Monday, July 11, 2011

that echo chorus lied to me

I've clocked an atrocious concert attendance record this year, and it doesn't look to improve a whole lot. But Julie's generous offer (again) and expert finagling helped get me to Neko Case's show at Stern Grove.

Neko Case, Stern Grove, July 3, 2011: Talk about a rarity--for the first time in a long time, you could see the Fourth of July fireworks in San Francisco. But before that waste of gunpowder and sky (lyrics courtesy of Aimee Mann), a related and equally isolated incident transpired: Stern Grove was luxuriously warm and sunny for Neko Case's show. What a country!

When we last left off, Neko Case played the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, but in the interim, she's shown up with the New Pornographers as well. You'd be hard-pressed to claim that she doesn't pop in enough, but it's still nice to chalk up another gig, especially under gorgeous, open skies.

One observation about Neko: She's not necessarily the most prolific artist. This is no complaint; I prefer artists to work at their own pace and put out their work when they're ready, not when they're expected. Thus, her concerts don't change a whole lot between albums, and we saw a similar performance to her Hardly Strictly set, minus the Shangri-Las' cover. Once more, she was backed by her faithful band, including Jon Rauhouse and Kelly Hogan, concentrating on tracks from the last two albums. She snuck in a couple of old standards from her back catalog as well, including "Favorite" and "Knock Loud." The latter came with an emphatic warning; they didn't do the song a whole lot. With this caveat in mind, the audience welcomed the song more as a treat than a dare--I completely agree!

Speaking of treats, they tried out two new songs on the crowd, but I can't characterize either title. However, I look forward to their official release, whenever that may be.

In between, Neko and Kelly shared their usual carefree banter, and I have to admit, in this open air setting, some of their words were lost to the winds and street sounds. In fact, I'm afraid the acoustics could've been a little better, but the show was, after all, free. Nonetheless, it was impossible to miss Neko and Kelly's repeated shout-outs to in support of their long-standing love of dogs. I'm not sure if it's a San Francisco thing, but that's hardly the first time I've heard them laud some of the city's more pup-friendly attitudes.

The Dodos opened, and as was the case on the last tour with the New Pornographers, Neko joined them for a track, though I don't know the name. Their sound also suffered in these unusual environs, but the drums and guitar came across well. If I seem less than hyped about them, don't mind me--they have great melodies and I like the singer's voice, but I've contracted a huge case to musical ennui and can't seem to latch onto newer talent right now. If anything, Neko's seal of approval should be a strong recommendation to interested listeners.

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