Thirty Hertz Rumble

A bl-g about movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick

Category: Live Music (Page 4 of 6)

Yellow Ostrich/Los Campesinos! @ Brillobox 6/24

More often than not lately I buy tickets to shows just because I want to see the opening act. I went to see Hospitality and stayed for Here We Go Magic. I make the easy agreement with myself that if I’m not enjoying the show, I have my own 100% permission to bail, no guilt. But I don’t bail because more often than not I find something in the live act that I’d not heard previously on the studio recordings. So it went, most recently, with Here We Go Magic. I’d always liked the band, but heavy rotation wasn’t in their past, present or future. Now I have Here We Go Magic’s debut record in the easy-to-access stack of vinyl next to the turntable.

Yellow Ostrich, Mistress

I’ve been following Yellow Ostrich since I heard John Richards spin a track from their EP Fade Cave on KEXP in 2009 (stream the radio station on www.kexp.org). Smitten, I downloaded both the EP and full length Mistress without hesitation.

Side note: listening to KEXP is the always the worst thing for my music budget. On any given day I’ll hear three or four new bands that I buy or toss on my wishlist. It’s a disease. Also, I trust John Richard’s taste in music more than my own. Dude is absolutely infallible. By the way, I’m listening to him now as I write this and just threw the new Exitmusic release in my to-buy list. And now he’s playing the Cure. If I were more awesome, I’d be John Richards. But I digress.

Sunday, Yellow Ostrich opened for Welsh pop-punkers Los Campesinos! (though none of them are originally from Wales), a band I perpetually enjoy but never love. A few tracks have really grabbed me.

For example, this track from Hello Sadness made my Best of 2011 list.

[tube] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOseg2IktAE[/tube]

Yellow Ostrich did not disappoint. I put up a little write up for the band’s new release on my intermittent 30Hz Recommended posts and wrote the review for Spill Magazine. From that review:

“Strange Land is the intersection of the familiar with the surreal. Frontman Alex Schaaf, a mad musical professor, under the moniker Yellow Ostrich, recorded the Fade Cave EP and The Mistress at his home in Wisconsin. In 2010 he moved to New York, released The Mistress on Barsuk Records and found himself a legitimate full-blown three-piece band, adding multi-instrumentalist Joe Natchez and drummer Michael Tapper. The songs on The Mistress are minimalist, vocal loops and solo instrumentation mixed into something raw and personal. Schaaf’s journey from the familiar (Wisconsin, working solo) to the surreal, the strange (New York, bandmates) influences everything on Strange Land, an album that embodies the schizophrenia of a man caught between two worlds.”

Alex Schaaf

Alex Schaaf

Schaaf and co. didn’t disappoint. Their live orchestration was tight and Schaaf’s performance made it clear that he pours his soul into his music. Every song sapped his energy and only the promise of performing the next one revived him. I’d been most curious how the full band would handle Schaaf’s compositions from his earlier, solo work from Mistress and Fade Cave. Both “Whale” and “Mary” sounded very similar to Schaaf’s solo mad-scientist recordings but with more depth. A live performance with more musicians, inevitably, has that effect. Just hearing the live version of the fragile “Whale,” in particular, made the show worthwhile. That was the song that caused me to buy the small Yellow Ostrich catalog back in 2009 and it still stood out as a unique and brilliant song among the new material.

Whale (recorded live at KEXP in 2011):

[tube] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfWDmDPKKDE[/tube]

After the Yellow Ostrich set, as I have made a habit of doing, I hung out by the swag table to buy a record and chat. Schaaf hung around for a few minutes receiving some much deserved fan adulation. I only chatted him up for a few minutes about his abbreviated two week tour with Los Campesinos! that concludes in Miami of all places. He lamented the termination as the band must then spin their van back back down the long road from Florida to New York City while Los Campesinos! hops on a plane back to the UK. He seemed like a genuine guy with an easy sense of humor.

Los Campesinos!

Los Campesinos!

Los Campesinos! bounds on stage. I knew very little about the band’s makeup. Suddenly there’s a flood of musicians on the tiny Brillobox stage. If you’ve been to the Brillobox venue here in Pittsburgh, imagine a cluster of seven musicians on that miniature platform that’s more like a soap box. Led on stage by lead singer Gareth (an apparent well of infinite enthusiasm despite claiming to have been exhausted by taking to a Southside pub for the afternoon football match), the band launches into their opener and the crowd immediately begins fist-pumping and bouncing and screaming lyrics. Easily the most energetic crowd I’ve witnessed at Brillobox and probably the loudest show. Seven bandmembers, seven instruments play loud but the cacophony somehow doesn’t overcome the long, rectangular space. Their brand of indie-pop is raucous with a post-punk twist. Think Built to Spill with Joy Division and a dash of the Clash and Belle & Sebastian.

