Monday, April 14, 2014

Mogwai / Isis at the Fillmore - 9/22/2003

with Isis
The Fillmore

When I walked in the door of the Fillmore the place was awash with the heavy sounds of Isis. I saw them a year or so ago with Dalek and was pretty lukewarm about them, but this time out I liked them quite a bit more. Honestly they sounded pretty much like a metal version of Mogwai, which makes them the obvious and smart choice for an opener here. While Isis doesn’t sing all that often, when they do it’s those gruff black-metal type of vocals that I’ve never been able to get into. Other than that, the band really piqued my interest into checking out some of their releases.

The very prospect of getting to see Mogwai twice this summer really makes me happy. They are without question one of my very favorite bands, both live and recorded. I’ve attended many of their shows, and this was probably the second best performance I’ve ever seen by them.  The set list was an amazing selection of songs both old and new, including "Helicon 1 and 2," "You Don’t Know Jesus," and most importantly, "Mogwai Fear Satan." As an added bonus, they played the epic “My Father, My King" as the encore.  I am growing a bit concerned though – this is the second show in a row that Stuart Braithwaite hasn’t been wearing his iconic Batman t-shirt, a shirt it seemed like he was wearing every time I saw Mogwai play.  Perhaps the shirt has met an untimely demise? As always, our thoughts and prayers are with the Batman t-shirt in it’s time of struggle and need.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Mogwai at Bimbos - 6/23/2003


It was so quiet in Bimbos you could hear a pin drop. Even my friends, who are notorious for talking and gossiping instead of watching the band, stood in silence mesmerized by Mogwai, one the most amazing groups to come into my life in the last ten years.  It’s obviously not just me who feels this way, based on the crowd reaction (both quiet and loud) and applause.  Seriously, if you’ve never been to a show in SF and experienced what a chatty lot the crowds are, you have no idea what a feat it is for a band to silence a room.  They played an almost entirely instrumental set, the one exception when the keyboardist sang a little bit, but it was through some of his effects.  Stuart Braithwaite, who occasionally sings, didn’t even have a microphone set up, just one sitting at his feet on the floor that he would pick up and say something into from time to time.  They played a couple of new songs, but mostly stuck to older tracks. "Mogwai Fear Satan" delighted me thoroughly; and even better than that, they played "X-mas Steps," the best song in their catalog as far as I’m concerned.  It would have been nice to hear "Cody" and "Helps Both Ways" from "Come On Die Young," but I’m not complaining - they were rad from start to finish no matter what they played. 

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Pixies at the Greek Theatre - 9/25/2004

The Pixies
Greek Theatre


After getting a chance to catch their gig at UC Davis during their “warm up” tour this past spring in a fairly intimate venue for a band this size, there was no way this outing of the Pixies would be able to compare.  Still, despite being a million miles away from the stage (my own fault for getting there too late after driving around forever looking for parking), it was a good time.  The band flat out rocked… you could tell that even from the nosebleed sections on the hill where I was sitting.  I heard a number of complaints over the weekend about the sound, but it sounded pretty great to me.  One of the major problems with outdoor venues is often the sound though, and can cary wildly depending on where you are located.  It was pretty mellow up on the hill where I was located, but the crowd standing in front of the stage looked quite raucous.  It seemed the entire section below swayed with the music like a rising sea, rarely stopping for a bit of respite.  The set wasn’t terribly long, probably just the right amount really – but honestly, since they played “Hey” it didn’t much matter what else happened, it was all icing from that point.  There still wasn’t any “Trompe le Monde” songs if I remember correctly, which is unfortunate because that record is very underrated.  They did surprisingly play that “Lady in the Radiator” song, both versions of “Wave of Mutilation,” and a great number of tracks from “Surfer Rosa” and “Come On Pilgrim.”  Was it a good show?  Sure.  Was it worth the 50 bucks it cost?  Probably not... 

