Friday, May 30, 2008

Flight of the Conchords at Davies Symphony Hall

Oh yeah. It was business time last night at Davies Symphony Hall. And Flight of the Conchords were leading bringing it all. I had the beauty of sitting very near the front, dead center, and it was great. A wonderful view of the entire wonderful show.

You know a band has the audience eating out their palm when one of the members of the band laughs a little too loudly and this sends the audience on a two minute laughing spree. They didn't even have to speak. At some points, their deafening silences were enough for the audience to laugh and laugh. And that was the beauty of it.

Ranging from playing songs to merely talking onstage, the Flight of the Conchords two and only members, Bret and Jemaine, put on a wonderful show. The hilarious jokes they entwine so carefully and wonderfully into their songs fully encompasses the feeling of joy they bring to anyone fortunate enough to bear witness. Ranging from lyrics like "You're so could be a part time model!" to "There are angels in the clouds...DOING IT", the night barely missed a musical genre (except maybe metal). Conchords were hitting all the different kinds, from folksy to bedtime story to hip hop to plain rocking out.

The moment of punch lines and jokes came wonderfully too. In their comedic timing, Conchords are perfect. Their ability to improv and make things up as they go along onstage was also quite impressive. Some of these improv moments were almost even more wonderful than the songs themselves, since the improv was completely unseen before. One particular moment of a good laugh: Bret and Jemaine attempting to show us how a whale would have problems dialing 911.

This being a particularly rowdy (and lets say horny) audience was really the whipped cream on the milkshake. At moments it was dead quiet, and Jemaine and Bret would look around quite confused as to what to do and merely say "Maybe if we turned out the lights we could all have a good sleep."

Then there were moments when the cheering was overwhelming, especially in a 1700 seat concert hall. And of course, the inevitable "take off your shirt!" and "I love you!" resounded all around the walls and ceilings, although Bret and Jemaine seemed surprise at the excess of it this particularly evening, like they had never gotten quite as much heckling before. One girl even yelled "I want to touch you!" then preceded to go onstage and...touch them. Rub them actually. Fantastic evening.

The guys kept making jokes about how "intimate" the setting was. I am not sure if they realized it, but the way they behaved and spoke rendered the room actually more intimate than you might expect with two guys onstage and 1700 people watching. The little conversations between themselves and casual manner of handling the audience made it feel not so formal as it might have seemed. At one point, Jemaine turned to us and said "Talk amongst yourselves for a bit...I feel like you guys are just...looking at us."

The Conchords played favorites like "Jenny", "Business Time" (for the ladies), "If You're Into It" (you can imagine the yelling during this one with our special audience), "Albi the Racist Dragon" and "Mutha-Uckers". They also played some new ones, including one about all of Jemaines past loves, in which a new instrument posed quite some problems. They needed to fix it, and stopped twice during the song itself. "I'm sorry," Bret said. "Jemaines exhausted. We've been on the road for four days. It's intense."

After leaving the stage on a standing ovation (which my two friends and I started) they came back on for two encores and thanked the audience profusively, saying they "thought San Francisco was...pretty cool." "I like that you have stairs in your sidewalks," said Bret.

A night of jokes, improptus monologues, crazy panty-throwing (yes, seriously) audience members, music, and two guys with New Zealand accents singing onstage. Seriously? You want more?

PS A nod must be made the Conchord's warm up comic, Aziz Ansari. You may know him as the racist fruit vendor in the "Mutha Uckers" video, or Clell Tickle on YouTube. He is now holding a part on "Human Giant" on MTV. He was hilarious and had me in stitches. Upon stating that Cold Stone Creamery "molests" their ice cream, I was gone. Thank you Aziz.

Sidenote: I went backstage after the show and poked my head in the dressing room. There they were. Bret on a couch, Jemaine reading some papers and pacing. And then this huge security guard, just chilling. "Great show!" I said brightly. They turned, smiled cheerfully, and thanked me. And that was all I needed.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Dodos at Amoeba

That's right. It's The Dodos at Amoeba...FO FREE.
With waffle fries.
And it's Wednesday. So after work, school, illicit drug deals, whatever it is you do day to day, head on over.

Not only do these guys put on a great live show, their music is wonderful and they are, drumroll, San Francisco natives! Bonus! This is a great oppurtunity to check them out if you haven't yet (in which case you are insane). The show may get crowded fast though, so show up a bit before, do some shopping or browsing, then sit back and enjoy the smooth yet rough sounds of The Dodos.

