Beer and Pavement

CoMusic Filler: The Walkmen & The New Pornographers

Posted in Live by SM on May 2, 2011

I apologize for posting so late. Last night’s big news and a nasty cold I’ve been fighting was keeping me from being productive. Plus, I had blog posts that were due for two different blogs higher on my priority list. The post below was for the Collective. I have more to say and could possibly add footnotes later, but for now, this is what I saw/heard.

How many New Pornographers does it take to change a lightbulb?

As previously mentioned here, The Walkmen and The New Pornographers both graced the stage at The Blue Note Friday evening. As a Walkmen fan, I worried that the crummy turnout at the last two shows they played here would happen again Friday. Luckily, it did not. People turned out, but I don’t know how much they actually enjoyed themselves.

Let me be clear. Both bands put on excellent sets.

The Walkmen put on their typically solid set of songs, mostly from the last two records, but some old favorites were mixed in as well as some new, yet-to-be-heard songs. They were business like to match their business casual attire. Despite doing their job, the set moved efficiently and had energy. Highlights included a strangely tuned piano on “We’ve Been Had,” the previously mentioned new songs, and “The Rat” actually wasn’t the last song of the set.

The New Pornographers contrast The Walkmen in every possible way, but they balanced the night out with a good set of their own. Sadly missing was Dan Bejar, the best songwriter of the group, but we can’t get everything. Neko Case was there, pleasing many young men (and women) in the audience, garnering at least three offers of marriage. I had previously seen the band at the much larger Pageant in St. Louis where their set felt artificial, staged. Squeeze the Canadian supergroup onto the Blue Note’s tiny stage helped create a much more intimate setting, actually adding to the band’s pop-heavy energy. The New Pornos are a sharp group that put on a good show.

One thing both bands have in common is an unassuming, yet undisputed rock star leading the way. The Walkmen have Hamilton Leithauser, the tall, lanky, raspy-throated frontman who provided the prerequisite witty banter between songs. For the Pornos, they technically have three or so leaders. However, Dan Bejar, as mentioned above, was not there and Carl Newman just doesn’t seem to want that role. Neko Case was the rock star on hand Friday night. She held down her spot in front of the mic with tambourine in-hand. Sadly, the poor acoustics of the Blue Note did her voice no justice, but that’s another complaint for another post.

Despite all this alt-star power in the building, the Blue Note crowd was fairly apathetic. I can’t really figure out why the Note lacked energy. Two of the better touring acts come to our little college town on the same night, put on great sets, and it was a Friday nights should have meant an electric atmosphere. Sadly, that was not the case as many stood with arms folded. It could have been the questionable sound, the warm temperatures (I sweat in the Blue Note from April to October), or I completely misread both bands’ sets. Either way, let’s hope the CoMO crowd wakes up the next time two bands of this caliber play our favorite venue.

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4 Responses

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  1. Pizza Cottontail said, on May 2, 2011 at 11:14 am

    I saw Neko Case do a set on at the Blue Note a few months before I skipped town. The mixer did a good job at that show. My guess is that the show I saw was decent because it was a country/alt.country set–it seems like every rock/pop band I saw at the Blue Note got mixed like they were a metal band.

  2. Barleywhiner said, on May 2, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    They played in Lawrence last year, and Dan Bejar just kind of wandered on and off stage to do the songs he sings. I thought the show was fantastic. Amazing harmonies.

  3. Barb said, on May 2, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I thought at first that we might not have been seeing the energy as much because of our seats. Sitting in the balcony does reduce the feeling that you’re actually at the show – but then I went downstairs*…Not nearly enough people were jumping around.

    *truth – I actually went downstairs to see if the sound was better down there because it really sucked the first few songs of the NP set. It wasn’t much better downstairs and it did improve a little bit halfway through.


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