DIIV 8/17/17

(a) setlist

  1. (Drunn)
  2. Past Lives
  3. Human
  4. When You Sleep (My Bloody Valentine cover)
  5. Healthy Moon
  6. Dopamine
  7. Judge (Alex G cover)
  8. Summertime (Girls cover) (with Tommy Gardner)
  9. Needle in the Hay (Elliott Smith cover)
  10. Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime (Beck cover)
  11. Sometime
  12. Hollow (Alex G cover)
  13. Earthboy
  14. How Long Have You Known?
  15. Loose Ends
  16. Under the Sun
  17. Home
  18. Wait (with Tommy Gardner)

(b) highlights

  • this is the first time I’ve seen DIIV and given their sound a chance, and it was so cool
  • the intimacy of this performance at Murmrr was mindblowing; it truly felt like I was invited to someone’s apartment for an intimate, private acoustic gig
  • the art and visual component of this show was so incredible that the moment the show ended, I immediately found the artist in the balcony who was manipulating the ink and paint that was being projected on the sheet behind the performance. it was amazing.
  • lead singer Zachary Cole Smith was such a compelling figure during the show, opening up about his sobriety, recovery, and self-awareness in performing. it was quite refreshing.

(c) lowlights

  • there was nothing I really disliked about the performance, other than maybe Murmrr is basically in the middle of nowhere Brooklyn

 

(d) overall thoughts

I ended up going to this show because a friend of mine is a huge DIIV fan. I really like walking into shows blind, especially when I’m with a friend who loves the artist. It makes me excited to experience the show through my friend’s eyes.

Without a doubt, the best part of this performance was the overwhelming intimacy of the space and sound. The acoustic softness partnered with the beautiful live art projecting on the stage made the overall stage design so unique and momentous. Layers of carpets, dimly-lit lamps, and a messy coffee table with personal items and trinkets created the perfect stage – as if the show was a living play.

When Zachary softly sang his personal songs – and even threw in a couple of favorites from songwriters Alex G and Elliott Smith – I felt like I could feel every emotion pour out of him. Every couple of songs, he would whisper into the mic, “God I’m so nervous” and it instantly endeared him to everyone. Despite the heavy subject matter of many of the lyrics, the band kept it light by joking together and bringing up that reality show staple Big Brother. It was hard not to smile that night.

Whoever’s idea it was to include a few artists up in the balcony, dripping and manipulating color and paint on screens and canvases that would reflect on a screen behind the stage – please know that you’re a genius. Every song felt like it had even more meaning and weight when it was coupled with swirling colors telling their own story.

Bottom line: DIIV is such a unique group of people willing to open up and bare their souls in a way that felt refreshing and off-the-cuff without the hint of calculation. The artistry of combining colorful visuals with a personalized stage design and acoustic takes on songs created a beautiful space and unforgettable night.

Andrew Bird 7/28/17

(a) setlist

  1. Hole in the Ocean Floor
  2. Fiery Crash
  3. A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left
  4. Tenuousness
  5. Why?
  6. Capsized
  7. Truth Lies Low
  8. Roma Fade
  9. My Sister’s Tiny Hands
  10. Give It Away
  11. Orpheo
  12. Three White Horses
  13. Are You Serious
  14. Valleys of the Young
  15. Pulaski at Night
  16. Darkmatter

Encore:

  1. Caravan (Duke Ellington cover with Esperanza Spalding)
  2. Fake Palindromes
  3. Tables and Chairs

(b) highlights

  • Andrew Biiiiirrddddd, I love this man
  • I only stayed for the first couple of songs and was grateful to catch “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” – one of my all-time favorite songs
  • the Prospect Park Bandshell is so beautiful and cool, I hope I can go back there for a show

(c) lowlights

  • I didn’t get to stay for the whole show, but I enjoyed the little bit I saw
  • this show was packkkkeddd. like too many people were filling the space, and it bummed me out that tickets were free, but that meant you had to sit behind dozens of rows of rich people who regularly give money to Prospect Park.

 

(d) overall thoughts

Andrew Bird is an artist I’ve loved for years and I was super psyched for this show. Even though several things went wrong and I couldn’t stay for the whole gig, I loved every moment I got to see.

The Prospect Park Bandshell is a huge and beautiful venue that I can’t believe I haven’t visited before. It was a warm Friday night and the grass was full of families, friends, and food, not to mention, sweet-sounding strings echoing in the night. Andrew Bird’s impeccable whistling, measured violin playing, and ethereal voice lifting through the crowd was enough to give me chills and remind me of all the reasons why I love him.

“A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” and “Tenuousness” are some of my all-time favorite Andrew Bird songs and they sounded just as beautiful as I imagined they be. The stage was sparse, but thoughtful lighting, and a giant, rotating gramophone beside Andrew set the scene well. I’m disappointed to have missed “Darkmatter” and “Fake Palindromes” – other favorite tracks of mine – but I’m eager to check out Andrew again in a more traditional theatre setting.