Between the two- or three-song blocks, Gareth once pauses to berate the crowd for being “so damn nice” (and he follows this by clarifying “And that’s not a good thing”) and mocks the gathered for cheering whenever he says “Pittsburgh.” “It’s such a silly American thing, all this irrational civic pride” he says and from there on refers to Pittsburgh as “the place that shall not be named.” His banter is good-natured and very British, which allows him to get away with saying pretty much anything he likes. He has the shiny, happy hipster crowd of 120 eating out of his hand. By the time the band plays “You! Me! Dancing!” the venue erupts and I’ve got to wonder what the show sounds like to those gathered in the bar downstairs. The floor bounces and the united patrons scream the chorus in perfect synchronicity.

“You! Me! Dancing!” off Hold On Now, Youngster (2008) is just pure joy. I couldn’t find a live version with decent audio. A shame.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj6SO_yKMe8&feature=list_related&playnext=1&list=AL94UKMTqg-9CDeaGmzyVa06JZTtdb_KWj [/tube]

It’s one of those live music moments you’ll want to bottle and remember every time the song plays. The band milks the live show for everything they’ve got. It’s no wonder they’ve built such a positive reputation for their shows.

Every time I hear Los Campesinos! I’ll still have that live performance informing all of those studio recordings. And now the previously flat music has a life and vigor that didn’t exist previously. If this tour happens to stop in your town, just go. Hang out, have a drink and enjoy some great music the way it was meant to be heard.

Notes:

Modelo EspecialIf you’re at a bar noted for its selection of microbrews and craft beer do not stride confidently up to the bar and order “the cheapest, shittiest beer you’ve got.” When a great beer, on tap, costs $5, it’s just weird. I really wish I had a picture of the guy that hopped up on the bar stool, made this request and then sat there sipping a can of Modelo (which, btw, was the cheapest, shittiest beer they had).

If you go to these shows in Pittsburgh and you see some asshole standing by himself using Twitter as company before a show, it’s probably me. Feel free to say hello, unless you just hopped up on the bar stool next to me and ordered something “cheap and shitty” because I’m probably Tweeting about you.

I paraphrase everything. Don’t think that just because I’m using quotation marks around a phrase spoken by the lead singer that I’m repeating anything verbatim. Because 1) I’ve been drinking. 2) I’m not recording the show because I see the guy that stands there recording everything on his phone and he always looks like an asshole. Just enjoy the show, dude.

Yellow Ostrich frontman Alex Schaaf recorded a re-imagining of Radiohead’s Kid A using two pianos, two violins and two cellos. It’s pretty fantastic. Listen and download here: Schaaf’s Kid A

Also, for reference, a picture of the Brillobox stage.

Those Darlins at the Brillobox, Pittsburgh

Photo by Hugh Twyman

Childish Gambino @ Stage AE 6/18

Childish Gambino, Donald GloverThe rap concert is an unnatural phenomenon. Rap is a Frankenstein genre, cobbled together from samples and beats and lyrics culled from life, other songs, other genres. Beats are made. Rhymes are written. And then all is combined and mixed in a studio. The system is not unlike any other style of music; however, rap differs because the subsequent components of a rap record are rarely organic. Rap has more in common with the electronic- and DJ-fueled genres, yet rappers perform in traditional concert venues because they are unshackled, unpredictable and the beating heart of the Frankenstein monster. For all its posturing, rap music is less a spontaneous creation than a practice of restraint and calculated excess. Rap concerts have a tendency to take on a life of their own, for better and for worse. The Wu-Tang Clan created the most influential rap album of the last twenty years, yet I attended a concert of theirs in 1997 that I recall as perhaps the worst exhibition of “music” I’ve ever seen. The phrase herding cats might as well have been “herding stray Wu-Tang Clan members.” ODB just didn’t show up. Method Man was late and the rest treated the performance like a freestyle battle gone horribly wrong.

Shaq Diesel

1 million sold, m’f’ers.

