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  • Hype and Dehype

    Ago 2 2007, 0h17

    Mon 30 Jul – Tokyo Police Club, Ra Ra Riot

    This was my first time at the Meridian, and from what I had heard, I was a little worried that the whole management enjoyed bullying. This didn’t turn out to be the case for me. Though they checked bags thoroughly upon entry, they allowed me bring in my D50 with a 50mm prime attached. I later wondered what other goodies I could have managed (lenses, flashes that I don’t own) though all I really needed was a high-pressure hose to free space from the surrounding Tokyo Police FanClub. But that is neither here nor now.

    The first act, White Denim, started pretty soon after doors opened. I think I always appreciate the energetic opening acts more than not. They were a funny, quirky trio, and their lead singer kept strumming his guitar until he had bloody nubs for fingers. And the bass player looked eleven. They were fun.

    Next was Ra Ra Riot, who carefully set up sound checks on stage. RRR consists of six members, a lead singer, a guitarist, a bass guitarist, a cellist, a violinist, and a temporary drummer (since the tragic loss of their original drummer). The lead singer played electronic keyboard at times and almost every member had a tambourine, maracas, or a cowbell at some point in the show.

    I had already heard their EP prior to the show, and it seemed ambitious to expect their show to have the similarly lush sound of the album. So I guess they exceeded my expectations. Not only did they produce a full, wonderful sound on stage (with even some musical embellishments not present on the album), their stage presence was phenomenal.

    Every member, except for the drummer and cellist (for obvious reasons), filled up every corner of the stage. They jumped around, laughed, bumped into each other, embraced each other, even embraced the dead front row of TPC fanchildren. They did all of this without screwing up their sound or coming off as jackasses. It was one of the most alive and electric performances I’ve ever seen, even rivaling eccentric acts like Of Montreal. They were definitely the best opening act I’ve seen by miles, and in my opinion, they easily stole the show from TPC.

    Which leads into Tokyo Police Club. They didn’t so carefully exhibit sound checks before playing. And it was quite painfully evident. They cleverly began with the first track of A Lesson In Crime. The guitar was way too loud, almost to an inaudible extent. Therefore the only melodic instrument capable of being heard was the lead singer’s grunting bass and voice. Yes, there was also a guy who pressed buttons on a fuzzy sounding keyboard, but from what I saw of their show (which admittedly isn’t that much), he seemed to opt more for the tambourine. Most tempos were about all the same with the exception of one or two keyboard/bass guitar ballads. About four or five songs in, my friend asked me if I wanted to leave. She completely read my mind.

    On my way out, I saw the lead singer for RRR at the merch table. I decided (after being simply blown away by their act) that I might as well buy a T-shirt. It was tough enough trying to buy a shirt, much less actually holding a conversation with a RRR member due to the needlessly loud TPC show, so I ended up just purchasing a shirt, shaking his handing, trying to express my enjoyment of their show, and getting the hell out of there. All in all, a good night.
  • Ticket Economy

    Jul 14 2007, 23h51

    I know I probably won't get any accuracy from the responses i get from this, but does anyone know how the economy of live shows works?

    For the longest time, I didn't care about this at all because I generally went to smaller acts (I guess) like of Montreal, Animal Collective, Menomena, Battles, ect. Tickets for these shows usually range between $10-15. Rarely will a ticket be worth $20, but it still happens with 'convenience' charges from the ticket vendors.

    But recently, I purchased tickets to The Smashing Pumpkins at The Nokia Theatre in Grand Prairie (Dallas) TX. Tickets were about $66 a pop, and I could only choose terrible seating in the back of the venue (This idea in itself confuses me. Sit at a Pumpkins concert? I'm used to 'standing room everything').

    So why is there such a huge difference in price between (apparently and presumably) smaller, lesser-known bands and more mainstream bands like the Pumpkins? (Let me at this time admit that I didn't even think the Pumpkins were that mainstream)

    It can't simply be because larger acts want larger venues that fit more people, could it? Is it just because there is a higher demand that ticket vendors (and bands (and labels)) will sell tickets as high as anyone will pay for them? There's a lot I don't know about economics, but if high demand were the case (which seems to make sense), why don't bands jack up the price of their albums as well?

