I saw Jens Lekman play the Music Hall of Williamsburg last night. I've been hearing about his live set for roughly as long as I've been hearing about his music. Everyone raved about his earnest, sweet and funny stage presence, so I showed up with high expectations. Ever since witnessing the virtuosic stage banter of the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle, I was set to compare it to Jens. Well, it turns out they're completely different. Where Darnielle comes off as a storyteller and bullshitter, Jens recites perfectly (and obviously) crafted introductions to each song, all of which contain if not some of the lyrics, then the entire plot of the song. It definitely lent to the show more of an air of a piano bar, rather than a folk concert.
Jens was, of course, as hilarious as his lyrics. While he was tuning his guitar during the second encore, an audience member shouted "Give 'em hell, Jens!" to which the musician calmly replied "I can't give 'em hell with a nylon string guitar. But I'll try." He loved his audience, and they loved him back. The final song was a rendition of "Pocketful of Money", which, as recorded, has Jens singing over a sample of Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson. Rather than play the sample -- he had a small sampler he used along with an acoustic guitar and live drummer -- he asked the audience to harmonize with him, and sing Calvin's part. I am pretty sure this is the first show I had ever been to where the audience was not only asked to sing along with the band, but make up a significant part of the song.
So, here's a short recording of last night's show; a new track called "Golden Key" seguing into "Opposite of Hallelujah":
...and just in case you've never heard him in decent quality, here's his video for "You Are The Light":
Co. Death and Taxes
I can't say I've been down to the Occupy Wall Street. In fact, I can't say I've been anything but cynical about, save for a few spurts of helping distribute videos of police brutality in my internet watering holes. One of my music-idols, however, managed to get past his issues, drag his ass down there, and play a set for the people. So, here's Jeff Mangum's surprise visit:
I saw Austra open for Cold Cave the other day and, as it happens once in a blue moon, was delightfully surprised by an opening band of whom I had never heard before. The band consists of a young woman doing vocals, two backup singers, a guitarist, keyboardist and live drummer.
Austra, sans third vocalist and drummer
The three on vox appear to have been raised on a steady diet of Stevie Nicks and the Cocteau Twins: ethereal vocals and ghostly dance steps abound. They were overtly (almost pretentiously) strange, but the endearing sultriness of the act won me over. The enthusiasm of their fans -- they danced! At a show in New York! -- was delightful as well. They're playing live again soon, and I intend to catch them. Someone quite fortunately took footage of the show I attended, so here are Austra performing "Young and Gay":
...and for better sound quality, here is their video for their single and crowd-please "Lose It":
It's always nice to discover a female artist in a male-dominated field. Tonikom is a fantastic IDM composer/DJ, and does a killer live set:
She's also great recorded:
I saw the Tune-Yards play this Saturday at the Music Hall of Williamsburg; wasn't too excited about the show but just glad to keep up my concert spree. There was a big drought between April of 2010 (when I first saw them live) and a month or two ago. So, now I'll go and see bands that I even kinda sorta enjoyed just to get out there and see live music. I don't want to talk about the Tune-Yards, though -- not that they didn't play a great set -- but Buke and Gass, one of their openers.
They use home-modified instruments, run down here by NPR:
"Dyer plays a modified baritone-ukulele run through effects that squeal with delight, while Sanchez runs his guitar-bass hybrid through two amps (one for the three low-end strings, another for the treble)."
To add to that, Sanchez' bass drum has a tambourine and a smaller bass drum inside of it and Dyer also wears some sort of modified tambourine strapped to her foot, which has its own mic. I haven't seen a set-up like that since I saw A Hawk and a Hacksaw (when the group was still a Jeremy Barnes solo project) open for Broadcast about eight years ago. Anyway, the sound that came out of the two of them was just so much bigger than the two individuals playing the music, and I was immediately a fan.
Friday night I went to go see two of my recent-favorite bands, Twin Shadow and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. It was, first and foremost, a fantastic show and, secondly, an interesting exercise in bands being out of their element. Twin Shadow as I previously covered is an individual making synthpop, while on stage he plays a guitar backed by a drummer, a bassist/electronics and a keyboardist/electronics. The live set was a completely different take on his very, very good debut album, Forget. There was this imperfection to the timing that all but the most manufactured live shows have, and in this case, is also the polar opposite to the slick and minimalist production on the LP.
