John Vanderslice and The Show is the Rainbow at The Billiken Club (April 17, 2008)

24 04 2008

What better way to celebrate my newly birthdayed self than road tripping it out to St. Louis my favorite artist for to see? It is so appropriate that my comeback to the blog underworld comes at the hand of one Mr. John Vanderslice and his astonishing performance and St. Louis University’s Billiken Club.

Allow me to go on a bit of a jealous rant for a second… The Billiken Club. What a genius concept, really. SLU, a wet campus full of, as far as I can tell, the most uppity and toootally hip hipsters around, happens to have on their campus a concert venue that allows them to reach into their deep private university pockets and pull in amazing national names like Dan Deacon, Enon, Menomena, Caribou, The Twilight Sad, and the Mountain Goats among so many others. It would be one thing if that was it, but it’s not. They also are able to put on concerts with good regularity with FREE admission. Que ridiculo! Being in College Music Committee here at Mizzou, I have a vague idea of what kind of budget we student activities committees have to work with, and we basically wring every last dime from that budget to pay for talent to come out to Columbia, and even when we charge for entry, we STILL lose a lot of money. At this point, I just more or less try not to think about what the operating budget must be for that place… but I digress.

After a quick detour (unplanned) to a Schnucks for directions ol’ lady Gina and I got to the Billiken Club, like the competent young ladies that we are, just in time to see one man band The Show is the Rainbow a.k.a. Darren Keen set up. From the very onset of his frenetic live show, I knew two things: 1. This guy is crazy. 2. I kind of want to marry him.

The Show is the Rainbow’s Darren Keen… during one of a few moments of rest.

Mr. Rainbow hails from my new neighbor to the northwest… Nebraska! He also harbors a lot of resentment towards midwestern behemoth Saddle Creek golden boy Conor Oberst (vomit here) and the rest of his label-mates. In fact, I think he played 3 songs in a row about his hate for the record labels and how they “reject [him] every day.” “Sometimes I don’t even send them demos and they still reject me,” said Keen. A shocking revelation, what with songs like “Do the Skinny” – ostensibly about a girl who weighs 400 pounds, then loses 300 pounds “so she can fuck skinny hipster guys.” The catch? “… all the fat goes in her pussy, so none of the guys can get their dicks in.” Poetry!

He was an outrageously entertaining, and straight up outrageous, performer – running laps around the audience, literally at times, all on a broken foot. How was it broken? By being drunk and naked and falling off a runway at a show in Minnesota. Yep, that’s my kind of guy.

Moving along, Gina and I went outside between sets to enjoy the finally nice weather while simultaneously enjoying a cigarette. And then we did both of those things whiiiile simultaneously chatting up Ian Bjornstad keyboardist/sometimes accordionist in the ol’ Vanderslice band. Super nice guy, super curly and awesome hair, super used to be an ESL teacher in California, super kind of flirted with Gina. Uhhhh….

Anyway, we made our way back inside, and up to the front like the totally not lame fangirls that we are. John, Ian, David Douglas (drums/moog), and the touring violin god that is Daniel Hart took the stage, making “dad jokes” as they played a wide range of songs, spanning years of their discography. Granted, I now love about every song that John has put out over the years, so I am more than a little biased in my views, but the crowd seemed just as excited as we were about the set. Highlights included “The Tower,” “Tablespoon of Codeine,” “Exodus Damage,” and of course, “White Dove.”

Towards the end of the set, the audience voted to forgo a fake “oh hey, we’re gonna leave guys” and then cheer them on for an encore, and instead opted to just take the energy from the set and move it outside to the cool midnight air. John brought his acoustic guitar, Ian brought an accordion and xylophone, Daniel brought his violin, and David brought out a floor tom to perform a handful of songs sans microphones. It was truly unique, and their performance of “Numbered Lithograph” could not have been any better.

Daniel Hart, Ian Bjornstad, John Vanderslice, hipsterzzz (note the Converse/Vans).

With everyone gathered around the musicians, the atmosphere was great and I really couldn’t help but love SLU for being cool enough to not only permit, but foster, this sort of relationship between performer and audience.

