Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I was thinking...

I was thinking the other day about how maybe I was a little unfair about the Of Montreal review I wrote. I decided that, no, I wasn't, my opinion is my opinion is my opinion and there's very little I can do to sway that (if this sounds incredibly selfish please refer to the beginning of the story where the audience learns that I'm an only child, and therefore selfish by nature...and well, you know, choice...). I did realize how it might be perceived as unfair to others for me to complain about the songs that weren't played, especially considering this was my fourth time seeing them and have probably heard all the songs I wanted to hear at least once, the exception of course being the "The Past is a Grotesque Animal", which I am still a little surprised about its absense being that it is one of the more popular and most talked about songs off their new album.

I came to the realization that I might be acting unfair when, in anticipation for the Arcade Fire concert I recently bought tickets to (serious anticipation - the show is in three months!) I caught myself daydreaming about what the concert might be like. Seeing the YouTube footage of them playing two new songs live on SNL didn't help matters any, but that's not the point.

The point is, I already know that we're going to get the entire new album live, and probably only a handful of older songs. Some of the sets I've seen don't even include "Wake Up", which used to be how they opened every show for quite some time. Granted, they've been doing the lobby performances, and I think "Wake Up" is getting played there, but still...

*Cue random memory dream sequence:*

I will always remember the thousands and thousands of screaming Arcade Fire fans singing along to that song in the 108 degree heat at the 2005 Austin City Limits festival...

*now snap out of it, retain position on soapbox*

...and now the odds are higher that I won't even hear the song at all, and I'm okay with that. I really am. I've been lucky enough to see them twice on the Funeral tour, I have a DVD copy of (most) of the Jackpot show, and thanks to YouTube and Torrents, a seemingly endless amount of other live audio recordings and video footage that I can listen to or watch at any given time. I have not, however, ever seen them play any of the new songs live, and that honestly excites me.

This sort of reminds me of being a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan back in the day in two ways. The first being that I never got to hear them play my favorite song of theirs, and still one of my favorite songs ever, "Soma", any of the times that I saw them, and yet not once was I upset about it, nor did I complain. I just went to the show, rocked out, and had a ball.

The second way is that I saw that band live 5 times, which I thought was normal until I started meeting Pumpkins fans that never got to see them (keep in mind I spent a lot of time on Pumpkins message boards, where you can meet some really freaky superfans that put me and my obsession to shame). Suddenly, my twisted perception came into focus, and I got to realize that I was lucky to be there for that many of their shows. Not everyone got to see them at the Granada (though not everyone paid as much to see them at the Granada as I did, but that's another story...), not everyone can say they were there in Chicago at one of their final shows (I almost wrote ever...oh man Billy, you fucking jackass...), and I should just be thankful that I was there.

So why do I feel the need to complain about sets now? Why do I forget, still, that maybe I'm lucky to be a part of these, in the grand scheme of things, insignificant moments in life? Yeah, the Arcade Fire playing the Jackpot was hands down the highlight of 2004 for me, but the world keeps on turning regardless of where they play.

Then I remember that music matters more to me than others, and while that may not be enough justification for you, its plenty for me.

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Live Review: Autumn Defense (2/26/07)

I'm going to try and write this review without mentioning Wilco...

....fuck it, I can't do it.

First off, the Autumn Defense are good. They are, really, I swear. The problem is, they can be a little boring. Another problem is, sometimes you wish Jeff Tweedy had written the song for them. I don't mean to sound like a dick, I really don't, but I can't help the fact that I like Wilco (see, I told you I couldn't do it) much more than I like the Autumn Defense, and even if the two bands sounded nothing alike I would still probably want Jeff Tweedy to have written it, just because that man really does know his way around a song. Hate me if you must, but that's the way I feel.

