I liked but never quite got into Parenthetical Girls, but when my friend Glockabelle told me she was opening for them I thought I'd give it a shot.
Glockabelle is Annabelle Cazes and whatever awesome musicians she happens to be working with. She plays everything from surf rock to classical on her Glockenspiel, and then plays twin little keyboards and sings in French. Her stage banter is awesome, she'll say, "This is a song about a gazelle" and then launch into madness. Here's two great samples:
We stayed for Parenthetical Girls and they blew us away. Lead singer Zac Pennington is a charismatic demon and stood on amps, came out into the crowd, and performed all over the venue. It's a good thing he has a long mic cord. In the most intense moment, he came over to the bench we were standing on, grabbed a rolldown movie screen, and pulled it down in front of us so only me and a couple of other people could see him performing for a few minutes. It was so amazing and intimate that I couldn't resist giving his scrawny arm a little kiss.
It's been a long time since I saw a show with such panache and engagement. Their recordings don't quite capture the same spirit but have a listen anyway! Check out the amazing song The Pornographer and its (NSFW if armpit hair is not cool at your work) video:
Anyway, thanks to Glockabelle and Parenthetical Girls for an amazing New York experience!
Well, I actually went out and listened to some actual real live local music. People like Seattle Show Gal do this all the time, but for me, I don't take a chance on new local stuff as often as I could. Maybe I should be a little sweeter and a little less snobby.
Tonight I went to see experimental guitarist Bill Horist. I've seen experimental music that was much more experimental wanking than experimental music IMHSO. I mean, believe me, I believe in whatever kind of performance people can get other people to show up for! But a few random atonal noises every few seconds on the trumpet doesn't make me personally show up twice.
What Bill did was both experimental and music, so kudos to him. He played two long pieces: one with an acoustic guitar and some weird electronic box, and after saying he was going to come back from an intermission "as another person" he played an electric guitar number.
The acoustic number filled the space for sure… he combined strange whirring feedback from the box with cyclical, looping guitar phrases. At times I just let my head slack in my hands and just moved my body in similar looping motions with my eyes closed.
When he came back, he set the guitar on his lap, and shoved a porcupine-style letter holder in the strings and proceeded to play it with a bow (see photo above). In time he abused his strings with cymbals, long bent metal sticks, and a few hemostats clipped to them. Sounds like just messing around, but he did manage to consistently make interesting and different sounds with each new instrument. After the show, I couldn't resist taking a picture of his tray of tools. Holy crap, I wonder what it would have been like if he'd used the electric toothbrushes!
I went because the drummer has been a true pal to me and has been cutting my hair better than anyone for the last two years. So, I finally got to see his band and meet his lovely wife. In the barber's chair, he told me (a little ruefully) that his band was "kind of like a nerdy Arcade Fire".
I didn't really see that myself, other than that they had a small string section (violin and cello). They didn't have any of the crescendo addiction of Arcade Fire, and instead played an 11-song set of rollicking energetic, bluegrass-inspired numbers with intelligent lyrics.
The lead singer is a straightforward singer who sang energetically and with humility… although in the end I wished he'd ditched a little of the humility and turned on some of the star power and gave it his all.
Some songs really worked, like the cello-driven The Price, and the radio-ready drug/relationship number, Codeine. (You can hear both.) Some songs (I didn't catch the titles) put a snooze on the crowd, without enough to distinguish themselves. All in all though, I was glad to be there and loved the energy of a band playing a late Thursday night set and really showing some spirit. The kazoo number kicked ass.
And last but not least, another shout out to Noise for the Needy, which throws summer shows every year to benefit a charity. This year, Teen Feed, which feeds and provides outreach for the most vulnerable almost-adults out there on the streets having to act a little more grown-up than they really should have to.
Thanks to Pillow Army, Bill Horist, Holly, and my girlfriend for showing me a good time!
When my girl and I thought that The Antlers' album Hospice was a true story, I told her she had to listen closely to it in the car on the way to Burning Man last year. By the time we got to the late-album crescendo, Wake, we both had tears streaming down our face.
