The Neptune's sometimes-troublesome undersea acoustics were actually kind of perfect for Foals last night. Performing in front of a stage-spanning banner to a room of adoring fans, the mathy, Oxford dance-punk act took full advantage of the echoey chamber—their razor-blade flying snowflake machine bouncing off the plaster, numbing eardrums into temporary submission with an intense set heavy with slow-burning Holy Fire, sprinkled liberally with the more danceable standouts from their much-beloved debut, Antidotes.
They have en encore performance tonight at the Neptune with Surfer Blood.
To those familiar with Daughter and Jeremy Messersmith, the program at Neumos last night might have seemed a little imbalanced. A trio of austere Londoners paired with a witty (and sometimes irreverent) Minnesotan? Madness! But aside from their ties to Glassnote Records, these two acts have another thing in common: their stage presences endear them to audiences so much that, in between songs, all I could hear were remarks of "Isn't he/she cute?"
Messersmith took the stage at 9, armed with a guitar, a loop pedal, and an offbeat sense of humor. Highlights from his set included an ode to girls who run merch tables at shows and a song based on a motivational poster he saw on Reddit. ("Someday, someone will love the fuck out of you.") My favorite was "I Wanna Be Your One-Night Stand," about a middle-aged man with a mini-van who decides to rediscover his youth by having a "one-night stand" with a woman who is eventually revealed to be his wife. (Sort of like an alternate-universe version of "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)," where our protagonist and his lady really want to make things work and synthesizers apparently don't exist.)
Then it was time for Daughter, who opened their set with the title track from their excellent new record, If You Leave. Like her 4AD labelmate St. Vincent, frontwoman Elena Tonra is endearingly awkward onstage: she stammered out sincere "thank you"s in between songs and seemed astonished that her band had managed to sell out Neumos. (When Daughter last visited Seattle in late October, they performed on the significantly smaller Barboza stage, though they claim they attracted a colorful crowd, including a zombie.) It isn't hard to imagine a man telling Tonra that she's "too old to be so shy," but her modesty is what makes her so enjoyable to watch. The crowd joined her in singing "Candles," "Youth," and other tracks from the band's two EPs, and called for an encore for which the band didn't seem entirely prepared. "We're going to play one more song for you... and it's a cover," Tonra said, grinning nervously as she picked up her sparkly gold bass and launched into a rendition of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky." I might be going out on a limb here, but Daughter could cover just about anything and still sound captivating.
by Josh Bis
on Thu, May 16, 2013 at 4:18 PM
MGMT (Andrew VanWyngarden) at Showbox Sodo
A glitchy cosmic seagull was among the the interplanetary spirit guides for MGMT's set at the Showbox Sodo last night. Arriving in the middle of an "interesting markets" tour (Seattle and Portland are among the bigger/more standard stops) and in advance of a new album (due in June) they spent a compact set reminding audiences of some of the less famous songs from Oracular Spectacular, bringing out some (but not enough!) of the highlights from under-appreciated Congratulations, and rolling out some new songs for a crushed-to-the-front, more-comfortable-in-the-back sold-out crowd. The main set was sprinkled with three fresh tracks that will by now be familiar to YouTube tourstalkers: the disconcertingly upbeat "Your Life is a Lie", fuzzy psych throwback "Introspection", and noisy synth-heavy jellyfish jam "Mystery Disease", along with what sounded like some newish instrumental interludes, while Record Store Day cassette-only exclusive (now an "official lyrics video") Alien Days led the short encore.
Overall, the performance and accompanying constantly shifting, mostly intentionally glitchy, brightly colored, often hypnotic light show served as a mission statement that those kids who wrote a couple of insanely catchy pop songs had left the building and are now firmly on course to follow other ambitions: definitely in line with the previous material, but possibly a bit deeper instead of world-conquering. The kids up front seemed OK with it, in the absence of traditional pop hits, they were still happy to crowdsurf to whatever the band felt like playing and scrambled madly for flowers tossed from the stage when the show concluded.
crowd notes: seeing a woman hoisting up an child so that he can get a better view of a band reminiscing about playgrounds, animals, digging up worms from the vantage of rock stars growing tired of models and drugs, and realizing that the child was probably born after the song was written gives a whole new depressing spin on already secretly downer "Time to Pretend", doesn't it?
bar notes: I say this every time, but man, Showbox Sodo is pretty much the opposite of Showbox (original flavor) in just about every structural way possible. One has a bar with hundreds of perfect sightlines, the other has a bar with four barely adequate sightlines. Et c.
style notes: MGMT is the band that I (possibly unfairly) associate most closely with the dawn of the facepaint and featherwave period. About halfway through a deep instrumental jam in the middle of the show, Andrew VanWyngarden was miraculously wearing a floral headband; another indication that the signs at Coachella pointing to a new festival fashion era may have been correct.
by Dave Segal
on Mon, May 13, 2013 at 3:06 PM
Guitarist/vocalist Steve Gunn opened for Kurt Vile & the Violators, who packed the fuck out of Neumos last night. (Prediction: Kurt Vile will soon be bigger than Beyoncé and will headline Bumbershoot in 2014.) But Gunn and his steadfast bassist Justin Tripp and drummer John Truscinski were the highlight of the night for me. They do what so many other American bands do, but somehow Gunn and company’s take on folky blues resonates way more strongly than that of their peers.
