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.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Night At The Bowl, or Preamble To Insanity...

In and of itself, a night at the Hollywood Bowl in the company of No Age, Sonic Youth, and Pavement sounds like a quaint time with fun for all...But dialing back and looking at the big picture, it represented the first shots fired of an incredible weekend, for it had the good grace to occupy that spot on the calender right before 'The Lost Weekend', Matador Records celebration of its 21st anniversary, at the Palms in Las Vegas.

The next three installments will take care of that action, so now we'll just focus on the matter at hand...

Up first, Los Angeles' own No Age, Dean and Randy making the leap to the big stage with an extra added member wielding samples and adding some extra ooomph to their sound. If you need to do a little compare and contrast, head back to the Coachella 2009 wrapup, and see how they controlled the tent.
Bolstered by songs from their new album: 'Everything In Between', No Age kicked off the proceedings in style, adding depth to their sound without sacrificing its quirkiness, as well as laying the table for the likes of a noisefest the Bowl has probably never witnessed.

In the absence of Pavement being on the road, Sonic Youth absconded with their bass player Mark Ibold, allowing Kim Gordon to move over to guitar and add another dimension to their sound. (see January 2010, Wiltern Theater, LA report for more details) The question was, would Ibold do double duty? Fortunately, (for him) that was not to be...

From the first quivering notes of "Candle", (below), Sonic Youth had the crowd in thrall. It was but the opening salvo in a three song barrage from 'Daydream Nation', (also: "Sprawl" & "'Cross The Breeze"), that set the tone for a trip into the deepest and noisiest recesses of their catalogue. Quartet style, they dropped DN's "Hey Joni", before heading back to "Death Valley 69", and 'EVOL's' "Kiss Me In The Shadow", after which Kim Gordon noted drily: "Thanks a lot, we're Pavement from Sacremento". They finished the set with "White Cross", leaving no doubt as to their undiminished power.

Pavement is on the final lap of its reunion/victory lap around the world, and given their spotty history as a live act, it's been a revelation to see these performances. Pavement played to the strengths of their catalogue and delivered a rousing set that leaned heavily on 'Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain' and 'Brighten The Corners'. Bob Nastanovich made the journey along the pool circle wall out into the masses during "Unfair", and the band peaked during a three song arc of: "Stereo", "Stop Breathin'", and "Range Life", (latter below), before finishing with a heartwarming "Here". A satisfying end to a run that defied the normal reunion expectations...

Thanks out to the L.A. Philharmonic, for going way out on a limb with this show...It is appreciated.