Beer and Pavement

Wild Flag at Record Bar

Posted in Live by SM on October 7, 2011

I tend to repeat myself, sometimes within the same blog post.

I tend to repeat myself, sometimes within the same blog post. And as you all well know, I’ve been waving the Wild Flag…er…flag the entire month of September. Their album is easily one of my top-3 of the year and I’ve been looking forward to Wednesday night’s show for weeks. In fact, I think this might make at least one Wild Flag mention for three of this week’s four posts. I am fully on that bandwagon and won’t be getting off any time soon.

So, Wednesday’s show was sort of a big deal for me. I was driving two hours to see a forgettable opener, 40-45 minutes of pure glory, and two more hours to drive home and hope I don’t fall asleep at the wheel. I arrived early and waited patiently outside. Carrie Wade joined me, ready to take some photos. I promptly purchased a Ranger and a t-shirt printed by Janet Weiss (in her kitchen, I presume). And I waited.

Yellow Fever was the forgettable opener. The Austin duo featured drum, a box full of pre-recorded keyboards, a little guitar, and some jazzy/retro singing. Carrie described the frontwoman as “Kate Blanchett playing Bob Dylan” and I can’t say that I disagreed. They might have been good, but I didn’t give them a chance as I was here to see Wild Flag. It’s not Yellow Fever’s fault they had to open for Wild Flag, but that still didn’t mean I had to like them.

Throughout this waiting time, I had flashbacks of the few times I saw Sleater-Kinney as Carrie Brownstein and Weiss hung out at the merch booth. I’ve purchased a Quasi t-shirt from Weiss once. Sleater-Kinney always used to hang out at and around the merch table, at least in my experience. Wednesday was no different as fan-boys (or men my age) gathered around and chatted up the former S-K members. The atmosphere was gaining energy as Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole joined their band mates, ready to go on.

And this is what I was waiting for. I guess.

First, let me tell you that this band is loaded with talent and a big sound that’s unmatched. They indeed translate live the way their debut album would suggest. Plus, you have some pretty great musicians from some pretty great bands. Few bands have one strong personality out front. With Timony and Brownstein, Wild Flag has two, at least. Plus, Weiss on the skins and Cole covering the low end with her organ, the band is well-rounded, solid throughout.

So, with all of that, the show was good and worth the four-hour round trip. The songs are great. There was a good energy and they picked fun covers (Patti Smith, Tom Petty).

That said, it is easy to see that this is still a group that is young in band terms. They were off throughout the night, missing marks and notes. Often, Timony and Brownstein could be seen laughing it off. And to their credit, they were always able to pick up the slack. These are veteran rockers who have played in some volatile spots.

However, what seemed to be nagging the band all night was a case of road-weariness. I sort of wonder if Brownstein’s busy schedule doing everything but playing in a band the last few years is taking its toll during this long tour. Of course, the entire band seemed tired and a bit sloppy throughout.

Still, Wild Flag left everything on the stage. Despite their fatigue and relative newness, they played valiantly, usually overcoming these obstacles through shear will and effort. It was a gutsy show even if it was a bit imperfect.

I hope Wild Flag gets some rest when this tour is over. They certainly deserve it. I know they earned their money Wednesday and could use a day or two off. Hopefully, some R&R will find them ready to record again as well as return to Missouri.

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My Goodness

Posted in Live by SM on August 15, 2011

I have other posts in the works, but here’s a review of a show from the weekend. It originally posted last night at The CoMo Collective. If you are from Columbia, MO or used to be from here, you should check it out. Even if you’re not, please click over once in a while. We have ads and my next tattoo, MacBook Pro, and beer shop won’t pay for themselves.

My Goodness

My Goodness

A smattering of folk sauntered into Sideshow Saturday night to catch a band or two. While most of the kids stayed just outside to get a smoke, a few of us wandered to the back of the venue, just past the bar to see and hear something awe-inspiring: My Goodness. For whatever reason, not many people showed for what is supposed to be an up-and-coming act out of Seattle and they missed out.

Let me start out by going the lazy rock journalist/blogger route by comparing My Goodness to other bands based solely on the most superficial of attributes. Like many an indie rock upstart over the past 15 or so years, My Goodness feature two members, three components: drums, guitar, and voice. Like the Black Keys, My Goodness plays their own brand of the blues. However, their tempo and urgency better resemble that of the Vancouver twosome Japandroids. I’d even say that their act reminds me of something closer to early White Strips, but drummer Ethan Jacobsen mops the floor with Meg White’s flock of black hair as he punishes the skins with reckless abandon. Another alt-twosome from Seattle that comes to mind is 764-HERO, but despite all their angst, they left open space where My Goodness guitarist Joel Schneider leaves dead bodies.