To further confuse the balance of spontaneous art and beats/production, the platform supports vanity entertainers with regularity. This introduces that final silent component of rap music, reputation and swagger. How else can you explain Shaq Diesel going Platinum? That’s one million copies sold. Allan Iverson, Chris Webber, Ron Artest, Roy Jones, Jr. have also all tested the rap game with lesser success. Therefore, at face value, it’s easy to be skeptical when Donald Glover, a comedian and notable TV actor and writer (for 30 Rock), releases a record. A quick sample of his Camp LP dispels any questions you may have had about his intentions (even more so when you learn that he’s been creating beats and writing music for more than six years, having already released three independent records prior to Camp). Glover is a capable beatsmith and MC (even if he borrows much of his style from the Kanye-school of swagger) but where he excels is his creative wordplay and rhymes. He alternates brash with hyper-sensitivity. His songs are laced with pop-culture references and cynicism regarding the genre’s predictable tropes. Personal themes of childhood bullying, alcoholism and failed relationships are littered throughout. As Childish Gambino, Glover is a self-aware artist that refuses to break the “Fourth Wall” – to borrow a term from film theory. Despite being an excellent stand-up comedian, the Renaissance man in Glover refuses the audience a campy wink-wink of acknowledgment. What he’s doing is serious business and he’s doing his damnedest to ensure that he’s accepted as an artist who excels according to the rules of each of his endeavors. He does not succeed as a rapper because he is an actor. He does not excel as an actor because he is a comedian. Each talent exists in a separate vacuum, a truly remarkable feat of career management.

The Fourth Wall

Danny Brown opened. While I’m warming to Brown’s lyrical style (which seems to be a mish-mash of Das Racist and Shabazz Palaces), his strength is also his creative use of humor. The performance, however, lacked energy. Other than the moment when he pulled a fan up on stage (a hipster Chris Elliott), Brown and his DJ seemed oblivious to the crowd. Hipster Chris Elliott rapped along the entire time and Brown lent him the microphone to punctuate particular phrases. Still, the unusually attentive crowd (for an opening act) ate it up.

Childish Gambino Stage, Stage AE

When the very first beat from “Outside” dropped, Glover turned the attentive but lax sold-out crowd at Stage AE into a fist-pumping party. His stage act is frantic and high-energy. “First time in Pittsburgh. We gotta do this right,” he proclaimed early on, and throughout the show Glover beckoned the audience to keep the pace. Backed by a full band, the music filled the space with more than just an obligatory distorted bassline. Two drummers, guitar, keyboards and the occasional violin. The musicianship transcended a standard hip-hop show.

I’d always wondered about the identity of the Childish Gambino fan demographic. These are things about which only those who write about music wonder. And as I nodded along with the beat appreciatively, I couldn’t help but take an unofficial and superficial survey of the demographics. Those most enraptured by the performance were A) Young; B) Twenty-something; C) Caucasian; and D) Female. Not what I had anticipated. If I’d taken a picture of the crowd you’d never have guessed the act. It was a cross-section of Pittsburgh youth culture. Glover requested a roll call of minority females in the crowd before “You See Me (UCLA)” and had to search to locate a few of them, including the one Indian girl who Glover called out for hiding from him. Welcome to Pittsburgh, Donald Glover.

Anyway, back on track. Surprised as I was by the overwhelming reception for the Childish Gambino act (as I mentioned, a large, sold-out venue), I was more surprised by the knowledge of his back catalog, all independently released. Chalk it up to an Internet-savvy generation with too much time on their hands. I don’t particularly have an excuse other than having mild OCD. Also I don’t sleep much. While Camp favorites “Bonfire” and “Heartbeat” received raucous welcomes, it was tracks from his older releases that lit a fire with the audience. Much of the crowd knew the words “Freaks and Geeks” and “Culdesac” and sang right along, prompting Glover to offer the microphone to the crowd to jump in during the chorus on a number of occasions.

While I should have just been proud of Pittsburgh for coming out and actively supporting a quality artist, hip-hop or otherwise, I was still just a little confused. Who are these people? The last notable hip-hop act to come through Pittsburgh was Shabazz Palaces and I doubt more than a handful of this crowd knew Shabazz at all. I don’t intend this as a knock on Glover or the fans of his music, just that Childish Gambino has attained a crossover appeal that’s difficult to label. Is it because Glover is unintimidating? Small in stature? That he’s “hard,” but not too “hard?” That he raps about universal human conditions rather than drug abuse, objectification of women and violence? Or is it merely that he tells jokes and plays Troy Barnes on Community?

Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) on CommunityAnd though the comparison lacks realistic connectivity, I couldn’t help lament that fact that if all of these people watched Community the show wouldn’t be on such tenuous ground. But, again, I digress. The only explanation for his widespread appeal is that despite Glover’s ability to maintain separation of music and television stardom, he is incapable of escaping (nor does he necessarily want to) the connectivity to the global idea of “fame.” Music and image, after all, go hand-in-hand, like beats and rhymes. And fame can be wielded in many different ways. The only way for Glover to continue to succeed independently in TV, music and comedy is to continue pretend that he is three different people, each operating freely, without the baggage of his alter egos. Fans will continue to be drawn in by the idea of his fame as long as he pretends to recognize that it doesn’t exist. But however it is you’re doing all that you’re doing, Troy Barnes/Donald Glover/Childish Gambino, don’t stop doing it because you are a true entertainer.

