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"