Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Afghan Whigs, November 10 at the Fonda

Carla and I were in Hollywood casually celebrating our anniversary on a Saturday night and we ended up doing in one of the best ways possible.  We were trying to get lottery tickets for The Book of Mormon but we didn't get in.  We wandered over for a nice dinner and happened to stroll by the Fonda, where the Afghan Whigs were having their second night.  We saw the show the night before and it was great, why do the second night?  Because they were playing an altered set between nights. And "Miles Iz Dead", or so I read.  Those few different songs were enough for me, at least, and Carla went along.  Besides, seeing them a second time, even if it was the night after the first, would start to help her make up for never seeing them back in the day.  We usually don't rely on scalpers but we were going to make the attempt and see what we come up with, and if we couldn't find anything then we would head back home and be none the worse off.  As it turns out, there was one sole scalper left since it was so late.  With only a few minutes before the show was set to start (as we knew from the night before), he asked us our price.  I knew he was desperate and trying to get anything for the tickets or get nothing, so I offered $40 for both and he couldn't jump on it fast enough.  He even let us have the tickets before we paid for them while I went back to put more money in the meter.  So in we went for the second night of the Whigs, every bit as thrilling as the first.  Very similar, though in my mind I'd like to think that Dulli & co. pushed it just a bit more since it was the last night on the entire tour (save for what he said was a planned New Year's show in Cleveland -- of course we were tempted -- and whatever they were going to do as a band after that).  Absolutely the different songs were worth it.  The show would have been worth a full-price ticket, if we'd planned on it.  (We would usually shy away from making plans for Saturday night.)  I'd even say I preferred the alternate-night's set, just because the first few songs leaned more toward 1969's cuts (not to the inclusion of anything from Gentlemen, the superior work, just that 1969 sounds better live).  And there it was, in the encore (sometimes being aware of their usual set-lists pays off): "Miles Iz Dead," which I had never heard live (along with anything from Congregation or before -- a shame almost as bad as never seeing them before Black Love).  And there I was, a screaming maniac.  And another great show.  Those guys are just made to play live.  This reunion tour seemed like a return, but also taking care of past business, like letting the old-school fans or new fans they've gotten since they broke up see the old stuff, as well as going deeper into their catalog than they had in a while, tying that off so they could either go away permanently again without owing anything, or trudging onward as a band if they chose to stay together or even produce new work.  Dulli still has the Twilight Singers, though from what I could tell he merged both bands for Afghan Whigs 2.0, so the difference is negligible.  And even though I'm always excited for new material from Dulli, in whatever form that may be, it's always the Afghan Whigs that do it for me.  Van Hunt opened but we missed him (again), though he performed with the band.

The Afghan Whigs' set-list:
"Heaven on Their Minds" (from Jesus Christ Superstar)/"Somethin' Hot"
"Blame, etc."
"What Jail Is Like"
"Kiss the Floor"
"When We Two Parted"/"Over My Dead Body"
"Turn On the Water"/"Helter Skelter" (Beatles cover)
"John the Baptist"
"Step Into the Light"
"See and Don't See" (Marie "Queenie" Lyons cover)
"Lovecrimes" (Frank Ocean cover)
"Going to Town"
"Who Do You Love?"/"Fountain and Fairfax"
"Omerta"/"She Loves You"
"The Vampire Lanois"

"My Curse"
"Miles Iz Ded" (with snippet of Kiss's "I Was Made for Lovin' You")
"Into the Floor"

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Afghan Whigs, November 9 at the Fonda

