Wednesday, May 11, 2011
I bitched out on hitting the town Friday night to see Kurt Heasley, cause I wanted to watch my Oakland A's season opener. Then I didn't make it out Saturday cause Veelee had to cancel their show at Slims. So with Sunday rolling around, I was getting that itch that I needed to get out and see some live music, even if I wasn't overly excited about it. Turns out my lack of excitement matched the feelings I left with after the show. Now is that a ringing endorsement or what?
I got there part of the way through the set by PVT. I knew absolutely nothing of them going in, and still don't know any more than the three songs I saw them play, so factor that in as part of my half-assed uninformed review. When I walked in the room they were in the middle of a Ratatat-meets-Trans Am sounding track and I was thinking this band had some real promise. And then they followed that up with clubby dance pop that would have probably gone over well with the fist pumping crowd. These songs were not my bag at all, but it did make me curious what their recordings sound like - were they more like the first rock-oriented song, or the later dance numbers? I'm sure I'll come across them at some point.
I went into this show knowing that I really loved one Warpaint song, and was pretty indifferent about them otherwise. I did not leave the show feeling any different. To give them credit, they are very talented - the drummer and bassist especially, as solid a rhythm section as I've seen in a while. And I'm not even saying that they are "good for girls" as you often see in reviews - they are just good. And they seem to be the rare all girl group around these days that don't have an inkling of throwback to the original pop girl groups from the sixties. No, these ladies are looking instead to the nineties, somewhat occasionally heavy in a grunge sort of way but still have a pop sheen to them, and prone to slow dirges. Honestly, I'm not really sure how to describe their sound. I know the crowd was eating it up like Napoleon devouring a Ziggy Piggy, complete with a young man standing dead center with his arms raised the entire time squealing like a, well, girl.
But for me, I don't know...it didn't get me excited. It wasn't bad, and I liked a couple of the songs a lot - one of them being "Undertow", the only song of theirs I knew coming in. And I liked most of their mellow shoegazey songs for the most part. But the upbeat dance-rock songs, I really could have done without all of those. One of the songs even sounded a little like the Slits/bad white reggae, and there ain't much I like less than bad white reggae. I'm well aware that my less-than-glowing review of these gals is not the norm, but I just wasn't feeling it.
(Image found randomly online...looks like a press promo so I guess it's being used as is expected, assuming this counts as press. Also, there were no dudes in the band when I saw them, unless he was dressed as a girl.)
with Arbor Myst
Arbor Myst started their set with the phrase "We have tapes and bamboo flutes for sale", so automatically my interest was piqued. They were a tag team approach on atmospheric electronic music, sounding a little bit like a modern score for a Werner Herzog film about riding in a boat on the Amazon. Maybe a sequel to "Fitzcarraldo" or something. I'd like to imagine this sequel would involve a crazy Brazilian trying to bring the jungle to a European opera house. I would very much like to watch this movie, someone contact Herzog. Anyways, the music was enjoyable enough, not too exciting live but at least they had some sort of Kon-Tiki/South Pacific sailing film showing during the set so you had something to watch.
Honestly, I didn't know dick about Moon Duo, But I do love Wooden Shjips and Erik Johnson is in both bands so why not get out of the house and hear a little music? Unlike the Shjips, Moon Duo isn't a full rock band, but is instead - wait for it - a duo. It's just Johnson and a woman known as Sanae Yamada according to the internets - with a bank of keyboards and synths and what have you in front of them, plus Johnson doing work on the guitar and adding some vocals. Most reviews of the band seem to compare them to Suicide and kraut rock like Neu!, and the reason everyone says this is because it's exactly what they sound like - both on record and live. It was almost trance inducing - I'm pretty sure you could use this music to hypnotize people. In fact, I wonder if something happened at that show that I don't remember, because I always cluck like a chicken anytime someone says "oranges" in front of me.
(Photo found online. I did not hang out with Moon Duo in a graveyard.)
Polvowith Wild Wild Geese
Ever since Kings re-opened in the late summer last year, I've been waiting on a Polvo show...their bassist Steve Popson is one of the club's owners, after all. Well glory be to the flying spaghetti monster or whatever your deity of choice is, the time is nigh.
