Archive for February, 2011

Tuesdays at The Turf

02/22/11 – Wild Nothing w/ Abe Vigoda @ The Turf Club, Saint Paul

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I should just make a habit of hanging out at the Turf Club on Tuesdays. Good things happen, musically and otherwise. It had been a while (at least 3 months, more likely 4) but once you go to enough shows, the staff at the various live venues around town get to know you, and when staff get to know you, good things happen, like free beer. Don’t get me wrong, a free beer or two isn’t going to improve the quality of the music a band is playing. But it doesn’t hurt. Add to the fact that they have a Ms. Pac-Man machine, and well, there’s something better to do between sets than browse the internet on my phone. So there I was last Tuesday, doing what one does, enjoying a fine beer (Summit Pilsner on tap if you are curious, a beer that I have a strong attachment to for other reasons) and listening to some overall excellent tunes and thinking, yes, this is why I go to shows. The year is early, and I am definitely not going to start attaching “best show” accolades to anything, but this does break on the side of good shows. So far, in the past month, there have been a couple perfunctory shows (Gang Of Four, Tennis) and a couple really good shows (Radio Dept., The Decemberists) and this falls on the really good side.

First off, any time all three bands are good, that’s always a good sign. For whatever reason, I’ve seen more shows at the Turf where this tends to happen, and while I doubt anything will take the place of the Bear In Heaven/Twin Sister/Mountain Men experience any time soon, it is always nice to see three bands do their business and do it well. I was definitely in attendance for Wild Nothing, curious about Abe Vigoda, and knew nothing of Claps. Wild Nothing had the tougher job of living up to expectations in my head. Mostly they did. There were a couple things that they did a little differently live that I don’t think filled out the songs as well as they could have, most notably on “Chinatown”, but a great song is still a great song, and it is. Wild Nothing is like falling into a bizarre 80s time warp. I was waiting see characters from John Hughes films at the show. I can’t speak to the Golden Haze ep, but previously, all the music of Wild Nothing was recorded by Jack Tatum, who handles the typical frontman duties of guitar and singing live, and the entire band was certainly on the same page. Lots of reverb and guitar pedals to disguise what are just some great pop tunes. Overall, it was excellent, with any changes made being because they were working with the setup of just the four people on stage, and I like changes like that. I get why bands layer on more sounds in the studio, and I get why they might have an entirely different version out on the road. Sometimes it’s nice to just see a four-piece do its thing without too many crazy backing tracks or samples. And they did.

What to say about Abe Vigoda? I am not sure. They were really good, and have a chameleon-like quality in terms of their record output. I have no idea what their next record will be like, because the past three provide no real good indicator as they’ve hopped from an earlier punkish feel to pschyo-tropical funk to a darker, colder more synthy sound over the course of 3 records. I was curious to see how that would go over live, but mostly, their songs still sounded like their songs, irrelevant of which record they came off of. Mostly it was just 2 guitars, bass, drums, and keys with vocals coming from all directions, but mostly from one guy, but they definitely had a more varied instrumental selection depending on the songs. A lot of energy on display for sure, with all sorts of crazy guitar work, antics, and drum fills. All the songs sounded really good, and mostly, they did something most any band at that stage of their career should do, they looked like they were having a ton of fun. That’s important. When you’re playing to a well-attended Tuesday night show in Saint Paul, it’s always worth remembering that most of those people are going to get up and go to their 9-5 tomorrow, but you are making music that matters to these people. I get that’s not part of every band’s aesthetic, but it’s nice to see a band that looks like it gets it. It’s a whole different ball game for a Friday night show. Anyone could be there for that. But Tuesday? That’s a tough sell. I think next time they are in town they won’t be playing on a Tuesday, and they might be on top of the bill, or in tow with a band that could give them a lot of exposure at someplace like First Ave. I guess it just like a band playing up to and exceeding expectations, which isn’t always a given.