Carla had never seen the Afghan Whigs.  For as much I saw them in the '90s before they broke up, she only became a fan -- and a pretty big one -- when Dulli had already moved on to the Twilight Singers.  It took his newer band a while to get up to the same intensity that the Whigs had, and even then it was sporadic, and certainly the first Twilight Singers album was a departure from the Whigs last days, but that was probably the point.  To make a connection between the two bands was an iffy proposition at best.  I've dug the Twilight Singers, and seen them on most of their tours, but it's always been about the Whigs for me.  And I was actually fine that they broke up.  They had taken a great shot and they got close to the big time with Gentlemen, but as hard as they tried after that, once the alt-rock tide left, they just couldn't get back or beyond it again.  Even 1969, a stupendous effort that approached Gentlemen, got no traction and they were left to tour like dogs to diminishing returns.  Couple that with Dulli's drug problems and the members growing apart (though there were technically only three of them), it was an easy guess that the band's days were numbered.  Dulli was on to the Twilight Singers, the other two guys easily dropped under the radar, and the Whigs could go out with dignity.  Time went on and they got farther away from their intense, angst-ridden days.  As everyone got older, there was less of a point for them to get back together.  But with nearly every other band that hasn't had an essential member die, they got back together (even after Dulli told me personally that a reunion "ain't gonna happen, dude").  But they chose to tour instead of release new material right away, so even though I knew they weren't what they used to be, we had to go see them.  And that way Carla could finally see them as well.  Indeed, the intensity was mostly missing, but those songs had been worn hard, even at this date, nearly the last on their reunion tour.  Even Dulli played them harder in the encore of the Twilight Singers' second tour (at least for the show at the Troubadour).  They had traded guilt-ridden rage for well-dressed experience, but the songs have stood the time they were away so it still worked.  And Dulli has never been less than a consummate showman, and this, the reunion and the show, was giving the crowd, all maybe older than me, what they wanted.   No small amount can be said about a sober Dulli, which has definitely contributed to the mellowness of the Twilight Singers; the shows back in the day led by a drug-addled Dulli were sloppy but electric, and he plays now more assuredly, if also more reservedly.  Also missing are the spontaneous covers and the rambling, love-him-or-hate-him banter, but he left that behind after the band stopped anyway.  So it was the old songs played by an older, more thoughtful band, less fun but more controlled and stately.  And the songs still sounded great, no matter who Dulli has in the band, and they even played a few they stopped playing back in the day, like "Gentlemen," since Dulli said it was way too personal back, but that only goes to show that they have such a distance from the songs that they've become just songs to them, not experiences.  Also playing that song came after the slow, dour songs section of the night, and the transition was wrenching and hard to get into the crunch of the later song after being brought low by the ones before it.  There were some sequencing issues there but they had to bring it somehow, I suppose.  They played some gems and it seems that they played one song every night that they hadn't played in the other shows.  I would have preferred the old band, but I've seen them a few times over.  Carla didn't get to see one of those shows but at least she could hear the songs.  Cid and Jon also went to the show and we made the effort to be together but they had balcony seats and we had floor tickets, and the Fonda still keeps the two separate.  Except for a few minor switches here and there, they were doing two different shows in places where they played two nights, each with similar middles, but different openings and different encores.  This was the show where they didn't play "Miles Iz Ded".  Van Hunt opened the show and we missed him, except for the parts, of course, where he played with the band.

The Afghan Whigs' set-list:
"Crime Scene, Part One"
"I'm Her Slave"
"Uptown Again"
"What Jail Is Like"
"Conjure Me"
"When We Two Parted"/"Dead Body"
"My Enemy"
"Son of the South"
"See and Don't See" (Marie "Queenie" Lyons cover)
"Lovecrimes" (Frank Ocean cover)
"Wicked Games" (The Weeknd cover)
"Mean Sleep" (Van Hunt cover; with Van Hunt)
"Let's Stay Together"/"66"/"Little Red Corvette" (Prince cover)
"Fountain and Fairfax"

"Summer's Kiss"
"Faded"/"Purple Rain" (Prince cover)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bombay Bicycle Club, October 17 at the Fonda

Bombay Bicycle Club are another of Carla's bands, though it's odd that I didn't come around to them sooner.  Somehow they just fell through the cracks.  Probably because they're newer than the Britpop bands I gravitate toward and somehow I just missed the train.  They were one of the earliest bands on Pandora we kept in the heavy rotation at home so I started getting into them but I still didn't really click with them as much.  We missed their show at the El Rey then they moved up to a bigger place later in the tour.  Getting tickets for this show was an easy feat and Carla was into it.  It was her intention to make the show part of our anniversary celebration though I got home late that night and we got to the show late (as the times that were wrong or changed and we thought we had more time to get there.  Usually the times he posts are correct but it's not his fault).  But it was a good show.  A younger crowd than I'm used to but it's good to see that able, younger bands are still capable of gaining a new audience and building a crowd over time through long tours and solid songs.  We missed Vacationer, who opened.

Bombay Bicycle Club's set-list:
"Your Eyes"
"Dust on the Ground"
"How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep"
"Leave It"
"Bad Timing"
"Rinse Me Down"
"Ivy & Gold" (with drum solo & "Shuffle" snippet)
"Lights Out, Words Gone"
"What You Want"
"Cancel on Me"
"Always Like This"

"Carry Me"
"What If"