 

Bottom line: Andrew Bird is nothing short of an artist. The subtlety of his art through strings, voice, and whistling deserves an appropriate stage and I look forward to one day seeing him on one.

7/12/17 Echo & The Bunnymen, Violent Femmes

(i) lineup

1a. Echo & The Bunnymen
2b. Violent Femmes

(1a) (Echo & The Bunnymen’s) setlist

    1. Rescue
    2. Villiers Terrace
    3. All That Jazz
    4. Seven Seas
    5. Bedbugs And Ballyhoo
    6. Over The Wall
    7. Never Stop
    8. Bring On The Dancing Horses
    9. Nothing Lasts Forever
    10. The Killing Moon
    11. The Cutter

Encore:

  1. Lips Like Sugar

(1b) highlights

  • Echo & The Bunnymen! Love these guys and this was my first time seeing them live
  • Not many groups that formed over 30 years ago can still sound good today – the Bunnymen are one of them
  • if you claim to be a fan of the Bunnymen, but have never cried in a dark room to “The Killing Moon,” then you’re a liar
  • the chorus of “Lips Like Sugar” is one of the greatest choruses ever written, please fight me on this, I love a good squabble over the important things in life
  • the Ford Amphitheater on the Coney Island is pretty freaking cool – the idea of seeing a show right on the boardwalk with all the rides and games just behind the stage is so charming

(1c) lowlights

  • our seats were pretty far away and the Bunnymen didn’t have a screen or anything to watch, so they were very small; their moodiness and goth aesthetic was still evident from the high seats though, thank god
  • the band was billed as the headliner, yet they performed first for this co-headline tour and I was anticipating them closing. I wish their set was longer, but can’t complain much for the great performance they put on.

(1d) overall thoughts

Like most of the music I listen to, I first discovered Echo & The Bunnymen back in high school. Around 14, I got really into The Smiths, The Cure, U2, Joy Division and similar 80’s groups, so it wasn’t long before I discovered Ian McCulloch and his moody tunes. Sophomore year of high school, we actually had to take a required religion course for a semester, so I ended up in a class called Hebrew Scriptures. Miraculously, the teacher of that class was not only a big 80’s music buff, but mentioned in passing that before he considered entering the seminary, he was a touring roadie for Echo & the Bunnymen for several years. Naturally, I was in awe.

Some of my earliest memories with EATB music is riding in the back of my parents’ car with my headphones on (back when you would put headphones on instead of in, what a time to be alive), wearing all black, and feeling emo af listening to the dark, sexy sounds of men from the 80’s who emotional and wore makeup because being different is being cool. I probably listened to “Lips Like Sugar” hundreds of times on a playlist stuck between The Cure’s “Disintegration” and New Order’s “Ceremony.”

Seeing EATB at Coney Island very much reminded me of that time in my life, and by the looks of the crowd, that music transported others too. Everyone was in their late 30’s to mid 40’s, mostly tattooed, and felt like they were from a different time. It’s not difficult to allow yourself to be carried away by the music when you remember how, in some form or another, it was there for you when no one else was.

Bottom line: Whether it’s 1984 or 2017, Echo & The Bunnymen are moody, broody artists who know exactly how to tap into just that perfect realm of Sadness. But that doesn’t mean they won’t also make you dance with lips like sugar kisses.

(2a) (Violent Femmes’) setlist

    1. I’m Nothing
    2. Memory
    3. Good For/At Nothing
    4. Love Love Love Love Love
    5. Blister in the Sun
    6. Kiss Off
    7. Country Death Song
    8. Waiting For the Bus
    9. Jesus Walking on the Water
    10. I Held Her in My Arms
    11. Gimme The Car
    12. Gone Daddy Gone
    13. Black Girls
    14. Add It Up
    15. American Music

(2b) highlights

  • Fun Fact: it’s impossible to dislike Violent Femmes, and if you say you do, then by God you cannot be helped
  • Violent Femmes feel like a true phenomenon – they tore through the alternative scene for a solid as all hell 7 years in the 80’s, took some time off, then came right back for another solid 11 years and it feels like no one noticed
  • I feel like most of life can be broken into two parts: the very brief window of time before having heard “Blister in the Sun” and then the rest of your life after hearing it
  • Not many bands can start a song, then completely stop singing and playing their instruments so the audience can finish an entire verse and chorus, but the Femmes can
  • If you think because VF mostly sang “coming-of-age” DIY Midwestern garage alternative rock when they were young so their high-level energy must be behind them…you’d be wrong. These guys are still killing it
  • There was what can only be described as a 10-foot tall brass saxophone onstage the whole show that was played maybe 3 times, amazing
  • Amanda Palmer randomly showed up to join the band on a few songs; as a Dresden Dolls fan, that was pretty cool
  • The drummer, who is currently John Sparrow, played drums standing up, oh and his “drums” were a single snare drum, a giant gong, and a genuine backyard BBQ grill on wheels – need I say more