(Also, they sound absolutely nothing like Quasi, Matt & Kim, nor Mates of State for obvious reasons.)

My Goodness’ set was absolutely brutal. They laid into their instruments, punishing them, breaking strings, and testing the limits of Sideshow’s sound system. It amazes me the amount of noise that can come out of just two musicians, but My Goodness put on an ear-assaulting set that won’t soon be forgotten by the 10-15 of us who decided not to hang outside.

And that might be the most amazing part. My Goodness played for virtually no one but themselves and they tore up the stage. They even offered free t-shirts to any women wanting them, losing a third of their audience to free merch. When they asked how much time they had, I wondered if they were done playing for so few people, but they actually were excited upon learning they had another 15 minutes to play. It didn’t matter that you didn’t show your face Saturday night. My Goodness played anyway.

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Bright Eyes, Conduits

Posted in Live by SM on August 8, 2011

Bright Eyes last go around is happening right now. Conor Oberst’s primary project is set to retire at the conclusion of this tour. His last two efforts under the Bright Eyes moniker have been less than stellar, particularly considering his much fresher work with the Mystic Valley Band and the Monsters of Folk.

I’ve been attending Bright Eyes shows for quite a while. One thing I can always look forward to is a quality opener, usually from Omaha. Saturday night was no different as Conduits opened with an impressive set.

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Conduits sound like the National, fronted by Hope Sandoval channeling Patsy Cline. Drones from keyboards and Hammond organs provide balance with vocalist Jenna Morrison as the rest of the band lightly fiddled and strummed the in-between. The last two songs of the set really proved Conduits’ sonic value and convinced me to buy some music. I look forward to hearing more from Conduits soon.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve seen Bright Eyes several times and figured this would be a nice farewell. I treat anything Oberst does as a guilty pleasure. I mean, he seems to mostly appeal to 14-year-old girls. Then, I listen to his songwriting and dissect the instrumentation of his compositions and recognize his talent as well-beyond the Bieber set. You don’t have to love Conor Oberst, but you can’t deny the man’s musical ability.

The set didn’t feel like a farewell. Oberst mainly packed the list with songs from the last seven years and not the last 12 or 15. For me, farewells and reunions feature gems from an entire catalog, not just the most recent material. The songs were well-chosen and sequenced. I even vowed to give this year’s The People’s Key another listen as a few of the tracks translated well live. Still, a last go as Bright Eyes suggested that we’d hear  “The City Has Sex”, “Neely O’Hara”, or “The Calendar Hung Itself…”, but none of those were heard Saturday night (assuming they didn’t play another song during the encore – I left three songs in when it was clear I’d hear nothing old).

The other way in which this did not feel like a Bright Eyes farewell was Oberst’s demeanor. Sure, he’s a passionate and captivating performer, but something felt…well…let me explain.

Conor Oberst owned the stage Saturday. However, he used to own it through a sense of urgency, drunken youthful exuberance, and the music seeping from every pore of his body. Now, his music, his persona are out there. He’s no longer selling us his soul. Now, he’s selling entertainment and possibly a few records along the way. His antics on stage were the typical – dramatic hand gestures, shaking his luscious locks, spitting, making political gestures, and pulling an onstage stunt (burning a religious leaflet and calling it his “review”), but  one got the sense he had done this before. It almost felt as if he had written on the setlist “complain about how the war has been going on for like eight years or something.” He’s been doing this for a while. This is what Bright Eyes does.

Now, I’m not saying it all was contrived. Someone more cynical would take it that way. I’m just saying Oberst’s actions on stage felt less spontaneous than they did so many years ago. That’s okay. That’s what happens to rock stars, even the indie kind. This might be why he’s dropping Bright Eyes after this tour.

I remember hearing of this brash young man, opening for Stephen Malkmus by playing “Summer Babe” on accordion and leaping off the bass drum at the Hard Rock Cafe in New Orleans. Or what about the time I saw him play the first three songs with a George W Bush mask on, even refusing to take it off when he took swigs from a bottle of red wine? There are stories about his first time in Columbia, sneaking off to get wine before a KCOU gig despite being underage. Another story has Oberst playing kickball (or whiffle ball) with some locals and members of The Faint. I remember seeing him continue to play for fans in the alley behind a venue who had cut the power in order to stay compliant with an arbitrary curfew.

