February 28, 2009

in the frozen nights I go roaming in the bed you used to share with me

I’ve found myself smitten all over again these days with the song “Wolves” by Josh Ritter.

Two years ago this weekend, I sat transfixed as he performed it at my first Noise Pop show of 2007, at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco.

Wolves – Josh Ritter
(something inside of me careens into a sad void, suspended in the ache, when the verse at 2:48 starts. Such a magnificent song.)

I still remember that time when we were dancing, we were dancing to a song that I’d heard. Your face was simple and your hands were naked, I was singing without knowing the words. But I started listening to the wolves in the timber, wolves in the timber at night. I heard their song when I looked in the mirror, in the howls and the moons round my eyes…

So long, so high

Then winter came, and there was little left between us – skin and bones of love won’t make a meal. I felt my eyes lifted over your shoulder, there were wolves at the edge of the fields. But I still remember that time when we were dancing, we were dancing to a song that I’d heard. Your face was simple and your hands were naked, I was singing without knowing the words…

So long, so high

Then one day I just woke up and the wolves were all there, wolves in the piano, wolves underneath the stairs, wolves inside the hinges circling round my door, at night inside the bedsprings, clicking cross the floor. I don’t know how they found me I’ll never know quite how. I still can’t believe they heard me, that I was howling out that loud…

So long, so high

Sometimes in the frozen nights I go roaming in the bed you used to share with me. I wake in the field with the cold and the lonesome, the moon’s the only face that I see. I still remember that time when we were dancing, dancing to a song that I’d heard. Your face was simple and your hands were naked, I was singing without knowing the words.

So long so high

Ritter has a “teeny tiny Spring tour” coming up, in which the band will be taking a break from the studio, shaking off some rust, and playing new songs. Yeah, I’d recommend going.

March 8, 2008

Noise Pop: The Mountain Goats day show at Bottom of the Hill

It always feels a bit weird to come in from the bright glorious Sunday afternoon sunshine for a day show, but the Noise Pop set with the The Mountain Goats at Bottom of the Hill last weekend was so good as to make it worthwhile for the packed, all-ages crowd. The Mountain Goats played a rarely-seen three-show run at Noise Pop and this was the last — a Sunday matinée, the early-bird special.

After this, I’m hands-down adding John Darnielle to my list of the best songwriters of our generation. The depth and emotional punch, and sheer beauty of these lyrics actually physically hurts at times.

You Or Your Memory (live in SF 3/2/08) – The Mountain Goats
(from 2005′s The Sunset Tree)

I checked into a bargain priced room on La Cienega
gazed out through the curtains of the parking lot
walked down to the corner store
just before nightfall in my bare feet
black tarry asphalt, soft and hot
and when I came back I spread out my supplies
on the counter by the sink
I looked myself right in the eyes

st. joseph’s baby aspirin
bartles and jaymes
and you
or your memory

I ducked behind the drapes when I saw the moon begin to rise
gathered in my loose ends switched off the light
and down there in the dark I can see the real truth about me
as clear as day
lord if I make it through tonight
then I will mend my ways
and walk the straight path to the end of my days

st. joseph’s baby aspirin
bartles and jaymes
and you
or your memory

So Desperate (live 3/2/08) – The Mountain Goats
(from the new album Heretic Pride)

We were parked in your car
in our neutral meeting place, the episcopalian churchyard
I had things I’d been meaning to say
but in the dazzling winter sun that late
I could feel them melt away

and through the warm radio static
I couldn’t hear my stage directions
and the fog on the windshield
obscured our sad reflections

I felt so desperate in your arms

we were parked near some trees
and the moonlight soaked the branches in ever-deepening degrees
had my hand in your hair
trying to keep my cool
‘til it became too much to bear

when we cracked the windows open
well the air was just so sweet
we could hear the cars ten feet away
out there on the street

I felt so desperate in your arms

I like crowd singalongs, and you may find yourself marveling as I did at the enthusiasm of this group of Sunday show-attenders. Not only could they sing the whole chorus for John on songs like “You Or Your Memory,” but listen to the performance of the title track off their brand new album Heretic Pride — it’s only been out for two weeks!