On an unrelated note, care to place any bets as to whether another Jeff is going to be at the Apples in Stereo concert. No, I don't mean that Jeff, I mean that Jeff.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Of Montreal Live Review (2/20/07)

No, Kevin wasn't naked. If that's all you wanted to know, you can move on now. If you're not sure what I'm referring to, apparently you haven't been keeping up on your reading (DISCLAIMER: DON'T CLICK ON THE LINK IF YOU ARE AT WORK, NEAR SMALL CHILDREN, OR JUST DON'T HAVE THE DESIRE TO SEE KEVING BARNES' PENIS)

After my usual preshow warmup (side note - the new Blonde Redhead sounds amazing while high) we ventured into the Granada. I've never thought of the Granada as a big venue before, but after seeing Of Montreal in much more intimate setting like the Jackpot and the Bottleneck, the Granada seemed a little big for them. However, the bigger space did make it a little easier to breathe, as the last couple of Bottleneck shows were packed-to-the-max sold out. This show supposedly was 30 tickets away from a sellout, but seemed even more comfortable than that (unless you were up front, then I imagine you probably were packed in pretty tight). My friends and I took up residence on a nearby platform so we could actually have a view of the band and their new video projection screen and 2 smaller side screens (obviously the money they received from the Outback Steakhouse commercial was put to good use).

The band took the stage shortly after, and opened with "Suffer for Fashion". I really like this song, and it is a great song to open with, but the song did not sound quite right. I chalked it up to the fact that we were near the back of this bigger venue, but as the set progressed I learned that this was not necessarily the case. Unfortunately, several of the new songs did not sound mixed quite right. This is partly due to the fact that Of Montreal has officially stepped out of the shadow of their former psych-poppy selves and started employing a drum machine more often than a live human drummer. In fact, I think the only reason they have a live drummer is for when they play Satanic Panic and some Sunlandic material. After another album or two like the new one they will probably lose the live drums entirely.

Anyhow, from there the band moved into the brooding and moody "Cato as a Pun" which led perfectly into the brooding and moody "October is Eternal" which seagued perfectly into the "I Was a Landscape in Your Dream", a pretty bleak set of songs if you ask me. Luckily they got it out of their system, because right after came a set of older, and dancier songs. First came the rockin' Sunlandic opener "Requium for O.M.M.2", the lovely "Lysergic Bliss" (complete with the vocal harmony at the end) and an amazing "Vegan in Furs" that was so energetic I just wanted to throw my hands in the air (instead I just kept dancing with Girlfriend, which, you know, is pretty nice too...). Throw in "Forcast Facist Future", a song that never fails to get the crowd moving, and you have to high point of the show for me.

While I can't say I had a bad time after that, that would be a total lie, I can say that some of the new songs still sounded a bit off and that affected my listening experience. The biggest exception was "Grondlandic Edit", which actually sounded pretty fucking awesome in the live setting. I wondered how the vocal part would translate, or if they could even pull off the falsetto, but they nailed it perfectly. The older material still sounded great, but unfortunatley they didn't play very much ater that. They threw in "Rapture Rapes the Muses", which is pretty much a live staple since it is, as they proclaimed when I saw them back in '04, their first dance song (of many now), and ended their main set with the always great to hear "The Party's Crashing Us".

At this point in time it seemed to me like the show was ending a little soon. After reading some of the other set lists from this tour, I can safely say that Lawrence got the shaft, which is unfortunate because I really would have loved to keep dancing all night, and there were certainly plenty of songs they didn't play that would have fit the bill perfectly ("Wraith Pinned to Mist" and "The Past Is a Grotsque Animal" for starters), but all ages shows must end sometime before midnight, so it goes. The encore was a little underwhelming. "We Were Born the Mutants Again With Leafling" was pretty cool, but almost too slow after the all the dancing we had been doing. To my dismay, they ended with a Fiery Furnaces cover that I do not know the name of. I could never really get into that band, but Of Montreal did a great job with it. However, it would have been nice for them to end on one of their own originals. Seriously, where was "Wraith"? I know that the band has become a target for selling that song, but who cares? Its a fucking great song, and would have been a much better way to go out on than a cover that many in the audience are probably not aware of (a compromise would have been a Bowie cover, which they've also been doing on this tour). Maybe I'm bitter, I don't mean to sound that way, I guess I was just not very happy with the encore. I love this band and I'm happy for all their success. I hope the get the new songs figured out a little more and come back in the fall, on a weekend, and don't stop playing 'til the last hipster drops.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Radio Play My Favorite Song

Something rather surreal happened to me late one night (or early one morning, depending on how you look at it).