But first, let us talk briefly about Wild Wild Geese. I'd never even heard of these kids, but it was pretty good music. The best comparison I could come up with is mid-era Sonic Youth crossed with a little early Pavement plus a healthy dose of the Chapel Hill indie jangle sound. They sounded like a band that could have opened for Polvo on this night or in 1995, they just had that timeless local sound that can be hard to define but you know it when you hear it. The singer wore sunglasses while he sang, which struck me as a bit odd. Then again I'd probably do that too, gives you a barrier to hide behind, makes performing up in front of the gawking masses a little easier to handle. The more I think about them in hindsight the more I'm looking forward to seeing Wild Wild Geese again.
It would be damn near impossible for me to write a negative Polvo review, or even a mediocre one. And I mean mediocre in terms of their performance, not the quality of writing. Mediocre writing is as good as it gets around these parts. So with that said...Polvo was really, really fucking awesome. Color yourself surprised - I know I was! Who would have thought one of my all-time favorite bands would put on a great show! It was a great set - some older songs, some songs from the most recent record, and a couple of brand new tracks, one of which had almost a disco-like beginning until it explodes in your face and ears and eye holes.
The highlight of the evening was them playing "Fast Canoe" one of my all-time favorite songs of theirs. They really rocked it out - so much so that the drummer broke his kick drum. And if them playing a great version of one of my favorite songs isn't enough, while they were switching out the drums Dave filled the time by playing a little bit of the Who's "Behind Blue Eyes", which then morphed into a made-up song about the super moon that was happening that night (apparently the moon was super close to the earth and people were calling a super moon, which seems kinda dumb because it wasn't even wearing a cape or anything - disappointing). Maybe along with the disco rock there will be a super moon song on their new album...assuming there is a new album. Please let there be a new album.
(Photo found online. I have a much nicer boat sitting behind my cinderblock building.)
Fuck I've seen Superchunk play a lot of times. You might think it would get old after a certain point, but I'm excited to see them each and every time they announce another show. I've been listening to them for close to 20 years and seeing them play live for over 15, and yet I still get as excited as I did at 18 to see Mac bounce around, stare at Laura like a stalker, hear Jon play the fuck out of some drums and laugh at one of Jim's many smart ass comments.
So there I was, towards the front-center but just off to the right, ready to hear them play the songs I love for the gazillionth time. And they did. And I danced, at least so far as what I do would be called dancing. And I sang along with the crowd in that tone-deaf way that crowds do. It was a grand old time, just like every other time I've seen them. I know that statement sounds a little dismissive, that this band is still the same as they were decades ago, but I mean it as the highest compliment. It's what you want out of a Superchunk show. At some point I was looking around and realized how young the crowd was...I'd been listening to this band longer than a bunch of these folks had been alive. That's a bit of a mind fuck, and god knows it makes me feel old, but hopeful at the same time that the Chunk appear to still be resonating with the youth.
The set list for the night was great - most of the new record "Majesty Shredding" was played, and it's a great record so you'll get no complaints from me. But the rest of the songs were almost as if they put a worm in my brain and read my mind - "Detroit Has a Skyline", "Breadman", "The Question Is How Fast", "Driveway to Driveway" and "The First Part" were all a part of the main set. And then in the two encores they hit "Like a Fool", "Hyper Enough", "Punch Me Harder", "Precision Auto", "Cast Iron" and "Throwing Things". And maybe the most important song of the whole set - a cover of the Misfit's "Where Eagles Dare"! The crowd went nuts on that one. I went nuts on that one. I'm surprised I had a voice the next day.
Let me briefly mention Veelee, who opened the show. I've seen them a bunch of times now and always really enjoy their sets. Let's put all the band references in one long run-on sentence and get them out of the way - Stereolab Sonic Youth Moggs Young People. The crowd seemed to dig them, and they had a few friends there good naturedly heckling them between songs. I'm not sure if this was the biggest show they've ever done, but they handled it well, sounded great as always, and really set the stage nicely for the Superchunk set. I'd highly recommend picking up their record if you get a chance.