Heretic Pride (live 3/2/08) – The Mountain Goats

Everyone sings so emphatically. It kind of makes me look around and say, “Who are you people!?” I guess that’s a sign of a well-loved band, one with the kind of lyrics you instantly want to learn by heart.

You can stream and download the entire show here.

[photo credits]

March 7, 2008

Crazy French guys, Stephen Malkmus, and the Great American Music Hall

One of the fangirl highlights of my Noisepopping this year was meeting some of the hilariously crazy French guys behind the La Bloqotheque site, home to those dizzyingly wonderful “Concerts A Emporter” (Take Away Shows), which feature exclusive content of musicians in random everyday settings playing their blessed little hearts out.

Whether it’s The Shins on the springtime streets of Paris, The National nestled near a French chapel hidden up in the mountains, or Elvis Perkins serenading from an ornate lobby staircase, each of these is so wonderful that I anxiously await the next one. Therefore it was really hard not to gush like a moron when I met the pretty cool Vincent Moon (did you see his work on the new REM video?) and his enthusiastic associates (bonjour Chryde!).

My french language skills –yeah, not so much . . . but it looks like the Blogotheque team were busy bees during their week in San Francisco. I missed the show with Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks on Wednesday night, but look what they made for us! A montage of off-the-cuff R.E.M. covers, set to panoramic shots of one of the coolest live music venues in San Fran. Ridiculous:

Watch the rest of the Malkmus performances here, and what I can piece together of their other writing on the site almost makes me want to take a French class. Oui.

March 3, 2008

She & Him are very . . . nice

One of my most anticipated shows at Noise Pop this weekend in San Francisco was the M. Ward collaboration with velvet-voiced actress Zooey Deschanel called She & Him. I could hardly overstate the level of love I have for M. Ward’s richly layered music, and Zooey has this fantastic retro-throwback vibe with a sweet coyness to her inflection. The samples I’ve heard from two of them have been promising.

And, let’s face it — much like the time I saw Russell Crowe’s band at the Fillmore (that’s Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts for those of you keeping track at home), everyone likes to go see a real live attractive movie star play with their band. It’s why folks spend $40 to see Dogstar.

After three opening acts at the Great American Music Hall Sunday night, Matt and Zooey took the stage for their hour-long set. I gotta hand it to Zooey, she is a charming and capable performer who reminded my friend of June Carter Cash a bit, I suppose in her vocal swing. I’d never seen M Ward before but he clearly enjoys those sounds he coaxes from his vintage guitars, and sings his vocal parts with the gusto and expressions of an 80-year-old bluesman. It’s fun to see them interact with each other, ending their main set on the piano bench playing the ivories side by side.

But somehow the visceral kick that I like to feel in a live show was missing last night. The overwhelming reaction I had when I walked out the doors was that it was nice, absolutely, and charming. It felt like a very engaging county fair act. They have a lot of potential as a duo, as their voices meld so well and offer each other a counterbalance. I’ve got the album at the very top of the stack of advances to take a listen to — I am anticipating that I’ll catch some layers of interest and depth in the studio album that I must have missed in the live setting.

The bloggers were out in force for this show, and as we all travel home, Aquarium Drunkard posted up a quick thought saying that the show was fantastico. The line around the block made this one of the hardest shows of the fest to get into, but I left feeling like I’d missed something in what was supposed to be the kind of glorious winner in the cool-kid olympics show of the year. It was fun. And nice.

Why Do You Let Me Stay Here – She & Him

Volume One is out on Merge Records March 18. Thanks to the dude with the iPhone in front of me who shared his clandestine pics.

March 27, 2007

Look ma! I’m a rock photographer!

