Gigs, dance, art

December 11th, 2008: Deerhoof / Stanley Kubi / Parenthetical Girls / Dimension X


I’m utterly failing to keep up with all these gigs, I’m basically just home to catch a little sleep before going back for more. This gig was just a few days ago but it seems far longer right now. I really like this venue, because of its acoustics. I always end up in the back of the room, where I’ve learned to play with the curved wall to enhance different sounds.

Dimension X was just getting started when I walked in, with the bass and guitar lying on the floor and Chris Corsano playing electronics instead of drums. I did like that part and the beginning of the set, but it wore me out.  I was kinda expecting that, because both Corsano and Pupillo often play too many notes for me, which made me tune out after twenty minutes or so.

I had an opposite reaction to Parenthetical Girls, in that I found the voice grating in the beginning but got used to it as the set went on. It did remind me of Xiu Xiu a little, but I kept thinking about the Decemberists for some reason. Some kind of weird pop, a little too pretty and emotional for me, but with enough twists to keep me interested nonetheless.

Stanley Kubi was a pleasant surprise, because I had not liked them all that much so far. But this time I did. Hardcore with unexpected instruments but also a band that dumps the mandatory aggresivity and goes with a festive friendliness instead. I don’t know why it took me so long to finally heed Macario’s advice to be openminded and let curiosity take over. I like the guy and it’s a relief to have come to honestly like his music too.

Deerhoof was the biggest name of the festival in my particular book, and even though I’m first and foremost going to hear music I don’t know, I was definitely looking forward to it. Even though I didn’t get to hear my favorite song, it was a blast nonetheless. They played material from several records, and hearing it live is always a different experience. It was over too soon, and left me wanting to see them again, which is all I can ask for. Probably the set where my familiarity with the room paid off, as I could just move a little and highlight different parts.

December 14, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

September 13th, 2008: DJ Spooky, Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa

@ trabendo

Another of the performances that had me looking forward to this festival. Some personal reasons, but musical ones as well. I’ve been wanting to hear DJ Spooky live for years, but somehow never did. His play in a place I like during a jazz festival looked like the perfect opportunity. I saw Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa last year in my first time at the sunset club, one of the first jazz gigs I ever attended and the one that turned my curiosity into genuine appreciation. That made more sense later, when I first heard Steve Coleman and as my usual NY tendencies emerged. Anyway these are people I’d like to hear more, and by now I’m very curious about their other, separate projects.

The one thing I didn’t like about the gig was the footage from Debord’s usual saw, because I’m just tired of it after all these references over the years. But it didn’t matter. Again, I was uncharacteristically close to the stage, for no good reason because there was not much to see anyway, but that probably helped me to ignore the video. Later, there was another video, a sequence of flags fast enough to blur into each other. That struck a chord with me, because there are a bunch of countries that are close to my heart, and I like their separate identities; it’s nationalism I can’t stand, not nationalities. Interacting, evolving yet retaining their personality, it’s also what I like a lot in music, and that was fitting in this setting because that’s exactly what was going on.

But the music was what really mattered, and I liked it a lot. Spooky was better than I hoped he would be, I liked this performance better than anything I heard from him so far — then again, I do prefer gigs to recordings, so it’s no surprise — with a strong hip-hop element that kinda made complete my experience of the whole festival.

Iyer and Mahanthappa didn’t go pure acoustic like last year, so even on their own it was a completely different sound. Overall I liked their thing better than last year, especially Mahanthappa who generally avoided the fast stuff I didn’t like last year and just captured my attention several times. I liked Iyer’s moments in front less, but whenever he was more in the background or all three were more on equal footing, he pulled some amazing stuff.

The best was the way the ensemble just worked. Each had a personal, distinct sound and style, which didn’t disappear in the whole. The whole was better than the parts, but the parts were still there, giving me the best of both worlds, hearing all four at the same time, focusing on one aspect or another, making my way through the sound and enjoying every second of it despite the certainty that I was also missing a lot. This gig left me both happy and hungry for more later, at peace with the past and eager for the future, if only in that department. It doesn’t get any better than this.