The Pixies at Freeborn Hall - 4/29/2004

The Pixies
Freeborn Hall


For many, many years I’ve always wished for three reunions – the Clash, the Misfits, and the Pixies.  With Joe Strummer's passing the Clash will never happen; Glenn Danzig is highly unlikely to ever re-join The Misfits unless he gets very hard up for money; and I always thought that the egos involved in The Pixies would forever prevent them from reforming as well.  The sad part about never having seen the Pixies, though, is that they were actually still together when I was first becoming a huge fan, but they never played anywhere near the podunk town I grew up in, and too young to make my way to the far ends of the country to view them in a live setting.

Well, times have changed apparently, egos have lessened, money was (likely) wanted, so the Pixies reformed much to the delight of their ravenous fans.  Unlike most bands, the Pixies fan base seemed to grow stronger and stronger with each passing year that they weren’t around; this was made especially evident to me at this show, as the entire crowd seemed to either be old fogeys like me or young teenagers who I can only assume discovered the Pixies when their favorite bands name dropped them as influences.  Either way, the tickets for this show (and the entire tour really) sold out in a matter of minutes, and had folks paying $150 or more for the opportunity to see the Pixies play in these smaller venues in off-beat locations for the first time in many years.

But enough of all that, this is supposed to be a review of the show.  Well, it was fan-fuckin-tastic.  Seriously, everything I’d always hoped a show by them would be.  They played 24 songs including the encore, and the show clocked in at around 70 minutes total.  No prattling with the audience, listening to every Tom, Dick and Mary yell out song requests, no stories and jokes, just straight forward rocking out.  They were like a well oiled machine that had never broken up, save one minor flub on the beginning of “Wave of Mutilation.”  They focused mostly on older material, so I was a little disappointed not to hear “Alec Eiffel,” but they played “Hey,” “Debaser,” and “Velouria,” so how could you even think of complaining?  The crowd was ecstatic – lots of freaking out like it was the Beatles up there, tons of dancing, even moshing (lots of girls moshing around me in particular, and of course the requisite lunkhead dudes), and the applause and cheering between songs was like a jet engine roaring. 

Best of all, this entire tour was being bootlegged by some "instant live" company, wherein they record the show and instantly burn CDs for purchase 10 minutes after the band finishes.  After such an amazing show, how could you not get one?  I believe they made 1000 and sold out of them easily.  The quality is terrific, and will always serve as a reminder of finally seeing one of the greatest bands of all time live.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Planet The / The Mass at the Hemlock - 10/19/2003

The Planet The
with The Mass
The Hemlock

After having seen The Planet The a few months back at the Eagle, I have been eagerly anticipating their return to the San Francisco. I was almost afraid that I’d built them up too much in my head, having enjoyed their last show so much and constantly telling folks to check them out. Well, they didn’t disappoint in the least – TPT were on fire this fine evening. The music was great, a mix of Trans Am proginess and Ex Models no wave rocking makes for fine listening.  It helps that the singer is a real showman - great stage presence, plenty of entertaining banter, and funny to boot, uttering statements such as "can you guys smell us? We smell like an oily shit up here" were par for the course.  I’ve noted it before and I’ll say it again, this is a band of dual personalities, one where the singer is playing guitar and another where he sings only. They sound like two completely different bands almost, but both are equally enjoyable. I picked up their full length at the show, here’s to hoping it can at least approach the greatness of their live set.

I stuck around for at least half of the set by the Mass, because even though I was tired at this point I still wanted to see at least part of their show. They never fail to disappoint, one of the most solid rock bands in the area, and every time I see them they seem to be tighter and tighter. If you think combining the sounds of Sweep the Leg Johnny and metal sounds like a good idea, you should really make the effort to see these guys.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Point Line Plane / The Planet The at the Eagle - 1/2/2002

Point Line Plane
with The Planet The
The Eagle


This was my first time ever going to the Eagle.  Interesting place to say the least, but they have a pretty nice set up for bands.  Large, low stage; a video camera fixed on the stage and play the show on TVs they have around the bar; plenty of parking; and most importantly, they have pinball.  You can’t have enough pinball machines in the world.  The only weird thing is that you have to go up on the stage to get to the bathrooms.