The man has a history for doing the dramatic and unexpected. That’s why it was somewhat disappointing to see Bright Eyes the stage show. The musicians were uber-professional. Oberst played it up to the crowd, even reaching to shake hands or recite his lyrics as if rapping with Jay-Z. Bright Eyes is no longer bedroom tapes brought live by a skinny kid drunk on red wine. Of course, it hasn’t been that way for a while.

Still, that’s not Conor Oberst’s fault. He’s still really talented. His voice and musicianship have improved over the years as has his stage presence – it’s just more conscious now. I can’t say that it was a bad show. It wasn’t life-altering, but it was good. Bright Eyes put on a great set, worthy of the Blue Note’s 31st birthday celebration for sure.

I could go on and on about what it means that Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes have grown up and what that means to me. It still doesn’t change that a lot of people had a great time seeing Bright Eyes. I too enjoyed what I saw. It was sad to think that I won’t see the same Bright Eyes I used to see. It’s disappointing that his records don’t have the same effect Fevers and Mirrors had on me the first time I heard it. But that isn’t Conor Oberst’s fault and it shouldn’t take away anything from Saturday’s show. Those are my hangups. Like Oberst closing the book on Bright Eyes, I should close the book on this pseudo-rant and be glad I saw them one more time.

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Fleet Foxes

Posted in Live by SM on July 20, 2011

Some bands can’t help the kind of audience they attract. Of course, if you choose to make certain kinds of music, you get what you deserve. Play silly pop-punk; you get the Hot Topic set. Play drugged out shoegaze; you get artsy-fartsy followers. Play anything jammy or rootsy…

Fleet Foxes are no different. They attract a certain crowd, especially now that they’re a know quantity. Pitchfork buzz and Sub Pop marketing has allowed them a status typically reserved for My Morning Jacket or Band of Horses. Every college bro knows who Fleet Foxes is. And despite the fact that Fleet Foxes hasn’t reached the depths of college rock aridity, they are just feel-good and jammy enough to attract a whole lot o’ bros.

I witnessed this Monday night at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City. One would assume a bearded band lauded by Pitchfork would attract only bearded boys who read Pitchfork, but one would be wrong. I saw more beards last week in a tiny club the tenth the size of the Uptown in DC when I had the pleasure of witnessing Bill Callahan and all his non-bro glory than I did Monday night. It may have been the crazy hot temperatures we’ve had this year, but there weren’t a lot of beards, not as many as you’d think. There was, however, a shit-ton of cargo shorts and summer dresses. That’s right, even Pitchfork darlings attract Joe and Joann College when they play jammy, down-home music with falsetto and harmonies galore.

The heat generated by all the bromance in the air and stench of Axe body spray failing to cover up all the BO was too much for me. I retreated to the lobby to listen about two or three songs before the end. And listening was all I needed to do to enjoy the night.

Fleet Foxes are the real thing in terms of transferring that stirring sound on record to the live stage. Even with voices weary from the road, the band was able to recreate the beauty contained on their 2+ albums of work. Aside from the mentioned voice fatigue, if frontman Robin Pecknold could ever get a guitar to work correctly, the performance would have been flawless.

I know that I shouldn’t base my feelings for a concert on the audience, but it’s hard when you spend a show among them, separated from the band. I won’t write off Feet Foxes because of this. Hell, despite what I suggested above, I don’t lump them in with the vanilla roots of My Morning Jacket and the slowly fading Band of Horses. No, Fleet Foxes are much better songwriters and craftsman than those bands. However, if they continue to attract the same kinds of crowds, I don’t know that I’ll be seeing Fleet Foxes again. I may have to join the cynics and cranks who hate the sort of thing they do. These critics will tell me “I told you so” and I’ll have to admit they were right. Still, Fleet Foxes is not a shitty college jam band. Monday night proved that. I think.

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The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra

Posted in Film, Live by SM on June 26, 2011

This is a review I did for The Collective. Sorry for posting two of these in a row, but I just haven’t had the time for unique content. There’s a post coming regarding the best albums so far (not as long a list as you’d suspect, not really a list). I’ll probably do something on a brewery as well as those get the most traffic.

In the age of THX and 3D film, it’s hard to believe anyone would want to see a silent film made in 1925 Soviet Union, much less play music for said film. However, that’s exactly what The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra of St. Louis did Thursday night. On the screen was Sergei Eisenstein’s Strike, the story of a pre-revolutionary strike and violent suppression.

