Tuesday, May 27, 2008

something much more exciting than the democratic nomation race

So, life gets in the way of blog sometimes, and there's a live show backlog that would put Chinese Democracy to shame. In order to organize the trickle of these items into a meaningful order, I'm leaving it up to you, my faithful readers (yes, both of you) to request what you want first. Here's your options:

Daniel Johnston
Stephen Malkmus
The Kills
The Cure
The Decemberists (w/ Barack Obama)
Simian Mobile Disco
Queens of the Stone Age
Mars Volta
The Dirtbombs
The Von Bondies
Los Campesinos

Votes on the back of the postcard to the usual address (or for those of you who are into this new-fangled world-wide-internetweb, you can use the comments thread).


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Mobius Band, Black Kids, Cut Copy, Richards on Richards, Vancouver, April 29, 2008

Things have been kinda crazy of late, and there's a blog backlog of unprecedented proportions. I've been to a bunch of shows of late that I'm yet to write about, but sometimes necessity prevents doing things in chronological order. So with deep apologies to Daniel Johnston, Simian Mobile Disco, Stephen Malkmus and the Queens of the Stone Age, I hereby present a stirring account of my night out at the Black Kids et al.

To say I was excited about the show this evening would be an understatement. I still remember the first time I played a Black Kids song (which is not that much of a nostalgic stretch, given that it was less than 9 months ago), but I remember finding it somewhere on the internet while mid-conversation with a young lady. The title caught my attention to begin, but within a dozen bars the conversation had ceased due to my distraction and the sheer catchiness pumping out of the stereo. I don't believe the young lady in question was happy, but I didn't even notice.

Within a week or so I'd downloaded their Internet-only Wizard of Aaahs EP, and those 4 songs soon came to soundtrack my weekend. Hurricane Jane became my Friday afternoon, driving home from work, blow out, Not Gonna Teach was my pre-night-out anthem, and Underestimated my Charm was a Sunday morning hangover cure of the finest calibre.

News that they were to be playing as part of the post-Coachella caravan of quality music up the west coast was greated with great anticipation, so I was pretty excited to be rolling in to Richards at a gig-appropriate time on a Tuesday night.

First up were Brooklyn's the Mobius Band. Apart from the outstanding name, they're notable for a drummer with outstanding painfully contorted facial expressions (and it has already been noted in these very pages that this is an essential element of any successful live show), some interesting drum effects boxes, dual singers, one of which looked a little like a guy i used to know, and some laid back country/electronic Lucksmiths-esque pop songs of a relatively high standard. It didn't send me rushing for the merch table, but it could be worth investigating further. But to be honest, my affections were promised to another.

The Black Kids were up next, and they strolled out to a packed house and some cheers. The lead singer, Reggie, sports an impressive mop of curly hair, which probably doesn't suit his face shape, but looks goddamn impressive when shaken in time to a pop song. The two girls manning the keys/organ/electronic shimmy and shake while hunched over their instruments, while cooing Supremes-esque backing vocals into the mix, and the drummer and bassist are ice-cold, barely breaking a sweat as they hold down the bottom end.

It's always a risk going to see a band play when their recorded output amounts to 6 songs (of which one is a Sophie B. Hawkins cover), but the Black Kids weren't wanting for material. All 5 non-Sophie B tracks (alas, Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover didn't make an appearance this evening) were featured, and elicited head nods, mis-steps, and over-enthusiastic air-punching in the "DANCE DANCE DANCE DANCE" crescendo of "Not gonna teach" (or maybe that was just me).

Reggie has a cultured arrogance about him on stage, which is something I admire in all my pop-rock heroes, but the stars of the show are the two girls on the keys, who bop, hunched over their instruments, all the while grinning from ear to ear, as if they've just realized that they get to spend the rest of their summer, and possibly much further, playing upbeat pop songs to packed houses the continent (and world) over.

There were a bunch of new songs, that I've seen bootlegged on blogs across the 'web, but the most memorable was one called "I Wanna Be Your Limousine", which was introduced with the lead in "this is gonna be one of your monster jamz, yo", and shimmies all over with Prince-baiting glory.

So, the sound was rubbish, but I was still pretty stoked with my Black Kids experience. And I left with a most fetching "I'm not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you t-shirt".

After that, I was in excitement hangover, so I moved to the back of the room for Cut Copy. It pains the music perfectionist in me that I spent many years of my life being subjected to Australian music by default (and to be honest, enjoying most of it a great deal), but I'd never really heard of Cut Copy. I'm familiar with the school of Australian indie dance music, and I must admit I was expecting something a little different than what I got.

Which was New Order. I don't know if it's because most of the bands I see live have north american accents, and I've forgotten what a good antipodean singing voice sounds like, but all the rattling hi-hats, the nasal vocals, and the crazy kids jumping and bopping around made me feel like I was in Manchester in the mid-80s. Or at a rugby league stadium in the early 2000s, which was the last time I saw New Order.

I don't mean the comparison as a bad thing, and while certain elements may sound a little like them, their songs are completely different. Apparently Duran Duran were also playing that evening, and the band thanked us for choosing them over Simon leBon et al (although I'm told Duran Duran did a pretty impressive Kraftwerk tribute/takeoff).

Unfortunately, I'm a little short on Cut Copy details, but I do know that they finished the set off with kids dancing on the pillars at the front of the stage, and with my favourite rock and roll set closing move, which was the singer and keyboard player grabbing a spare drumstick and pounding away on the cymbals while the drummer kept time. I think the best example I've scene of this was at the Franz Ferdinand secret show in 2005, but this one comes a close second.

Righto, Daniel Johnston, Simian Mobile Disco, Queens of the Stone Age, Stephen Malkmus and hopefully Dirtbombs reviews to follow. Watch this space.