September 14, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

May 22nd, 2008: Crystal Castles / Fuck Buttons / Telepathe


I wasn’t sure about would be the headlining band, I kinda expected Fuck Buttons to be the main act, what with all the buzz they’ve been getting recently. This was not the case, and I figured that out just from the youth of the audience; a sure sign that the crowd drawing act is one I’ve never heard about. On the other hand, the second set was the longest. Go figure.

It all started pretty well, with a nice surprise from Telepathe. Nothing earth-shattering, but nice and fresh mix of samples, drums and voices, with a splash of guitar. I’d have gladly bought a record, but all they had were T-shirts, and the guitar player didn’t seem too much into his ware-peddling duties anyway. I would not go to a gig they open for them alone, but their presence should tip the balance if I’m hesitating.

Then it was on to Fuck Buttons, the reason I was there in the first place. Good almost continuous set, much more controlled — in a good way — than the first time I saw them, yet more interesting at the same time, due to more different sounds and the use of a keyboard and especially a tom — used to great effect for a while. Still a marked noise heritage, but more accessible despite the distorted voice and almost danceable, with many things beyond the first impression. Not experimental but they would probably make a great gate band, bringing more people to be exposed to the more adventurous stuff — it might even work the other way, but I’m not holding my breath on that. I had seen them a couple of years ago when they opened for Family Battle Snake and Minitel and I remember chatting a little with them and leaving with both a CD and the impression that they were nice guys.

Now that I’ve listened to their latest CD, I have to had that it does little justice to the way they sound live. Their live sound is rougher, and all the better for it; the CD is too clean and that production removed the most interesting bits. Still a nice record, but way too nice. Being better live than in a studio is a plus as far as I’m concerned, so that’s not a bad thing. I’ll be there next time, is all, and I hope I won’t have to wait two years.

The crowd went wild for Crystal Castles, me excluded. I was bored close to actually leaving, but I stayed for the whole of their mercifully short set. Boring drummer, grating samples. The singer was a bit better, though she seemed to stick to whispering or screaming, with some vocoder for a change of pace. Whorish music, tailored to appeal and reminiscent of the worst the eighties had to inflict, with a brand new shining coat of paint but I lived those and have no wish to go through that again.

May 23, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

November 6th, 2007: !!! / Holy Fuck


This one was a close call: I have wanted to see Delphine Dora for a while now, and I saw !!! not that long ago. But it was probably the last time I had a chance to see them in a smallish venue, and I really like this one.

Holy Fuck hails from Canada, and I really liked their set. A couple of guys with a assortment of synth, keyboards and electronics, a drummer and a bass player. They usually unplugged/plugged some equipment between songs, and managed to pull that off without much of a break. It was basically non-stop. Fitting quite well with the main event, in a more electronic sounding flavor, of course, but the rhythm section brought some serious organic groove.

!!! came on stage with a female singer and I only counted eight of them, so I guess the other singer left the band. It did work pretty well in that configuration too; the gig was maybe a bit on the short side, but they sure were worth seeing again. Bend over Beethoven was my favorite moment, pretty different from the record version, with a very long instrumental section that managed to be both dance and trance inducing — and actually got me dancing, which is no mean feat. It came right on the heel of Me and Guliani…, which was a pretty good version, with more of an edge to it somehow than in my memories. Of course the encore was Pardon my freedom, which makes a lot of sense here in France.

They said they were close to the end of their tour, so maybe that’s why I thought the singer had less of a voice than usual. He seemed a bit less manic as well, but that could come from being on a smaller stage than last time — though definitely bigger than the first time I saw them. But it didn’t really matter, I really enjoyed it and will definitely go again if I have the opportunity. One of my favorite live band these days.

November 7, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

October 16th, 2007: Battles / Parts & Labor


This might have been overkill. I already saw Battles a few months ago, but I just love their record and had nothing planned until like Friday. It’s not the week for thinking, I need to keep myself busy.

The opening band was Parts & Labor, from Brooklyn if I got that right. Drums, bass and guitar/synth. The drummer was the only who didn’t sing, but he sure kept busy. The voices struck me as too nice in a sense, too polished for their sound. That got my attention, but I’m not sure I like it. The music is OK though, some nice sounds in there.

