Monday, December 27, 2010

Final Top Ten! (Guilts & Regrets...)

File under: 'Only so many minutes in the day...', but now that the Lists are over, the one most occupying my time is the 'How The Hell Did I Not Buy That Yet?' list...Scary part is that I think all of these could have comfortably found a spot in my year end parade...sigh.

10) JONSI: Go
9) ABE VIGODA: Crush
7) *NATIONAL: High Violet
6) BLACK KEYS: Brothers
5) *WALKMEN: Lisbon
4) MASSIVE ATTACK: Heligoland
3) TED LEO & PHARMACISTS: The Brutalist Bricks
2) THERMALS: Personal Life
1) FLYING LOTUS: Cosmogramma

* Bought within last two weeks...I'm trying! (Like the Walkmen, National is a grower-very strong)

Monday, December 20, 2010

b/o 2010: part two (10-1)

At long last, here we go with the final ten!

10) LOS CAMPESINOS! Romance Is Boring
Adulthood is here for LC!, wherein they continue the transition away from their twee beginnings, finding a happy medium between that and their noisier inclinations.

Saying goodbye to old members and ringing in the new, it's a microcosm of all our lives...

Ornette Coleman once told us that "Beauty Is A Rare Thing", a phrase that occurs to me every time I hear this record.

It's a luminescent, jangly wonder-song for song as strong as most any record this year, and somehow overlooked in most places.

Along with the Superchunk record, it was hailed (ironically) as a return to form, but it was the listener that went away, not the band...

8) NO AGE Everything In Between
One of the leading prongs of a music scene from Los Angeles, the likes of which hasn't been seen since the heyday of X, Los Lobos, and The Blasters in the 80's, No Age moves forward and stakes its claim to forward motion with "Everything In Between".

Adding a new member could upset a delicate balance, but the band just keeps growing, adding new shades of sound, while sacrificing none of their grinding power.

Bonus points for the sterling vinyl edition, which comes with a 12X12 attached photo book...Years best vinyl packaging, hands down.

The floodgates opened in 2010 for Sufan, starting with the "All Delighted Peoples" EP, which I was only just coming to grips with, when, behold-up shows this behemoth on the doorstep.

Seeing his show really helped crystallize the record, and bring new appreciation to parts that could have been overwhelmed by the whole.
Best example being "Futile Devices", the opening track that seems almost a red herring as to what is to come...
Delicate & spare, it's Sufjan haiku and in very short time, lays out the adventure that is the rest of the record.
As for the 25 minute closer "Impossible Soul"...good luck with that!

6) ARCADE FIRE The Suburbs
It's so easy for a buzz band to quickly get swallowed and disappear in the whirlpool of the internet, which makes the splash Arcade Fire made this year all the more impressive.

Sprawling & impassioned, they deliver the goods with some of their greatest songs to date...the title track, "We Used To Wait", and both "Sprawls" move mountains.

Side note: make sure you hunt down the video experience that is "We Used To Wait"...

Titus Andronicus takes a template of rock influences that could sideways in a hurry in the wrong hands, and thoroughly makes it their own in this ambitious Civil War cum New Jersey economic downfall parable.

It swings from the beginning to the 14 minute marathon closer, "The Battle of Hampton Roads"

More bagpipes!!!

4) JANELLE MONAE The Archandroid

Kanye West most assuredly won the battle of the 'column inches' this year, but for my money, years down the road, this would be the album we're reminiscing about...

Ambitious to a fault, and self assured swing through a variety of styles, this will stand as her 'Dirty Mind'...The moment when everything came together into one irresistable package.

3) SPOON Transference

According to Spoon themselves, this self produced followup to 'Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga' represents "us at our Spooniest".

And as cryptic as it may sound, that is precisely what's going on here. Screwed down tighter, then knocked sideways-this is the band at their brutal best...Even throwing in a ballad.

Any album released in January that i'm still playing at the end of the year...let that say it all.

Teen Dream

I scoffed when people were touting this as the album of the year in early January, mostly on principle, and overcame that to actually get the record and digest it.

And digest it. However misguided 'they' were in form, 'they' hit the mark on content. This album never went away from my brain.

Innocuous on the first few listens, but absolutely riveting the more you peel back the layers-the very definition of a 'grower'...Beach House has truly come into their own with "Teen Dream".