As for Claps, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a local band that impressed me. There are a lot of known quantities in this scene, so I certainly still see local music occasionally, but it’s been a while since I both showed up in time for the local opener and found myself impressed. They are a band that I would definitely see again. Musically, they happen to hit a sweet spot with the 80s synth sound. Though the recorded work sounds a bit different, live, they gave off a much more Depeche Mode/Suicide vibe than I got from the recorded stuff that I’ve since listened to. Just two synths and a very depressed sounding lead signer most of the time, with some occasional live bass contributions. They looked anything but depressed, though, and there was actually pretty good attendance for the opener. In fact, one of the other signs of a strong show, the attendance remained pretty steady throughout, always nice to see. Obviously there were family and friends in attendance as well, but still, count me as one of the people who left with a positive impression. Obviously, at this kind of stage, a lot of bands are still cutting their teeth, figuring out how things work, but they have a sound that I think they can build on, and unlike some other local bands that I’ve been excited by and seen in the past year (Elite Gymnastics, here’s looking at you), they have the ability to pull it off both live and recorded. I think the decision to have analog synths is a good one, something that sets them apart from the overly sequenced world of digital music today. So once again, get out there, take a chance on a Tuesday, have a couple brews with your friends at the Turf, and remember to support live music!

Nine Times That Same Song

02/19/11 – Tennis w/ Holiday Shores @ 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis

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With all due apologies to Love Is All (who I’m stealing the title for this blog post from) and with all due apologies to anyone who believes in promptness:

There is something magical about a Tennis song. It’s wistful, and has a quality which transports one away from the cold, cold land that is Minnesota. Songs of a happy couple, on a boat, on an adventure, with sweaters, button downs, and unbelievably 80s perms. “Marathon” was one of my favorite 7″ from last year, with all of those wistful qualities, it fit right into the middle of what turned out to be a pretty great summer. I also deeply enjoyed “South Carolina”, another single by the band, though one I missed out on in its initial pressing. They captured a feeling well, and it made for a great 2 and a half minutes.

There is not something magical about a Tennis album. They are a band designed for the short play, a band of a couple great singles and a lot of filler. Not only do they appropriate the sound of the late 50s/early 60s rock in terms of their beats and structures, they imitate the record quality. Even great bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones have early albums that were just a vessel for a few great singles. Don’t get me wrong, I love Please Please Me and Flowers, but they are in no way stronger than later albums by each of those bands. Covers and otherwise weak songs populate records then, when the entire nature of a long play was a different thing. But that slowly gave way to the concept of an album. Tennis themselves may grow into more complex structures and song writing, but there is no evidence of that on Cape Dory. What should be an enjoyable escape at 30 minutes turns into a slog. Even the really good songs start to sound boring, because it’s just the same song over and over. Tennis has two beats, the predominant “2, and, 4” that underlies most of their songs (and a lot of 60s pop) and something that fits under 3/4 songs.

No expansion of the palette live. Their setup consisted of drums, guitar, keys, and vocals. The songs, for better or for worse, mostly sounded the same, and carried the same energy. What should have been more exciting wasn’t by benefit of the fact that the song before it was most likely pretty much the same. There were no surprises, and nothing to really take away from the show other than the fact that they could have used some overdubbed vocals and a bass. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure like most of the other instruments, the bass parts would have all been generically the same. Plenty of bands I love don’t use bass (Rural Alberta Advantage prime amongst them). It is not a required instrument, and it’s mostly my love of bass as a listener and a player that makes me think it would have helped. But strong, varied bass lines never hurt anyone. I do believe that the general formula is not too far off, and that in the future, Tennis could make a sonically textured and overall enjoyable album. I think most of the basic material is there. Maybe they will grow into it. More likely, though, this is just a flash in the pan. They’ve had their time. I don’t need more songs that sound the same from them. Even when a band sounds generally the same, there’s usually a great deal of variety in terms of structure, parts, etc. There wasn’t much of that on display at the Entry, and I wonder what the future holds for them as a band. Right now, they are playing a sound that fits in with a lot of other indie rock, but in two years, much of indie rock will have moved on. It’ll be curious to see what they come back with or if they come back at all. I try to keep an open mind musically, but that show just didn’t quite give me enough to look forward to. Definitely not a waste of money. But it was what I thought it would be. Nothing more, nothing less.

