Archive for the ‘Gigs’ Category

I will wait for it; you won’t for me

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A photo posted by @zacleerigg on

Twin Shadow – Half Life

On Thursday, Nov. 13, I attended a Twin Shadow concert in the back yard of the Thompson Hotel.

I had some thoughts:

  •   Somehow my friend Alice got us on a list, so it was free. I’d been sick for a week, just sitting around in my own germs in my apartment, and didn’t want to drive. We had some weird texts back and forth until I remembered she lost her license so that’s why she didn’t want to drive us either. In the end, I got an Uber to swoop by to pick up her and her boytoy, Shannon. We arrived an hour early and they didn’t even check our names, so we could have bluffed our way in anyway.
  •   I hadn’t seen any of my friends in a week, so I was mostly just excited to be alive and outside. Still, I skipped the $15 drinks, instead opting to spit phlegm into the bushes every couple minutes.
  •   The Thompson Hotel is pretty gorgeous. I’d never been there before. Alice had. That was the night Fides passed out on a bench and her and Figgy skinny dipped in the pool and then someone moved their clothes so they were wandering around naked looking for them. The next day Fides looked at the map on his Uber receipt and realized he had taken both of them home, so that was good of him. I couldn’t tell if Shannon was amused or annoyed by this story.
  •   We got there at 8 when the doors opened because the email said it’d fill up quickly. Band was scheduled at 9. They went on at 10. Meanwhile we’re all tapping our wrists where watches used to go and muttering about bedtime. “I’ve got some NyQuil shots to take,” I said.
  •   Rayner showed up and showed us pictures of the house he’s buying in New York on his phone, and then smoked from a stubby one-hitter. An white guy maybe in his 60s danced very awkwardly next to us. I kept getting fever sweats and having to lean back and concentrate on the breeze. I felt old, but then realized old people are still allowed to go outside and dance badly and smoke drugs too, so maybe it’s okay.
  •   Alice is from Australia and has a thick accent. She told an extended story about Gray Stones, an artist who used to have to sneak out of her religious home and dress in drag to perform. And then her family disowned her when she made it big. I asked if she performed under the name Black Rock. Alice asked if the story made me think about Gray Stones differently. “I’d never heard of her before tonight,” I said. “You’d never heard of Grace Jones before?” she asked, incredulously. “Oh,” I said. “Oh.” I tried to explain: “That’s why I made the black rock joke.” “Oh!” Alice said. “I thought you were just being racist.”
  •   Rayner kept marveling at the legs. A lot of hipsters came out for this one, the kind you don’t see around Miami too often. One was wearing overalls. “Am I allowed to wear overalls in public now?” I asked. Alice didn’t seem to recommend it. Rayner kept talking about how beautiful everyone is. I feel about Miami how like old family members of monarchs must have felt about coastal towns. There’s no culture except for rare visits, but goddam if life isn’t wonderful there, the wine freely flowing, the women gorgeous, the sea gorgeous. Things are slower and matter less. I think it’s a worthwhile trade. But maybe I’m wrong. I’m moving to Los Angeles in two months.
  •   Oh, right. The band. They eventually came on, so Alice and Rayner pushed to the front. I stayed seated at the back. The treble was too high. It was a terrible mix. Like atrocious. Up front all you could hear was the keyboard. In the back all you could hear were the vocals and bass. They sounded like muddled versions that just made me want to listen to the recorded songs.
  •   Between songs, the singer talked about one song and how the 75 in it was I-75. He said something about how if you’ve ever been 17 in Florida you know what it feels like to drive down I-75 rolling on molly. I’ve never been 17 in Florida.
  •   After a half an hour, Alice came back and asked if we wanted to go. We all left. I took two shots of NyQuil and went to bed.


We’re all gonna die

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sufjan olympia

Sufjan Stevens – Fourth of July

I attended a Sufjan Stevens concert in the Olymipa Theater on Saturday, Nov. 7. It was a positive life experience. Here were my thoughts.

  •   I picked up my friend Dubs at his apartment. His gf bought the tickets for his birthday (even though she liked the latest album far more than he did, so it was more for her), but then ended up going on a work trip for two weeks. I bought her ticket off him.
  •   We listened to the new Grimes on the drive and talked about Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix show. Dubs told me to watch out for Aziz’s appearance on Stephen Colbert later this week, and recommended the Fresh Air interview by Terry Gross. I felt very American, or at least that I had a good handle on a specific genre of American culture.
  •   Olympia Theater is this old school movie theater, the first building in Florida with air conditioning, that’s been preserved as a venue. It’s always fun to go to, until you remember how steep the seating is, and your shin hits the chair in front of you for the duration of a show and hurts by the end. Still, the sound is crisp, so I don’t mind gigs there.

A photo posted by @zacleerigg on

  •   Our friend While met us at the show and stole someone’s seat the row in front of us. We talked about how Aziz treats old people in his show. Dubs told us about watching the show with his grandparents, who he had visited for four hours that day. His grandma has memory issues, but his grandfather finds it hilarious whenever TV shows talk about sex. “You would too if you grew up before that was allowed, or before there was TV,” Dubs said.
  •   In the off chance you didn’t read any press about Carrie & Lowell, SPOILER ALERT, it’s about Sufjan’s mom dying. I wondered aloud how one tours with an album like that. “He doesn’t wear wings for this tour, does he?” I asked.
  •   A band named Gallant opened. I liked their vibe and aesthetic much more than their actual songs.
  •   Okay, fine, I’ll just tell you. Sufjan leaned in. He and his band dressed all in black and didn’t talk throughout the set. They played nearly every song from the album. The lights behind them were incredible but tasteful. At several points, they projected old home video behind the band. It was very somber, poignant. “That took me to an emotional place it’s difficult to get to,” Dubs said. It wasn’t outright sad (I didn’t see anyone crying), but it was heavy.
  •   I liked the arrangements. They were understated (nothing ever felt extraneous), but the builds were large, and some of the new syncopated beats they added really drew out the songs. They closed the set with an extended instrumental song that I hadn’t heard before. I really enjoyed it. It made me think that if Sufjan put out an EDM album or had a deejay set, I’d want to hear it. I think he’s incredibly talented. It used to be I thought he should abandon all the excess instruments he threw in his albums and just sing sad songs on acoustic guitar. But I was wrong–about that and other things too.
  •   In “Fourth of July” they extended the ending. The whole band kept singing “We’re all gonna die” again and again, louder and louder. I thought about self-awareness. I mean, Sufjan has to be self-aware enough to acknowledge that that’s weird, right? Maybe not weird. But that it’s a Thing. To go see a band and they sing “We’re all gonna die” repeatedly is a Thing. And he has to be aware of its thingness, I think. Anyway, I liked it. That moment stood out.
  •   Sufjan is, as While put it, “Hand Guy.” He does weird boxy dances with his arms whenever he doesn’t have an instrument in it. He’s a terrible dancer. It comes across so bro-y. I had difficulty marrying this thoughtful, intricate songwriter with this dude bro-dancing. If you can, try to never see him dance in your life. It’s for the best.
  •   Since this is Miami, there were a lot of Woo Girls. I found this inappropriate. This dude is up there singing about his mom dying, and women are saying, “Woo!”? Rude. I think the worst instance was when Sufjan sings, “There’s no shade in the shadow of the cross,” and a girl wooed loudly, right before the song ended. It undercut the line. Eventually, people got annoyed and started shushing. And then people would shush the shushers. There would just be shushes and ironic shushes circling around the venue. It was weird. I sighed and shook my head a lot.