The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
Deep, haunting, and sonically beguiling collection from the Montreal collective that consolidated the finest points of 'The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse', and weaved an album long tapestry of blissful, sometimes discordant rock.

One of the best examples of this top ten's recurring theme: the importance of the album. These tracks shine when they come up in a random mix, but their power is truly unleashed when you go back to front...Simply a stunning piece of work.

2011 preview: Already looking forward to new PJ Harvey, Decemberists, Okkervil River, and Anna Calvi...Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Favorite Songs 2010

For those with numerical list fixations, here's my favorite songs from the year past...
10) ALOE BLACC "Femme Fatale"
9) LONELADY "Fear No More"
8) SUFJAN STEVENS "Futile Devices"
7) BESNARD LAKES "Chicago Train"
6) BEACH HOUSE "Ten Mile Stereo"
5) WARPAINT "Lissie's Heart Murmur"
4) SPOON "Out Go The Lights"
3) SUPERCHUNK "Hot Tubes"
2) TEENAGE FANCLUB "When I Still Have Thee"
1) LOS CAMPESINOS! "The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future"

Here's a playlist of what rocked my world in 2010...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

b/o 2010: pt I (25-11)

Looking for a predominant theme in my world, at least, it has been the Year Of Merge, comfortably placing four albums in the top 25, notching their first #1 album in Billboard, and topping it off with the resurgence of label founders McCaughan & Ballance's own band Superchunk, it has certainly been a year to remember for the Little Indie That Could...

The subtext would be: 'The Long Tail Rules...' Years from now, I suspect I'll look back on this time as being as much of a watershed as the early '90's, in terms of depth of releases. The List has been very tough to narrow down the last few years, and it's been a bonanza of great music. Last year tilted heavily towards veterans, this year seems more of a mix.

Without furthur ado:
Carl Newman and the gang bring it on home for 'Together', sharpening the songs, and adding the special bonus of a tour that included, (at some stops), all the original cohorts.

A pure pop extravaganza from the Canadian supergroup...

Key tracks: "Silver Jenny Dollar" and "Your Hands (Together)"

#24) VASELINES: Sex With An X
Any decade that has a Vaselines record can't be all bad. Wonder of wonders, 2010 saw the gang drop 'Sex With An X', dress up as a priest and nun in their video, and hit the road in style for a U.S. tour, while maintaining their bellicose goodness on record.

"I Hate The 80's" will serve as the statement on misguided nostalgia, and the final track, "Exit The Vaselines" closes another chapter.

Utterly unpredictable, and joyously bitter, that's our Vaselines!

#23) WARPAINT: The Fool
Long strange trip from the LA underground to this, their debut album. Intense and atmospheric, they could be the dark horse of the strongest LA musical scene in the last 25 years...

Key tracks: "Undertow" & "Lissie's Heart Murmur"

#22) SERENA MANEESH: S-M2: Abyss In B Minor
Tired of waiting for that My Bloody Valentine record that's hell bent on putting 'Chinese Democracy' to shame? Well, have I got something for you, or the noise rock fan in your life...They don't call it "Abyss In B Minor" for nothing!

Surprisingly tuneful, and always rocking new entry from Serena Maneesh that never really left the turntable all year long...

Key tracks: "I Just Want To See Your Face" & "D.I.W.S.W.T.T.D"

#21) BROKEN BELLS: Broken Bells
Danger Mouse continues his hot streak, this time picking up Shins frontman James Mercer for an album of dark pop bliss.

Branching off his recent work with the Black Keys and Beck, it's a deep record that rewards every new listen...

Key tracks: "The High Road" & "The Ghost Inside"

#20) SUN KIL MOON: Admiral Fell Promises
Dark cryptic record that poses as many questions as it answers...Perhaps not the greatest gateway to Kozelek's work, but at the same time a portal for a subset who might never have come across his previous work.

Stark insular take on the ususal Kozelek tales of people and the road, done all on one nylon string guitar. What at first could sound samey becomes a hypnotic trance...

Key tracks: "Half Moon Bay" & "Third & Seneca"

#19) SCOUT NIBLETT: The Calcination Of Scout Niblett
What might win the takeaway prize for cover of the year, the enigmatic photo only serves to enhance the spookiness within. A great grueling guitar album for those who bemoan the lack of such things in today's environment.