For the time period and lack of soundtrack or dialogue, Strike is a rather…well…striking film with fine performances, an impressive amount of action, and some interesting use of file footage of factories and slaughtered cattle. Silent film is often known for the appearance of over-acting. Not only did actors have to make up for the lack of audio dialogue, but the unusually fast pace of the film often gave the impression of hyperactivity. That said, the cast in Strike were incredibly engaging and convincing in their roles. Several scenes were rather exciting and included some intense physical acting not seen in today’s film as stunt men and CGI tend to suck the life from today’s films. Eisenstein expertly mixed in footage of factories and slaughtered cattle to demonstrate both the hard working conditions of the early industrial age as well as the savagery of union busting in Russia prior to Soviet takeover. All in all, Strike is a film well-deserving of revisiting even 85 years later, especially in light of all the labor disputes of our own time.

Considering all of that, Strike still would have been severely lacking in context and drama had The Rats & People not played the soundtrack. Where dialogue was missing or could not be adequately translated in subtitles, the orchestra filled this void with an expertly composed and emotionally performed piece that rivals the best soundtracks of today. In fact, where a soundtrack for a modern film only has to suggest pace and urgency, performing an original piece for a silent film has to do so much more. The composer’s challenge is to write music that tells the story where the images leave us wanting more. The musicians’ purpose is to convey emotion and exigency only through the squeals of their strings, thunder of percussion, and the bass’ groove. The Rats & People do all of this extremely well.

Although the film is unavoidably dated, the themes and drama are pertinent to our times and the orchestra’s performance went a long way in making that apparent. Although much of the instrumentation comes off as classical, a close listen reveals something more post-rock like Louisville’s Rachel’s. Like Rachel’s, The Rats & People apply a punk sensibility to chamber music, understanding the impact images have on the live performance and work within that environment to make some pretty amazing art. All this was achieved in about 80 minutes Thursday in the big theater at Ragtag.

An Evening with Yo La Tengo

Posted in Live by SM on June 21, 2011

I hate posting two things on the same topic/event so closely together, but this allows me the opportunity to regain some followers as they see my rate of posts increase. Also, I hate to post simultaneously on two sites, but I’m doing it anyway as that other site pays in paper. This was last night’s show I previewed over the weekend. The hope here is to follow this with a beer review and who knows beyond that. Maybe I’ll eventually write that Spanish beer post I’ve been sorta promising.

Yo La Tengo and their wheel of fortune/fate/salvation took the stage in a partially-filled Blue Note last night. There might not be a more ideal summer show in Columbia. The audience was dominated by locals who were mostly old enough to have seen Yo La Tengo in the early and mid-nineties, not undergrads as the kids were home for the summer. Still, YLT just seemed happy to be there and played two well-received sets.

The first set was determined by said wheel. CoMo YLT fanatic Karen Truckey was virtually pushed on stage by friends to take a go at the wheel. However, guitarist/vocalist/organist Ira Kaplan added a twist. Courtesy of  Gotcha!, Kaplan revealed masks he and Truckey would wear for the ceremonial spinning. The “contestant” smartly opted for the Power Rangers helmet so as to avoid any rousing about furries and whatnot. Kaplan was left with a dog mask and the spinning of the wheel commenced.

The wheel started spinning at some point in 2010. Yo La Tengo had been together for over a quarter century and needed to spice up their live show. The wheel leaves a set or a portion of their set to chance. Possibilities include sitcom reenactments, sets consisting of songs that entirely start with “S”, a request/Q&A, etc. The wheel has allowed YLT sets to be free from repetitiveness and banality.

The wheel was finally spun after Truckey leaped onto the stage and masked were donned. For me, the worst would have been the sitcom reenactment. It’s been done and you can see it on YouTube. The second-least anticipated result would have been either part of The Sounds of the Sounds of Science soundtrack…and that’s what we got.

It’s hard to get excited for 20-30 minutes of music created to soundtrack a French documentary about fish, but it actually blew away that limited perspective. Employing a wall of sound built slowly from a simple keyboard progression, Yo La Tengo demonstrated chops to make beautiful noise not normally witnessed outside anything associated with Sonic Youth. The mini-set was explosive and powerful. It’s a wonder to watch Kaplan strum, beat, dangle, scrape, whatever to get the most perfect feedback. I’ve been witnessing it for almost twenty years and it never grows old. Sounds of Science was that rare moment when one of your favorite bands finds yet another way to impress you with something new.

