Friday, April 22, 2011

review- low at lincoln hall 4.21.2011

Not surprisingly this was a magical show. How could it not be? Is there a better venue in Chicago that would be more perfect for Low to play in? I suppose the obvious answer is a church, but Epiphany doesn’t seem to do shows any more. I arrived fairly early in order to suss out a spot on the balcony but not early enough apparently. I was early enough to catch most of Gaberdine’s set and they were quite excellent. Finally, something nice to say about an opening band!

Low kicked things off with an interestingly brief rendition of ‘Breaker’ off of ‘Drums and Guns.’ They tried to get the audience to clap, but no one would do it, sadly. From there they launched into ‘C’mon’ and played the entire thing pretty much in order over the course of the night. The final chunk of songs in the main set was comprised entirely of the second side. The new material proved to exude an effortless grace and beauty—witnessing the songs live basically gave the impression of the songs as they would’ve been had they ended up on any of the first three records. ‘Try to Sleep’ took on more the air of a restrained lullaby than the bright, wide-eyed poppy momentum that it has on the record. ‘Nothing but Heart’ was the song where it seemed to me that they finally caught all that they were reaching for over the course of the entire night. Occasionally moments where the band is aiming for a more rocking out type of moment don’t quite take off sometimes—their penchant for restraint seems to be a bit too ingrained at times—but ‘Nothing but Heart’ reached those heights to be certain. The new material ruled the show, that’s for sure. For me this also made the fact that they played absolutely nothing off of those first three records a very minor gripe.

As far as older material they stuck to the most recent stuff—namely ‘The Great Destroyer.’ The oldest song they played was ‘Sunflower’ off of ‘Things we Lost in the Fire.’ Every time I’ve seen Low I’ve always harbored the hopeless delusion that they might, just once, play ‘Over the Ocean.’ I assume that the reason they don’t is that they’d probably been playing it for almost ten years by the time they abandoned it. Highlights amongst the older stuff would include ‘Silver Rider,’ ‘Monkey,’ (which I’ve always loathed on record) 'When I Go Deaf' and the unspeakably gorgeous ‘Murderer.’ There was only one song that I didn’t recognize at all (I never bothered to buy ‘Drums and Guns’).

The show was packed to the gills—a nice change from the last time I saw Low, which was at the Metro in 2007. Stefanie and I went to Reckless Records and found a giant pile of free tickets for the show on the counter and the clerk begged us to take as many as possible. It was a decent show, but definitely not as stirring as the first time we’d seen them, which was in Portland in 2004 just before ‘The Great Destroyer’ came out. The show at the Metro was one of the only times I’ve been to the Metro where you could tell how dismally undersold the place was. One of the other times was when we went to see the Warlocks in 2005. If I’m going to be in a cramped room for a sold out show I think that it might as well be for a Low show—a quiet and considerate audience as always. Perhaps this is to make up for the crappy crowd at the godspeed show.

One of my biggest pet peeves is that bands that are brave enough to mine their material using a slow, graceful and careful beauty are written off as ‘boring’ by so many so thoughtlessly. It’s always been something of a sad shortcoming to me over my show-going years. You know what I mean—when Spiritualized launched into ‘Oh baby’ at the Metro in 2008 most people decided it was the perfect moment to go get a beer. Too many people would prefer something fast and impossible to ignore that they can shake their asses to over something soft and beautiful. It’s because of this that tonight was so encouraging—it really seemed like it might’ve been the end of the line for the band a few years ago. They seemed to have really hit a wall and people seemed to have really lost interest during those rocky years. It’s nice to see them back to doing what they do best, doing it well and with a lot of heart as well as infusing it with some of what they had been reaching for during those rocky years. Even better that people are so invested in their new and thoroughly excellent new material. They are rejuvenated.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

happy birthday, robert smith

just in case you aren't a hopeless cure obsessive like myself, today is robert smith's 52nd (!!!) birthday. traditionally i would take a week from my music listening of the moment and listen to the entire cure discography including a pretty vast library of live bootlegs and b-sides that i had access to. once i was no longer a delivery driver for pizza hut this became a bit too great of a task to accomplish over the years. this year i've opted for something a bit different and made a mix of my favourite bootleg performances from this previously mentioned vast library. the title i figured out five minutes ago? 'faded wishes.' i know, too perfect, right? i was going to go for some kind of medication-type reference, but since most of these performances are more than 11 years old now i figured it might be more fitting. plus 'lost wishes' was already taken (speaking of which where the hell is that 'wish' reissue mr. smith?!). it fits on a single cd (something i've never been capable of before) and i'm pretty damned proud of it. the tracks are culled almost exclusively from the cure's salad days.