If I could go back to my high school days and do one of those job shadow days again, instead of choosing a doctor or lawyer I’d pick to shadow a rock photographer. BUT WAIT. I recently got a glimpse of that good life, courtesy of Peter Ellenby, Noise Pop photographer extraordinaire, as you may recall.

Peter just sent me the results, and here are a few of the shots that I took with my own unsure hands. I think it’s the coolest thing ever and love the way they turned out.

March 6, 2007

Noise Pop: “As soon as you’re born you start dying, so you might as well have a good time . . .”

Almost local band (Sacramento) Cake just blew my mind Sunday night, the perfect way to end six craaaazy nights of Noise Pop.

I’ve seen Cake thrice now and they never fail to pull off an excellent show, easily in my top 5 live acts (actually, probably top three). John McCrea is a fearless ringmaster of his own little circus, with a sardonic wit and perfect 800 SAT vocabulary to boot, and the band is tight and ace-rhythmic. The whole crowd was dancing just as hard as we could, and indeed you’d have to be dead not to want to join in. Check how they started their set:

VIDEO: Cake — “Comfort Eagle
(it stabilizes at around 20 seconds – aka I stop jumping)

If you’ve ever been around me while I listen to Cake, you’ll realize that it was a genuine sacrifice for me not to sing and dance my little heart out to this one, in order to hold the video camera (mostly) steady. I usually manage to dance to Cake even if seated.

Cake plays with no setlist, freestylin’ along as they feel the urge (much to the chagrin of some pugilistic and determined audience members, who seemed to think Cake was a jukebox for requests until McCrea shouted several fire-eyed “f*ck you”s in their direction).

We got songs from all the Cake albums, from the vastly underrated ‘You Part The Waters’ off Motorcade of Generosity, to ‘Stickshifts and Safetybelts’ (!!!), ‘The Distance’ and the Willie Nelson cover ‘Sad Songs and Waltzes’ from Fashion Nugget, delightfully lots off Prolonging The Magic and Comfort Eagle (my 2 favorite albums) – ‘Love You Madly,’ ‘Mexico’ (in lamentably forgotten 3/4 time signature) the fantastic ‘Shadow Stabbing,’ ‘Never There’ . . . and a few from the newest one Pressure Chief (‘Wheels’).

They also threw in some non-album tunes like their cover of ‘Excuse Me I Think I’ve Got A Heartache’ by Buck Owens, and mentioned that they finally have a “new” release coming out (independent, now that they are free of the indomitable iron will of the major labels – “You’ll never see us on Conan again!” McCrea defiantly pronounced) called B-Sides and Rarities. It’ll be available shortly via cakemusic.com.

You think perhaps that you are too cool to sing along at concerts? Not at Cake you aren’t, my friend.

McCrea never fails to lead the crowd in several extremely passionate participatory tunes, including ‘Sheep Go To Heaven’ and, my favorite, the “Na na na na nana, Na na na na naaaaana“s of ‘Short Skirt, Long Jacket.’ He splits the audience down the middle, and pits us against one another in a savage fashion (it’s like Lord of the Flies, really), taunting us (“They’re f*cking LAUGHING at you!”) to whip the crowd to a fever pitch. I think I almost bust a blood vessel in my eye, and probably made up for six days of fitness slackery with all the gleeful pogoing and hip-shaking boogying I could muster. What an evening. If you’ve never seen Cake live, DO IT. Get as close to the front as you can, wear comfortable shoes (I ditched my knee-high boots behind a speaker after about 5 minutes) and prepare to have one of the best times you can legally have in the contiguous 48.

The show was held in fine closing-night soiree fashion at Bimbo’s 365 Club — the classiest live music joint in the city, bar none. It’s a 1930s dinner club that retains all of its elegance and suavity from that era, even down to the grand piano, the wooden dancefloor, and the row of angled make-up tables and attendant in the ladies’ bathroom. The walls are draped with swags of glittery silver fabric, and until recently, they also had the real, live lady-mermaid swimming in a fishtank. McCrea commented on the missing mermaid, and it truly is a crying shame. Not enough ladies swimming in tanks in today’s modern nightlife, I say.

