Tag Archive: live music


The past few days have been rather productive…

Thursday was my day off. I started by paying my rent and dropping a bill in the mail. Then I went downtown to talk to the ESC about my claim. They told me everything was processed, but evidently there’s still some issue with my claim, so I’m gonna have to call there before work on Monday and see what’s up. I got my letter in the mail and it said there was something wrong, and when I filed my weekly certification it said I wouldn’t be getting paid this week. I’m wondering if the fact that I’m still employed complicates things, or if maybe my boss is trying to fight it or something. Hopefully I can get it figured out soon, because still no bites as far as other jobs go.

When I got home I went on a cleaning spree – vacuuming the living room and my bedroom and cleaning the microwave. I watched a little television and then cooked a nice dinner. Then I went to work on some art. A while back my friend Cassidy asked me to paint her a puppy, so that’s what I did. I did a light wash on some Japanese paper, then when it was dry I drew a cartoon-ish puppy, his doghouse, and some trees in the background. It’s pretty cheesy looking, but I’m fairly certain she’ll like it. Then I started on another piece in my Musings Of A Predator Drone series, which I eventually finished Friday before work. Other than that, Friday was pretty uneventful.

Today I woke up entirely too early to go to Geekout, a convention modeled after the big comic-cons that happen all over the world. I met up with James and Nici there and we roamed around for a while. We were all surprised by just how small it was – they didn’t even fill up the bottom level of UNCA’s basketball stadium. Most of the booths were just people selling prints of their geek culture-themed artwork, and a ridiculous amount of nerdy jewelry. There was live music, but it wasn’t particularly good. There was sword fighting with giant foam swords, a few panel discussions on things none of us were interested in, and gaming rooms where you could pay to play in tournaments. After about an hour and a half we were bored, having walked by every booth three or four times. They left to go see a movie and I picked up a quick lunch and then took a nap. I went back a little before 5:00 for a “shadow cast” of Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. Basically it was a handful of people lip synching along while the actual production played on the screen behind them. The only one who was really in costume was Doctor Horrible, and while he definitely looked the part, he wasn’t particularly good at miming the motions. The guy playing Captain Hammer was tall and scrawny – he’s lucky if he weighs 100 pounds. He basically just wore a black t-shirt with a paper print of the Captain Hammer logo taped to it. The girl who played Penny was actually incredibly hot, and seemed to have a bit more personality than the others, even though her timing and lip synching skills weren’t exactly great either. They recruited people from the audience to do some of the non-essential characters, and in all honesty they did just as good a job as the supposed professionals putting on the production. Overall I’d say Geekout was basically a bust – a good way to kill a few hours, but ultimately disappointing and definitely not worth the cost of admission.

As of this writing I’m basically killing time before dinner, and then after dinner I’ll be going to a concert. The band Murder By Death is playing the Asheville Music Hall. While they’re not necessarily popular, they’re still a pretty big name for a venue that typically gets only local and regional bands. I told my neighbor Angela about the concert, and she looked them up online and decided she wants to go too. She’ll be bringing along her new boyfriend, and based on what she was saying, they’ll most likely leave early or right when it ends. While I’m not a huge fan of MBD, I really like the sound they have going on. Hopefully it will translate well and they’ll put on a pretty good show. I’m under the impression that any band with a cellist will make for an entertaining evening. James and Nici invited me to some burlesque thing at The Boiler Room, but it starts at the same time as the concert. Depending on when the concert ends I might swing by there and check it out, but probably not. I’ll more than likely just come home and veg out, in preparation for a nice boring day tomorrow…..

 

So the last time I wrote something in here I was anticipating going to see A Place To Bury Strangers with my friend Rhiannon. I took Monday off and we decided to meet around 1:00, which would give me a chance to (finally) sleep in. Of course, life had other plans. My landlord called me around 9:00, then again an hour later, and another hour or so later. They decided to send their “other” maintenance guy out to look at our fridge. He works mainly on their other properties, and basically if he says it can’t be fixed, they take his word for it. He looked at my fridge and came to just that conclusion. Hopefully that means I’ll get a new fridge soon. Fingers crossed…..

