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Despite being pretty beat, I went to see The National and The Rosebuds last night at the 9:30 Club, hoping that the underwhelming show I saw in June was an aberration. Friend of information leafblower R.D. came down from NYC for the June show, but caught The National recently at South Street Seaport and said the show was so good his "trust in the decency of the common man had been restored." Yes please.
Unfortunately while playing a very good show last night, the band and venue still highlighted their collective weaknesses more than their strengths. Boxer, grainy, emotional and gorgeous on CD, lacks a bit in the pacing department live and I just couldn't get past this. Matt was also battling a bit of a cold, which didn't help things.
It almost seemed that the band was holding back last night. On the few occasions they put their guard down and let 'er rip ("Abel" and "Squalor Victoria" for instance) it was truly a thing of beauty that made you think "I am so glad I'm here rather than at home watching Andy Roddick lose to Roger Federer in straight sets." But any momentum would soon be lost when they would follow up with a slowie that brought the energy in the room down again. Alligator worked because "Mr. November's" yin evened out "Daughters of the Soho Riots" yang. And "Daughters" sounds all the better because of it. Boxer lacks the songs that punch you right in the gut (sorry for the horrible pun).
That said, they played "All The Wine" (YAY!) with a wonderful new arrangement and did the slow-then-fast tempo for "Apartment Story" that worked so well back in June. The highlight of the show was definitely the venue-wide singalong to all the words of "Fake Empire."
Similarly, try as I might, I simply cannot get into The Rosebuds. They've garnered all sorts of praise on blogs far and wide, but after seeing them twice, I just can't get into them.
Midlake are at the Black Cat tonight, and although I do want to see them, I need a night off. If you go, tell me how it was.
After The National played their first song at the 9:30 Club last night, they did the headlinerly thing and thanked the opening bands for playing with them. And then Matt Berninger said "Happy Birthday Kevin." Who the fuck is this Kevin dude and why is he ruining my birthday? No buzz.
Seriously though, I've had a rough last week and a half or so at work (for reasons I won't get into) and on the way to the show last night I told Ms. Smith that I hoped I would feel better at the show, watching the band play. I was wrong. I was in a much better mood before the show even started after hanging out with everyone that came out to help me celebrate my birthday and eat cupcakes. Chatting and hanging with my friends was just what the doctor ordered. So thanks everyone. I needed that.
As for the show itself, it was very good but not great. Loyal readers know that I heart The National and their new record, but it seemed last night their weaknesses outdid their strengths. Through most of the set, they just seemed like five guys onstage playing instruments. Their sound was very thin and they had problems filling up the room. The pacing of the set was a bit suspect as well. Most of the more uptempo numbers were held back for the latter half of the set, which made for a low key start to the show. The new record - full of slow, brooding numbers - certainly contributed to that effect. Also, no "All The Wine." WTF?
There were some outstanding moments, none of which I can remember directly because I was slightly to fairly drunk. There were quite a few songs that had me dancing around like no one was watching. One of the songs off of the new record got a new arrangement and it sounded great, but I can't remember which one it was. "Lit Up" and "Mr. November" got the chatty Cathy's standing all around us to shut the fuck up and actually watch the show.
Other than this Kevin fellow "ruining" my night, I hereby declare my 33rd birthday a success!
NPR streamed last night's show on the web and you can go to their site to hear the show in it's entirety.
Still numb from last night. I'm afraid to go on the interwebs. I just can't look at Greg Oden's mug right now.
The optimist in me says the Celtics will still be pretty good next year, Al Jeff is a 20-10 guy now, PP is still PP, Rajon Rondo will get the keys to the car and maybe, just maybe, Gerald Green will start to get it. Add in someone like Corey Brewer or Brandon Wright and we'll improve quite a bit. But then the pessimist in me keeps crying out "FOR FUCK'S SAKE! This is what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket!" over and over again. Well, if nothing else draft time should be full of suspense for Celtics Nation. Do we keep the pick or trade it? How will Atlanta screw up this year? Will we be able to capitalize?
I'm really, really glad I went out last night. It was much better for me than sitting at home and stewing over this all night. Many thanks to Ms. Smith for expertly talking me down off the ledge as the night wore on.
Due to the draft debacle I missed Le Loup's set. Let's just assume they were awesome and move on. I did see The Rosebuds, and they were pretty great. Very peppy and full of energy and every song had some sort of "la la la," "oh oh oh," or "yeah yeah yeah." Right up my alley! They just started their tour, so be sure to check them out when they roll through your hood. Here's a taste of their musical stylings:
[MP3] The Rosebuds | Bluebird
You too. Argh! Make it stop!
William Orbit brought electronica into the mainstream and gave Madonna back her cool. Now he's ditching the synths altogether in favour of an orchestra.
Talk about coincidence...Late (and I mean late) in the day on Friday I was handed two tickets to Saturday's Spoon show in Baltimore. Saturday was also my blog birthday (for lack of a better term). In my first ever blog post I mentioned that I hoped to find out why Spoon isn't the biggest band in the world, so that made for a pleasant surprise when their area show fell on the same day.