  •   After the set, the whole band came to the middle of the stage, bowed, and walked off. The house lights stayed off, so I took the opportunity to rail against encore culture to Dubs. I just think it’s such a facade. We all know you’re coming back for some more songs. You know we know. Let’s not kid each other. We’re all adults here, so why don’t you just keep playing fucking songs until you’re done, instead of wasting my time? Dubs laughed at my hawt take.
  •   But then a weird thing happened. As I was ranting, I had a thought. Encores give shows a very specific structure. You have the bulk of the show in one sort of emotional or even narrative arc, then you take a break, and you come back for a few songs that have their own arc. Structures aren’t inherently good or bad, it’s what you do with them. And Sufjan did something beautiful with his. He came back with a colorful jacket and red beanie on, and played a much more upbeat second set of old songs. He chatted with the crowd. Everyone sighed, relaxed, and loosened a bit. For one night only, I was thankful that encore culture exists.
  •   “It sucks doing this show,” Sufjan said. “It’s like a funeral.” Then he talked about what it felt like to explore his sadness in the open in front of the world. How relieving and healing it was to him. It felt good, he decided, to hoist his grief on us, and we laughed.
  •   “I never thought it’d be a relief to play this song,” he said. “This is my murder ballad.” Then he launched into John Wayne Gacy, Jr., and it was a relief. I still remember the first time I heard that song. I was in college, listening on a compact disc with the lyric sheet in front of me. I was on the bottom of a bunk bed outside of Chicago, my brothers scattered in other bunks, as we visited my aunt. I read the last line, “Look beneath the floorboards, for the secrets I have hid,” and gasped audibly. Then I hit ‘back’ and listened to the song again. Then again. And again. Very few songs have hit me so hard immediately.
  •   The only non-Carrie & Lowell song I registered in the first set was Vesuvius. The second set was mostly his quieter songs. At one point, three of them picked up guitars, and Dubs said, “Bet they play Chicago.” I said, “Bet it’s Romulus.” He said okay, and we set the stakes: loser bought the winner a Martinelli’s apple juice. They played Chicago. “I can’t believe you thought they were going to play Romulus,” Dubs said. “I didn’t. I just like being argumentative,” I said. “Well, I’m glad that caught up with you finally,” he said. “It catches up with me daily,” I said. Later that night I bought him an apple juice at a wine bar and we sat grinning like idiots holding our plump little bottles as the women around us chatted and spilled Pinot Grigio.
  •   They closed the second set by inviting Gallant back on stage. Sufjan apologized for not having any happy songs of his own, so he had to borrow one. “If God is my copilot, then Drake is my ____ ____.” (Dubs heard “little horse,” but I don’t know if that works.) Then they played Hotline Bling. Don’t get me wrong. I love Hotline Bling. I think it’s the catchiest song going right now. But this was not a good cover. It was sloppy and slapstick. Sufjan kept doing his horrible dancing. Also, he invited everyone to stand, something I absolutely do not do when asked. I understand the desire to leave the show on that tone, I just thought it was sloppy and under-served the previous two hours.

  •   When the song was over, I stood, and walked out, thinking of all the things I want to tell my mother.

[Carrie & Lowell]

I don’t want to die in here

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The Mountain Goats, at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 7, 2015.

Mountain Goats – Heel Turn 2

On Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, I attended a Mountain Goats concert in the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It was a positive life experience. Because I process the world this way — and, given the popularity of Buzzfeed, so do you — I will relay the experience in bullet points:

  •   My friends While and Fides met me at my apartment on Miami Beach, and we drove my white Jetta north. Initially Fides sat in the front seat, but then he realized he was too high to navigate, so he got out and swapped with While, who pulled up Waze on his phone.
  •   We stopped at a gas station because my dashboard light was on. While and Fides ran across the street to the Pizza Hut/Taco Bell and returned with several supreme personal pan pizzas. Apparently, both chains (as well as KFC) are owned by Yum! Brands, which peeled off from PepsiCo in 1997. I did not know this. Now I do.
  •   The pizza was greasy and I got some hand grease on the steering wheel.
  •   While and Fides talked about spoarts the whole way up. My friend Fitzgerald called me out for hanging out almost exclusively with women lately. This is why. Spoarts are so fucking basic. They’re the worst.
  •   The Culture Room is in a strip mall in Fort Lauderdale. As we pulled up, While claimed that the only band to reference Fort Lauderdale in a song is Mötley Crüe (in Girls Girls Girls). We talked briefly about the length of Tommy Lee’s penis in the Pamela Anderson sex tape.
  •   To enter, security made us empty our pockets and patted us down. I brought my one-hitter, so I stood out in the drizzle holding my pot between my phone and wallet while some dude felt up my legs. He let me in.
  •   The Culture Room is tiny. I felt uncomfortable lighting up because security would have been able to see me too clearly. I settled for plastic cups of Makers Mark instead, as we posted up against a wall with a good view (like I said, the venue was tiny). At some point, a super tall dude came and stood right in front of me.
  •   I hate tall people.
  •   According to the internet, height has almost no bearing on the amount of sexual partners you will have, unless you are under 5-foot-4 (for a male; 4-foot-11 for a female). So, seriously, fuck tall people.
  •   We moved.
  •   While pointed out that the opening band must have had a lot of turnover, because none of them had the same fashion sense. One of them wore jean shorts and a floral shirt with rolled up sleeves. But all of them had long hair. I am forever jealous of the consistency with which indie rockers can grow full heads of long hair.

  •   We were about an hour late, so we caught the last two songs of the opener and then waited for the Mountain Goats to come on. I sipped on Makers.
  •   Outfits. Darnielle wore a tweed jacket he found in your university professor’s closet. His red shirt read, in old timey font, “I hope you suffer.” His pants were salmon. He did not match. The bassist wore a plaid suit with a tie and pocket square. The drummer also wore a suit and pocket square (no tie). The saxophonist had on jeans and a denim shirt, so he was probably from Canada.
  •   I recently attended a wedding. In preparation I watched several videos about how to fold pocket squares. We have little idea, when we are young, how much effort it takes to look sharp. There are a lot of ways to fold a pocket square, but probably the best is to crumple it randomly and shove it in the pocket. Life’s silly like that.
  •   The other time I saw the Mountain Goats, at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, they had a three-man horn section. The addition of a baritone sax was a nice touch this time, but the sound wasn’t nearly as full as in LA. It didn’t help that Darnielle’s guitar was way too loud in the mix and they had other sound issues.
  •   Darnielle is perhaps the best poet in this country. I looked out at the crowd. I saw gauged ears, a black manchild with bleached hair, a girl with a bandanna like Rossie the Riveter. It felt incongruous. Here are Miami bros. Here is poetry set to tender sax about the pathos of professional wrestling in the 1980s. I wanted everyone to be two decades older.