As people trickled out after buying their merchandise (John Vanderslice pillowcase, anyone?) Ian introduced us to Daniel and John. While Daniel and Gina talked violins, John and I talked gardening and songwriting – two activities he finds to be very similar. After their current tour ends, Vanderslice et al. will take to the studio to record their next album. Whether it will be ready for a tour in the fall, not even they know, but with a track record like his for both recordings and live shows, those who know, know that John Vanderslice is worth the wait.

Downloads:

School is Cool” – The Show is the Rainbow

White Dove” – John Vanderslice

Exodus Damage” – John Vanderslice

BONUS

Thanks to Schedule Two, based in Minneapolis, for providing concert footage of John and the band’s March 19th performance… Check it out, and footage from other great artists at www.scheduletwo.com.

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Don’t Call it a Comeback…

12 11 2007

Wow… a mark of a vacation coming up soon is when the professors start piling on the work. School’s been insane, and I’m almost kind of glad then that October was basically a drought as far as good shows go. On the 30th we road tripped it out to St Louis University to attend their free Hallow-indie show at the Billiken Club featuring my all time favorite… Menomena!

Two great bands opened for them, the first was The Jumbling Towers, a local band that evokes the early (and good) days of Modest Mouse in their musical style, but with a vocal style like nothing I have come across before. The second act, Illinois, was also absolutely phenomenal… they’ve been touring forever it seems, as they came through Houston a few months back with The Hold Steady and are now just kicking off their tour with Menomena. Fans of Weeds (which every really should be) might recognize their song “Nosebleed” from the “Brick Dance” episode from Season 3. They’ve got a very eclectic folk-rock sound that the crowd really seemed to respond well to.

Menomena played a good set as well, although it was identical to the set they played in Houston in June – not that I have any complaints about it, but I’ll be excited to see them end their touring and get back in the studio sometime soon.

Next comes November, which brought about the appearance of probably the best mash-up artist around, Girl Talk. Greg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, is by far the best reviewed mash DJ, his accessibility coming from his use of both top-40 and more old school sound bytes.  Girl Talk shows are somewhat famous for their stage-breaking, nearly raver atmosphere, and last Thursday at Mojo’s was no exception. With a laptop covered in plastic for protection from sweat and silly-string, Girl Talk kicked out the jams for the manic crowd

By the time I emerged from the Girl Talk show, I think I had danced off 10 pounds and I was completely drenched head to toe in sweat, both my own and that of probably about 30 other people… it’s been a good 4 days since that show and I still am at a loss of words as for how to describe it. All I can say is: Best. Concert. Ever.

Downloads:

Asian Car” – Jumbling Towers

Nosebleed” – Illinois

Cough Coughing” – Menomena

Twenty Cell Revolt” – Menomena

Muscle n’ Flo” – Menomena

Hold Up” – Girl Talk

Bounce That” – Girl Talk

“‘Knife’ Remix (Grizzly Bear vs Clipse)” – Girl Talk





Kaiser Chiefs = Sucka Bs

19 09 2007

Well while I’ve been waving my White Rabbits flag all over the place trying to drum up support for them, I was unaware that the Kaiser Chiefs had canceled their tour… I was wondering though why White Rabbits guitarist Alex Even was still bumming around town a few days after their show at Mojo’s.

via AntiMusic

“We’d like to apologize to fans in America and Canada, especially those who have already bought tickets, but something had to give. We’ve been extremely busy all year and had no time to focus on the future, we plan to have new material out as soon as possible and we’ve wanted to record all summer.

“This needs to happen before our European & UK shows at the end of the year so we can play a few of our new songs live, we’re keen to explore new ground, beyond the sound of our first two records, so we’re headed back into the studio to begin that process.”

Too bad, I’m sure that there were a lot of folks out there who were pretty excited when they saw the billing for this tour, and not only does it hurt the fans, but also the supporting acts, who are reportedly pretty bummed about the whole deal as well.