Here We Go Magic/Hospitality @ Brillobox 5/15

Pierogi races at the Pirates baseball games

If you don't come to Pittsburgh, you won't get to see the running of the pierogis. I'm just saying.

The prelude to attending the Here We Go Magic and Hospitality show Tuesday night at Brillobox is a tale born from one of the best features of social media. In recent months I’d made a hobby out of reading tweets promoting a band’s upcoming tour schedule and if Pittsburgh happened to be absent from the schedule I’d send a return tweet with an obligatory “What do you mean you’re not coming to Pittsburgh?”

A few months ago I received one such tweet from Merge Records (@mergerecords) regarding Hospitality’s upcoming tour. No Pittsburgh. So I immediately fired back. Moments later I receive a tweet from Merge Records. “Happy now, @30hertzrumble?” with additional tour dates, including Pittsburgh. Clearly I thought that was pretty neato and bought a couple of tickets to the May 15th Hospitality show headlined by Here We Go Magic. I probably would have gone anyway, but the communication with the label solidified my attendance and quick ticket purchase. I didn’t have anyone else offhand that particularly wanted to go, but for the amazing low price of $8, I couldn’t buy just one ticket. In the weeks that followed I plugged the show a few times through Twitter. Two damn fine bands for less cash than the cost of a movie ticket. Each time I received a retweet from either Hospitality (@hospitalityband), Here We Go Magic (@herewegomagic) or Merge Records.

Fast forward to last Thursday. I still had a spare ticket. With the one-month-old baby at home, the wife and I had been swapping solo nights out (as she so effectively described in her moonlight-entry on my bl-g regarding the Imagine Dragons show) and I only have a few gamers remaining in my rolodex (gamers are friends that would attend anything, for whatever irrational reason). As I creep briskly into my thirties, those gamers are dropping like flies as time demands increase, not necessarily for their lack of gaming will. Point being, I corresponded with my general go-to gamer for this kind of stuff with this tweet:

 

A few minutes later, Here We Go Magic checked in on the conversation with this:

 

I told “Bert Macklin” that he had to attend now because the band knew about him. He did his due diligence, found a song he liked by Here We Go Magic and made a not altogether unfounded crack about the band sounding like Polvo. A band, quite frankly, I’d completely forgotten about. Here We Go Magic doesn’t ride their guitars quite as feverishly as Polvo but there’s some, if not a heap, of connectivity there.

Polvo, for your edification:

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZNIEp0uih8&feature=related[/tube]

 

…and just when you think the conversation has ended, we received this tweet:

 

“Bert” and I weren’t entirely sure about the legitimacy of our names being on the guest list for the show, but we still asked a few last minute people to see if they wanted to journey out to the Brillobox for a live show and while many were willing, ultimately I found no “date” to accompany me. We met at Brillobox and down a few libations from the bar before heading upstairs to the venue. After handing over the tickets, I asked the girl with the clipboard if, indeed, James Patrick and “Bert Macklin” were on the guest list. Sure enough– the 1st and 2nd names on the list. (Side note: apparently they’re not avid Parks and Rec viewers.)

Hospitality had just begun their set. The band sounded tight, and the more I listened to Amber Papini’s vocals the more she began to sound like Nina Persson. She’s got some of the same range and raspy qualities of the Cardigans’ frontwoman and I didn’t pick up on this at all from the album recording. Though they appeared a little rigid performing, the music played big and easy in the space for just a three-member band. If there’s any justice, Hospitality gained a few dozen fans and sold a few more records after their set.

Here’s Hospitality performing, my favorite track of theirs, “8th Avenue”:

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsTTDezmQtA&feature=relmfu[/tube]

 

Before Here We Go Magic we engaged the swag-table girl in some friendly banter, inquiring about which band member ran the Twitter account and proffered guest-list admittance to the show. She refused to answer our inquiries, thereby leading us to believe that she may, in fact, have been in charge. After all, she knew too much. She knew of our Twitter exchange and knew about the supposed “dates” we unsuccessfully procured. Curiouser and curiouser.

Here We Go Magic arrived on stage and played a lively, rollicking Krautrock-inspired set of tracks. They embellished the free spirit and eclectic influences in their music. Most succinctly, Here We Go Magic sounds like a melding of Paul Simon afro-beat and Krautrock, but they are anything and everything- varying wildly in pace from song to song, mellow to raucous to pysch-folk and something like a jam-band instrumental. Early in the set, vocalist Luke Temple repeatedly requested that their instrument output be turned up, so much so that the sound may have outgrown the room. This really didn’t work against them. This lent the poppier, more radio-friendly tracks from the new album such as “Make Up Your Mind” (Art Garfunkel via Can?) and “Collector” (from the middle album, Oingo Boingo via Amon Düül II?) extra disturbance, roughing up the edges with reverb and distortion. The standout performance, however, may have been the driving and melodious “Tunnelvision,” which also happened to be my favorite Here We Go Magic track (so I might be biased). It’s just one of those songs that can play on repeat, forever revealing new depth. “Fangala” (based purely on crowd reaction at the show) appeared to be the most widely recognized, provoking a listless crowd to relative hysteria and synchronized clapping.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fer4JUpYWV0&feature=related[/tube]

(Normally I’d have played a clip of a live performance of the song, but I love the video too much too ignore. It was made with no post-production effects. Nail scratching and paint on Super 8mm film. Like a music video directed by Stan Brakhage.)

While there was a definite schism between the old and the new, the songs weaved together seamlessly, but the differences made me the consider the identity choices a band makes along its path from anonymity to, well, wherever it is they’re headed, whether it be pseudo-success playing for small but devoted fans or the cover of Rolling Stone. Even if that choice is to be twenty different things all at once, it’s still a choice. If that band chooses to start playing now obscure German rock from the 70s and then slowly try to bridge that into the mainstream, it’s a choice as much as it is a guiding “muse.” But at the same time, a band must grow in order to survive. Criticism solely based on a change or choice that doesn’t alter the inherent qualities of the music is not only lazy, it’s rubbish.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5hgCN_PuO8[/tube]

I had a point at the end of that thought, but it became lost and diluted as I surfed through Krautrock videos on youtube and thoroughly mismanaged an evening of potentially spectacular fiction writing. It had something to do with some of the negativity regarding stylistic choices I read in the Pitchfork reviews of new albums from Here We Go Magic (which is clearly their most consistent and accessible offering) and Silversun Pickups (which Pitchfork just trashes left, right and inside-out).

Anyway, the end of this evening is thus: “Bert” and I never discovered precisely who tossed us on the guest list, we had a great time at a show we perhaps otherwise might not have attended. Here We Go Magic or Hospitality aren’t selling out arenas, but the bands are actively engaging followers via social media and by doing so, they’re breaking down that divide between artists and their fans. And for each person that they or their swag-table lady retweets or messages, they’re creating a relationship that fosters loyalty, spreads word of mouth and inspires certain writers to devote an evening of the precious time to promoting a couple of bands that you might not have previously known.

 

Odds and ends:

At Brillobox, a bar/venue notorious for it’s hipster problem, I noticed relatively few at the show. It makes me wonder if they hopped on the St. Vincent bus and rode on out of town. I’ll check back after my next show at Stage AE to see if they’re trickling back. Though I have to wonder what kind of hipster following Childish Gambino might encourage.

When Here We Go Magic left Pittsburgh on Wednesday they picked up a hitchhiker somewhere in Ohio that turned out to be John Waters. No goddamn joke. DClist has the story covered. I won’t say any more about this other than I hope the story gains the band extra airplay.

(Courtesy @AvtarK - aka the swag-table lady)

That Here We Go Magic hasn’t painted their van to look like the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine, seems like a lost opportunity. Also, that the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine wasn’t called the Here We Go Magic Van also seems like an egregious oversight.

The Here We Go Magic Mobile

The Here We Go Magic Mobile

 

 

St. Vincent/Shearwater @ Altar Bar 5/7

mehI’ve always been a little skeptical of St. Vincent. Heaps of praise, glowing reviews, widespread (among a certain indie-loving crowd) adulation. I’ve also always been a little bit ambivalent about St. Vincent. On the scale of zero to worship, I’m a vigorous meh. I can pick out a few tracks per album that engage me, throw them on my iPod and I’m not displeased when they pop up on shuffle. With every subsequent album she garners greater buzz, more press and I’m forced to reconsider my meh.

With the release of her latest LP, Strange Mercy, I repeated this process. Same result. So I decided to take my investigation further. I bought a ticket to her show at the Altar Bar. Her live shows had been gaining a notable reputation for rocking your socks off (even by Tenacious D standards) and I wanted to call shenanigans. I’d seen her perform on the late night TV circuit barely mobile in her slinky black dress, the composed and proper indie darling. The grapevine (i.e. Twitter) told me otherwise. The grapevine told me she goes balls out for the plebes. There’s nowhere better to engage with an artist than at a live show – the soul of the music and the artist, laid bare. She had one more shot to enlist me among these adoring, feverish masses.