Not Great Men

02/12/11 – Gang Of Four in the Mainroom

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I have a hard time judging shows by old lions. Gang Of Four certainly fall into this category. While I’ve seen older bands that certainly lay down a template for how to still rock and be older (Guided By Voices, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band), it seems to be the exception. Though not as extreme as hip-hop, rock is a young man or woman’s game. Most artists invariably change greatly between the music that launched them to success as twenty-somethings to becoming fifty-somethings that layer their music with blandishments in an attempt to still be popular, which means that by the time they’ve made it 30 years into their career, the edges have dulled. Look at the careers of Elvis Costello or Eric Clapton if you need proof. And while what I’ve heard off of Gang Of Four’s new record Content prior to the show didn’t exactly lead me to believe that had the snarl they had as young men, there is still a little bit of a kick. Still, after this long, they are old men (except for the young guns that now constitute their rhythm section, but isn’t that always the case?) now. They made a highly influential record that came out 2 years before I was even born, which means that anyone in the audience that might have been influenced in their formative years by it when it came out had to be at least 50. Gang Of Four had the task of not just playing against their reputation, but of playing to an audience that mostly could not truly understand the impetus behind those songs. Most of us weren’t alive when they came out, and can only read accounts of the influences. It doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate older music; I’ve argued before that one can never truly understand it anyway, but it’s a lot easier if one is generally living through the same time frame as the artists. I believe that to be true of any medium. We are all creating our own meanings for such works, but when we have similar frames of references, it helps. Once they wrote those songs and put them down on a record, they were out of their hands anyway, so maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I shouldn’t be shading a show due to greatness shown in 1979 anymore than I should for greatness shown in 2009. It’s tough, though. After each show, I’ll have seen one more to judge every one in the future against, I’ll have heard probably dozens more songs between now and then that may capture me, and I have to try and put all of those factors aside and just judge the product immediately in front of me. I should treat Gang Of Four the same way I treat any band live, but still, reputation, cost, location, effort, all these things affect my judgments of the show.

Maybe it’s not so strange that the songs off of Entertainment! received the best responses from the crowd. It’s also not that strange that they played half of that record. But it does seem strange that most of us responded to it so well. It was by no means a great show. It was good, they are competent and they still know how to get through their songs as well as craft a good setlist. The new stuff was okay, the older stuff got great responses, and the 3 songs of the two encores were all off of Entertainment! ensuring a strong response from the crowd. I never really thought of “Damaged Goods” as a natural closer until they started playing it and I realized, yes, yes it is. Did they have the snarl that they had coming out of the gate? Of course not. But they did smart things, including crafting a setlist heavy on songs that people wanted to hear. Yes, they played stuff off of Content (it’s what they are selling, after all), but they didn’t beat the crowd over the head with it. They were charming enough, and weathered a broken snare well, and did all the things you’d expect from a band that’s been playing music live longer than I’ve been alive. As for me, I came in with low expectations. I try to do that with every show now, try not to go in thinking I need to hear certain things, or expecting much of anything, especially from a band I’ve never seen live before. I’m not gonna tell you you have to see Gang Of Four. Maybe if you could go back to 1979 it’d be a must-see, but now, it’s the kind of show where I don’t think they made new fans. I don’t think they have to. The perils of a reputation can also be a comfort; in this case, if the show wasn’t sold out, it was close. So of course it’s different than the last show I saw. And it’ll be different than the next one. The next show won’t be great just because the last one wasn’t. There’s no empirical law stating so. I could go to three great shows in a row just as likely as I could go to three good ones or three bad ones. This, this was just a good show, and worth it for me, and in the end, that should be all that matters. And you, you were probably better off with whatever you did to pass your Saturday night. But if you don’t own Entertainment!, you should go take care of that.