 

Cancelled Tour Dates:
September 18 – Dallas, TX (House Of Blues)
September 19 – Houston, TX (Warehouse Live)
September 21 – Nashville, TN (City Hall)
September 22 – Atlanta, GA (The Roxy)
September 24 – Chicago, IL (Cabaret Metro)
September 25 – Detroit, MI (Majestic Theater)
September 26 – Toronto, ONT (Carlu Theater)





Smoosh, Final Fantasy, and Bloc Party at The Pageant (September 14, 2007)

16 09 2007

After finally breaking down Friday morning on my way to Bio lecture, I decided it was about time I went to the Student Health Center – where I was diagnosed with a sinus infection and bronchitis, and they loaded me up with about 5 different prescriptions.
I took my medicine, started feelin’ pretty happy, and then hopped in ye olde Jeep and made a run for St. Louis in order to escape the horror that is parents roaming the hallways of Cramer Hall here on Parents’ Weekend at Mizzou.

We left town around 5 and made it into St. Louis around 7, ate at Bread Co. (Panera everywhere else) and then walked back down to The Pageant to see Smoosh, Final Fantasy, and Bloc Party perform.

The ticket said 8:00, which I assumed to be the door time, but when we got there, Smoosh was already a ways into their set. While they are nothing fantastic, for a couple of 12 and 14 year old girls from Seattle on synth, drums, and xylophone, they were pretty okay. Actually, maybe they were more than okay, but my appreciation of them was overshadowed by my jealousy… who on Earth could ever dream of opening for bands like Pearl Jam, Bloc Party, The Go! Team, Cat Power, Mates of State, among others, when you are only 12… that is straight up insanity. I must give them credit for being badasses… Asya (the keyboardist) evidently rocked so hard that she bled all over her keyboard and kind of grossed out Final Fantasy.

Asya of Smoosh (imagine her just bleeding all over right then… hardcore.)

Cranking ’em through like pros, Smoosh finished their set at around 8:30 and cleared the way for Final Fantasy (a.k.a. Owen Pallett) to take the stage. Now, while Owen Pallett may not necessarily ring a bell, I’m hoping everyone knows of Arcade Fire by now, yes? Well, simply, Owen is the violinist for Arcade Fire.
And he is crazy talented. And kind of a cutie. But also he is gay, unfortunately for me.
He was set up stage right, and I was down in front at stage left, so I don’t have any pictures of him.. but just imagine a cute little guy up there with his violin, singing while an artist created some of the most amazing picture stories on an overhead in the middle of the stage.

He played eight songs with the artist (one for each of “Final Fantasy’s 8 Schools of Magic”) and a few more just by himself.

Final Fantasy’s Eight Schools of Magic

“The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead

He was the best.. the only thing I can complain about is the fact that I was standing near the most dick-headed kids on Earth. For real. Fucking teeny-boppers had a sarcastic comment to throw at ANYTHING that Owen did – from the times that he sang into his violin (“Hey! Hey! That’s not a microphone! HA HA HA”) to the art that was being displayed. Midway through the show I wrote myself a note: “Remember to only go to indie shows from now on.”

For serious people.. he just wants to play his violin. That’s all.

So unfortunately Final Fantasy’s amazing performance had to come to a close, and Bloc Party took the stage, did a whole bunch of typical rock star gimmicky crap and then I felt cheated for going. Plus, the bouncer full on yelled at me for using my brand new camera midway through. At what level does a camera become qualified as a “professional?” When it is no longer a point-and-shoot? When it has a detachable lens? When I am a paid photographer?

I did manage to get a couple shots off though…

Anyway.. Bloc Party was okay. They played “Banquet” which is kind of the only song I like, and then during their finale Owen and Smoosh came back out and danced with Bloc Party, and Owen gave those jerk kids down in front cake, why? Because that’s what Jesus would do. Am I saying Owen Pallett is Jesus? Maybe I am.

Maybe I am.

Downloads:
The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead” – Final Fantasy
Sharks (with Final Fantasy)” – Cadence Weapon
Many Lives (49 MP)” – Final Fantasy
Helicopter” – Bloc Party
Banquet” – Bloc Party





The Narrator, Via Audio, and White Rabbits at Mojo’s (September 11, 2007)

16 09 2007

“Knock Knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“September 11th”
“September 11th who?”
“I thought you said you’d never forget.”

