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!