Thursday, March 29, 2012

the only dancer i believe in

As promised (?), I'm sticking to a more normal and perhaps even consistent concert schedule these days with my second show in a row -- not only in town, but also at the Fillmore and with an out-of-town visitor, no less. This time, it was the triple bill of, er, Of Montreal, Deerhoof, and Kishi Bashi.

Of Montreal, the Fillmore, March 22, 2012: I really shouldn't wait a week to write these things, but even if I had managed to commit my immediate reactions to this blog, it wouldn't have been the most enlightening account. Truth be told, I haven't been following Of Montreal very closely since their association with that dude in Los Angeles has cooled down. But the glimpses I've seen of the band were intriguing, and combined with the appealing openers, the legendary venue, and a willing houseguest, I figured I might as well go to the show.

My Of Montreal ignorance didn't prevent me from enjoying the spectacle of the show. The Fillmore is nowhere as big as the Fox, where I last saw the band, but they managed to fit everyone and their instruments, while still allowing room for the extracurricular aspects of their act. It also made me wonder how they squeezed in at the Slim's show the night before!

Of Montreal, The Fillmore, 03-22-12

This tour's accessories included several screens set in front of each band member's station, and a couple more at the back of the stage for video projections. Later, the band's roster of dancers/actors joined them for their choreographed moves and interactions. Early in the show, they released balloon-filled bags to the audience, though only after striking their poses as human billboards at the front of the stage for a good stretch. As the show progressed, these auxiliary players changed costumes, and toward the end of the evening, they enacted a small drama between two pig-faced villains and a pansexual being. (Man, I'm good at sucking the fun out of a concert.) Oh, they crowdsurfed too.

Of Montreal, The Fillmore, 03-22-12

As for the music, I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that you can easily rattle off a list of the band's influences -- but it doesn't matter when they manage to make it their own to such a degree. In a way, they remind me a lot more of the British bands I've liked rather than their American counterparts; then again, maybe I've been listening to the wrong U.S. musicians. In any case, I loved the nod to New Order, as Kevin Barnes dropped a couple of lines from "Temptation" into a song.

I may have been too overwhelmed by the party atmosphere last time to notice the darker and more introspective aspect of their music, but I couldn't miss them tonight. There were a couple of slow burners, but the one that made the biggest impression on me was "No Conclusion," marked by the unforgettable opening line "Tonight I feel like I should just destroy myself." Throughout much of the evening, I was trying to pinpoint exactly how Kevin Barnes and crew cast its spell on their young acolytes. Of course, it's easy to fall for the fun times, but you also have to dig into their lyrics, where Kevin expresses in no plain English many of same feelings, with the same passion as his listeners. From our vantage upstairs at the Fillmore, the fans ate it up.

Of Montreal, The Fillmore, 03-22-12

Still, the introspection couldn't overshadow the buoyant encore in which they strung together a bunch of their most upbeat songs (I recognized "Gallery Piece"!). It's one of the oldest rules in show biz: Leave 'em wanting more. Of Montreal certainly did.

I first saw Deerhoof at the Sonic Youth-curated version of All Tomorrow's Parties at UCLA in 2002. Maybe I'll admit to more of my shortsightedness at this festival in future posts, but I can confess Deerhoof didn't make a good impression on me at that show. Since then, Deerhoof has been all over the place, and they've even nurtured a relationship with that band I love.

Deerhoof, The Fillmore, 03-22-12

Unbeknownst to me, they've been rocking it out too! The guy seated behind us compared Greg Saunier to a Muppet, based on his propulsive drumming moves. I fully endorse that comment, but their guitarwork was nothing to scoff at either. I've been a fool to miss them for all this time, especially considering their local base, and I won't make that mistake again. Also, their shout-outs to both the Fillmore and to Of Montreal were adorable.

