Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem at the Starlight Theatre (September 28, 2007)

29 09 2007

Just typing out that title, “Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem” makes me giggle… I would say that I have no words to express what a momentous concert it was, but that is untrue.

After much shuffling of rides, I rode to the Starlight Theatre out in KC with my friend and fellow Music Committee member, Doug. We left Mizzou around 4:30, and after a quick detour into Kansas on our way to the show, got to the venue just before 7. Unfortunately, unlike some of my fan-boy friends, we were not among the first however-many to arrive and get these orange bracelets that allowed you to go down to the front.

(I should also note, for the uninitiated, that the Starlight Theatre is an outdoor theatre. Maybe Houston gives it away too easily by calling our outdoor theaters things like “The Miller Outdoor Theatre,” but I had no clue that I was gonna be outdoors in the Missouri chill for this one, which would be my only minor complaint… and even still, I choose to blame the weather.. stupid Missouri.)

We hit up ye olde merch table, bought some tasty $4 water, and assumed our position in the orchestra section.

LCD Soundsystem was the opening act, which really just seems so strange that THE LCD Soundsystem was opening for someone… but it was incredible nonetheless. They (James Murphy plus his touring band of Hot Chip guitarist Al Doyle, drummer Pat Mahoney, bassist Phil Skarich, and keyboardist Nancy Whang) started the set with “Us v. Them” off of LCD Soundsystem’s latest album, Sound of Silver. It’s a good, solid jam, but I was more excited when he followed it with the party staple of ’05 “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” off of the 2005 self-titled album. Continuing, they played “North American Scum,” the absolutely phenomenal “All My Friends,” “Someone Great,” and “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down.”

The energy in the crowd, most of them undoubtedly there for Arcade Fire, was pretty amazing. It is not often that you can look out on a crowd of more than a thousand people and see them all dancing, whether they mean to or not, to a band that most have never heard. I would credit it to James Murphy’s incredible emotional energy, which is almost as tangible in his video for “All My Friends,” his ode to the 1990’s rave culture, as it was live. Because, really, what is more universal than late nights with friends, dancing around on drugs, and bittersweet nostalgia?

Video for “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem

Arcade Fire was next on the Starlight stage. Televangelists screeched out of screens set up around the stage, growing into a cacophony that frenzied the crowd before the band took the stage as the pages of the famous neon Bible flashed on the screens.

The band (sans the incomparable Owen Pallet) took the stage and launched into what was one of the most visually spectacular shows I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. A set of pipes hung in the back as cameras placed about stage provided images of band members that were projected about the stage in brilliant contrast. The effect was strong as people left their seats and crowded in the aisles in order to be just that much closer to the band.

Arcade Fire is a very physical band to begin with, not necessarily in a “thrashing” sense, but they perform in a way that makes them seem as if they are physically pulling every note and word from some deeper place within themselves. Band members hammer away on the glockenspiel, pound on drums, and dance like the crazy, crazy Canadians that they are. They did a good job of playing from both their debut album, Funeral, and their more recent album, Neon Bible, and also incorporated a The Magnetic Fields cover (“Born on a Train”) into the set, saying that Kansas City, “seems like a train kind of town.”

Other highlights included the crowd-pleasing “No Cars Go,” as well as what I think is the greatest rock song of the year, “Intervention” – a song that Win said is “about the governor, or former governor, of me and my brother’s home state.” What state is that? Why, Texas, of course! (Fun fact: Win and William are from The Woodlands). But none compares to when the Fire played “Rebellion (Lies)” to close out the set… it is probably my favorite song I’ve ever seen played live.

“Rebellion (Lies)” live on Letterman

Arcade Fire setlist: Black Mirror, Keep the Car Running, Neighborhood #2 (Laika), No Cars Go, Haiti, In the Backseat, Born on a Train (The Magnetic Fields cover), Intervention, Antichrist Television Blues, Well and the Lighthouse, Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), Neighborhood #3 (Power Out), and Rebellion (Lies).

It was a brilliant show, all in all… the atmosphere, the energy, the sweat that covered my friend Danny as Win Butler walked through the crowd.

