Tuesday, July 12, 2016

to be out of place

This one is especially late, but (1) I was still on vacation, and (2) I had to get over my jetlag. But here's my report on Wilco in Zagreb, Croatia, for the the Inmusic Festival.

Wilco, Inmusic Festival, June 22, 2016: Yes, I've traveled across international borders to see Wilco before, but I promise this show was a total coincidence. We had already planned a vacation in Croatia -- then Wilco announced a date at Zagreb's Inmusic Festival after the calendar was set and vacation time was requested. Truth be told, we rescheduled our itinerary a smidge to return to Zagreb after a diversion, but overall, it was no bother.

Not long ago, one of the appeals of seeing Wilco in Europe was the relative size of the venues. Simply put, Wilco is not as big in Europe, and you could still enjoy club gigs. I hear those days are gone, but when it comes to festivals, the smaller scale remains. At Inmusic, Wilco played a dream slot for us: on the last day of the festival, second to last on the bill, with a 6:30 start time. (Never mind that they were left off all the posters and signage we saw around town!) We took our time getting to the gig, due in part to our disregard for a sign helpfully directing us to the entrace, endured only one other band, and best of all, planned to get dinner after the show. The crowd was sparse when we arrived, and we had no problem taking our usual spots.

Wilco, Inmusic Festival, June 22, 2016

I last saw Wilco last summer, shortly after the release of Star Wars, so I got the album-heavy shows. Even the band's Outside Lands appearance stuck to the script at the time. Coming into Inmusic, I wasn't sure what to expect of the setlist.

As it turned out, a decent amount of Star Wars remains, which you might expect, as it's the most recent album, but overall, the band stuck to a more typical festival set. Keep in mind, this was a 75-minute slot, not a headlining show, so it was going to be shorter anyway. We generally got the rockier Star Wars tracks, accompanied by many band favorites and a couple of deep album tracks ("Art of Almost," "Late Greats"). In fact, "Art of Almost" was sort of the surprise, as Nels was caught in technical issues for a good chunk of the song. The band played on patiently, waiting for the fix. They eventually solved the problem, and Nels came roaring back in. Jeff later called it the "extended version" of the tune.

Highlights of the set for me include the divine "Cold Slope"/"King of You" double shot and the eternally artful "Impossible Germany." A comedic moment took place during "Via Chicago," which moved the young security guards at the front of the stage to crane their necks to investigate the din onstage, notably during Glenn's big drum breaks. I guess they didn't get the memo that these American gentlemen might be more than unassuming folkies.

By the way, the crowd was pretty good at the front, and they filled out the field by the time Wilco took the stage. For the most part, they really liked clapping to the beat, with mixed results. I don't know how many native English speakers were in attendance, but at least a few other Americans were present, and we heard plenty of voices singing along. Let's put it this way: They outdrew the previous band by a wide margin.

We didn't stick around for the rest of the bands, though it might've been nice to see PJ Harvey if her onstage time wasn't in the middle of the night. Still, the ticket was a bargain compared to U.S. prices and a fantastic start to our Croatia sojourn. We also had a chance run-in with one of the staffers in Zagreb's city center, so yes, it was a good day.

Wilco in Europe? I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

See also:
» a party there that we ought to go to
» every song's a comeback
» the gray fountain spray of the great milky way
» i'd be lying if i said it wasn't easy
» everyone wastes my time

Monday, June 06, 2016

over the edge i can't stop myself

Ace of Spades was on the rock tourist list for Frightened Rabbit's last tour, three years ago. I even bought a ticket, but alas, it didn't work out. However, now with a new record from the band and a new recruit among friends, I had to go northward.

Frightened Rabbit, the Regency Ballroom, May 26, 2016: Rock tourism is no bother for me, but the drive up to Sacramento was one of the more exhausting journeys I've taken in a while. Granted, it was a holiday weekend, and I'm not generally used to traffic, and I saw four accidents along the way, but the four-hour drive (double the usual time in average conditions) was brutal. Luckily, I had left work early and was in no rush, but at least the first half of the trip put my, at worst, cross-town ventures in perspective.

Anyway, I had no doubt the drive would be worth it. Ace of Spades was a smaller, clubbier venue than the Regency in San Francisco; it reminded me of Slim's back in the city and probably a million other places around the country. Due to the limited real estate, the band stripped back their stage setup -- the backdrop (based on the album cover) was gone, and maybe some lights were left out. Overall, this is exactly my kind of venue, and sometimes you have to get behind the wheel to find the ones that remain.