Rossie the Riveter

  •   At some point, Fides walked over to me, kissed me on the temple, and said, “I love you, man.” I nodded. Then he walked back to While with two drinks in hand.
  •   I wanted to dance, but I didn’t dance.
  •   In the middle of the set, the rest of the band left and Darnielle played some slow songs alone. I remember really digging this part the last time I saw the Goats. This time it was boring, probably because I didn’t know any of the songs he picked. He said he likes to wing that section much as possible.
  •   I’m going to tell you how Darnielle introed one song. All of his intros are great; Darnielle is a soul-toucher. When he talks, he touches souls. I’m concerned I’ll ruin the effect, trying to remember what he said this far after the show. So. The one intro. Darnielle was explaining that when he was 19, after high school, he worked at a burger place called Jakey’s. His boss was a lady who got the restaurant as a gift from her husband. “I don’t want to say she was a bad person, but she behaved in a manner that made one suspect she had every capability of being one.” Darnielle worked six days a week. On the seventh day, his boss made him come in for the lunch shift, so he asked if he could get a free lunch. She said no. He called her “sub-human.” He mused about how back then, that was the most freedom he had: to mouth off to his boss a little bit, but not too much. But when you’re in the ring! When you’re wrestling bad guys! Then the glory of your vengeance can be visited upon the audience, and from your trousers you can pull a Foreign Object.
  •   When they played High Hawk Season, I remembered Malaysia, and how I used to shower with the door open, listening to this song. Then I remembered how in Asia they put the light switches outside of the bathrooms. Whenever I got drunk, I would flip off the lights while my roommates were taking shits. Then I’d scamper away giggling. I was young then, with so much of my life still to waste. I’m 29 now. I’ve fired friends. I’ve failed at things I tried really hard at for a long time. I can feel my body sagging. I looked out over the crowd, at how they were all so young, still so far from 30. Sometimes I wish I had that age back so I could be silly and careless. Other times I don’t. But on this night I did.
  •   The set ended with This Year and the encore closed with with Spent Gladiator 2. Both songs are about survival. Both songs mean a lot to me.

  •   Here’s something you probably don’t know about me: I have thought about suicide every day for the last six years, essentially my entire adult life. I don’t doubt that one day my brain will kill me. Some days it’s only in passing — the idle blip poking through my warm contentedness, arguing that I should probably end it now because it won’t get any better than this. Other days it’s thick, dozens of times frantically in a row, with specific plans and goodbye notes scrawled out in my head. That’s when I listen to the Mountain Goats a lot. I don’t know any other band that writes anthems about staying alive.
  •   After the show we hung out under an awning while Fides smoked a cig, watching the downpour around us. Eventually we gave up waiting and made a run for it, leaping over puddles and through the strip mall parking lot. I wiped my hand through my wet hair. We were drenched by the time we got to the car, but still alive.

[Beat the Champ.]

I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then

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iii Points is a three-day festival in Miami with a lot of EDM, hip hop, and slow, trippy rock. I attended the 2015 edition, on Oct. 9, 10, and 11. Before I explain what each day was like, here’s some background info:

  •   The three ‘points’ best I can figure are: music, art, and technology. There were art exhibits and techy things all over the campus. One of my coworkers hosted a virtual reality booth. Basically, it’s a playground for high teens who want to look at bright colors.
  •   The venue is about a block from the Wynwood strip. Wynwood was the shitty party of town until Miami made a very conscious effort to gentrify it. Now there’s huge graffiti murals and tons of bars and the hipsters congregate every weekend to dance. The actual iii Points venue is an open lot littered with neon pyramids and oriental rugs. There were two inside rooms (the main stage and one for djs), two outside stages, and a line of food trucks.
  •   Tickets, will call, and drink wristbands were across the street in Wynwood Soccer.



Nicolas Jaar – Russian Dolls

I showed up late on Friday, because I had to make an appearance at Nando’s 30th birthday party. It was surprisingly formal: professionally catered (paella), a bartender, little glittery 30s scattered on the tables. Nando’s mom tried to convince her friends to check out this Bernie Sanders character, who has some really good ideas and you should totally look into. Everyone else besides me (who got an invite the day before over text) wore a button-down. I’m 29 now, bracing for the next birthday. Too old to be showing up to formal events in band t-shirts.

Earlier that day, I picked up Nando from his apartment and was playing Tame Impala. He called it crap. “People don’t sing anymore. What is this breathy, ethereal vocal shit?” I turned on Bob Seger and we sang Against The Wind, loudly.

My friend Freeze and I have an ongoing conversation about the age when one stops searching out new music. It’s different for each person, of course, and dependent on life events. If you have a baby and a career by 25, you probably aren’t spending free time and money on new music. But at some point, nearly every adult falls back on the bands she already knows she likes.

I thought I hit my moment two years ago, when I gave up weekends (and this blog) to run a TV show with Nando. It was worth it. I loved television.

By the time I left the party and made it to Wynwood it was nearing midnight, which isn’t a crazy time to go out in Miami. All the bands I wanted to see that night started after 12 anyway (except Panda Bear, who I had to skip so that Nando could grow old). On my way in, I bumped into Alice, who was leaving. She gave me her folding fan and said the air conditioning broke in the main stage. She said if I got an offer of over $10 for the fan, to sell it and split the money with her.

All my other, younger friends got there after I did. Then it became a maze of texts and missed calls and lost directions as we combined and split up and bumped into each other again. There were too many people in Wynwood so I stopped getting reception. Sterling fed me sips of Jameson from a flask she’d smuggled in her bra. It was drunken and sloppy and people kept getting lost and frustrated.

In this milling about, being pulled around by people and giving up and just going to bands I wanted to see, I ended up catching snippets of Mano Le Tough, Neon Indian, Nicolas Jaar, and DJ Tennis.

I have three specific memories.

  1. I’ve wanted to see Mano Le Tough for a long time. He plays what my friend Arielle coined sadboi techno. I played a song for Brent. “It says: I’m sad inside, but I still want to roll.” This set was more straight-up dj dance stuff. He didn’t sing at all. It made me want to move to East Berlin so I could see him all the time at Berghain. Arielle is the one who got me into EDM. We would go on road trips and she would guide me through the history of deep house, or play all her favorite Italo Disco tracks, or just lull me to sleep with Le Tough late at night.
  2. At one point, the entire group found each other at the exact same time, in front of the soundboard for Neon Indian. There were about 15 of us. Then we looked to our left, and it was a bunch of other coworkers we didn’t know were coming. Then after greeting the new crew, I realized that two of my Miami Herald friends were standing next to them. The world felt very small and manageable.
  3. Neon Indian sucked, so we left to catch Nicolas Jaar. This memory will stick with me. Two very drunk girls led the way to the very front. The room was long and narrow, and the lights splayed out from behind Jaar out toward the crowd. It felt like a movie scene, in the club, where the boy follows some spunky girl through the crowd and throbbing music. It was very surreal, and a touch magical.