Also during that I-really-want-to-sleep stage between 9:00 and about 11:30 when I finally got out of bed, Morgan texted me. We chatted a bit and then I had to start getting ready. When I got out of the shower I saw I had a text from Rhiannon saying she was running behind. I took advantage of this extra time by doing a little shopping. I kept texting Morgan, who said she hoped I didn’t get stood up again. I assured her that wouldn’t happen and I tried to find other ways to occupy my time until Rhiannon finally got there.

We arranged to meet at Waffle House. Her car was messing up so she got her roommate, a guy named Ryan, to drive. He bought a ticket at the last minute and they headed to Asheville. It was around 3:00 when they finally got to Waffle House. We talked for a while and caught up, and then we went to the mall so she could look for some new running shoes. Along the way we went to Hollister, where she “ordered” a sex on the beach and I suavely asked the girl at the counter if she came here often. Oh, and Rhiannon freak-danced a mannequin.  After the mall we went to Goodwill. She found a HUGE bra and insisted we pose for pictures with our heads in the cups. One such picture became the most-liked picture on my Facebook page in years. Then we had dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. When the waitress brought out celery, Rhiannon asked her if she had any peanut butter. She’s a complete and total lunatic. Which might be why we’re such good friends.

Finally it was time for the concert. I could write a detailed review like I usually do, but I don’t really have the time. Maybe another day. The short version is this… The opening band was a group called Bleeding Rainbow. They had a girl and guy who sang lead, a guitarist who mostly made random noises, and a drummer who frequently changed beats in the middle of a song. Their overall sound was kinda like if Courtney Love would’ve hooked up with Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine. They were pretty good; I wound up buying their newest album. Turns out the release got delayed and it won’t “officially” be out until January, but they had a few vinyl copies for sale, even though the mp3 download won’t work until the official release.

There really aren’t words to describe A Place To Bury Strangers. I love their first album, and the songs I’d heard of their second, but I wasn’t prepared for what I experienced. They were loud. Very loud. So loud their merch table sold earplugs. So loud that I wish I had bought said earplugs, because nearly two days later my ears were still ringing. We were right up at the stage, so that might have something to do with it. At that point the acoustics worked so as to make the guitars many decibels louder than anything else. Their guitarist/singer/songwriter is actually an engineer who makes all of the effects pedals he uses. And boy is he good at what he does. He created beautiful chaos, waves of sound and noise and feedback. The songs tended to blur into each other because of the sheer power of the guitars, but the band clearly put their hearts into their performance. I don’t remember the last time I saw a band play with such passion and energy. This might actually be one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. In the tiny confines of The Emerald Lounge, their noise-rock sounded positively humongous. The light show was definitely the best I’ve ever seen, with projectors flashing up colors, patterns, flowers, TV clips, you name it. They had strobes and smoke machines galore, creating a beautiful visual experience. The vibe was amazing, and the crowd was mesmerized. For the finale, the guitarist guy put his guitar on the floor and let it feedback and echo, while he went around turning off the projectors and turning on more strobes. He took a strobe and held it up to his guitar, causing all sorts of interference and noise. Then he rubbed it up and down on the strings, creating a cacophony that was epic in every sense of the word. This was a show you truly didn’t want to miss a second of, because there was no telling what would happen next. It seemed like everything was total chaos, yet the band members were fully in control of it all. I don’t know what else to say, except that they are a must-see band.

After the show we drove around looking for bars, but evidently because of the unexpected winter weather they were all closed. We came back to my house and decided to drink there instead. And drink we did! Rhiannon is a bit of a lightweight, but I totally showed my tolerance. I had two ciders at the show, then two big glasses of gin and ginger, a glass of absinthe, a shot of absinthe, a shot of brandy, and half of one of those tiny bottles of flavored vodka. I got a little tipsy, but for the most part was my normal self. Rhi on the other hand got drunk off her ass, on about a third of what I had at that. If you think she’s crazy when she’s sober, you should see her drunk. Easily the most fun night I’ve had in years. The actual sleeping part of the night didn’t go nearly as well, as she’s a bed-hog who kept rolling over in her sleep and pushing me off the bed. We finally got out of bed around 1:00 to find everyone else already up and around.

