Tuesday, January 6, 2015
I've never been a super fan of Thee Oh Sees, and haven't even seen them live since I lived in the Bay Area from where the band once hailed, but for some reason I got all excited for this show. Sometimes you just need a little raucous garage punk in your life, ya know? I got to Kings just as Thee Oh Sees were setting up, creating these matching towers of amps combined with PA speakers and pedals and god knows what else - they were at least eight feet tall and looked super sketchy. Dwyer was apparently touring with an all new band, though I couldn't tell you why - I know he somewhat recently moved to LA, so maybe these were just a couple of local SoCal dudes who learned a few of the band's songs and were game to drive around the country. They certainly performed at an adequate enough level for my tastes, though I did hear a couple of people commenting on how the group was "different," with no indication if that was a good or bad thing and what exactly the differences were. Certainly the pack of kids moshing and sloshing beer all around me didn't seem to mind who was on stage with Dwyer, so why should I?
The last time I saw Sloan was probably in the neighborhood of 1997 - I took a girl I had a crush on to see Superdrag in Winston-Salem, and Sloan was the opener. I never got anywhere with the girl, but the show was rad and I still think of it often. I'm not sure why it took so long to make it to another Sloan show again, god knows I've listened to plenty of their recordings in that span of time - but the nice intimate setting of the Cat's Cradle Back Room seemed like a gig not to pass up. Of course this was also helped by Guided by Voices cancelling their show that was scheduled this same night in the main room of the Cradle - I already had a ticket to that, but this made for a pretty great back-up plan.
There was no opener and Sloan played two sets. In the first, they mimicked their most recent album "Commonwealth" and each of the four main band members (there was an extra fifth member for the live show playing keys and adding backing vocals, and fuck him cause he don't get his own set of songs goddammit) performed a mini-set of three or four songs where each was the front man. Yes, there was instrument swapping involved, but don't hold that against them. The songs in this set were largely from that new record, though not exclusively. What followed was a fifteen or twenty minute intermission aka "scheduled time to look at your phone," and then there was a second longer set where the band played whatever the hell they wanted to in whatever order they wanted to. I knew some of the songs, didn't know others, but it was always fun regardless. I would put the average age of the crowd at somewhere around 37 - lots of babysitters were getting paid tonight - and I wasn't alone in enjoying some quality Canadian pop music this Saturday night. Probably a little too much overly earnest singing along and at least one girl acting out the lyrics with her hands, but the night was clearly a success regardless.
This was the sixth anniversary party for the Pinhook, and the room was packed. I got in the door just before Speedy Ortiz started their set, and weaseled my way to the front as I usually do. The first time I saw these guys and gal was at this same venue, it was a damn enjoyable show and this time was no different. Singer Sadie Dupuis wasn't just killing it on guitar this time, she was wearing this crazy brightly-colored dress with a dog print all over it that had me mesmerized for the entire set. That combined with the new guitarist's epic afro made the group visually interesting even if you didn't like their music. Luckily, their off-kilter indie pop that is clearly inspired by classic icons like Polvo and Sonic Youth sounds good to these ears, so sign me up for the total package - they're a keeper.
While I had actually only heard a song or two by Ex Hex, I had absolutely no doubt coming into this show that I would love it. The legendary Mary Timony and friends playing punky power pop - what's not to like? What I didn't know was how fun they would be to watch live - for a band with only one record under their belt ("Rips," released this year on Merge), they seem incredibly comfortable together on stage. The entire band is all smiles and rock poses and I just can't imagine anyone seeing Ex Hex perform and not being totally delighted. They powered through probably every song they had over the span of 45 minutes max, and then closed out their night with an encore of the Real Kids song "All Kindsa Girls." They recently released a recording of this cover as part of Merge's subscription seven inch series, dig it up if you can - a nice take on a perfect song. It was a grand ending to a quality night of tunes.
I really should have written this before my phone died (or rather, went for a swim) and I lost all my notes. Yes, even for these half-assed reviews I write, I take notes. My memory is shit.
Opener Boogarins are a band from Brazil according to the internets, but I didn't verify that directly with the band, and they spoke English to the crowd. To quote myself from the photo I posted on Instagram: "Very impressive. Swirly guitar pop crossed with heavy jams, like if Ty Segall joined the Cocteau Twins." Can't really argue with my astute assessment since I'm the one that made it. I really need to listen to their record though, because I did quite enjoy their live performance.
I've seen the Clean a few times and David Kilgour solo a few more times on top of that (including just this past July at Merge 25), so I can't really say there was anything new or exciting about this performance by the band. It was still really, really, really damn enjoyable though, as their gigs always are. You know what I never get tired of? Hearing "Tally Ho" live. No offense to the rest of their songs, which are quite good, but their live set could just be them playing "Tally Ho" ten times in a row and I would be a happy man. Anyways, they were awesome as usual, and the crowd full of old people (that I felt right at home in) seemed to enjoy themselves.