You may see below a review of their show when they performed here at GAMH with Les Savy Fav, a superb show if I may say so.

Wednesday, May 14th
Show starts at 6PM
Should be about forty five minutes or less
At Amoeba in the Haight

Once again, The Dodos are a very good band.
Believe me.

The Dodos - Paint The Rust

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Wolf Parade's "At Mount Zoomer"

The album art. Yeah. I have no idea either. To quote how Stereogum put it so wonderfully: "A mountain of zoomers, indeed."

Yes ladies and gentlemen, it is the long awaited sequel to "Apologies to the Queen Mary." I myself have been waiting in quiet agony and anticipation. I have been terrified; terrified because "Apologies" was so fucking good, this album was taking to fucking long, and, Spencer Krug was devoting the fruit of labor all to Sunset Rubdown and it's smash hit, hell-of-an-album 2007 release "Random Spirit Lover."

All those things drove me into a frenzy.
I downloaded At Mount Zoomer the day after it leaked and it sat in my iTunes for another day and then I was ready to listen.
My initial reaction was "What the hell did I just hear?"
After letting it sit in my head, like waiting for alcohol to hit, I was still baffled. What was that?

I listened again.
Nothing hitting me.
The first track intrigued me, as did the closing one, a long epic song sitting at 10:47.
After a bit, I grew to love three of the songs very much, but none of them thrilled me like "Apologies".

This is not to say it's not a good album. This is also not a "Ugh I'm such an elitist Wolf Parade fan, I know everything about them blah blah blah." No. This is an honest to God response to the album.

Because, really, it is a good album. Great in fact. The songs are different, interesting, originally structed; the lyrics are wonderful and there are parts that really draw you in. It is rich in spirit. I can see it being very popular in fact. It's just, it didn't kickstart me. It didn't make me go "Wolf Parade, you have done it again." The alcohol, so to say, just never hit me, even if the drink still tasted great.

I do recommend it, though. Usually I like to end these posts with "You may hate it." or "You may love it." but the truth is I don't know. I do not know anything for certain this time. What "At Mount Zoomer" has produced is new and intriguing, also at once confusing and stunning. All of this at once too, on one album. That has got to be something. Who knows? Maybe after a few more listens, I will fall in love.

And now, a short list of...
What "At Mount Zoomer" sounds like:
-truthful rocking out
-a slightly tired Wolf Parade
-your friends rolling around your room, high
-Spencer Krug forcing Sunset Rubdown in Wolf Parade's face
-the tragic tale of a knight in armor who never reaches his goal
-Wolf Parade experimenting. And thats good.

On attempting to find a copy of this rich deep and different album for my friend, I found none. Well, either you're gonna like to so much you buy it or you wouldn't have bought it anyway, so, please enjoy:
sorry guys...subpop is all over the blogosphere's asses. Subpop, just rest assured, we will buy it or we won't. God damn. Let us tailor it and decide. We are music connoisseurs.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Death Cab For Cutie's Narrow Stairs

After listening to the single Death Cab For Cutie released to bump up the anticipation for their new album even more, I was excited. Very excited. "I Will Possess Your Heart" is a beautifully structured and executed piece of music. At 8:35, it is an epic choice as a single, ambitious and impressive. Whats even more impressive is how well it was received, and how much everyone seems to be enjoying it. The slow escalade to emotional vocals and break outs of music is like the build up to the breaking point in a novel.

Needless to say, we were all waiting to see what other miracles Ben Gibbard and the gang might pull out of their talents for the album. I prayed that Death Cab hadn't, shall we say, "jumped the shark." "I Will Possess Your Heart" gave me hope.

By now, probably mostly the entire blogging community will have downloaded "Narrow Stairs" from one of the many leak links across the blogosphere. I listened to it immediately, all the way through, and all I can say in response is a cheesey expected "Wow."

Combining the jumpy, almost punk-like beats and guitar chords of their older style like on "The Photo Album", then taking the melodic agony and beauty from "Transatlantacism", and finally pushing in some epic aspects of orchestrated like band choreography from "Plans" gives us what "Narrow Stairs" is: a combination of the phases Death Cab has been through as a band together. While this description of the album may make it sound more messy than beautiful, it comes off as more original sounding than ever before.