Rhiannon and Ryan headed back to Charlotte and I headed to Blend to show my stuff to Joel, the guy who is coordinating things. Evidently he didn’t know what time they opened, and when I got there it was locked. He suggested going into nearby Loretta’s while he tried to get someone to come open up. No one ever came, and he liked every piece I brought. Since we couldn’t get into the bar, he took my stuff home and brought it back the next day. I stopped by after work to drop off my tags and sign the insurance waivers and whatnot. Turns out one of the other artists is out of town, so Sunday won’t work for the opening after all. He suggested Thursday, and even though he never said 100% that’s when it would be, that’s what I put on my quickie promotional posters. Hopefully nothing changes and I can actually get some people to come out to this. I’ve never worked with someone this disorganized, so it’s pretty frustrating. But it’s exposure, so hopefully it will be worth it.

Today was my day “off,” but I spent the whole day running around. I got my mini-posters printed and brought some to True Blue, along with a painting for our staff show this month. The rest of my evening was spent eating Chinese takeout, watching TV, and relaxing for a change. Tomorrow and Saturday I have to work, but I’ll be off Sunday. I originally took the day off because of the opening, but now that it’s been moved I have a free day. Morgan said that she might want a break from her studying, so perhaps we’ll get together. I’ll probably spend the rest of the day taking the final exams for my online classes. And that’s about it. The End.

 

Now that I’ve had a little time to gather my thoughts, I figured it was a good time to finally write a concert review…

Anyone who knows me knows that this was easily the most anticipated concert of the year for me. While I’ve slacked off somewhat on Sun Kil Moon, I’m a huge Red House Painters fan. The second I heard that Mark Kozelek was coming to The Grey Eagle I was sold. I bought my ticket a month ago, not willing to risk it selling out. I’ve been listening to the roller coaster album and Ocean Beach almost nonstop for the past week. In retrospect, perhaps I built things up a little too much in my mind. As a whole the show was good, but it’s hard not to be a little disappointed.

The first source of my disappointment came immediately after walking in the door. I was greeted by a sign telling us that the artist has requested there be no photography, video or audio recording, or even cell phone cameras. I’ve never been one of those people who records shows and trades videos and FLAC files, but I do like to snap a few pictures and record a few of my favorite songs, just for my own benefit. Most performers don’t seem to mind that very much; they’re just happy that you came out to the show. So I was a little bummed over that, but I got over it once the show started.

It was clear that this was meant to be an event, more than a concert. It was a seated show, with the lights very dim. Mark Kozelek took the stage, picked up a nylon-stringed acoustic guitar, sat on a stool, and went straight to work. It was several songs before he even said a word to the audience, perhaps preferring to let his music do the talking. He opened with a handful of Sun Kil Moon songs, one RHP track, and a few songs I didn’t recognize that might be new. After this initial set of songs he seemed to loosen up a little, talking more and joking around with the audience. He did a few more songs and then brought a friend up to accompany him on a baby grand piano. They played for almost an hour, doing selections from his entire career, along with a brand new song and a song by his pianist’s band. He abruptly ended things and walked off stage, only to return for an encore in which he took requests from several of the audience members.

Mark’s guitar work was both intricate and sublime, something that doesn’t always come across on his recordings. His voice seemingly hasn’t aged a bit, sounding just as sweet and melodic as it did way back in 1992. But the small, quiet, intimate setting kept the spotlight shining brightly on his lyrics – which seems to be what draws most fans to his music in the first place. Of the songs that I wasn’t familiar with, one in particular was extremely moving. Thanks to his no-taping policy and the fact that this song isn’t on any albums, no one really seems to know much about it. The chorus repeats the line “you missed my heart,” amid verses about lost love, addiction, and other pretty bleak themes. I highly recommend searching for “Mark Kozelek” and “you missed my heart.” There is a version on YouTube that is pretty low quality, but the beauty of the song still manages to come across. One can only hope that this song appears on a future release – or at least that someone manages to record a high quality bootleg.

As he loosened up, Mark showed a pretty crazy sense of humor. He commented on an empty seat up front and how it made him sad. A few minutes later a girl from another part of the audience had moved and filled the seat, prompting him to ask for her number and keep a continuous dialog going for the rest of the show. He made many jokes about being old and not being the sex symbol he was in the mid 90’s. Later in the show someone approached the stage and placed a beer at his feet. He proclaimed that he didn’t drink alcohol anymore, but thanks anyway. The audience mostly took this as a joke – the guy did just finish playing a song about heroin addiction – but seeing him with an O’Doul’s after the show makes me think he was being serious. He talked about how Asheville has been hit hard by the recession, joking (I think?) that the last time he was here people actually paid for merchandise with checks.

After the show I was met with my second major disappointment, when I learned that they couldn’t take debit or credit cards for any of the merchandise. Maybe I should have brought my checkbook? I asked the guy at the table if Mark was going to be meeting with people and he said he wasn’t sure. I wandered around for a while until I eventually found a crowd of people gathered, and sure enough, in the center there he was. He didn’t seem particularly interested in talking to most of them, offering short answers and seeming like his head was elsewhere. A girl who I assume he knows personally walked past and waved, and then he quickly broke away from the group to follow her and talk to her alone. She left and he started to walk towards the back and was once again surrounded by people. Again he found a way to break free from the crowd and track down someone else he seemed to know personally. Somehow I managed to get his attention long enough for him to sign the booklet from my copy of the roller coaster CD, which might have been an odd request, considering he only played one song off of it. But alas, it’s one of my favorite albums of the 90’s, so I made sure to bring it for him to sign.

A lot of people might have left this concert with an unflattering picture of Mark – detached, not very friendly, overly quiet and not much of a performer, etc. What I saw was someone very much like myself – an extreme introvert who never really got comfortable with the spotlight and the need to be outgoing and personable night in and night out. The initial set of songs was him warming up and getting used to being on stage. And tuning – he did that after every song. Then as he overcame his inhibitions, he was able to relax and joke around a bit. Having a friend join him on stage made him even more comfortable, to the point of doing an amazing encore of requests (including two from the girl who moved into the empty seat up front, and a beautiful closing version of “Mistress” that sent chills down my spine.) Once he left the stage and got swamped by people, you could see his comfort level quickly eroding, and in typical introvert fashion, he fled the crowds to seek out meaningful conversations with personal friends. I can’t fault the guy for behaving pretty much exactly how I would if I was playing a gig, but I can definitely see how some people might get the wrong impression about the guy. Luckily he is one of the few songwriters who can truly let the songs do the talking. Between his amazingly intricate guitar playing, smooth and soothing vocals, and achingly beautiful lyrics, he could basically do anything he wanted and true fans would still find a lot to love. Overall, it was a slightly disappointing experience, but the positives far outweighed the negatives, so I can’t really complain too much.

 

Before I go any further, let me just get this out in the open… This was without a doubt the best concert I’ve been to in 2012. Okay there, I said it. Now let’s continue and find out what made it such a good show…

The opening band was called Daytona. I’d never heard of them before and wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, they were great. They were a three-piece, your standard guitar-bass-drums combo. They live in Brooklyn and play indie rock. Yet somehow, everything they did was new and fresh, not in any way the cookie-cutter type stuff one would expect from a Brooklyn three-piece indie rock band. For starters, they sounded absolutely huge. Through some creative sampling, they managed to layer guitars and backing vocals until it sounded like ten people were on stage. On several songs the guitarist (who was also the primary vocalist) would start with an echo-y arpeggiated figure, sample it and loop it, and later in the song play distorted power chords or solos over it. A few tracks saw the bassist and drummer looping their “oooohhh” and “aaaahhh” backing vocals. The bassist himself got into the looping action on one song, beginning with a motif high up on the neck, then looping it and switching to a fuzz pedal and playing a deep groove over it. The drummer was insanely creative as well, often using maracas, tambourines, and sleigh bells in place of drum sticks. On one song he played with his bare hands for part of the song, giving a sound almost like a bongo drum. As for their music itself, it’s just good jangle-pop-influenced rock, with a tendency to jam and get lost on strange sonic detours. A good starting point might be later Pavement, with perhaps a bit of The Slip (the indie rock/post rock/jam band/whatever, not the Nine Inch Nails album). I bought their vinyl EP, which comes in a sleeve hand-painted by the bassist. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was this impressed by an opening act. I’m eagerly anticipating a full length from these guys.