Sunday, October 7, 2012

New Order, October 7 at the Greek

I actually hesitated in getting tickets to see New Order.  One of my favorite bands for half my life but I was burned by that horrible performance at Coachella in 2005.  I knew I couldn't even hope for many cuts deeper than their singles and I'd already seen those, and the versions I heard on CD were better.  I still love the band, maybe even more since I've gotten more into Joy Division over the last years, but I still didn't feel an obligation to see New Order, even if they were playing a relatively small place like the Greek.  It was Zara who got me even thinking about it, since we were communicating about the pre-sale and such, and I made a minor attempt to get tickets.  The seats that came up weren't great (relatively) but I had the opportunity in front of me and I went for it.  The worst that could happen is that we'd have a night out.  Carla wasn't a particular fan but she knew their popular stuff well enough.  We met up with Zara & Bryan before the show and had a picnic of pizza and got toasted on wine and headed in (missing openers Run Run Run).  I had checked the past set-lists and it didn't deviate much from that.  Their big thing at the moment was the release of "Elegia" as an extended single and I thought we'd get the whole 15 minutes of it.  But it was probably shorter than the version on Low-Life and just there to set the mood.  Ending that would have been perfect to drop into "Regret" (one of the few highlights from the Coachella set) but they skipped it, the only blemish on a night that otherwise was splendid, much beyond my expectations.  They leaned more on the '80s stuff, which is understandable, and they even played some deeper cuts, since at least they had the time, not squeezing in a festival set.  "5 8 6" was a surprise (or would have been if I hadn't looked at the set-lists).  Hook's absence was noticeable but not regrettable; they do fine without him, and if he's holding up their doing more stuff, then he can stay away.  They had recently released Lost Sirens but played nothing off of it (though I wasn't as familiar with it at all) but they also avoided everything off Waiting for the Siren's Call.  Anything off Get Ready would have been welcome but I'd seen that at the Moby show anyway.  (They played "Here to Stay" from that era the night before.)  In all, it was the kind of show they should be expected to play.  They're getting on in years but they make the effort.  That they usually tour so infrequently, it seems a cruel trick that we only get to see them in a relative glimpse at a festival.  But to see them play a full show, and maybe even go over their contracted time by 10 minutes, seems a treat.  Maybe they've really just been messing with our expectations all these years and now they're finally bringing it again.  Maybe Hook was holding them up.  Maybe the stars just aligned, there under the sky in the open air of the Greek.  As it turns out, we got a night out as well as getting a pretty great show.  I probably wouldn't have known it from seeing the set-list but, if I'd known how it turned out, that's a show I would have missed with regret. 

New Order's set-list:
"Age of Consent"
"Isolation" (Joy Division)
"Love Vigilantes"
"Close Range"
"Your Silent Face"
"Bizarre Love Triangle"
"5 8 6"
"True Faith"
"The Perfect Kiss"
"Blue Monday"

"Atmosphere" (Joy Division)
"Love Will Tear Us Apart" (Joy Division)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Garbage, October 2 at the Palladium

For a while it was easy to forget that I'm a huge Garbage fan.  They went away and even the fans they had left doubted they'd even get back together, or if it would even be a big deal if they did anyway.  But they did, maybe a bit too far ahead of a '90s revival, though probably instead to prove that they're not just a nostalgia act.  They came back with a new album, Not Your Kind of People, that proved that they could be as vital as ever, even if the trends have moved on and tried to leave them behind.  They played the El Rey earlier in the year ahead of this tour, which would have been a great venue to see them in, but it was one of the few times I've passed on getting tickets due to watching my money (though I still made an attempt, just didn't get in).  I thought I might get a chance later.  So they played the Palladium, where I've seen them before, but this was a different place in time (as well as the Palladium being essentially a new place).  It was a good size for them, though I doubt it sold out.  They may be past their days of filling the Wiltern (where the show was set for originally) but their stuff just sounds better in a medium-size venue -- not too big that nuance is lost, not so small that the sounds bursts the edges.  And they sounded great, as well as they did years ago.  At this point they're worn from being on the road or just due to age so they're not as jumpy as they might have been (well, Shirley at least, since the rest of the guys were already fairly old (for a rock band) when they started), but they wear being elder statesmen well, and they've earned the years on them.  Shirley still acts the part of the she-demon (maybe one of the last times she'll have credibility doing so (unless she just gives in to being immortal)) and at one point skipped all around the stage, showing the comfort she's finally come into but maybe betraying the coy, sultry vixen she was in their earliest years.  They leaned toward the new album, maybe too much since that material hadn't really connected, but the crowd was fanatic enough to go along with it until they got to a classic track.  They avoided anything but one track from Beautiful and only a token few from Bleed Like Me (much to my dismay) so they tried to make the new stuff stick, especially in the encore, but also kept in mind where their bread is buttered with the old stuff.  At one point in the encore they seemed lost for a particular direction and seemed to have space for an extra song so Shirley put out a call for a fan request.  Immediately I was screaming "Subhuman" (their first single, even before "Vow", a super-obscurity that would probably stump anyone there, maybe even including the band, something they've played only once since 1996 and that I've never heard live but would surely sound awesome), but some young chick in front called out "Man on Wire", a new B-side, which seemed like a plant as well as a missed opportunity.  Maybe I should have went with their cover of "Thirteen", as that would probably have been Carla's pick.  Carla only knew the band casually back in the day so that left me to be the crazed fanatic, jumping around and screaming like I did in my early-20s at one of their early shows when we'd be pushed up in the pit.  I let it take me over, and it took me back to another place and those moments I've spent when that music has meant so much to me.  They didn't stay out on the road as long as they usually do but that show was more than sufficient.  They could have just played "Vow" and that would have been enough for me.  As usual they kept pushing and overcoming expectations.  They still have that magic to remind me what a fan I am.

Screaming Females opened but we missed them.

