Sep 29, 2005

np: "five years (live)" - arcade fire

So here it is almost twenty hours since last night's Arcade Fire show at the Riv ended, and I've still not recovered. Simply put, last night's show was the best night of live music I've experienced this year. Probably in the last three or four years as well, if I were really forced to make that call. I've long suspected it, but seeing them last night cemented it, this is the best live band operating right now. Energy, passion, excitement - this band has each of them in spades. The night kicked off with a sort-of side project, Bell Orchestre, lulling the audience with some beautiful instrumental post-rock that was very reminiscent of another Canadian collective, Do Make Say Think. It was the second opening band, however, that kicked the show into high gear and got the audience fired up. Wolf Parade, with a highly praised debut album fresh out, yelped and tore their way through an exciting set that easily demonstrated what Issac Brock saw in these guys. Particular highlights were "This Heart's On Fire", "You Are A Runner and I Am My Father's Son", and a very lively "Shine A Light". But the high point of the night was yet to come. Well, I should say "highlights" since it would be damn near impossible to narrow it down to just one.

After a reasonable set-break, the Arcade Fire took to the stage accompanied by a wild roar from the sold out crowd. Everyone got settled in and Win strapped on the acoustic for a short section of Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" that segued into an awesome "Wake Up". And from that point on the band didn't let up one bit. They tore through the majority of Funeral, picking up a pair from the self-titled EP and a fantastic rendition of Bowie's "Five Years" along the way. The crowd was way into it the whole way through - singing, dancing, and shouting along with the band as they worked up to and through a wild version of "Rebellion (Lies)" before taking a very short encore break. Barely two minutes passed before the band was back out on stage and dipping into "No Cars Go" and letting Regine lead us through a beautiful "In the Backseat" to end the set. After the encore, the band climbed off the stage and walked through the audience to set up in the lobby for a rendition of "Queen Bitch" sans mics and amps as the audience filed out. I'd like to tell you some more about that, but we were stuck in the throng and didn't get to hear much of it at all.

Like I said, it would be impossible to pick one particular highlight of the evening so I'm not even going to try. Hopefully its enough for me to just say that it was the most thrilling night of live music I can remember and that the Fire lives up to every single ounce of praise. If you haven't been captured by the magic yet, go see them live and you will be.

For those keeping score, here's the setlist:

Wake Up (with Dylan's "A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall" acoustic intro)
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
Headlights Looked Like Diamonds
I'm Sleeping in a Submarine
5 Years (Bowie cover)
Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)
Crown of Love
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Rebellion (Lies)
No Cars Go
In the Backseat

Also, be sure to click on the "Five Years" link above so you can check out a live version from Austin earlier in the week.

Sep 28, 2005

np: "mine's not a high horse" - the shins (live courtesy of NPR)

Somewhat of a grab bag sort of entry today, as I don't really have anything of particular importance to talk about. You may remember me mentioning a couple weeks about something about a poll I was running on a message board I frequent to determine the Top 1990's Britpop songs. Well, the official results are complete and I thought I would share the top 20 (of 125) for those interested. So, according to members of the Sound Opinions Message Board, here are the top 20 Britpop songs of the 1990s:

20. "To The End" - Blur
19. "Caught By the Fuzz" - Supergrass
18. "Acquiesce" - Oasis
17. "Ladykillers" - Lush
16. "The Drowners" - Suede
15. "Champagne Supernova" - Oasis
14. "Animal Nitrate" - Suede
13. "Girl From Mars" - Ash
12. "Setting Sun" - Chemical Brothers f. Noel Gallagher
11. "The Universal" - Blur
10. "Bittersweet Symphony" - The Verve
9. "Wonderwall" - Oasis
8. "Country House" - Blur
7. "Born Slippy (NUXX)" - Underworld
6. "Disco 2000" - Pulp
5. "Connection" - Elastica
4. "Live Forever" - Oasis
3. "Girls and Boys" - Blur
2. "Alright" - Supergrass
1. "Common People" - Pulp

Very cool to see "Alright" finish ahead of the two kings of Britpop and I'm really happy to see Pulp take the number one spot with a song that really encapsulates the era very well. I'm kinda wishing I would have voted that to the top myself, oh well.

In other news, I'm very excited to be heading to the Riv tonight to catch Wolf Parade and Arcade Fire in what is shaping up to be one hell of a concert judging by the reports I've read on other tour stops. I'll let you know how awesome it was tomorrow, maybe even with pictures if I can keep my digital camera from sucking.