The show was ably opened up by a trio of great bands, San Francisco’s Scrabbel and The Botticellis, plus the effortlessly cool Money Mark. I liked all of them – here are some video clips:

VIDEO: Scrabbel — “Rosamo

VIDEO: The Botticellis — new song

VIDEO: Also from The Botticellis — “Up Against The Glass

Money Mark was rad. I’ve spun his new disc Brand New By Tomorrow several times now and like it more each time. I caught part of his in-store at Amoeba Records earlier in the day:

Despite some keyboard malfunctions which prevented a successful rendition of his great new tune “Pick Up The Pieces” (which was co-authored with Jack Johnson), Money Mark pulled off a really good-spirited and varied set. He invited folks up on the stage to dance along and I almost, almost did. But the guy who actually did climb up and doggedly jogged in place, dropped for push-ups, and did jumping jacks far bested anything I could have come up with.

There was also diminutive curly-haired Hispanic fella standing next to me in a leather bomber jacket, bobbing his head and taking in the show. About halfway through the set, Money Mark notices him and beckons him to join the band up on stage. He climbs up, Money Mark hands him his sweet gold guitar, and dude jumps right in with the melody. Turns out it was Tommy Guerrero, who has collaborated with all those guys on stuff like the Sprout surf film soundtrack. Tres cool.

Here is the rather restrained opening tune – he launched into much more upbeat stuff after this, but I rather enjoy this good-day sunshine pop vibe:

VIDEO: Money Mark, “Color Of Your Blues

They’re calling boarding for my gate now as I type this in the airport, so I should go. I’ve never figured out why everyone is in such a rush to pack onto the plane as soon as boarding is announced — I always wait until the last minute. Less time in the sardine can, the better.

Bon voyage, San Francisco. Thank you for taking such good care of me and entertaining me in fine style. I think this was an absolutely peerless festival experience. I will definitely be back, because as Cake says (and I heartily second), as soon as you’re born you start dying. So you might as well have a good time!

Listen to Noise Pop shows on LaLa.com

Since there were waaaay more shows to see at Noise Pop than humanly possible by one lonesome soul, I am excited to find out that LaLa.com is teaming with WOXY.com to offer several streaming sets that I wasn’t able to attend.

Click on this page and select the little play button to the left of the name of each artist you are interested in listening to:
February 28th @ The Independent
John Vanderslice
Damien Jurado
The Submarines
Black Fiction
March 1st @ Slim’s
French Kicks
Scissors For Lefty
The Oohlas
Magic Bullets
March 2nd @ The Independent
Death of a Party
March 3rd @ The Independent
Sea Wolf
The Mumlers

March 4th @ Bottom of the Hill
Ester Drang

March 4th @ Bottom of the Hill
The Dwarves
Girl Band
The White Barons
Tagged with .

Noise Pop: “I’m nervous when I’m near you, as if I have fallen ill”

Saturday night at the Rickshaw Stop was a beyond-sold-out affair of tightly wound and very playful tunes. The club is smaller than some yuppies’ garages, all draped in red velvet fabric and strung up with globe lights with a stage barely elevated above the heads of the voluminous crowd. The indie kids turned out full force in their Vans, leggings, chunky glasses and skinny jeans, ready to dance. Featuring sets by The Old-Fashioned Way, The Changes, Dios (Malos) and capped by The Spinto Band, this was one show I was most excited about at Noise Pop. I was not disappointed.

The Old-Fashioned Way opened with an enjoyable set, and had the quirky dork-rock vibe down to a T. Their music was multi-instrumental and lighthearted. I jotted in my little notebook (yes, I took notes. With so many shows, my memory ain’t what it used to be) that they sounded a bit like the rumbly baritone of Nick Cave meets the playful music and harmonies of Mates of State. There were seven members packing the tiny stage, with most of the girls in frocks that looked handmade and a frontman that defied typical lead-singer stereotypes.