Garbage's set-list:
"Time Will Destroy Everything" (intro)
"Automatic Systematic Habit"
"I Think I'm Paranoid"
"Shut Your Mouth"
"Why Do You Love Me"
"Stupid Girl"
"Hammering in My Head"
"#1 Crush" ("Erotica" intro)
"Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)"
"Blood for Poppies"
"Special" (Shirley sings a few lines from the Pretenders' "Kid" at end)
"The Trick Is to Keep Breathing"
"Battle in Me"
"Push It"
"Only Happy When It Rains"

"I Hate Love"
"The One"
"Man on a Wire"
"You Look So Fine"

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wilco/Joanna Newsom, September 30 at the Hollywood Bowl

When a show is announced, I decide then whether I'm going to go or not and I try my best to get tickets. If I don't get tickets, I generally put it out my mind.  If I care enough to want to motivate myself to go to a show, I'll care at the beginning and make sure I have a ticket secured and I don't have to chance it later on.  It's hard enough for me to be decisive, but my deadline for deciding about a show is generally right off.  Every once in a while, though, if I'm not completely sure, I might just put it off, just to see what happens.  Usually I assume tickets are sold out after that and I don't bother with it again.  But there are times I get tickets later on, through whatever means, and I've sometimes had that fantasy about deciding the day of to get tickets and seeing what kind of deal I can get, if one at all in the first place. And I look at second-hand ticket sites just to stay up with the processes of getting concert tickets, and it's a source of curiosity to track ticket prices and see how much I could get for mine, even knowing I'm not going to sell them. Carla and I had talked about seeing Wilco at the Bowl but we kept holding off.  We wanted to see what kind of opener they would get, as they often seem to make compelling and unique combinations for Bowl shows, but adding Joanna Newsom to the bill didn't do much for us. Not that we have anything against the lady, and we both had heard of her through the years, but we knew enough to know that we weren't curious that it was going to automatically sell us on that show.  I don't know if it's a common approach to hesitate on getting last-minute tickets, but Carla is the same as I am in getting tickets first-off or not at all.  But no matter who's opening, it's still Wilco and it's still a show at the Bowl.  The day of the show I was monitoring Seatgeek (a site I found because of Consequenceofsound), which I'd checked out of curiosity for a while and the one I knew I'd turn to if I ever wanted second-hand tickets.  They're an aggregate of all the after-market ticket sites and sometimes there are some interesting deals.  There were still handfuls of Wilco tickets available and I was pawing around for some cheap ones.  It didn't matter to us so much where the tickets were, as every seat at the Bowl is a good one, and generally we just wanted to go in to the show.  I found a pair of tickets for $35 each, and I was still a little hesitant since I hadn't bought second-hand tickets from this site yet but it was inexpensive enough to try it out.  Even better, it wasn't through Ticketmaster and there weren't rape charges and hidden fees (at least not built into our tickets).  That show for under $100 -- a good deal.  I'm sorry for whoever had to let the tickets go for under what they paid for them but at least they got a bit of cash for them.  So in pretty short order we got a dinner and a bottle of wine together and had our night at the Bowl. It was also the first time we took the shuttle, that time from the Zoo, which made it a lot easier and cheaper than trying to park at the Bowl and getting stuck in gridlock on the way in and out or walking that distance from the subway.  The show itself was a standard Wilco show, which is not a bad thing at all, they just don't have the highs of sing-along radio hits or the lows of cuts from bad albums. But they still have a whole lot of songs, some of them buried on albums, and with a band who can play a well-known song as easily as an obscure one, a set-list can get wild, but this was a consistent show without a lot of surprises.  They played more from their newest album, which seemed a curious choice since it hadn't been as much of a hit for all the crowd to be as familiar with it, but the sound fit with the expanse of the Bowl.  And they played just enough from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to satisfy us, especially "Jesus Etc."  Just that song and the magic of the Bowl and Carla & I together was enough for a special evening, to wrap up the season there for us, under the stars and with our arms around each other.

Newsom was pleasant enough, and if we were there for harp music it probably would have been wonderful, but as it was it was just background music to ease into an evening of other music we could digest and enjoy more easily.

Wilco's set-list:
"Dawned on Me"
"War on War"
"I Might"
"Sunken Treasure"
"Spiders (Kidsmoke)" (acoustic arrangement)
"Impossible Germany"
"Born Alone"
"I Am Trying to Break Your Heart"
"Art of Almost"
"Jesus, Etc."
"Handshake Drugs"
"Whole Love"
"Hate It Here"
"Box Full of Letters"
"I'm Always in Love"
"A Shot in the Arm"

"Ashes of American Flags"
"California Stars"

"Heavy Metal Drummer"
"I'm the Man Who Loves You"

"Hoodoo Voodoo"
"Outtasite (Outta Mind)"

Joanna Newsom's set-list:
"Bridges and Balloons"
"Have One on Me"
"Inflammatory Writ"
"In California"


