Our friend Ashley Harris, who was the local music director at Arizona State’s The Blaze 1260 AM and now lives in the Big Apple working in the music industry, was in attendance at Terminal 5 in New York for the first date of Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity x 10 tour, which winds down with a homecoming at Marquee Theatre in Tempe on March 7. Read Ashley’s review of the show after the jump and see more of her pictures here.
Jason Woodbury’s next round is on me. His words about Anni Rossi’s show on Monday at Modified are below.
When it rains in Phoenix, people stay inside. It’s a shame but a fact, and the Modified’s sparse but devoted crowd attested to it as they gathered to watch Stellaluna, Stephen Steinbrink, Whitman and freshly minted 4AD Anni Rossi take the stage on a soggy Monday night. Shame, too, because there was plenty worth venturing out for.
Stellaluna’s Francis, who puts on shows as Fizzle Promotions and also plays music as part of the folk-pop duo Uggamugga, performed with members of Cardiac Party, My Feral Kin, Turn Back O Man and SGJ as her backing band. Her first performance featuring these members, her twee-pop style and clear, girlie voice belied a darker, sexier undercurrent, with lyrics influenced by her beloved Bukowski, Fugazi and local boys Andrew Jackson Jihad. My Heart is an Anchor found Ryan of Cardiac Party adding subtle harmonies, and their musical chemistry was contagious.
Stephen Steinbrink, who I very recently blogged about took the stage all by his lonesome, with a notebook, a crappy Fender Squire and a tiny Peavy amp, and proceeded to destroy the room. The sound of cars and rain added a gorgeous backdrop to his sparse songs, and his solitary voice was met by a cross-legged, attentive crowd. He took requests and played an incredible cover of Arthur Russell’s This Time Dad You’re Wrong. I picked up Wedding, the CD-R companion to his recent album Ugly Unknowns, soaking myself in a walk to Circle K to pull out some cash to purchase it with and buy coffee.
Whitman, from L.A., played next. I once read that the best music is the kind that inspires extreme reaction; the only thing comparable to having someone say they absolutely love your music is to have someone say that they absolutely hate it. I’ve got plenty of respect for Whitman’s search for “musical freedom,” but the approach seemed more petulant than honest to me, like Jandek minus the sense of otherworldly, and I found myself extremely “not into” his set. SGJ and American Gil provided an interesting background of ambient, grating and found noise, but in the end, I can only propose that maybe I just don’t get it.
Anni Rossi performed with just a viola, a mic for her elastic voice and a box for elevation and stomping sounds. Her classical training is apparent; clearly, this lady knows what she’s doing. Her songs had a classic 4AD sense about them, ghostly and pretty, but alternately violent and unhinged. Her debut album for 4AD, Rockwell (Any relation?), recorded by legend Steve Albini, hits streets and record stores on March 10, and most press will say something stupid like “a female Andrew Bird.” Ignore and check out.
Note: This is the first in what I hope will be regular contributions from Jason Woodbury, a local musician (Hands on Fire and Cardiac Party) who has graciously accepted an offer to profile bands/musicians from our fine city/state. Please welcome him aboard.
I was fortunate enough to catch the live debut of Shane Kennedy’s Towncraft at Modified last Thursday, supporting Social Science recording artist Obi Best, along with locals
Gita and Dakota Jeane. Gita played a set of pleasant, polite indie folk, while Dakota Jeane, of socialist agit-folk duo Dakota & the Black River Bandit, performed songs from her recently released solo EP My Bell Jar. Her presentation revealed that she’s still finding her footing as a solo artist, but her charm smoothed over any instrumental gaffs. Headliner Obi Best, featuring Alex Lilly of The Bird and the Bee, accompanied by members of Beck and Jenny Lewis’ touring band, played their erudite pop to a devoted crowd. While I stupidly and ignorantly wrote them off as twee pop after precious little research, I was incredibly into their set, especially when Lilly set aside the guitar for a self described “keyboard purse” and the songs took on a demure Stereolab like quality.
It was Towncraft I was most excited about, based on the strength of the members other projects, such as the majority of the group acting as songwriter Daryl Scariot’s accompaniment in Turn Back O’ Man, violinist Megyn’s work with Dry River Yacht Club, upright bassist Dario Miranda’s jazz combo Black Bear Ensemble (who played a phenomenal set down the street at the Lost Leaf after the show) and lap steel player Matt Wisner’s alt-country group Tierra Del Fuego. With the bar set high, Towncraft didn’t disappoint. The instrumental sound of the Dirty 3 might be an easy reference point, but with guitar work heavy on feedback and baring an unmistakable Thurston Moore via John Fahey feel (guitarist Brent Miles was indeed sporting a Sonic Youth shirt), the spaghetti western idea makes for a good starting point, but the sound moves into areas far more spacious, ominous and majestic than a “recommended if you like” tag allows. A Phoenix band to keep a watchful eye on.