Not surprising, the band stuck to mostly the same setlist, save for one track: the perennial favorite "Poke," which popped up again in Scott's solo portion, thanks to a fan request. Less successful was the fan somewhere in the crowd who yelled out repeatedly for "Swim." I assume he meant "Swim Until You Can't See Land," but Scott was not having it. He mentioned the fact that the band had already prepared a setlist, but besides, he confessed he couldn't remember it anyway. This didn't stop the guy, and the back and forth continued through the set.

At this point, I gotta figure it's part of the artist's MO -- maybe it's nice to have a foil and focal point for your banter. To my ears, Scott never crossed the line into outright annoyance, though he called the guy a cunt. Then again, if you know anything about Scottish insults, you know it's practically the first word young Scots learn. Perhaps to be on the safe side, Scott offered a quick lesson to the crowd on the Scottish lexicon.

The conversation between Scott and the concertgoer actually brought to mind one of my old rules of rock tourism: Go to the last show of the tour when you can. The band can often be looser, goosier, and generally more playful. Chalk it up to relief, weariness, burnout -- whatever. Quite often, it adds up to a memorable night.

I haven't seen a show in Sacramento for a while now, but it easily qualifies as a tertiary market, and you know how much I dig tertiary markets. The crowd was a little less familiar with the old tracks, and they couldn't sing as well as we did in San Francisco. But I love that Ace of Spades and Frightened Rabbit have taken a chance on each other. I hope they keep it going.

See also:
» there is light but there's a tunnel to crawl through
» found a vein and a pulse
» some people gonna get ideas

Sunday, June 05, 2016

found a vein and a pulse

Frightened Rabbit is the last band (though hopefully not the last band) I fell in love with, and shocker -- I'm crazy about the new record. I could barely wait for Frightened Rabbit's return to San Francisco at the Regency Ballroom.

Frightened Rabbit, the Regency Ballroom, May 26, 2016: You gotta love a band that tours its heart out and brings the music to the people. After almost six weeks on the road to promote Painting of a Panic Attack, Frightened Rabbit closed out this leg on the West Coast, and early on, Scott referenced being tired. I'm not entirely sure I would've noticed it if he hadn't brought it up. As far as I could tell, the most revealing road tell was the size of their beards, because the weariness didn't show up in the music.

The band opened with the single (I guess -- I have no idea what qualifies as charts and airwaves and all the lingering details of terrestrial radio) "Get Out" and mixed it up with an evenhanded selection of songs from all but the first record. To tell you the truth, I was kind of surprised the tour was so light on new songs. In addition to "Get Out," the band played "Woke Up," "Break," "Lump Street," and "Die Like a Rich Boy" (the last one in Scott's customary acoustic segment). Personally, I would've loved to hear "An Otherwise Disappointing Life" or "Blood Under the Bridge," to name two, but maybe they'll get to those in subsequent visits.

However, that meant a lot of old favorites got their turn. "Modern Leper," "Fast Blood," "Heads Roll Off," and "State Hospital" were all there, and in fact, a few songs sounded slightly reworked. Most notable to me was "Old Old Fashioned," which sounded a little more like the version we heard on the Owl John tour. At the same time, I was curious to see which songs made the cut, and I'm pleased "Oil Slick" is still one of the favored tracks.

San Francisco has always offered a strong base of support for Frightened Rabbit. The band has put in a ton of work into shows in the city, but I feel their efforts have been rewarded with well-attended and enthusiastic shows. Tonight, I think we gave it back with a wonderful sing-along to "Keep Yourself Warm." Our voices serenaded the band and punched the money lines ("you won't find love in/won't find love in a hole/it takes more than fucking someone/to keep yourself warm"). Was it good for them? Because it was great for us.

Frightened Rabbit, the Regency Ballroom, May 26, 2016

As mentioned above, Scott has retained his solo segment, but it was now only two songs before the band returned for "The Woodpile." Good news for both show veterans and newbies alike: The band has kept its traditional closer of "The Loneliness and the Scream," which when it comes down to it is the only true wish list item I needed. How is that not a football anthem in Scotland? Or is it? Anyway, it needs to happen. Get on it, Tartan Army.

Meanwhile, we have your back in San Francisco, Frightened Rabbit.

See also:
» let's get old fashioned
» her heart beats like a breezeblock