(2c) lowlights

  • again, our seats were far, but Violent Femmes actually had a screen to watch and the crowd was pretty into it, so not too many complaints here

(2d) overall thoughts

Violent Femmes are a band with music so specifically iconic that I struggle to remember the first time I even heard them. They’ve always existed in culture and the zeitgeist for me in a strong visceral way. To put it super crudely, there’s something about VF that feels so youthful, fun, and particularly DIY that I imagine discovering them as a weird kid in the 80’s is how alternative 90’s kids felt discovering Blink 182. The songs are kind of dumb but speak so specifically and strangely to that audience. (Violent Femmes have a thick layer of authenticity that Blink is lacking, but there’s an analogy somewhere there.)

With probably one of the most fully-realized debut albums ever, VF had and still have some of the most iconic singalong songs I can think of. Even after hearing “Kiss Off” and “American Music” one time, you feel like you know the words. Every song feels familiar and intimate, and I really think that punky garage band quality of their sound convinces people that they could’ve written “Blister in the Sun” or “Good Feeling” too. Like, do you even remember the first time you heard “Gone Daddy Gone”? It feels like it’s always been in the air, in the back of your head, on the tip of your tongue.

The guys are older now, decidedly less punk with their t-shirts tucked into their jeans, but damn, they can still jam. Name another band who can bring a 10-foot tall brass sax and BBQ grill onstage and use them as instruments. Who else would have the guts? They still sound great, they still have that wink, wink-nudge, nudge attitude, and they still want everyone to singalong. By the looks of this show, everyone is still willing to join in and everyone sure likes American music.

Bottom line: Gordon Gano might be the original Rivers Cuomo; only the best of the best can make authentic dorkiness genuinely cool. Violent Femmes started out by speaking for the weirdos, so I only hope they continue being a mouthpiece for those not afraid enough to be different.

Bonus Material!

Clip of “Blister in the Sun”:

Franz Ferdinand 6/5/17

(a) setlist

    1. Jacqueline
    2. No You Girls
    3. The Dark of the Matinee
    4. Paper Cages
    5. Do You Want To
    6. Walk Away
    7. Stand on the Horizon
    8. Lazy Boy
    9. The Fallen
    10. Michael
    11. Huck & Jim
    12. Take Me Out
    13. Ulysses

Encore:

  1. Always Ascending
  2. Darts of Pleasure
  3. Love Illumination
  4. This Fire

(b) highlights

  • Franz. motherflipping. Ferd. i. nand.
  • “Stand on the Horizon”! “Darts of Pleasure”!!!! Also, every other song.
  • Warsaw is kind of a fantastic venue and slowly become a favorite of mine
  • The crowd was a joy for the most part; awesome Franz fans were surrounding us with only one sour grape and everyone was so, so happy to be seeing these guys for the first non-festival real show since late 2013. That is way too long to go without them
  • Let’s all use this opportunity to give Bob Hardy a shoutout – what a bass player, what a gem, what a guy
  • throwback to that brief month in mid-2013 when I sang that bit from “Ulysses” every day: “laaaa la la la la, Ulysseeeeees” – what a time
  • Alex ripped his shirt sometime before the encore and like, just kept playing and his entire right side was exposed and it was so punk rock, but in a Scottish art school kind of way.

(c) lowlights

  • one crappy person in the crowd and that’s it; this show was a gem

(d) overall thoughts

I will never as long as I live not love Franz Ferdinand. Even when they’ve put out music I wasn’t crazy about, I still liked it and respected it more than other groups I like. Everything Franz has ever done has been deliberate, artful, and with joy – what more could a fan ask for?

This night at the Warsaw was just fantastic, even including the fact that there were two openers. Alex Kapranos, forever a joyful and hammy frontman, was quick on his toes and jacknifed more than a few scissor kicks while playing guitar. His hair is long and his face looks a bit older than we remember him, but the whole package is still there. You can tell that he’s still revitalized by the music they play and really enjoys himself up there. Bob Hardy on bass is the textbook definition of solid bassist – not very quick to take to the spotlight but whose presence would be immediately noticeable if he were gone. He has an air of Mark Stoermer in his playing, but with a bit more of a smile and I love it.

