Monday, May 31, 2010

the Like, May 31 at the Echo

I'd had plenty of opportunity to see the Like (at Coachella, opening for Bloc Party, various shows in small places around town) but somehow I kept missing them, though I loved their first album (and I bought it at Amoeba at the same time one of the members of the band was there too, or so I was told). Then they played a month's free residency at the Echo, and we like the Echo, and if you're not going to see a band you like out of free times and you don't have to pay for it then you probably don't like them as much as you say. As it was, I saw the last night of the run, and on Memorial Day, no less. Vanessa met me there, with the guy she was dating at the time, and I don't think I even tried to keep up with them at drinking. The first band on was the Living Sickness and we agreed they were pretty good. No idea who they were or if they were local but they sounded good. The next band was the Young Veins and a lot of the people were there, almost filling the place, even though they weren't great. As I found out weeks later, that band is the two members of Panic! At The Disco who got fired. I wouldn't have liked them any more or less for having had that knowledge at the time but it was clear to see why I didn't like them, even if I didn't know why at the time. Vanessa and her guy took off so I was left with my beloved the Like, for the first time ever. About half the crowd had taken off, which confounded me since the headliners hadn't even gone on. But no matter. The Like went on and they were great. They had a new sound, very poppy, like a '60s girl-band, very unlike any of the stuff off their moody first album, which they didn't even bother to play, especially since any of the old stuff would have stuck out like the most obvious thing ever. I have no idea how they reconciled their old stuff with their new stuff in one of their full shows (as this one was just a short set, less than 10 songs, and songs that were short in the first place). Z. had a great guitar that had her letter all over it and a skirt that was so short, I've seen longer shirts. Needless to say she looked great, like a real rock star. After the show I just happened to gravitate toward Mikel from the Airborne Toxic Event, who happened to be there, and talked to him for a while but that really has nothing to do with the actual review of the Like's show (though you should realize the significance of my meeting him if you've read any of the rest of this blog). Though it made my night enough that Panic! At The Disco, with whatever members, could have played and it still would have been great.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ben Folds, May 13 at the Fonda

I didn't know anything of Ben Folds except in the '90s avoiding "Brick" so I didn't get sick of it. But apparently he's still making music and touring and Noa knew enough about him to want to go to his show so she got us tickets and it was a night out. It was right after I found out I was having a problem with my blood pressure so it was a dry night, which sucked for Noa. We had dinner at Dillon's down the street and got to the show early enough to see the later part of opener Kate Miller-Heidke. She had been building a buzz around Coachella to this date but this was the last I'd hear of her. She was good enough to start the show but a bit weird, with some slightly irritating singing. I'm sure she would have been great if I wasn't coming on to her music fresh but she wasn't captivating enough to interest me the first time. She had a great novelty song about Facebook and as that was the only part I remember about it, that would be the high-point of her set. Folds played solo with a piano (aptly the tour was named “Ben Folds and a Piano”) and I'd imagine that a full band would only hinder him. Miller-Heidke came back to sing a song or two with him near the end of his set and I think he had some percussive accompaniment but I don't remember much beyond that. It didn't help that I knew not even one song he performed but it was a joyous performance and the fans were so into it, maybe old-school fans from the “Brick” days or people who like off-beat, piano-based pop music, that it was contagious and made for a fun show. Folds' high point was also a novelty song, “Bitch Went Nuts,” and he explained the story behind it, and how there were different origins to the two versions of the song, and even though it stood out just because it was so aggressively obnoxious and divergent from the rest of his stuff, he's a gifted songwriter and showman, and it made for an enjoyable night even without knowing much more than the first thing about the man or his music (beyond his name and a song from 15 years ago).

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pearl Jam, May 3 at Sprint Center