The Pains (covered here) are a dream-pop/shoegaze band, which is a combination not making for an interesting live set - the very term "shoegaze" comes from the general immobility of the band on stage. However, Kip Berman (vocals/lead guitar) was as alive as you could be and doing everything short of tearing his guitar in twain. Fortunately, someone did take some good footage of their encore:
Also, I finally found some video of the Zola Jesus show I went to a few weeks ago:
Earlier this week I saw the Raveonettes play live. This was the second time as I previously saw them on their last tour/my 25th birthday. This time I got right up close, front-and-center, where people of my stature (and complete lack of consideration for future hearing loss) belong at shows. Directly in front of me, a girl was recording them on her cell phone and, luckily enough, two of her recordings popped up on YouTube a few days later. So, for the first time ever, I am proud to present some concert footage shot at almost my exact vantage point, as illustrated by the image above. So, live from the Music Hall of Williamsburg on April 20th, 2011, here are the Raveonettes with "Love in a Trash Can" off Pretty in Black:
...and "Dead Sound" off Lust Lust Lust:
I saw Godspeed You! Black Emperor live Thursday, on a show part of their first tour in nearly ten years. They haven't exactly been broken up, but rather pursuing different projects, one of which is/was whatever name Silver Mt. Zion is going under today. Anyhow, the show was at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle. I picked that day to go as it seemed to be a more, well, epic place to see GY!BE at, rather than Brooklyn's Masonic Temple, which seemed to be a pretty mediocre venue. I was also excited by the idea of a seated show simply because when I saw Silver Mt. Zion live, there was no crowd movement beyond just a small bit of swaying. And oh what a mistake my judgement was. Now, make all the "hipsters don't dance" jokes you want, but it's not like this is music that makes you want to do much but stare dead ahead and sometimes cry. And I know the Catholics have a reputation for being self-hating about as much as the Jews do, but holy hell even we don't use hardwood pews built in the 19th century to, apparently, keep Catholics awake during 4 AM Latin masses before going back to their jobs as chimneysweeps. It's saying something when the only padded locale was the kneeler. The pews ended up turning into an endurance test, with people evacuating the venue at the end of -- and occasionally, in the middle of -- every single song.
So, in effect, for three hours, Godspeed tortured every young person in NYC who made it to that show. I say three hours because the opening act was so abysmal the only thing to concentrate on was the pain. I have a standing blog-policy to not shit on anyone directly, so I won't mention his name, but holy hell if your music relies on three seconds of ethereal strumming repeated through an entire four song and the only other aspect to it is the lyrics, at least make sure the people in the back can make some goddamn sense of them. I'm not saying the people in the front fared any better, but what I heard was an old Flying Saucer Attack tape in an old boombox in a tunnel.
Godspeed themselves were great. It's hard to speak about the actual music because it was, well, exactly what how one would think they sound live. A little more squeaky and dissonant, but when they played "Moya" it only took me a few seconds to realize "oh, hey, that's 'Moya.'" They put the music that is on the album together on stage and sounded wonderful. Now, along with the band itself -- which I couldn't see from my pew -- they used a video artist. They had four film projectors set up to hit two separate areas, letting the video overlap itself occasionally, and a whole lot of film loops. Every song used different loops and the artist used them to different effects. Occasionally, they were just played straight. Sometimes, as in the video for "Monheim" below (thanks setlist.fm!) the physical loops would be sped up, slowed down, and burned. The burning effect was especially spectacular, albeit a bit hard to make out in the video above (which you should turn up to full screen and 1080p because damn if it is not an awesome video.) Below is a part of "The Sad Mafioso" shot by a different person and clearly using a different style of video.
So, the show was amazing and I really hope they come around again and I hope everyone who sat in the front has recovered their hearing by now. Also, I now own an official Godspeed You! Black Emperor t-shirt. The concept of the fact makes me giggle, a lot.
So on the pending release of All Eternals Deck, the new Mountain Goats LP -- which is temporarily available for (free! legal!) streaming courtesy of NPR -- here is my favorite track off their last album, The Life Of The World To Come. And by "favorite" I mean "the only track I really remember enjoying." I didn't much care for the album on a general basis and that one song describing someone slowly dying of cancer in a hospital bed made sure I would never put the album on again, except for maybe this song.
You know what, scratch that, I like Isaiah 45:23" (yes, every song is named after a Bible verse) but that's really only because the "I won't get better/but someday I'll be free/Because I am not this body/that imprisons me" lines pretty much describe John Darnielle's dark optimism perfectly.
So here's "Psalm 40:2". This was from a movie shot specifically for the album, by Rian Johnson (director of Brick,) who also shot the video for "Woke Up New" off Get Lonely. Which is, coincidentally, another Mountain Goats album I can't bear to listen to. But this time, outside of depressives and people who just went through a breakup, I don't think anyone really listens to Get Lonely.
We're off track again. "Psalms 40:2". Go.
Co. Music Timeline
I listen to NPR all day at work, and the constant mentions of Scott Walker being a terrible person have been getting me down. So in what may very well be a futile attempt to rescue the name from the clutches of son-of-a-bitchdom, here are some choice songs from the man who was born Noel Scott Engel, and rechristened himself as the one -- the only! -- Scott Walker.
I still remember being stagefront in Southpaw, waiting A Silver Mt. Zion's first U.S. show to begin. It was 2005 and after a few of the ear/mid-2000s indie hits (hey, remember the Unicorns?) they put on Scott 3. "It's Raining Today" began and I'd never heard anything like that before. Or since.