Monday, September 24, 2012

Local H, September 24 at the Troubadour

Local H may never again reach the heights that they got to for a fluke hit back in the mid-'90s -- that "copacetic" song (actually "Bound for the Floor" but no one ever seemed to get that).  Though they don't seem to mind -- part of their charm is that they're going to be pissy anyway.  The problem is that they actually keep making great albums and they keep putting on great live shows, and the fact that it's only two guys makes it all the more remarkable, but they don't draw a big crowd anymore.  One of those great albums is Hallelujah! I'm a Bum, one of my top albums for 2012, and what they were touring for for this show.  I can't tell if the pissiness is an act or not.  I might be pissed too if despite all my best efforts and even if I was making better work than I did at my commercial peak, 20 years later I couldn't get anything I did to grab much attention once the world had moved on from the rest of the genre I was stuck in, even if the rest of the stuff made by peers was dreck.  As great a venue as the Troubadour is, there's not much smaller, and Local H always seem to want to get out of L.A. faster than they'd have to bother with going to Spaceland for.  At least they can hang on to the Troubadour.  And that night they grabbed it and smashed it.  The show started off slow but only because it was new material that the crowd didn't know.  "Bound for the Floor" was early in the set, played out of obligation before they'd even really warmed up, but it also left the crowd scratching their heads as to what could come next.  It's the audience's own fault if they didn't give the new stuff a proper chance.  It might have even taken longer for them than it should have to finally smash into something the crowd recognized, the "all right, of yeahs" of "All Right, Oh Yeah" but once they had it, they really had it and the smashing began.  The tardy circle pit started and all the guys who threw the same elbows 20 years and 40 fewer pounds ago went nuts.  The whole place did.  After that it barely let up as Scott and Brian tore into one familiar anthem to anger after another (or what seemed familiar  at least).  It was a lot rougher crowd than I would have thought for a bunch of guys who got a babysitter on a weekday night.  I saw one guy in front of me get his head busted open.  If you want to judge a show by how rowdy it got, that was one of the best in a while.  Scott will probably keep plugging away at it, which will be welcome to a few, even if he can't connect it to any kind of massive success again.  And if it fuels his rage and that leads to more great albums, even when only a few aging fans are paying attention, at least he's still getting out there.  It was one of the kinds of rough shows that Carla used to go to before me so at least she was comfortable.  We also met up with Noa, who of course was in the middle of the pit just like she was the first time we saw Local H (at the same place), and Erica, who I hadn't seen in a while.

Scott apparently opened for himself but I don't know what he did, and the Ambassadors played before Local H but we didn't see them.

Local H's set-list:
"Waves / Cold Manor"
"Paddy Considine"
"Bound for the Floor"
"They Saved Reagan's Brain"
"Everyone Alive"
"Night Flight to Paris"
"Back in the Day"
"Say the Word"
"Feed a Fever"
"Another February"
"All-Right (Oh, Yeah)"
"All the Kids Are Right"
"Fritz's Corner"
"Hands on the Bible"
"Waves Again"

"2112" (Rush cover)
"California Songs"
"Look Who's W"

Friday, September 14, 2012

the Hives, September 14 at the Wiltern

As soon as I got the e-mail about the tickets, I wondered why I was initially going to skip seeing the Hives.  It was probably just being conservative: after having seen them at Coachella, there wasn't reason to make a great effort and spend the money to see them again.  They were my favorite act at the festival, as they usually are, but I didn't feel I needed more than that for this cycle.  But if tickets are free, anyone would be a fool not to go.  Rachel had tickets through her job, as she often did, and this was the first time she made the offer for a show and I could take her up on it (and thanks again, Rachel!).  Unfortunately, by the time I could get back to her to say that I definitely wanted to go, there was only one more extra ticket, so it was the very rare show that I went to without Carla, though she gave me her blessing to go.  I met up with Andrew and Heather, who had been drinking for most of the evening, for drinks and meet up with some of their friends, before Rachel met up with us and we went in to the show, scheduled to start close to midnight, which is so late it's almost not rock n' roll, but it gave us more time to drink.  The place was full but it was easy to get that maybe the crowd was stocked by people who just got tickets rather than real fans clamoring to see them.  Surely in our group I was the biggest fan, and even though I was the only one who could possibly have been prepared for the assault that is the Hives in concert, everyone else was able to get into it and maybe appreciate the majesty and sonic brutality that is a Hives show.  They never disappoint and they never give less than 100%.  As it might be a practiced show and even Pele's stage banter might be memorized, they never do less than entertain.  The only criticism could be that the crowd doesn't recognize their music enough to really get into it but that's their own fault for not paying attention to them after they stopped getting so much buzz a few years ago.  Whether the music is familiar or not, it's a show that seeks to entertain, and if you're not going to be open to that then you'll be run over.   The Hives don't care.  They're there to wreck any venue that will have them and the place is only lucky to be left standing when they're done.  If they don't get to take over the world as was their original mission statement, then they might as well obliterate it.  We were left obliterated that night.  Fidlar opened, and I listened to them a while later but at that time I didn't know a thing about them, which is a shame that I missed them, but we also had drinks to drink.

