I am still giddy from seeing the legend in concert, up front and personal. We waited in line for about, oh, 4 hours, but it was totally worth it. I went to the early show. Our getting in line early was rewarded with wristbands that allowed us to get behind the barrier in the GA area. So, I was close enough to analyze Prince’s eye makeup (quite good, btw) and his funny little expressions and flirtatious smiles. I would pay 200 bucks to see him again anytime. In fact, as we poured out the Roseland that night all of us instantly were regretting not buying a ticket for both the early show and the late show.
Prince’s backing all-female band was jaw-droppingly good on guitar and their chops on stage allowed them to keep up with Prince and then some. Prince just glows– he has this aura that makes you understand how he has been so successful for so long. One of my favorite moments of the night was when he asked the crowd “Don’t you just love music? Music is like medicine.”
If you haven’t read this review of the late night show, I highly recommend it. I love Ryan White’s enthusiasm here and his music writing is just top notch — who starts out a concert review with a theory about physics/space/time the nature of matter? Portland music writers do.
(I still can’t believe I got to hear Purple Rain, a song I roller skated to in 7th grade, sung by the man himself. Apologies in advance because I know I’ll bring this concert up again and again.)
I know it’s been forever and a day since I have posted, but things have been busy. I’ve been going to shows–Jack White, Kimbra, and Jane’s Addiction are a few–but nothing has been so amazingly good that I felt compelled to write about it. I’m going to try to be better about updating this blog, even if it’s just to toss out a few observations or mention what is currently interesting to me. And now that fall is here and in full swing, I hope to be more dedicated about getting out for live music.
Last night I went to see the band Other Lives at the recommendation of a friend. I wasn’t familiar with the band at all, and had only last week downloaded and listened to their 2011 full-length, Tamer Animals.
I should start by saying Other Lives are in the same tradition as Arcade Fire and Portland-based Typhoon, that is to say, with several band members, all multi-instrumentally talented, and all exquisite musicians. I’ve seen Typhoon and Arcade Fire in the past and been impressed by both. All three of these bands were excellent live shows, and I don’t say that to imply that Other Lives is “the new Arcade Fire” — not by any means. What I mean is that Other Lives uses the same formula as these two other bands (lots of musicians on stage, all playing their hearts out, all at once) but with a totally different effect.
Let’s start with the instruments on stage last night at the Wonder: guitar, keyboard, drums, xylophone, cello, violin, tambourine, harmonica, accordion, castanet, and various hand-held percussion instruments, including, and completing, the indie-rock tapestry effect: antler-with-bells. Each of the 5 band members are continually switching these up during their live show, making for a dynamic stage delivery which leaves you entranced.
And then there are the human instruments: the cooing backup vocals of Jenny Hsu, which come across at times as almost Pixies-like, in high falsetto, and the capable vocal harmonies of John Onstott.
Beyond these indie-rocker trappings and formulas, with Other Lives you can sense something deeper going on. Lead vocalist Jesse Tabish has a soulfulness and mournful quality about his voice, but it’s a totally different kind of emotional pitch than say, Bon Iver. Tabish is alert, abrupt, and captivating on stage, frequently cradling the microphone and using his hands in an almost conductor-like way to signal changes. This is not “pour your heart out, woeful” music. It has a way of alternating between moments of fantasy and whimsy, and then suddenly, with a flick of Tabish’s wrist, becoming nervy and unsettling. Check out “For 12” — a mesmerizing, insistent, and somehow Cowboy-influenced piece that had me daydreaming about a time in my life when I was obsessed with Twin Peaks.
And maybe it has something to do with the stringed instruments, but there is also something vaguely gothic about Other Lives. When I say gothic, I mean gothic in the romantic-literary sense, not the hair-and-makeup metal sense. I could easily imagine “For 12″ as the soundtrack to a film version of Northanger Abbey or some other foreboding, spooky thriller. This is music not so much about loss, as about trepidation. I also love “As I lay my head down.” I was listening to this song this week for the first time as I first read the horrifying news in the New York Times about the nanny who allegedly murdered her two toddler charges in a posh Upper West Side apartment. The music was somehow fitting–it has a sense of horror that fluctuates with sadness in a rhythmic, pulsating way. It gets into your bones. Seeing Other Lives on a blustery fall night in October was probably one of the best ways to experience them.
I also can’t fail to mention (because I’m always checking out what people are wearing) that I loved what Jesse Tabish wore onstage: skinny (but not too skinny) black jeans, a navy button down shirt with what appeared to be a long-johns shirt underneath and a narrow silver cuff at his wrist. He has crazy-long verging-on-Metallica length tresses that just look nice on him, whereas they might look skeevy on someone less clean cut. These are meticulous guys–in their musicianship, and in their appearance.
The final highlight of the show: learning from Tabish that the band intends to make Portland its home for the recording of its next record. This was met with enthusiasm and cheers from the crowd. I will for sure be listening for their next release and highly recommend this band as one to keep track of.
Hello, people. I know it’s been a while since I’ve been by to say hello, but I have been wearing myself out with work and going to the odd show here or there. The concert experience that I was hoping would be the highlight of my summer turned out to be sort of, well, meh, but the venue was amazing, and a concert that I didn’t have particularly high hopes for (mainly due to a venue I don’t like very much) turned out pretty delightful. I’ll start with the former. Come back later this week for a review of Jack White at the Rose Garden.