The obvious standouts in the set – “Do You Want To,” “The Fallen,” and “Michael,” to name a few – don’t make the tracks before and after pale in comparison, but instead bolster the performance. With red shoes tapping on hardwood floor, Alex remained spry even through the unbearably fast songs and thoughtfully measured during the ballads. I could’t help but let my mind wander during their performance, asking myself what could’ve and might’ve been if America had embraced this band in the same way they took to Arctic Monkeys in the last decade. As I mentioned after seeing Franz at Gov Ball, their influence is still resonating throughout the indie genre to this day; Franz might suitably be the grandfathers of the modern new wave genre, but how many people actually acknowledge that?

In a world where The Strokes are somehow worshipped for creating the post-punk revival, I constantly ask myself where Franz Ferdinand sits. Even if they never quite get the recognition they deserve in their own musical lifetimes, I have no doubt that their forebears will remember their lasting effect. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard an audience sing guitar riffs aloud and two of those times were when Franz played “Take Me Out.” That means something. this band means something, their music means something, and the memories they forge with every performance of their timeless songs will forever mean something, if only to me.

 

Bottom line: Franz Ferdinand are nothing but treasures. If I could ever in some way make a mark on how we conceive of new wave alternative music, or the post-punk revival of the 21st century, I will be the first pallbearer and light to illuminate the works of Franz. I might hope that they forever live on, but, luckily, I know their music always will.

Father John Misty 5/12/17

(a) setlist

    1. Pure Comedy
    2. Total Entertainment Forever
    3. Things It Would’ve Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution
    4. Ballad of the Dying Man
    5. Birdie
    6. A Bigger Paper Bag
    7. When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay
    8. When You’re Smiling And Astride Me
    9. Strange Encounter
    10. Nothing Good Ever Happens At the Goddamn Thirsty Crow
    11. Funtimes In Babylon
    12. Nancy From Now On
    13. Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)
    14. True Affection
    15. Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
    16. I Love You, Honeybear
    17. The Ideal Husband

Encore:

  1. Bored in the USA
  2. The Memo
  3. Real Love Baby
  4. I’m Writing A Novel
  5. So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain
  6. Holy Shit

(b) highlights

  • I got to see Father John Misty three nights in a row in two different venues, pretty sure the whole experience was a highlight
  • My best friends came to this show with me even though they aren’t huge Josh fans (their loss) so the whole night was 60% me having a great time, 25% me asking, “isn’t this amazing?!!”, 10% me asking, “are you enjoying this?? you get, right? do you get it?”, and 5% me saying “this is my favorite part!!!!”
  • Josh played three shows in a row plus a spot at Jimmy Fallon this very same day and wasn’t tired at all, what a champ
  • Farmer Jah Misery forgot the words to “I’m Writing a Novel” ….twice, and then just decided to rewrite the final verse and include a refrain of “T is for Tennessee, T is for Texas…Freedom!” and it was fantastic.

(c) lowlights

  • This crowd was the worst of the three days by far; literally no one likes when that person yells out between songs to commandeer the show. Stop yelling out song titles and dumb shit so the artist will respond to you, this is not your comedy hour – it’s his performance. Go home.

(d) overall thoughts

Three nights in a row of Father John Misty just confirmed that I would literally follow this dude for an entire tour, an entire album, an entire…whatever. The setlist was identical as the previous night, but I didn’t even notice until someone pointed it out to me. When everything can still feel so fresh after three days, you know he’s doing something right.

Something notable to mention is how many tracks completely transformed for me through the process of this show and the whole week, really. I was never a huge fan of “True Affection” on Honeybear; I would often skip it or listen to something else twice in place of that. But the way it’s presented live, it’s impossible for me to not hear it and want to completely lose it in a mindless dance. The stage was backlit pink every night it began so that you could only make out Josh and the band’s outline. A giant neon-seeming heart would pulse and light-up in the upper right corner of the scrim behind the stage. When I hear that song now, I see that heart – it’s still lighting up for me.

On the other hand, I always enjoyed “The Thirsty Crow,” but I don’t think it was until this performance that I actually “got” what it was about. The way that Josh acts out this pseudo-masculine conversation back and forth with a girl who’s only present in the lyrics but not physically onstage completely blew my mind. It felt like watching a play performed aloud that I had only previously read. “When The God of Love Returns” took on a whole new meaning of creation, life, and belief in a way that had completely gone over my head the first 20 times I heard the album. The closing line “To make something out of nothing sounds like someone else I know” feels insanely portentous and crippling and moving live, I cannot believe it didn’t connect sooner. Amazing.

Even classics like “Bored in the USA” and “Holy Shit” come across as Next-Level-Classics when performed in a setting that isn’t your bedroom, or coming through headphones on a crowded train. Hearing others sing along and watching how Josh puts new emphasis on certain words in lyrics you’ve heard a million times is like watching your favorite movie with the director’s commentary turned on. The show couldn’t feel more intimate and you couldn’t feel more connected.