What You Should Be Doing On March 25th

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If you know me, you have heard me talk about The Rural Alberta Advantage. I have not one, but two signed posters by them, and not one, but two t-shirts. That means something, trust me. You have heard me extol their virtues. What you have not done in most cases is see them live. They have played the Twin Cities 3 times, in June of ’09 to a half-full Entry on a Monday night in desperate need of air conditioning, 3 months later to a sold-out Entry on a Friday, and then 4 months after that in a triumphantly sold-out show at the Cedar where Nils (the lead singer) noted that they probably hadn’t headlined a club that big (capacity 465). All three shows were full of charm and vivacity and hand-clapping and shouting along. The song they close shows with is an intimate crowd-pleasing experience that should not be missed. I cannot stress enough that it is a show you should not miss, and the Twin Cities, we do what we can to support them. The Current is a big booster of their music, and rightly so, it is basically right in the vein of something that indie listeners will love as much as suburban moms. I do not understand why they are not bigger, but that’s just me. So it’s exciting for me to know that they are coming back with a new album in ’11 (on Saddle Creek) called Departing. I haven’t heard anything off of it other than Stamp and Barnes’ Yard, though I’ll probably know a couple others since they played them live last time most likely. I am highly anticipating this record, but even more so, I am highly anticipating the fact that they are touring again, which means another show in the Twin Cities. Not just another show either. Whether a quirk of scheduling or an effort to cater to a market that has shown some obvious love for them, they are back on a Friday (March 25th) once again. Not only are they back on a Friday, they are playing the Mainroom. A quick look of the other venues they are playing at this tour (courtesy of Pitchfork) shows that the Minneapolis date is something of an anomaly. I have only been to a couple of the other venues they are playing at, and capacities are difficult to locate on the web, but most of them are anywhere between 200-500 from what I found. And I can state definitively that The Maintenance Shop only holds a couple hundred because I certainly saw a show or two there in my day. They are playing the M-Shop 3 days before playing First Ave! That’s a difference of about 1300 people in capacity. Nothing major.

What can you do? Go see them! I see a lot of shows, and while it’d be great to go to them with friends, most often I go alone and I’m okay with that. I do not personally know that many people who would be willing to give up a night of good sleep on a Tuesday to go see Wild Nothing and Abe Vigoda, plus, I believe that their music just isn’t quite as accessible for a lot of different reasons. Nothing against either of those bands. I love them and will be at the Turf Club to see them, but that’s a harder sell. This is not. It’s a Friday, it’s at an iconic venue that you really should go to at least once if you live in the Twin Cities, and it’s a show that’s easily likable. I don’t go out of my way to recommend too many shows explicitly, but this is one that I must say you should not pass up. If you aren’t lucky enough to live in the Twin Cities, do your part and go to those other venues. I like a lot of bands, but this is a band that I think you’d like. Slight, but important difference. Do your part. A sold-out show at First Ave is an electric thing. It is a special place. Help make it happen. Beyond all of that, it’s a paltry $12. Ticketmaster will try to charge you too much, but you can go through First Ave’s useful Buy page to learn numerous other ways to buy tickets with minimal ticket charges ($1-2). Above, you can listen to “Don’t Haunt This Place”, one of the standouts from their first record, Hometowns, as well as “Stamp” from their forthcoming Departing. I will have probably seen a half-dozen shows between now and then, but that’s the one I’m looking forward to the most in through March. Come with me and find out why.

Warming Up

02/09/11 – The Radio Dept w/ Young Prisms at the Entry

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There is a certain strand of rock that has never quite taken off in the US. The Radio Dept remind me, at least, of a sound that has succeeded elsewhere, but never quite managed to catch on in this country. The Swedish dream poppers have certainly been at it for a while, and probably could have played in anonymity forever were it not for the help of the Internet. A Best New Music from Pitchfork never hurt anyone either. So it was reassuring to see when I got to the Entry last night that the show was sold out. Not even one of the coldest nights of the year deterred people from coming. Even if they were all 10 years younger than me, it seemed. The success of Clinging To A Scheme might have more to do with timing than anything else, though. This album wouldn’t have fit in 2008, but it fit ably into the British leaning dream pop revival that was 2010, with the sustained popularity of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and new bands like Wild Nothing and Twin Shadow bursting onto the scene. Maybe the 4 year delay between records helped.

As for the show itself, it was precise. I expect no less from a band playing to a drum machine and other programmed parts. The touring iteration is just three men, and for a sound that lush, obviously 3 men will not do. So it is filled in with the programmed bits, always drums, sometimes bass (though that was sometimes live). But the men playing sounded just as precise as the backing tracks, so it wasn’t that jarring. Maybe it’s something in the water in Sweden. So the songs all went over really well. It’s odd, because sometimes I see bands with backing tracks and I just cringe, but it really worked for their music. The slow, pulsing, sometimes shoegaze, sometimes dream pop inspired sound doesn’t require spontaneity, so that could be it. For whatever reason, though, it worked fine for these guys. The songs went over well, they are all pleasing 3-4 minute pop gems that get in and get out. I didn’t count off the songs last night, and I don’t know anything other than Clinging To A Scheme well enough to provide a setlist, but they probably played 17-18 songs in an economically used hour. Highlights of the night included “Heaven’s On Fire” and “David” from the new record and closer “The City Limit” from Pulling Our Weight which really impressed me. It’s tough to track down physical copies of their music, but it is available through iTunes, you know, if you buy music.