St. Vincent on Letterman (8/29/11)

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3-_aurNiic[/tube]

Begin sidetrack.

Shearwater, Rook

For the record, that's a legit photo of a guy draped in taxidermy.

A few weeks before the show I learned that one of my favorite No-Fail bands, Shearwater, had signed up for the opening bill. The No-Fail band, by definition (my definition) seems incapable of producing a bad album and rarely, if ever, a bad track. Shearwater has been creating achingly beautiful indie-rock for more than a decade now. Eight albums in they’re still fresh and relevant and yet lead singer Jonathan Meiberg still mans the swag booth and engages in conversation with anyone that wants to talk shop. I stopped by, bought some records and chatted him up briefly about the Rook album artwork (the crows, it turns out, are taxidermy), why I’d never seen them in Pittsburgh (“We just always seem to jump around this place on the circuit.”), how much I liked the set (“We were a little loosy-goosy up there.”) and begged a couple of autographs for my new vinyl. He didn’t even have a marker handy. I had to wonder if I was the first to beg an autograph all night. The life of a band opening for a cultural zeitgeist, I suppose. This conversation carried on as intermittently and awkwardly as one might expect with St. Vincent thrashing around on her axe maybe fifty feet behind the swag table. Talk. Pause to register. Talk again. Had there been less guitar-grinding in the background I would have inquired further about his love of birding (a theme that carries throughout the band’s album art). He opened up my copy of Palo Santo to show me some fantastic artwork of an extinct Hawaiian bird on the record. All I could do was nod and appreciate him being a thoroughly interesting and personable dude.

Here’s Shearwater playing the epic “Insolence.”

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHWVjDE7Z_M[/tube]

Anyway, as you may have noticed I vacated my listening post at the back of the Altar Bar near the end of St. Vincent’s set to talk to Shearwater’s Jonathan. She’d played some of the songs I’d come to hear (“Cruel” for example). I’d also come to a conclusion about the value of Annie Clark as an artist and made a final decision about my own appreciation for her music. Plus it was roasting in the Altar Bar. I sent a lame Tweet out between sets joking that the Altar Bar was channeling its holy past to punish us sinners for our transgressions. Also I’d been pushed up against the mixing table, yet again, despite my best efforts to push forward and I couldn’t bring myself to buy yet another $4 bottle of water. I needed to air out at the entrance and find some much needed space away from the dude who kept brushing up against me with his flannel shirt. The last thing I want brushing up against me when I’m hot and sweaty is someone else’s flannel. If you’ve never experienced this, it’s abnormally unpleasant. But, again, I digress. Point being, it was time to preserve sanity rather than devotion to studying the purported awesomeness of St. Vincent.

Joe Jonas in a flannel shirt

Would you want this guy rubbing up against you in a hot club? No. I don't care if he is a Jonas Brother.

First, let it be said that Annie Clark is one badass, barefoot rock pixie. I don’t know how accurate the comparison really is but I couldn’t shake the notion that she was some kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She opens her songs like a Neko Case chanteuse/songbird, rises to crescendo a la the Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan then punctuates the chorus with some Vernon Reid guitar chops and pedalboard guitar-distortion madness. (Dr. Case and Mr. Reid, perhaps.)  Studio recordings just can’t relay the vigor of her live performance. Nor, as I said before, do those castrated, teetotaler pleasantries on Letterman. While performing, she’s in the zone, lost in the rise and fall of the music until the very last effects-laden guitar warble when she switches off and returns to being a candid, sweet-natured conversationalist, engaging the crowd with ease. At one point, she said she was “probably getting too VH1 Storytellers” before apologizing directly to the Under-21 quarantine at the Altar Bar for referencing something before their time and that if they had any questions to just Google it when they got home.

Prog

Prog, m'f'ers. Do you speak it?

Even though I’m still not going to throw a St. Vincent record on the turntable and let it spin indefinitely, I reached a contented middle-ground. Appreciation without adulation. I now get the appeal of her live show. She’s a true performer with a unique musical perspective. She simultaneously recalls the free-spirit of indie-rock’s infancy while expanding the anticipated elements of the genre. Fans might not recognize the tropes, but they’re ingesting a heaping helping of prog-rock in much of St. Vincent’s music. The abrupt tempo changes, starts and stops, brief jazz-like improvisations, unusual melodies, scales and vocal stylization. Prog-folk, perhaps? (Edit: apparently someone already coined the term prog-folk to refer to politically-oriented folk artists like Jethro Tull. The term evolved to include more recent artists like the Decemberists who actually used the aforementioned tempo changes, etc. on The Hazards of Love album. Who knew?) In lieu of Prog-folk, how about prog-pixie or prog-chanteuse? I dunno. We’ll get there.