Seriously though, it's not like it takes much to get me excited about seeing one of my favorite bands. I've been a fan since Series of Sneaks . We used to have a promo copy of that album at the office and I listened to it constantly, just to hear the "Ma ma ma, Ma ma ma, Ma ma ma" in "Car Radio." Best. "30 Gallon Tank" is easily one of my 10 favorite songs evah. I could go on...
The last time I saw Spoon was at the Pitchfork Festival last year, which I'm sure most people would agree wasn't their best hour. They just seemed out of sorts and under-rehearsed, and I'm not saying that just because I'm still bitter that they didn't play "Chicago at Night." Saturday's show, however, was completely different. They sounded tight and wowed the crowd as they worked their way through a set mostly filled with material from their last two albums and a smattering of songs from the upcoming Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. The only old stuff they played was "Fitted Shirt," "I Could See The Dude," and "Anything You Want." The last song in particular was a real treat. I heart Girls Can Tell.
That was also my first ever trip to Sonar in Baltimore, which is a nice enough place but I'm not sure if I'll be going back anytime soon. There are four big columns in the middle of the room, and that, coupled with a seemingly impenetrable line of tall people running through the middle of the venue made seeing anything pretty much impossible. And I have no idea who was doing the lights at the show, but they were obviously a noob. The show was basically lit by four spotlights mounted in the middle of the room, which is like going to see one of your favorite artists and having them lit by four high powered flashlights. The stage had all sorts of lights on it, and they were all working for the opener The Oranges Band (who weren't half bad), but they couldn't figure it out for the headliners. That was terribly frustrating because I thought the lighting set up was going to lead to some nice shots. Alas, we're stuck with the B & W shots above. I don't feel bad complaining about the lighting though, because Britt complained about it all through the show (as well he should have). Still, all in all a great show. I even bought a shirt!
Here are some live Spoon tracks to get you as excited as I was in Saturday:
[MP3] Spoon | The Two2 Sides of Monsieur Valentine (live)
[MP3] Spoon | The Way We Get By (Live on WERS)
Lastly: I'm trying out a new slideshow app I found online. What do you think? Better than me posting one or two pics and directing you to Flickr? Worse? Thoughts?
It's a credit to Ted Leo's ability as a performer that I wasn't really in the mood to go out last night and he still blew me away. Other than "Sons of Cain," I'm not really feeling the new record, which he delved into quite a bit last night, although "Bomb. Repeat. Bomb" sounded much better than the recorded version. The biggest cheers were for his older material, specifically "Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone" and "Counting Down The Hours." Also, the Pharmacists are a three piece now, so the sound as a whole was filled out much better than the last few tours. I'm still not comfortable seeing him in big spaces like the 9:30 Club though. I think his shows work best at tiny clubs with sweat dripping from the ceiling, but judging by the size of the crowd last night, those venues might be a thing of the past for Ted, at least in major cities.
Ms. Smith and I were beat, so we left a bit early, but I still had a good time and a smile on my face when I left the venue. Love of Diagrams were a pretty good opener. I loved their guitars but their singing was a bit rough. If you get a chance to see them on this tour, let me know what you think.
My photos of the night can be found here. I edited these in a hurry late last night, so I may post more photos later if/when I have time to go back through them.
My big night of concert hopping never materialized, as I didn't get Dean & Britta tickets. I was really looking forward to hearing "Moon Palace" and "Chinatown" but I couldn't really justify paying $30 for half a show. Especially when I'm off to Europe in less than a month. I'll just have to watch my Luna DVD over the weekend and hope they tour again soon.
Tuesday's Cold War Kids show was fairly craptastic. I hate to agree with Pitchfork, but they were all flash and no substance. I didn't like them at all. Actually I liked two songs, "Hospital Beds" and "Hang Me Up To Dry," you know - the ones with verses and choruses, but other than that I was bored to tears. Same with Tokyo Police Club and that other band that opened. Booooring. Also, I got screwed on my photo pass, so I wasn't exactly in the best of moods.
Back to the world of the NBA tonight. The Raptors are in town.
Hear me now, believe me later, the future is bright for The Changes. You don't create and perfect a sound that takes the Boo Radleys' song writing, adds in Teenage Fanclub's harmonies and some Marr-like riffage and stay anonymous very long. At least in my corner of the internets.
I had seen them once before, late last year at the Rock N Roll Hotel and was a bit underwhelmed, but only just. The band was a bit aloof on stage and the pacing of their set was a bit suspect. Well, they've improved both those things and their show on Saturday at the Recher Theater in Towson, Md. was well worth a trip to the land of people that don't drive so good.
The Recher is a larger version of the Rock N Roll Hotel that at first glance looks a bit worse for the wear, but it's a nice little room with a great soundsystem, tall stage and most importantly, an actual pro-level lighting rig!