Young Prisms, in contrast, made their 30 minutes seem like an hour. This is never a good feeling. While I was initially interested because I do enjoy me some good old shoegazy music with vocal melodies that don’t contain words, they forgot that there is no substitute for a good hook. I don’t remember anything about their songs melodically, other then they were this indistinct mass of fuzzed out guitar, bass, drums, and vocals that may have well been, as a member of the audience shouted, from the bottom of a well. It’s all fine and well to play music like that, with crazy guitar work and swooning melodies, just make sure the audience remembers those melodies. In addition, they had to tune between every song, which didn’t exactly help. What started out as promising quickly became a tedious set of sameness. On the other hand, they reminded me that nothing quite makes you sound late 80s/early 90s like a Big Muff, or whatever equivalent distortion pedal their bass player used. There’s promise in their sound for sure, somewhere under the layers of feedback and Sonic Youth worship. I’ll keep my eye out for new material by them to see if they get there, but I’m not going to rush out and buy their debut record. The new song that they played (as indicated by them) showed there might be promise, but it was early in the set and easily forgotten after a while.

I Insist

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It’s not that I haven’t been paying attention. There have been things so far in 2011 that have grabbed my ears. Of course, most of them are still things that I missed at the tail end of 2010. It’s a confusing time of year, trying to figure out what should go where on which lists. Do I put down songs and albums in the year that I heard them first, not the year they were made? How do I treat things released in December? Don’t they deserve some sort of credit. Of course they do. The past couple months, though, I’ve been largely unplugged, and I haven’t picked up a new record yet in terms of a record coming out in 2011 with the exception of Tennis, which is mediocre as all the reviews point out. What works on a 7″ doesn’t work on a full-length. Such are the perils of music sometimes. In a couple more weeks, I can determine whether it works live, at least, and see where I stand. So I have been listening to some newer stuff from my usual channels (though not who is going to pay model…I need to ponder that more), and some of it has certainly been worth attention. But what’s the first song of 2011 that really grabbed me, that definitively feels like a part of this year?

Well, for starters, it has to be something that shakes me out of the torpor of being on leave . While it seems like I might have all the time in the world to sit here and explore new songs and bands, I also have this record collection that I never listen to enough, and actually don’t find myself sitting in front of a computer that much. When I’m at work, it’s pretty easy to check out a stream of something because I’m sitting in front of a computer and I have a job that allows me to listen to music for the majority of my day most days. For whatever reason, I’m less beholden to the music piling up on my iPod than I am to this vinyl. Maybe it’s because I can only listen to it in one place, but there’s more urgency to put records on when I am at home, especially right now because I know in a couple weeks, I’ll be back at work, and I’ll have a small range of time in which I can actually listen to records in my day. At work, in my car, I’ve become more of a song-hopper, listening to playlists, trying to digest new things, and generally finding the time to listen to all those songs that I find all around the interwebs. Since I have not been at work, that a big chunk of time I am missing where I’m listening to new things.

Still, I’m downloading songs, I’m making playlists of new things, I’m trying to find the time to get through them. I have done some listening, but not as much as I’d like. I’m still trying to keep up with all the music that I own, and there’s only more and more to keep up with. I’m finally getting records I purchased two months ago and I’m trying to sit down and actually listen, not just put it on. It’s almost like what’s required for 2011 is a clean break from 2010 first. Besides, some records will get played less over time, as they become more ingrained in my system, as I become less interested, as I find something new, as I just have less time. Look back at the first 10 records you owned and think about how much better you know them than anything else. Now imagine that playing out over more than 1000 albums, numerous downloads, and constant streams of new albums, eps, remixes, etc. Obviously not everything gets the attention it deserves. I am sure that I subconsciously play records that have more noticeable sleeves, and there are definitely things in my collection that I forget I even have. Of course, my skills at determining what I think is good music have improved, to the point where I can much more easily listen to something and determine whether it does it for me. That has no bearing on its popularity. Trying to figure out whether something will blow up is a whole different, and much more specious, skill.