Key tracks: "Calcination" & "Just Do It".

#18) QUASI: American Gong
Really don't know when Janet Weiss finds the time, but Quasi steps back into the limelight with their strongest and most assured record to date.

A genuine rock and roll blast!

Key tracks: "Bye Bye Blackbird" & "Death Is Not The End".

#17) BEST COAST: Crazy For You
Simple stories of a woman, her cat, her boy problems, and her weed, or the lack thereof, set to fuzz blasted Spector tones...What indeed, is not to love?

Key tracks: "Our Deal" & "When I'm With You".

#16) ALOE BLACC: Good Things
Aloe Blacc runs over the sophomore slump with 'Good Things', an assured followup to his bedroom treasure debut 'Shining Through'...

Key tracks: "I Need A Dollar", which got some great exposure as the theme to an HBO show, and his reinvention of the Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale".

#15) SHARON JONES & THE DAP KINGS: I Learned The Hard Way
SJ&DK return with an album perfectly pitched to these trying times...'I Learned The Hard Way' is bloodied but unbowed look at the state of things in the here and now, personally and politically.

The band is in as fine shape as ever, and enterprising late night show hosts should take notice: if there's one band that could possibly give the Roots a run for it's money as the default house band, the Dap Kings would be the one.

Key tracks: title track, "The Game Gets Old".

#14) BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE: Forgiveness Rock Record
Broken Social Scene return with their first LP in five years, a sprawling beautiful mess of a record that holds up to repeated listening...

Drew and Canning have dropped some of their most cohesive tunes, and it stands as a breakthrough record for them.

Key tracks: "World Sick", "All To All", "Art House Director", & "Texico Bitches".

#13) GRINDERMAN: Grinderman 2
Building on the dirty ass rock & roll of their debut, Grinderman 2 ups the ante with more assured songcraft, while not sacrificing the edge.

In places, the line between Grinderman and the mothership Bad Seeds is not erased, but certainly blurred. As long as Nick Cave is at the helm, though, you know what you're going to get...

Key tracks: "Heathen Child", "Mickey Mouse & The Goodbye Man", "Evil"

Bonus Points: Amazing remixes are available, including "Worm Tamer" as done by A Place To Bury Strangers, and "Super Heathen Child", featuring Mr. Robert Fripp.

#12) LONELADY: Nerve Up
Amazingly assured debut LP that builds on wired post punk rhythms but coalesces into a beauty all its own...

Key tracks: title track, "Marble", & "Cattletears".

#11) SUPERCHUNK: Majesty Shredding
Heart warming return from North Carolina quartet with their first full album in nine years. Dial is firmly wrenched up to 11, and their energy level throughout shames bands half their age.
Followed by a series of blistering performances that left many a poor aging hipster all pogoed out.

Key tracks: "Fractures In Plaster", "Learned To Surf", & "Everything At Once".

Post script: 11 & 12 were the hardest things to kick out of my top ten, & led to much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Mea Culpa: Albums that I haven't got to yet that would probably be very listworthy: Joanna Newsom's 'Have One On Me', and Gil Scott Heron's 'I'm New Here'...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

'Prisoners need not apply': Grinderman live

Ending a quick US jaunt in service of "Grinderman 2", Nick Cave brought Grinderman to LA. Essentially a scaled down Bad Seeds tuned quartet-style to the key of filthy rock'n'roll.

Grinderman is Cave, Warren Ellis on violin and guitar, and the rhythm section of Martin Casey & Jim Sclavunos.

The enigmatic Armen Ra opened the evening with his theremin, doing a proper job of setting an unsettling tone for the proceedings.

Warren Ellis in full flight...

Grinderman hit the stage promptly, and unleashed their trademark noise, quickly adjusting to the eccentricities of the house sound system, then pushing it to overload levels.

To watch these guys in any of their configurations is always a joy, and the stripped down setting worked perfectly in a smaller venue. It's interesting to note that a performer of Cave's caliber, that controls the room completely, is something of an endangered species these days...

The finest example of said control came towards the close of their set, during the frustration anthem 'No Pussy Blues', from their first album.