The album can still get me misty, but now we both know it's not literally true.
Peter Silberman of The Antlers did not work at a hospice, and did not befriend a young, abusive girl with bone cancer and care for her until her death. He did, however, write an amazingly sweet story about it, in album form, that touches on real themes of death, guilt, love, generosity, abuse, and the meaning of life. He wrapped it in amazing package of shimmering shoegazer rock and some pretty goddamn touching vocals.
His self-released CD slowly grew in popularity in Brooklyn until finally Frenchkiss picked it up and gave it a real release.
Peter and the band have had a pretty good year since then, I guess, and tonight I finally get to hear them play the album live at Neumos. Thanks, pretty girlfriend.
In 1968 (I think), my Dad hitchhiked from Chicago to New York to go see Barbra Streisand perform in Funny Girl. He's crazy about Streisand, and he's often absentmindedly "dadada"ing some gentle little musical theater melody… probably 30% Streisand, who knows.
I recently got him NetFlix for the first time as a Christmas present last year, and since he gave my sister and I our love for movies, I think he said he's now watched every Streisand special there is. He knows I'm no big fan of that style of music, but he told me if I were going to watch one Streisand performance, it should be A Happening in Central Park.
"This will give a glimmer of what there is to appreciate of her, when she was at her freshest, most spontaneous, and full of excitement and poise."
So I rented it on NetFlix, and when I was incapacitated on my couch with a twisted rib, I watched it beginning to end on the good speakers…
…and pretty much saw Barbra in her full glory for the first time. There she is, this tiny, lovely Brooklyn girl gone huge, up there on the stage in front of a central park crowd of 150,000. She can seemingly handle any meter and vocal range, no matter how challenging, with an incredible vocal power and expressiveness.
There she is, with this kind of faux humility, playing the "what, who, me? wonderful?" card, telling all these little stories and holding court with this huge New York crowd. She is their icon and hero… this pantheon to all that is Jewish and Brooklyn, being totally fabulous and hardly trying.
She has one costume change and both of her dresses are totally truly fabulous, both with diaphanous wings that flutter about in the Central Park breeze. I didn't realize how amazingly lovely she was in her prime.
My favorite song of the bunch is Cry Me a River, a song I love, which she brings her own amazing flavor to. She does a few other Broadway standards I'm not familiar with.
But… there's something I still can't feel about Barbra, even at her effervescent best: I just don't find her funny! A big part of her act is about her lightning quick changes from total heartbreaking to total Jewish hilarity. Maybe it's a cultural thing. Maybe it's that I'm not so crazy about musical theater in the first place, but I constantly get this feeling that she's just not as funny as she thinks she is.
I'm sure if I grew up in Brooklyn in the 1950's I'd think she was a scream. It's a kind of old fashioned humor that fits with the kind of old-school. Twice she tells a long and "umm"ey story that results in either no song, or in one instance, a 10 second song.
The person I can't help thinking about as I watch her is: Feist. Yes, Feist. Feist is in some ways the modern Barbra… the amazing, beautiful, expressive singer with an amazing range and a love for covers who captures the zeitgeist of the moment. But Feist just has so much more of a grasp of the modern idioms in this post Kurt Cobain world. When I look at dinosaurs like Barba they just seem… pretty darn cheesy in comparison.
I don't argue with my dad though, this is a pretty amazing recording, and if you've ever been curious about what all the fuss about Streisand is (more grammys than God, 60 albums, etc.) you will probably be edified to watch this performance. Plus, the price is right:
Due to the magic of the internets, it looks like YouTube has the entire thing in its entirety. Part 2/6 has the aforementioned Cry Me a River if you want to get the flavor without watching the whole thing.
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I didn't take any pictures or video. It wasn't the most packed show (On St. Patrick's day) so it looks like no one else did either. No one who posted to Flickr or YouTube anyway.
I did enjoy the show though, and was happy to see these Montreal-ites do their thing on stage after listening to the album many, many, many, many, many times over the past several months. (See my earlier post about their album Parc Avenue.)