 

Bottom line: Father John Misty’s shows are so memorable and staggering because the context of performance elevates even the simplest of songs; when Josh is able to control how you hear his music and deliver it in a unique way, everything takes on a new meaning. Even if a song goes over your head, all it takes is half a lyric to help you connect, and then the music is all yours.

 

Father John Misty 5/11/17

(a) setlist

    1. Pure Comedy
    2. Total Entertainment Forever
    3. Things It Would’ve Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution
    4. Ballad of the Dying Man
    5. Birdie
    6. A Bigger Paper Bag
    7. When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay
    8. When You’re Smiling And Astride Me
    9. Strange Encounter
    10. Nothing Good Ever Happens At the Goddamn Thirsty Crow
    11. Funtimes In Babylon
    12. Nancy From Now On
    13. Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)
    14. True Affection
    15. Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
    16. I Love You, Honeybear
    17. The Ideal Husband

Encore:

  1. Bored in the USA
  2. The Memo
  3. I’m Writing A Novel
  4. Real Love Baby
  5. So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain
  6. Holy Shit

(b) highlights

  • Didn’t think the setlist could get better from the night before, and then the setlist got better from the night before
  • This was the closest I’d ever been to Josh during a performance and it was, uh, a lot of emotions
  • This was my first time at Brooklyn Steel and it was bomb; the stage set-up fit perfectly despite being standing-room only, the lighting was still ace, and the energy was so fresh
  • Adding “The Ideal Husband” and “Real Love Baby” and “I’m Writing a Novel” totally killed me – three wonderful songs that felt like a perfect treat
  • The crowd was so hyped, Josh was so into every song, every moment, and every feeling; felt like a religious experience by the time everything ended

(c) lowlights

  • If I had to choose one thing, I’d say that people yelling out at Josh between songs makes me so upset. Stop demanding songs from him, stop trying to get him to be your monkey and make him dance. (But this crowd really was overwhelmingly great minus a few, good job FJM fans.)

(d) overall thoughts

As I mentioned in my previous post, I wasn’t sure anything could top seeing Father John Misty perform at Kings Theatre the night before this show. And in a way, that show remained untouchable and in tact. But this first night at Brooklyn Steel was a whole other bag of goodies. It was magical, intimate, enlightenment, and special. He played for over to hours, what more could you ask for?

My first night at Brooklyn Steel was promising. I’m always skeptical of new music venues in the city – especially when they’re in Brooklyn – but this venue was fire. Feels like Bowery Ballroom in the front and looks like Terminal 5 in the back, the acoustics were solid, the space was well-used, and I’m psyched to go back. If only because it might remind me of this show with Josh.

Opening with Pure Comedy again in that sort of space felt so deliberate and intentional that it was impossible to not get wrapped up in its meaning. Josh has no fear in performing songs whose main component is “existential dread with no situation for dancing” and I love that so much. I stood second row center and felt like everyone hung on his every word from beginning to middle to end. The thematic structure of the performance was my favorite part, hands down. With the first third of the night featuring his newest album, Josh eases you into a sense of The Current. It feels like now, it feels politically scary, but it remains ever so hopeful. You reflect over and within every song and feel yourself give away to his story. Then the second third of the show begins.

If the performances first third was all about existential dread, then the second third was all about slowly unraveling to carnal desires. The Honeybear-heavy set reminded everyone how stupidly and sonically perfect that album was, while also highlighting beautiful it is to watch Josh become unglued over a woman. The inclusion of Fear Fun moments painted a picture of Josh as an artist and I could not look away. By the time he got to “The Ideal Husband,” half the crowd was jumping around and dancing everywhere, completely juxtaposing the beginning of the set when everyone stood quietly agape and listened to how the world might end. The lights were wild, I was jumping and scream-singing along, but couldn’t help asking myself, “How did we get here?”

When the encore hit, I didn’t think the show could get better. But that’s right when the final thematic kick happens. Just at the end it when you reach enlightenment. I lost it at the inclusion of “I’m Writing a Novel” and “Real Love Baby,” which took on a different light in that context. When “Holy Shit” began, it felt like everyone around me was crying, or at least in some other emotional headspace. I still have no idea how we got from point A to point B to point C, but I was so willing to let Josh take control and give us a ride. And damn, was that ride a wild and magical one.

Bottom line: This performance at Brooklyn Steel was one to always remember and never forget. The essence of the stories Josh tells might not always ring true for everyone present, but it’s undeniable that you walk away learning just as much about yourself as the mystical man who performed them. Go see Father John Misty, or miss out on something special.

