TV On The Radio @ Fox Theater, Oakland- May 22nd, 2009

TV On The Radio

with Dirty Projectors

Fox Theater, Oakland, CA

May 22nd, 2009

TV On The Radio thoroughly rocked the crowd last night at Oakland’s newly renovated and re-opened Fox Theater- which is the most gorgeous venue I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing a show at. Dave Longstreth‘s Dirty Projectors opened the show, running through a mere handful of songs in their allotted 36 minutes, closing with the stellar Fluorescent Half-Dome. Let’s catch up with them in a few weeks when their new album Bitte Orca hits us, but tonight was all TVOTR‘s.

“They were really intense, like so into it” said some girl to her date as the crowd shuffled out. Yeah, my sentiments exactly, except without the California accent and ride back to Walnut Creek. I kid, I kid; I had a long day and I really don’t like people all that much.

The intensity of said music was mirrored by the excellent lighting effects and psychedelic patchwork tapestry backdrop- after all, lead singer Tunde Adebimpe and musical mastermind Dave Sitek are art/film school guys, so I’m pretty sure the arty visual vibe was conceived to match up with TVOTR‘s space-age synth-drone-soul-art-rock thing they got goin’ on. Actually, that’s more of a disservice than anything else- trying to describe their sound or force them into a genre is so above them- talk about square peg, round hole (don’t fit…)

They played the whole new album (almost, save for Lover’s Day– which I read in an interview they’ll never play live, just listen to the lyrics and you’ll understand why). Standout tracks from the dark Return To Cookie Mountain (the driving, shout-out to the balcony jam Blues From Down Here, one of 2006’s best songs Wolf Like Me, the churning and anthemic Dirtywhirl, and an all-percussion encore with the song A Method) as well as the two songs from their debut album that caught my attention way back in 2004; Staring At The Sun and Dreams.

Setlist:

Love Dog

Dreams

Blues From Down Here

Halfway Home

Golden Age

Wolf Like Me

Crying

Dirtywhirl*

Staring At The Sun

Red Dress

Shout Me Out

Dancing Choose

DLZ

ENCORE

Family Tree

Stork & Owl

A Method

* – during the outro of Dirtywhirl, the band did the refrain from Warren G‘s Regulate (the last verse; “if you smoke like I smoke / then you high like every day / and if your ass is a buster / 213 will regulate” sung by Nate Dogg. Remember that jam? The under 25 crowd there looked completely clueless, and I wasn’t about to explain it to the high school kids next to me or the Urban Outfitters’ employess behind me…)

Pictures? Oh yeah, we got pix (click on image to enlarge):


Wavves @ Bottom Of The Hill, San Francisco- April 13th, 2009

Wavves

with Vampire Hands & That Ghost

Bottom Of The Hill, San Francisco, CA

April 13th, 2009

Oh, the kids were out late on a school night! Another all-ages show at the Bottom Of The Hill, and I gotta say for whatever reason people hate teenagers, they sure bring the energy. WavvesNathan Williams (and tour drummer Ryan Ulsh) matched the crowd’s ferocious, raw, “young-dumb-and-full-of-cum” vibe with forty minutes of straight-ahead, balls-to-the-wall intensity; tearing through songs with distorted riffs for days and pounded kit-skins as the pit surged and buckled against itself (as well as the stage).

Wavves‘ sound on the records is a fuzzy, feedback driven murk with vocals pushed way down in the mix. Not so as a live act; Williams‘ vocals were intelligible and at the front of the mix, the layers of fuzz were stripped away (I’m not saying the guitar was “clean”, just less rough around the edges) and the drumming was nothing short of explosive.

Openers That Ghost (from nearby Santa Rosa) and Vampire Hands (Minneapolis, represent!) were also excellent; a fine pairing to match Wavves‘ sound. Two more bands I’m going to go ahead and give an endorsement for; I’m looking forward to hearing more from these two bands.

Pictures!

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Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy @ The Fillmore, San Francisco- March 30th, 2009

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

with Pillars & Tongues

The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA

March 30th, 2009


You know, I have unrealistic expectations of music.

I imagine there’s supposed to be this community built up around albums and musicians; you may have gathered as a reader of this website that this is a community I love very much and I take very seriously (most of the time). I have what you might say is an un-natural attachment to music, this attachment is so important and vital to me that I actually write about it for free. I think it’s because I don’t have a whole lot of passion for many other things; when you find something as authentic as the feeling music creates inside you, then you just gravitate towards that and life works itself out in the meantime.

There’s a strong bond that’s supposed to be formed between artist and listener; probably because when it’s made from the heart there’s a whole set of real emotions attached to creating music and then performing it- which is why I attend concerts in the first place, why I more or less “get off” on it.