I just finished watching Elbow’s turn on Sundance Channel’s Live from Abbey Road series. I still have little doubt that The Seldom Seen Kid ends up in my Top 5 (probably Top 3) albums of the year. It just stands a classic/timeless album, pretty much like every Elbow record before it.
Not sure how I missed this earlier, but the band offered a live recording of one of the album’s outstanding tracks, Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver, as a free download on its MySpace. It comes from a recent sell-out show in Manchester.
Elbow | Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver (live)
Performance clip of One Day Like This from Live from Abbey Road. Hell, this song is beautiful:
Elbow: One Day Like This (video)
Scott Hutchison, singer of Frightened Rabbit, had to feel eerily vindicated when, on Tuesday night at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix — miles and miles and at least one major ocean from his Scotland home — a venue full of fans sang back to him the chorus of the biting break-up song Keep Yourself Warm.
“You won’t find love in a, won’t find love in a hole / it takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm.”
Depression never sounded so cheerful. I imagine for Hutchison that moment – both corny and cathartic – being a tipping point in his career as a musician – here, a group of strangers banded together, telling ex-boyfriends and girlfriends near and far to, well, fuck off. And just like that, words he wrote out of desperation and loneliness became a rallying cry. Even if people weren’t singing it for their own well-being, surely they were doing it for Hutchison, whose ex’s ears probably were ringing somewhere. But, hey, without her we wouldn’t have this masterful album, The Midnight Organ Fight.
Below is a video clip of Keep Yourself Warm that I shot with my digital camera. It’s just the second half of the song, but it captures the mood and energy, I think. (Mike Pace of Oxford Collapse guests on guitar.)
About three-quarters of the way through the Cave Singers’ show on Saturday night at Modified, I realized the band was without any sort of bass instrument. That wouldn’t be such a stunning revelation if the trio’s outstanding rhythm hadn’t already held me captive for about 30 minutes.
That’s probably a credit to the guitar playing of Derek Fudesco, whose finger-picking style manages to cover both lead and rhythm roles.
If I was a casual fan of the band’s debut Invitation Songs (get it at eMusic), the live show – with its vibrant energy – has pushed me into full fan mode. (Already I’ve downloaded the Daytrotter session and two B-sides at eMusic.)
Chad Sundin of Phoenix band the Via Maris made a great observation after the show: The Cave Singers put to use simple objects in entertaining ways. Like, say, singer Pete Quirk beating a maraca on a stool for added percussion punch on Dancing on Our Graves. (Never mind Quirk’s distinct and surprisingly warm/powerful nasal-inflected vocal style.)
While modern folk-rock heads into more abstract – and sometimes complicated – territory with the Yeasayers of the world, the Cave Singers insist there be something to hold onto, usually in the form of an infectious shuffle-stomp rhythm.
It might be true of 95 percent of bands, but a live setting is the best way to appreciate the Cave Singers’ appeal, to see the multiple parts at work in unison. I’m glad to say I’ve good reason to resurrect Invitation Songs for closer examination.
The Cave Singers | Cold Eye The Cave Singers | untitled(from Daytrotter session)
No, I didn’t go to South by Southwest (again), and, I gotta say, the coverage of the festival this year seemed to increase tenfold. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. Just an observation. I did grow a little weary of it by, ooooh, the second day.
But something I haven’t grown tired of – what a segue! – is Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. That’s why it was great to see NPR record one of Justin Vernon’s shows and make it available on its All Songs Considered podcast.
Hearing this set – albeit a short five songs – confirmed a couple things: a) I probably need to get this record on vinyl; b) I really should have gone to Tucson to see him last week at Plush (probably one of the finest venues in the state).
Anyway, be sure to subscribe to the NPR All Songs Considered podcast to get the full download, which includes an interview in which Vernon notes that the live setting gives the songs a chance to “crawl out of their shell,” a great way to describe it considering he wrote the album in an isolated cabin in the woods.
Also, from listening to the full set (I clipped out a bit of the banter in between songs) you get the sense that Vernon is truly appreciative and grateful for the fans and for being able to play for them.