Steve Gunn Trio: Americana that's not a merry con.
The songs on Gunn’s new album, Time Off (out June 11 on Paradise of Bachelors) plunge so deeply into that folk-blues vein it becomes a kind of sacred psychedelia. Last night they showed how Americana should sound: raw, fluid, grave, stirring, and rolling on a seemingly eternal ramble. Gunn’s non-histrionic voice is the ideal forlorn, wistful foil to the glistening streams of salubrious, post-Fahey sound.
The half hour on stage that they got was way too short; Gunn's songs needs much more leg room to allow for their stark yet easy-going melodies to properly weave their hypnotic spell. “We tend to jam too much,” Gunn said at one point, realizing they had only eight minutes to squeeze in two more songs. “We need to keep it tight.” But the Gunn trio won over the crowd in their piddling 30 minutes. Let’s hope they come back to town and get more time to unfurl their practically designed freak flag.
Since when did Kurt Vile have enough fans in Seattle to sell out Neumos on a Sunday? The last time I saw him headline a venue, I was in Portland and his first album for Matador, 2009's Childish Prodigy, had been released a few weeks prior. I had read earlier that week that Vile was fairly hit-and-miss, and to that somewhat-interested crowd of onlookers, he and his Violators banged their way through a handful of songs that made far less of an impression than his excellent first two records, Constant Hitmaker and God Is Saying This To You?.
Vile wasn't someone I'd planned to see again, but in the years since, he's all but ditched his lo-fi past in favor of uniquely sprawling, guitar-driven slackerisms that sound like they could've come from any of the last four decades of pop music without sounding out of place. He's written some of the best road songs in recent history on 2011 breakthrough Smoke Ring For My Halo, and on this year's very good Wakin on a Pretty Daze (where Vile uses his songs' lengthy run times to stretch out, take a solo or three if he feels like it, or just play a riff to himself, safe in the knowledge that there will be resolution eventually).
To judge by my Twitter feed, more people were at the Crocodile for last night's Secret Chiefs 3 gig than at Barboza for UV Race, and that's too bad. Not for the former, but definitely for the latter, who put on a great show.
There were so few people at the venue, in fact, that the opening act, San Francisco's Life Stinks, went on at 9:20pm rather than 9pm. It was a wise move, since a few more punters had arrived by that time, and it created a smaller gap between acts. Around 11:43pm, Dave Segal tweeted about a 40-minute intermission at the Chiefs concert, so I feel like I got the better deal—at least from a scheduling perspective (and I was home before midnight, which is always welcome on a work night).
Out of respect for the bands and fellow show goers, I decided to turn off my camera flash, since I can usually get decent photographs at Barboza without it, but they didn't turn out very well, in part because the lighting scheme wasn't as bright as usual, most notably during Life Stinks' set. I've posted a few below.
This guy kept saying, "I'm Macklemore's little brother!"
I asked Anna Minard to the Allen Stone Bumbershoot Announcement Prom at the Crocodile last night. Unfortunately, we did not get gussied up, but HOLY SHIT EVERYONE ELSE DID! I thought we were going to see some funny '80s prom dresses, or maybe some wonky tutus and other costumes, but really, most everyone was dressed in NO-BULLSHIT PROM WEAR FOR ADULTS. Curling-iron ringlets, shiny ties, color-coordninated flower corsages, and sparkly Express dresses in cleavage and cleavage-plus varieties. Not a casual couple in the bunch! Except for me and Anna. Good thing the Croc has the best pizza and a non-venue area to eat it in.
What else? A prom kind and queen were voted in by applause, Allen Stone sang his soulful hits and encouraged dancing/discouraged arms-crossed pouting, Stone's drummer took off his prom jacket to reveal nothing but a bow tie and suspenders (and probably pants, but whatever, he was sitting down). OH! And the Bumbershoot lineup was announced via animated words projected the back of the stage. Massive WOOOOs went down for MGMT, fun., awkward silence for the Zombies. So it goes.
After a curious walk through cops on foot, cops on bikes, and cops in cars, I finally made it into Chop Suey a few seconds before LA sun sisters (Jessica and Jennifer Clavin) Bleached started their first song.
You can't see the clear instruments, but they're there!