Before the set by The Changes, I was flagged down by Noise Pop photographer Peter Ellenby, whose work I’ve written about here. He asked me to photograph the next set for him and handed over his camera.

I was a rock photographer for a spell, and was ridiculously excited, as that is a job I have long thought would be so interesting and cool. I perched atop a piano by the stage and happily started clicking. If only I had known better how to operate all the bells and whistles on the camera, I could have possibly done some neat things, but as it was I told Peter that I’d be happy if even one or two shots turned out worth keeping. I was so thrilled to get to try.

The music from Chicago’s The Changes is infectiously good power-pop with hummable choruses and jangly guitars. I am expecting their album Today Is Tonight in the mail shortly, which was recorded at the same Chicago studio as The Redwalls. I hear a little bit of similarities in the vibe of the two bands, and I am looking forward to enjoying the entire album.

VIDEO: The Changes, “Water Of The Gods

I was expecting a lot from Dios (Malos). They’d performed an acoustic set earlier in the day at the Noise Pop Expo, which I heard was amazing, and I’ve heartily liked all the studio material I’ve spun from them. They took the stage illuminated only by a garage-variety shoplight behind them, which lent the set an eerie backlit vibe and cast monstrous shadows (which were fun to watch).

Their performance was good but unfortunately not great, with the flow often interrupted by friends of theirs climbing on stage, or discussion about what to play next. I selfishly wished they had been a little tighter as they ripped through their set because they really are a quality band (with an animated drummer that I adore). Check his entirely translucent blue drumset:

VIDEO: Dios Malos

Spinto Band
finally took the stage around 11:30, and they were jittery and spastic and insane. Made me nervous just to watch them, but in a good way, as if the stage could barely constrain their need-Ritalin exuberance. As they set up their instruments, I felt like we were preparing for a high-school battle of the bands, but despite their unassuming and freshfaced looks, these kids have all the pieces in order and definitely know how to rock a crowd.

They launched straight into “Crack The Whip” which is my favorite song off their excellent 2006 album Nice and Nicely Done, and it was all pleasantly upbeat sailing from there. Check this video from later in their set:

VIDEO: Spinto Band

I’d shell out to see each of these bands again, they were awesome. What a night.

March 5, 2007

Noise Pop: “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a solider”

Catching up on the Noise Pop coverage! It was a night of peace, love, and reggae rock Friday night at the famed Slim’s (well, famed to me because I am a huge nerd and couldn’t get over the fact that Pearl Jam once played a secret show there where they unveiled a bunch of Vs. songs for the first time. Sigh). The 4-band lineup was solid and very stoked to be there — mostly straightforward rock from all participants to a willing and plugged-in crowd.

Street To Nowhere started things off with this (direct link):

I chatted a little with lead singer Dave (who I think is about 20) at the merch table after his set, specifically about music blogs and their band’s cover of Hallelujah (which he said was featured on “some big roundup of a bunch of different versions of the song“). They had a good sound, I hope he didn’t think I was giving him a hard time when I asked him point-blank what made his take on Hallelujah different and worth it; I was a little belligerent. No, actually I was nice, as always. I just ask the hardhitting journalistic questions.

I missed The Actual‘s set. Excuses and reasoning can be found below. Sorry, Actual.

The New Amsterdams were very good, and the studio material from their forthcoming album Killed or Cured sounds like it has a stripped/alt-country vibe, but that was kinda lost in the cavernous long hall of the club. It was rollicking. Here is a sample:

VIDEO: The New Amsterdams

The danceability and reggae grooves of State Radio was a surprise that I didn’t expect, kind of like the homeless guy earlier that day on the pier who hid inside bush branches and jumped out at people as they walked by. Kind of like that. Except State Radio blended a mix of their politically-charged (anti-war) songs with a Dispatch tune or two (which were wildly well-received) and had some extremely enthusiastic, and bouncy, fans the whole way through. Maybe a bit too heavy for me on the “white guy sounds like he’s from Jamaica, mon” vibe, but those guys are undoubtedly loved.