To wrap this whole thing up in well under, uh, 1500 words… I’ll no longer be entering into discussions about St. Vincent with the leading phrase: “I really just don’t get her.” Now I can offer a much more definitive verdict. I think she’s cool as hell, what she does speaks to a lot of people, but it’s just not my thing. And then that will be followed up with one last assertion:

…I would absolutely go see her show again…

And for comparison’s sake, here’s another live video from the real St. Vincent owning that guitar at the Met:

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0V1iVzaqhD0[/tube]

 

Odds and ends…

Apparently it’s okay to be twenty-something and wear Keds. So all you ten year olds that never grew up, now’s your chance to relive that dream. Go rock yourself a pair of brand new Keds.

Keds

Keds: Not Just for prepubescents anymore.

Also, it’s apparently a thing to wear knee-socks with Keds. I saw a dude wearing shorts, red, hiked-up socks and Keds. He was 5”6” (tops) and making out with his 5’5” girlfriend (who sported the requisite haircut for a female St. Vincent attendee) and all I could think was: C’mon, you could do so much better than this guy. I mean, he’s wearing Keds with red socks.

Vernon Reid

Vernon Reid

The requisite female haircut for attending a St. Vincent show is apparently some sort of shorty cut that looks like a bike helmet…. Which is fascinating, considering that Annie Clark has a badass mop of curly, shoulder-length black hair that reminds me of Vernon Reid’s old dreads when she’s up there thrashing on her guitar. Yes I’m stuck on this Vernon Reid thing.

Thick, black eyeglass frames are very in right now. I think they were checking at the door. You could enter if you wore Keds or had black eyeglass frames. Thankfully, I wore mine. Phew.

A St. Vincent “roadie” spent forever tuning her white and red guitar. He started with that one, went through the other three or so and then came back to that white and red one. Full concentration. I’ve never seen someone so intent on one guitar. Something tells me, at some point or another, he had to face the wrath of an out-of-tune St. Vincent. Hell hath no fury…

Here are some videos from the show, courtesy of the on Youtube:

Shearwater:

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Li5fsvFIvd8&sns=tw[/tube]

St. Vincent:

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RayY51wmAkc&feature=relmfu[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLiN9g1g87c&feature=relmfu[/tube]

 

 

Imagine Dragons @ Brillobox 4/12

Guest bl-gged by Mrs. 30Hz…

I was due to have a baby on April 8. I elected to have my very healthy and beautiful baby girl induced on April 1 for a variety of reasons, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that at least one of those reasons was so that I could attend the Imagine Dragons concert at the Brillobox on April 12. Yup, that’s right. I planned a baby around a concert. (There were also medical reasons why I induced as well, but this is a blog about music, not the messy birthing process. Ugh.) Listen, potential haters, my husband claims bl-gging is a form of therapy and if there’s anything a new mom needs it’s therapy. So I took this opportunity to attend a show and participate in guest bl-gging, aka “therapy.

Imagine Dragons - Continued Silence EPI fell in love with Imagine Dragons about eight weeks ago. I’d listened to their six-song EP for about the twenty-seventh time on my iPod at work one day when I decided to see if maybe, just maybe, they were going to come within 300 miles of Pittsburgh. My husband claims Pittsburgh isn’t such a destitute concert destination anymore, but I’m not sold yet. Imagine my shock when I learned the Dragons would be IN Pittsburgh on April 12 at Brillobox. A small indie band (that I wanted to see) coming to Pittsburgh precisely when I needed them to come to Pittsburgh. Unheard of. I purchased two tickets, cleared babysitting duties with my visiting mom and informed my husband that come hell or high water we were having this baby in time for me to attend this show.

Despite delivering my child, our second, in plenty of time to recover before the show – life threw an awesome curveball and my mother, through no fault of her own, was absolutely unavailable to babysit on April 12. Great. My husband immediately offered up his mother, and while she is a great choice, I declined.

Begin explanation:

My husband attends countless concerts, sporting events and movies at night without me and has an absolutely wonderful time doing so. I have no problem with this. Seriously. I encourage it. The man is a part-time stay at home father so I consider these outings an absolute necessity in an effort to maintain his sanity. However, the main reason Jay has such a wonderful time on his nights out is because he does not have to spend one second worrying about the kids or about getting home at a reasonable hour for the babysitter. I wanted a piece of this luxury. And so, at the risk of seriously pissing him off, I told him his butt was staying home while I went to the concert. If I hadn’t just finished carrying around another child for 9 months he might have told me where to stuff it. But he didn’t. Because he’s part saint.

