Belle & Sebastianwith Alvvays
Another year, another trip out of town to see Belle & Sebastian, since they will never play here in the Triangle apparently. At least this time we didn't have to get on a plane, instead driving up through the never-ending abyss that is Virginia to our nations capital, Washington DC. The band was playing in a giant box called Echostage that usually hosts the drug-addled EDM crowd, and based on the level of police presence outside no apparently informed them that the twee pop crowd B&S draws isn't likely to cause the same level of problems. In fact, as the wife noted, the only work they seemed to perform on the night was to tell concert-goers that they would have to go to the bottom of the hill to catch their Uber rides after the show.
Strange setting aside, the band put on a rousing performance - eighteen songs total including the encore, with many from their new record "Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance." They did not spare any part of their catalog though - at least five of the tracks were from early records "Tigermilk" and "If You're Feeling Sinister," plus some of their early singles like "Jonathan David" and "I'm Waking Up to Us." Stuart mentioned a few times had put together a set of animal songs, and he wasn't lying - included on this night was "Funny Little Frog," "Judy and the Dream of Horses," "The Fox in the Snow" and "Dog on Wheels," much to my delight. They had created videos for the backdrop for a couple of the new songs last time around in Miami, but this time it appeared that more tracks had video accompaniment than didn't. The band was running fourteen deep this time with a local quartet of strings and a trumpet rounding out their sound, as seems to be the norm. The strings seemed much bolder in the mix than the last couple of times we've seen them - not sure if this was a decision of the band or something the club did, but either way I liked it. The club was hot as balls, and much more crowded than last time, but in the end it was a glorious good time as always.
We caught most of the set by the opener Alvvays, and they get a big thumbs up (not something I can often say about B&S opening acts). I had listened to their self-titled debut a few months back and thought it was fine but nothing spectacular; live, though, it really worked - retro jangly guitar pop with a little surf twang. As is my way, I immediately start trying to figure out who they sound like, and for some reason I kept coming back to Velocity Girl - not an exact match, but a similar vibe. A couple of the songs had the pop hooks of a modern pop act like Best Coast, but with a heavy C86 vibe...and if any of the band members of Alvvays were even a thought in their parents eyes when that original C86 compilation came out, I would be shocked. I'm now going to revisit that self-titled record of theirs, because I have a feeling I'll have a much greater appreciation for it the second time around after experiencing them live.