Related to the show tonight, I picked up the Wolf Parade debut full-length on Sub Pop, Apologies to the Queen Mary, yesterday and it is absolutely fantastic. Grab yourself a copy.

Sep 27, 2005

Intonation 2005
Yeah, I know. These pictures shoud have been up about three months ago, but better late than never - right? These are just a couple of the better shots I got at Intonation, not that any of them are amazing or anything - just some I felt like sharing with those who weren't there or those who'd like to relive the experience. Coming soon will be some pictures from that other summer music festival, Lollapalooza.

Hold Steady lead singer Craig Finn preaches to the congregation in the Saturday afternoon heat.

Dungen fires the crowd up early on Sunday afternoon, work that tambourine!

Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu lays down another Top 40 pop ballad for the crowd.

The Wrens prove to the youngsters that grey hair is no obstacle to the powers of indie rock.

A still clothed Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav rocks the party that rocks your body.

Sep 26, 2005

np: "gimme some salt" - clap your hands say yeah

Maybe the key to having great concert experiences is to head into them with low or no expectations at all, those times seem to be when a band will really surprise you and blow you off your feet. This was definitely the case with both of the bands I caught at Schuba's this past Friday night, the much hyped Pitchfork darlings Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and a horribly underrated band that is quickly becoming one of my favorites, The National.
Apparently this was one of the weekend's hotter tickets if the number of ticketless scavengers outside the venue was any indication, with some of the hopeful offering well over face value for a shot to get inside to see Clap Your Hands. As the 10:30 start time came and went, the back area of Schuba's steadily filled up and the anticipation grew. Finally, about 10 minutes before 11, Clap Your Hands took the stage and launched into the first song of a great set. Most of the show was dominated by songs from the self-released debut album, but there were a couple of new tunes in the first part of the set. Translated to the stage, the songs took on more of an immediate edge as the admittedly sometimes grating vocals were pushed lower in the mix and the rest of the band more than ably stepped it up. All five guys on stage, especially the hyped up keyboard/tambourine/extra guitar player, were really feeding off the crowd's energy and put it back into the music. The whole room bounced along to everything, with the biggest crowd reactions coming from "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth" and "Gimme Some Salt". I wasn't sure what to expect going in to this show, but I admit to being pleasantly surprised. The album versions of the songs really don't do these guys justice, hearing them live reveals a lot more energy than one would expect. Overall it was a very solid set and I'm positive in saying that the band left Chicago with a few more fans on the bandwagon.
After the set I had a chance to talk to lead singer Alec Ounsworth and guitarist Lee Sargent, both of whom were really down to earth guys who didn't seem to be letting all the hype go to thier heads. Alec also mentioned that the band was hoping to hit the studio in January to get some new material recorded, so keep an eye out for that sometime next year.
As good as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were the night belonged to The National without a doubt, and everyone who left before they took the stage missed one of the best hours of live music I've seen all year. From the moment the band took the stage they owned it and every single member of the audience. The set ranged from subdued and hypnotizing to raging and cathartic as they tore through a set made up mostly of songs from this year's excellent Alligator. Frontman Matt Berninger nervously prowled the stage, drawing every ounce of emotion out of the songs and pouring them out into the night. The rest of the band met, and sometimes exceeded, Matt's energy output - most notably the violinist who shredded his instrument like Eddie Van Halen in the early years. Highpoints like "Abel" and "Mr. November" brought the crowd to a fever pitch that was brought down expertly with a subdued encore that showcased this band's dynamic range. Between Alligator and this live show, The National is rapidly becoming one of my favorite bands of 2005.

Sep 22, 2005

np: "worldbeater" - hair police

I could just say that I've been listening to "Juicebox" on repeat since yesterday and it wouldn't be entirely inaccurate, but it would be pretty damn boring for you loyal readers. Actually, I did take a break from the Strokes tonight to wallow in some head-pounding noise action. Mostly I've been checking out the always awesome Lightning Bolt, especially their killer new album Hypermagic Mountain which is due out soon on Load Records. I think it just may be their most ferocious and all-around solid album yet, so make sure you check that one out. But I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce you to another great noise band that hasn't really gotten the exposure of a Lightning Bolt or a Wolf Eyes, Hair Police. Besides having an awesome name, these guys create dangerous squalls of noise using everything from battered instruments to tape manipulations. If you've ever wanted to feel like you're being pulled into the seventh ring of hell by your tonsils, through your eardrums, check these guys out. They've been fortunate enough to open for Sonic Youth in the past so you know they're doing something right to get the Thurston endorsement. Check out the link below, and the one just underneath the picture, for a taste of the madness. These both come from 2002's Blow Out Your Blood, enjoy. But please - if you like what you hear, run down to your local indie store or follow one of the links provided and support the band.