song- source- tour
1. plainsong- dallas, texas soundboard- prayer tour
2. the big hand- london, uk t&c2 club 'play out' video- 1991
3. like cockatoos- birmingham, uk 'difficult to cure' soundboard- kissing tour
4. other voices- werchter festival, belgium soundboard- picture tour
5. the drowning man- paris, france 'm' soundboard- fourteen explicit moments tour
6. in your house- kilburn, london xfm broadcast soundboard- pre-wish tour
7. m- same source as above
8. a strange day- same source as 'the big hand'
9. if only tonight we could sleep- same source as 'like cockatoos'
10. jupiter crash- st. louis, missouri audience recording- dream tour (i was present at this show)
11. a letter to elise- mtv unplugged 'play out' video- 1991
12. to wish impossible things- earl's court, london audience recording- wish tour
13. the figurehead- frankfurt, germany soundboard- prayer tour
14. the same deep water as you- same source as 'plainsong'

kurt vile- reckless records 4.1.2011

A few weeks late, but why not? Stefanie and I went to reckless records on April Fool's Day to catch a free instore by Kurt Vile, who we couldn't see at Subterranean for a few reasons- 1) He was opening for J Mascis and the tickets were expensive, plus Subterranean is always a little too liberal with the volume, which doesn't exactly work for someone like Kurt Vile (I saw him there at his post-Pitchfork set last year and I can personally attest to this) and 2) We were going to another show that night- Soft Speaker at the Empty Bottle. Apparently we weren't alone in our predicament. We got there about 45 minutes early, meandered around a bit and about a half-hour out the place began to get packed and I do mean PACKED. There were easily a few hundred people there- the crowd stretched all the way throughout the store. It would've been a drag to be a random person wandering in looking to peruse the stacks as this was completely impossible. I recorded the set. It was quite good, if a bit slap-dash. He opened with what I believe was a new song (see video up at the top), played a few songs from the new and excellent 'Smoke Rings for my Halo' as well as a few older greats ('Slow Talkers' and 'He's Alright'- probably the best Kurt Vile song ever). Anyway, here is a download of the show for you nice folks- hope you enjoy it!

Friday, April 8, 2011

review- raveonettes/tamaryn at lincoln hall- 4.5.11

photo by Jason Persse

Second chances. When are they appropriate to give and to whom? I bought my tickets for this show a few weeks ago with one rule in mind—I wasn’t waiting an hour for the Raveonettes to set up at this show. If they weren’t on the stage after thirty minutes (which is more than generous, I’d say) I would simply leave. The reason for this rule is fairly simple—two years ago I saw them for the first time at their lollapalooza aftershow at the empty bottle. I was subjected to one of the top ten worst opening bands I’ve ever seen (I can’t even remember their name, but they were from St. Louis and the lead singer acted like Mick Jagger and brandished an American flag while he was singing at one point) and then an hour-long wait time between bands. Everyone’s been in this situation—you’re in a tiny, packed club full of people who are getting drunker and drunker, your back is getting sore and you’re getting sleepy and you watch the band’s employee fumble around onstage, leaving it and returning multiple times to retune the guitars. It’s a charade—who knows why it’s done. Maybe vocalist/guitarist Sune Wagner was running late (vocal/guitarist Sharin Foo was in the building, however, I saw her walking around—she’s a little tough to miss). Regardless it’s a bit cruel to keep your fans waiting for an hour. As if that weren’t enough when they finally came out after all of that prep time the guitars were almost inaudible for much of the set. Imagine listening to ‘Aly Walk With Me’ without guitars—quite pointless. What’s more I was looking forward to hearing some new material and while this wish was fulfilled I found the two new songs (‘Last Dance’ and ‘Suicide’ from the disappointing ‘In and Out of Control’) to be beyond disappointing after all of this. I left the show angry and bitter as ‘Lust Lust Lust’ was one of my favourite albums of the last ten years and has gotten me through many a rough time and here the Raveonettes were totally beefing it onstage AND the prospects of their next album seemed grim to say the least. They did play ‘Here Comes Mary,’ though, which I’ve always wanted to hear them do live. I left right before the encore. This bitterness was not helped by the release of ‘In and Out of Control,’ which I considered to be the most disappointing record of 2009. I figured they’d follow on from ‘Lust Lust Lust’ by expanding on some of the ideas they introduced with those two gorgeous digital EPs that they released in 2008 (‘Sometimes They Drop By’ and ‘Beauty Dies’) but instead I got an album with strained production, nine forced-sounding pop songs, one fantastic Raveonettes rocker (‘Heart of Stone’) and one of the most beautiful tracks they’ve ever recorded (‘Wine’). It’s a shame when the bonus tracks outshine most of the other tracks on the album. Who knows, maybe it was a record company thing.

