Friday, December 10, 2010

dean and britta play galaxie 500 review

i went to see dean and britta on friday night (the first of the two nights) play galaxie 500 songs. it was interesting because i was mainly interested in seeing them play some of their own stuff and figured that they'd mix in a bunch of old galaxie 500 songs but played in their own way. i was completely wrong- all they did was play galaxie songs and pretty much exactly the way that they were on the records. britta phillips even played naomi yang's bass parts exactly the same as well damon's drum parts being completely carbon copied by the drummer. to me what this ended up doing was underscoring the awkwardness of damon and naomi's absence and their inimitable contributions to galaxie 500's sound. granted dean wareham's stamp is the one that looms the largest, but for wareham to give out the parts that they contributed to be reproduced ad nauseum seemed very audacious and a little offensive to me (i can only imagine how damon and naomi feel about it). i wasn't able to get past this the entire night. another thing that i found to be a massive bummer was how clean, neat and polished the band sounded. wareham's guitar sound was spit-shined practically and one of my favourite things about galaxie has always been the abandoned passionate playing of three people who are going for heart over perfection. in a lot of ways at the end of the night i felt like i should've just stayed home and watched 'don't let our youth go to waste.' they even played 'listen, the snow is falling' and had britta sing it. she sang it beautifully and the music sounded spot-on and wareham was able to coax some really cool sounds out of his guitar during the ending section that i really enjoyed, but the whole thing just felt so wrong- of all of the songs that they played i think that that was one that i cherish that i actually wished they would've had the decency not to play. the way that naomi yang sang this song was so representative of everything about galaxie that i've always loved and for them to play it the way that they did having someone else sing it was to trample it. i sat there listening to it thinking of the murky single-camcorder bootleg version that's on 'don't let our youth go to waste.' to me, that is the definitive live version of the song and i would've preferred it over watching what i saw live.
basically this show is the perfect example of everything that's troubling about this plague of reunion shows by bands from the golden era of alternative music that's been going on for years and years at this point. 90% of the time the fire has long since gone out even if you can get all of the original members up on the stage together. there are reasons for all things that end. the only exception i would make to this statement would be the my bloody valentine show at the aragon two years ago- that was a case of pushing things forward and settling unfinished business and (hopefully, although it's rapidly becoming a fainter and fainter hope) delivering on the promise of new material that never surfaced. also, my bloody valentine never officially disbanded so for them to get back together is more dignified. they didn't play any new material, but at least there is some in the works even though it's taken over a decade to not hear any of it. on the other side of the spectrum was what i experienced at lincoln hall on friday. they played all of my favourites of theirs that i'd always wished i could've experienced live, classic after classic- 'blue thunder,' 'strange,' 'tugboat,' 'fourth of july,' 'don't let our youth go to waste,' basically any galaxie 500 you would ever want to hear and they were all played note-perfectly but a majority of them lacked that fire and passion that is so evident on those old recordings and live videos on the aforementioned dvd. there was such a passion and intensity there that it drove three very ordinary people to pick up their chosen instruments and create something incredibly unique that the most experienced and virtuosic musicians couldn't create if they were locked in a room for ten years. it was so inspiring and unique and brilliant. they were also smart enough to leave all of their mistakes and studied awkwardness in- their bravery and passion made them all the more admirable for what they were doing because they had those fantastic songs that still sound so simple, fresh and inimitable even today. this is simply a spirit that couldn't possibly be recreated, let alone by only one member backed up by a bunch of others playing carbon-copies of the parts laid down on the albums. the only song that came across to me as an impassioned performance was 'strange' which sounded great and was emotionally stirring and resonant. even 'blue thunder' did nothing for me and it's probably my favourite galaxie 500 song- you'd think that hearing it live by anyone would be enough to get me excited, but by the middle the song had been drained of all of it's feeling. it just felt like someone who wrote a ton of great songs twenty years ago out for a fat payday, which is a shame because dean wareham is still writing great material. another highlight of the night for me was their cover of 'i'll keep it with mine' from the newest dean and britta record (the only non-galaxie song that they played all night). i read that sean eden turned up at the second show and they played a few classic luna songs- personally i think that that would've been preferable to what i saw. i was so excited when these shows were announced that i almost bought a ticket for the second show as well. i'm quite glad that i didn't now.
so all in all this was probably the last 'big' show that i'll be seeing this year and it was a gigantic disappointment- probably as big of a disappointment as seeing spectrum last year at the darkroom. i can tell i've seen a crappy show when i lumber into work the next day on only three hours of sleep (i have to get up and go to work on saturday mornings at 5:45am) and in my mind i can tell whether or not it was worth the sleep deprivation. dean and britta play galaxie 500 was not worth it i'm sorry to say.

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