VIDEO: State Radio

Perhaps this is no reflection on the shows itself, but rather the (open bar) happy hour I attended beforehand, but I think I most enjoyed this part of my evening — dude busts out with freestyle interpretive breakdancing spontaneously in the Diesel Store on Post where we were enjoying cocktails. I happened to have my camera out taking a picture at the moment, and had to share:

(direct link)

A later incarnation of this same idea ended with him sprawled backwards across my lap. It was soo random that it was rad.

March 2, 2007

Noise Pop: “Crank it to eleven, blow another speaker”

Any trip or musical stay in San Francisco would be sorely incomplete without seeing at least one show at The Fillmore, which has always been one of my favorite music venues. We have a modern ripoff in Denver that just ain’t the same, so there is nothing better than both seeing a show in this historic venue, and also wandering the halls looking at the framed portraits of all those who have played there over the last 40+ years:

Plus I love the artwork in all the framed show posters (although I noticed that the best ones are higher up, I guess to prevent the kleptos from making off with the booty):

Last night at the Fillmore (again, PACKED) I found a dose of something that I’ve been missing all these years. The show with The Coup was amazingly good; absolutely infectious thumping beats, sick soulful samples, lyrical flow, oh my gosh. The indie-rock part of my brain that I usually use for writing lacks the words.

I felt overwhelmed in a good way; my synapses were overloaded. The music is hip hop with a political/revolutionary bent, but the band has a rock-band configuration on stage: guitarist who looked like he should be in Rage Against The Machine, insane bassist who really lays down his lines with style, and dude wailing on the drums. An integral part of The Coup is their DJ (female!) and for the shows they also have a singer/strutter/emoter gal named Silk-E who seemed to be having a very good time (and sang this solo song called “BabyLet’sHaveABabyBeforeBushDoSomethingCrazy”).

Frontman Boots Riley danced with some fancy footwork and let his lyrics smoothly flow while he rocked the afro, the huge sideburns, and the velvet blazer. It was like Marvin Gaye fronting Rage with a little Parliament thrown in, and I was in love.

VIDEO: “5 Million Ways To Kill A CEO” – The Coup
This was up in the balcony when we first got there, and it’s an awesome bird’s-eye view of the crowd and the fabulousness of the evening. The guitar riff in this song has a distinct Led Zeppelin/Aerosmith vibe, yes?

VIDEO: “Laugh/Love/F*ck” – The Coup
According to The Coup, by doing the above (and also “drink liquor,” as you’ll hear in the song), we’ll help the damn revolution come quicker. And when it comes, we’ll all be too drunk, relaxed, and well-sexed to do anything to support it.

One of the best parts of their set was the female DJ Pam The Funkstress, who was getting soooo into her craft and thoroughly enjoying every single moment there on the stage and the reactions she garnered from the crowd. She also showed off her multi-talented self by scratching the records with her substantial breasts. Now that’s some kind of female empowerment . . .

Lyrics Born truthfully paled in comparison for me, and I just couldn’t get as into them after the marvelousness of The Coup. They were, however, FUN. I think in this video you can actually see the way the old Fillmore floor actually bounces up and down during really emphatic shows:

VIDEO: Lyrics Born workin’ the crowd

And I do believe that if the world outside were collapsing, a wise place to head would be the Fillmore, where we could subsist happily for a long time on free, ice-cold, crunchy apples from the big vat up front. I’ve missed those.

Listen to more Coup/download: http://www.myspace.com/thecoupmusic

Listen to more Lyrics Born: http://www.myspace.com/lyricsborn

Older Posts »
Subscribe to this tasty feed.
I tweet things. It's amazing.

Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

View all Interviews → View all Shows I've Seen →