Unlike the crystal clear sound at Nectar when I saw Bon Iver, the sound was pretty muddy, and the vocals were way too low in the mix.
None of that mattered… I know most of the words anyway, and it was thrilling to see them. One thing I loved, is that Warren Spicer, the lead singer, really went out of his way to vary his vocal interpretation from the album, making it a new experience (even though that made it hard for me to tipsily sing along).
I had plenty of time to loiter around after the show though, and at one point individually walked up to each and every band member and told them how much I loved the album.
Note: I always follow some simple rules when I approach semi-famous people to express appreciation:
I don't interrupt if a pretty girl is talking to them
I don't try to get them to sign anything or do anything for me
I don't try to make the conversation go on past its natural dying out point
I didn't mention any specific songs, just told each of them very sincerely that I loved the album and listened to it constantly. I got the same, totally dorky "aww shucks" looking-uncomfortably-at-their-shoes reaction from each of them. I should have told Warren at least that he really needs to drop the child-molestor mustache. That probably would have got a more interesting reaction.
Anyway, since I didn't get any video, check out their killer recent video for Feedback in the Field:
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I had seen their name all over town and never knew what kind of band they were, just that they were local and played a lot of gigs. Then, when their amazing EP The Sun Giant came out and I listened to it almost to the exclusion of anything else, I was like, "God, I need to go see these local boys!" By then though, they were on a national tour, and weren't coming back to Seattle for months. As an opener for another band (Blitzen Trapper) no less.
I bought tickets that day, and when the day finally came I was pretty excited. The club was packed for the Foxes and they played a short opener set with songs from the EP and a couple of the songs from the upcoming self-titled LP. The sound seemed muddy and they just didn't seem to have that same precision and beauty as on their recording. Locals turned out in droves for them that night, though, and emptied out when Blitzen Trapper came on, sadly.
Finally, the LP came out, and it was a stunner. Pitchfork gave it a 9.0 and for a long time it was the best selling album in local record shops for a while, and had a resonable billboard chart position. The next time I saw them was at possibly their biggest gig yet, the Capitol Hill Block Party main stage.
They kinda sucked. Pecknold came onstage smoking for the soundcheck and looked like he didn't give much of a crap. When they came on they seemed not to know how to deal with a big crowd, and their stage banter was pathetically ametuerish, "Wow. This is a lot of people. We don't know what we'd say that would apply to everyone here. Uhhh… we're in Capitol Hill?" Right. Uhhh, I don't know… talk about the actual songs?"
Then, Robin barely could hit his notes, the the band sounded sloppy and uncaring. These are pretty simple songs, all in all, and the feeling of intricacy that comes through on the album is partially from the precision they project in their changes and harmonies. They didn't really bring it.
But… I had a feeling, when I heard they were playing at the very large Seattle venue, the Moore, an old theater, that they were going to sink or swim. They were the stars of the show, and they'd had a chance to get used to their sudden fame. It was a hometown show, and I felt like if they were going to step up to the plate and be the superstars I knew they were capable of being, they would need to step their game up a hair.
Well, I'm happy to report that the Moore show was one of the best live shows I have ever seen. Gone was the painful self-consciousness. They seemed to have come into their own. They bantered sweetly and self depricatingly with the audience, who hung on their every word. They name-dropped celebrities they now brush elbows with, and then made fun of themselves for doing it for the rest of the night.
They came up with clever bon mot's for just about everything a member of the audience yelled, and gave props to all their grade school teachers in the audience. Someone shouted at the beginning, "You guys rock!" and Robin said in response, "And we haven't even started playing yet." It's fair to say they sparkled. Oh yeah, and they played their amazing songs.
It was a phenomenal performance. Their recorded precision came through, and Robin sang with a power and fluidity that stunned everyone and actually gave me chills. To get a sense of Robin's vocal power, he came out alone at first for the encore, and sang a song at the edge of the stage… without amplification.
I was near the back of the first balcony and I could hear him clear as a goddamn bell.
They sounded like superstars. Please come out with another album, Fleet Foxes.
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