Santigold/Bloc Party – The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, 8/11/12
As most of you know, I’m blogging here in Portland 98% of the time, but when I travel, I like to take in the venues and get a feel for how it goes in other parts of the country. In this instance, I actually planned the trip around the concert, because Bloc Party is pretty high up there in terms of UK bands I like that are still together, and they don’t actually tour a whole lot. Santigold opening for them was an added bonus, as I’m really fond of a couple of the songs off her latest release. So I booked a flight and snagged us a room at The Cosmopolitan for a little 4-day stay. The disclaimer here is that this is not a proper review of the Bloc Party/Santigold show, because we never actually got to properly hear it. We did see it, though, so at least I can provide a review of the venue, which is pretty cool.
The Cosmopolitan hotel’s Boulevard Pool seems like it would be a great concert location–it’s a rooftop pool overlooking the Las Vegas strip. The pool is fairly shallow (like less than a couple feet, I think?) and they drain it so the bottom of the pool becomes the GA floor. I was actually hoping it would be a covered pool, just like the one Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed do the Charleston on in It’s a Wonderful Life, because it would be really cool to cross “dancing on a covered pool” off my bucket list.
Anyway, when we checked in we told the guy at reception we were there for the concert and he happily upgraded us from a City room to a Terrace room facing the hotel’s two rooftop pools, free of charge. When we got upstairs and saw the MTV-spring-break like action happening in one of the pools, it became clear why they were so eager to upgrade us–I can’t imagine staying on this side of the hotel and not being okay with thumping house music coming from one pool and the late-night live-concert action going on in the other pool. At one point they were both going on at the same time. If I had paid money to be in a Terrace room on one of the lower floors (seeing the concert from the 7th or even 10th floor on the poolside of the hotel could be amazing) I might have been kind of annoyed with the overlapping (ha ha, no pool pun intended) acoustics.
We arrived downstairs at about 9:30. Weirdly, just after we got there it started to rain (not a full-blown Portland, Oregon-worthy downpour, more a warm rainforesty drizzle). But it was enough to get the show delayed. And then the crowd continued to drink and become more disorderly, and then it seemed even hotter than the 95 degrees it probably was, and then a girl walking though the crowd stumbled and seemed to faint right next to me, but it turned out she actually just fell on account of her 5-inch high stripper shoes. (I myself was happy to be sporting my favorite 2-inch leopard print clogs, enough to give me a proper view and with enough clearance to avoid the puddles of beer and chlorinated pool water that seemed to be everywhere). Anyway, the short story is that around 10:30 or 11 pm, Santigold canceled, and then we gave up and headed back to our hotel room, but not before stopping by the kiddie pool (a third, beautiful 1o-inch deep pool lit up at night and surrounded by astro-turf and what seemed to be worn-out, 30-somethings sprawled on deck chairs. While there, we met a nice couple who had bought tickets to the show on a whim while touring the hotel for the wedding accomodations. So even though I abandoned hope of hearing one of my favorite bands up close, at least I got a chance to soak my sore feet and enjoy a night-time pool experience:
Back in the hotel room, I remembered we had a bottle of white wine chilling in our mini-fridge and we took that out to the terrace. Our balcony on the 27th floor allowed for a somewhat removed but still visually entertaining bird’s eye view of the festivities, with the always-changing scenery of the strip in the background:
Bloc Party came on close to midnight. Accustomed to Portland’s regular midnight curfews, I found myself a little weary by the time 11:30 rolled around. Not being able to hear very much of what was going on below, I entertained myself by using the zoom feature on my camera and playing around with the night settings. The concerts at the Pool are broadcast on a big-screen sign so that even people on the street can actually get glimpses of the goings-on, which I thought was kind of a nice little bonus. I was actually in bed by the time I heard the first Santigold song come on (L.E.S Artistes) unexpectedly, close to 1 am.
And that, my friends, is how the Santigold/Bloc Party show at the Boulevard Pool – Las Vegas earned the unique honor of being the first concert I ever witnessed while wearing my pajamas.
I realized today that if I ever need access to memories of what my life felt like in the summer between 1994-1995, I just need to listen to R.E.M.’s Murmur on repeat. I was a sophomore in college then, and my summers consisted of working part time at the University bookstore, taking drawing classes, and trolling the record store on E. 13th Street in Eugene for bargain CDs. The summers in Eugene are quiet. You go to the grocery store and you have the whole place to yourself, because the student population clears out for the summer. I listened to Murmur while I used a real, paper map to find the DMV on the outskirts of town. I listened to Murmur sitting on the tar-covered balcony of our apartment building, looking up at the stars or peering down on my neighbor’s yard across the way. While I took The Cure or The Smiths with me in my walkman on my first long-distance runs along the Willamette River, Murmur was there in the background when I was just laying around.
Murmur may be one of those albums that I compare everything to, kind of like my first real boyfriend. I loved that one of the songs has French words in it. I loved that Michael Stipe practically yodels in another. The whole album is suffused with a kind of sadness and a lonesome, searching quality. But the drums on this album are what get to me. They provide this rollicking insistence that bring Michael Stipe along for a ride, and prevent him from wallowing. You get the feeling that he goes along with it, sometimes reluctantly. And away you go too. Listen to the first song, especially. The percussion on this album is probably among my favorite of any album. “Pilgrimmage” has an almost marching quality. There’s something that I really miss about this style of music, where there is a good drummer to hold everything together. I’m pretty sure I harbor a secret hope that more bands will start to take structural cues from the drumming on Murmur.
Anyway, those are my 2012 thoughts on Murmur. I think it’s interesting that even though it was already more than 10 years old when I first came to it in 1994, it forms the underpinning for what I perceive as “good” music. And even though I can train my ear to be more sophisticated as I get older, the imprinting that happened with this album will probably never go away. And just as I will probably always like boys with blue eyes, I will also probably always like rock and roll where it’s clear someone knows how to use a drum kit.
What about you? What’s your summer album from way back? What album did you do your imprinting with?