Bleached were joined by tour bassist Micayla and drummer Jon (even though he may or may not have broken his foot jumping off of Hunters' van in a party moment), who both played clear instruments! You just can't beat clear instruments. Unless you have glitter instruments.
Bleached started off with "Waiting on the Telephone," a simple and ridiculously catchy tune that might be one of my favorites off their new album Ride Your Heart. Other set favs included the Fleetwood-tinted "Searching Through the Past," and the ultra-dreamy "Outta My Mind." I think for me, it's the pop vocals and harmonies that seem effortless in a way that no one is trying too hard—Bleached are just keeping it real and sounding fantastic while their at it. OH MAN, aaaand they covered Misfits "Hybrid Moments" and Ramones "Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World"—I think I want them to be my new besties.
- Confidential to the dude sitting/lounging on the side of the stage, making weird eyes at the audience: no. - Confidential to that party-fountain ponytail: yes, yes, a thousand times yes!
The Thermals show at Neumos last night was the kind of all-ages situation I would have killed for as a youth. The opening bands were the fine La Luz and Wimps, and the entire front-of-stage area strictly for dancing. No old people standing still with beers in their hands—that was for the upstairs.
Since I am an old person and wanted a beer in my hand, I went to the 21+ attic where it was 25 degrees warmer, which is just fine because toasty > chilly, any day. Upstairs, I could hear the thermals, but could not see them—there just isn't a great way to see bands from the top floor unless you're right against the railing, an area that's always fully lined with strangers who don't like when you mosh up on them (for some reason).
Blown-out cellphone pic 420
View from the top!
Anyway, the Thermals always and forever sound like really good, simple, catchy rock n' roll. No frills. No toms on the drums. No specialty vocals—Hutch's naked voice is all they'll ever need. Elegant crusties and squeaky clean teens alike danced and shouted along. An encore was demanded, obviously, and sweaty jump-hugging and head shaking exploded when "No Culture Icons" started... which reminds me, in a roundabout way. Why aren't the Thermals on Sub Pop anymore?
The Sparks show last night was the exactly the sort of show* you want on a Monday. It started on time at 8pm, no waiting around, no surprise openers, nothing but the pure wonder of the brothers Mael visiting Seattle for the first time ever!
I walked in about 10 minutes late, right as my faaaavorite Sparks song "At Home, At Work, At Play" started. I stopped dead and, I don't know, felt like crying? Is that ridiculous? On the Neptune's cozy stage, Ron was perched behind his giant keyboard (with brand name Roland rearranged to spell Ronald), Russell stood front and center wearing pedal pushers and holding a cordless mic. Ron looks basically the same as he ever did—a perpetual and stylishly unstylish old man with slicked-back hair (and now with owlish glasses and a pencil thin mustache instead of the Chaplin), wearing pleated pants belted high. Russell's looks have changed, and though I wish he still had the fountain of T. Rex-esque curls (he now wears his hair sort of plastered down and with side-swooped bangs), he looks fantastic for his 62 years.
AND HIS FUCKING VOICE? Are you kidding me? The entire Sparks show amounted to Ron and Russell alone on stage, plonking and belting out masterpieces from Kimono My House, Angst In My Pants, No. 1 In Heaven, and beyond (I certainly didn't know every song, but that didn't really matter). A few highlights included the recitation of a scene from their terrifically strange concept album The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, the best version of "Singing in the Shower" (originally a duet with Les Rita Mitsouko) ever, and of course, Ron's frenzied-dancing finale.
Though I would have killed to see them with a live band and all the bells and whistles of a full-on Sparks rock show, there was something more... dignified and engrossing about this kind of performance. Maybe they don't need to pretend that nothing has changed, maybe they're just owning the change that is inevitable and showing off what truly sets them apart: their ridiculous talent and everlasting weirdness.
* Yes, the show didn't sell out. Yes people in Seattle are bad at dancing and clapping and being alive at shows. But looking at Sparks' Facebook page gives me the impression they had a really good time! As I think most of the audience did (looking at you wasted "WOOOO" dude behind me), so I'm not going to mega-negs about that.
I was afraid there wouldn't be a lot of people at Barboza last night for Angel Olsen, but that was definitely not the case. The crowd was a little sparse for Villages, but they filled the room before Olsen took the stage (I stayed in the back during Villages' set; Ross Gentry's carefully controlled brand of drone-rock was a bit sleepy for my taste).
Olsen brought a talented three-piece with her (bass, drums, cello), and they began with "Acrobat" off Half Way Home. It was a great way to start the show.
More low-light pics below (I turned off the flash to reduce the irritation factor).
Scream Queen played Pony—Seattle's Best Gay Punk Bar™—last night. There was headbanging, crowd surfing, beer throwing, spitting, and guitar-playing-while-standing-on-the-bar. Watch out for these guys. I think they'll bring the party, to the 2013 Capitol Hill Block Party. Yep.