The Hives' set-list:
"Come On!
"Try It Again"
"Take Back the Toys"
"1000 Answers"
"Walk Idiot Walk"
"Main Offender"
"My Time Is Coming"
"Die, All Right!"
"Wait a Minute"
"No Pun Intended"
"These Spectacles Reveal the Nostalgics"
"I Want More"
"Won't Be Long"
"Hate to Say I Told You So"
"Patrolling Days"
"Go Right Ahead"
"Tick Tick Boom"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

the Walkmen, September 12 at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre

The Walkmen are another of Carla's bands.  I'd known about them for years and I checked them out, whether seeing parts of their sets at festivals or getting an album or two, but I just couldn't get into them.  No particular reason or anything against them; I've always thought they're pleasant enough, there's just nothing that's really grabbed me and I'd drifted elsewhere.  I've loved bands that are more abrasive and not every band has to have a rough edge, and not every band has to have a song that's grabs me early on, but there are also bands that I just pass on at the time.  But these guys are one of Carla's favorites and she had gone on about them since shortly after we met.  I was looking forward to a time when we could see them together, when I could enjoy them in her periphery, and even if I couldn't come to love them, I could see a good show and learn to appreciate them.  And getting us to see a show at the Ford Amphitheatre is an easy sell.  We saw an Irish music festival there a while before and were in awe of the venue: it's close to home, clean, well-maintained, big enough for not a huge crowd but for a good audience, and it's the rare place in L.A. that shows some kind of appreciation for nature, as the back of the stage is the edge of the forest behind the place.  There are some really good and pretty locales in the city but the Fonda is just beautiful.  They allow outside food there (another great thing about the venue) so we got some sandwiches and settled in for a great show.  And indeed it was.  The tunes were pleasant and the band blended in for a very agreeable performance.  I was more enraptured in being with Carla than the performance but the music made for a lovely setting.  It was just a joy being with her as she enjoyed the music so deeply.  That night everything just aligned and it was just a wonderful evening, one of our best that year, whether at a show or anywhere else.
Milo Greene opened but we missed him/them.

The Walkmen's set-list:
"Line by Line"
"We Can't Be Beat"
"The Love You Love"
"Blue as Your Blood"
"I Lost You"
"Love Is Luck"
"Angela Surf City"
"Red Moon"
"On the Water"
"In the New Year"

"All Hands and the Cook"
"Dónde Está la Playa"
"We've Been Had"
"Canadian Girl"

Saturday, September 1, 2012

FYF Fest, September 1 & 2 at the Los Angeles Historic Park

Music festivals can often be the beginning of a run for a band or it can be the end of one.  FYF Fest had a lot of both, from what I could see.  Going, for us, was a foregone conclusion.  Even at that point we thought our streak of attending Coachellas might be at an end and it just made sense to go.  The line-up was maybe the best I've ever seen for the festival.  This year was pretty much like Coachella, minus three or four of the top headliners and all the DJs.  The phrase "Coachella replacement" was thrown around more than once.  It just makes sense to go, and it's a lot easier and cheaper than a Coachella weekend, as much as I've always loved that festival.  A lot easier to get our friends together for it, and this year along with me & Carla it included Andrew & Heather, Noa, Vanessa, Jenn, Rachel, and the first time we met Max.  If nothing else it was a great weekend with friends in beer gardens.  But the music was great too, with a lot of bands that got much bigger after that, some bands that I was surprised to see they got, and a few bands that never showed up again (at least for a while). 