    Would a mainstream band still maintain a low album price only to gather more fans into their expensive shows? That seems deceptive to me, but that's just my opinion.

    I hope this doesn't sound bitchy because right now I think I'm more confused than anything else. Someone please answer if you have some knowledge that would help.
  • Battles Mirrored their studio album into live versions

    Jun 26 2007, 18h55

    Sat 23 Jun – Battles, Sharks and Sailors

    You can also read it from my blog, though there are no pictures this time. http://polyphonyprevails.blogspot.com/2007/06/battles-in-houston-numbers.html

    I had heard a few things about Battleslive before I went to the show, so I came into this one with a few more expectations than normal. For one thing, I wasn’t surprised at all by the song selection which is a little surprising; they played almost exactly what they played at the venue my friend went to. But before I rip into Battles, I want to set up the whole atmosphere of the event.

    I got to Numbers way too early. I arrived around 8:45; the doors were supposed to open at 8:00, and people were just now starting to come in when I got there. I bought a couple tickets on will call a couple days before because I was taking someone with me, but when I arrived, they were still giving away free tickets through the Camel sponsorship. I figured they wouldn’t refund my will call tickets anyway, but I decided to talk to the ticket booth anyway. They seemed as confused as I was, so I just forgot about it and went in on the Camel Ticket. There were some Nazi employees trying to bust anyone underage for a couple hours before the music started.

    Though the doors opened at 8:00 (or were supposed to anyway), Sharks and Sailors, the first opening act, didn’t start playing until about 10:15. They were alright. They reminded me slightly of a less lame version of Creed. I was also reminded of Tool every now and then except their parts were less difficult and the drummer wasn’t insane. Regardless, they were much better than I thought they would be, and I’m glad their lead singer was female.

    The second opening act, Ponytail, was a lot different…than just about anything I’ve seen in a while. They were way casual even with the sound checks. They automatically came off as playful with their attire and setup (the drum set was unmatched, containing different pieces from different sets). They automatically came off as insane when they started playing. Everything was fast and energetic, and the lead singer (also female) did this incredibly strange dance and didn’t really sing so much as shout weird sound effects. I liked the rest of the band a lot; everything was really chaotic-sounding but all organized enough to take the form of music. This was a highly entertaining opening act, and I don’t think I would ever listen to them in studio.

    The doors opened late, the opening acts seemed to start relatively late, and then Battles set up. It’s been a while since I had witnessed such an excruciatingly meticulous setup. I mean, I appreciated it because I knew it would ultimately create a fantastic sound that I was going to experience live, but it just seemed already that so much of the night was dedicated to waiting. All the members seemed to have semi-matching outfits except maybe Stanier, the drummer, who wore a black colored button up rather than white patterned.

    Anyway, the bass player (Konopka I believe?) began the show, starting with Race Out which I thought was a pretty funny song to start a show on. Their sound was exactly how I thought it would be live, near-perfect. Drumming was solid, as expected. The Balance was great (and it better have been with such a long sound check). Just about everything was in time. And the songs were all a little longer than their studio versions. I think this is because they were all being very careful with looping, so parts would add into the songs slowly. This was actually fine and probably made the whole experience even better. Longer songs, more drumming, longer kickass moments of a song, why not?

    Other songs they included were Tij, Tonto, Race In, Leyendecker, Atlas, Bad Trails, and one or two songs not from Mirrored with which I’m not completely familiar. They did not play Ddiamondd or Rainbow, and though I did not find this surprising, I was still a little disappointed.

    Presentation, these guys know how to bring it. Ian Williams on keyboard/guitar and Tyondai Braxton on keyboard/guitar/vocals were particularly fun to watch. Both had fun and energetic mannerisms, especially Ian on keyboard and both seemed to know the music more than well enough to have fun with it. Stanier was energetic by necessity of his parts and sweated an inhuman amount (which may be why he wore a black shirt; a white shirt would have been even more gross). And though the bass player wasn’t able to reveal his showmanship as much as Williams and Braxton (partly because he seemed to be near the floor messing with looping or something), he more than made up for it in mastering his technical parts; example: Tonto.

    Battles formed a great concert. Everything was completely danceable, which is neat for music that contains moments of heavy, grunge-like rock. And I hate to say this, but for some reason, I kept getting this vibe that they were full of themselves. Not that they were full of shit because they definitely didn’t put shit on stage but just that they were great and knew it. This could be me; anyone, feel free to object if you thought otherwise.

    Battles reached every expectation I held of them live. I’m not sure how good or bad this actually is. They performed a completely solid show, relentlessly enjoyable. I guess part of me was hoping – not expecting – for them to abandon solidarity and go wild, to lose control of a song and still kill, to go fucking wild. All hopes aside, it was still a brilliant performance.
  • Wow

    Jun 22 2007, 1h08

    Wed 20 Jun – Menomena

    Ps: for (crappy) pictures, visit http://polyphonyprevails.blogspot.com/2007/06/menomena-in-houston-walters-on.html

    There were a couple things that surprised me about this show. The venue was so small, and Menomenawas selling their own merchandise. Both of these details ultimately added to the experience of the event.

    I wasn’t sure if there was going to be an opening act for a while because the Walter’s website did not say who was opening, but it turned out being All Smiles. It was hard to know what to expect from a group called All Smiles; I thought it could be anything from hyperactive pop to the most depressing and ironic band ever formed.

    All Smiles played a pretty simple act. The songs were short but charming. It was hard to hear the lyrics, so I have no input there. The lead guitarist left me wanting more from his solos, but he did an admirable job with backup vocals and some piano as well. The lead singer was pretty funny throughout, remaining very modest and even feeling remorse for causing the audience to stand to their feet once they got on stage (because of the nature of the venue, it felt natural to sit down in front of the stage before anyone started playing). He also seemed to have a complicated admiration and jealousy for Menomena which I found pretty hilarious.

    Their act was short, and I would say it was pretty enjoyable. But once Menomena got on stage, they were pretty much blown out of the picture. First off, let me try to explain how exciting it is just watching Menomena set up their stage. There were only a couple roadies and the band seemed to be doing most of the work and tuning. The instruments they hauled on stage include four guitars, a bass guitar, a bari sax, an alto sax, an electric keyboard, a Macbook (with a heard cutout covering the apple) that hooks up to the electric keyboard, two sets of bells, a very interesting bass pedal instrument (reminded me of an organ), countless pedals and looping machines, two egg shakers, and of course a drum set. That is a lot of instruments for three people to play in a show.

    Once they started, I and the rest of the crowd were in their hands. Their sound was just as full as the sound in their albums which I found astounding since they rerecorded and looped themselves in studio. Their sound was also more unique live; obviously some parts were left out but others were embellished and improvised. At one moment in the concert, when the drummer was supposed to play a part on the portable bells set into the microphone, Danny didn’t have enough time to switch sticks and instruments, so he sang the bells part into the microphone.

    There were a couple of times when they would have an awkward start to a song, like Danny starting early or one of the members rearranging instruments still or ect. But even when those moments occurred, I appreciated the band almost more for sacrificing any prideful showmanship for the principle of putting on a good show.

    They were also very amusing throughout the show, especially in between songs, particularly during a moment when Justin addressed the jealous-complex All Smiles lead singer and professed to their making sweet, sweet love later that night, “Houston Style!...*crowed mumbles*…or, uh, Dallas Style?...*crowd boos*”.