Cave leered through the verses, setting up the story of the man who would do anything for his dearest, but not in turn receive the one thing he was looking for...
As the band lurched into the bridge, he held up his hands and clapped out a simple beat, then repeated it. The crowd took it up, then Cave dropped out the band and the whole room echoed with only clapping...

The band blitzed into the chorus, and the house levitated...Such a simple trick proved so brutally effective, and a welcome antidote to eons of hapless singalongs...
A reminder, once again, that no matter the configuration, their are few bands working at this level...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Please Bring The Flag"

Ever since the ill.fated Blind Faith experience, music critics have scampered to apply the tag, rightfully or not, of supergroup to any conglomeration of musicians with a previous track record, however dubious. Also, what exactly is the line when a 'side project' becomes a 'supergroup'...
Wild Flag is the newest recipient of said tag, & while its members priors certainly range from well regarded to sterling, i still cringe whenever i hear the label.

That aside, it's always a treat to be present at the birth of a band, and watch those first fumbling steps become a cherished memory, or a long forgotten blip on the cultural radar.

Eux Autres started the night with an earnest set of indie pop.

Grass Widow, from San Francisco, (pictured), opened up their own special blend of surf influenced noisy goodness. They threw out a crackling set that marked them as a band to keep an eye on, and their latest album, 'Past Time', came out in August on Kill Rock Stars.

Anticipation reached a fever pitch for the foursome that sprang from the ashes of the hiatus of Sleater Kinney, (Carrie Brownstein & Janet Weiss), along with Rebecca Cole (The Minders), and Mary Timony (Helium).

From the first crashing notes, it became apparent that this was a volatile combination. Brownstein's humble asides, ('we're trying out this whole band thing...'), underlined the fact that it was a work in progress, with space still being worked out for all the members, but when things clicked, (as on the raucous 'Racehorse', it was something special.

Their sound ranges from the uptempo strut of "Romance", (above), to the all out maelstorm of what i believe is called "Glass Tambourine", (below). Breathtaking...Their clutch of original tunes is a nice skeleton for a record...I really can't wait to see where it goes from here.

They fleshed out the set with covers of The Standells "Dirty Water" and The Rolling Stones "Beast Of Burden".
In only their sixth show, Wild Flag has laid the groundwork for some interesting times ahead. They've got a 7'' single forthcoming, and apparently a commitment from Merge Records whenever they feel they have the material. It bodes well if they can harness the sparks of this evening...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Superchunk Day!

What started out as a simple show that tickets were purchased for months and months ago, steadily transformed into Superchunk Day! It began with a simple email from Merge Records announcing a fall tour. The onsale day came, tickets were purchased. Time passed and excitement grew when it was announced that Teenage Fanclub was opening their Northwest dates. Spirits fell when it turned out to be only those dates. Spirits rose again when the mighty Vaselines were announced as the LA openers, as well as northwest up & comers Telekinesis.

Then the whole Matador 21 party came together, and their inclusion there, (and subsequent top flight set), did nothing to dampen the ardor of the impending show. Back in California, come to find out that they've set up a string of instore appearances at indie record shops, including Origami Vinyl in Echo Park at noon, day of show. So now the whole thing has taken shape and morphed into 'Superchunk Day', originally planned as the last date of the 'Majesty Shredding' tour. Apparently, it's gone to plan and then some, as they've added another handful of dates throughout the country.

Origami: great footage of 'Everything At Once', courtesy of Prestoff2000 (YouTube)

Telekinesis belted out a set that was far more lively than their first LP would have you believe. They kept the melodies intact, but gave every song a nice loud buzz, and looked to be very happy at this particular opening gig.

Their newest EP, not coincidentally on Merge Records, was the heart of the set. I'm looking forward to their next step, as well as seeing a complete show on their own, if this is any indication...

It's been a fascinating ride for The Vaselines, who cut one album back in the '80's, broke up...found a cult following after it turned out Kurt Cobain was a huge fan, and Nirvana covered a few of their songs, which led to a reformation and a gig opening up a Nirvana UK tour.
The sparks were fanned once again when Sub Pop put out an anthology of their work, and they got it together once again for an appearance at the label's birthday party in Seattle a few years back.

Now, apparently, the time has come again...In September, a new LP, 'Sex With An X', appeared, followed by a jaunt across the states. Los Angeles was the fortuitous hookup with Superchunk, which brings us up to this evening. The set largely focused on the new record, leavened with tart doses of the back catalogue, and despite the venue only being 2/3 filled, they gave it their all.

Time has been a friend to them, and having sympathetic players with them made for the kind of show the band never got to enjoy in the past, having broken up before, in some sense, they really got going.

Superchunk celebrated their return to Los Angeles proper for the first time in many years, hitting the stage with 'Learned To Surf', (above), from this year's 'Majesty Shredding', and leaving no stone unturned, unleashing a show as full bodied and frenetic as their star turn at the Matador fest at the beginning of October.
The aforementioned 2/3 full house was still in effect for Superchunk, which seemed sad on the heels of this victory lap that saw them fully engaged and energized, and playing just as well as ever. Rarely have i seen the balcony of the Fonda closed, but it kept the crowd as tight and focused as the band, and was a testimony to a night of tough choices for the LA music fan, as Broken Social Scene was across town at the Wiltern Theater, and Scout Niblett was in town as well, along with a few other tasty choices.

Like their path thus far, Superchunk faced it with grace, and powered through a set that touched on all phases of their years, culminating with a Misfits cover that put their own distinctive stamp on the evening.

Predominate theme through the night seemed to be the staying power of the aging hipster audience that furiously pogoed away, and by the time the midnight hour passed, it became apparent that one would regret this, in the most glorious way, the next day.

(Programming Notes: The good folks at Also Ran Blog have posted recordings of both the Superchunk instore at Origami and the Superchunk set at the Fonda)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

new Decemberists...

Today's nice suprise is new track 'Down By The Water', from the forthcoming Decemberists record 'The King Is Dead'. Gillian Welch on backing vocals is a treat, too!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pixies bonanza!

Big surprise dump from the Pixies camp, their 2004 set from Coachella, available as part of a continued expansion of their online concert offerings. What a treat it is to relive this set, & Kim Deal isn't kidding in the least, it was hot that day!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Matador 21, day three

Zombie was the watchword for day three of Matador 21, at least for those who had anything left in the tank at all...

Kicking off the day was a matinee of bands in the ballroom during the afternoon. While lesser in name power than many of their colleagues of the weekend, the matinee bands used the smaller setting to their benefit, delivering sets that matched, and in some cases exceeded their peers.

Kurt Vile started it off, his droning rhythms sucking in the crowd, and by sets end, he seemed to have them pretty well in hand. Looking forward to his next album...if the set was any indication, he continues to grow.

Times New Viking hit it next, delivering a blistering 19 songs in just over half an hour. The Ohio trio made nods to Yo La Tengo and Guided By Voices (the evening's headliners), but their sound was undoubtedly their own.

The Clean, (from New Zealand), put an exclamation point on the matinee, delivering their brand of surf informed noisy goodness, joined at one point by Ira & Georgia from Yo La Tengo for a tune. (Hamish Kilgour would appear in their set later in the evening.)

The Clean pinned me to the wall, and forced dinner break considerations to override Shearwater, whom I'd quite been looking forward to seeing. File under 'future considerations'. Also wiped out a chunk of Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, but having just seen him in March made it a little more bearable.

Did hit the floor fully recharged, and in time for Ted's last few tunes, including a dandy Matador tribute, a cover of Nick Lowe's 'I Love My Label', done with Leo's customary gusto & zeal.

New Pornographers held court with a full contingent, including Neko Case, sitting in on this most special occasion. They played an engaging set, song after song reminding me of the sheer depth of their catalogue.

Maybe the biggest question mark of the weekend was the block penciled in for Liz Phair, and all the question marks that entailed. Liz bounced out in good form, accompanied by a guitarist on 'Supernova' from the LP Whipsmart, and it was off to the races...

She cited her legendary stage fright, (remembering the Roseland showcase in NYC that was actually at Irving Plaza, but close enough), and proceeded to rip through a handful songs from her first two records, culminating with an appearance by the now ubiquitous Ted Leo, for a duet on 'Fuck and Run'.

Yo La Tengo opened with a hushed version of 'Our Way To Fall', bringing an unimaginable silence to the theater.

