Hoooooh-boy guys. It's been a long, long time since I've gone off to a concert and really, powerfully wanted to bring the band home with me and keep them forever. I think the last time I wanted to kidnap someone was Andrew Bird the first time I saw him, many many moons ago.

I've had an entire day to think about it now, and I'm still convinced that Josh Ritter is magic and I wasn't just starving for entertainment. The first thing I mention is always the crowd though, so let's just get this out of the way: those that were standing still with their arms crossed were doing so out of shyness, not pretension. We all sung harmonies, we slow-danced with our neighbors, and no one pushed. So, points already in favor of the crowd.

Then there was the opening act: Scott Hutchison, of Frightened Rabbit fame. I've never been a big fan of Frightened Rabbit, but I remember seeing a bit of their set at Pitchfork a few years ago, and found them more endearing in person (I think it's the Scottish accents). And Scott, Scott... how to describe this. He came out on stage wielding a bottle of beer, which he waved at us in greeting. He then proceeded to play through "Modern Lepper," though he flubbed some of the words. I think at this point most of us were expecting it to be because he was drunk (he was), but he then launched into a story about how last time he was in Chicago (playing at the dreaded Double Door) during that song he'd become acutely aware that he had a hair stuck in his throat and that it was "pubic in nature." He'd suddenly remembered this during the song, throwing him off his train of thought, and now, yes, Chicago shows are associated with him having a pube in the back of his throat. (The reason for said pube was not elaborated upon, beyond "And I hadn't been anywhere near that... region... in a long time!") He waved the beer at us once again, took a sip, apologized for the story, and then announced that he had no set list and would just take requests.

It was pretty much awesome.

And then there was Josh. He bounced out onto the stage with his guitar and immediately started into a lovely acoustic song. I actually don't remember the name of it, because this is also the first concert I've been to in a long, long time where I knew no more than a third of the songs that were played (and what a way to be introduced to the rest of his catalog).

But here's the thing: all through the song and, in fact, all through the entire show, he was just unabashedly happy. He was bouncing up and down, he was grinning uncontrollably (I paused to wonder if he was maybe high), but it just seemed so unselfconsciously sincere I was pretty much immediately smitten. He waved his arms, he held his heart, he mimed hanging himself, he waltzed all by his lonesome across the stage to "The Curse". It's like he was so caught up in the music he couldn't help it. I've tried to figure out a good way to explain the complete inability I have to objectively look at this concert, because I spent an inordinate amount of time staring up at him thinking "Omg, if I could just keep you life would be so much better." It was kind of like the instinctive reaction you get when you look at one of these*. Kind of... contagious cheerfulness brought on by copious amounts of very large smiling.

His unbridled enthusiasm for playing music for us aside, he and his band are also freaking awesome. Even the slow stuff, which I normally zone out for at a show, was wonderful, and there were always lines that just made me, well... jealous, as a writer. Why can't I write "Because the keys to the kingdom got locked inside the kingdom / And the angels fly around in there, but we can't see them". Why can't I sing "What five letters spell "apocalypse" she asked me / I won her over singing "W.W.I.I.I." I mean, ugh, it's a love song but it's about the Cold War and ending the world and it's full of metaphors about nuclear power and... and... it turns WWIII into a bridge, darnit. (Also note the grin that keeps sneaking onto his face in the second link. It was like that all night. How can you not grin back?) Not to mention the questionably intentional degeneration of a monologue about the mayoral debates and midwestern weather into a cover of the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime."

Anyway, point being: Josh Ritter--fantastic showman. Very charming. Wonderful music. Likely future subject for illegal cloning experiments.

* May not be true for [livejournal.com profile] apple_pathways, as I am not sure of her stance on sea creatures that are impossible not to personify. Should anyone have an adverse reaction to the above picture, do not assume any direct correlation to how you would react to seeing Josh Ritter perform.
All right. A lot to write about that will interest almost no one. I am now vaguely, pinkishly sunburned and can say that I've seen ZZ Top and Eric Clapton and... a lot of hardcore guitar fans. Yeah.

In which I allow myself to be dragged to a guitar festival )

I also spent a good part of the day feeling vaguely guilty because there were probably several thousand people in the world who would've appreciated tickets to this much more than I did. Which isn't to say I didn't find it entertaining. I'm just... an unappreciative and snarky hipster about it.
evilhippo: hippo (73 [attack])
( May. 18th, 2010 10:30 pm)
It's been a rough few days, and in the interest in not writing down an essay's worth of whining, I'm going to stick to last night, because last night was good.

I got to see Patrick Watson at Schubas. In fact, I'd almost forgotten I'd even bought the tickets (good thing I usually put things like that in my iPod calendar, otherwise I'd be forgetting things left and right). And right off the bat... I love Schubas. I think I've covered that before, though. They even have free wireless so when I invariably arrive way earlier than necessary I have something to do. But most importantly, it's the smallest, coziest, best-sounding place I've been in Chicago. It's just nice. I hadn't been there since I saw the Bowerbirds last year, and unfortunately for that show it was mostly Pitchforky hipsters standing around with their arms crossed and chatting the whole time (which I think made the Bowerbirds kind of cross). This show was entirely the opposite. The opener was from Chicago, and amazingly (considering my history with local openers) she was good. And she'd brought a lot of her friends, who cheered and clapped and made the entire crowd seem a lot warmer. But it was obvious from the start that it wasn't the usual hipster crowd. The people I was next to had come all the way up from Louisville, Kentucky. It hadn't occurred to me, since I was lucky enough to have seen him at Hillside last year, that Patrick Watson could very well be one of those artists who just doesn't venture into the US much. (Stop being selfish, Canada!) So, what we had was a crowd of friends-of-the-opening-act, travelling fanatics, and... maybe some of us were hipsters? But there was so much cheering and mutual laughter between us and the band and just... fantastic vibes. And I think a good part of that was also that the band just does not stop smiling, or laughing at each other and the occasional little slip-up. They have a fantastic presence, and the energy is rather contagious. Also, the music is awesome. This show is definitely up there on my list of Great Shows I've Been To. Sure, there wasn't rain, thunder, or risk of electrocution, but the show concluded with Patrick donning a megaphone contraption that looked like it was inspired by Doctor Octopus and trekking out into the crowd to sing a cappella. Then, since it was such a small place, he did one more song truly a cappella. And both of these songs ended in massive sing-alongs (one of which was entirely spontaneous). By this point, though, I think Patrick could've led us out into the streets and we all would've followed in neat lines, so maybe he just had to think "They should sing along now!" and we did. Considering the number of people who were obviously video taping it on their phones and cameras, I am severely disappointed that something isn't up on youtube yet.

