Wednesday, April 27, 2016

rejoice to the skies

Spring is here, and with it comes an uptick in touring. Personally, I'm not taking full advantage of the concert schedule, but the Big Star's Third reprise was notable enough to warrant a night out.

Big Star's Third, the Fillmore, April 24, 2016Big Star's Third, the Fillmore, April 24, 2016: Fun fact: After you hear "Thirteen," it's impossible to not sing it to yourself for the next few days. It's science!

Truth be told, I might not have ventured out if Paul hadn't come to town for the show, but it doesn't take a lot to convince me to hear pretty voices and awesome musicians play songs by Big Star. The early question was why the band had come back together. They had put together a couple of shows last fall, and it's not like the setlist was going to change much, nor had many new faces joined the roster. The answer became clearer when the L.A. date was announced. This would be the dress rehearsal, albeit without a couple of big names.

About those names: Many of the usual suspects returned, including Chris Stamey and Jody Stephens (of course). Much of the same crew returned from last fall's appearance, Mike Mills, Pat Sansone, Chuck Prophet, and the Kronos Quartet among them. A new face (or at least one I don't remember) was Mitch Easter. REM fans can probably wax much poetic about him than I can, but it's no exaggeration to say his hair alone enjoyed '80s indie rock icon status. Though he looks nothing like that these days, he can still play the guitar -- and he was the only person onstage to sport anything close to formal wear.

I caught only the set at Hardly Strictly last year, so I don't know what the normal show is like, but more experienced ears tell me the ensemble reversed the usual order of events. Instead of going into the advertised record, they began with the one-off tunes -- not that I can tell you the setlist for either night. But let's say Pat Sansone helped kick off the proceedings, and what do you know? He made his way to a solo song for the encore too.

In between, we got all the expected tracks and some new tunes sung by new voices. Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo was one of the new additions, and they eventually convinced Georgia Hubley to join them. I don't even remember what they sang, except Ira picked up the hair dryer for one song. Speaking of sound effects, Mike Mills took care of the basketball again.

Big Star's Third, the Fillmore, April 24, 2016

Now that we weren't in the middle of a field, the finer details came through. Jody, a true gentleman, exuded Southern charm, and Mitch Easter was second only to Chris Stamey as an all-purpose player. Th Kronos Quartet might've benefited the most from this proper setting -- that is, their contributions rung out, which I kind of missed at the Arrow Stage. Strangely, Chuck Prophet wasn't much of a presence until the very end, when he finally stepped up the main mic. Oh, and we did quite well on not biting on the fake ending of "Holocaust." (Full disclosure: We were warned.)

But the constants stayed strong, notably "Thirteen" and "Thank You Friends," but it would take a ton of questionable decisions and a deficit of talent to detract from those songs. The encores felt somewhat ramshackle, and in fact, the whole show was endearingly ragged. We imagine they'll edit out the pauses for the final release. Maybe someday they'll realize they already have the perfect closer in "Thank You Friends" and mix up the rest of the song order to lead down that path. Regardless of the final setlist, the songs remain among the all-time classics, and that alone is good reason to listen to these players. I wanna thank you again!

See also:
» i'm so grateful

Saturday, April 02, 2016

they want your heart and soul

The break between gigs wasn't supposed to be this long -- though in fact I saw a show earlier this week, but I'm not going to blog about it because it's outside of my abilities and a slight misreading of the bill skewed my expectations. In my defense, San Francisco has been awash in an unusually high number of great touring comedians lately -- but I don't blog about comedy either, so let's get to Gaz Coombes, ex-Supergrass, at Slim's instead.

Gaz Coombes, Slim's, April 1, 2016: Earlier this week, I racked my brain to recall if I ever saw Supergrass in concert, and slowly it came back to me -- specifically, an Amanda Decadenet sighting. Fortunately, I committed it to type earlier, so yay confirmation!

This actually points out a couple of current problems. First of all, my memory is going. Second, I saw a lot of shows before I started blogging, particularly during the Britpop years, and details will be lost in the jumble. Hopefully I can do some justice to them, 20-odd years on.

(Speaking of 20 years, has anyone noticed "Alright" popping up in two different commercials? I can't even remember the products now, but of course I perked up both times it came on. Yes, I still watch real-time TV with commercials, and I can still be surprised by music licensing.)

I feel like I have so many recollections to unpack every time a Britpop name rolls into town. It was so much fun, and there were so many good stories, but that was then. But to begin, I have to admit I wasn't a Supergrass, er, superfan. Also, I'm not really an early adopter, so that fledgling punk energy isn't always up my alley. Instead, I tend to prefer the mellower, more pensive phase as they adjust to success and reevaluate their motivation -- then in the case of British bands, interest drops off and they stop touring in the United States. Bwahahahahaha! In other words, I love the second Supergrass album.

Back to Gaz: The setup was solo and mostly acoustic, with a couple of songs on keyboard and a little help from a sampler. Early on, I thought Slim's terrible reputation for sound would overshadow Gaz's music, but kudos to the person at the console who adjusted and dialed up the perfect amount of reverb to complement Gaz's full, warm voice.

I didn't take my usual spot upfront, so I can't report how Gaz looks these days, except to say his trademark sideburns and wild eyes are intact. The crowd itself was respectable, especially for a Friday night when the Bay Area could also take in the Warriors (who lost at home!) and a preseason matchup between the Giants and the A's.

My most memorable Gaz Coombes takeaway from the last few years has been his interest in Midlake, who've shown up in this blog a number of times. Their performance of "Young Bride" is worth a click.

Otherwise, I haven't kept up with Gaz's career and hadn't listened to Matador going in, but a few songs stood out. Gaz offered a full intro to "Detroit" and his come-to-Jesus moment in the city. I appreciated the extra attention; it's a stand-out song. The one I loved was the last song before the encore, and after a rudimentary round of Googling, I learned it was the title track for good reason. I'm not sure I'm going to buy the whole record, but the singles are worth the download.

Of course, everyone wanted to hear Supergrass, and Gaz hit a few of them. Musicians have all kinds of reasons for which older tracks they revisit, but in a short show, the options are even more limited. Gaz went with "Moving," and at the very end, he rolled out "Caught By the Fuzz." Alas, no "Late in the Day" for me or "Alright" for the dude bellowing in the back, but they would've been more surprising than not.

Before he left the stage, Gaz thanked the city and said he'd be back soon. I honestly don't see the latter happening, but I wouldn't mind his return. He also shared a tidbit I don't recall from the miles of interviews I read back in the day. He said he spent a part of his childhood in Mountain View. I wonder if he's as amazed as us longtime locals by its transformation into Tech Town.

See also:
» pre-easily fooled
» why are your shoulders like that of a tired old woman