On the way home from doing some serious after hours drinking at a suburban Chuck-E-Cheese, my friend's brother, who was taking my friend and I home, was changing the channels on the radio when I heard something familiar. It was dark, moody, dense, yet beautiful. It took a few seconds but when it clicked I shouted in excitement.


Radio picking up on bands I love an album or two late is nothing new. In 2004 commercial radio and MTV had a field day with Modest Mouse and Interpol, if you'll recall. Bright Eyes' single "Road to Nowhere" was played to death in these parts, and he even scored a high profile (and much talked about) gig on Jay Leno. My Morning Jacket even got some airplay last year with "Off The Record". So the Arcade Fire getting picked up is really, no surprise.

I just wish KC was as cool as the other cities that, you know, were already playing them when Funeral came out! On a recent trip to Minneapolis, the company I was with and I were treated to "Power Out" one night while we were driving around. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments of spontaneity that only hearing it on the radio, not on CD or iPod, could provide.

So please, keep playing Arcade Fire. Play "Black Mirror" and "Keep the Car Running". Play some "Laika" and some "Tunnels" while you're at it. I honestly don't care. I know what playing my favorite "indie" bands can do to them, ticket prices, etc, and I honestly just don't fucking care. The Arcade Fire, like the Shins, Interpol, Modest Mouse, deserve to have their songs played. Other bands do too, I'm well aware of that. But we have to start somewhere, and if the Arcade Fire getting airplay brings us one step closer to hearing the latest Deerhoof single on the radio someday, I personally am all for it.

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The Shins @ Liberty Hall (2/12/07)

I don't know if you are aware of this, but the Shins are kind of a big deal. I learned this fact the hard way when the Shins came to town way back in November of 2003. The band's sophomore album, Chutes Too Narrow had been in stores for only a month, and while I knew of the hype surrounding the band's first album, the second one didn't seem to be resonating with fans quite as much. I based this fact on, what, not hearing the new material on KJHK. Had I just thought rationally for a moment I would have known that I was wrong. That, and it-band-of-the-year The Rapture was opening (I know, I'm still just as confused as to how or why as you). I was even warned by a reliable source that the show would sell out, which should have served as a premonition, but I did not listen. My logic told me that if I could get Mars Volta tickets the day before their show only a month prior, then there would be no problem for me to go right up to the venue on a cold, rainy, Sunday night and get inside the Shins concert. I was convinced, CONVINCED of this, and boy, was I wrong.

Obviously, I learned my lesson. In April of 2005, when tickets for the Shins spring tour went on sale, I immediately snatched mine up. There was no way I was taking any risks this time, and its a good thing too, because, surprise surprise, the show sold out in a couple of weeks (which might not sound impressive, but trust me, for Lawrence, it is. It would take a huge, and I mean HUGE band to sell out a show in a day there, and typically the huge bands don't play a place like Lawrence. The last band that I can honestly think of that sold out in a day, an hour actually, was the Smashing Pumpkins back in 2000. I'm sure there has been one or more since then, but none that I can think of. I'm not even sure if the Beck/Flaming Lips show sold out in a day, though I wouldn't be surprised if it had.). That was even a year and a half after the release of Chutes, and with no new album in sight.

So, when it was announced that the Shins were playing not one, but two shows in the wake of their latest release, Wincing the Night Away, part of me figured it was to accommodate everyone, since only one show would surely sell out. I got tickets ASAP, of course, I knew to take care of business, but I again underestimated the Shins and again, I was wrong. Not only did night one sell out in a few weeks, BOTH shows did. And no, not everyone was accommodated, as evidenced by the stragglers outside the venue, in the middle of the cold rain and later a blizzard, waiting in desperate vain hoping that some kind soul would have a spare ticket to offer.

Needless to say, Liberty Hall was packed. I went with a group of friends as large and as varied as a television high school drama, which made for an excellent time at the brewery next door, but a frustrating experience when trying to squeeze ourselves into the venue and, stubbornly, still try to stay close to each other. It worked, sort of, as we found a spot on the far left on the stairs, which probably violated some fire codes or something, but as big of a deal the Shins have become, a fire probably would have done nothing to scatter the devoted crowd that awaited the band.