Battles again started their set with Race: out, but why change something that just works so well. I think it was more about the guitars this time, especially during the first half or so. And they just sounded better to me. The sound was harsher than on the record, and I was under the impression that they played faster as well. That drummer is absolutely amazing; it’s not like his part is easy, and he kept at it for slightly over 60 minutes. Atlas is one of my favorite songs of the year, and it was a treat to hear that voice processing live. Plus they’re real good at getting a song going, adding all these layers. My only gripe is that they sometimes kept at a single phrase too long, and that happened more often as the set unfolded. But that’s part of the bargain in going to gigs: I know the bad comes with the good. And the bad wasn’t that bad anyway, whereas the good made my day.

October 16, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

September 11th, 2007: Yo La Tengo / Mike Ladd


Mike Ladd again. I don’t think I had ever heard of him a few months ago, and now I keep running into his name. I’m not complaining, at least not yet. He’s energetic and talented. I wasn’t that pleased about his having a drummer and keyboard player on board. They were alright, even though I didn’t care much for the keyboard sound. But I think he’s better by himself with his recorded sounds. The live band didn’t bring much, probably because his strong personality didn’t leave them much. Anyway I was exhausted on coming to the venue but fully awake when he was done.

Then on to the main act. I didn’t really know Yo La Tengo; I sure heard them on the radio, but didn’t notice them that much. My main motivation was their annual covers-for-pledges show to support the station. That makes them good people I want to support, plus they can’t be bad with such a good taste. I had actually won their latest record during this year marathon, but I had only listened to it once. I like seeing a band I don’t know much, or at all.

I’m very pleased to say it proved a smart move — the going, not the not listening — as they delivered an excellent set. Quality and quantity as well, they played for close to two hours. They started fast, they went to slower, quieter songs and then built up to a rousing finale with an extra-long version of the story of Yo La Tengo. That means probably close to 20 minutes, and I loved it. It ended with the kind of mayhem I usually expect from Sonic Youth, and that was very appropriate. Mike Ladd came back on stage for the encore, though he was not assertive at all, for a little vocals and bongos on Nuclear War.

I guess my favorite songs were the noisy ones, but I was impressed by the range of their stuff, and the high intensity of the show. They didn’t waste much time between songs, so that made for a really great evening of music and just that. I’m definitely wanting to investigate their records now, and I’ll be sure to be on the lookout for gigs in the future, they made my must-see list with room to spare.

September 12, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

September 6th, 2007: The Pro-Verb Trio


Best gig in a while, it was both physically elating and musically challenging. I’m glad I went, even though the reason isn’t good: I traded in a ticket I had for a Joe Zawinul the same day, and that was canceled for health reasons.

Continuing my Coleman week, the Pro-Verb Trio is Steve Coleman on saxophone, Kokayi as MC, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. It was advertised as a Jazz/Hip-Hop hybrid, but I think it was much closer to Jazz. The MC was often close to singing, his voice in synch with Coleman’s phrases, without words. But there were some fireworks of flow as well.

It was satisfying to me to hear Coleman avoiding pyrotechnics, I was getting weary of these displays of velocity in Jazz. For the most part he was either playing short melodic phrases, anchoring the more free-styling others, or playing less rather than more. Both because he often played softly and because he often played short, isolated notes. I really liked this delivery, cut short in a way; that was new to me, at least on that instrument. And I crave new experiences.

The MC’s flow was impressively fast when he wanted it to me, and he displayed a wide range of styles. And the drummer was relentless. I can’t say it was a regular jazz style, but it felt like it in a way. He was the one displaying the virtuosity I can get tired of, but he was really creative with it. Often the saxophone and voice were repeating a phrase while the drummer went his own way, moving in and out of tempo at will; a refreshing reversal of traditional roles.

There were also more light-hearted and even physically compelling moments, where even I was as close dancing as I get. And I must say it felt good to be in standing in a dark room at a gig for a change. It had only been a month, but I missed that familiar setting.

September 7, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment