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

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

No Age @ Bottom Of The Hill, San Francisco- March 1, 2009

No Age

w/ White Circle Crime Club, Infinite Body, Veil Veil Vanish

Bottom Of The Hill, San Francisco, CA

March 1st, 2009

Wow and/or Holy Shit. Both superlatives here are capitalized for emphasis; to mark the special occasion. The occasion being that I was damn impressed with No Age‘s sold out gig this afternoon; an all-ages day show at a place known for its well-stocked bar and drink specials, for extra irony the wristbands said “I’m drug free” to discourage any minors that may be in attendance from enjoying themselves illegally.

For all of its screeching, sonic glory (not to mention a very special guest…) there was more energy squeezed into that tiny room than whatever physics happens on the surface of ten suns. It was crazy for the young folks’ mosh pit/impromptu stage diving in front, to us old heads towards the middle/back; we’re content to show some restraint just bobbing and thrashing about without slamming bodies.

Gotta love the kids- and the kids love the No Age. This writer loves the No Age. Last year’s album/song/band of the year, they took my shit by absolute storm in June and I haven’t gone more than three days without listening to something by them. Those EPs were hard to find, lemme tell ya…

After last Tuesday’s ear-splitting show from Deerhunter, ear plugs now seem like a great idea.

Setlist:

Every Artist Needs A Tragedy

Teen Creeps

Here Should Be My Home

Cappo

My Life’s Alright Without You

Ripped Knees

NEW Song (I think he said “Soiled Mattress”)

Sleeper Hold

Eraser

New Song (Again, I think it was something like “New Jew Crew Cut”)

Brain Burner

Boy Void

Miner*

New Day Rising*

ENCORE: Everybody’s Down

* – with special guest, Bob Mould! (yeah, that Bob Mould; of Husker Du and Sugar fame…)

Some highlights would include Randy Randall being an absolute madman on the gee-tar, I don’t know how that dude doesn’t have a broken neck from his head banging, it looked like it was gonna pop off. And Dean Spunt‘s drumming was perfect; sloppy when it needed to be, and tight as hell the next instance- a perfect interplay between polished and punk. The setlist had no weak holes- every song played was what should’ve been played. None of that “oh, man they didn’t do blah blah blah“, because this was a fucking rock concert- I wanted to see high energy rock and my face got melted. Also, the absolute joy in Randy‘s announcement that they just got to play with Bob Mould– “a dream come true” (I think he said) which is rad, to be able to play with one of your idols, a passing the torch if you will. Our generation does a lot of trashing on the old guys; it was sure nice to see the young guys in awe. Dean and Randy‘s smiles (as well as Bob‘s) were fucking epic. It’s uplifting to see that kind of joy. Music fucking rules.

PICTURES? Sure, you want ’em, you got ’em:

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Deerhunter @ Mezzanine, San Francisco – February 24, 2009

False intro: It’s been almost 19 hours since I left the Deerhunter show last night- I hope this buzzing in my left ear subsides soon, I’d really like to hear normally again.

Real intro: Noise Pop ’09 got off to a banging start last night with a free show at the Mezzanine featuring the aforementioned Atlanta quartet- who, for all intents and purposes, seamlessly blended noise and pop into a bubbling, seething cauldron of bombastic rock and roll delivered it at an excessive volume. Which was exactly what I wanted to see.

I had been wondering (never having seen Deerhunter in person before) how they’d translate their sound to the stage- I’ve described their studio efforts as creepy, melodic, brooding, ambient, dark, basically all over the place; so I was intrigued to say the least. Getting blasted in the face with a tsunami-like wall of guitar feedback; now that was nice.

If Deerhunter is coming to your town any time soon, I’d say get your ass there.

Setlist (from Hippies Are Dead):

Cryptograms

Never Stops

Rainwater*

Disappearing*

Spring Hall Convert

Nothing Ever Happened

Famous Last Words*

Saved By Old Times

Agoraphobia

Hazel St.

Microcastle

Encore:

Calvary Scars

* – brand new songs

Anyway; I can’t top that excellent review from Hippies Are Dead, that guy’s shit is spot on. He’s got some good pics up on flickr, but I’ve got mine right here:

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