Gigs, dance, art

September 12th, 2010: David Murray – The Last Poets – The Roots

@la villette

The show was called “tongues on fire”, and was a tribute to the black panthers. David Murray did a great job of staying consistent with the musical spirit of that era, but as it’s not one I’m fond of, that was my loss too. But it all made sense, and that’s not so easy and was critical for it not to become a complete joke — a definite threat with the overwhelmingly white and affluent audience the ticket price all but guaranteed.

The Last Poets were amazing, very much worth all the praise I’d read and heard over the years. That part of the show made it all worth it, and far outweighed the relative disappointment I got out of the overall thing.

The Roots were OK, but I felt they were a little bit too respectful. ?uestlove remains very good, and I’m glad I finally got to hear him live, but it’s still a bit of a letdown. I guess they had reasons to tone it down playing with The Last Poets, but I’m sure they could have been a bigger part of it to no ill effect. Vernon Reid was a little too present for me, though that kinda made sense too, as he does have roots in that musical era.


September 29, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

June 6th, 2010: Fuck Buttons / Thee Oh Sees / King Midas Sound / These Are Powers / Magnetix / Washed Out

@la villette

Washed Out had a somewhat ominous name with those threatening clouds, but the rain spared us. The music was sunny and positive, and that held when he was joined by a band. It’s not my thing at all, but it was nicely crafted.

Magnetix was quite different, and they sure were loud for a duo. It’s not really about pushing the amps into eleven, it’s about claiming the airspace. And they did that with gusto. I guess it’s par for the course and there’s always a throwback thing with this garage sound, but the music grew a little too predictable for me later on. But for a while I just enjoyed the ride.

These Are Powers‘ turned out to be my favorite set of the weekend, despite the subpar conditions. I like what I heard on the radio, and the vocalist really took it further live, so that I liked it better even though the limitations of an outdoors gig took their toll. That’s the kind of hybrid music I’m most interested in, mixing things that too many keep separate with a real rhythmic creativity. They were good, but I’m sure they would be great in a better place, so I hope they’ll be back sooner rather than later.

King Midas Sound were OK but I was still thinking about the previous set a little too much. I’m not sure the setting was that good for them, maybe it contributed to my feeling that it all sounded a little too much the same. Earth a kill ya remains a good song, but I got the feeling they too would be better in an indoor venue, maybe the wind blew the details away.

Thee Oh Sees keep puzzling me. That was a nice set, but I have to confess I lost interest along the way. They come highly praised, and In The Red is a seal of quality in my book, but even though I like some songs a lot, it was a little too efficient at times and I feel they play a little too closely by the playbook. I’d like some alien element to disturb that routine.

Fuck Buttons sure have come a long way since I first saw them four years ago and I’m genuinely happy for them, because they seem to be nice guys. I like their music and the way they mix a driving beat with noise and electro elements. But even though it was a nice set, it was a little too close to what I was expecting. What’s next? I hope they’ll either bring something else into the mix — but what? — or go the kraut way and push the limits of what they’re doing now. I intend to be there next time but hopefully it won’t be just more of the same.

June 12, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

June 5th, 2010: Oneida / Secret Chiefs 3 / Oneida

@la villette

I somehow managed to miss both Lena Circus and Blues Control, and only got there in time for Ganglians. Maybe I was just too disappointed by my tardiness, but I couldn’t get into their set. I had heard them being praised for a while, but it didn’t sound all that interesting to me.

Secret Chiefs 3 went with a more mundane lineup than the other time I saw them, with a violin being the only unusual instrument — and that’s not that weird. They played their interesting mix of wildly different styles, sometimes in succession, sometimes together, ranging from surf to metal with a middle eastern flavor, from unique sounds to their Halloween theme cover. Good but a bit too close to last time, so that the element of surprise was gone for me. The sound was pretty crappy too, with the lowest frequencies being pushed louder and louder and ending up pretty much covering everything, which was a shame.

I’m not sure that outdoor setting was the best thing for Oneida, I think it made the show more distant, which is so not like them, and robbed part of their intensity. Bobby Matador couldn’t make it, which hurt a lot in my opinion. Maybe that’s why they went with similar longer tunes throughout. Kid Millions still rules though, and on its own merits I think that was a good set. But nonetheless short of their lofty standard, so I hope they’ll be back with the full lineup and in a venue that suits them better.

June 12, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

June 4th, 2010: Diamanda Galas / Programme / Bo Ningen

@la villette

There’s no way I can be fair to Bo Ningen. I didn’t like their singer’s voice, but other than that I just couldn’t focus on their music because I had seen Acid Mothers Temple the previous day and they were just psych enough to have me get flashbacks from that gig. My bad.

I was happy to hear Programme again after such a long time — eight years. At first the voice was a little flat, but it got better. This time they were  almost cheerful compared to the first time I saw them, meaning they didn’t pile on with the hostile vibe. I think that’s a good thing, their material is strong enough and comes through more clearly with them keeping it simple. Their newer songs were not really a break from their earlier material, it’s more that they made me see the latter differently and notice different things that had always been there. I guess I’ll have to check out their new record too.