We missed Viva Voce in order to get a good buzz going next door, so there was only a mild wait until the main event arrived. My roommate and I were talking earlier about what song they would open with. We both agreed that "Australia" would be a superb way to start the show. When the opening keyboard notes to the song graced my ears and silenced the crowd, I got goosebumps. The first thing you notice about the Shins in concert is (a) Marty is a goofy bastard, and (b) James really can sing. It didn't take long for him to hit his stride vocally; he nailed "Australia" to a tee.

The band played four songs off Wincing to open the night: "Australia", "Sleeping Lessons", the short "Pam Berry" which led into the bands latest single, "Phantom Limb". "Pam Berry" was actually really cool to hear live, and I kind of wish they had rocked the guitars a little longer, a request that doesn't seem all that out of line to ask a band that had a ball rocking out and extending older songs like "One by One All Day", "Pressed In a Book", and "Kissing the Lipless". Unfortunately, "Phantom Limb" didn't sound quite right. Anita Robinson from Viva Voce's added vocals were a little off key with James, and because both were singing together for the first time of the night (she would appear often to add some vocal oomph) the mix was a little off as well. Another problem with the song was that, with Anita on vocals and keyboards, the Shins had three guitar players on the song, and while the three guitar attack works for some bands, "Phantom Limb" ended up sounding more like a sloppy southern rock song than the glossy pop song that had spent 2007 working its way into my heart.

After indulging in the new songs, the band played only three more the rest of the night and opted to focus on some of their top notch older material the rest of the way. While some of the choices were a little obvious (the Garden State songs of course) I must say I was also a little surprised to hear a couple of others, notably "Girl Inform Me" and "Pressed in a Book". I have to admit that I was worried at the beginning of the show that we would not be treated to as many older songs, but by the night's end the set ended up being incredibly balanced. Honestly, there is not one song I was really missing from the older albums, all my absolute favorites got played. "Saint Simon", my all time favorite Shins song, was especially beautiful, and the slower, stripped down version of "Girl on the Wing" were two highlights for me. To be honest, the one song I was really missing was a new one, "Sea Legs". I was not alone, as the song was getting requested left and right by anxious fans, only to fall on deaf ears.

By the end of the night I came to a realization: the Shins looked and sounded the part of the HUGE band, you know, the kind of band I said earlier usually skips Lawrence for bigger, greener pastures. They looked comfortable in that situation as well, and not just because they were stepping into the spotlight for guitar solos. Still, the band never once looked out of touch with the audience either. Their feet are firmly planted on planet Earth, even after Wincing debuted at number 2 and after playing SNL just a little over a week prior to the Lawrence stint. With the kind of adoring and devoted audience(s) waiting for them in Lawrence (and surely in Kansas City too, I have no doubt about that) here's hoping they continue to pay more visits in the future. It would be nice if a local band could put one of our fair midwestern cities on the map, but if the Shins are willing to go to bat for Lawrence in the meantime, you'll hear no complaints out of me.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

A Day Off And Music on the Brain

I'm going to see the Shins tonight. Not a big deal to some of you (just kidding, the 2 of you reading are probably the two I'm going with!), as the general consensus is that the Shins are boring live. To that I say, "I can see why....but you're still wrong."

This marks the third straight sellout show I've been to, not counting the Golden Republic show since they're just a local band. Yes, I degraded them down to "local band" status, and no its not just because I don't like them (though that doesn't help matters any). Actually, it could be the fourth straight sellout, but I'm not sure if Yo La Tengo eventually sold out or not. (The Faint, Camera Obscura, and now the Shins are the sellout shows)

I'm bringing this up not because I'm trying to brag to anyone. I bring it up more out of shock. It used to be that I'd rarely see a sellout show. The bands I liked carried plenty of buzz around them, but it was not usually enough to sell out the venue. Of course there were always exceptions, but let me just say I very rarely bought tickets more than a week in advance, and usually I bought them in advance only to avoid paying more at the door. However, I recently noticed a trend that began last year: I don't go to as many shows, and the ones I do go to are bigger bands and sellout shows.


I never meant for it to happen. Honestly, I really don't like the fact that it happened. Its a trend I'm going to try and change, but for now that's the way it goes.

A lot of it has to do with location. Yes, Kansas City is bigger, there are plenty of venues big and small, and the Record Bar especially worth mentioning as they get a fair amount of decent shows. Still, nothing compares to living in Lawrence and being able to walk, all within a mile from my apartment, to the Replay, Jackpot, Bottleneck, Granada, Liberty Hall, or the occasional house show.