Father John Misty 5/10/17

(a) setlist

    1. Pure Comedy
    2. Total Entertainment Forever
    3. Things It Would’ve Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution
    4. Ballad of the Dying Man
    5. Birdie
    6. A Bigger Paper Bag
    7. When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay
    8. When You’re Smiling And Astride Me
    9. Strange Encounter
    10. Nothing Good Ever Happens At the Goddamn Thirsty Crow
    11. Funtimes In Babylon
    12. Nancy From Now On
    13. Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)
    14. True Affection
    15. Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
    16. I Love You, Honeybear

Encore:

  1. Bored in the USA
  2. The Memo
  3. So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain
  4. In Twenty Years or So
  5. Holy Shit

(b) highlights

  • Three words: JOSH. U. A.
  • Where do I begin…everything. Just everything. The beginning, the middle, the end
  • That setlist. The whole thing seemed to be constructed in three parts, somehow representing a bit from each album and telling a wider narrative with interweaving narratives, god I wanna puke, it was great
  • The Kings Theatre. Holy shit, what a place. It was staggering how impressive it was in person. The high ceiling, the seats, the acoustics. Fantastic.
  • I had amazing seats: dead center and maybe 20 rows back. I got to see the whole stage set-up while feeling still so close. It was beautiful.
  • The lighting was next-level and whoever constructed it needs a raise
  • Josh was just…wow. Wow. Josh.

(c) lowlights

  • The venue was hard to get to, but I am reaching so hard here, I might throwing my back out. The night was perfect.

(d) overall thoughts

I’ll admit, I was looking forward to this show for months. The first time I saw Father John Misty live was last summer at Gov Ball. Even then, I had been listening to his albums and was super hyped for that set, which totally killed. I went into that show excited and a fan of his music. I left saying, “When he comes back, I’ll follow him anywhere.” So I guess that’s how I ended up seeing Josh three nights in a row. This was night one.

I’ve written my thoughts on Pure Comedy elsewhere, but to sum it up: it’s damn good. It’s complicated, it’s sad, it’s raw, it’s great, it’s too much, it’s just right, it’s an existential nightmare. It’s a bit like Josh himself. To say that the show – particularly the first third -that really functioned as a mini-Pure Comedy microcosm is an understatement. We were taken to Pure Comedy‘s depths almost instantly. I know Josh initially conceived this tour as a musical, or at least a more traditional theatre type of performance, and you could really feel that in the first third. Every word sung felt heavy with meaning and a sort of permanence. Every note was relevant and every movement deliberate.

I was so incredibly shocked and moved by “When The God Of Love Returns They’ll Be Hell To Pay” – a song that I had neither hated nor exceptionally loved the first twenty or so times I heard it. But seeing it live made it click in such a real way that I’ll never forget that performance. “The Memo” is my favorite song on the new album and I was ecstatic when he played it. It lived up to all my expectations and more. Getting to hear more of Fear Fun is always a treat and we all know Honeybear is timeless art.

I think the most memorable part of the show will be how, for the first time in quite literally my whole concert life, by the time we got to the end of “I Love You, Honeybear,” I genuinely thought the show was over. Because it felt over. It felt perfect. The thought of an encore didn’t even occur to me. I seriously had the thought, “What else could he even play? He played everything and it was perfect” even though I know intimately the depths of his discography. But then he came back and played more. And again, at the end of every song, I thought, “That was perfect. This could end here and I’d be happy.” But he kept going. And he it kept getting better and better. Somewhere just before the key change in “Holy Shit,” I was crying.

As a whole, the show was perfectly presented in the best setting and, above all, beautiful. Josh directed the crowd several times throughout the night to either sit or stand according to whatever song he was playing and there is no reason at all that should’ve worked for someone with an average fan-age younger than 60, but it did. He was the perfect conductor and I felt totally at his whim in the orchestra.

Bottom line: Father John Misty is a vision, a poet, a performer not worthy of our time. This performance is one that will stick with me for years to come and I’ll never not see this man live if he comes to town. If I could be so lucky.

Cold War Kids 4/10/17

(a) setlist

    1. Love Is Mystical
    2. Miracle Mile
    3. Can We Hang On?
    4. So Tied Up
    5. First
    6. Love On The Brain (Rihanna cover)
    7. Something Is Not Right With Me

(b) highlights

  • how great is this band, like really
  • the new songs from LA Divine are so solid, I cannot wait to hear the rest of the album, it’s unreal
  • I’m not really a fan of Rihanna, but dayummm, Nathan brought some real soul to that cover and performance of “Love On The Brain”
  • “Can We Hang On?” is honestly one of my favorite Cold War Kids tracks ever and it only just came out a month or do ago; how incredible that a band I’ve loved for over a decade can still create great work
  • the sound in the venue was fantastic; Rough Trade is solid and better than most other Brooklyn venues, in my opinion

(c) lowlights

  • wish the set could’ve been longer

(d) overall thoughts

I’ve talked about this extensively before, but Cold War Kids are probably one of the most underrated bands out there. This show was a free in-store performance at Rough Trade to promote their new album LA Divine, but it mostly worked as a sweet appetizer for a meal later on that you know is gonna be good.