I’m going to take a little detour of my own while I try to collect my thoughts. I’m not really sure how to capture Lost In The Trees in words, so I’ll ramble a bit instead. After the opening band left the stage and the lights came up, an adorable short girl turned around, asked me if I was here to see Lost In The Trees, and when I said yes she high-fived me. We started chatting and hit it off pretty well. She introduced me to a few of her friends, who all seemed really cool as well. Seeing as how I couldn’t find anyone to go to the show with me, they adopted me into their group. As we continued chatting it appeared that tonight would be a replay of yesterday at the laundromat, and when the show was over my suspicion was confirmed – amazing, beautiful, sweet, friendly, intelligent girl with good taste in music… and a long-term boyfriend. ‘Tis the story of my life – the more amazing a girl seems to be, the more likely she is either happily taken or completely psycho. Yay.

But enough of that detour… let’s get back to the concert.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, Lost In The Trees is a band centered around Ari Picker, a classically trained composer and former member of The Never, one of the most criminally underrated bands of the past ten years. They play a very symphonic brand of rock, a little bit like a cross between The Moody Blues and Radiohead. While they haven’t really broken big just yet, they have a very passionate fan base. Everyone I met asked me if this was my first time seeing them, and when I said yes proceeded to tell me what I’ve been missing out on. A few people tried to convince me to go to Charlotte tomorrow and see them again. These people love their band, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an audience that was more into a show than this one. The next hour or so would surely make a believer out of even the most hardened cynic. As the band played off the crowd and the crowd in turn played off the band and turned things up a notch, the whole thing basically turned into a giant love fest. This is the sort of vibe you can only get by seeing a lesser known band in a small club and just letting the music and the passion take over. There really aren’t words to describe the experience, you really had to be there.

While they focused mostly on songs from their newest record, A Church That Fits Our Needs, they played a lot of songs off of their first album and their debut EP. While Ari’s guitar and painfully sincere vocals were the main focus, the rest of the band members threatened to steal the show on a number of occasions with their incredible musicianship. A beautiful blonde named Jenavieve played violin, did some background vocals, and even broke out an autoharp for a few songs. Next to her was Drew, who mostly played cello, but occasionally played bass guitar. The usual bassist, Mark, played everything but the kitchen sink, including but not limited to tuba, electric guitar, synthesizer, and glockenspiel. Their keyboardist Emma, who somehow remembered me from a Never show over five years ago, also played various percussion instruments, French horn, and sang. I’m not sure the drummer’s name, and Wikipedia is no help, but let’s just say he was amazing. One particular technique blew my mind – he placed a small cymbal on top of his snare drum and whacked it with a mallet. The sound it made most closely resembled a synth drum, bright and tinny. My drumming skills are very limited, so I’m always looking for new ideas to inspire me and help me create the sounds in my head. I’m definitely going to have to mess around with this idea and see what I can do with it.

Ari proved to be a pretty animated frontman, jumping and wandering all around the stage, sometimes nearly crashing into his bandmates. He switched back and forth between a beautiful hollow body electric guitar and an acoustic that was originally a twelve string, but with the other six tuning pegs completely ripped out of the headstock and six strings strung normally. He and Emma did most of the talking, thanking the crowd and saying how much they love Asheville. Evidently Ari stayed here briefly and wrote a lot of songs during that time, most of which were on their previous album, All Alone In An Empty House. They played a few songs off of that album and a few off the Time Taunts Me EP. Most of the newer songs were played with more aggression and volume, calling to mind the songs off the debut EP, but never losing the intimate beauty of the newest album. They mixed in some unexpected bits, like a sound collage of feedback and some droning synthesizers in between songs. They closed with an epic ten-plus minute medley of two songs off their newest album with some jamming in between.

As they walked off the stage the crowd went berserk, and you knew an encore wasn’t far behind. However, they turned the tables on us and walked into the crowd. An all acoustic lineup of Ari on guitar, their usual string section, tuba, and a single snare drum took its place in the middle of the audience. He proceeded to tell us that they wouldn’t be quite as loud as they were on stage, and might need some help. The crowd had no problem obliging, singing every word to a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “All Alone In An Empty House.” As the song ended and the thunderous applause faded I started to make my way over to my new friends. Everyone was pretty much in agreement – the only word that could describe this concert was “amazing.”

In addition to buying the Daytona EP I also bought A Church That Fits Our Needs on vinyl. Instead of coming with a download code, which has become pretty standard these days, it came with the actual CD of the album. Not to mention a lyric sheet. Evidently they’ve done the same thing for their first album, and their debut EP includes a CD and a download code. I joked around with Emma and Daytona’s merch guy about what else might be included in the more limited pressings of the album – “the band comes to your house once a week to play the album in its entirety” was probably the cleverest idea to come out of our brainstorming. And it wouldn’t surprise me if that became an option at some point in the future. This is a band that loves its fans (one of the band members remembered me from a concert from years ago) and loves to use its music to reach out and touch you. This isn’t a band that tosses off disposable hit singles or headlines faceless stadium tours. This is a band that creates beautiful art and plays best in an intimate setting, one where they can hang out in the middle of the audience and chat with fans after the show. Their music is moving and powerful, and they’re a genuinely nice bunch of people. What more could you ask for?

 

Well how about another concert review? Sure, why not…

For those of you not familiar with Asheville’s club scene, Jack Of The Wood is probably a name you’ve never heard before. It’s a bar with an Irish theme and its own brewery. They’ve been hosting live music for a long time now, with bluegrass jams and Celtic bands being some of the more common shows. I heard through the grapevine that recently they’ve hired a new guy to do their booking, and evidently he has some pretty serious connections. So now this tiny little hole in the wall pub is getting big name acts like Junior Brown, Jim Lauderdale, Peter Case (who cancelled), and the King Of Surf Guitar, Mr. Dick Dale. Tickets sold out in only a few days, and to say it was “standing room” only would be quite the understatement. You barely had room to stand without bumping into someone. I’m pretty sure if anyone else showed up there would be a few fire code violations. But enough about that, let’s talk about the music…

The opening band was a local act called The Krektones. They’ve resisted the label of “surf rock,” yet in a pre-show “prayer” their guitarist acknowledged Dick Dale as their “heavenly father, who sits in glory in California.” Aside from a few random yells, shouts, oohs and ahs, and banter in between songs their set was mostly instrumental. Their guitarist is quite good, bringing a bit of a psychobilly vibe to their surf rock sound. They had a guy who switched back and forth between trumpet and sax, and occasionally screamed random things into his instrument mic. Their rhythm section was pretty tight, even if they were usually overshadowed by the guitar and horns. They did some original songs, a few well-known covers, and a lot of movie themes. On the latter they sounded almost like a more restrained version of Naked City, minus the hardcore breakdowns and free-form improvisation. Their set was rather enjoyable, I might have to go see them the next time they’re playing around town.

In between the bands DJ Rob Castillo spun 60’s surf hits and obscure garage rock, playing a great selection of stuff. The break seemed to be longer than The Krektones’ entire set – there seemed to be some technical difficulties with the microphone setup. Finally at about 10:20 the headliner took the stage to thunderous applause.

Dick Dale is now 74 years old, with a long white ponytail and an almost fully receded hairline, but once he starts playing you would never know it. After his opening shred-fest, he spent a few minutes fussing at the sound guy to make the microphone louder. He was actually quite hilarious in doing so, asking the guy if he knew where the volume knob was, and then graciously informing him that it had a big “v” on it. He did a song with a call-and-response section and stopped in the middle because he still couldn’t hear himself. It could be a bad sound tech, it could be an aging rocker losing his hearing, but the most likely reason is that his music is just that loud. I’m talking thunderously loud. Even when playing with a clean tone his guitar is pushed into overdrive, stacks of custom Fender amps shaking the entire stage. His bass player’s stack was just as big and the bottom end was huge. His drummer (who I’m guessing is his son? his name was Jimmy Dale) pounds the drums as if his life depends on it. Whether ripping through power chords or soloing at breakneck speed, it’s pretty safe to say that Dick Dale is the most energetic 74-year-old in the music world.

He played most of his biggest songs, along with an interesting selection of covers. He threw in a few famous surf riffs (“Walk Don’t Run” and “Wipeout”) but never played them long enough for the audience to latch onto them. Most of his songs were long jams that took unexpected turns into other songs and styles before coming back to their original riffs. To my surprise he actually sung on a few songs, most notably a bluesy version of “House of the Rising Sun.” At one point he did a monster medley based around the signature riff to “Smoke on the Water” that must have lasted six or seven minutes, incorporating a lot of snippets of classic rock songs. For one song he played harmonica, and while he’s not the greatest, the energy level remained high the entire time. The next to the last song was a crazy jam where everyone got a solo, and then he walked over to the drum set and performed a drum duet with his drummer. He then walked around to the bassist and began to hit the strings of his bass with drumsticks while the bassist fingered chords. Then he flipped the bass over and tapped out a rhythm on the back of it while the bassist got in some ghost notes and slides. The closing number was another extended jam, full of soloing and huge walls of sound.

It was pretty easy to see why Dick Dale is so legendary in the guitar community – the guy can play circles around just about anyone else. His energy is intense, and he’s got a great sense of humor to go with a stage presence that is at once imposing and understated. Even though the show was pretty amazing, a few things really disappointed me. For starters, his set was entirely too short. He barely played an hour, whereas the opening band went on for around forty-five minutes and the break in between was about that long as well. I understand he’s not a young man, and sometimes there are technical difficulties and whatnot – not to mention local noise ordinances – but if I’m going to pay big bucks to see a legendary artist, I’d like a little bit more bang for my buck. Secondly, there was no encore. I realize there’s no rule that says a performer must do an encore, but still it is mostly expected. At first I thought that’s why his set was so short – surely he would be coming back on stage to do a few more songs. After waiting around for almost half an hour it became apparent that this wasn’t happening. By the time I finally left he was comfortably signing autographs at a table where a long line had formed. And this was my final disappointment – it was clear that he embraced his rock star status and turned it into a moneymaking machine. He had all the usual merchandise, and I definitely don’t fault a musician for wanting to make money… but the prices were outrageous. Shirts were $40, signed records were $100, signed CD’s were $35. There were tiny 3″ x 5″ postcards for $15, posters of the show for $20, and if you brought something of your own he would kindly sign it for the low, low price of only $10. I’ve seen a lot of big-name artists, and quite a few “living legends,” but I have never once seen anyone charge to sign something you already had. Like I said, I don’t fault the guy for wanting to make money, but surely he could at least sign things for free. Maybe this sort of thing is more common than I realize, and he obviously plays with a lot of emotion and a genuine love of performing, but his merch table made it look like this was purely a business venture, and business was most certainly good.

Overall I had a good time, and I love Dick Dale the guitarist. I’m just not so sure how I feel about him as the CEO of Dick Dale Enterprises. So what I’m ultimately left with is a night of great music, albeit not quite enough of it, and a final sour taste in my mouth. And a constant ringing in my ears because this show was so incredibly loud. On that note I think I’ll wrap this up and attempt to get some sleep so I can wake up in a few hours for work.

 

Just got back from the show, thought I’d write a little review while things are still fresh in my mind. So here goes…

At the last minute my friend Sarah decided to go with me. We got there kinda early, and the mostly empty building was reverberating with the sounds of a mellow, spacey electronic soundscape, which we later realized was provided by the first performer…

The opening act was just one guy who went by the name Doldrums. I’m still not sure exactly what I think about his music, nor do I have any idea how to classify it. It had all of the elements of dance music – drum loops, synthesizers, keyboards, samples, digitally effected vocals – but in no way was it dance music. His compositions took pretty abstract forms, with jerky transitions and no apparent structure. His beats were rather subdued for the most part, definitely not something you could dance to. When they did occasionally move to the forefront they were still mostly undanceable – very irregular rhythms with touches of tribal drums and lots of stops and starts. His samples were mostly annoying, with a helicopter sample reappearing entirely too frequently for my tastes. His vocals were flat-out horrible – high-pitched and nasally, drowned in reverb, and run through so many vocoders and effects that he often sounded more like a text to speech program set on “Japanese woman” than a lanky white boy with a hipster haircut. For stretches of a minute or two he would start doing something that sounded really cool, but ultimately it would morph into something painful to listen to. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, since he is clearly trying new things and attempting to do something unique, but it just didn’t work. Sarah absolutely hated his set, and more than a few members of the audience walked away, preferring to sit outside and chat or get drinks at the bar to listening and trying to figure out what the hell he was doing. So the overall verdict is his music is creative and definitely different, but not something I (or a large part of the audience) would ever want to listen to again.