Already the opener pulls you in. "Bixby Canyon Bridge" is a beautiful song and I swear I have never heard Ben Gibbard sing more intensely before. Going from slow to intense to a little faster and back down to slow, the track is a roller coaster in a slow motion: practically magical.
Part of the appeal of this album is going to be the multiple different types of music Death Cab manages to serve up to us. Up beat tunes like "No Sunlight" are dance worthy, while a track like "Long Division" is faster than others but more in a jump around the room in beat way. Perfect for a live show. On the other side, Death Cab evokes feeling and sentiments (as usual) with more epic tracks of multiple instrument layering and loud strong vocals, like opener "Bixby Canyon Bridge" and "Pity and Fear".

The more "rock back and forth and move your head tunes", like "Cath", with echoey vocals and perfect drum beats, allow you to fall into the album gracefully and with ease. There's also the back to the basics easy going slow tunes of "Talking Bird" and album closer "The Ice Is Getting Thinner". Although I feel "Talking Bird" may be a weak track on the album, the closer is definitley a beautiful haunting tune that leaves you hanging.

The band sounds great; of course the album is very produced, in the fashion of "Plans", but while "Plans" was called "polished", "shiny", or even "waxed" by some, I would call "Narrow Stairs" more refined. Like aged wine, even if the album is brand new. The band hangs tight to its roots using feedback and steady beats, but squeezes in their new bright sounds as well. They are perfectly joined together in a harmony achieved over many years of playing as a band. Ben Gibbard also plays his part very well. His voice is as good as it has ever been, strong and true. Not too much has changed, but I believe this is what has given Death Cab it's indie appeal (no matter what label) over the years. Overall, I think Death Cab sounds wonderful. They've come far up the ladder.

At first listen, you may be slightly dissapointed. You may have expected more after the epic track that was "I Will Possess Your Heart". Theres no doubt that that track is the best on the album; but, this does not mean the rest are less. There are some real gems and moments on this album that will catch you and perhaps seize you for one moment of breathlessness. I have already found many such moments. Join me.

Link from Keeping Time wordpress blog
Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs (2008)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Colin Meloy at The Fillmore

So, one guy, his guitar, sultry lighting, and an accoustic set should equal a passive, relaxed evening of music and ambient sounds, right?
So wrong with Colin Meloy.

Through an hour long set, then fifteen minutes of encores, Meloy had the audience practically eating out of the palm of his hands; hungry for more each time, Meloy pushed his music and talents to a limit that can only be reached in a live setting. His voice carried strong and true, ringing at all points of the large Fillmore auditorium. His guitar's twangy, folksy sounds filled the space. And the celtic and irish feel to his tunes made you want to move to the beat in any way possible, even if it was just by swaying back and forth.

Playing wise, Meloy uses every inch of the guitar and his vocal range, creating a plethora of different noises, sounds, and melodies. Some of the songs Meloy played use the most beautiful keys and chords I have ever heard. Combined with Meloy's smooth, strong voice, the outcome is a range of ear pleasing songs. His guitars are not instruments; only extensions of himself that he uses to create this sound from inside him. His quirky ways, like having to stand on his tippy toes to tune his guitar, bring out his different and yet extremely effective playing style.
Along with superb musicianship, Meloy creates a very personal and intimate relationship with the crowd. Talking directly to us as individuals, and yet addressing everyone at once, Meloy made jokes, responded to questions yelled out, and provided witty and amusing anecdotes to either go with songs or accompany a theme. Every time a certain person near the front yelled something at him, Meloy would respond "Inside voice, man. You could work in show biz."

It was wonderful to see Meloy able to make fun of himself, laugh at himself, and play around with his music. Seeing that he does not take himself too seriously was refreshing and made the night all the more memorable. Meloy had everyone in laughter as he sang "The Perfect Crime #2" and repeated "perfect" about ten more times than he usually does in the song, walking back and forth on the stage between mics humorously.

From singing electric guitar solos himself, getting the audience to do it, or merely saying mid-song "This is the guitar solo part", the overall style and feeling of the concert was unique, different, and wonderful. A powerful accoustic set, rendered intimate and personal, yet still large and maginificent in a musical way.

Meloy mixed it up with a few songs of his own, old and new, a cover of Sam Cooke, and songs from his band The Decemberists. At the end of the set, all of us were screaming and chanting for more, stomping our feet and clapping our hands, until Meloy came back on, finishing with the epic "Mariners Revenge Song". What a way to end. And who knew this song, usually performed with about 7 instruments, could sound so powerful on accoustic guitar?

Maybe it was the antics of frontman Colin Meloy. Maybe it was the audience filling in for other band members singing roles. Maybe it was the entire crowd stomping and clapping like real mariners on deck, in time with the music.

Whatever it was, Meloy brought it out of us in the best way.