Earlier on the day of the show I went and bought ‘Raven in the Grave’ which appeared far more promising and, indeed, was. They did expand on some of the ideas introduced on those EPs as well as the hazy, sun-drenched, reverby goodness of ‘Wine’ and what sounds like a more stripped-down approach similar to that of ‘Lust Lust Lust’ that favored synths and texture over feedback and fuzz. I actually think it’s their second best record. Tonight was a similarly redemptive affair.

One of the only reasons I bothered shelling out money for this show in the end was the fact that Tamaryn’s ‘The Waves’ is one of my favourites in a growing heap of recently released records. Seeing them live was something I was dying for and I figured that it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to go and see them and then give the Raveonettes another chance, provided they were onstage within thirty minutes this time. Tamaryn were more narcotically consumptive onstage than they are on record—their down-blanket warmth is even greater and fuller in a live setting. Even without the guitar overdubs and textures that are piled on the recordings, lone guitarist Rex John Shelverton is able to kick up a formidable cloud of noise and swooping beauty with a Fender Twin and a Roland Space Echo. The drums were also particularly lively and spacious as well whereas they tend to get buried on the recordings. They played my two favourites (I’m partial to their spacier slower songs and the two in question would be ‘Coral Flower’ and ‘Light Shadows’) and didn’t shy away from their more atmospheric tendencies, which would be an understandable inclination for a band in their position. As with every live review of Tamaryn I'll briefly mention that they showed some nice projections and kept the stage dark while Tamaryn herself also hid behind her hair.

The Raveonettes used their full thirty minutes. I was going to give them literally one more minute when the houselights went down and the smoke machines started going off. They went through most of the tracks from the new album and a smattering of old classics including several old tracks from ‘Whip it On’ and ‘Chain Gang of Love.’ They brought a very flashy stage set-up with them including a wall of strobes and they raised quite the ungodly din. The songs from ‘Raven in the Grave’ have a fairly soft sound for the most part, but in this live setting they were given a pretty sharp set of teeth. The stage was set with opening track ‘Recharge & Revolt’—a dizzying swathe of sound wrapping around your head like a swarm of bees. Beautiful. They played a few tracks from ‘Lust Lust Lust’ (‘Lust’ and the nearly-perfect ‘Dead Sound’ and the obligatory noisefest of ‘Aly Walk With me’—this time with the desired effect), one from ‘Pretty in Black’ (‘Love in a Trashcan’) and one from ‘In and Out of Control’ (a very fierce and impassioned take on ‘Heart of Stone’). The main set was closed by the beautiful slow-burner ‘My Time’s Up.’ Even the minimal, straight-forward single, ‘Forget That you’re Young’ sounded vibrant and full.

Nicely done, Raveonettes. Not sure what was up with that hour-long wait time at the bottle, but please don’t let it happen again—some of us really find that disrespectful. Fear not, though—all is forgiven.