Madvillain – Fancy Clown

On the second day, I rolled two root beer-flavored drops from Denver around in my mouth. They kicked in two hours later. I poured healthy swallows of Sterling’s Jameson into cans of Becks. We were the first two there, so we watched Telescope Thieves. A topless girl in body paint walked by handing out fliers. Later, we saw two more. They were advertising a nude afterparty.


This is Miami, so clothing is always minimal. Most girls wore jean shorts and sideboob halter tops. I saw one guy with full Miami Vice ’70s ‘fro and mustache, dancing away. He amused me. Everyone else wore what youths wear today.

The group had weaned since day one, so five of us parked in the main stage to see Run the Jewels and Ghostface Killah. Sterling ran off. I later found out two of my other friends were in the crowd, but I didn’t see them.

All the rappers we saw were really sincere. Killer Mike at one point went, “This one’s for Ferguson.” Ghostface mentioned how touched he is that people in every country have Wu-Tang tattoos. The reprieve was MF Doom. He was listed as playing with Ghostface, but they didn’t overlap. Instead, they projected Doom on a huge white sheet and added some grainy effects. Apparently, Doom’s not allowed back in the country. He started by playing bizarre old timey blues stuff, then he’d hit a spliff and wander off camera. In the background palm trees swayed. No one was sure what was happening. I thought it was just intro music for Ghostface, but then it stretched on toward an hour mark. My friend Kit got weirded out and left.

Eventually there was a lot of static and Doom reappeared, still in New York Islanders jersey and orange do-rag, this time from behind his dj set, and he rapped a bunch. It was good shit.

Before him was Run the Jewels. I found them entirely cheesy. They kept chanting back and forth in ways that reminded me of Christian rap from my childhood. I was pleased in a way, because I’ve been trying to like them for a while and can’t get into it. Now I know: I’m just not into it.

Ghostface, of course, killed it.

After that, even though it was only midnight, I went home. The edibles had worn off, I didn’t want to see anyone else that night, and I was tired. So, because I’m an old, I went home.



Jay Electronica – Jazzmataz

Everyone who gave me shit about bowing out early the night before didn’t make it out on the third day. So fuck ’em. I can party just like a youth.

I came with Brown and Miriti, sucking on two hard candies again. We showed up just in time for Jay Electronica, who called a slew of people onto the stage and had two of them spit bars with him. He said the first time he ever performed in front of people, Mos Def pulled him out of a crowd like that.

Again, the sincerity.

Meanwhile, Brown kept making up rhymes and fake words and laughing. It was a lot of this:

Jay Elec went over his allotted time. He apologized to the guys after him, but didn’t actually care enough to, you know, stop when he was supposed to.

The guy after him turned out to be Spooky Black. Brown kept hyping him up. “He’s this white teenager in a do-rag, but then he starts singing and out comes the dope ass R&B.” So we stuck around. Turns out, Brown only likes Spooky Black because he thinks he’s hilarious as a concept. It’s this Jesse Pinkman-looking teenager with an oversized hoodie who absolutely cannot sing, singing what is essentially emo R&B.

This happened:

At one point, Brown just broke down into a full-on laugh. He was doubled over, nearly slapping the sticky floor. I couldn’t help it and burst out laughing too. Miriti turned away and chuckled to himself. It was so bad it was funny.

Now, remember I was pretty high. But it was around this point that the illusion started to fade. Reality curled up at the edges. All I could see was a scared teenager, pretending to be a singer, walking around the stage in a too-big hoodie, the lights and music drowning out his terror.

Then it started to spread. I kept looking around and seeing pimples on teenage faces, silly bikini-bottom costumes, all the pomp that we put on for each other. It felt fake. Who knew if anything was any good. Maybe no one can sing? Maybe we’re all faking it, and sometimes we’re tricked, and other times all the smoke machines and neon lights and sick beats can’t hide what frauds we are.

Between sets, Brown explained the etymology of trap.

We stayed for King Krule, but that kid couldn’t sing either. Eventually we shuffled over to the dj room, and I swayed my body back and forth and closed my eyes. Miriti and I got bored and convinced Brown to leave before Unknown Mortal Orchestra. We’re old. He played UMO in the Uber on the way back.



On Monday I got sick. I’m drinking a glass of Emergen-C as I write this.

Part of the reason I was tired Saturday and Sunday nights was that I’d had boozy brunches both days. On Saturday, I met up with my friend Figgy. She was telling me about this Nirvana documentary she watched, and how it made her nostalgic for the ’90s. She said pop culture was so much better back then, and she missed it. I said she’d be nostalgic for now too, given enough time. She disagreed.

Figgy is wrong. I’ll miss these times, the last fumes of my 20s. When girls’ ass cheeks hung out of their shorts, and Arielle taught me about house, and girls fed me bra whiskey, and I took drugs and listened to EDM and hip hop until way past my bedtime.

I’m still young enough to find new music.

It seems you could use another fool

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blood on hands

Low – On My Own

I saw Low twice in two days. The first, at Fingerprints, my local record shop, was on Monday, April 1. A day later they played in the Troubadour. Here are my Opinions about that:

  •   To get tickets to the Fingerprints show, one technically had to purchase the album there. I had already preordered The Invisible Way through Sub Pop because it came with a four-song EP. I also already had tickets to the Troubadour show, but caved and bought the colored vinyl version. Mostly because I like colorful things but also because the cashier lady was cute.
  •   The way I see it, concerts are gambles. Each time, I’m betting $20 or so that I will have a transcendental experience. It’s the same principle when you go to a movie theater or any number of activities that cost money. In this case, given Low’s music and discography, I was willing to double down.
  •   Because I’m kind of a fucktard, I thought the Fingerprints gig started at 8 p.m., likely because that was when the Troubadour show opened. I left a little after 7 p.m. and walked (for some reason I had it in my head that everyone in Southern California would come to this show and there would be no parking), arriving at quarter to eight. There was no opener. I missed the majority of the show.
  •   Maybe 75 people showed up. I walked in and no one bothered trying to stop me or checking my receipt. The atmosphere was relaxed. A German Shepherd sprawled peacefully on the floor. A mother held a sleepy child in her arms. A comely girl sat cross-legged on the ground.
  •   The arrangement of the room meant I couldn’t see much without pushing forward, which I didn’t feel like doing. I used to show up to gigs hours early, walk in as soon as the doors opened, and stand at the very front. I realized somewhere along the way that concerts are more fun relaxed. I show up when it’s convenient (generally an hour after doors) and take it in from wherever I happen to stand. I’m more likely to have a transcendental experience if I’m not stressed or tense.
  •   There were a few dudes with neckbeards in attendance (myself included), but a heavy portion of the audience was older. Guys with ponytails and couples with kids or a dog.
  •   “We’re from Duluth, Minn.,” Alan Sparhawk said. “We of course encourage you to visit if you’re in the neighborhood.” Then he mumbled something I didn’t hear. “But it snowed there yesterday, so …” and he trailed off again. It wasn’t very loud. Actually, the sound setup felt like a folk band. It didn’t fit Low at all. I did not have a transcendental experience.
  •   On the walk home, I stepped over a pink bra on the road. A man with earphones on rapped loudly into the night, at no one in particular. A girl with two of her friends strode past me, her hands down the front of her shorts. Sometimes I think of America as void of culture, just like one believes that her accent is neutral. But the disparity between the audience and the people outside meant I felt the specificity of the culture in Long Beach, Calif. I heard my accent.
  •   On the drive up to Los Angeles I thought about Low’s touring arrangement. A few days prior @lowtheband tweeted: “They didn’t have Panera back when we were first touring… Or oatmeal at Starbucks. Or Starbucks. But then gas was 99 cents a gallon…” It got me wondering. Sparhawk and Mimi Parker have two kids. Did they consider giving up music professionally? According to Wikipedia, Parker did one tour pregnant. Surely Sparhawk’s side project, Retribution Gospel Choir, had something to do with the thought that he could still make money touring while Parker took care of the kids. He also does production stuff in Duluth. But since they stuck with it: How much sex do they have on tour? Do they ever share a room with the third band member? Who do the kids stay with when they’re on the road? What professions did they consider? Does the bassist ever feel like a third wheel? Has he ever heard them having sex and had to play with them soon after?
  •   The reason I gambled on Low twice is because its music feels important, sacred. If you had played a Low album for me and said, “This is what Mormons listen to at church,” I would have believed you. (Sparhawk and Parker are Mormons.) That is, I would have fallen for it until I heard the words. Low combines stately music with wry lyrics. Check out the music video for Breaker to get a sense of their humor. Many songs feel heavy until you parse the lyrics and realize Sparhawk is making an exaggerated, acerbic joke.
  •   Mimi Parker wore a skirt, heels, and button-down. This surprised me, as the night before she was in jeans and a t-shirt. I’ve never seen a drummer wear a skirt and heels before.
  •   Oh, even though I showed up halfway through the opener’s set, I scored a spot directly in front of the stage, off to the left a bit.
  •   After the opener, the projector played a countdown from 10 minutes. The audience took many cell phone pictures of this. I’m not entirely sure how it helped build anticipation, but whatever. Again, the audience was older. I suppose when your first album came out in 1994, some of the older folk come out to represent.
  •   During the show, the projector played video. Most of it was grainy footage without narrative. For example, one song had clips of a man escaping a straitjacket while dangling from a rope off a flying plane.
  •   This new album ranks below the handful that came before it, for me at least. At the time it was still new to me, so I hoped that my lowered opinion of it was because of the bad album art. C’mon had great art that gives me a specific visual when I think of the album. The Invisible Way is just bland blah. Sometimes a live show can provide the image/color/vibe I think of when I think of the album. I’m a visual learner.
  •   During one video clip, between songs, a man jumped off a rock. Sparhawk held his hand up, casting a shadow across the background, and only dropped it as the man fell. Parker rolled her eyes at him.
  •   That was the most emotion we got out of Parker. It’s got to be hard drumming and singing at the same time. Perhaps the concentration made her stoic. Sparhawk was the personable, compelling one. He would make facial expressions to fit the songs and goof off. During Murderer, he scowled and shook his head so much I started to take the lyrics seriously. That’s the image I think of when I think of Low now.
  •   A main component of Low’s sound is the interchange between Parker and Sparhawk’s voices. On the records they’re both great. Maybe it was Sparhawk’s amiability, but all his songs popped much more. Parker’s felt stale. I’d pay to hear Sparhawk sing a cappella. Paker’s songs I sat through.
  •   The beefed-up sound system at the Troubadour served the band well. Particularly during Sparhawk’s longer songs, I felt the $20 or whatever I paid well worth it.
  •   None of the band said anything until the encore except “thanks”. No band introduction, no explaining song names, nothing. Even when they left, Sparhawk simply waved and they walked off. I liked this a lot. The music spoke for itself. I mean, I also like someone like John Darnielle who chats throughout the show, but this tactic worked for Low.
  •   When they came back for the encore, Sparhawk chatted with the audience, asking for requests (“this is the part where the show falls apart”). One girl mentioned that the Troubadour doesn’t allow gum and complained. Sparhawk thought about that for a bit, noodling on his guitar. “Chewing gum is like smoking weed. The more you do it, the more you can handle.” He mentioned that he tried gum again not to long ago and it knocked him on his ass. “They really make that stuff strong nowadays.” When they left for the second, final, time, he said, “I hope you have a great summer. Don’t get too hot.”

Low – Murderer

Alan Sparhawk explained during the encore set that this song is about countries that use religion as excuse to go to war. It’s among my favorite Low songs, but I prefer an extrapolated take.

God creates humans with different attributes. Ostensibly, we’re supposed to use whatever gifts we have to serve Her. Each organ in the body of Christ serves a different, equally crucial purpose, or so goes the sermon. That’s great for those bubbly, outgoing folk. That’s awesome for Mother Teresa. What about the rest of us? What about the swindlers, the cock-suckers, the murderers? God needs the more malevolent among us too. Jesus can’t die for the world’s sins if Judas doesn’t play his treacherous part. When God requires a killer, a thief, a politician, are those sinners any less crucial to the plan?

Transmissions will resume

Written by

Musings on seeing Muse for free in the Staples Center on Jan. 24:

  •   My buddy, Love, called me at about 6 p.m. and said he’d procured free tickets to Muse. Doors were at 7 p.m. He groveled, begging me to put off two articles I had planned on finishing that night. I benevolently assented.
  •   Immediately, Mrs. Love and I headed up to Los Angeles. I don’t like L.A. I think it’s soulless. They smothered the ground with cement and then erected industrial buildings across the dryness. It holds very little charm. But Mrs. Love lived a couple blocks from the venue downtown, so to her the place is nostalgic. Things mean different things to different people, I guess.
  •   Since he was driving from work, Mr. Love met us there. Still jittery from a busy day, he called Mrs. Love roughly every two minutes, changing where we should meet up and making sure we brought him food and coordinating other frivolous details. Why didn’t we just stay still nearby and he could come to us, I ventured. “What I’ve learned from marriage is that you have to pick your battles,” Mrs. Love said. This wasn’t one she bothered to fight.
  •   Inside, as we circled the stadium looking for our section (Staples Center is a basketball/hockey stadium owned by the Anschutz Entertainment Group), Love, $10 beer in hand, said he’d heard Muse puts on perhaps the best live show going at the moment. I suggested no concert in a stadium was in the running.
  •   Our seats were as far away from the stage as possible. On the field level, near the middle of what would be the court, was a massive sound/lights/lasers control booth. Beyond that was general admission, people milling about inside a fenced-off area that came within a couple feet of the stage. We were as high up as seats went, against the far wall: section 308, row 7, seat number 17. Or, at least, that’s where I was. The seats weren’t together, which is how Love snagged three. As people kept filing in, our attempts to sit together unraveled.
  •   Before we split up, the Loves briefly argued about where to leave the cars for an upcoming vacation. In the end, the husband was right to leave his car at work, and Mrs. Love admitted so. “This is marriage,” Love said, pointing at his wife. “She always thinks she’s right.”
  •   I sat between two teenage girls, my arms crossed to preserve limited elbow room. The one on my right had a shrieking problem. How I Met Your Mother would dub her a Woo Girl, except her woo threatened to split my eardrums. The one on my left watched the entire concert through the screen of her digital camera. “Enjoy the show,” her boyfriend implored her. “I am enjoying it,” she said. I think this makes me old, but I don’t understand the desire to document every experience with shitty pictures and shittier video. Your cell phone’s camera isn’t good enough to make a picture of lights a stadium away look interesting. It comes out as a bright blur. And your audio-recording equipment (not to mention lack of mixing software) does the live sound a disservice. /old person rant.
  •   The trio in front of me showed up midway through the first song, toked up, and proceeded to dance through most of the concert, obscuring my already limited view. “I think they were on something,” Mrs. Love said later. The light show was probably more enjoyable high, I thought.
  •   Can we talk about white people dancing? No one can dance quite as poorly as white folk. During the rocking songs, the stadium — or the parts of it I could see — broke out in awkward, gangly, off-beat gyration. Hips jutted out of rhythm. Fists and arms flailed seemingly to different songs. I tapped my toes.
  •   Muse are rock stars. During an early solo, the guitarist rode one of his thrusts smoothly to his knees and continued soloing away. Ever since seeing Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln I’ve been thinking about what our posture conveys about us (the way he hunches; the slow, old-man march of a gait — half mournful, half wistful as he disappears down the hallway toward his *SPOILER* death). The members of Muse have the posture of rock stars. They are comfortable on stage, which is evident no matter how far away you sit.
  •   Love met Muse once. He works in entertainment. He came home with a picture of them on his iPhone. The lead singer looks like a youth pastor. The concert felt, to me, like it could fit in the genre of mega-church worship, except good. I’ve seen many of the stage habits, the lights and the overwrought choruses in mega-churches. Except, of course, that Muse can fucking jam and that they nail those larger-than-life swells. Still, it felt at times like the hardest-rocking church band of all time.
  •   In front of me, a man with his septum pierced passed, holding a beer, on the way to his seat. In the other hand, he led his 10-year-old child.
  •   There are three members in Muse. I know this because I could see three people strutting around. But stage-left of the drum kit was a fourth. From what I can tell from the brief glimpses of when lights accidentally fell on him, he played keyboards, second guitar and some percussion. I felt deep affinity with this man. The spotlight never fell on him. The video cameras never picked him up. He probably makes several hundred times less than the three others on stage with him. But he is essential.
  •   Essential, too, were the 50 or so others involved in the production. The guitar techs, the sound guys, and whatever genius designed that light show. Along the back, in a half circle, were a series of screens maybe 5 feet long each. From the roof directly above the stage, a pyramid of screens lowered and raised throughout the show. The levels of the pyramid overlapped and interchanged, so that it did not always hold its pyramid shape. All these screens showed graphics, live footage from the show, or other video (as when the pyramid landed on the stage and played an extended clip while the band took a discreet breather). For one song they showed a cute hippopotamus dancing. It’s hard to explain without showing you, but even as screens overlapped and shifted, images moved between them seamlessly. Someone put many dozen or perhaps hundreds of hours into programming that, and it is an exceptional accomplishment. “I felt like he should have been on stage too,” Love said.
  •   I’m not deeply familiar with Muse’s discography. I own a few albums and am acquainted with the hit songs. I remember once playing euchre with Rat. I was winning. We were talking about music. “Why listen to Coldplay when you could just listen to Radiohead?” I said. “Why listen to Radiohead when you could just listen to Muse?” he countered. I hated him then. Ever since, I’ve kept Muse at arm’s length, secretly holding it against them that they will never ever be nearly as good as Radiohead.
  •   I heard on the radio that the singer wrote that Madness song you’ve heard way too many times recently about his girlfriend (wife?). She went to stay with her mother during a fight, and while she was away he wrote that song. It boggled my brain to imagine writing a Muse song. Most musicians you can kind of piece together how they do it. They strum some strings and hum a tune and if you jumble a bunch of other stuff on top it equals a song. Or they plink some keys to start. But how do you write a Muse song? Surely not on an acoustic guitar. They seem to come preformed, breech-birthed in dense recording, a matrix of rhythms, and explosive digital crescendos.
  •   I’ve been listening to a lot of Shearwater recently, one, because Animal Joy is the best album that was or ever will be released in 2012, and, two, because I found the CD in my car a few days ago. These bands are very distinct and the vocalists are obviously different, but I think the singers belong in the same category. That category might be: “the sound released when you crack open the earth’s core.”
  •   Matt Bellamy’s voice only faltered once during the show, when he stuttered over the lyric “They will not control us” on Uprising.
  •   Maybe it was the seats. Maybe it was the girl who took a 20 minute break in the middle of the show to buy overpriced nachos from AEG. But I witnessed this concert; I did not experience it. It felt like watching a concert on television, except without the closeups and with a bunch of jerks I didn’t invite in my living room. I felt no obligation to clap or cheer or woot or buy merch. When I felt the stickiness of beer underneath the sole of my boots, it was up in the cold clammy corner of a stadium, not in a sweaty bar.
  •   I read a bucket-list-suggestions thing that included attending a sold-out huge stadium concert. In my head I thought of Pink Floyd. I imagined an open-aired stadium, grass. I thought it would feel like being part of something. History, maybe. Or at least a rebellion of some sort — those kids and their rock musics and drugs and silly clothes. This show was not historic. It was not rebellious. It was a show you bring your kid to. It was a place to sit and eat nachos. Every second was meticulously choreographed and rehearsed. There was nothing raw about it. The condom didn’t even peel up around the base.
  •   Outside, after the show, we walked to the $5 parking lot where Love’s coworker’s car (and Love’s backpack inside it) waited. The parking lot attendant shotgunned a beer, stomped on the empty can, and kicked it underneath a car. “He’s so over it,” Love said. I think I would have rather watched a concert in that dirty lot, with that drunk parking lot attendant, than a few blocks away in the sterile Staples Center.

[The Second Law.]

