Wednesday, June 01, 2005

i know she's here in California

It's 6 p.m., and I don't have a ton of work on my desk, so I figured I can sneak in a personal report. Here goes!

Glen Hansard, Swedish American Hall, May 25, 2005: Back in 2000 or so, I went to see the Waxwings opening for a band at Bottom of the Hill. The headliner was the Frames, and I have to admit that I didn't stay for the entire show, as I noticed some white guy from the Frames wearing dreadlocks wandering around the crowd. Yeah, I'm shallow, but I just wasn't in the mood for it that night. However, Maudie invited me to this solo acoustic show by the main songwriter in the band, and I couldn't say no. Oh, I should clarify that I think he's the main songwriter. I don't really know anything about the band, so I can't say.

The Heavenly States opened, also treating us to an unplugged-type performance. In contrast to the opening set they played at the British Sea Power show, there were only three people onstage: the singer, the violinist, and a keyboardist. I wasn't thrilled by their BSP set, but I was very pleasantly surprised by their performance this time. Granted, I'm a huge sucker for acoustic shows, but they were nowhere as snarky as they seemed previously. It turns out that they played a bunch of songs from their to-be-released album, so maybe it was the material. Regardless, they did a great job.

Glen took to the tiny Swedish American Hall stage with a very sparse setup. I think he had two guitars, and the hall's piano sat at the side. He was sort of what you'd expect from an Irish singer/songwriter: heartfelt songs, passionate vocals, charming stories, a self-deferential manner. For about half the songs, he was accompanied by a woman on the piano and backing vocals. He initially introduced her as Bunny Lebowski, though he referred to her by her real name later; unfortunately, I can't remember it right now. I was confused because I thought she was some local friend who happened to be available that night, but her knowledge of the songs quickly disabused me of that notion.

I didn't go because Maudie quoted some source that said he was Ireland's version of Jeff Tweedy. A friend's recommendation and the acoustic setup was enough for me. He was quite good, and I enjoyed myself, but in the end, I wasn't terribly moved. On a number of songs, he sang in that overwrought way that some singer/songwriters do (including people I really dig), though the majority of the tunes were very lovely. Who knows why we like what we like? The list of good points is quite long, but I just couldn't get into him.

Pixies, the Warfield, May 30, 2005 (late show): Like the Glen Hansard show, this gig coincided with the band's appearance over the Memorial Day weekend at the Sasquatch music festival in Washington state. I skipped the Pixies at the Greek Theater last year because I'm a venue snob, but I couldn't say no to a show at the Warfield. Unfortunately, I adhered to my "last concert" rule and bought tix to the late show, which wasn't scheduled to start until 11:30. Fortunately, I got decent seats, so there was no threat of falling asleep on my feet.

The opener was the Bell-Rays, advertised as "soul-garage." The singer had a hell of a voice, but I'm a big wimp and have never liked that kind of sound. Well, they had a few melodic songs, but the others just sounded fast and loud to me--not that there's anything wrong with that. They were off by midnight.

The Pixies' setup was grouped at the front of the stage, with a huge expanse at the back housing big lighting rigs. It was hard to tell what they were. From the balcony, they looked kinda like metallic sunflowers. Even now I'm not sure what was their purpose on the stage. In other towns, the Pixies have been doing "hits" sets and b-sides sets, and the rumor was that the late show was the hits set. I don't know if this was ever confirmed, but it was fairly hit-heavy, with "Velouria," "Monkey Gone to Heaven," "Head On," and others. The only hit they didn't do was "Here Comes Your Man"--ahhhh, their indie cred has been saved!

I was expecting to feel insanely tired, but my spirits perked up as soon as the music started, and the band sounded great. I'm still surprised by how much I enjoyed the show. And contrary to earlier reports, the band seemed to be in good spirits, actually interacting with each other and acknowledging the crowd. I'm still kinda depressed that I've seen so many reunion shows lately, but it's hard to deny the music you love.

On the taxi ride home, I struck up a conversation with our cab driver, who turned out to be a huge music fan and who was into all the same bands. That was hilarious. And in a true testament to how energized I still felt, I couldn't fall asleep for another hour. Oh well, it's just work.

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