"that's not blood" - hair police

Sep 21, 2005

np: "juicebox" - the strokes

Wow. This was completely not what I was expecting from a new Strokes song, but it is completely wonderful. Julian's vocals are way different from the last album, more up front and a far cry from his standard "couldn't give a shit" delivery. My favorite parts after about 10 listens are the Peter Gunn inspired(?) bassline and the awesome guitar effects that kick in for the mini solo at about the 1:20 mark. Once the chorus kicks in you can definitely tell its a Strokes song, but the rest of it is different enough to showcase some interesting new directions the band could be taking with First Impressions of Earth when it drops early next year. After this tasty preview, color me stoked. Click the song title above to sample it for yourself.

For those of you who enjoy this sort of thing, direct your browser over to Static and check out my review of the new Sufjan Stevens album that just went up.

Sep 20, 2005

np: "busted in baylor county" - shooter jennings

When I was growing up, my dad used to play a lot of the classic "outlaw" country albums. The booming voice of Johnny Cash frequently blasted out of our old Quasar speakers, or other times Waylon and Willie would be beggin' the mamas not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys. These were the days when I used to walk around in cowboy boots with a huge belt buckle dangling off of my six year old frame. The "cowboy" phase was much the same as any kid goes through, but my Saturday morning fantasies were usually soundtracked by the legends of country music.
By the time I got to high school names like Waylon and Hank and Johnny were replaced by guys with names like Alan and Garth and Randy. It just wasn't the same to me, not even close. So for the longest time I pretty much ignored country music. Every now and then I'd try to give it another chance, but the bland pop-lite ballads quickly reminded me why I never really flipped my dial in that direction.
So now its a rare thing indeed when I purchase a new "country" album, anything that is even embraced by CMT in the slightest is enough to put me off. But after hearing "Fourth of July" by Shooter Jennings, I realized that I may just be wrong about all modern country being unlistenable crap. I went out couple weeks later and picked up Put the 'O' Back in Country, Shooter's debut album. I figured anybody with Waylon for a father had to be somewhat talented, but I didn't realize that I would fall hard and fast for the entire fucking album. In fact, as it turns out, "Fourth of July" is just about my least favorite song on the whole thing - it being the most blatant stab at commercial airplay. From mournful ballads ("Sweet Savannah") to kiss off blasts ("Manifesto No. 1") to rockin' reminders of country's youth ("Southern Comfort"), the album reminded me of the power of country music to hit you straight in the gut. It may be some time before we put ol' Shooter up there in the outlaw hall of fame, but if this record is any indication - he's got a long, ass-kickin' career ahead of him. Click on the link below the picture and take a listen for yourself.

Sep 19, 2005

np: "size too small" - sufjan stevens

How do I sum up Saturday night's Sufjan Stevens show at the Metro? If I were to sum it up in one simple word - "fun". It's been far too long since I've smiled and laughed that much at an indie rock show, it made me realize that some performers just know how to put on a great show and Sufjan is definitely one of those. I was a little worried that the cheerleading schtick would grow old by the end of the night, but the band was obviously having fun with it and this in turn kept it interesting. Maybe more bands should look into the onstage human pyramid thing. I was slightly disappointed not to hear "John Wayne Gacy Jr.", but the rest of the set was so great that I can't really complain. The set opening "Fifty States Song" was wonderful, that really needs to get an official release soon. The Illinois songs translated very well to a live setting, managing to capture all the various moods quite well. The setlist stuck to the new album for the most part, except for a brief detour to "All The Trees of the Field Will Clap Thier Hands" from Seven Swans. If you haven't had the chance to catch Sufjan live yet I suggest you do so, especially on the current tour - you won't regret it.

Sep 6, 2005

np: "the chiselers" - the fall

Not only am I dealing with playing catch-up from my four days away from the office, but I'm also dealing with a killer cold that is determined to destroy my sinuses. So not much of an update for now, hopefully something better coming along later this week. If you are really that bored and need something of mine to read, my review of the new Longwave album is up at Static. Peace.