I love going to one of the first shows of any band’s new album and tour, but I feel like it sets the tone for what that album and tour season will look like. The fact that so many of LA Divine‘s songs immediately pulled me in, and the crowd responded so positively to every track – I really feel like this album will be big for the band. And I feel so lucky to have witnessed that first hand, and get to watch it play-out in real time.

Although the show itself was short, the band played as if it was a full-bodied set. They were high-energy and engaged, as usual, playing into how the stage was small, the venue was small, and the crowd was packed tight. The smallness aided in the intimacy in the best way. Nathan Willett brought his soulful lyrics to life and Matt Maust killed it on his funky bass as usual. I was disappointed when the band announced sometime last year that guitarist Dann Gallucci would be leaving only to be replaced by David Quon, but I was pleasantly surprised by his performance. His guitar work on “So Tied Up” was a stand out for sure and I look forward to seeing him at future shows.

Ultimately, the best part about the show was remembering how much joy and happiness Cold War Kids’ music brings to me. The crowd was having a great time – responding positively to new and old songs alike – and everything felt so happy and joyful. I think it speaks volumes to reflect on how I used to hate “Something Is Not Right With Me” when it first came out in 2008 on Loyalty To Loyalty, and how elated and moved I was hearing just this past week. Cold War Kids are the type of band who understand the importance of storytelling and crafting a real sound that resonates with a crowd; seeing them live always reminds me of that.

 

Bottom line: Cold War Kids are true artists who craft not only meaningful hits with ease, but perform in such a way that you can’t help but feel connect to them. LA Divine is going to be huge for them and I cannot wait to see the success it brings.

We Are Scientists 1/12/17

(a) setlist

    1. Make It Easy
    2. Cash Cow
    3. Chick Lit
    4. Buckle
    5. Dumb Luck
    6. Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt
    7. Rules Don’t Stop
    8. It’s A Hit
    9. I Don’t Bite
    10. What You Do Best
    11. Textbook
    12. We Need A Word
    13. Impatience
    14. After Hours
    15. The Great Escape

Encore:

  1. Nice Guys
  2. Too Late

(b) highlights

  • as the kids say these days, We Are Scientists is bae
  • always down for Keith + Chris (and sometimes + Drummer Keith) = comedy hour
  • the crowd was shockingly great – saw the usual faces but a ton of newbies too; it’s cool to think how far this band has come in a lot of ways
  • they played my fav song off the new album, “We Need To Have a Word”!!
  • that encore felt very fresh and new – a nice change from the usual show closer of “After Hours”
  • all-around solid setlist – packed with the usual hits, obviously, but arranged in a new way that kept momentum high and gave new songs room to breathe
  • Christopher Cain: bassist, comedian, curly hair extraordinaire, period.

(c) lowlights

  • this was probably the first time in 10+ years of seeing this band that I thought they looked tired while performing.

(d) overall thoughts

We Are Scientists will always be my band. I’ll always love them, I’ll always see them, no matter what, until the end of time. This isn’t really news. What is interesting abut seeing a band like this one – local heroes of NYC who are and have been supremely underrated for over a decade – is watching all the ways they’ve changed over the years and all the ways they haven’t.

Anyone who’s seen We Are Scientists live will tell you that their show is – for lack of better phrase – a real romp. It’s usually two parts musical act, one part comedy schtick, and one and half parts IDGAF attitude that creates the perfection combination of charm. Keith Murray and Chris Cain have always given off the air that WAS is something fun, a side project that alludes to something everyone slapped together in a garage to blow off some steam and chill with some dudes. The guys are funny, joke around, and are otherwise aloof to what’s happening musically or practically outside the walls of the venue during showtime. This attitude has attracted a disproportionately high male fanbase compared to other indie rock tribes, and a comfort level of performance that has them fit like a glove in any Brooklyn venue on a weekday night.

But anyone who’s actually real fan of WAS know that all of that is just an act. It’s nothing but a farce. Even a surface-level lyrical listen to any of the band’s five studio album shows that this band has genuine heart, touchy-feely emotions, and enough harmonies to make a Beach Boy perk up his ears. Having this understanding of the band’s true selves in light of their performance selves gives every live show a wink-wink, nudge-nudge layer of meta-commentary. And in a strange way, that’s what makes their shows so fun. Yeah, they’re goofy and cracking jokes, and sometimes spend more time on the in-between song banter than playing their actual songs, but the band can’t help but expose themselves on songs like “Textbook,” “Make It Easy,” and “We Need A Word.” They’re the sensitive bros who aren’t too afraid to be sensitive, but they’re gonna crack two jokes for every heartfelt lyric just in case someone actually realizes that these guys genuinely care about their music and their performance. Somewhere along the way, WAS tricked us into thinking they were just two dudes who liked to jam on Saturday nights when they’re really a pair of hard-working musicians who’ve never quite received the comeuppance they deserved.