Bon Iver, live at SXSW, 3/13/08, The Parish (via NPR):
Bon Iver | Flume Bon Iver | Lump Sum Bon Iver | Skinny Love Bon Iver | The Wolves (Act I and II) Bon Iver | Creature Fear
Hats seemed to be the theme: Cadence rocked a straw hat from New Mexico and his DJ, Weez-l, was sporting a coonskin cap. (Toto, we’re not in Edmonton any more.)
Born Ruffians were fantastic, from what I saw. Cadence and I spent part of their set discussing the NBA – specifically the Suns’ chances with Shaquille O’Neal (he thinks they’ll be OK, by the way).
Cadence Weapon | Real Estate
You should be subscribing to NPR’s All Songs Considered live concerts podcast, which offers downloads of full concerts NPR Webcasts from the 9:30 Club in D.C.
Wilco recently was recorded, and you can stream the entire show here. NPR didn’t get permission to offer the full show as a downloadable podcast, but the group’s management allowed for three songs to be used. The episode poppped into my subscription queue today. The songs: Side With the Seeds, A Shot in the Arm and Impossible Germany.
I pulled out A Shot in the Arm – just a classic, wouldn’t you say? – but get the rest by subscribing to the podcast.
Wilco | A Shot in the Arm (live at the 9:30 Club, 2/27/08)
If there is a crack in my armor of cynicism, Travis always finds a way to exploit it. For the most part, I cringe – or roll my eyes or snicker or gag – at sappy attempts of sentimental fluff in music. But, as I’ve said before, Travis somehow breaks me down. Every time.
Sunday’s show at Marquee Theatre in Tempe, the first time I’d seen Travis live, was no different. From the band’s juiced-up introduction (winding their way through the crowd in boxing robes to the Rocky theme song) to the closer (Why Does it Always Rain on Me?, naturally), Travis exudes a sincerity completely lost on the lightweight imitators the band spawned (Keane, Snow Patrol, etc.) – and every other self-important band, for that matter.
These are four guys (a fifth plays keys for the shows) who seem to genuinely enjoy making music – not just for themselves, but for others, too. The band works hard to foster a, ahem, good feeling among fans. (To wit: Singer Fran Healy spotted a young girl in the audience and jumped off the stage after a song to bring her a “gift” – a set of earplugs.)
And, yet, the way some people take cheap shots at Travis, you almost feel like you have to apologize for liking the band. Ooooh, they’re not complicated enough. They’re not indie enough. Who cares? I had a better time at this show – in the I’m-just-going-to-go-ahead-and-sing-every-song-and-not-care-what-people-think way – than any I’ve been to this year … or any other year. Ah. There. I said it. I feel better.
After the first few songs, Healy said the band would play some old stuff, new stuff and “in-between” stuff. That Travis hasn’t completely abandoned material from the 2003 commercial flop 12 Memories – the band played three songs off it – shows some guts, considering at least two people said to me recently: “The last thing I heard from them was The Invisible Band.”
More power to Travis then for returning this year with The Boy With No Name, an album that could easily have been the successor to 2000’s humongous hit The Man Who (nine times platinum in the UK or 2.7 million sales). Even still, Travis kept new material to a minimum, perhaps realizing that, with four years between albums – and, according to one fan, seven years between Arizona visits, to which Healy replied: “Shit.” – it’s best to reacquaint yourselves slowly.
To that end, tucking Writing to Reach You – one of the band’s most recognizable songs – right behind the Lust for Life-esque opener Selfish Jean played perfectly to the crowd. Later, Healy even ordered fans to point and chant the piano player’s name (Klaus … he’s Swedish) during a solo. It’s OK, he said, “It’s a Travis show. This isn’t Coldplay.”
It was a joke. But you get the feeling Healy and his bandmates, all smiling and climbing amp stacks (what the hell was Andy Dunlop doing?), are more comfortable letting a group like Coldplay bear the pressure/expectations of being the next “it” band. If Sunday’s show was a sign of a rejuvenated band in a happier place, then I can’t wait to see what comes next … at least not for another four years.
Set list for Travis at Marquee Theatre in Tempe, 11/25/07:
Writing to Reach You
Love Will Come Through
As You Are
All I Want to Do is Rock
Twenty (Fran solo acoustic with no amplification)
Flowers in the Window (Fran solo acoustic with the guys singing behind him)
Three Times and You Lose
Blue Flashing Light
Why Does it Always Rain on Me?