FYF Fest lends itself well to grazing and checking out new bands but the way they have it set up, with five stages and so many acts piled up on each other schedule-wise, there are some tough decisions to be made.  We saw only half of Cloud Nothings so we could get over to Chairlift, and we knew that was a choice we couldn't win.  I'd started getting into Cloud Nothings just a month or two before and their fury translated from album to stage.  I knew we were missing out by not seeing their whole set but somehow we also knew that they were only starting; There was no reason Chairlift couldn't be great.  They may not be best-suited to play in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of a dusty field but their music holds up.  It would have been a good set if the singer hadn't had a fit when one of her songs, which she was attempting to perform in Japanese, hadn't worked to her satisfaction and she stormed off the set, ending it early.  For what it was, it sounded fine to me.  She should have played it out.  Maybe they wouldn't have disappeared so quickly after that; Fucked Up was more grazing.  I liked that album they went big (relatively) with but I wasn't familiar with their most recent work, so it was enough to drop by and see if I could pick out enough to get a vibe from them but I think it was more of a stop in the beer garden and they just happened to be playing near there; the Pains of Being Pure at Heart was another band I was getting into, especially after their Coachella set and in the time leading up to this show, and they were good but they didn't exceed what I'd seen before.  I had high hopes for them to go big but that seemed to be the last anyone heard from them after that.  It's the worst thing about indie bands: they might get big (relatively) but it's often not for long and when they go away, they go all the way away; I adore Warpaint but they seem to fit in so well with these SoCal music festivals, it's easy to take them for granted.  After missing them for so long, it seems like they were everywhere all of a sudden.  We checked them out, maybe out of obligation, but the best thing about their set was some new tunes, a promise of new material soon, though not in the next year, which would mean they would come back, so it turned out to be a bit of an odd appearance, since they were in limbo; one of the high points for us were Sleigh Bells.  They became a favorite of mine after Carla got me into them, after I might have dismissed them as an over-loud flash-in-the-pan.  But I'm always glad that I know them well enough to check them out in concert, since they always bring the music and the form and the noise.  Loud, crazy, loud.  They definitely -- defiantly -- did not disappoint and could easily have headlined themselves.  Probably won't be long; Quicksand had been around for a while and I knew enough about them to know that their reuniting was a minor big deal.  We drifted over just to check them more just to say we did.  I probably should have done more homework but as it is I didn't get much from it. Then they disappeared from me again; M83 were a big deal at the time, having a hit on KROQ and in the world, so it made them an odd choice for a headliner, especially since in that short amount of time they were also a bigger name than pretty much the entire rest of the bill.  I would have thought they'd be a little too chill for the show, especially one with so many punk or punk-like bands.  Playing at night must have helped, but apparently they were appreciated enough that I couldn't get close enough to want to give them more than just a few minutes, and what I saw wasn't too different from what I would expect; we went over to Simian Mobile Disco, two DJs as far as I know, and they sounded great and they had a fantastic light show, but it was so packed with a whole field of people losing their minds, that we just had to move on.  There's such a thing as too much sometimes; we cruised by Refused on the way out, and I know I should have some knowledge and respect for them but it was too far for me to go at the time; we probably should have seen the Growlers, who played at the end, and Redd Kross earlier in the day, but just didn't get there.

Another great thing about having a great festival so local is getting in and out.  On Sunday we tried to make an attempt at rushing to get in, in time to see King Khan and the Shrines.  We got there just barely in time for the beginning of the set,then spent the whole time in the nearby beer garden with the others.  Last time we all saw them was an all-out dance fest but this time it seemed more acceptable to just enjoy them with a drink and each other and conserve our energy.  They sounded every bit as fun as they always are and I hope that they got some bodies moving in their crowd, even if it wasn't us this time. Cursive, who played at the same time, probably wouldn't have done any more for us either; I was a late-comer to Against Me!, following everyone else in on New Wave, but I never saw them on that tour or before that show.  I think it was also early in the tour for them since Tom/Laura had his/her gender-reassignment but that didn't seem to affect the crowd in the least.  For anyone who didn't know, it might have looked weird, though it wasn't too strange for a rock band and especially in L.A.  What mattered is that they rocked as hard as anyone out there, if not harder, and they sounded great.  There were a few tunes I didn't recognize so they must have been appeasing old fans or being adventurous and trying out new songs.  Whatever it was, I'm now a fan of their live shows.  If they always play like that, Tom/Laura can decide whatever in the world he/she wants to be; mid-Sunday was a really tough decision: not just one conflict but four at the same time: Paul Banks or Atlas Sound or Glass Candy or Dinosaur Jr.  We went with Dinosaur.  And I thought I might regret it.  I've always respected J. Mascus and I know he can rock a guitar (if not playing as an entire band), I've just been unable to get past his voice and the songs I've heard, in the admittedly limited time I've given them, haven't often grabbed me at first pass.  But I figured I had some kind of obligation to see them, if only just to say that did.  And I found out that not only was I wrong, but I was more wrong than I have ever been.  I should have been into Dinosaur years ago, and I should have worshiped them.  Not only did they play some songs I didn't realize that I would recognize but they played "Out there", which I've always loved in spite of J.'s voice and which I didn't think they'd do since they didn't record it with Lou, and a cover of "Just Like Heaven" and a whole lot of other songs that I didn't even have to be familiar with to love and make me want to jump up and down and scream and pledge my allegiance to them.  In short, they burned the place down.  Not only possibly the best set out there that weekend but maybe one of the best sets I've seen in years and years.   Absolutely incredible.  And of course they did it effortlessly, because of course they did this all the time, whether you're a fan or not.  All within the allotted time-frame of a music festival.  And with Uncle Hank Rollins sitting at the side of the stage, absorbing the whole thing along with us (though not jumping up and down like we were).  And it turns out Paul Banks didn't do any Interpol stuff anyway; I have to admit to not always being a gigantic Bright Eyes fan, but I have a chunk of their music and I was curious to see Oberst in his old punk band, with the Desaparecidos.  They sounded a lot heavier and louder than I would have thought. That was all I got out of them, though; we stopped in to see Liars, which I've heard about, though what I've heard has been amazingly inconsistent.  I'm pretty picky with my avaunt-garde and noise-rock and I haven't had much reason to give them time.  Their set sounded fine.  But I continue on with most of what I know of them being that Karen O wrote "Maps" about that guy.  That would be enough; Health are local, and they seemed to be doing a lot of the festivals for a while, but they seemed to be at the end of their span at that show.  We'll probably see the band members elsewhere later on; as much as I try, I just can't care much for Yeasayer. They were a buzz band for a while, and they always seem to be placed highly at fests, but I can't help but lump them in with Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors and stuff that I like less exponentially the more I listen to it.  Whatever it is in those pieces, they just don't fit with me.  But we had an open space in the schedule on our way to something else and we gave them a chance.  Still nothing for me there; we stayed in the beer garden for Beirut too and they did just as much for me but it had also been a long day. Their sound is a little more comfortable but I still didn't think of them enough to check them out outside of a festival.  We also didn't see the Faint, who played at the end, though we heard a bit of Turbonegro while we were leaving.  It makes me wonder how they determine the placement of these bands on the line-up.  At least a few of those can draw a good-sized crowd, even if I'd be ready to leave.  FYF Fest has so much to offer: a chance to say good-bye to some familiar bands or hello to some new favorites, a beautiful day at a (finally) well-run festival, great food trucks and beer, and most importantly, a day out with friends.