In conclusion, may I just say that I adore the way this man (and his band) makes music. They're just up there making wonderful noise in as many ways possible: the percussionist beating on tins and other flotsam, banging on guitar strings with a couple of chopsticks, Patrick humming into a megaphone with a toilet plunger used as a mute or shouting up and out above the mic to get an echo from the ceiling... it's just crazy fun to witness, and with the existence of the megaphone suit, it borders on mad aural science, which is entirely the sort of thing I am wont to adore in a group of people.

And then I biked the 13 miles home, but the wind was behind me and it wasn't freezing out, so I was happy.

Everything else is just going to be disregarded for now, because I could catch you all up on the last five days of my life, but it'd be ridiculous and you'd think it was all hyperbole anyway. I will say this, though: Bad timing is bad. On every front. Especially today (holy crap especially today). Related to the portion of the drama that is (hopefully) less messy, I've also exponentially increased the number of people I owe pies to (which could go either way, except I hate making pastry crust). Whine whine whine; I've made my day, now I have to sleep in it.

But oh! There is one bit from Saturday morning I should point out. You know that random cliche on TV or in movies where groups of high school kids are liable to burst randomly into song, even (sometimes especially) in situations involving boredom and drudgery? So, I spent my Saturday morning running detention at the high school I've been volunteering at. We had the detention kids and the team work on Instant Challenge packets as a way to raise money for the team to go to Globals. And we had some music on in the background and guys... guys you think TV is lying to you, but I can say from experience that inner-city high school kids in detention really can and do burst into song at random. (Seriously, I adore this high school more and more every time I'm there. It's so interesting! And completely unlike high school as I knew it.)
evilhippo: hippo (35 [waiting])
( Dec. 31st, 2009 08:53 pm)
So, what do you even say to a year that pretty much everyone maligned? It started out all glossy and hopeful and we were going to save the world, sort of. But we're right back in the dystopian future we started out in, only now we're even more aware of it. Funtimes, eh?

But despite the global bitterness, I owe 2009 at least some small bit of respect. Compared to the last two years, it was actually leaps and bounds better. I can say without reservation that it is firmly in the middle ground between "awful" and "actually pretty okay" (obviously I am using my sarcastic voice here but I still mean it). I imagine a good bit of this optimism about 2009 is just because I grew up a bit this year and learned to accept that some things are just going to suck until proper opportunities present themselves (ie: everything in this tag). So I backed off on my teeth-bared, full-speed-ahead, desperate efforts to find another job and found other things to do. I wasn't always successful with my attempts, but I'm at least not sitting down at the computer crying and writing entries about how I'm a failure (I found some of those. Old entries that are that embarrassing should be a minimum of three years old, not from just a bit over a year ago).

So, in a short-standing tradition... The Random of 2009 )
evilhippo: hippo (10 [wee])
( Sep. 25th, 2009 09:16 am)
Last night was surreal for about fifty reasons. Other than the jerks in the front of the line, who wouldn't even tell me if we were allowed to take pictures and just rolled their eyes and told me to get in line, the hipsters were nice. I haven't been in a chill hipster crowd since I saw the Decemberists back in like, 2006? Cleveland is far less hardcore than Chicago; no one even jostled us during the show. (And, largely for this reason, operation Bring My Mother to a Hipster Show was a success.)

And guys, guys, Sufjan Stevens is as awesome live as you'd think. He looked kind of... stoic and slightly unhappy when he first came out, and I really wanted to apologize for wanting him to go on tour again, because it looked like he was just going to grit his teeth and get through it (what did we do to this man to make him hide for so many years and hate touring?) but THEN, after the first (10-minute) song or so, he settled down and actually even bantered with us a bit and it was beautiful. The show was a good mix of old and new (and his new is pretty electronic-sounding: you can tell that he's gotten back into the old Enjoy Your Rabbit thing). I'd heard that he wasn't playing anything from Illinois, but that's a lie. He played Casimir Pulaski Day and Jacksonville and even Chicago, and then apologized at the end for how rusty he was on the old stuff (I think he missed one note in Holland. But, as a corollary: He played Holland!). They had lyric sheets, and the trumpet player had a notebook full of sheet music, but it's early in the tour, and I'm getting the feeling they're just trying to play everything they're capable of playing (which is a lot, because man, his band is good. The trumpet player especially. I couldn't believe his chops.)

I think most of the surreality of the show (other than being randomly in Cleveland, with my mom, after spending the day at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (which is, quite literally, kind of like the basement of someone who's been obsessed with music since forever and kind of just threw everything together with some placards))... The surreality was mostly that I kind of didn't expect Sufjan to tour ever again, and I definitely didn't expect to be standing about five feet away from him when I finally got to see him. (I didn't mention that my mom was going on and on the entire time about how we were going to be late and we'd be standing against the wall in the back and there'd be nowhere to park and we'd never get out of Cleveland, so we left downtown at about 5:30 and got there at a quarter-til, despite the rush hour traffic, and had to wait until nearly 7:00 for doors to open. She also wouldn't stand in line until there were other "old people," which wasn't until about 6:15.) So we had a good spot a couple people back from the stage, right in the middle.

