Sunday, November 18, 2007

SST Bands Live: Part One of Two

Meat Puppets--Cain’s Ballroom--Tulsa, OK--November 15, 2007

Originally hailing from Phoenix, the Meat Puppets are a trio fronted by brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood who miraculously combine many seemingly divergent musical influences into a cohesive sound that is entirely their own. "Wait!" you say, "isn’t this the band who broke onto the radio market in the mid-90’s with the customary grunge/alternative hit ‘Backwater‘"? Yes, it is, and that was likely my first exposure to them, in the "Buzz Bin" days of MTV (remember?), followed by my hearing of Kurt Cobain’s renditions of the "Plateau"/"Oh, Me"/"Lake of Fire" triptych. I ran across them many years after that while digging around looking at Dinosaur Jr. albums (more on that in weeks to come). This concert at the Cain’s was my second time to see them in the last three months, the first time being an August show in Oklahoma City, and my familiarity of their music rests primarily on their first three albums: "Meat Puppets", "II", and "Up on the Sun." The first is practically hardcore 80’s punk, while the third is full-blown psychedelic-country rock music. Their second ("II") falls somewhere inbetween, and is what I would highly recommend anyone to start out with. If Garz and I still had a radio show going, I think we could easily put the music on that album up with anything else that emerges and is touted in the indie world today-- a far cry from the more-generic "Backwater" sound that may cause some to forget about them.

First, let me use some space to promote the Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa’s coolest concert venue! It has been around since 1924 and was home to Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys for concerts and radio broadcasts! It has a slight feeling to me of being in an rickety barn with wooden floors, and portraits of old country stars like Hank Williams, Gene Autry, and Ernest Tubb are hung all around the room. It isn’t any atmosphere that will likely sweep you off your feet, but I think it has a good Okie, homey aura to it. And hey, the Sex Pistols played there on a rare American tour in 1978! I guess Johnny Rotten wasn’t too cool to come to Tulsee Town!

All that said, apparently the Puppets don’t draw a big enough crowd to play on Cain’s main stage (is simply referring to them as "the Puppets" a sign I have become a true aficionado? Like Phish followers calling themselves "Phans"???). This show was in a small square side room with tables and a bar. The band had to walk through the crowd to get to and from backstage, which was kind of cool. I saw some guy get them to autograph the liner notes of "II" that he had brought, and the fans could applaud them more as they passed through at the end of the night. Cris Kurkwood, the bass player, has an impenetrable mass of hair, and bobs around on stage constantly to win the award for being most like an actual puppet. He seems like he’d be a nice guy but when you see his face he is always squinting and grimacing like the sun is in his eyes, and from time to time gets these wild, furious looks on his face that couldn’t possibly be feigned. Curt Kirkwood, who does guitar and most vocals, reminds me of a sumo wrestler, not because he is fat, but has his hair pulled back in a tiny ponytail. He’ll scowl and look around at the air with his eyes like he is hearing psychotic voices or something. I say this about their appearance not only because I am absorbed in them, but also because I think it is somewhat representative of their music--there is a manic quality that underlies their sound and is what I think holds everything together. Maybe it takes said insanity to try and merge country and punk, but they do it successfully. They can even blare out something that seems like bluegrass, and many guitar lines sound imitating of a banjo. Throughout the show, they would additionally incorporate extended sonic jams into their songs (i.e., a seamless workout wedged into "Lake of Fire") that always seemed to have a purpose, not falling flat. It was generally an older crowd, I’d say about 100 people mostly my age (24) and up. It was good to be without most of the indie teenagers. My favorite tune was "Up on the Sun," because it included some jams, and I like the country buzz of the guitar line. I also enjoyed their playing of "Oh, Me." Although they didn’t play a long set, the Puppets do it all without sounding like a band that is way past their prime, and I can’t imagine them sounding much worse than when they last played in Tulsa, 25 years ago.

Check out "II".

Monday, November 12, 2007

Movie Review:

No Country for Old Men: See it now. Really, go see it.

Ah yes, the rating scale... 1 bear, 5 anti bears. The bear is for the fact that I kinda spaced out during the ending (because i was starving), unaware that it was the ending, so I have some unanswered questions. The anti-bears... because the movie rocked! I won't give any intimate details away.

Gone baby Gone: See it at some point.

This movie was good, but nothing compared to the far superior No Country for Old Men. 4 anti-bears, 1 bear. The bear is for the fact that this movie gives ben affleck credibility as a director. At least he still has none as an actor.

That's all. No glam, no jokes. Just see the movies, and let me get back to my poker game.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Friday, November 2, 2007

Spoon, The New Pornographers, Emma Pollock - Warehouse Live - Houston, Texas - 11/1/07

While my little brother and I were at the Spoon show Tracy McGrady, my favorite athlete ever, was busy dropping 47 points to lead the Rockets to a revenge win over the Utah Jazz. God I hate the fucking Jazz.

The show was at the Warehouse Live in downtown H-Town. It's a really nice venue. Too nice to house a lot of the gritty bands I've been seeing lately.

The show was ass-packed with audience members ranging greatly in age. But...

Let me hit this tangent before I go on. Every once in a while I go through these phases. I'm kind of in one right now. My tastes get more and more obscure and all of the sudden, you're an asshole and an idiot for not owning any Family Fodder material. You could be cool, but unless you like Konk, you have shit taste in music. With my current mindset, most modern bands suck. If a modern band is slightly popular, I am full of blind hate for them.

I'll get over it soon enough...I always do.

That being said, Spoon fits the mold; I should hate them.

They were really fucking good though. I was completely sober for the whole show. I had no drugs or alcohol in me but the show was still really cool without those enhancers. Eric's right, Spoon are tight as fuck where they need to be. I'll add that they deviate into noise at just the right moments. I am hereby backing the Charz2k official recommendation...see Spoon if you can.
Aside from their performance, their lighting show was my favorite concert backdrop/ambience effect ever (Radiohead in Chicago a few years back is a close second). There was this sort of canvas behind them that turned all polychromatic with the beats. At times there were colored lights shining at the band members from the floor giving the "Oh shit! it looks like they're all green!" effect.

Good job, guys.

I didn't so much care for the New Pornographers. I've like never listened to them on record. They're pretty lackluster/mediocre, too conventional, etc. They were pretty boring on stage methinks. Save for this one dude who sang some songs (that one dude not being A.C. Newman or Neko Case...I don't know his name but he got quite a reaction from the crowd when he joined Spoon in the encore...he's probably famous but I don't know his name, and for that I sincerely apologize.) A sophomoric observation: one dude in the New Pornographers looked like Jerry Garcia. Their drummer looked like Eugene Mirman, the funny man. Also, Neko Case....mmmm.

The show was pretty killer. No one actually died though. I guess the most killer show was the Great White show in New Jersey where 19,684 people died grisly deaths.

But I'm of the mind that the perfect world is perpetually lubricated. This world is, needless to say, dry, and therefore, imperfect. Spoon is dripping with KY though. It's KY Warming Liquid too...they were all warm and shit.

Antibears - 3.9 - Good job Spoon and Spoon's lighting choreographer!
Bears- 2.6 - New Pornos bored me and I missed T-Mac's noteworthy performance.

I'm designating the Houston Rockets the official NBA team of charz2k. As the Rockets go, so goes charz2k.

P.S. - Articles should come more frequently from me now as mid-terms are over.

Cheerio Sam, pip pip good boy,


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Show review quickblurbs

The Blow - 10/1/07 - Empty Bottle, Chicago

I'm the kind of guy who groans a little on the inside when I go to a show and I realize the solo artist on the bill's backing band isn't going to slink onto the stage after the quiet, intensity-building opening number. There's nothing wrong with solo artists; I just prefer fuller-bodied instrumentation (major exceptions: Beat Happening (on record)/Calvin Johnson (live), Andrew Bird).