    Each member also had their own idiosyncratic performance style. Brent, on keyboard and guitar mostly, would use lots of arm and often look up at the ceiling while he sang. Justin seemed heavily focused on the many parts he was playing, sometimes up to three or four in a song, but would relax and joke in between songs. And Danny played aggressively the whole show with never a dull moment, and after each song, he looked like he was about to die (and who cold blame him? Such an energetic drummer).

    I extremely appreciated the level of attention and focus they put in their sound. For the first couple songs, Justin was frequently gesturing to the sound people in the back in order to balance a couple of his instruments. And as far as song selection goes, I was completely satisfied. Song selection is strictly a matter of taste, but still, they played every single song I would have wanted them to play (and from both albums). They even got me to love a couple songs that I previously didn’t care too much for. Once again, I am finding myself unable to emphasize how excellent this performance was.

    What raised their esteem even more was their kindness after the show. Because the venue was so small, they really didn’t have anywhere to go hide like most bands would; that and one of them stuck around to sell merchandise anyway. After the show, each one of them was dripping with sweat, but they were all still able to shake hands, sign autographs, pose in pictures, and listen to us rant about them. And of course the worst picture of me ever is taken with Justin. Needless to say, this show rocked. I almost felt compelled to drive to Dallas to see them twice.
  • Rocked the House

    Jun 18 2007, 8h47

    Sun 17 Jun – The Black Keys

    It is hard to imagine The Black Keys putting on a bad show, especially on the way home from their performance this father’s day evening. At that moment, it was hard to imagine a better show. Put simply, these guys know how to rock.

    I went to this event with my brother as both of us have a strong like for heavy blues. We got to the warehouse a little late and caught Dinosaur Jr. a couple songs into their act; they were loud as hell, and this was painfully clear from the back of the warehouse. But they also knew how to play, and it definitely showed in the guitar solos. My only nitpick was that you really couldn’t hear the lead singer’s voice at all over everything else. The rest was astoundingly good for an opening act, and a lot of interesting effects of the guitars could be heard. Plus it was just plain impressive to see four huge amplifiers stacked up on stage and even more impressive to hear it.

    After Dinosaur Jr. finished, we made our way to the front left corner near the stage, really close up and not really that far from The Keys with the way this venue was set up. Once they finally got on stage, I believe they opened with “Just Got To Be”, the first track of Magic Potion. I was almost concerned at first; Dan’s guitar sounded rather weak compared to Patrick’s drums, and it was just a tad of an awkward introduction. I think there may have actually been some technical issue because a roadie actually came out and fiddled with the equipment hooking up to the guitar. After maybe ten seconds, Dan repeated the opening riff again with much technical success, and all was well in the universe.

    The performances were amazing. Every guitar-solo was filled with energy and poise as was any other impact point of every song they played. The sound was perfect; both players balanced each other well, and the live versions of their music were raw, aggressive, and flawless by my account. Plus they took more liberty with tempos, building up energy and a phrase to perfectly set up a loud, slow, and heavy blues riff.

    I was equally satisfied with the song selection as I was with their pristine performance. From what I can remember, they played quite a few songs from both Rubber Factory and Magic Potion. I particularly appreciated this because Rubber Factory is my favorite album of theirs. Magic Potion really took shape after I heard it live. Seeing Dan’s mannerisms in the tasty licks on “Your Touch” made me love the song more than I ever thought possible. That being said, the standout songs and performances for me were “Your Touch”, “Strange Desire”, “10 A.M. Automatic”, and “The Breaks” (which is actually from their debut).

    On top of the outstanding performance was a bunch of little things that also added to the enjoyment of the event. I loved Dan’s humble appreciation of the audience; he was full of thanks, and I really wish I had time to meet him after the show. I also liked the diversity in the audience, especially with the difference in age. I saw more than a few old people which is convincing me even more that The Black Keys have held on to the right elements of rock and blues to keep just about any music-loving audience happy and enthused. Oh – and this is not a little thing at all, in fact it was huge – they played an encore after they walked off stage. I cannot emphasize enough how much enjoyment and musical euphoria I got from this show. I definitely look forward to the next.
  • Trying to be objective

    Mai 31 2007, 3h10

    Sat 26 May – Animal Collective, Sir Richard Bishop

    First, I'll talk a little about Sir Richard Bishop. He seemed pretty entertaining in my opinion. Funny, talented at the guitar. I couldn't really ask for more in an opening act.