The wheel set concluded with three Condo Fucks tunes. I assume the band picked up on the crowd’s preference for the material they recorded under the CF moniker and obliged with “So Easy Baby”, “With a Girl Like You”, and “Come on Up.”

After a brief intermission, the night continued with a proper Yo La Tengo set, a set that could be described as a “dream” or “ideal.” It opened with “Autumn Sweater” followed closely by the sprawling and beautiful “More Stars Than There Are In Heaven.” The somber “Tears Are In Your Eyes” and fan-favorite “Stockholm Syndrome” after that. “Beanbag Chair” and “Black Flowers” from I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass came next; the second of those two featured the forgotten vocal talents of bassist James McNew. Then, the band worked through an acoustic “Big Day Coming”, the groovy “Periodically Double or Triple”, the driving “From A Motel 6”, the ever-present near-hit “Sugarcube”, and the epic “I Heard You Looking.”

At that point, the Yo La Tengo faithful received their money’s worth. Still, YLT returned for an encore of the Tom Courtenay b-side “Bad Politics”, acoustic rarity “Alyda”, and the subdued and lovely “Center of Gravity.” The finish provided time to reflect and be content with the evening behind us.

In the conversations that followed our Evening with Yo La Tengo, several themes emerged. Ira Kaplan is a madman on the guitar, but tonight, he was restrained and provided just enough theatrics to enthrall his minions. James McNew is the steady bassist with surprising vocal chops that every band needs. Georgia Hubley has earned the distinction as one of indie rock’s finest drummers as well as the owner of a killer voice that soothes and fills a room without flash or bombast. But the impression that was most indelible is that Yo La Tengo is an ageless wonder who play with the same youthful fervor they did 15, 20, 25 years ago, not to mention their appearances demonstrate the same agelessness.

Yo La Tengo owned CoMo last night. This will be a tough show to top for some time. The kids don’t know what they missed.

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Possible Yo La Tengo Set List

Posted in Live by SM on June 18, 2011

Yo La Tengo are set to play Columbia this week. This will mark yet another favorite band from my past make the long journey through the Show-me state since I moved here six years ago[1]. I might not be able to see the Loaf reunion tour, but I will get to see YLT Monday.

A Yo La Tengo set is a thing of beauty. Currently, the band has incorporated a game show-style spinning wheel loaded with a wide array of possibilities for their sets. The band once famously acted out an entire episode of Seinfeld simply because the wheel told them to do so. Even with this little gimmick, a Yo La Tengo set is one that fully exploits both the scope and sequence of the band’s repertoire[2].

With this in-mind, I’ve attempted to make a few predictions about Monday’s set. I won’t begin to predict what the wheel will suggest, but I think I can make ten safe predictions for the rest of the set.

1. Yo La Tengo will play some combination of three of their “hits”/most loved songs. This means that the band could launch into their latest single “Nothing to Hide” in which the video featured Times New Viking playing the part of YLT in a Columbus, OH record store. More likely, this portion of the set will include some version of “Sugarcube[3], the radio-ready “Cherry Chapstick“, or the subdued and lovely “Stockholm Syndrome.” I hope “Autumn Sweater” makes an appearance.

2. Yo La Tengo will play at least one cover song you won’t expect. As far as the ones you might expect, there is “Nuclear War“, “Little Honda“, “Speeding Motorcycle“, “The Whole of the Law“, or any number of covers they’ve made semi-famous. This band could easily make a living as a cover band who takes requests as their knowledge of pop and rock music is unmatched. My money is on “Take Cover”, the Big Star cover at the conclusion of Summer Sun. Big Star somewhat famously recorded a live record at the University of Missouri in 1993. Of course, the track doesn’t appear on the Big Star album. So, we might get another Big Star tune in the set[4]. Or something like this…

3. At some point, Yo La Tengo will stretch a song out for an extended jam that will either leave you breathless of bored. Many a YLT song already fill this niche without supplement as they are upwards of 8, 9, 10 minutes long. If the band does finish with “Nuclear War”, who knows when it will end. However, one should realistically expect one or more of the following to be played: “Big Day Coming“, “Blue Line Swinger“, “Spec Bebop“, anything off And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, “Let’s Be Still“, “The Story of Yo La Tango“…I could go on and on. These are just a few tracks the band already stretches into jam sessions on their records. They may very well stretch any song from their discography into a 15-minute epic trip through shoegaze land.

4. Yo La Tengo will play at least a second cover[5], possibly something newer and more obscure. I’m betting a Times New Viking song makes it into the rotation. This is a left field forecast, but I have a hunch that the band will play something newish that they’ve been listening to, possibly by a band with which they’ve been touring. It may also turn out to be a Teenage Fanclub song as Norman Blake was set to be a part of the bill but had to drop their tour at the last moment.

5. One extended jam will spiral out of control, completely deconstructing before our eyes. Additionally, Ira Kaplan will convulse uncontrollably on his Hammond B3 organ or guitar[6]. Songs that may earn this treatment include “False Alarm“, “My Heart’s Reflection”, or possibly anything from that Condo Fucks record, in which case it will be an extremely fast deconstruction.

6. One of Yo La Tengo’s more gimmicky routines will rear its ugly head. Most likely, the song fulfilling this prophecy will be “You Can Have It All” where Ira and James McNew do a dance routine and Georgia Hubley plays keyboards and takes lead vocals. This honor could also go to “Nuclear War” where the band creates a drum circle on stage to perform the Sun Ra classic before marching their way to the back to the venue as an encore.

7. At some point in the set, there will be a pop block[7]. This means that a selection – probably 3-4 – of the band’s poppier fair will make a showing. This could include a nice ditty like “One PM Again” or something more ambitious like “Here to Fall.” Either way, this should be the portion that will win over the more skeptical members of the audience. I suspect “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” will win a few folks over.

8. There will be at least one really obscure track from Yo La Tengo’s vast discography. This is the kind of stuff that fills old hats like myself with eager anticipation. Of course, these will also be the songs you’ll hear that drunk dude in his mid-to-late-thirties scream for all evening. Although they’ll play something old and obscure[8], I suspect they won’t play everything I want to hear. My list includes “False Alarm”, “Decora“, “Barnaby, Hardly Working“, or anything with “Hot Chicken” in the title.

9. Being that the show is scheduled for a hot and steamy summer night in Columbia, I expect a slow, summery kind of section in the YLT set. The band writes songs that were meant for summer evenings on the porch, sipping a beer. “Pablo & Andrea” is one of those songs. “Autumn Sweater” is another. “Our Way to Fall” is a third. Let the summer of cicadas[9] roll on.

10. The last prediction has little to do with individual songs but is sort of a summary of the previous nine predictions. Monday’s Yo La Tengo set will include way more than the tracks off their last album, Popular Songs. The album came out two years ago, meaning their newest material is relatively old. So, I expect a set filled with songs from various points in their 27 year history. Sure, it will probably be heavy with songs from this century, but I won’t be surprised to see a smattering of songs from the previous two decades as well.

Notes:

1There’s no official list, but Archers of Loaf and Sonic Youth are the only two bands that come to mind I haven’t seen in the last six years in Misery. Loaf doesn’t look promising, but Sonic Youth should come through at some point. I wanted to see SY in StL a while back, but the planets just didn’t align.
2Of course, as mentioned before, I haven’t seen the band perform in over six years. Who knows what kind of set they play these days. As with most of my heroes, I just hope they’ll throw me a bone for a few songs. Otherwise, I’d be happy with a set heavily leaning toward their recent releases, particularly Popular Songs as it is their strongest effort of the last ten years.
3There are both fast and slow versions of this song out there. I’d be happy with either or some combination of the two. Hell, even a mid-tempo version would be cool.
4I am not that familiar with Big Star’s discography. So, whatever BS song they play will be somewhat new to me.
5I admit that this is a copout, but I’m basically suggesting they’ll play a cover you recognize and one you won’t.
6Actually, he may start dry-humping the equipment. I’ve seen him do this on numerous occasions. Somehow, it always sounds incredible.
7YLT have a portion of their repertoire that nods to the likes of Cat Stevens, Elvis Costello, and Harry Nillson. This might not be what some people consider pop, but the music these artists (among others) have created fit better in a pop context than they do rock or anything else. YLT have this same pop sensibility…when they’re not shoegazing.
8In this case, “old and obscure” really refers to anything from the early or mid-nineties. It’s easy to forget that was 15-20 years ago. Many kids weren’t listening to YLT back then. Hell, most of them weren’t even born really.
9Apparently, the cicadas around here were deafening. Luckily, I missed the worst of it. I also missed the local ice cream parlor’s cicada ice cream and my neighbor getting accosted for using a power saw that tricked many a cicada into trying to mate with him.
10This is the hidden footnote with no link above. Sorry for not posting at all this past week. I wanted to, but I fell asleep in front of the TV every night since returning from Spain. I finally feel as though I’m getting my blogging legs under me again. I may have a beer post coming up and will definitely let you know how this show went. For a truer preview, check out what Tina Roselle wrote over at the mother ship.

Image lifted illegally from Three Imaginary Girls.

My “Interview” with The Thermals

Posted in Live by SM on May 30, 2011

As mentioned before, I have a little side project over at The CoMo Collective where I cover the local music scene. I’ve tried my best to parlay that into opportunities to interview national acts. So far, I received a half-hearted reply from The Walkmen and no answer from The New Pornographers and Yo La Tengo. I won’t quit as the follow interview (done over email) demonstrates just how fun this little gig can be. Hutch Harris was super cool in taking time from his busy touring schedule to not only answer my lame questions, but he also responded to the follow-ups. I just wish I was in town to see them play…

Which brings me to the next topic. For the first two weeks of June, I will be in Spain. I’m not taking a computer. So, the posting around these parts should be scarce. I’ll try to update when possible, but I’m not promising anything. In the meantime, search through my archives. I’m sure there’s something embarrassing there you can call me out on.

Poster by Justin Nardy

The Thermals are touring and said tour makes a stop at Mojo’s this Wednesday. The tour is in support of the threesome’s latest release, last year’s Personal Life, the rare punk rock record about relationships. While the band has taken a bit of a break from the somewhat political messages typically associated with their previous work, fans are still sure to find vintage Thermals pop-punk that will induce pogoing for an entire hour-long set.

Recently, The Thermals’ Hutch Harris and I sat down (in front of our laptops) and chatted (via email) about touring, records, and dating. Take a moment and read what he had to say about these topics. Then, be sure to catch The Thermals Wednesday at Mojo’s.

TCC: For people with non-rock ‘n roll jobs, we often have to explain what we do for a living in a short, concise manner. I call this the “elevator talk.” You have to explain what it is you do in the time it takes for the elevator to reach your floor. So, how would The Thermals’ elevator talk go?

HH: we play in a rock band for a living. we make money playing shows and putting out records. (now we’ll just stand here in silence uncomfortably until we reach our floor.)

TCC: The Thermals hail from Portland. What’s that like? Do you bump into indie rock royalty (other than yourselves) every time you go to the grocery store or library? Does every Portlandian survive on craft beer-only diets?

HH: portland is the best. we’ve lived here for thirteen years now. yes, indie-rock royalty is everywhere. but you won’t find them at the library because it’s not cool. and yes, we survive on craft beer, as long as it’s organic and gluten-free. which isn’t cool either.

TCC: Is someone in the band gluten intolerant? That sucks. How do you make that work on the road?

HH: no, none of us are gluten-free. it’s just very popular in portland.

TCC: Speaking of Portland, have you seen *Portlandia*? What do you think of it?

HH: of course we’ve seen it. we played the premiere in NYC, it was awesome! we love the show – fred and carrie are both friends of ours, we’ve done a lot of shows with both of them over the years.

TCC: 2006’s The Body, the Blood, the Machine was a breakthrough for the band in a lot of ways. It received a fair amount of critical acclaim and was a pretty charged political statement in some uncertain times. How did that record and the response it received from critics and fans change or support how you felt about this band? Can you see another political album like The Body… in the band’s future?

HH: TBTBTM was the first record that kathy and i made just the two of us. we were very proud of it but had no idea what people would think of it. the response it received was amazing! it was great that so many people understood what i was trying to say, and responded so positively. that’s really the most you can hope for as an artist. most records we’ve made have been political in one way or another. i’m not sure we’ll ever make a record quite like TBTBTM. But we may try.

TCC: With the follow-up to The Body…, Now We Can See demonstrates a newfound maturity, an ability to see more clearly. From where did that perceived maturity come? Was it just a case of not wanting to do the same album over? Did anything really change? Was it related to your move from Sub Pop in any way?

HH: we are getting older and wiser, we can’t help it! we definitely did not want to make the same record twice. we wanted to make a record with no religion or politics, although both subjects did manage to sneak in there. it was totally unrelated to the label change.

TCC: Personal Life is your relationship record. (I know this because Pitchfork told me so.) What brought that on? Was there intent to make a record about love and love lost?

HH: every time i sit down to start lyrics for a record, i try not to have a theme in mind. i like to just start and see what comes out. although i did want to make a record that was more simple and down to earth than the last few records we had made.

TCC: The last time you played Columbia, Mojo’s was about half empty despite all the critical acclaim and media attention the band was getting at the time. Is it hard to get up to play for a crummy turnout on a weeknight in a midwestern town (although, I danced my ass off that night) or is it invigorating to play in such an intimate setting?

HH: i’m most concerned about how well we play. if we put on a good show, i’m satisfied. it doesn’t bother us so much if the turnout is small. although that hasn’t been a problem for a long time.

TCC: Do you remember where you ate last time in Columbia? Any other fond memories of Columbia?

HH: um, indian food i think? was this the show where we supported mates of state? you’ll have to remind me.

TCC: First, I apologize if you ate at India’s House. No one should ever have to eat there. No, you were the headliner that night. It was in Mojo’s, a weeknight, I believe. I actually almost approached you all, but you looked like you were on your way out, possibly to eat. So, I chatted up the girl selling your merch. She was studying for the GRE. Either way, your answer suggests that the stop in Columbia wasn’t all that memorable, but that’s understandable. What do you find to be the most challenging to stops in small, midwestern towns? Or is it a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city?

HH: oh yeah it was 2007. it’s coming back now. we play hundreds of shows each year so it gets hard to remember! any town can be fun, as long as the vibe is good and the people are friendly. there are few towns in the US we don’t like.

TCC: What’s next for The Thermals?

HH: we are supporting matt and kim for six weeks in june and july, then heading back to europe (we are touring here now) in august for festivals.

TCC: Finally, in reference to my earlier question concerning Personal Life‘s status as a relationship album, would you fill out the following (theoretical) dating site profile for The Thermals?

  • Relationship Status: Looking for… HOTT men and women.
  • Kids? we promise we will try to not knock you up.
  • Religious Views: nope.
  • Political Views: pro-fascism, as long as it’s done right.
  • Tattoos and/or Piercings: no cherries or birds please.
  • What do you like to do for fun? fuck you all night.
  • What would be your ideal date? yr bed.
  • If you were an animal, what would you be? kesha.

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but that was hot. So hot that I expect you to make it out to Mojo’s this Wednesday for The Thermals set. The openers are Morning Teleportation. Doors open at 8:00 and it’ll cost you twelve bucks to get in.

Friday non-Post

Posted in Life, Live, Uncategorized by SM on May 20, 2011

My wife is out of town and I’m single-parenting it this week and next. So, there’s little to no time to blog (especially for three blogs). I have two posts started, but no time to finish. One is about the necessity for indie rock and craft beer to better appreciate one another. That one you will see eventually. The second was a post about the end of the world. Since it’s ending Saturday, you won’t see that one. Also, Jamie was right and the yeast was not enough for my beer to fully ferment. Luckily, I have friends with slurry and I will pitch more yeast tonight.

In the meantime, read about what I plan to see tonight.

Returning to Mojo’s from parts unknown (or Memphis) is CoMo’s forgotten son and daughter tandem, better known as Jerusalem and the Starbaskets. Frontman Jeremy Freeze and drummer Kim Sherman bring the pain – metaphorically and literally with their raucous live set. Sometimes it’s a shambled mess and other times it’s pure brilliance. you want to be there for both.

As a two-piece, Jerusalem will cause you to recall other acts such as The White Stripes or The Black Keys, but those are lazy comparisons. I prefer rolling out Swearing at Motorist or The Kills when describing what they do. Expect plenty of heartbreak and woe, but be prepared to rock Friday night.

Jerusalem and the Starbaskets are supporting their recently released and well-received full-length as released by Minneapolis label De Stijl. The record is doing so well, that the first single, “First Cigarette in the Rain,” recently topped the NYU charts. So, be sure to make it out to Mojo’s tonight to welcome the duo back.

Also playing are CoMusic favorites Believers and Richard the Lionhearted.

Believers are warning their legions of followers that this might be the last time to see them for a while. Hopefully, that means more writing and recording…or it could just mean more float trips for the band. Either way, it will be nice to see Believers on stage again as they put on one of the most engaging live shows in town.

Rumor has it that CoMusic compilation contributor Richard the Lionhearted will be debuting some new songs tonight as well. This news should only be welcomed with cheers, beers, and undergarments flung on stage as these boys know how to write a song. The prolific band will open what promises to be the best one-night lineup of the summer.

The doors at Mojo’s opens at 8:30. There is a $5 cover, but it’s totally worth it.

In the meantime, check the following video and track to hold you over.

http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F10093969 Jerusalem and the Starbaskets : Walkin across your Grave by destijlrecs

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.