Will Oldham is so acutely aware of the bond he’s created with his fans, so in tune with his art and the feeling it gives that there’s no doubt in my mind it’s just as amazing an experience for him to let us into his world as it is for us to let him in to ours. (That’s a pretty awkward sentence but I can’t re-word it to actively convey what it is I’m trying to say; I guess I’m muddling the whole thing with too many words…)

Anyway, Monday night at The Fillmore was one of those moments when the circuit was completed- performer and audience in communion as one. I’ve read that Will Oldham created his Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy character out of the necessity for creating a space where he can step outside his normal world and “be” an actor while on stage, in order to deliver the best performance possible. Says the Bonnie persona in a recent interview:

I think it was just created by the fact that there was “somebody” being interacted with that I started to recognize. There were two things… people treating a person as a person but I didn’t know that there was a person yet.

Part actor, part musician, part comedian; Will (or Bonnie) gave the best performance he could possibly bring- he was bright, funny, serious, sad, mellow, excitable- in short, I got what I paid for. And more, courtesy of the superb supporting cast: Cheyenne Mize on vocals and violin, Josh Abrams on bass, Jim White on drums, Emmett Kelly on guitar and Jon Kempf on mandolin. Also, openers Pillars & Tongues helped out on the encore.

No setlist- I was too much into being a fan and enjoying myself to try to keep an accurate list of songs. Someone probably is going to post it on setlist.fm.

I do have pics…

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Antony and the Johnsons @ Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium – February 24, 2009

Antony & The Johnsons

with William Basinski

Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA; February 24th, 2009

You know how I know I’m getting old? Because now when I go to shows I get really excited if it’s a seated event. I also, for the last couple of years, will show up extra early at certain venues that have limited seating so that I can claim my seat and sit my lazy ass down before the show even starts. So when I heard a while back that Antony and the Johnsons would be coming to SF for the Noise Pop Festival I was happy to hear they were playing at the Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium. Not only had I never been to a show there, but we got pretty decent seats in the balcony.

The first time I ever listened to Cripple and the Starfish I actually cried because it was so heartbreaking. Ever since I have been a huge fan and couldn’t wait to see them live. Opening for the band was William Basinski who Antony explained to the audience was a major influence to him when he was growing up. Basinski‘s music was more of an ethereal soundscape playing in the background while the crowd got settled in their seats. He was making music using a laptop and two strange devices that I could not identify. The audience asked him to explain what he was using at the end of his set but he did not.

Antony and his band quietly took stage; he sat down at his piano and instantly commanded the attention of the audience with the beautiful intensity of his voice. The first half of the set consisted mostly of new material. I had listened to the new album The Crying Light a few times before that night, but hearing it live in a space with such great sound brought it completely alive. I think Antony has a voice that you either completely love or you completely hate. I happen to love it and got completely lost in it during every song. About half way through the set he began to sing a song that I vaguely recognized. After a few seconds I realized it was Beyonce‘s Crazy In Love. I had seen a performance of this on YouTube, but the rendition he played at this show was way more haunting and lovely. I searched around on YouTube and found a video of him covering the song at another show in Toronto.

A few times throughout the show Antony chatted with the audience. He was very charming and witty. I think I would actually pay to just sit and listen to him talk and tell stories because he’s so adorable. At one point he told the crowd how much he hates it when audience members shout out song requests, saying it reminded him of children begging for candy. Just after his remark he went on to play what I imagine are crowd favorites. He also performed a two song encore that ended the night on a perfect note. I thought it was an incredible show. If you get the opportunity to see Antony and the Johnsons live do go see them, you will not be disappointed.

Setlist:

Where is my Power?
Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground
Epilepsy Is Dancing
One Dove
For Today I Am a Boy
Kiss My Name
Everglade
Another World
Shake that Devil
Crazy in Love (Beyoncé cover)
Fistful of Love
You Are My Sister
Aeon
Encore:
Cripple and the Starfish
Hope There’s Someone

BLK JKS @ Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco- March 9th, 2009

BLK JKS

w/ The Botticellis & The Dry Spells

Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco, CA; March 9th, 2009

I can’t put into words how important I think this band is about to become- if you haven’t already read my review of BLK JKS stellar debut EP, Mystery; do that now. Keep that link open and listen to the whole record- I’m sure you have 19 minutes somewhere in your day to sneak in a listen. Don’t even read the review, just listen.

Okay, you’re back.