Every serious Prince fan has encountered numerous anecdotes about the amazing, intimate club shows Prince has given in the middle of the night at First Avenue or some nightclub in Paris. Last night, we got one in Seattle. (Actually, we got two—I saw the 11:30 pm show, and reports from the 8 pm show sound identical.)
The basic set-up: This was an intimate club performance by Thirdeyegirl, an all-female band with a male lead singer, who happened to be Prince. The basic question: Would Thirdeyegirl be a tool for Prince to communicate weird new free-jazz feelings, or would this be a Prince show with a hot new band?
This question was answered almost immediately after the lights went out, the band came on, and the stage exploded with amazing virtual pyrotechnics as Thirdeyegirl launched into "Let's Go Crazy," performed in a slowed-down, power-chord heavy version. It was electrifying and just the beginning.
This was definitely a Rock Show—Prince kept his guitar on all night, with things getting seriously funky only towards the end, when he brought out the Controversy classic "Let's Work" and—OHMYGOD—"A Love Bizarre." But holy shit what a rock show. The set list was both a fan's dream and from outer space, ranging from humongo-hits ("U Got the Look," "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man," "When Doves Cry") to beloved B-sides ("She's Always in My Hair"!) to weird catalog gems (The Gold Experience's "Endorphinmachine"! Chaos & Disorder's "I Like It There"!) The whole thing ended with a stageful of dancing band/audience members, and Prince DJ'ing a career-spanning medley of hits, over which he sang live and praised Seattle. We responded by losing our minds.
It all happens again tonight—twice!—at Showbox at the Market.
by Josh Bis
on Wed, Apr 17, 2013 at 11:09 AM
Savages "... believe that the use of phones to film and take pictures during a gig prevents all of us from totally immersing ourselves"
Playing at Neumos last night, Savages joined the revolution sparked by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs last week at Webster Hall, by way of signs posted outside the showroom asking people to actually watch the shows with their eyes instead of their phones. Conveniently enough, my iPhone died just as I was walking into the club; so spending just under an hour in the company of their dark reverby guitars and droning vocals without even the temptation to gauge the time was kind of transcendental.
Appropriately enough, their album, scheduled for release next month on Matador is titled Silence Yourself.
As a veteran of British space rockers Spiritualized’s live spectacles, I’ll always be that despicable guy who says, “You know, their best shows happened in the ’90s.” Still, Jason Pierce and company’s recent dates supporting 2012’s Sweet Heart Sweet Light have sporadic shafts of brilliance that flash me back to those lysergic highs of those Clinton years gigs. Last night’s performance at Neptune Theatre is a case in point—even if they didn’t do godhead cuts like “Electric Mainline,” Cop Shoot Cop,” “Medication,” “Anyway That You Want Me,” and other favorites of die-hard fans.
Pierce sat in a chair on the far left side of the stage in a white MC5 T-shirt and shades, stoic as ever. (He’s never been a great showman, and after enduring two bouts of serious illnesses, Pierce is even less mobile now.) His two female backing vocalists stood behind him, like guardian angels. A keyboardist working four instruments, a bassist (Brad Truax, I believe), a guitarist, and Kid Millions (Oneida, Man Forever) on drums formed a tight unit who could move from delicate beauty to catastrophic power with ease and finesse.
Spiritualized, steadfastly refusing to perform "Electric Mainline."
Give Pierce credit for a somewhat unpredictable setlist, which included some unreleased songs and less emphasis on Sweet Heart than one would expect. The opener, “Here It Comes (The Road, Let’s Go),” started out with those familiar “Walking With Jesus” strums, but it eventually morphed and set the scene with a special sense of wonder and spectral beauty. Sweet Heart highlight “Hey Jane” followed, but it sounded rushed and the backing divas were barely audible—a major problem, as they’re crucial to the song’s sublime glide. Millions’ Keith Moon-like splatter during the Parable of Arable Land-style freakout amazed, and the way the band shifted into a massive, buzzing motorik cruise after it was breathtaking.
by Dave Segal
on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 10:12 AM
Kinski guitarist/vocalist Chris Martin generously asked me to guest on his excellent, long-running radio show on KBCS, Ampbuzz. Martin describes the show as "An integrated mix of psychedelic rock, outsider folk, free and not-so-free jazz, and anything else that can be considered 'out' but not necessarily 'noise.'"
Last night I spun some strange old and new tracks by musicians hailing from a lot of different places—from Igor Wakhévitch to Jan Jelinek—and answered in a serious monotone voice some questions that Chris asked me. There's a chance you may hear some tracks you like. I tried not to air anything that's been overexposed. The program's archived for two weeks on kbcs.fm; you can listen here if you have a spare two hours.