Thirty Hertz Rumble

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

Category: 30Hz Music (Page 16 of 22)

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]

30Hz Record Store Day 2012 Haul

I may have spent one too many drinks celebrating the Penguins victory at Wingharts before heading off to Millvale for Attic Records midnight opening. By the time I arrived the line snaked the length of the block and around the corner. A great indicator of the success of Record Store Day 2012 and relative disappointment because I feared I was destined to miss out on some of the best releases. While I lost a few near the top of my wish list, this encouraged me to stumble into a few records I wouldn’t have normally picked up. Here’s my haul.

 

Animal Collective, Transverse Temporal Gyrus

Animal Collective

In 2010, Animal Collective and visual artist Danny Perez put on an installation called “Transverse Temporal Gyrus” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The music on this 12″ is a mixture of the music recorded for the installation and live tracks recorded at the Guggenheim. It’s raw Animal Collective with broader creative liberties. RSD Exclusive.

 

Arcade Fire, Sprawl II / Ready to Start 12″

Arcade Fire Sprawl II

Remixes of two songs from The Suburbs. I’m not in love with the remix of “Ready to Start” because it feels like the original, just extended by some synth and beat, but the refashioned “Sprawl II” makes this one a keeper. RSD Exclusive. Here’s a video of the Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) remix. Just a great track.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehruYglx9LM[/tube]

 

Leonard Cohen, Live at Frederickton LP

Leonard Cohen

Live Leonard Cohen tracks are always a treat. Quite frankly I haven’t listened to this one yet because I’m sure it’s fantastic. I never promised cutting edge journalism here, folks.

 

Shabazz Palaces, Live at KEXP  12″

Shabazz Palaces Live at KEXP

Listened to all these tracks on KEXP. Shabazz is such a raw, innovative hip-hop act and these live recordings from KEXP distill their talent to the essentials. Highly recommended. RSD Exclusive. Video from the session. I’ve just been a huge fan of theirs since I first heard a stream of the record. And it just keeps getting better. They have a shot at becoming a Tribe Called Quest-type game-changer for the genre with a few more releases like their debut.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOvu0wGSBho[/tube]

 

Childish Gambino, Heartbeat 12″

Childish Gambino Heartbreak

A great Donald Glover/Childish Gambino track (my favorite on the album at least) with some solid remixes on the B-side on some sweet red vinyl. I am a goddamn sucker for colored vinyl.

 

Of Monsters and Men, Into the Woods EP 10″

Of Monsters and Men

I’m a pretty big fan of these Icelanders… so an exclusive RSD yellow vinyl with a previously unreleased track made it an easy grab. Even better that unreleased track, a down tempo bit of melancholy, doesn’t seem out of place. Fans of the band should find copy. And/or listen here to your heart’s content.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCD6BxlHarY&feature=player_embedded[/tube]

 

Bill Evans, Live At Art D’Lugoff’s Top Of The Gate 12″

Bill Evans

This was the #1 want at the top of my RSD shopping list. I was quite relieved to find perhaps the last copy at Attic Records. My favorite jazz pianist. The tracks on this album were recorded in Greenwich Village in 1968. They were just recently discovered, digitally remastered and pressed on 180-gram blue vinyl. The full recordings will be released in a 3LP box set later this year. I found a nice video about the show on the label’s website.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=innDU9rCf0Y&feature=player_embedded[/tube]

 

Foster the People, “Broken Jaw” / “Ruby” 7″ and Jukebox the Ghost, “I Love You Always Forever” 7″

Jukebox the Ghost and Foster the People 45s

If you like Foster there’s little to dislike, though the tracks both just feel like excised cuts from their full-length that were lacking in some fashion. To cover up the weaknesses, they threw some synth into the mix. It’s kind of a catch all, really. Fix and ailing song? Add synth. Need to remix a track for a b-side? Add synth. I like synth so it’s a good rule.

I’d forgotten about this 7″ Jukebox single until I stumbled across it at the checkout. These are the oddities that really make me love Record Store Day. I’m not kidding. Jukebox covers the saccharine Donna Lewis pop song smash “I Love You Always Forever” and they take enough initiative to make it their own without shoehorning indie angst into the mix, you know, to make it edgy. The biggest surprise wasn’t that I thoroughly and guiltlessly enjoyed the Donna Lewis cover but on the b-side, Jukebox also includes their inspired cover of New Order’s “Temptation.” The track had been released previously on a limited edition version of Let Live & Let Ghosts so it’s not a new find, but merely a very pleasant surprise.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hExfe9mSzTg[/tube]

 

Afrika Bambaataa/MC5, “Kick Out the Jams” 7″
Mastodon/Flaming Lips, “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” 7″
Run DMC/Carolina Chocolate Drops, “You Be Illin'” 7″

Record Store Day: Three 45s

The Side by Side series of discs offer a coupling of covers. Some of them are new recordings, some old (as in the Afrika Bambaataa and MC5 disc). I was unable to snag a “Feistodon” (Feist covering Mastodon and Mastodon covering Feist), which was a bummer because it was really the only release of its kind. I was happy to find the southern fried cover of Run DMC’s “You Be Illin'” and impulse bought both the Mastodon/Flaming Lips (pink vinyl!) and the Afrika Bambaataa/MC5 (tie-died-looking vinyl!). And it would have been easy to give in to a few more of these.

 

The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde Singles Collection Box

Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde Singles Collection 45s

 

The Pharcyde on vinyl is crucial enough. Then add unreleased remixes. Colored vinyl. A poster. A CD of those unreleased tracks and a puzzle. Oh… and it does this:

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GP3n0GcnwuE[/tube]

Happy Record Store Day 2012

Support your local independent record store!