When I went to see the Blow, I knew there wouldn't be a backing band, and I didn't care. Why? I'd seen videos of Khaela Maricich's performances before, and she pulls it off. Sure, it'd have been nice if the "beats dude" Jona would have been there, but you take what you can get. Besides, when you got charisma, who needs a backing band? I paid for one show and I got three! Music: check. Comedy (nice!): check. Magic show (wtf?!?!?): cheeeeck! Instead of giving the review any substance, I'll just say you had to be there.

My memory is hazy, but I think we were either the first, last, or only audience to hear "Long List of Girls" (I'm pretty sure we were the first), and with a Paper Television-heavy set, I was pretty appeased. Kathy said it was the best show ever, and while I wouldn't quite go that far, I did enjoy myself.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - 10/6/07 - The Annex, Madison

It's not terribly common for a geeky band from Brooklyn with a frontman who sometimes sounds like David Byrne that self releases an album with dinosaurs on the yellow and orange cover to so quickly have throngs of music junkies worshiping the ground they walk on in practically no time. Not terribly common if you're not one of Pitchfork's chosen, that is.

One 9.0 score later, I'm in Amoeba Records in the Haight and I'm dedicated to buying this album (among many others) and it's not difficult to find. Is there a better way to debut an almost criminally highly hyped album then on the open roads of Northern California? Probably, since I think I only played this album two or three times after first hearing it, but before seeing CYHSY at the Annex. I'd downloaded Some Loud Thunder, but in over a year I never felt compelled to listen to it, so I'm not entirely sure of why I felt the need to go to this show. It's not quite like there was a shortage of bands to see (especially in early October of this year), but I guess since I had friends who were really excited than I could be too.

Here's my conclusion: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are pretty good! I recognized a bunch of the songs even after only having listened to them very few times a very long time before the show, and I had a lot of fun watching them. There was one thing that absolutely boggled my mind, however. There were a couple of "bros" next to us who knew every word to every song and were clearly the most excited fans in the audience (I know what you're thinking: "Eric, how do you know they weren't hipsters in disguise?" Easy. No self-respecting hipster ever wears cargo shorts, much less to a show. And if the shorts weren't a dead giveaway, the flip-flops, backwards hats, and polo shirts certainly confirmed suspicions). Even more confusing was when one of these two was comparing the intro to a CYHSY song to a Yo La Tengo song. Where do bros learn about bands like these?

Mark, Colleen, and I watched the bros saunter down the street after the show (they could NOT have been more bro-like if they tried), and none of us could come up with a reasonable explanation for what we had witnessed.

Spoon - 10/8/07 - Pabst Theater, Milwaukee

Tonight my younger siblings are lamenting their inability to see the inexplicably non-sold out Spoon/New Pornographers show in Houston, because they are all pretty big fans of both of those bands. Danny (of charz2k fame), is not grieving because as far as I know he's allowed to go to concerts on weeknights because he doesn't have school every day, and someone in their early 20s is typically allowed to stay out late if they so choose to do. I'm expecting that he'll have only anti-bears to give on his review (which will never be written!) because when I saw Spoon at the Pabst (at a show sponsored by Shiner Bock, nonetheless!), they were simply phenomenal.

I'm not sure I have ever seen a band as tight and composed as Spoon were on that stage. With minimal gimmicky movements and stage props, they absolutely commanded audience attention from start to finish. I didn't even want to go get another beer for fear that I might miss a few minutes of the performance (not to mention I wouldn't be able to get back to my perfect spot, about 8 feet back from the stage in the pit). They skimped on Girls Can Tell tracks, but I didn't even care. This is an official charz2k recommendation to go see Spoon if you get the chance. They're accessible enough for anyone to appreciate, so no fear of show that will leave you aching from broken bones or otherwise.

Oh, and their merch guy is awesome. They had these really cool posters with cherry bombs that were specific to tonight's show and they were hand-screened and numbered (I think maybe 60 total?), so I knew that if I waited until the show was over the posters would probably sell out. The merchandise salesman kindly allowed me to purchase the poster and store it behind a box behind his booth until afterwards, when he would recognize my face and deliver the goods. He didn't take my name down, or anything, but delivered the poster as promised. I didn't even have to wait in the long line of people because he saw me in the cluster and immediately fetched the poster and handed it to me.