The second act was a four piece band called Blouse. They had a girl singer who played guitar, another girl who played keyboards, and two guys handling bass and drums. Whoever was running the soundboard mixed them horribly – the vocals were buried and the keyboards were so loud that they almost hurt my ears when she played higher notes. The frontwoman (is that a word?) was constantly bending down to adjust her monitor and her effects pedals, and on one occasion she apologized for things not sounding quite right. But in spite of technical difficulties they kept on and managed to give a pretty good performance. Their sound was very dark, yet atmospheric, sort of like a mix of The Cocteau Twins, Fever Ray, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. The singer’s voice, although hard to discern from the mix, had a certain sweetness that made me think that at some point in time they would break out into a huge pop chorus, but that never really happened. This isn’t to say their songs weren’t accessible, they most definitely were, just not in a mainstream rock sort of way. The rhythm section was tight, the keyboard textures were usually pretty interesting, and the guitar tones ranged from jangly to full-on distortion, sometimes in the same song. I was especially impressed with the drummer’s use of synth pads and triggers in addition to acoustic drumming. Fans of some of the more abstract New Wave stuff coming out of England in the early 80’s, the shoegaze movement, or 90’s alternative rock would probably like them a lot. While they didn’t blow me away, I enjoyed them.

By the time the headliners took the stage there was a pretty big turnout. After a false start and some tinkering with the light fixtures behind them, they finally kicked things off in grand fashion. A keyboard arpeggio and crashing drums set the tone for their set, which was somewhere in between arena rock concert and rave. The singer spent a lot of time playing with a Kaoss pad and a few other synths and loops, and frequently played bass on songs where the usual bassist switched to guitar. For those who aren’t familiar with Bear In Heaven, they build their songs around synth loops and arpeggios, and at times sound like they’re more content to jam on a groove than construct a pop song. Live this translated even better than I had expected, they managed to pull off a huge grandiose sound with such minimal instrumentation. Their drummer is flat-out amazing, often sounding like three drummers at once. He really pounds the shit out of his drum set, but is still able to lock in perfectly with all the loops and play amazingly intricate and unconventional rhythms. They have a knack for taking the most otherworldly sounds and beats and fitting them together into a long, deep groove that practically dares you to surrender to the music. The combination of strobes, colored lights, LED track lighting, lasers, and smoke machines made for a very visual experience as well. The whole spectacle had the vibe of a great party, except instead of a DJ you had an amazing live band. Even after being a fan for a few years, I’m at a loss for words. They definitely take things to a new level with their energy, top-notch musicianship, and all-powerful groove. Bloggers and hipsters like to toss around a lot of big words and name drop obscure Krautrock and industrial dance bands, but experiencing these guys live gives on the feeling that they are one of the few bands out there who are truly doing something unique that defies easy classification.

After the show I picked up a copy of Bear In Heaven’s newest album, I Love You, It’s Cool. The packaging and artwork on the vinyl release is pretty great. I just downloaded the mp3 copy and I’m almost through my first listen as I’m writing this. It’s a little different from their last album, and not nearly as huge sounding as their live show, but so far it’s very good. Most of the stylistic detours they take are successful, the production is crisp and fits the tone of the music perfectly, and the songs sound just as strong as on previous releases. If you’re already a fan, definitely pick up the new album. If they come anywhere near you, by all means go and see them. If you’re not a fan, their live show could most certainly win you over. And if you’re not familiar with them, what are you waiting for? For once the assclowns at Pitchfork got something right – Bear In Heaven is one of the most original and important bands currently making music.