and it was every bit as good. I don't know what stars aligned or what fell into place in the band's life, other than a new album (Together) coming out, but Neko decided to tour with them. The album is great, just like the rest of their stuff (except maybe Challengers), but it doesn't stand out remarkably and the tour could have been just another one that they've done. Not that I'm complaining. Neko always had a fine fill-in when they toured but they have a different kind of electricity with her on stage and just being part of the band. It's a wonder now how they ever performed something like "Letter from an Occupant" without her (or maybe they never did). The New Porns were never incomplete without her but once she was with them, just being another member of the band, they felt like they had in concert delivered upon what they'd promised on their albums. Also part of the band for this tour was Dan Bejar, a wild-haired dude who, I didn't realize, sang on a number of their more energetic (though weirder) song, like "Myriad Harbor", but his presence almost brought down the energy and warmth that Neko brought. For a few of the songs that he didn't sing on he played acoustic guitar, mostly with his back to the audience, and the rest of the time he was off-stage, enough so that he didn't appear when it was his turn to perform, to the point that A.C. Newman had the crowd chanting his name to get his attention, then stumbling on stage with a drink in hand to sing. I don't know if he's so amazingly talented that the band (if not the fans) just tolerate his diva behavior or if he's a different person when not performing, but his antics marred what might have been a perfect set. Still an amazing show, with awesome songs performed impeccably. Looking at it now, it will be difficult for the group to tour without Neko.

It was actually who got the tickets, since I might have skipped the show, knowing I would see them at Lollapalooza just a months later. But we had a good time, even if I wasn't drinking for some reason, probably because I had stuff to do the next day.

The New Pornographers' set-list:
“Sing Me Spanish Techno”

“Up In The Dark”
“Myriad Harbor”
“Use It”
“Crash Years”
“Jackie Dressed In Cobras”
“It's Only Divine Right”
“Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk”
“Go Places”
“Your Hands (Together)”
“Execution Day”
“My Rights Versus Yours”
“My Shepherd”
“The Laws Have Changed”
“Silver Jenny Dollar”
“The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”
“The Bleeding Heart Show”

“Electric Version”
“Letter From An Occupant”
“Testament To Youth In Verse”