Thursday, March 30, 2006

Noise Pop

Show: Noise Pop
Headliner: Britt Daniel of Spoon
Openers: Laura Veirs, Martyn Leaper of The Minders, Meric Long
Location: The Swedish American Hall in San Francisco, CA
Date: Wednesday, March 30, 2006
2006 Show #: 6

The Swedish American Hall is up stairs in the same building the Cafe Du Nord is downstairs. Where as Du Nord can get quite rocking, Swedish American Hall is designed for more down tempo things. All the shows I've heard of their were single person acts or solo shows. And this show was no exception. The show featured the one "man" acts of Meric Long and Laura Veirs, and solo sets from Martyn Leaper and Britt Daniel.

The first 2 opening acts, Meric and Martyn, were enjoyable if not super exciting. Both acts made me want to check out more, but neither inspired CD purchases. Meric did have the unique factor when for one song he had a friend join him on stage and play percussion on a chair. First using drum sticks on the chair, but then switching to a tambourine.

Though Britt Daniel headlined, in my opinion Laura Veirs stole the show. As a result, I'll cover Daniels first. He covered a wide variety of stuff, mostly from his work with Spoon. He was impressive in that he showed a willingness to take random requests. Even of songs he didn't think would play well as a solo act. But he put on a fine show, playing for 65 minutes combined main set and encore. The solo versions were interesting takes on the songs, but nothing amazing.

Laura Veirs though was fantastic. She set up and came on 7 minutes after Martyn finished and played a 45 minute set. She mostly uses her voice and guitar for the songs, but in addition she used recorded feedback to harmonize with herself. She'd sing a few bars, get it going in the loop, and then add another layer. Successively doing this, she kept getting her songs to near cacophony, but never going too far with it. It was quite enjoyable to see played live, and her voice is absolutely fantastic.

Her hair was in pigtails, and she had a very child-like nature to her. From her expressions to the jeans she had on, she gave an air of a mature immaturity. It was quite interesting to see. She would occasionally, while doing the harmonization, swing back and forth for no obvious reason. Once she even banged her guitar into the mic stand. It was interesting to see her playful reaction.

The highlight to me was during the song "Spelunking." During this song, she went completely unplugged. She wanted to see how it sound, so she played and sang, and then walked a loop around the room. Her voice and her presence was impressive. It was really neat that my seat was on the end of the row, and when she walked by me she had to lift her guitar up to avoid knocking me on the head. That's what I call fan interaction. I was really impressed, and I'm still really excited. I will definitely see her shows again.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Gogol Bordello

Show: Gogol Bordello
Headliner: Gogol Bordello
Openers: Kultur Shock, Zox
Location: Slim's in San Francisco, CA
Date: Saturday, March 25, 2006
2006 Show #: 5

This will be pretty lame as far as show reports go. Part of the problem was getting there late. The other part was that I took BART into the city. To make it back for the last train back to east bay, we had to leave the show early. As a result, I didn't see Zox at all, and only caught about half of the sets of each of the other two bands. I will not be taking public transit to see a late show in the city again.

Both Kultur Shock and Gogol Bordello are very similar bands. Ensembles with very Eastern European sounds and immigrant front men. Both bands include violins (or where they violas), and only Gogol Bordello varies it up by including an accordion. Both play their music with a good bit of a punk ethos. Both put on wild fun sets that are definitely worth seeing. Kultur Shock's frontman had an interesting hair style though, shaving everything but a narrow strip in the center of his head and having the rest of it grown down super long.

On the positive side, it's hard not to want to move your backside when the music gets going. Jump around, be a fool. Good times. I'd like to learn more about these bands and follow how they progress.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Belle & Sebastian/New Pornographers

Show: Belle & Sebastian/New Pornographers
Headliner: Belle & Sebastian
Openers: The New Pornographers
Location: The Concourse At the SF Design Center in San Francisco, CA
Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2006
2006 Show #: 4

The Concourse (by which I will refer to the venue which I attended last night, despite it's long name) is an odd place. It's difficult to even find it's address online, and even ticketmaster wasn't able to readily tell me that it's located at 7th and Brannan. In the end, it was simple to get to, and I had been there before awhile back. The building is a long warehouse effectively. It's got the width of a smaller club like Bimbo's, but then is easily 3 or 4 times the depth. It means if you're not careful, it's very easy to be very far away from the band. That didn't end up being a problem for me but I'd have rather this show had been at the Fillmore. But I digress.

Coming into this show I had pretty high expectations. These two bands are juggernauts of indie rock. And no opener to boot. I was so excited that even though my friend had to wait outside because the people with his ticket hadn't arrived yet, I went in without him (I already had my ticket).

The New Pornographers came on at 8pm sharp and played a 1 hour set. The start and stop time were so on the hours that I was utterly amazed. And besides a goof up where Carl Newman couldn't think of the words to "It's Only Divine Right," the show went smoothly. What you'd expect from professionals. They hit songs from each of their 3 discs. The only song I wish they had played was "Letter From An Occupant." The biggest problem I had was that Neko Case wasn't there. In her stead was a woman that went unintroduced. I heard rumors that Neko had blown out her voice. The replacement woman was good, but I did miss that I didn't see Case.

Belle & Sebastian came on at 9:35pm and played until 11pm, and then did a short 3 song encore. Once again, another very professional act. They rocked the house, and I had a good time. Though I did hear snide comments around me. They started off by limiting themselves to just "If You're Feeling Sinister" and "The Life Pursuit" for the first 6 or 7 songs, but then started playing off the rest of their catalog. I recognized songs from "The Boy With The Arab Strap," "Dear Catastrophe Waitress," and the "Books EP." Their rendition of "Your Cover's Blown" was quite enjoyable. Another enjoyable moment was that while playing "Piazza, New York Catcher" and mentioning the areas of San Francisco, leading singer Stuart Murdoch pointed in the direction of those landmarks. Murdoch correctly pointed towards the Stadium and towards the Tenderloin as appropriate. I was impressed and pleased. Mostly the set was more or less a reproduction of their album tracks, but played with enough groove to make it an enjoyable experience.

Overall, while this concert did not disappoint, it didn't rock my world either. Overall it was a VERY good concert, but because of my high expectations it was unable to exceed them. But that still meant I had a really fun night.