On Friday night I went, with much trepidation, to see Owen Pallett (the artist formerly known as Final Fantasy) play at the Bowery. For those unaware, he is primarily a violinist and had, among his numerous guest spots, arranged the strings and provided guest vocals on Beirut's The Flying Club Cup. The trepidation stemmed from the fact that the tickets were a came-home-late-and-drunk impulse buy and I really hadn't any intention to see him live. I moderately enjoyed He Poos Clouds, an album rife with two things that would endear your humble blogger to practically any album: vocal desperation and oblique Dungeons and Dragons references. However, I couldn't really latch onto the dissonance, and after a few listens shelved the album away for a rainy day. His next and most recent release, Heartland – the first to be released under his Christian name – was much better. Heartland is, ostensibly, a concept album, but I have a nearly-superheroic inability to grasp onto album narratives unless someone holds my damn hand through them (a notable exception being The Mountain Goats Tallahassee, which I have listened to, in full, maybe twelve hundred times over the years and eventually just got.) The annoying, springy dissonance of both the instrumentation and his voice smoothed out and the entire sound was de-avant-garde'd and made significantly more listenable. It was because of Heartland that I was even mildly inspired to actually show up and not just pawn the ticket on last.fm.
Image co. For The 'Records'
Imagine my surprise when this turned out to be one of the better live shows I've seen. The opening band, Avi Buffalo, was a bit too precious for my taste. (In an odd aside, I ended up exchanging Flickr messages with the admittedly skilled lead singer/guitarist's mother after she mislabeled a photo I had posted. Apparently the band's relatives keep track of these things. Adorable.) I had managed to confuse Owen for one of Bowery's sound guys, confused by his ability to tune a violin. The only other individual on stage, whose name I have forgotten, assisted with a muted guitar and a small drum set with a set of cowbells taped on. As they started playing, it all came together. He generated the backbeat to the music by looping violin plucks/melodies, occasionally processed through a bass pedal, and a synth. He would then start playing a different melody and sing in that beautiful voice of his. Seriously. I haven't heard a voice that clean and pure on stage … ever, really. While musicians generally need to have their head around timing to play, listening to Owen set up his own backing and play to it was a sight to see.
One of my most favorite things about living in the Future is that I can go to a show and a few days later watch it again via a YouTube upload from some kid with a camera I could pay my rent with. So, here's Owen Pallet playing his opening track on Friday, January 18th, 2010, “CN Tower Belongs to the Dead.”