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:
@30hertzrumble hah you know me well. What band(s)?
— Bert Macklin (@demangone) May 11, 2012
A few minutes later, Here We Go Magic checked in on the conversation with this:
— Here We Go Magic (@herewegomagic) May 11, 2012
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:
…and just when you think the conversation has ended, we received this tweet:
— Here We Go Magic (@herewegomagic) May 11, 2012
“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”:
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.
(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.
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.
— James David Patrick (@30hertzrumble) May 17, 2012
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.
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.