In conclusion: The only thing missing was a hug, and considering I wanted to apologize for even making him come out on stage in front of people again, I couldn't possibly have done more than tipped my hat to him and thanked him for playing.
Short and disjointed:

Hillside was amazing. It's not as dynamic to throw the ending at everyone first, but I can't explain much of any of the rest of it. I now own mustard made by the Sunparlour Players, and have (embarrassingly, in hindsight) shouted improvisational nonsense directly into Patrick Watson's (rather confused) ear.
Corollary: I am now severely impaired when it comes to enjoying concerts that aren't during torrential downpours. (That moment may actually have surpassed The Decemberists Playing the Mariner's Revenge Song in a Thunderstorm with the Orchestra, just because there was no danger of electrocution-at-any-moment for that one.)

I need to go camping more often.

I also need to learn actual campfire songs on my ukulele. (Did I tell you guys about Raleigh? Raleigh is my travel buddy, and is very sweet company if you ever want him along.)

A giant camp of lesbians singing Metric, Weezer, and Britney Spears songs into the wee hours of the morning can apparently upset the sky enough to make it rain the next day. Once they apologize, while you're sailing a tarp like a pirate ship against the raging wind, it will die down long enough to finish packing everything up.

I wish I had taken more pictures.

Getting into the US sucks for people who don't have citizenship... and delays my bus and apparently makes all of the Detroit Greyhound staff very cranky.

Also, the goal of air conditioning in buses isn't to freaking keep ice cream frozen or something, geez.
evilhippo: hippo (58 [yip yip])
( Jul. 20th, 2009 08:53 pm)
I think I've recovered enough to write this. I was basically headachey and dead all day today, which is unfair because I even made a special effort yesterday to avoid all the pot and cigarette smoke that'd been giving me headaches the rest of the weekend. Goshdarnit. Anyway! Sunday wasn't quite as epic as Saturday, but it did have its moments.

1:00 (A) The Mae Shi--So, Saturday I was all "You know what's weird? The Bowerbirds being all popular, that's weird!" and then Sunday started with the Mae Shi, who had just broken up/were in the process of breaking up/were basically two separate bands between the start and end of their set. It was pretty boring through the first three songs, and I almost left to listen to Michael Columbia until they pulled out a parachute, threw it into the audience, sang a song, took it back, and then gradually turned into a hip-hop act that was actually very entertaining.

1:45 (C) Frightened Rabbit and (B) Dianogah--The original plan was to check out Frightened Rabbit and then go hang out at Dianogah. I did the opposite. Dianogah was actually quite good, but definitely not the sort of thing you can stand around listening to (it's totally headphones on, spacing-out productively sort of music). Frightened Rabbit was marginally more interesting live, and their Scottish accents and happiness to be there were good enough to keep me from wandering off.

2:30 (A) Blitzen Trapper (maybe 2:40 (B) The Killer Whales?)--So, honestly I don't remember what I did during this set. I think I caught about four Blitzen Trapper songs, and I was kind of nonplussed, so I wandered to the B stage and was even more nonplussed with the Killer Whales. I don't really remember anything they played, and part of this might be that I was under a tree behind the sound tent and the acoustics there were terrible.

3:35 (B) Women--The problem here, really, is that there wasn't much I'd heard of/had an interest in hearing on Sunday morning, so I did a lot of sitting. I'm certain there's a very strong difference between the Killer Whales and Women, but I honestly couldn't tell you. I did get some vegan curry with lots of veggies at this point, though, which was really delicious and came with the most hardcore and biodegradable spork ever. (Btw the food rocked. I also had a really wonderful spinach pie and some iced coffee horchata, and non-dairy ice cream of deliciousness. I mean really, what the heck kind of festival food is that, even? Other than the spinach pie (which had feta in it), I was vegan all weekend and I don't regret it for a moment, except I did kind of want ribs, but Robinson's always smells good.)

4:30 (B) DJ/Rupture--By most accounts, I should regret not going over to see the Thermals, but I heard a bit of their opening and they sounded like everything else (this is also why I didn't go see Fucked Up, but I don't regret that either), so I went over to stage B for DJ/Rupture, and I don't regret it, because every one of us was dancing. I don't think I mentioned my goal of dancing through an entire set at Pitchfork, but this set accomplished it with flying colours, and so I'm happy. I also realized I'm endlessly fascinated by DJing (I was pretty sure of it after hanging out at the techno stage at the festival I went to in Logan Square, but this pretty much cemented it).

5:30 (B) Japandroids--Kind of meh. I stayed for a while just because I was over there. They had a lot of energy, but it really just wasn't my thing, so I went to get ice cream and then wandered around Flatstock. If I wasn't going to Hillside this weekend and spending more money, I think Flatstock would've bankrupted me because oooh so many pretty posters.

6:30 (A) M83--I was going to watch Vivian Girls, but the crowd was just too massive for me to hang around at the B stage when I knew that Grizzly Bear was going to be next. I do regret not seeing them; M83 was good, but not exciting. In hindsight, I probably could've wound my way into a decent-enough spot for Grizzly Bear even if I'd been over at Vivian Girls, but as it was, I got to meet a very nice guy who was sharing his tarp with people and had a nice long sit in the grass.

7:25 (C) Grizzly Bear-- ^_______^ When people toss around the factiod that "Veckatimest is the most collaborative record [of theirs] to date" I want you all to know that it really, actually means something. I think everyone sang lead on something. The only person who wasn't habitually switching instruments was the drummer (and I mean like, switching: guitar to recorder to omnichord, bass to clarinet to flute). Their monitors kept breaking and buzzing and they kept going anyway. And they were fantastic. I love them more than I did before.

8:40 (A) The Flaming Lips-- I suspect Wayne just wasn't that into us until about halfway through the set, after we were done showing our displeasure at his disinterest in whole "Write the Night" idea. Personally, I thought he did much better with the things they hadn't played recently, and I imagine part of why they said they'd do the fan-request thing was that they were under some sort of assumption that Pitchfork-type fans would vote up obscure songs rather than knocking out a greatest-hits list. They're obviously going for a different direction, and man, I mean, I don't blame them. Most of their mainstays are from Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and The Soft Bulletin, which are, at the least, seven years old. (I actually could've sworn that Yoshimi... came out in 1998/9, along with everything else I loved in high school, but apparently I was off by a bit. Somehow, this makes me feel even older.) Anyway, despite a lukewarm beginning (I think the crowd was tired and wanted more pandering and less showiness, which was silly considering it was the freaking Flaming Lips, and what you get is explosions no matter what) they put on a good show. I kind of wondered how, with all the balloons and confetti, the festival kept its carbon footprint small. I wonder how many green energy credits they had to buy to offset it...