So yes, there have been songs that have caught my ears. I will be writing more about them in the coming days. 2011 is not going to be like 2008, where I musically shut down for a while (with good reason, I do believe). After all, there are always more shows to go to, and while I am seeing artists in most cases that first caught my ears a year or two ago (at least), they have people in tow that I’ve been meaning to see. Or they have people in tow that I’ve never heard of, but I do find interesting enough to go home and search for. And there’s still time to hear songs that change my mind. For example, Cold Cave’s new single, “The Great Pan Is Dead”. I already have an opinion formed around Cold Cave (decent, but not lighting a fire under me), but that is no reason not to listen to the new single. After all, the next song you hear could be the song that changes your mind. And for me, it did. I don’t think I ever would have used the word urgency to describe a previous Cold Cave song I heard. But this song, it’s insistent. It reaches out and grabs you, like a great song should. It’s anthemic, it’s driving, it makes me want to go into my car and drum on the steering wheel. It’s like someone took a New Order song and put an awesome hardcore beat under it. And frankly we need more of that. I only hope the rest of the record contains that kind of drive. The records will certainly come in time. So don’t worry, maybe it took a while, but 2011 is starting strong.

For Those Of You Wondering, The Score is 95-20

The Decemberists w/ Mountain Men – 02/06/11 – State Theater, Minneapolis

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The Decemberists do not owe me anything. They are under no compunction to play the songs I want to hear, and frankly, I’ve already heard them before. Having seen them a couple times previously, I’ve already had the opportunity to hear the songs that I want to hear by them. Any band I see more than a couple times puts on a good show. That is the reason I keep going back to see bands. That and to hear their newer material live. So no, I wasn’t disappointed that half the show was songs from the new record. That’s both their prerogative and honestly how these sorts of things work. Sure, it’d be great if you go back and by Picaresque if you don’t already own it, but they are trying to convince you the listener to buy the new record, The King Is Dead. And they convinced me. So they must have done something right. I could have approached this show with higher expectations, having not seen anything in 2 months, but I chose not to. I frequently find that when I go in expecting something (unless it’s billed that way), I’m just setting myself up for failure, and I’ve seen enough shows in my lifetime to know that I should try to keep those unrealistic expectations to a minimum. Doesn’t mean I don’t have them occasionally, but going into this show, I felt like I had a good idea of what I was going to get without expecting anything in particular. A good attitude to have in my opinion.

As to the actual composition of the show, as I said before, it was about half new songs, half older material. They kept stage banter to a minimum, mostly baiting people with false scores for the Super Bowl. Given that they are touring in support of their sixth record, and not counting EPs and b-sides, they have quite a catalog to choose from. They chose to try and represent each album at least once, reaching back for numbers like “July, July!” and “Los Angeles, I’m Yours”. Of the older material, the only real flaw was “16 Military Wives”, which was noticeably missing the horns (as per usual, I’ve said this every time I’ve seen it live) and also featured the most notable flubs by the band members. Nothing big, and mistakes always happen on stage, but for whatever reason, they all seemed to concentrate on that song. Highlights of the older material include the aforementioned songs off the first two records, “The Infanta”, and a particularly rousing take on “The Rake’s Song” for the first encore.

Of the new material (which I must admit I’m not as familiar with), standouts included “Down By The Water” (or “The One I Love” by R.E.M., as I’m sure you’ve noticed by now), “This Is Why We Fight”, and the piercing “January Hymn”, definitely the strongest song on the album. Overall, I thought the new material acquitted itself well. Those were the songs that stuck out the most in my head, though. Still, anytime a band with a breadth of songs that are already stuck in my head can get a few more wedged in there, I think they must be doing something right. And as to the charges of aping R.E.M. that come up so often, A) Peter Buck played on the record and B) is that really so bad? Aren’t there worse influences out there? I get that there are similarities, but I for one could think of much worse places to be coming from. Every time I hear someone say it, it has the slightest hint of derision. Though I’m sure I’ll be saying it with the slightest hint of derision about some other band very soon, so I shouldn’t say anything. Overall, it was worth it, even if The Decemberists can charge those nice theater prices. There are worse ways to spend Super Bowl Sunday.