    Alright, I'm not going to put my initial or final reaction or opinion of the concert until I've laid out all the things I observed about that night.

    Three of the usual four members were present, Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and Geologist (I figured from the light on his head). The instruments on stage were a large crash cymbal (of some sort), a high-hat cymbal, a floor tom, and a conga drum. A MacBook, two or three soundboards/slider systems, an electronic keyboard, and three microphones made up the rest of the set.

    Panda Bear was located house right (right side of the stage from the audience's perspective) and also faced house right most of the show to work his sound system and microphone, meaning he faced away from most of the audience for a large portion of the show. He did face the audience when playing on the floor-tom or high-hat; this wasn't the majority of the time though. For the most part, when Panda Bear, their drummer, played drums, it was only with one stick, it was very minimalist, and it failed to show the true level of his percussive skill which I still believe he has (after hearing their first album).

    Avey Tare was centered on stage behind the table on which his Mac sat; he had about an even distribution of positions facing either towards the audience, house right (towards the conga), or away from the audience (towards the keyboard behind him). He spent most of the concert clutching his microphone with one hand while fiddling with electronics or playing on his Mac with the other; however, he did move a bit from one-handed drum playing to one-handed keyboarding.

    Geologist was located house left, but he thankfully faced house right, turning his back to only a small portion of the audience that was in the far left of the house. He kept to his sound system the whole concert, only moving a couple times to take off his hoody, take a drink of his beer, or (at one point in the concert) pick up a microphone and dance around like crazy (highly entertaining) during We Tigers.

    Song selection: I'm not entirely new to Animal Collective, but only listened to them for a couple months. I've given Sung Tongs and Feels some heavy listening, but I've also given their older stuff some attention. Most of the concert was Sung Tongs. There was also some Feels, with Loch Raven being the first song of the night and one of my favorites of the night and favorites of that album in general. The songs that I didn't recognize (which I believe Avey said were 'new') were very repetitive and trance/techo ... however, even the familiar songs had that minimalist trance texture to them. My favorite song was 'We Tigers', during the part when each member had a microphone and no one was just pushing buttons, what a concept!

    Okay, my two cents: Visually, I must say the concert was horrible. It's a little demoralizing to go to a show where the most entertaining thing to see is the front row and not the band itself.

    Musically, the style just wasn't my cup of tea. Repetitive techo-style works sometimes, but I was really hoping for music with more acoustic value. Speaking of which, I know the guitar player was gone, but really? No guitars at all? When I saw Of Montreal, each member had a guitar at one time.

    I was also pretty bummed about the drumming (all one-handed!); even though there were some drums, they still used machines to emulate certain beats when drums would have been much more musically, visually, and psychologically satisfying.

    However, I will give Animal Collective credit for their balance. The transition from sound to sound and beat to beat and the balance of every sound that made up an ensemble was perfect, quite simply. And it damn well should have been; all they did for most the concert was fiddle with sound boards and mixers (a task which I felt they should have saved for other members helping back stage so I could witness some actual music being performed)

    As far as not all four being there, I wasn't too stunned. All their albums have varying amounts of band members contributing to each, so I figured the concert could very much be the same.

    Amongst all the negativity in my assessment, I still think it was an interesting, fun experience, especially when I just closed my eyes and felt the nearness of the people around me intertwine with the sound. I kind of like that even the familiar songs sounded very different from their originals; it really makes the whole experience unique. And it also makes me want to see Animal Collective again and see if they change sound and theatrical approach (I hope!!!!) from tour to tour.

    If anyone who has seen Animal Collective in a previous tour and knows whether they do change up their performances (and...I don't know...actually play instruments with more than one hand), please tell me. I really want to like these guys live.