All in all... not quite as solidly amazing as Saturday, but definitely a Sunday well-spent. Even if I was braindead all day today, and probably will only recover in time to die yet again this weekend at Hillside. (Woo!) Now, if only work wasn't in a state that makes me really wish I could come in this weekend and iron out all the little disasters crashing together...

There are also a grand total of three pictures over at my Flickr. There would be more, but I really hate most crowd pictures and every picture of any band looks the same, so you can have balloons, confetti, and sunset instead.
evilhippo: hippo (72 [word])
( Jul. 18th, 2009 10:49 pm)
In contrast with yesterday, today I basically have nothing but nice things to say. And so I will attempt to say them briefly, mostly because I am frak-all tired.

1:00 (A) Cymbals Eat Guitars--I wasn't there for the whole thing, but they were just so adorably nervous. Like they weren't entirely sure why they were invited, or why such a large crowd had shown up so early in the day for them. And they weren't bad, for being music I wouldn't normally listen to.

1:45 (B) The Dutchess & The Duke--Very nice, but pretty typical folk rock band. They appeared to have a band member who played only the tambourine.

2:40 (B) The Antlers--Another band that was adorably into the whole festival thing. The keyboard player stood around during sound check taking pictures of the crowd, and the lead singer constantly thanked us. I think I'll end up liking them in the same way I like Cold War Kids. Quietly, and for their intensity.

3:35 (B) Bowerbirds--Probably the weirdest experience of my day: I was stuck right in front of a bunch of (literally) screaming fangirls. I didn't think the Bowerbirds were at the point yet to have screaming fangirls, but they do, and they know all the words. Also, as soon as they started the press pit filled up with seriously the most photographers I saw all day. It was kind of bittersweet for me, like I was seeing them off. Oh Bowerbirds. I'll forgive you for getting your break and leaving me in the dust, because you all looked seriously happier than when I saw you at Schubas.

4:15 (A) Final Fantasy--Actually my dinner set. I kind of hung back for this and scoped out the food. I'm going to see him in Canada (probably) anyway. What I did catch was pretty cool, though, and I suspect it would've sounded better if I'd been in front of the stage.

5:15 (C) Yeasayer--MADE IT RAIN ON US. But were good enough to make up for it, I think. The only proper dancing I saw today was during this rain. Definitely fun music--not sure I'd listen to it on its own, but definitely fun live.

6:15 (A) Doom--Watched him on the jumbo-tron while camping out a spot for Beirut. Couldn't make out a word he sang. He appeared to be wearing leaves, in addition to his mask. Not the worst rap I've ever heard through a crowd at knee-level, though.

7:35 (C) Beirut-- ^_____^ Also, there was a crowd surfer during "Scenic World," which was pretty hilarious.

8:40 (A) The National--They're so good, I really wish I liked them! As it was, I hung back in the crowd, found a nice spot on the grass, and unwound from the rest of the day. The sunset was pretty. And in the end, I made it out before the biggest part of the crowd pushed onto the CTA, so I didn't have to fight to get onto the train.

All in all, a pretty awesome day, despite the occasional rain. I'm pretty excited for tomorrow. I hope I can manage to wake up for it.
evilhippo: hippo (111 [danger])
( Jul. 17th, 2009 10:10 pm)
First order of business: Chicago weather, freaking warm up! That awful cold drizzle on my way home actually made me glad I was too tired and chilly to stay for all of Built to Spill. I don't like being glad I didn't stay for an entire set!

As for the music... for once, I am going to observe the "if you don't have anything nice to say..." rule. Basically, I went today to get a sense of the place, and because it made sense at the time to get a 3-day pass (and I hoped that maybe Yo La Tengo or Built to Spill would be interesting beyond the one song each I'd heard). Jesus Lizard was one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen on stage, mostly because it was raucous and noisy in an early 90s grunge sort of way, and everyone on stage was greying or grey and the lead singer crowd-surfed and whipped off his shirt to reveal his slight old-man pudge. IT WAS WEIRD. Totally freaking hilarious, to me, standing around squished between all kinds of (slightly less greying) people, some of whom looked like they'd wandered in from a truck stop. You'd think that at a show in the middle of a park, where people basically wander back and forth between stages, you wouldn't be able to tell the demographic shift, but apparently all the plaid, tight-jeaned hipsters hid from Jesus Lizard, and black t-shirt wearing old guys pumping their fists in the air replaced them. (In the end I hung out by the port-a-potties for most of their set, so come to think of it, they scared me away too. But in a totally bemused, I should really call someone and tell them to watch the webcast of these shenanigans sort of way.)

I was glad to see that our little free subset of the Tribune told people they needed to see pretty much everyone I don't care about. (And, given the fact that they gave Torchwood: Children of Earth four out of four stars, I think it's safe to say it's pretty much always an advantage to disagree with the Red Eye.) Mostly I'm just happy that maybe there won't be an unmanageably huge crowd for Beirut if everyone else has been told to see Matt & Kim.

And finally, I know I'm going to want to say this at least fifty more times this weekend, but you have no idea how weird it is to turn around and constantly be running into guys who look just like my father. 1) The 70s are over for a reason, you silly hipsters! 2) Please stop, it freaks me out. 3) That photo was actually in an issue of Easy Rider, which makes me laugh every time I see it. After I finish laughing at how incredibly dorky it is, and how every goshdarn 20-something male in the indie subculture has somehow gravitated to a style my now-retirement-age father sported decades ago. (There's also a photo I've seen at home of him in tight jeans and red converse high-tops, with a worn-out, faded t-shirt. Whyyyyyy, hipsters, whyyy! (Alternately: I was apparently raised by a hipster and a hippie! Whyyy!))
evilhippo: hippo (86 [fire])
( Jul. 4th, 2009 10:00 pm)
The concentrated nostalgia of seeing Guster live for the first time in what has to be nine or ten years was... a bit much today. Thankfully the Taste was sufficiently distracting, and Buddy Guy put on a good show afterward (as usual). There'd be a huge long entry here detailing exactly the ways in which seeing Guster was nostalgic and mildly depressing and uncomfortable (but still in a way that makes me want to see them in an actual venue again, because I'm weird like that), except I just got back from wandering the lakefront with a few friends, watching neighborhood people set off illegal fireworks, and singing Bohemian Rhapsody into the Metra overpass... and for several blocks after (it's long, after all). I think that's probably a good way to celebrate the 4th. So...

Happy Fourth, guys! And for those of you it isn't a holiday for... happy anyway!
evilhippo: hippo (77 [lightbirds])
( Jun. 22nd, 2009 08:56 pm)
Tonight's Question of the Night:

Is it acceptable to totally trash a band's album, and then turn around and shower them with praise for their live show?

Thankfully this question is mostly moot, because I never got around to posting my absolutely horrible, unhappy thoughts about The Dirty Projectors' Bitte Orca. Well, okay, I was mostly just nonplussed. There is always at least one album every year that everyone else likes, a lot, that I just don't get. It's just... this time around, this album sounds exactly like the album last year that I didn't like that everyone else did. In fact, I'm at least partway convinced that Bitte Orca is a secret follow-up to Vampire Weekend. Down to the vocals (that would be good if they weren't so affected)... only with noisier backup and more girls. So, basically my main gripe about Bitte Orca is that everyone is going "Oh, new! Groundbreaking, different indie rock!" and I'm going "... Are we sure this isn't Vampire Weekend*?"

Anyway! It's probably obvious that I am much more entertained by big ideas, even if they're not executed perfectly (coughHazardsofLovecough). And the Dirty Projectors just... are kind of a medium idea. But here's the thing that makes me a hypocrite.

They rock live.

I am going to hold at least part of this to the magic of the Pritzker Pavilion, because when the sound people nail the sound (which they totally and fatally failed to do for St. Vincent), it's fantastic. But you know what? The Dirty Projectors are tight. To the point that I suspected them of lip syncing (until there were a few hiccups with the percussion, and I had to concede otherwise). It was a good, good show. There were a few weak songs, especially Stillness is the Move. I strongly suspected that this song was ironic, but seeing it performed, it... isn't. They preformed it, really and truly, as a summertime, girl-shouty, Mariah Carey-sounding pop song. And on stage, it looked and sounded a lot like something that would happen at a sleepover karaoke party. (There was a bald guy and his toddler son, though, who zoomed back and forth in front of me during this song, and the kid was pounding on his father's head so happily I couldn't help but enjoy it, too.) Other than that, though, the girls were far, far better than the guy singer. And it was good.

So, here is my prescription: If you're at a festival or something, and the Dirty Projectors are there, see them. Otherwise, if you buy one of their albums, I recommend getting a good set of speakers and about an acre of land. Set the speakers on one end of the yard, turn them up good and loud, and then sit on the other end of the yard. I think the issue I have with Bitte Orca, and their other albums, is that the music needs a lot of space. Not because it's particularly intricate, but because it's thick, and packed into headphones or small speakers it just sounds boring; like Vampire Weekend, but without the aggressive attempts at listenability.

*Obligatory Disclaimer: I don't hate Vampire Weekend. In fact, I liked them enough to legally own their album. I just didn't find it to be anything particularly exciting or fantastic the first time around. Just upbeat and easy to listen to. Also, in order to make Bitte Orca, I think Vampire Weekend would've had to ingest a lot of odd drugs and pretty much ditch the whole accessible music aesthetic.

And Edit: And, despite my complaining, I'm glad this isn't as bad as it could've been. It always throws me when something like that happens to someone I just saw--even if I saw them from a few hundred yards away.
evilhippo: hippo (112 [love])
( May. 5th, 2009 12:18 am)
1) Schubas is an utterly adorable venue. Just the right size for acoustic sorts of shows. Bonus points for the sound not sucking right against the stage because, once again, that's where I found myself. Apparently no one else cares enough about opening acts to get to concerts early, so I always end up up front? I don't know, but it makes it kind of unnerving. I mean, now that I think of band members as real people, having them look down at me is kind of weird. Anyway!

2) Someday, lots more people will have heard of La Strada because, man, they put on a good show. If the Bowerbirds hadn't been fantastic, they would've blown them away. The violinist and cellist in particular were really fun to watch, and the rest of them switching instruments constantly was great. All they have out right now is an EP, but I suspect their full-length album will be good, and will get them the sort of attention they deserve.

3) The Bowerbirds are just as sweet live. I just wish people knew when to shut up, because the Bowerbirds are also quiet. I'm not sure what people expected. Though, I mean, in addition to being awesome, any band that would use its day off as "Suburbia Sunday" and terrorize a suburb of Lansing by dressing up from different eras and shopping for tequila is cool in my books. And the nearly A Capella version of Bur Oak they did as a closer was beautiful (thankfully, that got people to be quiet and listen). I wish I'd had something to talk to them about after the show. (I always wish this, though. Someday I will.)

4) Largely unrelated, but to the guy that sketched me on the bus ride back? Thank you for being subtle about it. I noticed, though, when I woke up after we got off Lake Shore. I was flattered.

In conclusion: I'm glad I made some tea, took some ibuprofen, shut up about the thousand tiny offenses life throws at me sometimes, and went to this show anyway. It was actually better than I thought it'd be. So now I can go to work tomorrow, tired but happy. And hope that my mandolin shows up, so I can be a giant distraction to everyone.
evilhippo: hippo (105 [random])


( Apr. 11th, 2009 01:34 am)
For future reference: If you ever go see a show at the Double Door in Chicago, unless you have a serious need to see the band, don't bother standing near the stage. Great goodness the sound there is terrible. Back into the crowd it's fine, even good, but in front of the stage it's just astoundingly bad. I couldn't hear any of the singing. Also, the crowd for Dr. Dog tonight was epically weird. If I had a dollar for every time I was elbowed by the giant hairy old man in front of me who was randomly playing air guitar, I could've bought like, five tickets.

I mean, seriously, it wasn't even a hairy old man playing air guitar sort of concert. Unless you take into consideration all the ridiculous comparisons to The Beatles (they sound kind of similar sometimes, I guess, but personally I prefer my concerts air-guitar-elbow-free, and could do without the back hair sticking out of the shirt, too. Ew. It was like I sacrificed all the polite hipsters from the Mountain Goats concert, and all the enthusiastic unclassifiable people from the Mucca Pazza show and replaced them with frat boys, old men, and obnoxious girlfriends. And a random, very very tiny person smoking pot right next to me, who nearly set my pants on fire with her lighter.)

However! The Cave Singers were quite good, and I may put in an effort to see them again someday, preferably not opening for someone, and at a venue that isn't full of ridiculous people. The other opener, The Golden Boots, was all right, but didn't really leave a lasting impression. So, I guess the moral of the story is "Crowds can make things incredibly un-fun" or maybe "Don't stand in front of the band at the Double Door" or "21+ concerts on Friday nights are often full of people who are there to get drunk/stoned/etc and be obnoxious, beware." Or maybe just "Dr. Dog is much better on their albums, when things are mixed correctly and you can control the volume, and you're not standing there going 'I can't hear any words! And I don't know these songs well enough to sing without words! Also this moron behind me trying to mosh or crowd surf or both is very painful!' and thinking about how much the sunglasses, quirky hats, odd lighting, and energy devoid of mirth make them look like they're actually performing on Saturday Night Live." Conclusion: Concert was surreal, but in a way that left bruises.
evilhippo: hippo (107 [snob])
( Apr. 2nd, 2009 08:06 pm)
I need to be asleep basically now... I am feeling kind of violated by pitchfork twittering at my concert, so I'm not going to write all I was going to write (also, that girl was right next to me for most of the concert, since I... kind of have a habit of reading people's phones when they're right there...). I am simply going to say this:

If the Gone Primitive tour is coming to your neck of the woods go see it. John Vanderslice is better acoustic than he is normally, I swear (and he's great normally). And also, guys, remember those giant masses of self-control I have in reserve? They were all completely necessary (along with the five-foot high stage) to prevent me from vaulting up and tackle-glomping John Darnielle. You think he sounds awkward and adorable on his albums? Holy crap. Also, he's fantastic. About three songs into his set people started on down to the stage, and everything after that is just a magnificent blur that ended with him and JV playing songs from their new EP about the organ-harvesters on the moon. This EP is officially the second vinyl album in my collection, and its story is actually better than my first record, because I had JV sign it, reminded him about Daichan (I don't think he remembered, and now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure it was three years ago, so I realllly don't blame him), then hung around pretending I was waiting for someone in the furtive hope that perhaps John Darnielle would come out and sign things. In the meantime, I watched the girl who'd inherited his Phantom of the Opera costume (best entrance ever, by the way) wander around the lobby and tried to describe to my mom exactly how much fun the two of them seemed to be having on this tour. And after about fifteen minutes I gave up, and left the theatre, and as soon as I did, two things happened. The bus I was waiting for showed up. And John Darnielle came out a side door and rounded the corner. I believe what I said to my mom was "Oh crap, I knew this would happen"... then I hung up on her, turned on my heel, and said "John! John, sorry, I.. uh, I just wanted to shake your hand" and there was this awkward, brief silence and he said "Sorry, I really don't shake hands, I don't like other people's hands" and I said "Oh, it's okay, sorry!" and then he hugged me. I'm pretty sure I managed not to gush when I said "Thank you! Fantastic show tonight!" and in my mind there was even an appreciative, almost nonchalant laugh but the mind has a habit of mentally repairing potentially (or verifiably, concretely) embarrassing situations... But anyway, the best part about this random occurrence is that I had this cracked-out theory that a hug from John Darnielle would cure the writer's block I believe was caused by Neil Gaiman's evil black hole of writing ability. And I was planning, in the far-off back corners of my mind that also include my "joining the tour on my mandolin" fantasies, on explaining this to him as coherently as possible and then asking for a hug, and being awkwardly turned down. ... So, now I'll just be over here, grinning for a few days. I mean, it's not often one gets a hug from one of her heroes. Especially without even having to ask.

This is also why I didn't have him sign my album. I didn't want to impose any more than I already had. Poor guy.

Oh, and I also managed to catch the bus before it left.

And holy crap it was a good concert. Seriously, seriously fun. Wow. I would go every night if I could, even though I am going to be fifteen kinds of dead tomorrow.
I'm starting to wonder if what we do as we get older is just specialize more and more when it comes to our taste in things (and like, in how we think as well). I'm only going to toss the nostalgia back a few years, but I remember my first concert was the Barenaked Ladies, at Blossom (which is a hugegiant amphitheatre outside of Pittsburgh). This was just after One Week, so the concerts were often packed. I went with my family. It was fun, I bounced a bit, and sung along. Fast forward now through most of high school--by and large all big concerts (Weezer, BNL several more times), with a few They Might Be Giants concerts thrown in, which were novel because you could usually catch the band members on the way out and get an autograph (there was no time for talking). Then college, which was sparse but exclusively in small venues (I think the largest place I've been to here is the Congress Theatre, which is only slightly larger than where I used to see TMBG... and infinitely cooler. Holy crap the interior of that place is cool.) Honestly, if I'd had my way I would've seen Guster and I would've seen The Arcade Fire, and both of those would have been in larger places, but money stopped me. And since college... (with the exception of the frakawesome Millennium Park concerts of awesometacularness), I've pretty much done things at places like the Logan Square Auditorium (smallish), the Empty Bottle (small), the Beat Kitchen (smaller)... anyway, what I'm building up to here is that last night I saw Akron/Family at AV-aerie, which is basically a large loft (and I mean large in loft terms. I think it was smaller than the Beat Kitchen, if you're going for floor space and not volume) in the middle of the near-westside industrial nowhere. They played under a huge white parachute, everyone sat on the floor for the opening act and there were only about 30 people there when Angela Desveaux & the Mighty Ship took the stage. 30 people! And that's counting band members (who, by the way, mingled the entire time). The opening act was like story time... with hipsters in tight jeans and no carpet squares, but story time nonetheless. Needless to say, though this made me a bit awkward in a "Holy crap there are so few people that I could basically sit on the stage here, what do I do?" way, it was pretty fantastic. And Akron/Family was amazing. I really don't have another concert experience to compare it to because, um... I can't quite describe their music, and since the whole thing was basically one giant song that went from soft noddling and bird whistles to folky noiserock and finally culminating with crazed screaming, jumping about, and generally displaying the sort of energy that made me wonder how they hadn't destroyed anything yet, it's... well, really hard to describe. But A++++ Would See Live Again. I also made friends with a very drunk girl from Columbia and her friend who (sadly) was too drunk to stick around, and after we held him up for about one song, he ducked off and disappeared. At the end of the show I also lost my friend after I grabbed my coat, so now I've got this nagging guilt that she thinks I abandoned her. (Go go gadget guilt complex!)

