Thursday, June 23, 2005

Dressy Bessy at BOTH

Show: Dressy Bessy at BOTH
Headliner: Dressy Bessy
Openers: The Jessica Fletchers, Giant Value
Location: Bottom of the Hill (BOTH) in San Francisco, CA
Date: Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Background for this show. I'd heard a few Dressy Bessy songs via internet radio and some mp3 blogs. I've really been digging "Side 2." Having a mild amount of free time and the show being inexpensive ($8) I decided I'd check it out.

The first band to come on was The Jessica Fletchers. Didn't know what to expect from a band that titled itself after a character played by Angela Lansbury. I certainly was not expecting the band to consist of 5 guys from Norway though. They were a more or less interesting band. Certainly a very solid opening band, and someone I'll look into a little more. Though it didn't convince me to buy a disc there.

Giant Value came on second, and this was a complete surprise to me. I hadn't read that they'd be on the bill at all. They're a local band, and did pretty decent at getting BOTH filled in with their friends. They played an enjoyable half hour set and had pretty good music, if sometimes disappointing lyrics (singing praise on the inventor of the umbrella and other such handy inventions doesn't make for much of a song). A band I wouldn't mind checking out again and I'd enjoy it if they opened more local shows. I'd like to see how they grow.

As for Dressy Bessy. Not a good show. My biggest problem was that the sound was mixed poorly and it was REALLY hard to hear the vocals. The other biggest problem was that I realized I just wasn't that much into this band. Sure I had liked the songs I'd heard, but the other songs were just sorta eh. I stayed til the end of their 45min-1hour main set only because the played the aforementioned "Side 2" last. They might've played an encore, but from they way they were talking between songs it didn't sound like they would and I didn't bother to stick around and find out for sure.

The set jut lacked energy. From the dwindling crowd (who had clearly come mainly for the local band), to the band themselves it was clear that this wasn't going to be an exciting show. Making it worse was the bizarre verbal fight between one of the audience and the band. The woman was screaming about injustices in the world to the band and they were just trying to ignore her. When she came up to the edge of the stage and started holding out a lighter, someone came up and took her away from the audience.

One things for certain. I know I can save money by not needing to by a Dressy Bessy disc.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hold Steady at BOTH

Show: Hold Steady at BOTH
Headliner: Hold Steady
Openers: United States of Electronica, The Cops
Location: Bottom of the Hill (BOTH) in San Francisco, CA
Date: Sunday, June 12, 2005

Wow, what a great show. I'm still recovering.

First, a bit of background. I'd seen Hold Steady at BOTH back in February when they were an opener for Helio Sequence/Thermals during Noise Pop. Back then they stole the show, and I instantly became a big fan of the Hold Steady. They released a new album about a month ago, which I had listened to but not yet picked up. United States of Electronica (USE) I'd heard of and even given their disc a listen through once. I didn't love it, but they have a couple of songs that are tightly tied to my reminisces of my summer in Seattle, WA. Which is a good thing.

Show started kinda late. Doors at 9p and The Cops band didn't come on till 9:40. They played a decent if not spectacular set. They look like they party pretty hard, and the definitely play loud. A good band to get the crowd warmed up and in front of the stage.

Next came on the United States of Electronica. They played a fun and enjoyable set. At note point did I feel like checking my watch to estimate when the next band would be on. They played most of the songs of theirs that I remembered, and it was good for the nostalgia edge. I don't think they're a draw on their own, but I could see them as a definite plus for going to a concert with a middle of the road headliner.

The Hold Steady came on just after 11:30p. I was figuring a short set considering the late start time and the likelihood of zoning laws. I was incorrect. The show only ended at 1:10a. The reasons I suspect for that is that 1) It looked like they hadn't practiced any other songs and 2) They were starting to get drunk off their ass. Each of the 5 guys in the band had a drink with them, and one of the guitarists was shot gunning out of a bottle of Jim Beam. When the band left the stage to do the "encore" thing, it looked more like they were just going to get a bunch of beer to bring back on stage with them. For the rest of the show, the lead singer would occasionally hand out a few bottles of Bud.

Listening to the Hold Steady albums, which I enjoy quite a bit, really doesn't do justice to their live shows. When they say they're a bar band, they ain't liars. In person they put on a show that's just pure awesomeness. They more or less play their albums straight through without much variation from the track list, but that's largely due to the fact that their albums tell stories. Out of order just wouldn't work as well. The main set was their new album and the encore was more or less their previous (and first) album. I'm running out of words to describe just how much they rocked, but the show was just a lot of fun. Definitely go and check them out.

And I'll work on trying to finish recovering.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Wilco at the Greek

Show: Wilco at the Greek Theatre
Headliner: Wilco
Opener: Court and Spark
Location: Hearst Greek Theater at UC Berkeley
Date: Saturday, June 11, 2005

I came into this show relatively uninformed. I had only heard of Court and Spark but never actually heard any of their music. I think I looked around on their site but had trouble actually downloading any to listen to. All I knew was that they were a local (SF) band. As for Wilco, I had never actually listened to a disc straight through. I had heard songs of theirs by net radio, but I had never made an effort to give them a full listen through. A friend of mine had seen a Wilco show a month or two ago though and had raved about it, so I had decent expectations. Actually, that and the proximity to campus were the deciding factors since the $37.50 tickets (bought in person) were a bit more than I like to pay for shows.

Court and Spark were a distinctly mediocre band, though I do give them the slight edge to above average. But not much above. When they played, the sun was still shining but the winds were coming in from the bay, and besides a Depeche Mode cover they didn't do much to really capture my attention. Not a bad opener, but it doesn't make me want to seek them out further.

Wilco was definitely an enjoyable performance. They came on with the sun still up, and played a two hour set well into the darkness. Considering that Berkeley law prevents the concert going on past 11p, the 10:40ish end time was reasonable.

The main set/encore/second encore structure was odd to me. They played for an hour, then went off. Came back 2-3 minutes later and then player a 30 minute encore. Left again for another 2-3 minutes and played another 20 minutes or so. At this point, I really have to question what an encore is when it's clear the two encores were planned and consisted of just under half the playing time. Anyway, it's only a minor caveat...

The set (I'll refer to the show as only a single set) was good. I ended up recognizing between half and 2/3 of the songs, which was actually right about a good place for a band I enjoy but don't love. It started off with a few songs I didn't recognize and not particularity exciting, but that was ok since it allowed my attention to wander around the crowd as the daylight died (more on this later). Then a song that my friends recognized as a Paul Simon (they think) cover. And from there just an enjoyable mix of songs I recognized and enjoyed playing into the night air. Tweedy did a good job getting the crowd involved and a proper amount of audience chit-chat. Good work transitioning between songs, etc. Just a good time and a concert worth going to in your area. I think I'll try and find some Wilco discs to give a listen to.

As for the crowd. I wasn't expecting it, but my friend wasn't surprised to find the mostly 30-something crowd. I was kinda surprised to find so much of the crowd at an advanced age. What I was not surprised about was some of the wackos in the crowd, since it is Berkeley after all. Crazy prego dancer was a particularity interesting one. Plus the geriatric tokers standing in front of me and occasionally turning around and attempting to communicate to me in gibberish was interesting. I will say though that you've got love an outdoor concert on a warm summer's eve.