The blood from your nose running hot in your fingers

Written by

Shearwater – You As You Were

Some thoughts on seeing Shearwater and Dinosaur Jr at The Observatory in Santa Ana on Oct. 10:

  •   Concerts start late. No other genre of event starts an hour and a half after the time printed on tickets. But everyone expects it with concerts. The room was only half full until right before Shearwater started.
  •   This means a lot of standing. I’m good at standing. I’m a competent stander. But recently I bought these new boots. They make me look fantastic and I get excited to wear them (even if they aren’t fuck-off menacing), but they suck to stand in. By the end of the show my toes were going to sleep.
  •   Before the show there were two lines. I asked the barkeep what the other one was for, and he said the singer from Thrice is playing worship music somewhere else in the venue. Humans have let some pretty awful things happen throughout history, and this ranks among them.
  •   I paid $9 for a PBR tallboy. They’re like two bucks at 7-Eleven. That’s an impressive markup. So impressive I forgot to tip the bartender. I’m pretty sure this makes me an awful human being.
  •   Shearwater played mostly Animal Joy material. That album is life-affirming. I felt all of the feelings, and I felt them strongly. My torso was full to bursting with liquid emotion, and I could feel it rising in my throat, threatening to choke me. I bet if I had taken off my shirt, my chest would have glowed.
  •   Rob Delaney talks (earnestly, I think) of better understanding his parents’ divorce after seeing a live dance performance. My parents are still together, but I felt like a wholer human being after the show.
  •   Chatter between songs was minimal. Sample dialog: “Dinosaur Jr will melt your faces in short order. First, we’re going to play you some songs of sadness and love.”
  •   That was Jonathan Meiburg. He makes me jealous. He’s tall, handsome, and has a voice like monsoon rains in the jungle. I always imagine he must have been nervous starting a band, though. Shearwater’s music is earnest and profound, and if you don’t hit the mark every time his voice would just make it sound ridiculous.
  •   After the blistering vocal performance of “Eternal as fire” on Insolence, the guy behind me scoffed during the brief musical pause. The feeling I felt then was anger.
  •   It must be tough as an opening band. You can kill it every night and still everyone (besides me, in this case) is waiting for you to go away so someone they like more will come on. That’s got to grind you down.
  •   This tour is sans Kim or Thor. I don’t know where they are or why they are not along. I missed them.
  •   Everyone in Shearwater wore jeans. I find tour apparel interesting. You’ve got to pick something comfortable but trendy, and it’s got to hold up dirty and wrinkled and frayed. This is your look, your brand. I don’t imagine bands get to wash their clothes too often. I remember David Bazan excitedly telling me about these self-drying socks he bought. He would rinse them in the hotel sink every night and they’d be ready and dry in the morning.
  •   Besides clothes and instruments and amps, tour vans have to fit extra drum sticks and guitar strings and gaffer tape. I imagine a slowly dwindling pile as the band incrementally goes through its stock. Planning ahead for months’ worth of guitar strings is probably not what people think about when they start a band.
  •   Shearwater closed with a cover, but I didn’t know it. Any help?
  •   Dinosaur Jr’s guitar tech has his arm in a sling, which he awkwardly worked around when setting up. Then he pulled it out when tuning the guitar. He had shoulder-length hair and was balding.
  •   All of Dinosaur Jr’s roadies had long hair. Part of befriending J Mascis, I suppose. One of them, when he leaned down to help pull the rug under the drum set forward, displayed a huge amount of crack.
  •   Murph, the drummer, wore khaki shorts. He has old man legs. It reminded me of how old these guys are — mid-40s. They’ve been making music since the early ’80s, persevering through decades and band-breakups and age and the grind of touring. There are some people who will just keep at their craft no matter what. I like that. I like to think that artists would toil away even if there was no money involved, quietly writing and editing and revising during nights after work under a sickly-yellow light of a bulb not nearly strong enough.
  •   Anyways, Murph is bald. He has to use a rag to wipe the sweat off his dome between songs. Mascis and Lou Barlow, when they nod their heads to noodle, hide behind their hair. It’s an odd juxtaposition.
  •   The shitbrains teenager behind me kept describing Shearwater as “flatline.” This puzzled me; Dinosaur Jr is as atonal as rock gets. There’s color in the guitar solos, but the rest is as straight and abrasive as it comes. What a shitbrain.
  •   J Mascis abandons his trademark lenticular look when he plays. I’ve never seen him without glasses on and it made me slightly uncomfortable, like I was watching him get ready for sleep or a shower (the only times I take off my glasses).
  •   Lou does all the talking, even though Mascis sings the majority of the songs. It’s a weird dynamic, especially if you remember that Mascis once fired Barlow.
  •   During one song, a guy stuck his arm out next to my head and recorded the thing on his iPhone. I will never understand this generation’s need to (shittily) document everything it experiences. I don’t like bootlegs. Bands spend months and thousands of dollars so that albums have the best version of songs on them. Why listen to the unedited version? The joy of concerts is the experience, the volume, the tremors. All of that is lost as soon as it’s crammed into an iPhone.
  •   I hate encores. I’ve been to several dozen concerts in my life, and can only think of one or two that didn’t do them. Listen, bands. Be honest. Play your allotment of songs and then trudge off. Encores hold negligible power if everyone does them every time. This frustrates me. We can all see the guitar and bass tech not breaking the set down yet. We can all hear the absence of house music. It’s this ritual we’re put through despite both sides knowing there’s no surprise and neither benefiting. Stop pretending.
  •   I chatted with a bouncer who looked like a black Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He said he doesn’t even check who is playing, just shows up every night. He also said he’s never had to jump over the fence at the front to tackle anybody, which disappointed me. Midway through Shearwater’s set, someone toked up in the middle of the standing pit. The bouncers have to see that shit, so I imagine they just don’t care. Probably ends up being tricky legal ground for venues if people keep getting arrested for weed.
  •   I picked up Animal Joy from the merch table because I didn’t own a physical copy yet. That means I’ve only ever listened on my speakers or headphones. What I learned on the drive home is that my car speakers are awful.

[Animal Joy / vertoiseau]

25/11/10: Beach House

Written by

Lower Dens – I Get Nervous

…finally, down near the Brighton seafront, and there I was, the lone coloured fellow in a crowd of pale, proudly unwashed hipsters. Despite the melanin gap, however, the outsider and the home crowd were waiting for the same thing: Beach House. The evening’s opening acts had got things going quite nicely. The combination of indoor heating and Lower Dens’ guitars provided much-needed warmth, on the first frosty day of this capricious British winter. The nameless Christian folk singer who preceded the Dens was less welcome, but he seemed to have a good time regardless. Back to Lower Dens, though – they’re good. I hadn’t heard of them before that night. Solid rhythm section, wonderfully-coordinated guitar and bass combos, and sparse, well-timed lyrics that serve more as another instrument than as separate from melody. All the acts that night came from Baltimore, MD, where this bit of magic is set. It must be something in the water. Or the crime.

Beach House – Zebra

The wait for Beach House was long. “It’s a friggin’ duo, how long could they take to get stoned and tune their instruments?” I muttered inaudibly to an under-aged stranger. My anticipation reached its peak, then nosedived into a pit of frustration, as I followed up my third Guinness with a tweet, snidely comparing Lower Dens to “a pauper’s Sonic Youth.” They deserve better than that. The lanky 40-something Yorkshireman spilled his drinkie. A typically obnoxious couple barged their way nearer to the front, earning the derision of everyone, and the retaliation of nobody. Another advantage of having a girlfriend, I thought. Another reason why escorts are so expensive (or so I’ve read).