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As for the opener, Mountain Men are a strange experience. An all-female trio that is mostly vocal (with occasional guitar and/or foot-stomping). I previously saw them last year at The Turf Club playing to about 150 half-interested people. Playing to a couple thousand at The State Theater is a different experience. In the world of musical equations, I feel they come off as something of a Carter Family + early Cat Power + a dash of Fleet Foxes. A love of sweet harmonies, simple melodies, and plaintive songs is hard to find a lot of fault in, especially with the voices they have. If I had to pick one word to describe their performance, though, I’d have to pick nervous. I believe this is only their second show on the tour, and this is probably one of the largest places they’ve played. Plus, one of the women in the band is from the Twin Cities, so her family was in the house. I like them, I own both their first EP and Made Of Harbor, but they definitely had some jitters on stage, and some pretty odd banter, though it all seemed to go over pretty well with the audience. The audience was actually incredibly attentive during their set, so that must be a good sign. I think they will be back before too long, but probably not at anything that size. Something more reasonable like the Cedar. Here’s hoping they made a few fans at least. As per usual, continue to get out there and support live music!

What’s In Store?

The past couple months have been rather rewarding in almost every fashion but one. I have not seen a band perform since December 1st (Superchunk) and I am itching to get out there again and see some live music. Whatever else is happening to the industry, whatever changes in style, whatever changes in random merchandising, it’s always better to see it in person, in a sometimes questionably clean environment where there is always plenty of PBR to drink and a lot of sweaty people on a good night. While I certainly had good reason to not see a show the past couple months (December was trying to prepare for surgery, January was trying to recover from it), I still can’t think of a recent time in my life where I’ve gone this long without seeing a band. Certainly not since I’ve lived in the Twin Cities. Even when I was unemployed and generally feeling like I was totally worthless, I managed to find my way to shows. If I wasn’t seeing other bands as much, it was because I was playing in one. So I think that helps establish the fact that live music is important. Not to worry, I already have tickets to about a dozen different shows in the next 3 months, with more purchases to come I am sure, so I’ll be getting back on that horse. You don’t get that slightly higher than 1 show a week average without working for it.

Since I’m sometimes asked what I’m going to see and I can’t remember (hey, that’s what Google Calendar is for), I’ve decided to add a tab up on the top left to show the upcoming shows. Maybe for this year, I’ll also start a tab of past shows. I am also going to make an effort to say at least a little bit about each show, and maybe dust off the old camera for a couple of them. I shall see. While I trust my memory (to some degree), I know that I remember things better when I catalog them. Hopefully you get something out of it too, but it’s for me just as much. And hopefully you see a couple shows you like. Or you have a couple suggestions. Maybe I’ll see you there, or you will want to go. Right now, most of the shows seem like clean up, seeing bands that have not yet made it to the Twin Cities that put out records in 2010, or bands that I already have an established love of (The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart fits into both those categories, for example). Some I feel others out there would be interested in (Rural Alberta Advantage) and some I’m pretty sure no one I personally know would be caught at any time soon (Baths). I probably won’t even make all the stuff I list, but I will denote what I actually have tickets to. There are far too many good shows, and sometimes just tough nights where there are two, three, or even four shows worth going to.

So please, come visit and see music with me; go on your own and maybe I’ll see you; drop me a line and I can find something you might even like, not just something I like. Despite a far amount of turmoil around the “music industry”, it really doesn’t have a huge affect on most of the artists I see. These are bands on labels that you’ve never heard of, that maybe just came into existence, most of them aren’t coming through town on Capitol’s expense. Though, first on tap, The Decemberists are on Capitol’s expense, which means they’ll charge too much for their record and not even provide a digital download (yes, I’m looking at you, major labels). But that, that is a topic for another time. For this time, just consider going to support live music. Sure, I get it’s not necessarily everyone’s thing, but I feel in the right context, anyone can have a good time going out and seeing a band. Maybe not as much as I do, but at least every once in a while. And check back with the Upcoming Shows tab as I will be updating it as things get announced. If you’ve never been to First Ave and you live in the Twin Cities, shame on you. Now’s your chance to fix that.

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