After a weird day spent hoarding craft supplies and trying to find a place to get my car washed, basically just completely ignoring the news in spite of my journalism major, I worked up the courage to venture out into the night and go see White Rabbits perform at the local down and dirty venue, Mojo’s.

If I can’t ignore media all day and then go see an indie rock concert on September 11th, then the terrorists have won. It’s just the American way.

My musical counterpart Danny and I met up with some kids he knows through The Maneater, and then hung out outside after paying our super cool $2 minor surcharge… damn you, Missouri! Being the youngest people at a concert is soooo not the best.

We talked outside while The Narrator played… we could hear them well enough even though we were outside, and it’s not as if any of us felt compelled to go in to hear more. I can’t pin down exactly what it was that was so unsettling about the lead singer’s voice, but it sounded like a mix between Voxtrot’s Ramesh Srivastada and Brent Katz of The Harlem Shakes… only in the worst way possible. Ultimately, the need to be warm outweighed our dislike of the opening acts, and we went inside as some local hardcore band was setting up. The townies seemed to like them well enough, but I was not diggin on them.

Eventually, they ended their set, but not as soon as I would have liked. Then it was time for Via Audio to take the stage. Outside on the deck, we had been ragging on Via Audio for basically having one of the stupidest band names since Hoobastank, but by the end of the night I was eating my words. They were so impressive and so much fun, it is no wonder that everyone from Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie to Jim Eno of Spoon is jumping on the Via Audio bandwagon. They, like their tour-mates White Rabbits, are out of New York and are making quite a name for themselves. Comprised of primary vocalist/guitarist Jessica Martins, guitarist Tom Deis, drummer Danny Molat, and bassist David Lizmi, they have a whole lot of diversity in their song styles and are all about swapping instruments. Pretty much, they are the cutest… well, except for maybe Final Fantasy, but more on him later.

Jessica Martins of Via Audio.

Finally though it was time for White Rabbits to take the stage, precipitated by the introduction of a piano, two drum kits, a third stand-alone mini-kit, two guitars, and a bass to the tiny Mojo’s stage.

Greg Roberts of White Rabbits.

White Rabbits, if you don’t already know, is a band that was started way back when, right here in lowly little Columbia, Missouri when vocalist/guitarist Greg Roberts and vocalist/pianist Stephen Patterson were students at Mizzou. After graduation, the two moved to New York and soon expanded the band to include guitarist Alex Even (from Jeff City, Missouri), bassist Adam Russell, drummer Matt Clark, and drummer number two Jamie Levinson. The six-piece has rightfully received great reviews for their first album out on Say Hey Records, titled Fort Nightly, and has even had an appearance on Letterman earlier on in the summer, where they played “The Plot” – an infectious stomp that is probably the strongest cut from the album.

Most of their set was pulled from Fort Nightly, but they are already debuting some of their new material, including a new song called “Sea of Rum.”

Set List:
“Kid on My Shoulders”
“Tourist Trap”
“Sea of Rum” (new)
“Take a Walk Around the Table”
“Navy Wives”
“Dinner Party”
“March of the Camels”
“The Plot”
Encore – “I Used to Complain Now I Don’t” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm”

Next up for White Rabbits is a tour supporting Kaiser Chiefs… keep up the good work, boys!

Downloads:
Sea of Rum (Live Daytrotter Session)” – White Rabbits
The Plot” – White Rabbits
Modern Day Saint” – Via Audio





I got a fevah…

31 07 2007

and more cowbell is definitely not the right prescription.

so I just finished some delicious hummus and I’m starting to feel better, but I didn’t make it to the Tokyo Police Club show last night like I thought I would, so don’t expect a write-up about it.. I’m really pretty bummed about it to tell the truth, because I like art-rock and Ra Ra Riots is really quite good and Tokyo Police Club is amazinggg as well.
C’est la vie!

In other news, the countdown has begun: only 10 days left in Houston! Unbelievable, really.





