Monday, July 9, 2018

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks / Lithics at the Cat’s Cradle - 6/19/2018

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
With Lithics
Cat’s Cradle
6/19/2018

After more than 20 years of going to shows, it’s rare that I’m late.  Hey, It’s not my fault Carrburritos was that crowded!  But it might have been my fault I left the house much later than I should have.  Anyways, despite knowing that I would like Lithics after listening to their latest “Mating Surfaces” leading up to this gig, I sadly only got there in time for a song and a half from them.  It was exactly what I was hoping for – a female-fronted, slightly more subdued version of Ex-Models.  If that doesn’t mean anything to you (it should, Ex-Models were fantastic), think a modern, punkier Devo.  They seem young, so hopefully that means they tour a lot and I can manage to show up on time should they appear here again.


It had been quite a while since I had seen Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks live (or any Malkmus configuration, for that matter), but I have been enjoying their latest record “Sparkle Hard,” so it seemed worth the effort.  Pavement were always notoriously hit or miss live - I think my personal tally was two good shows and one that was thoroughly lifeless & mediocre – but other than possibly being drunk, Malkmus delivered this evening.  He was very talkative and funny between nearly every song – amongst all the rambling there were multiple mentions of Skunk Baxter (specifically the amount of drugs in his mustache), and at one point after someone yelled out “Charlottesville” he responded “Thomas Jefferson…he’s in the musical ‘Hamilton,’ so he’s legit.”  Stephen also doesn’t look like he’s aged in 20 years, which is particularly infuriating to this fat and bald slob.  You can also forget what a good guitarist he is until you see him play live – none of the music Malkmus has recorded over the years really stands out for its technical wizardry when you listen to it, but there is often a lot high-level guitar playing going on in those songs.  As for the actual set of music performed on this night, it was a lot of the new record plus a few older jams like “Jenny And The Ess-Dog” scattered throughout – looking at set lists from rest of the tour, this appears to be fairly typical.  The real highlight was the encore – just like when Spiral Stairs played last year, Pavement drummer Steve West made his way down from Virginia and joined Malkmus for a pseudo-Pavement reunion.  They played two songs, “Shady Lane” and “In The Mouth A Desert”…the crowd was obviously way into it.  If I could make one suggestion to other bands out there – include a near reunion of Pavement as part of your encore, it goes over like gangbusters.

Tracyanne & Danny at Motorco - 6/15/2018

Tracyanne & Danny
Motorco
6/15/2018


Apparently every club in Durham and Chapel Hill have been reading my mind, because this Tracyanne & Danny show was yet another in recent months that had me arriving at the club before it was even dark outside, and back home before the late news.  Feel free to jump on this bandwagon as well, Raleigh music venues.  It had been a long time since I last saw Camera Obscura (apparently 2010, which is even longer than I would have guessed), but based on their popularity then I was a little surprised at the low turnout for what was clearly the best weapon of that band – namely, Tracyanne Campbell and her mellifluous voice.  Regardless of attendance, they put on a lovely performance – in addition to Tracyanne and Danny Coughlan, there was also a bassist, drummer, and most notably a keyboardist who also played saxophone.  It honestly hadn’t dawned on me how sax is in the songs of their self-titled record until this night.  Predictably, the set was the entirety of their only record, plus a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End” – twee pop is a terrific medium for this classic song.  There was also plenty of banter and stories throughout the gig - as Danny noted, “If we didn’t tell stories we’d be out of here in a half hour.”  As has happened every time I’ve seen her perform, I was totally in love with Tracyanne by the end of the night, and I’m quite certain I wasn’t alone.  I’m pretty sure the woman could start a cult if she so desired, assuming anyone would ever actually want an army of middle-aged dorky dudes as their congregation.

The Sea And Cake / James Elkington at the Pinhook - 5/20/2018

The Sea And Cake
With James Elkington
The Pinhook
5/20/2018

Between the way the Cat’s Cradle has been running their performances and the schedule-based festivals I've attended lately, I’ve gotten used to everything starting on time…which makes it extra excruciating that this show started a full hour late. Apparently this was the result of miscommunication rather than intentional fuckery, but that didn’t make that hour of standing around any more palatable. Plus I was tired as shit from a long weekend of Moogfest. Complaining complainer complains!

Eventually James Elkington took the stage – he’s been in a bunch of bands (most notably Brokeback with Doug McCombs, who was playing bass with the Sea And Cake on this tour), but this was just the man and his acoustic guitar. He was a very personable fella with quality banter…clearly a man very comfortable on stage. His music was in the same vein as Nick Drake (but not on par obviously), wispy and delicate on top of some excellent finger-picked guitar work. Given that description, I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that the crowd was way too loud and almost completely overpowered him, even at the very front of the stage. It wasn’t the most exciting performance I’ve ever seen, but the music was nice and it was pretty mesmerizing watching James play guitar.

Holy shit it was hot in the Pinhook by the time the Sea and Cake took the stage. Not just from the body heat of the crowd, which had grown much larger and more tightly packed, but the stage lights were absolutely cranked. This was great for photos – I’ve never had it so easy at this club in my life – but terrible for not being drenched in sweat. I was apparently so sweaty that even from the stage, Sam Prekop pointed at me and said “this guy is definitely hot” – and I think we all know he wasn’t referring to my physical attractiveness. Despite that, 3/4ths of the band was dressed in Canadian tuxedos...their balls must have been boiling. Doug McCombs and his giant David Letterman beard was the only person not towing the fashion line. Despite the heat, they sounded fantastic, almost as if they're a collection of highly respected musicians that have been a band for a quarter of a century. I love their new record “Any Day,” and to no surprise that album make up the bulk of the set. Of course I would have loved more classics, but they perform so rarely you take whatever you can get. They did finally hit on a couple of their early jams during the encore with “the Argument” and “Parasol”...honestly, getting to see “Parasol” performed live was worth the price of admission alone.

When it was all over, I couldn't walk fast enough to my car and crank up the AC. Thank god for modern conveniences.