They proceeded to pull every trick out of their bag, from the noise epic, 'The Story Of Yo La Tengo', to their pseudo-Supremes choreography on 'You Can Have It All', to
reworking their cover of Sun Ra's 'No Nuclear War' into a lengthy tribute to Matador, that might have ended up naming every person who ever worked there.

Luminescent version of "Autumn Sweater" (above).
Odd note: a person, (who was later identified as Guided By Voices Mitch Mitchell), dashed across the stage during YLT's set, jumped in the audience, then dashed back and was threatened by security. Hamish Kilgour, (The Clean), later returned the gift by dashing across the stage during the GBV set, high-fiving the band, and diving into the crowd.

Of the four times I've seen them this year, that was the one.It was breathtaking in its streamlined potency. Whether it was the slot before Guided By Voices, or merely the challenge of a big stage, Yo La Tengo rose to the occasion.

That really seemed to be the theme of the weekend, rising to the occasion, and Guided By Voices did not let down the diehards, who had seemingly been drinking all day to prepare for the occasion. This was one set that needed to be witnessed from the floor, and i abandoned my cozy balcony for the free for all. From the time the neon sign pronouncing 'The Club Is Open', lit and descended, it was on. GBV stayed true to their older catalogue, and Mr Pollard was in fine form, managing to fulfill his quota of cigarettes, alchohol, and high kicks during the proceedings, stopping to observe at one point, "We Won!"

And he was spot on...The prospect of seeing many of the bands this weekend at this point in time was farfetched, and seeing them in Vegas, of all places? Too much for the brain to ponder.

The final word on the blowout would be community. There is just no way to state the impact of being among so many like minded souls for a whole crazy weekend. At most festivals, one feels like a spectator, but this felt like family.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Matador 21, day two

Saturday saw a brief intersection with the great outdoors...Truly no better place to commune with a thunder & lightning frenzy than the outdoors balcony on the 16th floor.
After that particular slice of entertainment concluded, it was time to submerge once again in the concrete innards of the Palms.

Let's take a quick moment to thank not only the Matador folks, but The Palms (!), & mention that it was more of a photo shoot for an interiors magazine than a room. Very impressive...

Grogginess did not recede until the first notes were struck from Girls, (hailing from San Francisco). Their woozy psych pop decorated with lashings of feedback was the perfect tonic for one struggling to get their brains and motor skills in order.

Everyone has their biases, and my awaited moment of the weekend was the infrequent resuscitation of Come, from Boston. Fresh off a warmup gig at the Middle East in Cambridge, this would be the second and final performance of their 2010 outing, and they left nothing behind. Considering the interlocking guitar weaves of their songs, (think heavier/darker Television), it's really a testament that they can appear out of nowhere and be as tight as they are. For me, they were always more a force of nature than a band.

Suddenly, it was time for the one and only Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, which, for the uninitiated, is a trio that throws the basic James Brown stomp into a punk blender, led by a howling madman who will manage to namecheck the band hundreds of times within the set. Pure entertainment. Interesting that Mr. Spencer hasn't gotten his due for an advanced recognition of the Power of Branding way back in the '90's...

Supper was a tough call, and it was made at the expense of Perfume Genius, whom i had been looking forward to very much...

Cat Power hit the stage with only an electric guitar, kicking off with her take on the Rolling Stones "Satisfaction", before ceding the stage to the Dirty Delta Blues Band, and rolling into a more familiar set.
(PS: West Coasters, if you've never seen Cat Power, look up her date at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur at the end of October. Should be a magical show...)

Superchunk, like Sonic Youth the previous evening, raised a flag for the oldsters, hitting the stage running and never looking back in a short set that mixed in some new stuff, but relied on their classics at opportune moments, including a slam/bang closing of "Slack Motherfucker" and "Precision Auto". Looking forward to seeing their whole set at the Wiltern Theater in L.A. later this month.