“All My Friends” – LCD Soundsystem
“Kick Out The Chairs” – MUNK feat. James Murphy
“Intervention” – Arcade Fire
“Rebellion (Lies)” – Arcade Fire

ALSO: Please look here and consider supporting Partners In Health, an organization working to provide free health care in Haiti, Regine’s birthplace.


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!

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

How much do I love Menomena?

5 09 2007

Answer: A lot, a lot.

Check out their latest video, this time for “Evil Bee” – probably my second favorite song on Friend and Foe.. although that could change based on the combination of this video and the line “Oh, to be a machine.. Oh, to be wanted, to be useful…” It gets me every time.

Where do all good things go? To Menomena videos evidently… the ones for “Wet and Rusting” and “Rotten Hell” are also pretty spectacular.. check them out. You know you want to.

Wet and Rusting:

Rotten Hell:

Great Album of 07 – Bat for Lashes

2 08 2007

Bat for Lashes – Fur & Gold.

With the exception of Animal Collective and a scant few others, I am not a big fan of the so-called “Naturalismo” movement in American music. I believe I once said that Joanna Newsom, probably the most recognizable name out of the movement, was the most overrated artist ever, and that for all I care she “can eat doodie.” My friend Laura was quick to point out to me that it is in fact I who “should be eating her bowel movements” and that to do so would “be an honor.” Direct quotes there, people.

So, obviously, freak-folk does have some fans on both ends of the musical conversation. Some artists, like The Shivers and Devendra Banhart, embrace the label, while others, like Grizzly Bear, haven’t been so happy with being shoved under the freak-folk umbrella. Similarly, listeners find the genre to be very polarizing – most either love it or hate it, with few moderates.
Journalists, God bless ’em, have created a new, more friendly label for such bands — “New Weird American.” (As opposed to “Old Weird American”?) Though definitely softer than freak-folk, and less baffling than Naturalismo, I still don’t really understand what calling an artist New Weird American is getting at…

Since no one really seems to know for sure what a freak-folk artist sounds like, many are hasty to slap the label on bands just to see if it sticks. Bands like Sunset Rubdown, Iron and Wine, Sufjan Stevens, and the aforementioned Grizzly Bear have all been, in my opinion, misread by those who think that they are freak-folk. However, I am all for Joanna Newsom, Blonde Redhead, Devendra Banhart, and CocoRosie being called such… they are freaky and they play folk music. Seems fitting enough.

What is all this getting at?
Enter Natasha Khan, aka Bat for Lashes. She’s a Pakistan-born, English-raised singer-songwriter whose stellar debut album Fur & Gold finally saw its US release on August 31 after being available overseas since 2006. For almost a year now, since I caught an mp3 of opening track “Horse and I” online, I have been following Bat for Lashes, and I have not been disappointed by this album yet – even though it is probably going to be an easy peg for being freak-folk. Khan’s vocals are definitely the focal point of all the tracks, with the backing instruments being mainly piano, guitar, Theremin, and drum machine.

The best tracks on the album, if I were forced to choose, would probably be “Horse and I,” the absolutely beautiful “Bat’s Mouth,” and “What’s A Girl to Do?” – a song about a breakup that sounds like it was pulled from a 1940’s horror flick, with haunting organ and back up vocals. The music video for this song is also incredible… I’m a sucker for synchronized anything, and synchronized BMX bikers wearing animal masks is just crazy enough to work:

Fans of “You Are Free”-era Cat Power will probably enjoy the somewhat weepy “Sad Eyes,” while fans of Bruce Springsteen honestly will probably not really like her cover of “I’m On Fire.” It’s pretty good nonetheless.

All in all, Bat for Lashes’ new CD will probably please fans of freak-folk (if this album is anything, it is certainly alternative) and might even draw in a few newcomers to the genre. Since it is her debut album, there will inevitably be weak spots, but Fur & Gold is a very solid effort, and has established Natasha Khan as an artist to watch in the future. It isn’t the greatest album of 2007, but it is undoubtedly a great album of 2007.