Record Store Day 2012

 

The Twilight Sad @ the Empty Bottle, Chicago 3/2

The Twilight Sad @ the Empty Bottle, Chicago
March 2, 2012

The Empty Bottle bar

If I hadn’t been riding in a cab to the show I would have had to double check my directions. After arriving at the Empty Bottle in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village I couldn’t believe that a band like The Twilight Sad would venture from Kilsyth to Chicago to play in a corner dive bar. If I hadn’t seen the band’s bassist lingering around the swag table (which flanked a Ms. Pacman cabinet) I’d have called the whole operation into question. No punches pulled, the place is a dive, though a dive in the best possible sense – a local joint where you’d go to see your cousin’s band play a set of Ramones’ covers but only because of the $3 Shiner Bocks. The walls held together by thousands of staples, the wallpaper comprised of the impressive shards of posters documenting past acts.  Tattoo-sleeves on the bartender. Multi-colored Christmas bulbs dangled above the stage. Chiaroscuro spots at the side of the stage, that would in due time, obscure all of my attempts at in-concert photography.

Micah P. Hinson warmed up the early crowd with some standard-fare singer-songwriter angst, albeit wearing white Buddy Holly specs which at least provided a topic of conversation while my party warmed up the back end of the bar.

Young Prisms

The penultimate band, a Bay Area export by the name of Young Prisms, provided a pleasant smattering of Jesus and Mary Chain covers, which actually turned out to be their original material. The perfect opening act – familiar and unmemorable but with some potential to become an “I-saw-them-way-back-when” band. The curious footnote about the Young Prisms’ set, which proved to be a harbinger of things to come: we couldn’t tell if the supposed lead singer was actually singing. I changed my viewing angle of the stage so that the microphone wasn’t blocking the lead singer’s mouth. Yes, indeed, she’d been singing. News to us.

More about the venue. Imagine an L. Place the bar along the long upright and a two-tiered riser for concerts in the short end. The stage at the crux and a brick column flanked by doorways directly in front with room for about two dozen spectators between the stage and the column in a crowded mass. With Stella in hand I pushed near the front end of the bar in anticipation of the Twilight Sad. Though it wasn’t really anticipation per se since they were already on stage testing and honing levels without much fanfare. And then they paused. James Graham huddled over the microphone, wilting inside himself. A pause before synth and haunting distorted bass reverb commandeered the Empty Bottle. Graham’s body seethed with intensity as he brooded the opening of “Kill It in the Morning,” the concluding track on their latest No One Can Ever Know. No translation necessary. Not that deciphering his thick Scottish accent proves necessary to getting lost in the music or understanding Graham’s cryptic lyrics – but because it was almost like he wasn’t singing at all, despite the clear intent and focus on consuming the microphone. The swell of synth and percussion near the end of the song resonated with the largely idle crowd, causing the first head widespread lost-in-the-music head nods and air drumming. With the vocals drowned out by a wall of reverb, I relocated to the two-tier risers, figuring on improved sonic fidelity.

The Twilight Sad (not at the Empty Bottle)

“Don’t Move” followed but instead of reverb distorting their sound, percussion overshadowed the mix. Only when drummer Mark Devine launched the recognizable opening drum cadence for “That Summer, at Home I Became the Invisible Boy” did a song resemble an album recording. Graham belted the repeated chorus “Kids are on fire in the bedroom” clearly and intentionally, the minimal reverb finally allowing an aural connection to the singer but these connections seemed localized to songs from their prior albums. Fan favorite “Cold Days from the Birdhouse” and “Reflection on the Television” succeeded due to a more minimal, precise mix of vocals, drums and guitar. “Cold Days” in particular offered Graham’s voice a chance to come into focus. He lingered on particular passages, slowed the tempo, played with our expectations and highlighted a sadness in the song’s chorus that isn’t wholly apparent on the album version.

But this highlight came too late in the show, perhaps, to hook anyone unfamiliar with the bands catalog. Those already familiar with The Twilight Sad and their music would have reveled in the chance to witness Graham, in the way the prior music generation witnessed Ian Curtis’ localized intensity, his ability to command a two foot space on a stage and thereby an entire room. The orchestration sustaining his performance on stage, eyes closed, lost in the synth and reverb. Songs from the “No One Can Ever Know” album, as great as they are on the album, amplified too large for the space and drowned even Graham’s confident vocals. Poor Stephanie Hodapp of the Young Prisms’ never stood a chance.

Still trying to find that sweet spot, that spot that allowed each component of music to flourish, I nestled into the small crux of the “L” next to the brick column directly in front of the stage and located a semblance of fidelity just as “And She Would Darken the Memory,” a favorite track from Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, concluded. Even the accent-clouded lyrics of the chorus “And their friendly faces with put on smiles” emerged through the din with a measure of intelligibility. Sigh. Once the Twilight Sad left the stage after their curious closer, “At the Burnside” – a song noted for its notorious “wall of sound” comprised of wailing guitar, piano and percussion – I reported my finding to my party, now nursing their final drinks at the rear of the bar. They shrugged and we wandered out into the snowy Chicago evening. We caught a cab and I spent the entire time questioning what went wrong, my voice too loud for the silent cab. I began the process of turning down the volume on the synth and reverb still echoing in my head. I questioned the choice of venue and the sound engineers but never the band. Not even once. The performance was there and showcased brilliantly in fits and spurts. But in the end, I decided that maybe this venue, this corner dive, was precisely the place that the Twilight Sad could be precisely themselves, baring their damaged souls but still hiding among the reverb and causing everyone else to question, exactly, what it all means.

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