Spoon's set left me with mixed feelings...the music was razor sharp, the band was in form, and Britt Daniels was in his element. What held this back from being a weekend defining set, (for me), was the lighting setup. On the plus side, it seemed like they scavenged what was left of Pavement's overhead string lights for decorative purposes...on the not so plus side, the spotlights behind the band members shining directly into the audience were so overbearing I gave up after a handful of songs and watched the proceedings from the bar. After so many shows in a row, perhaps I was oversensitive, but it felt like my brain was being drilled into, and i could not discern what impact they hoped to achieve. In the vindication department, several times between songs, audience members could be heard screaming "lose the lights". And, quite frankly, this is a band with such a deep catalogue that they could have played with the house lights up, and it wouldn't have mattered. Notable high point of the set was a cover of the late Jay Reatard's 'No Time', that made up for the lighting shenanigans.

Capping off a lovely evening, and showcasing their newest album, were the inimitable Belle & Sebastian, who swelled the stage to almost 'Lyle Lovettl-esque' proportions. Any questions about their stature as a headliner were answered by a charming set delivered to an audience of devotees. If there will ever be another Smiths, in terms of audience adoration, this unit could be it. At one point in the set, Stuart Murdoch unleashed some autographed footballs into the audience, (rivalling the prowess he would demonstrate later in the evening at drunken hoops in the Hardwood Suite). The topper was bringing up random audience members onstage for their moment of glory, and then presenting them with medals...A classy, (and humorous), act all the way.

The post festivities featured brand new act Esben and The Witch leading off, with a powerfully hypnotic set.
Cold Cave and Dead Meadow followed to run things into the wee hours, but alas, without me...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Matador 21, or Doom To All Ye Who Enter Here...

With just a few hours respite to pack and (ahem) sleep, the weekend continued. After rolling north to home from the Hollywood Bowl, the new day started by tacking eastward across the state, through the mountains toward the desert. Destination: Las Vegas! Mission: 3 days of bands and love to celebrate the 21st birthday of Matador Records, a.k.a. 'The Lost Weekend'. (Insert your favorite Ray Milland riff here).

Due to the sheer hell of driving into Vegas on a Friday, needless to say our arrival was somewhat delayed, missing the Opening Ceremonies, and sets by Guitar Wolf and Chavez. Word of mouth was that Chavez did a killer set. File under d'ohh!
After finally getting lodging squared away, it was a seamless jaunt through registration, then double back to hit the floor.

Action time started with Fucked Up (from Toronto), fittingly named to meld perfectly with the day.
They unleashed a hellish storm of their own particular brand of noise, spurred on by the antics of lead instigator Pink Eyes (Damian), who took every cue to leave the stage and walk the earth like Cain, dispensing sweaty bro hugs, continuing to sing, and generally having a good old time.

Highly enjoyable, and the high point of the set was bringing out his toddler son Holden, complete w/ear protection, to hang out with dad for a song.

A band that made an impact, and it would not be the last we heard of Fucked Up over the course of the weekend.

The remainder of the evening in some ways mirrored the previous, and in some ways not...

The final two acts of the regular schedule were: Sonic Youth and Pavement, reprising the previous night's entertainment, but with slightly different results.

Sonic Youth, if it were at all possible, came off even heavier, staying in the same songbook parameters of the previous eve, (i.e. before 1994, for the most part), but spreading the love across albums more evenly, rather than focusing on any one.

Their set culminated with Thurston in the audience with Lee and Kim piling on to trigger feedback the ravaged the hall. Truly memorable.

Pavement also, it can be said, was truly memorable, but not the kind that inspires postcards back home. Standoffishness and seeming sniping amongst the troops could not salvage the periodic outbreaks of enthusiasm, and the show, (and the U.S. tour), fell apart at the end, with Spiral Stairs (Scott Kannberg), stalking off stage due to what was reportedly 'monitor issues'. This reunion was always a gambling proposition, and the cool part is that whatever internal issues still exist, they held it together until the very end. Aside from this show, the previous three I saw ranged from good to great...a testament to a band that historically was never noted for its live consistency. All one can say is 'Thanks for the memories', and when i dwell on the group, I shall surely be thinking of the first US show of the tour, a brilliant gambol through their history at the Fox Theater in Pomona, Ca in April. The stuff of which dreams are made...

There was still more to come, with a special ballroom performance of Ted Leo V. Fucked Up, wherein the bands traded cover versions, as well as a quieter afterparty with James McNew from Yo La Tengo manning the decks. Peeked into both, but at that point my body was in shutdown mode, and it was time to retire semi.gracefully.