And then they came on.

My pre-Teen Dream favourite, “Gila,” was first on the set list. The performance itself was immaculate, with the intimate Concorde2 venue lending prime acoustics to the airy gorgeousness issuing forth from our star duo.

Victoria Legrand – or to give her full name, French-Born Victoria Legrand – clearly has some prescient parents. She is indeed a great triumph. If you were to take her out, you wouldn’t order her food for her, would you? She knows what she wants. Her voice can get it, don’t you worry none. I’ve seen some sexy singing front-women in my time: Anaïs Mitchell, Alexis Krauss (of Sleigh Bells), Erika Forster (Au Revoir Simone… she blew me a kiss once!), Annie Clark (St. Vincent)… when she’s on that stage, Victoria beats them all. By a lot. When she’s not playing the organ, she moves her hands and body around a lot during the songs. It’s not really dancing, and it’s not got any functional purpose. But if you were performing those songs, you would move in that same way. The only thing, of course, is that it wouldn’t be sexy when you do it. That’s just how it goes.

Alex Scally’s backing vocals and guitar/keyboard work deserve great praise too, especially on the Teen Dream songs, which came across more rounded and complete even than they did on the album. In the best sense, Beach House’s songs make you want to sing along, even when you don’t know the words.

From the first wavering chords of “Gila” to the end of the encore’s “Take Care”, the risible crowd had faded into background nothingness, and it was Victoria, singing to me alone, my dream of the night before coming true. Well, apart from the chalet and the jacuzzi. Good things come to those who wait.

Beach House – I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun

Oh yeah, they also recorded a Christmas song.

I managed to write about Beach House without once mentioning the phrase ‘dream pop.’ It is actually possible, Pitchfork.

[Buy Teen Dream if you want to experience some sweet melodies this Christmas. Lower Dens’ Twin-Hand Movement is an underrated gem.]

“We’re just having a conference…”

Written by

Little Dragon – A New

Little Dragon are a four piece electronic-rock-pop-something band, whose origins lay in their early teenage friendship, birthed in the European land of Sweden – their lead singer, Yukimi Nagano, daughter to a Japanese father and Swedish mother. All rather irrelevant, except it explains and provides their visual offering, one unlike anything music and its current scene has on display. Still, it is the music we’ve all gathered for in this surprisingly well ventilated room, three-hundred or so strong, at Crawdaddy on Harcourt Street, Dublin, and it is music we soon get following a delay of opening doors (in which time I managed to sneak an introduction to half the band).

Three of the band members are already present on stage for many minutes, sound checking their way to soon to be perfection, before the leader of the pack emerges. Yukimi Nagano is a mesmerising figure, swaying and dancing her way through every pounding beat and riff with a click of hips and robotics pauses to a beat’s end, taking just brief moments of slight relief as she closes her eyes and drenches the air with haunting melodies, much like the quality of her voice, that surf on danceable instrumental backing. At times she’ll join Erik Bodin on the drums, standing by his side and slamming sticks to their destination, or randomly turn to thrash a hand at strung up transparent gongs hooked to electric synth – I can only bring myself to lazily describing them as three hanging breast implants with the ability for sound. But the sounds were never indulgent, always necessary, and added firmly to the intended vibe.

Two new songs, currently titled “Summer Chant”, a reggae and jungle beat filled thriller of rainbow melody, and “Little Man”, were offered to the crowd and their end was met with violently-appreciative appraisal, as high and resounding as any single or fan favourite. And this would highlight, firmly this time, the power, precision, and strength of Little Dragon as a musical outfit. This crowd were hearing new songs for the first time in cramped surroundings, with small venue sound systems, and every glimmer of quirk and beat and jive was heard and felt. A band all powerful, maintaining the mood, sometimes enhancing it, with new sounds. Offerings from Machine Dreams, such as “Feather” and “Looking Glass”, played out with such flawless nature, one would be forgiven for quizzing any possibility of tricks being pulled.

The pre-encore break was met by raucous appreciation, and fully sustained until the band reappeared. “Twice”, the night’s penultimate sound, a song incessantly requested by erratically-dancing drunkards, washed the huddled crowd like ocean spray, and, for the first time, those in attendance were completely transfixed to the point of stillness. Little Dragon had stolen the attention of their crowd from their very first movement onto the stage, but now they had a stranglehold – complete control. Like Yukimi’s on-stage presence and play, Little Dragon is a whimsical entity, but concise and serious – loud, but with delicate commitment. It’s what we all hope the future of pop might be. On a basic level, and so demanding of its genre, it is catchy, yet on all other levels it is brimming with fervent melody and thought and heart. And in what should be apparent contrast, when in full flow, they are also very, very loud – says the boy who stood in front of one of just two high hanging, ponderous speakers. Little Dragon are Erik Bodin, Yukimi Nagano, Fredrik Källgren Wallin, and Håkan Wirenstrand. They are truly wonderful. [Purchase.]

Review: Ra Ra Riot at Easy Street Records, Sept. 6, 2010

Written by

Ra Ra Riot – Oh, La

“Want to go to a free Ra Ra Riot concert Monday?” I texted.

“Who/what is a ra ra riot?” Ron, my brother’s friend, texted back.

“It’s a band. They play music. With instruments.” I’m a goddam riot alright. “Check YouTube to see if you’d like them.”

“Sounds indieish but not half bad. I’m down.”

“It’s at 7 in Queen Anne. Swing by my place at 6 for a drink before we head out.”

So Ron, some 6’4 future Marine, showed up at my place at 6:00 p.m. and we chugged Jack and Cokes and alit. In between the rows of CDs and vinyl at Easy Street Records about 125 people filled in. Ron and I stood behind the electronic section; I noticed some band called O O O.

Ra Ra Riot started promptly and played 20 minutes, even adding an extra song, or so the singer claimed, because we were “rowdy”.

The crowd was pretty subdued. But so was Ra Ra Riot. Without a drummer, the music lost its bite. Instead, fresh-faced youngsters fretted and bowed and plucked along on instruments merrily, sappily.

Maybe it was the high density of high schoolers at the show, including three girls standing next to us who giggled and ‘omigawd’ed their way through the show, but the band reminded me of high school. The violinist was the band nerd with thick glasses who you can never date because she’s actually pretty cute and way too talented for a deadbeat like you. The singer was the popular kid but with a sensitive side which got him laid all the time. The bassist was his slightly darker, quieter best friend. Et cetera.

“What’s with all the handsome grandsons in these rock band magazines? And what have they done with the fat ones? The bald and the goatee’d?”

Ron and I looked at each other after the set and shrugged. We both texted my brother, who adores Ra Ra Riot, to tell him how it went. Maybe he would have appreciated it more, would have savored the thickness of the strings, the whiskey textures, the sweet sentimentality.

Ron and I? We drove home and drank some more.

[Buy The Rhumb Line, which is pretty alright.]