Another factor, and this is sadly a big one, is that the Lawrence shows were and are all cheaper than the KC ones. A good example is Sigur Ros. $25 for to see them at Liberty Hall, $45 to see them in KC. Don't believe me, here's some more proof. The other night I paid $9 to see the Golden Republic at the Record Bar. A few years back they came to Lawrence opening for Sondre Lerche, and I think that show was only $12. By the Record Bar's logic, the Golden Republic would have accounted for 9 of those 12 dollars, AS AN OPENER? I think not. I realize the most recent show was the farewell show and that may have accounted for a spike in the ticket price, so here's another example. I paid $4 to see the Ponys and former it-band-of-the-month Dios Malos at the Replay. The Ponys are coming to KC with the current it-band-of-the-month Deerhunter, and the Record Bar wants $8. Still not enough proof? Here's a list of bands I either paid as much or less to see than I did for Friday's Golden Republic show: Arcade Fire, Decemberists, Explosions in the Sky, Man Man (twice), Deerhoof (twice), Of Montreal, Q and Not U, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Papa M, the Thermals w/ Tristeza, Elf Power, and Okkervil River. All of those bands either have more releases than the Golden Republic, a bigger fan base than the Golden Republic, and more critical acclaim than the Golden Republic. Many of the bands listed have all of the qualities over the Golden Republic. (The exception being Man Man, at least the first time I saw them. The second time was after they had more releases than the Golden Republic and more acclaim. The fan base is hard to determine.)

I shouldn't have to be defending myself though. Though my concert intake was less this past year than it has been since I left home, the concerts I did see were certainly worth the extra money. Sigur Ros is one of the best live bands I've ever seen. They are an experience, no doubt about it, and to see them twice last year was absolutely fucking amazing. Sonic Youth is always a favorite, as are Yo La Tengo and Built to Spill.

Still, I am resolving myself to not only see more shows, but to get out there and take more chances like I used to. Yes, I saw a lot of cheap shows in Lawrence, but many of those bands were either foreign or new to me at the time I saw them. Man Man especially was a pleasant surprise the first time I caught them. I think there were maybe 5 people there, myself included, but I know that the five of us were blown away. I need to take more chances like that, for the sake of my sanity, enjoyment, this blog, and so forth. It'll be fun, I promise.

Random thought: I hope the Shins play "Saint Simon". Such a good song.

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Thursday, February 8, 2007

I'm Back

I'm back everyone (you know, all three of you...). Not that I was anywhere in particular, but I digress. Here are some random thoughts to hold us all over until I get my camera working and (hopefully) start getting some pics of the upcoming shows I'm attending.

I really want to go buy the new Of Montreal right now. It will probably have to wait until Wednesday (otherwise known as payday), but to hold me over I've been visiting my new favorite site, The Hype Machine to get a quick fix. A lot has been said about "The Past is a Grotesque Animal", and for good reason. I'll admit its a little redundant musically, especially at over 12 minutes long, but just listening to Kevin Barnes clean out his emotional closet like that gave me chills. "She's a Rejecter" installs a similar feeling. I'm going to have a hard time dancing to these songs live....no, that's not true. I'll be drunk.

The Camera Obscura show two nights ago was great. I'm kinda sick, so the smoky Record Bar was a little much for my already damaged lungs, but the bands (Pony Up was the opener) were both fantastic. Camera Obscura played mostly new material, so old die hards were probably a little put off by the set, but I LOVE the new album so I was happy.

Tomorrow night at the Record Bar is the final Golden Republic show. I'm going, but not for them (yawn). My buds in Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk are opening, so look for me there early. If you don't already know, Baby Birds are my favorite local band right now. I'm looking forward to seeing them again, even if they are a three-piece now. Saturday is Dosh in Lawrence, but I won't be there. Wish I could go.

The new Arcade Fire is great. Not as good as Funeral, and definitely a grower, but man, what a grower. If you've ever wondered what the Arcade Fire would sound like if they covered Bruce Springsteen, you'll be pleasantly surprised with a few tracks.

Go Hawks! 97-70.

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