November 26, 2008

Of Montreal @ The Palladium [LA; 11/22/08]

Given my fixation with Of Montreal and the extensive coverage that this tour has received over the year, there was almost no possible way for Saturday’s show to live up to its hype. There had to be a catch. With all their stage theatrics, maybe the music would fall to a second priority. Maybe we’d get an off night, with an impromptu acoustic set or a “sorry, no costumes tonight.” I just had to traffic these things through my head to stay healthy and realistic.

I think you know where I’m going with th
is. The show obviously surpassed all expectations.

Perfectly arranged set list – covered.
Album-matching quality of songs - covered.
Out-of-this-universe props and actors – covered
Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – literally, covered.
Kevin Barnes’ scantily clad body – literally, covered in red paint and shaving cream.

Since so much of the band’s current identity has to do with Kevin Barnes’ campy alter ego, Georgie Fruit, it made sense that they’d center their set around the past two albums. 2008’s Skeletal Lamping has delivered them to the masses, more fragmented, playfully conflicted and sexually charged than ever. Literally, it shows.

Barnes is one of the great songwriters of this generation and it’s easy to miss that because...well, (see picture above). He's a showman. I can only liken Saturday’s post concert buzz to what I imagine it must have felt like after seeing Alice Cooper in 1977 or Bowie on his Stardust tour.

In a recent interview with Paste Magazine, Barnes commented on his stage act:

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We sort of have the attention of the world, and now’s the time to really do something sensational…I just want to put on a great production—something people will think about and talk about for a while that, hopefully, will inspire people...We want to try to transform it, so it’s an otherworldly experience—something so exceptional, so out of the ordinary, that people will have that special moment, like when you see a movie or a painting or read a book that really touches you. The reason it touches you is because it’s jumping out from this other world, and it burns in your memory as something exceptional. “

Mission accomplished, Mr. Barnes. Every section of air and every second of that set had a purpose. You wouldn’t think someone else’s self-indulgence could be so welcoming. But just like he does on their records, Barnes pulled us into Of Montreal’s imagination.
And let’s not forget about the supporting cast. As my astute concert-mate, Jack, noted, the bass and drum lines remained constant throughout, often jamming for transition and maintaining the energy level. A package doesn’t come much tighter.

Along with the recent releases, the 2-hour-plus performance gave life to some slightly older favorites like “So Begins Our Alabee” and “Oslo in the Summertime.” For as much attention as their “new direction” gets, these songs felt as congruent as anything else. I’ll still give Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?’s “A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger” and “Gronlandic Edit” my personal highlights for the night.

But the band is known for their cover-song encores. So the cake was iced with Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out”, which sounded better than you would think. And of course, the entire Palladium immediately converted to head-banging 12 year olds at the first chords of Nirvana.

I took a boatload of videos and pictures. I’m thinking that might be the best way move this recap forward:

"A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger" with the shaving cream filled coffin:

"Take Me Out" cover:

And 5 more videos can be found here.

November 16, 2008

TV On The Radio @ The Wiltern [LA; 11/06/08, w/Yeah Yeah Yeahs cameo]

If someone had asked me who I’d want to see play the day after Obama’s victory, my answer would probably be: "Radiohead or Bruce Springsteen or…Public Enemy." It would be nice to imagine though, after a long, hard-thought pause, that I’d blurt out something as on-point as TV On The Radio.

It hit me as I sat down and not a second earlier. We could never have lined it up three months ago when the tickets were purchased, but TVOTR fit this bill with an eerily poignant significance.

This year’s release, Dear Science, trumpets a new era for the NYC "art-rock"-ers. While the political undertones are still there, the rage has been re-channeled. Even the LP's harshest moments are coated with funky horns and hand-claps. I take this album as a chaotic yet optimistic indication of the times. It has hope, thus making Thursday’s show all the more triumphant.

From the 10+ artists on stage, I can recall only one, just once, saying anything during the rapid-fire set. Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe broke the noise with a question, "Everybody pleased with the choices of earlier in the week?" That’s really all he had to say.
Although the sound was slightly distorted from our balcony seats, the celebration spoke as clear as 364 electoral votes.

They favored the new tracks of Dear Science, as perhaps the night’s energy called for its big band grooves. They started the encore with (what I feel to be the strongest on the new album), “Crying.” In its final notes, a flood of friends came on stage including the opening band, The Dirtbombs, and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Nick Zinner and Karen O. Everyone found something to hit, and the percussion of 2006's “A Method” brought the night to a peak. Much of the video I took below covers me trying to figure out if that was the YYYs or not. Looks like I know a Nick Zinner when I see one (even wikipedia says "He is known for his "unmistakable" wild hair, skinny physique, and pale appearance").

“Staring at the Sun”, the hit that launched them into existence, was the proper way to close it all.

"you're staring at the sun
you're standing in the sea
your mouth is open wide
you're trying hard to breathe
the water's at your neck
there's lightning in your teeth
your body's over me"

After 4 years, that claustrophobic chorus finally felt out-dated. Right on.

You can stream the excellent, Dear Science, in its entirety on their myspace.

Here's the video I took of "A Method" encore. It gets better after the 1:35 mark.

November 12, 2008

Fleet Foxes Take it Away in Paris

2008 is the year of the fox. Overwhelming yes, but I (uncharacteristically) remain immune to backlash.

They returned to the French blog, this time in an abandoned room at the Grand Palais, for another one of Vincent Moon's takeaway shows. This might be the finest documentation of their gifts to date.

"Sun Giant" in a field leads into an echoing "Blue Ridge Mountains."

Fleet Foxes - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo

If it isn't obvious, I'll repeat: don't be surprised to see these guys take top honors this year.
Download | Fleet Foxes | Sun Giant

Download | Fleet Foxes | Blue Ridge Mountains

I'm still trying to get over the show they put on a few months ago. Not to the mention the one they did a few months before that.

November 11, 2008

Haven't Freaked Out About The Dodos in a While

Random. After putting them aside for 8 months, that felt pretty good.

Go watch the rest of that show here.

November 6, 2008

New Old Music Discovery of the Year: Arthur Russell

Arthur Russell died at the age of 40 in 1992. Although he recorded music in the 70s and continued to experiment throughout the 80s in the New York City underground, his achievements remained virtually unknown during his lifetime. Thanks to recent efforts from a record label and a bunch of musicians, his work has been digitally restored and re-released.

Someone sent me 1986’s World of Echo last month. That was enough to alert my usual full-scale Internet researching/downloading blitz. Verdict: I’ve never really seen a musician travel though so many sounds and never look back. Instead of promoting, he just kept going. Classical jazz, dance-pop disco, ambient minimalism… Russell seemed to be eternally fleeting yet immersed in everything he touched.

This documentary trailer sums it up better than I can.

At least 50 similar blogs have probably been written already. So I’ll just encourage you to Google: Arthur Russell. I'll also say the album Calling out of Context is as good a place to start as any.

And just last week, fans were treated to the release of Love is Overtaking Me. And here we see yet another side of Russell, with 21 unheard tracks, this time more straightforward singer/songwriter, less avant-garde dreamer.

Downloads for you:
Arthur Russell | That's Us/Wild Combination

Arthur Russell | Maybe She

Arthur Russell | A Little Lost

Arthur Russell | Being It