Thursday, April 3, 2008

Xiu Xiu, The Conservatory, Oklahoma City, OK 4/2/08

I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to drive all the way to Oklahoma City last night after I got off work to see Xiu Xiu. The show started at 8:00, there were two openers so it would be late when I got back, and I would be driving upstream from Tulsa to OKC into pouring rain. But I decided I did want to go- got there early, and had a McD’s fish sandwich, and headed to the Conservatory.
I’d never been there before, and I know there are certainly dumpier concert venues that I don’t know of because I don’t go to that many shows, but this was a pretty good dive. It felt like an abandoned building- no ceiling, open air pipes hanging above you like in Super Mario Bros., scant lighting of only a few random bulbs or stage lights, and around my feet I think I could discern 4 different types of flooring in my 2 foot standing radius: broken up tile, scraped up tile, ripped up carpet, and concrete. Not necessarily saying this scores negative points for the venue, but it’s just all I have to look at for an hour because I discovered the show actually starts at 9:00.
There is a small record store right next door to the venue and I rummaged around in there for awhile. I ended up buying a Circulatory System CD because I think I heard Garz say that band was good some years ago! Anyways, Xiu Xiu came in the store and was looking around at stuff before the show too. I’ll just cut to the chase and say they came on stage around 11:00 and I don’t feel worthy of reviewing their music. I know Jamie Stewart has had more heart-wrenching experiences in life that I can only dream about and this emotion comes through in their music; someone I would say fits the definition of artist to the fuller definitions of the word. The tunes to my amateur ear seem to swell between Stewart’s fragile vocals and violent onslaughts of instrumental noise. Much of their music can be unsettling at times, like a brick thrown at you. At the beginning of the show they turned the house lights off and just had the colored stage lights, but Stewart quickly told the manager it was better with them on. So they played in the light and they could see us as much as we could see them, as starkly open and honest as the music itself.
I was worried maybe the OKC crowd was lackluster for Xiu Xiu- there was genuine applause after songs, but what do you do in the interim before the next one? Cheer and holler to request the next brick? The venue almost got eerily silent in these intermissions. The stage was a festival of instruments, stuff that I don’t even know the names of. Stewart had a combination of like 5-6 cymbals and gongs in front of him, and a little snare or two. McElroy played keyboards, flutes, percussion, something that looked like an accordion. I won’t even try to chop up their material by throwing out abstract adjectives or comparisons, I wouldn’t do it justice. If you’ve heard the band I hope you know what I can’t fairly describe and if you don’t I do recommend their music. It is experimental but for me it consistently seems to have a purpose, not just weird for the sake of it. Is Xiu Xiu my new favorite band? Probably not, not if you mean exactly how many times I actually spin their records. Something like the Black Lips is obviously just an easier listen. But they are possibly one of my more admired or respected bands as musical artists. The performance hits hard and I am sure I don’t entirely get it, but I certainly appreciate it. I told Stewart thanks for the show as he was packing up his equipment, shook hands with him, and headed home, and I am really glad I went.

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