The band put on a very energetic show, which was not easy to do seeing as that there were less than 40 people in attendance (and that includes the other two bands). And now that I've seen them twice, I don't think the band is necessarily aloof, they're just too busy switching instruments between every song to stop and chat with the crowd.
I think they played a new song to start out the set, but from there, they focused mainly on the material from Today Is Tonight, one of my favorite records of 2006. The pacing problems that plagued their previous show were fixed by moving the slower songs like "On A String" to the latter part of the set and working out a new, sped up arrangement of "Sisters" that kept everything moving along nicely. Smiths-ian tunes like "Water on the Gods" and "Modern Love" were full of jangly goodness and set closer "Her, You and I" brought the house down.
Consider me fully on board The Changes' bandwagon, that is, if there is such a thing. If not, it starts here. If you didn't catch them on this tour, fear not. After taking April off, they'll be back out on the road in May with The Cinematics. They'll be hitting the Rock n Roll Hotel on their way through D.C., so when I get the date, I'll be sure to let you know.
In the meantime, download some tracks from the band:
WOXY has a Lounge Act by the band available to download.
Daytrotter also has a set just waiting to be downloaded. I highly recommend "Her, You and I" and "Water of the Gods," the best stab at "This Charming Man" that I've heard in quite some time.
You can also stream some music on their MySpace page.
All my photos from the night are over on Flickr.
Friday I took my first ever trip up to American University to catch Snow Patrol, OK Go & Silversun Pickups play Bender Arena. For a basketball gym, it's not a bad venue at all. There's plenty of room to move around on the floor and there are an abundance of seats along the side and back of the gym, so everybody's happy. The sound was great too. Can we move all the shows at DAR up here ASAP?
As for the gig, I viewed Snow Patrol as a second rate u2 going into the show and my opinion hasn't really changed that much, but they were still much better than I thought they'd be. Gary Lightbody is a very capable front man and he's skilled at grabbing the crowd's attention and not letting go. Playing all those songs with big choruses that people love to sing along to certainly doesn't hurt. Crowd participation is a big part of their show, so I think seeing them in a big arena is the way to go. They stayed away from most of the stuff I know off of Final Straw, but all in all, not too bad.
I had seen OK Go once before, opening for Rufus Wainwright. I wasn't very impressed back then or with their set on Friday. Their songs sounded unremarkable and hooks were far and few between. The best thing they did all night was a cover of ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down." I think at this point it's safe to say I'm not a fan. However, I will give them propers for not dancing this time.
I've gone on record many times saying that I think the Silversun Pickups are bovs and they did not let me down. They were alloted a very short set, which was perfect for them because they played their five or six best songs and got the hell out of there. When I saw them last year, I predicted they'd be mega once they got a proper sound system behind them and I was right. They'll be ready to headline shows like this in a few years.
Check out my Silversun Pickups interview from last year.
Silversun Pickups on AOL's The Interface.
Silversun Pickups on Woxy's Lounge Acts.
Scroll down for all three Silversun Pickups performances at KEXP.
As far as I can remember, that was the first time I've had the opportunity to shoot an arena show and I was unsure as to how to go about it. I brought all four of my lenses and it took me a long time to figure out which one worked best. The SSPU's were lit by this searing blue light and red fills and OK Go was bathed in straight red and I had a hard time getting any good shots. Snow Patrol's set was easier because they relied more on their lighted backdrop and some straight flood lights. I always bitch about not having enough light to shoot shows, right? Well Friday I got what I asked for and I had a hard time coping. Every time I start thinking I'm getting good at this photo thing, I have a gig like this that sets me straight.
No rest for the wicked though. I have a very full week ahead of me. I might be going to see The Decemberists in Bethesda tonight(although I doubt the tickets will come through), then there's Say Hi To Your Mom and De Novo Dahl on Tuesday, Cold War Kids on Wednesday, Ted Leo on Thursday, Raps @ Wiz on Friday. Whew.
I put on a hell of a show last night at DC9 if I do say so myself. We had a good crowd considering there is a sheet of ice blanketing the U Street corridor. And while I would have liked it if more people showed up, the upstairs was pretty crowded and there were never more than three people at the bar downstairs during the show, so everyone that came out came to see the rock. And good lord did Pela bring it. Wow! You really need to go see them and be prepared to rock out when you do. I kept comparing them to a cross between the Old 97's and War-era u2 before the show, but they reminded me more of The Hold Steady last night. Great tunes and a big, fuck off rock sound. They were insanely great. When their set was done, the crowd wouldn't let them leave. They ended up playing three extra songs, including a cover of the Pixies' "Holiday Song."
These United States were no slouches either. Jesse and Co. put n a very engaging show that veered from slow country jams to full-on boogie workouts. Best. People were coming up to me all night saying how much they liked their set. I can't wait to see them again. John and Laura, our resident DJ's for the evening, played New Edition and the Geto Boys, so hey, what more can you ask for?
I declare Unbuckled 5 a success!
You can see all of my Unbuckled 5 photos over on Flickr.