 

Bottom line: We Are Scientists are solid musicians who’ve been playing tricks on us for decades, and I can’t wait for the inevitable moment that everyone comes around and awakens to their subtle genius.

Kaiser Chiefs 2/19/14

(a) setlist

    1. The Factory Gates
    2. Never Miss A Beat
    3. Everything Is Average Nowadays
    4. Everyday I Love You Less And Less
    5. Bows & Arrows
    6. Little Shocks
    7. Coming Home
    8. You Can Have It All
    9. Modern Way
    10. Ruffians On Parade
    11. I Predict A Riot
    12. Ruby
    13. Misery Company
    14. The Angry Mob

Encore:

  1. Cannons
  2. Oh My God

(b) highlights

  • yooooo, this setlist is ace – I loved everything from the new tracks of Education, Education, Education & War like “The Factory Gates” to the verified classics like “Modern Way”
  • I’m pretty sure “Bows & Arrows” is in my top 3 or 5 Kaiser Chiefs songs. Ever. God, I just want to run down the street and scream-sing, “We the people, created equal! We the people, created equal!” and that feeling is the best.
  • this was my first time seeing Kaiser Chiefs is nearly 7 years and it was awesome. To see how they’ve grown (and slimmed down, in the case of Mr. Wilson) musically and as performers was pretty staggering.
  • the on-stage banter was top-notch and Ricky engaged with the audience a ton, including bringing a dude on-stage to slow dance during “You Can Have It All.” Total highlight.
  • if “Oh My God” wasn’t one of your favorite songs during the early to mid-2000’s, you’re lying.
  • I uncharacteristically stayed after the show and met Ricky and Simon, which was a bit of an out-of-body experience, to say the least. I remember being 14 and singing “I Predict A Riot” in my bedroom the summer of 2005 and now Ricky Wilson is telling me I look like a young Carrie Bradshaw. What is this world.

(c) lowlights

  • does wearing the exact same Kaiser Chiefs shirt as the dude next to you count?
  • The Music Hall of Williamsburg could have better sound, man. If you’re not standing dead-center, you’re a bit off.

(d) overall thoughts

As I mentioned, this show was the first time seeing Kaiser Chiefs since their release of Yours Truly, Angry Mob back in 2007. I’ve been a fan since Day 1 of hearing “I Predict A Riot” back during the NME Tour of 2005 when Kaiser Chiefs first started kicking things around with The Killers, Bloc Party, and The Futureheads during that summer. Unlike many stupidly-popular alt-indie rock bands today, Kaiser Chiefs started out not only with solid songs but an undeniable stage presence. They wore silly suits, skinny ties, and eyeliner like the rest of them, but Ricky Wilson was also climbing up rafters, hanging off balconies, and climbing into crowds. Even in 2014, that excitement was still there. During new songs and old, Ricky was throwing micstands around, swinging the mic by its chord, and engaging with the small theatre as if it were a festival with – dare I say it – even a bit more energy than I remember.

Sure, some things were different about this show than ones in previous years. Nick Hodgson, the drummer and notable songwriter of the band had gone and been replaced by a pretty cool dude named Vijay Mistry. Many indie snobs predicted the end of the band once Nick stepped away from the band just before the recording and release of Education, but – in all honesty – I don’t think the band suffered much. Ricky, most notably, had starred as one of the judges on the British version of The Voice, which was and is still bit weird to think about as a fan. Again, many naysayers decried this as the end of Kaiser Chiefs and the ultimate selling-out point, and in any other context I would be inclined to agree. But after seeing this show and hearing Education – naw, we’re fine. This is Kaiser Chiefs, man. They made a concept album about war, invoking the British WWII experience of rationing, keeping calm and carrying on, and have freaking Bill Nighy recite a long-form poem during “Cannons.” Does anyone really consider that selling out to pop crowds of The Voice?

There’s a lot you can say about Kaiser Chiefs – hell, even I’m not the biggest fan of every single album they’ve done (The Future Is Medieval is a real low-point for me in their discography) – but you can’t say that they don’t bring energy and commitment to every performance. Ricky was up, down, and all-around that stage, up on speakers, down on his knees, a bit more spry than I remember him. It’s difficult to not love them and want to entirely lose your shit during “Everyday I Love You Less And Less” and “The Angry Mob,” and even more significantly, when you can’t help but want to throw your arms around new tracks like “Bows & Arrows,” “Coming Home,” and “Misery Company.” Kaiser Chiefs very much came back with this show even though they never really left.

Bottom line: Education, Education, Education & War wasn’t even fully released by the time we saw this show but we all already knew that it was going to be a great album. And it was. It’s easy to make claims that bands are over when members leave – even key songwriters – but easy claims aren’t always real claims.