Bishop Allen with Page France at The Proletariat (June 26, 2007)

29 07 2007

First off, sorry for the late post and sorry for the lack of good photos… my cameras (both!) are on the fritz.

Let me say that as this was my first time to go to The Proletariat, I was impressed. It’s a really cool, intimate venue, and the bartender doesn’t get all pissy when you ask for water (I’m looking at you, bartender at Numbers… asshole. If you want me to pay for water, then ask for money. Simple as that.)
Plus they’ve got pool tables. What more can you ask for?

While my concert experience started on Thursday night, for my dear friend Laura and her boyfriend Jim, it started the night before when they mistakenly showed up, played pool for a couple hours, and were told they were gonna have to pay, “like, 5 bucks” before they realized there was no show that night.

So come the 26th, the real date of the concert, I met up with Laura, Jim, Scott, and Scott’s friend Cory in the Washington Mutual parking lot across the street from the Proletariat.

It was an early show – starting around 7:00 – and so we waited for the first act, The Teeth, to finish before Page France took the stage.

Michael Nau of Page France

I had never listened to, or even heard of Page France before the show (I was going for Bishop Allen) and they absolutely blew me away.
Vocalist and guitarist Michael Nau leads the group, which is now comprised of backup vocalist Whitney McGraw, Clinton Jones, and Jason Reeder, as well as a few others who help flesh out the group’s sound in the studio. Their sound was described to me as “squeaky clean pop,” which I guess is somewhat true, but their lyrics reveal more depth than that. To me, their sound seems be reminiscent of both Death Cab and The Decemberists – it all depends on the album and the song.

The majority of their set was pulled from their 2005 album Hello, Dear Wind.
Highlights included the songs “Elephant,” “Hat and Rabbit,” and they closed with “Chariot,” at the request of Laura and Jim.

“You know you want to!” Jim yelled, to which Nau responded, “No.. I really don’t. But we’ll play it anyway.”
That, in a nutshell is what is great about a band like Page France.. they are in it to see their fans happy.

Which, in a way, leads me to Bishop Allen.

Whitney McGraw of Page France


Justin Rice and Christian Rudder are Bishop Allen, a twosome out of Brooklyn whose second full-length but first studio album, The Broken String, came out on July 24 on Dead Oceans Records. On this album, and the supporting tour, they are joined by Cully Symington and Darbie Nowatka.

Bishop Allen has been a pretty upbeat band – their 2003 self-released album Charm School was pretty happy, and the majority of the 12 EP’s they released (one per month of 2006) were happy. The Broken String, while definitely not downer-rock by any means, sounds more mature and introspective than Charm School.

Justin Rice of Bishop Allen

Just about all the songs they played, if not all the songs, were from their latest album – an album that includes what I believe to be one of the better songs ever written about the Battle of Hampton Roads (or the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack). “The Monitor” is the album opener, a soulful and emotional song that sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Other highlights include “The Chinatown Bus,” the ultimately triumphant “Flight 180,” and the simple but beautiful “Butterfly Nets,” on which Darbie Nowatka steps out from behind the keys and takes the mic. “Corazon,” a love song about a jilted piano, with a sound that, like the subject, is a departure from the norm. “Rain,” a song that Symington dedicated to the Gulf Coast weather system, seems fitting for us Houstonians right now, with the lyrics, “if it’s ever gonna get any better, it’s gotta get worse for a day.”

Bishop Allen kept the crowd captivated (except for Cory, who is unfortunately a rap-only kind of guy) and ended the night at 10 so that some DJ could come on. A long line of fans looking for merch greeted Rudder after the show.

I bought their new CD and was kind of stunned by the less than welcome response from Rudder and Rice when I asked them to sign it. Perhaps I have been spoiled by a pretty long run of extremely nice artists, but come on guys.. I’m a fan who waited until everyone cleared out for you to make a couple squiggly motions with a pen. Give me a break.

However, I won’t let Bishop Allen’s dismissive attitude keep me from singing their praises – the new CD is really good, with plenty of jangly guitar and tambourine to go around.

Buy Page France’s older CD Hello, Dear Wind here, or buy their new album here.
Buy Bishop Allen’s The Broken String here.