I quickly coerced another mom-friend into attending the show with me. This was my first time to Brillobox and I have to say, what an awesome venue. Great sound and the “feel” of the place was exactly what I wanted for my intimate indie-band show. And I loved the wallpaper in that place. I can’t help it, I’m a girl. I notice these things.

TeamMate perform at the Brillobox, note the wallpaper. Photo by Wick Photography (wickphotography.com)

Imagine Dragons started on time – a big thank you to them considering my finite time out of the house as a nursing mom. I was shocked when they came on stage. Sorry if I offend anyone, least of all the band themselves, but surely I can’t be the only one with this reaction. For those of you who haven’t heard their EP, let me give you some background. The songs are generally upbeat indie-pop. Guster meets Yeasayer or Hot Chip. “On Top of the World” and “Round and Round” both cause rampant chair dancing in the car (I can’t call it car dancing because I just think of models at the auto show, but I digress). My two-year old is partial to “My Fault,” despite its more somber tone, although her true favorite is “Radioactive,” a minimalist-ish song with simple lyrics and pounding bass and percussion. I’ll admit it. Once she started singing the chorus to “Radioactive” under her breath in the car, I was hooked.

Anyway, back to the point. Imagine Dragons looks like a grunge band, flannels and all. Being from Vegas, I anticipated some leather and glam- not a band that got lost on their way to Seattle. Preconceptions aside, their lead singer is the perfect frontman and struck a great report with the young Pittsburgh crowd. And man can he club that bass drum. Yes, the lead singer plays an enormous bass drum through almost every song as he sings. A bigass bass drum people! There is really no better sight than watching a lead singer belt out a chorus while slamming a bass drum. Not something you see every day. Certain songs include a serious round of man-on-drum love. I hope that bass drum has a name. If I find out that the drum remains unnamed I’ll be very disappointed.

Where do you even buy plaid in Vegas?

Sadly the baby’s schedule didn’t let me stay for the Jezebels… a regrettable misfortune. I’m pretty sure Jay is still ashamed of me for not attending. Still, what a great event for my first night out after the baby.

Regarding nights out after having a baby, I have to admit I’m a little taken aback by the shocked responses by so many of my friends when they found out I attended a concert less than two weeks after having a baby. I’m confused. Does having a baby mean my love for going out and listening to great music abruptly dies? I have to confess I don’t understand why people in my age group, specifically parents, only seem to attend concerts of mega-artists such as U2 or Jimmy Buffet (so help me I do not understand this country’s obsession with that man) is in town. I recently saw a magazine ad that really ticked me off. It said “Before I have kids, I will do _____” When did having kids become a death sentence worthy of a “bucket list?”

Baby does not equal death

I ripped this from another blog (Just Thinking) that spent more time pondering this absurd notion of the Baby Bucket List. Click the image to go right to her post.

It is entirely possible that you can raise children to enjoy music other than Radio Disney. As both I and my husband have noted on this blog, my daughter’s favorite bands include The Knack, The Cars, The Killers, The Black Keys and now Imagine Dragons. I’ll overlook her love of Huey Lewis— an obsession for which I am wholly not responsible. (If you’ve read any of this bl-g, I’m betting you know the guilty party.) Even better – when we attended a Kooks concert last fall, Jay and I actually felt guilt when they played “Junk of the Heart” – at the time, her absolute favorite song in the world– that she was not present to hear it live. Then we couldn’t decide if she’d come to understand that “tunes” came from real people playing instruments and that led to a much longer debate about what she actually thinks is happening if she thinks about it at all.

As a parent, I get a lot more out of attending a concert these days than just the live music. While I can appreciate the “big” show that a band like U2 puts on, I much prefer to hear bands live and in small venues. They remind me just how good they are at what they do (despite a considerable lack of appreciation), how much better music can be live, and that there is passion in this world beyond the crazy parents, crazy politics and crazy callers on sports radio shows. I love that about concerts. Some of my friends recently said over dinner that they were hoping their daughters became doctors or lawyers. People still predominantly think this way, that there are only two “successful” career paths. I’m a lawyer and I think this is complete rubbish. I enjoy my job (more often than not), but that doesn’t mean they will. Jay and I regularly comment that we would be ecstatic if one of our daughters turned into a passionate musician, artist or chef. I want my kids to dream, to know their passion. I want them to… wait for it… imagine dragons.

Until next time, reader(s). Here’s one of the better Imagine Dragons live clips on Youtube and it’s still not a very good capture of the band. If you’re going to shows, get some video loaded up, people. I’m just not very tech savvy.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3LkQ3BUjWI&feature=fvst[/tube]

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