Sleigh Bells' set-list:
"Crown on the Ground"
"True Shred Guitar"
"Riot Rhythm"
"Infinity Guitars"
"End of the Line"
"Born to Lose"
"Comeback Kid"
"Never Say Die"
"Tell 'Em"
"A/B Machines"

Dinosaur Jr.'s set-list:
"The Wagon"
"Back to Your Heart"
"Out There"
"Feel the Pain"
"Training Ground" (Deep Wound cover)
"Just Like Heaven" (The Cure cover)
"Freak Scene"

Against Me!'s set-list:
"Transgender Dysphoria Blues"
"Cliché Guevara"
"I Was a Teenage Anarchist"
"Don't Lose Touch"
"White Crosses"
"True Trans Soul Rebel"
"Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists"
"Drinking with the Jocks"
"New Wave"
"Pretty Girls (The Mover)"
"Better Days"
"Black Me Out"
"I Still Love You Julie"
"Pints of Guinness Make You Strong"
"Sink, Florida, Sink" 

Warpaint's set-list: 
Instrumental jam

King Khan and the Shrines's set-list:
Introduction music
"Outta Harm's Way"
"Land of the Freak"
"So Wild"
"Bite My Tongue"
"I Wanna Be a Girl"
"Shivers Down My Spine""
"Luckiest Man"

Cloud Nothing's set-list:
"Fall In"
"Stay Useless"
"Cut You"
"Wasted Days"
"No Future/No Past"

Friday, August 31, 2012

Old 97’s, August 31 at the El Rey

I've seen the Old 97's a number of times, enough to be pretty good with not needing to pile up more times (especially since I haven't gotten any of their new material in quite some years) but much for my love for them comes from my passion for Too Far To Care. They sure have a lot of great songs but that album could be the start and finish of them for me. There's not a song on that album that I don't dig.  And there's something about the album as a whole, maybe the production, that I just really like.  The sound is forward but not aggressive, and it all gels into a rousing but comforting mix.  So when they said they were going to tour playing the whole album, I knew I'd be in.  As far as I'm concerned, that's the ultimate Old 97's gig.  Playing the whole album, as is the trend with a number of bands lately, is a bit of a trick, since, as a lot of albums have the best or most aggressive songs at the front, if the band is playing the album in chronological order, they have to play those songs up front, while they're still warming up.  Some bands get around this by playing the album out of order (Sebadoh), first doing B-sides (Pixies) or a greatest-hits of the rest (Weezer, Peter Gabriel), or dropping in other songs as they play (Catherine Wheel), but there's something admirable about just jumping right in to it, if they can pull it off.  Since the crowd is there for a album, it just makes sense to come out and tear right into it straight-off, but there's something to be said about shaking the dust off and being energized enough to get it to sound as good as it should.  Of course, "Timebomb" had to open the set and the show, as it opens the album, and while it was good because it's a great song, there was something stilted and forced and maybe even cold about it. This song, one of the band's best, is what they most often close the night with, which they've been doing for years.  They play that song when they've been on fire and just one push to really put that song over the edge to finish the night, and it's a great way to end. Maybe not a great way to start.  They didn't really catch a spark until a few songs in, but once they had it they really had it.  A shame that they had to sacrifice a few of those great songs from the beginning of that album to warming up but it was still great to hear them, the few that they don't already play frequently (as they've played a lot of that album at shows I've seen anyway).  Then a break and for the second set a slew of apparently new songs, since I wasn't familiar with many of them, and the band seemed glad to be doing stuff that wasn't so worn but they seemed to be happy to play the hell out of so much of their best stuff.  As always they played energetic alt-country that veers a lot harder toward rock, not bound by any easy classification except as a great live band.  And to show that they could really do it, and do it better, they closed with "Timebomb", playing with it with more energy and enthusiasm and thrill than before, taking it beyond just being a great song.  The only bummer about the show is that I don't think I need to see another Old 97's show since I can't imagine how they could do anything to top that one (though there's some new material I could eventually get around to).  Before the show Carla & I met up with Rick and some friends but lost them when the show started.