I've been a Pearl Jam fan since the beginning (well, since Ten anyway) but somehow I just never got around to seeing them. I know their concerts are amazing and they've certainly done enough touring (probably to make up for no new hit songs on the radio or videos or conventional promotion) but I just never got a ticket. I should have seen their legendary show in Indio in '93 (the show that made Goldenvoice realize they could put on a big concert festival in that same place and that became the Coachella festival) but I only heard about it. And I might not have even still have seen them, not having friends that were all that interested and myself not being excited enough to go alone, until Seth texted me a few months before the band were going to do a show in Kansas City and he asked if I wanted to go. I didn't care enough to see them down the street from me but I could go all the way to Kansas to see them. I could go there and be in the company of real fans, I could see a show outside of L.A. (which often leads to better results), and I could make a trip out of the whole thing, ideally after I got done with a spate of work. (And it could maybe start to make up for the dates they played here, one of which was just after the Thom Yorke show that Seth had come to California to see with me, and if we hadn't planned his trip so hastily I might have looked at my calendar to see that going to that Pearl Jam show could have been possible, and it might not even have been a big deal that we missed them but that night's show was the one when Chris Cornell showed up and there was a bit of a Soundgarden/Temple of the Dog reunion, which would have blown our minds... if we had been there. As it was we just had to swallow our anger that we missed it so narrowly and resign ourselves to the fact that it just wasn't meant to be, apparently.) So Seth got the tickets and I planned the trip and it all went into motion. I had been wrestling with what I thought was a cold that had come and gone more than once in the weeks before then, each time coming back a bit worse, but every time I thought it was gone and when I got on the plane on that Monday morning I felt fine. As it turned out I also didn't have work around then so it was just a few days to get away. I had planned to be in Kansas for a few days and Seth and his family would be away during the day so I could some writing done and we could party at night. Seth, his wife Adrianne, and the always-reliable Bart picked me up at the airport and shortly after that we were in Kansas City for the show. Yeah, flying in the day of the concert was cutting it a bit short but I couldn't make it for earlier than that. Downtown Kansas City is lovely. And the arena where the show was is part of an entertainment complex that had bars and restaurants and huge courtyards for people to hang out and drink and that's where we had our pre-concert beers, after the beers in the underground parking lot shortly after we got there. We met up with more people, making the total of our party about eight. This is most notable because it was amazing that Seth got tickets for that many people all together, and as close to the stage as it was: We were about halfway down to the stage, though on the furthest right, seeing the profile of the guys all night, but at least close enough to see them well, though we could have been anywhere and the sound would have been great and it still would have rocked. We got there early enough to see a lot of opener Band of Horses' set, and there wasn't much for me, but maybe if they had played Replacements covers like I'd heard they do I might have perked up a little. I went into so much detail about the surrounding events around the concert since I don't remember a lot of the concert itself. It wasn't that I was drinking so much, though that had a tiny bit to do with it, but also that cold came back, starting as just a little sore throat at the beginning of the show, then at the end of Pearl Jam's two-hour set was a full-blown fever, achiness, exhaustion, a little dizziness, and just generally feeling very crappy (but no headaches or upset stomach or I wouldn't have been able to last at all). Pearl Jam did what was probably their standard show: some new songs (that went quickly), some ballads to give everyone a rest, local celebrities (here including a war vet that Eddie had collaborated on a song with), an encore that was stretched-out stadium-rousing singalongs. They actually played a lot more of the popular stuff than I thought they would. I had thought they were sick of playing "Alive" by now. I actually thought they would switch up the set-list a lot more, after seeing what they'd played at other shows, knowing how much material they have to choose from, and knowing that they make it a habit to make it interesting, but this show seemed like it could be their proto-typical concert, which is perfectly fine, but there wasn't a sense that there were any surprises and, thus, nothing particularly special that you wouldn't get at another spot. I wasn't so surprised that they played so much old stuff, since by this point they've already gone beyond the resistance to play the hits in favor of pleasing the audience, but I'm surprised that they stuck to so much of the first two albums, to the exclusion of some mid-career stuff that would have rocked, even if it was forgotten by the general public that used to be such fans. And I still don't understand that appeal of “Yellow Ledbetter”, not to mention its being so well-liked that they would end the show with it. But this isn't a criticism at all, and they would have had me for the entire rest of the set just because they hit us hard with "Animal" as the second song (and when I was feeling well enough to enjoy it, no less). This concert was probably old hat to the band by now but they can still rock, which is also just standard motions for such concert vets by now but they sell it well. And it was a great time. A show with friends who are dedicated to the music is as good a show as you can get. And the rest of the time I was in Kansas I was knocked-out completely by that cold, which turned out to be strep-throat so I'm surprised I could do anything at all besides be sick at the time.

Pearl Jam's set-list:
"Of The Girl"
"World Wide Suicide"
"Got Some"
"Unthought Known"
"Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town"
"Johnny Guitar"
"Amongst The Waves"
"Even Flow"
"Gods' Dice"
"Present Tense"
"Do The Evolution"

"Off He Goes"
"Just Breathe"
"Given To Fly"
"The Fixer"
"Life Wasted"

"No More"
"Better Man"
"Rockin' in the Free World" (Neil Young cover)
"Yellow Ledbetter"