The very first performer of the evening was Kishi Bashi, another local talent who also happened to show up again in Of Montreal. At first, he gave off a strong Andrew Bird vibe, with his use of the violin and loopers, as well as an operatic scope to his songs. But when he started beatboxing, you knew that you should've checked your expectations earlier.

See also:
» really quite out of sight
» first-time high
» everybody's gotta learn sometimes
» still carries a torch

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

let's not fool ourselves

I don't want to make any promises, but my concert schedule may look more normal this year -- that is, I'll go to shows in town, and there could be some variety in the acts. Let's not get carried away, though; I'm not about to line up for the latest blogosphere sensations, and a certain amount of overlap is to be expected, which kind of explains how I made my way to see the Punch Brothers at the Fillmore.

Punch Brothers, the Fillmore, March 8, 2012: As has been well documented in this blog, I clear my calendar for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass every year, but my preferences tend to tip more hardly than strictly. Not that it has to be one or the other, but the Punch Brothers embodied this combination more than almost any other group I've seen recently.

Punch Brothers, Fillmore, 03-08-12

This is hardly a new revelation, as I've seen the Punch Brothers and Chris Thile in several formations, including with Nickel Creek and as a solo artist, not to mention Gabe Wicher's visits to Largo. I honestly can't keep track of how many appearances and combinations I've caught at this point, though if I had to pick one notable engagement, it'd be the Little Room show from a few years ago. At each and every date, the artists ably showed off their appreciation and mastery of multiple genres and styles, a tradition that extended to the Fillmore.

Punch Brothers, Fillmore, 03-08-12I don't know the Punch Brothers' catalog well enough to report on actual song titles or the setlist, but even a casual listener could hear the difference between covers, the group's more traditional titles, and their version of pop music. Sure, they could kick out the likes of "Rye Whiskey," but they had no problem coaxing out the charming "Patchwork Girlfriend."

This breadth, combined with their snazzy threads and crowd-pleasing banter, called to mind an old-fashioned variety show. I couldn't help but think of similar setups I'd seen at Largo, except with fewer guests popping in. Also akin to those dates, they followed a familiar pattern of allowing each musician a solo turn.

Don't be mistaken, though -- the Punch Brothers have a frontman, and Chris Thile stepped up to that role with banter, responses to crowd interjections, and physical and vocal cues to his bandmates, as well as the majority of lead vocal duties. At the top of the evening, Chris introduced the opener Aoife O'Donovan with a heap of compliments, and the two took over for a song they'd co-written for the Goat Rodeo Session.

Punch Brothers, Fillmore, 03-08-12

I love seeing bands make their Fillmore debut; they're, well, adorable as they take in the venue's history and bask in the glow of playing in such a legendary club. The Punch Brothers were no different, as they paid their respects to the building's incomparable track record.

Even better, the crowd did its part, and more than one band member remarked on the crowd's enthusiasm. Apparently, we'd done a good job of buying tickets, as evidenced by the requisite Fillmore poster handed out at the end of the evening. But even before that proof was offered, you could hear it for yourself, as we spontaneously clapped along to various tunes and egged on the group. This was the aspect of the Punch Brothers' performance I may have missed in earlier shows: that boisterous, unadulterated appreciation I hadn't quite picked up at Largo or Hardly Strictly. This is the reason you go to gigs.

But in case you need more justification to see the Punch Brothers live, you may be interested in the centerpiece (arguably) and virtuoso peak of the gig: the Radiohead/Gillian Welch one-two punch. I'm not a Radiohead fan, but the Punch Brothers are, as they've made clear. Additionally, Gillian Welch tunes are a mainstay of the band's sets.

Anyway, around the last third of the show, I noticed an abstract-sounding instrumental that I figured had to be a cover. They then segued into a song I know much better: "Wayside/Back in Time," probably chosen for the line referencing San Francisco. My hunch was confirmed by Noam Pikelny in his follow-up remarks, where he also recommended we check out the original artists. *wink*

See also:
» there's so much here to see
» don't get around much anymore
» broadminded