The Planet The were first.  I believe they are from Portland (along with the band that followed them, Point Line Plane).  I didn’t know shit about them before the show, can’t say that I know much more now - other than they are good and put on a damn entertaining live show.  The band consists of three guys - drums, guitar, and keyboards.  They keyboard dude not only had stationary keyboards, but a keytar as well.  The band played two different types of jams - spazzy Ex-Models type music with a little math rock and prog thrown in there when the singer is playing his guitar, and crazy off-kilter new-wave stuff when he’s just singing.  His vocal style was reminiscent of Ian Svenonius from Nation of Ulysses, and he had the dancing and antics to back it up.  I really enjoyed this band, and can’t wait for them to come back through again.

Point Line Plane were up next, and were the band I actually came to see.  Not that I knew anything about them either, but I had heard some good things about them from people whose opinions I trust.  They were a two piece of keyboards and drums, with the keyboardist doing the singing.  They reminded me of a punker version of Trans Am, with occasional heavy metalish vocals.  Like The Planet The, Point Line Plane were pretty damn good too, with a great stage show as well.  They played a short set, but I actually prefer that sometimes, especially when you don’t really know the band’s music.  Leaves you wanting more if it’s good, and not regretting wasting your time if it’s bad.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Eugene Mirman / Derrick Brown at the Cat's Cradle - 2/5/2014

Eugene Mirman
with Derrick Brown
Cat's Cradle

I nearly always go to rock shows alone, but for some reason it seems weird going to a comedy show solo.  I guess laughter is communal or some such shit, but it's not like I was going to be the only person in the room.  The wife got called out of town for work, so I unloaded my extra ticket out front  - quite easily to be honest, as the show ended up being sold out - and found a seat what to make with the laughing and all that. 

Derrick Brown, a poet from Texas, opened the gig.  I guess he's won awards or something for his words, and it wasn't as weird an opener as you would think.  His poems were short and funny and due to him having spent time in Fayetteville in the army, they had local flavor - in particular there was one about cruising in Benson, and another about partying with the trash in Myrtle Beach.  He only spoke for 15 or 20 minutes, probably just the right amount for a poet performing before a comedian.  His book (or books?) would likely be worth checking out if they are anything like what he read this evening. 

I had never seen Eugene Mirman in person before, but between watching various stand-up specials and listening to his albums I knew exactly what to expect - and all those expectations were met.  He mixed straight-forward stand-up, props and pictures, and even multimedia into a great hour (or so) of laughs.  He showed off a series of comical portraits he was trying to get shown in a Brooklyn Whole Foods; talked about taking out an ad in a brochure somewhere in Vermont(?) to protest a parking ticket he got there; aired an elaborate series of previews of fake shows for the made up TV network he wants to create (it reminded me a lot of Weird Al's "UHF")...oh, and he married a couple of people on-stage.  It was a full and entertaining night, Eugene really knows how to put on a show. 

(Photo not mine; also, not a photo.)

Perfect Pussy / Whatever Brains at Kings - 1/9/2014

Perfect Pussy
with Whatever Brains

In retrospect this would turn out to be the last time I would see Whatever Brains in this particular configuration, as the bassist would leave the band shortly thereafter.  I'm not the gossipy type so I have no idea what the details are, I just know he wasn't with them at a later show and then there was a Facebook post about a new bassist.  None of that really matters though, because they were just as weird and awesome as always regardless of band dynamics.  They had Kings turn out nearly all of the lights making photography difficult, not that it didn't stop me from trying.  It was exactly what you expect out of them - a little punk, a little art rock, a little attitude, and a shitload of keyboards.  As always, much fun was had. 

Having already gotten my money's worth, why not stick around and see what all the fuss is about with Perfect Pussy?  And I didn't even have to stick around very long, a their set was fifteen minutes long at the most.  They're pretty much a straight-forward hardcore band with a female singer and a little keyboard noise mixed in.  You could barely hear the vocals (they appeared to be coming from a small amp on the stage), but the band was plenty fun to watch - singer Meredith Graves paced the stage like a panther and was very photogenic doing it.  I'm not entirely sure why the likes of Rolling Stone and other major publications have glommed on to this band versus other hardcore bands, but I'd rather Perfect Pussy be getting press than some other shit act.