Diamanda Galas still has a great voice, and that solo piano performance looked like a good setup. And it was, up to a point. I really liked the first few songs, but then I lost interest because it all sounded the same. I guess that made sense within the concept, this merging of songs from different countries and styles. I just guess I don’t like that concept. And her take on Inta Omri just lost me. She has the voice to pull it off, and instead she turned it into a flat European song.

June 9, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , | 1 Comment

May 31st, 2010: Joanna Newsom / Roy Harper

@la villette

I’m not really into Roy Harper‘s kind of music, but I still think he has some really nice songs, if a bit on the long side at times, and certainly knows his way with a guitar. Still, there was way too much echo and it was often too loud. Not the last time I would wonder about the sound during this edition of the festival, unfortunately. I’m used to loud music, but it really got in the way. I guess the bright white light beaming in my eyes didn’t help either.

It didn’t come as a surprise, but Joanna Newsom did change some over the years. She tamed her unique voice, so much that she often reminded me more of Kate Bush that her earlier self. Not that it’s a bad thing, and I think I would have lost interest if she still had been doing the same thing. Her new songs are more straightforward than those from Ys, but I wouldn’t say they’re really less ambitious, because there’s some serious craft at work in there. Some kind of maturity maybe, as suggested by her almost glamorous look and her playing the piano at times. Not everything has changed though, her harp was still the main instrument, and she kept a visible joy at playing. I also liked that the band was more than a backdrop, the drummer and guitar/banjo/flute player especially were crucial and I think they all had some nice connection going. I don’t know what she’ll be doing next, probably change some more while remaining true to herself, and though I know that’s setting the bar pretty high, I think she can do exactly that.

June 7, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

September 12th, 2009: Hank Jones & Cheick Tidiane Seck / Mahmoud Ahmed / Alemayehu Eshete

@la villette

I had been hearing about Alemayehu Eshete for a while so I was very happy to hear him at last. I was not disappointed, he’s a wonderful singer, yet another gem from Ethiopia. What eludes me is why they would have these performers play for a seated audience. Well, nice try, but it didn’t last the whole set. Some security types did try to tell people to sit down, but they gave up in a hurry. It will probably be the same next year in Nanterre, I guess I should check whether there’s another stop planned. Anyway, the set included quieter moments that showcased his voice a little better in my opinion. A nice buildup throughout, and when he introduced Mahmoud Ahmed I was relieved there wouldn’t be any break. Another great voice, and an amazing performer, Mahmoud Ahmed proceeded to turn it up yet another notch. I was talking with a couple of guys from Ethiopia after the show, who said he never misses a chance to hear him, and I totally understand. His recordings are nice, but they just don’t compare to the actual experience. On the downside, he said that there were very few Ethiopians in France, meaning such shows are rare, and the many performers just don’t stop around here. This is just wrong. This awesome set would have been my favorite of the festival but for my having seen Mahmoud Ahmed before, and this Tribe set opening new vistas.

I knew I would not be as impressed by Cheick Tidiane Seck and Hank Jones, because I’m just not that much into music from Mali. But I ended up enjoying it more than I thought. The set was for the most part about Seck and his band, but every single time Hank Jones was in front he brought a lot to the whole. His soloing was great on its own, and made sense in the context as well. The others were really good as well. Despite generally not liking this kind of music much, this was just good music, and the style definitely matters far less when it’s that good. A great way to end this festival, even though I missed the end because of work — yeah, on a Saturday night at close to 1am, long boring story, don’t get me started.

September 19, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

September 9th, 2009: De La Soul / The Herbaliser

@la villette

Coming here meant missing Dirty Projectors, my reasoning being that they would be back around sooner. Plus there’s been something about De La Soul that has been nagging me for many years. I kinda like their stuff, but there was something lacking, and I was hoping seeing them live would solve that as something that just didn’t translate to records.

So The Herbaliser was an afterthought to me, a wrong headed notion easily dispelled by their performance. I’m not sure it was Hip-Hop, but I sure I didn’t care. Apart for a DJ, they were a live band featuring a really good drummer, and that’s all I cared about. They did have a singer come around for a few songs, but most of the set was instrumental. I liked the instrumental parts better, and even though I was not impressed by the DJ’s scratching skills on their own, it worked well in that setting, and anytime a DJ’s stuff is appropriate to the surroundings, I say he did his job and then some. Maybe he could have burned it on his own but made it a priority to fit in, and if that’s the case more power to him. I know he tipped the scale for me, without him it would have been too funk based for me. The drummer, again, deserves most of the credit.

De La Soul didn’t do much to dispel my unease. Maybe that’s because of technical difficulties that delayed their set for a while. They did start with rapping over This is Radio Clash, and much later they did pay tribute to Erik B and Rakim’s Paid In Full, but what does it say about my personal appreciation for them if the highlights for me were when they were quoting others? As MCs they were quite good, but the live band, though they were good, didn’t bring anything new in my opinion. I guess the whole 3 feet high and rising 20 years celebration concept was fishy enough, so I shouldn’t write them out. Still, my favorite parts of their set involved other people’s stuff — RUN DMC, The Clash, Erik B and Rakim — and that should be clue enough. On the other hand, this was my biggest show in years in term of attendance so that has to factor in as well, maybe I should ignore more as mere pandering. Still, it didn’t solve my quandary. Prince Paul will be DJing in Paris soon, maybe I should try that — though it might be sold out before I get to it.

September 12, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , | 1 Comment