Last night at SF’s Rickshaw Stop I was able to get myself right to the front of the crowd as South Africa’s BLK JKS were loading their gear on to the stage; since this is not only their first tour of the states, it’s also their first visit here, so no road crew. I was also able to chat up their manager after the show, (yo Knox– you rule!) who let me in on what they did after they first arrived here (recording 12-hour days for three weeks straight) for the upcoming full-length album (possible release date the first week of August, look for that on Secretly Canadian). He basically said they have about two hours of songs that need to be cut down to about an hour, meaning more possible EPs? I don’t know, but I’m fucking excited for this band.

I also got to chat with guitarist Mpumi Mcata, who related how they traveled by van (Bloomington, Indiana to Chicago to LA to SF) to all their shows and were due to board a flight in about five hours to play a couple of shows in NYC, then fly down to Austin for a string of shows at SXSW Festival. Welcome to America, please enjoy your stay.

So what about the show?

I can rattle off a list of phrases like soulful, a mix of prog jamming and tightly orchestrated sections, at times scary- pure, unadulterated raw energy unleashed on the crowd from Mpumi‘s axe; the speakers were used like a weapon of mass destruction to all ears in the room. Between drummer Tshepang‘s volatile explosiveness behind the kit, to bassist Molefi‘s bend-down-low bass lines and lead singer Lindani‘s emotive vocals and spirited guitar playing, I was literally blown the fuck away. Amazing. So much so that words fail me; please- look at the pics.

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Les Savy Fav @ Mezzanine, San Francisco- March 1, 2009

Les Savy Fav

w/ The Mae Shi & The Drums

Mezzanine, San Francisco, CA

March 1st, 2009

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The Noise Pop Festival is a god-send for a music geek like me- free or cheap shows, awesome talent, all in one week, all in the same city. What else do you need? I figured after Deerhunter and No Age, this show on the final night of the festival may just be a bit of a let down.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

First off, I got there for the end of The Drums‘ set, which is basically two guys killing their drum sets. In the best possible way- it was like a drum circle gone completely right. If you’ve ever been to a drum circle (and you don’t use drugs) they are the most god-awful boring collection of burn-out hippie LSD casualties who can’t stay in rhythm for more than nine seconds, and that’s if you’re lucky. This was a freak fest between two dudes with heavily processed vocal effects as they beat the shit out of their skins. Rad.

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Next up, and I have to admit I didn’t know what to expect from The Mae Shi. I first checked these guys out last year after their last album, Hlllyh, got a ton of great reviews- I basically said “meh”. Then I checked them out again after I interviewed fellow LA-scensters Mega Wand a few weeks ago. I was still on the fence.

Well, not anymore. One of the best live performances I’ve ever seen; I don’t wanna say they stole the spotlight from Les Savy Fav, but they came close. I knew what to expect from the LSF, so they were delightfully rocking with hi-jinks a-plenty and all that- I’ve seen a ton of Tim Harrington‘s craziness on the YouTube, so it was delivered as promised. But The Mae Shi I knew nothing of- and they fucking rocked.

I don’t know what they call their music; I’d call it electro-pop spazzcore because it was completely beyond anything I’d seen (at least in person); totally interactive, wandering down into the crowd, covering the crowd with this huge parachute (it must’ve looked cool from the balcony, I was underneath that shizz, yo), taking apart the drum set during a song and re-assembling it on the left side of the stage, just fucking crazy and entertaining.

I’ve been going over their bio, and this band has gone through more line-up changes in the last five years than, shit- I can’t think of a band that’s only been around a short time and gone through so many members; I think eight or nine it looks like. The current line-up (this may be a mistake) is Jonathan Gray on lead vocals and keyboards, Jeff Byron on guitar and vocals, Tim Byron handling the bass (and vocals) and Brad Breeck manning the drums. Is that right?

Anyway, I’m a fan now. I just saw that they’re playing 15 shows in four days at the SXSW Festival in Austin. That’s amazing.

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Now on to Les Savy Fav– I kept thinking, “how do they top that?” referring to The Mae Shi‘s awesomeness. They didn’t need to top it- they did something completely different. Tim Harrington is fucking hilarious.

Dude comes on stage wrapped in toilet paper carrying a six-pack of Corona…

…the rest of what happened is here:

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Setlist:

What Would Wolves Do?

The Equestrian

Patty Lee

The Slip

Yawn Yawn Yawn

We’ll Make A Lover Of You

Hold On To Your Genre

Pills

Je T’aime

Dishonest Don Part 2

The Lowest Bitter

ENCORE:

Raging In The Plague Age

Who Rocks The Party

Les Savy Fav is Tim Harrington– Vocals, Seth Jabour– Guitar, Harrison Haynes– Drums, Syd Butler– Bass and Andrew Reuland– Guitar