Um... the point that I was working towards earlier, though, was that this concert was pretty much the culmination (of the moment) of all the work I've done towards more and more obscure music. I think the show probably topped out at about 120-some people. Is this a product of my taste in music becoming more specialized? I mean, it's finally gotten to the point that I talk to people at shows now. And no one cares if you don't know all the words. This is weird to me. But I like it.
Today was just one of those days. The busy, good, adventurous sort. My left-hand fingers hurt but my brain is very happy. At lunch I accomplished things like switching my main utilities over (I still need to deal with the internet), and ogling Andrew Bird from three feet away before moseying on over to the side of the stage and getting politely shooed away by security. I also almost left a measuring cup for him on stage, because I inexplicably had one, but I didn't get the courage up to do it until after I'd been shoo'd, and I figured walking back into the forbidden area in front of the stage would be kind of frowned upon.

If anything in the world is more of a buzz kill than my office, I don't ever want to encounter it. After hanging out in Millennium Park watching Andrew Bird noodle around and warm up, I was all happy and springy and humming and thought "Oh good, people at work will see me happy for once, and maybe I'll get to spread the good word that I am in fact a human being Andrew Bird is awesome." But as soon as I was in the door, my humming felt forced and there was really no point in smiling to myself. (I hate my office. Sigh.)

But! I did get out early to go to my mandolin lessons! And boy, what an eclectic little group my class is. We're about evenly half girls and guys, and we're all there for different reasons (I didn't try to explain why I was there. I'm not even sure of my exact motivations, except it seemed like a good idea). I think, once my fingers get used to the new form of abuse, it's going to be a lot of fun. And I'm going to stick around from now on to do the second hour of goofing off with all the guitar students as well, because about a third of my motivation for taking classes there is to meet interesting people. And if the concert tonight (which I thought I was going to miss because of my class) taught me anything, it's that musicians who are good are absolutely fascinating to me.

And standing there in my business casual clothes, toting a rented mandolin (whose name, for the time being, is Remy) and bopping around to the music, I felt like I looked like such a poseur. But at the same time... for once I didn't care. So maybe that's a sign that I'm on a better track now. I think it was good first date with Remy, and I could feel him echoing the music there. Ahhh, I missed having an instrument.

Also Andrew Bird is amazing, in case I haven't gotten that across yet. I imagine my crush on him will continue until I get to see Sufjan Stevens live or something.

Now the goal for the rest of tonight is sleep, because this week has only been two days long so far, and it already feels crazy-long. My bedroom isn't anywhere close to being unpacked, and I don't think I've gotten a full night's sleep in a long, long time.
All right, I lied. I don't know how I thought I wouldn't have to make a post tonight about the concert. That was almost certainly the best nothing I've ever spent. (Free concert! Free Decemberists concert! Free Decemberists concert with the orchestra. I can't say that enough.) I kind of want to go through everything in detail, but as fun as the beginning was, the end of the concert just completely eclipsed it. I really don't remember the beginning too well--I was next to a bunch of indie-kid snobs who talked the entire time. (I knew they were indie-kid snobs because one of them, while on the phone to his friend, uttered the unforgettable line "Yeah, like, 99% of the people here haven't even heard of them. I hate that." Frakking indie kids. Shut up and enjoy the music if that's what you're there for, no one cares about you showing off. I saw a couple that was probably close to retirement dancing away and having a blast. What were you doing? Sulking? I thought so. Stuff it. Learn to have fun.) Lesson learned from the first part of the concert: never sit near the back. Less enthusiastic people are boring. I only made that mistake, I think, because I was way early and wanted room to stretch out. I'll know better next time. BUT ANYWAY. So, the concert acheived complete awesomeness somewhere around the opening bars of The Tain. Because they played the entire thing. The entirety of The Tain, with orchestra. Ironically, this is when some people started leaving, so thankfully I decided to move up in the crowd to where people were actually standing and dancing. And suddenly the acoustics were better and everyone was enthusiastic and even the little hiccups that come from a band playing with an orchestra were easily ignored because of the general atmosphere of awesome. I happened to run into one of my Rescom colleagues, and I got to bask in his glee a little. (I think the conversation went something like "Hmm... ::taps him on the shoulder:: Hey!" "Oh hey!" "What's up?" "...The Decemberists are playing!!" "Hahaha, I noticed. I feel ridiculous being here in my interview clothes." "::actually looks at me:: Oh yeah. The Decemberists are playing WITH THE ORCHESTRA." It cannot be stated enough how much I love enthusiastic people when they're enthusiastic about things I am also enthusiastic about. I should use enthusiastic a few more times. Enthusiastic enthusiastic. It's a good word. Anyway.) There were probably several hundred indie nerds up as far as we could get (the place was PACKED), and by the time the encore came around, we'd all packed up against the barrier behind the paid seats. And though it'd been raining off and on for a while, it was finally starting to storm. So, at the concert's false-conclusion we had followed by cheering, shouting, clapping, and lightning. Then 16 Military Wives, at which point a bunch of people crashed the barriers to fill the aisles by the paid seats. And from there, it turned into a giant dance party in the open space in between, with most of the security guards split down the middle between complete amusement and (and I quote) "Oh HELL no." ("Oh hell no" was the reason I didn't jump the barrier and dance more.)

And the end... the end of the concert was one of the most amazing things I've ever witnessed. The storm was coming in, so there was lightning every 30 seconds (and probably thunder, but you wouldn't have been able to hear it over the crowd), everyone was cheering and screaming, and we all danced an interpretive dance to The Mariner's Revenge Song. Interpretive Dance. Mariner's Revenge Song. Oncoming Storm. Awesomesauce.

Of course, the storm meant I got absolutely utterly poured on on the way back (thankfully, in a rare, RARE moment of forethought, I bought a rain poncho at Walgreens before the concert... which kept me dry during the concert, but was pretty much useless against the torrential downpour that followed). But it's okay... I'm assuming my nice interview pants aren't ruined, and it was fun running from the bus stop to my apartment in the rain. I managed not to get my library book wet, and that's about all I was worried about. And the rain was warm. Nice, warm, summer downpour.

Oh, and the interview went well today. I have about a 75% chance of having a job at the bank, which is good because even though the pay isn't good, the hours are decent and it's at Belmont and Clark, which is the middle of one of my favourite neighborhoods and really easy to get to on the red line (hour and a half commute TOTAL)... plus it's close to most of the concerts I want to go to, so I can get off work (in blue jeans and a t-shirt, because it's casual) and run/hop a bus to the concert and be there relatively on time. All in all, probably better for my psyche than the publishing job, though I'm going to call them and check in tomorrow anyway... because if they want to give it to me, I'll take it. I'm just... not going to ask for it a lot.
evilhippo: hippo (31 [awesome])
( Apr. 14th, 2007 02:03 am)
John Vanderslice is awesome.

St. Vincent is also rather awesome, in a weird Regina Spektor only with guitar and a bit more 1920s kind of way. She was freaking awesome with the guitar, though. Very entertaining.

(I figure John doesn't need an explanation. I'm going to call him John now, for this entry, because he let me call him John, and he signed my ticket for Daichan, and was amused and asked us for the website. It's a shame the camera batteries died, or we'd have pictures.)

So yeah... the concert was awesome. Nuts, even. With people in the audience singing on stage, and playing the bass, and John's general cynicalness about selling us pillowcases. The only slight problem was that it was a sit-down theatre, and no one stood to dance. Well, actually there were about five girls in the front row that stood to dance a couple of times. They were very bleached-blonde and kind of quintessentially groupies (which was... weird). And one of them was wearing the most ridiculous-looking shirt I've ever seen. It was black button-down, but she had it unbuttoned all the way down below the middle of her ample bosom, so they were just sort of... hanging out there. It gave me a terrible fit of the giggles. It was that ridiculous.

In conclusion: fun! Even though it was Friday the 13th and afterwards (okay, so at that point it was after one and no longer Friday the 13th) when I tried to call the CTA it kept me on hold forever, then rang and rang, and finally concluded with 'We're sorry. Extension Six. Six. Six. is not answering.' At least that wasn't an omen that we wouldn't survive the trip back because, yay, here I am!
evilhippo: hippo (16 [cool])
( Feb. 24th, 2007 02:27 am)
So... today was weird. (And in four hours, I will have been up for 24 hours, wow.) Worked through the night on my script, which turned out so/so (averaging the horrible and the good, I think). Went to class (on time!), lunch, class again. Got back and waffled on whether I wanted to go to the concert tonight. Waffled some more. Vacuumed and cleaned almost the entire room. Then decided that, since I'd obviously gone insane, it wouldn't hurt to go to the concert and called in the guys that were going with me. We ended up there a little early, so we walked around for a while being random (since random is what we do). Hopefully there will be pictures of us with the radish eventually. It was great to have people to talk to before the concert for the first time in ages. Also, the Beat Kitchen is one of those wonderful Chicago places that is nothing near as small as it looks on the outside. Though it is still quite small and intimate and cool.

So, anyway... we finally got in, our friend-who-is-a-minor got giant X's on his hands, and we stood around fiddling with the camera taking random pictures. I think we were there about 20 minutes before Aleks and the Drummer finally (yes) stopped sitting on the floor writing what may have been notes, or a setlist, or something. They were actually rather cool, in that they were very different from what I was expecting (just a girl and a drummer). The girl sounded a bit like Janis Joplin, I think, in style, which was very strange but it kind of worked. They managed a kind of The Go! Team ambiance, minus the cheerleading kind of stuff. And most of what she sang either wasn't in English... or I just couldn't make it out. Not bad, though. We decided it'd make a good soundtrack for a Vampires vs Zombies Martial Arts movie.

I would like to say, though, that Malajube kinda rocks live. It's been a loooooong time since I've been to a rock-out loud kind of concert. I can tell they're used to larger venues up in Canada, but their lead singer's pretty good at cursing out sound equipment in English. Though he also called us ignorant and arrogant. Silly Canadian. Didn't stop it from being awesome, though, and rather loud. They're tight, though. I was duly impressed. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances I had to leave before Snowden, though I don't mind too much since I was only there to see Malajube and now I'm back early enough to get some work done on my BA.

Let it stand as public notice, though, that the Beat Kitchen is uber-uber careful about their underage drinking enforcement. In that someone with black X's on his hands cannot have more than a sip of beer and then hold it. Crazy. Crazy! (Though I wasn't the supplier or the underage person, I think this is the first time I've been on this side of that particular irrational law. I mean... he had a sip. And held the cup. And was kicked out. Omgwtf. I didn't even know what to do for almost an entire minute, because I wasn't entirely sure of what'd just happened.)


evilhippo: hippo (Default)


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