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Monday, September 28, 2009

Tonight I Burned the Lyrics, 'Cause Every Chorus Was Your Name

I've been listening to The Avett Brothers ever since I heard the track "Matrimony" off of 2006's Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions. So when they were featured on the NPR All Songs Considered Tiny Desk series a few months back (highly recommended podcast, BTW), I was intrigued. This is video of that performance. The first song, "Laundry Room," is pretty much dynamite. One of the songs that made up the soundtrack of my summer, for sure.

Oh, and their new album I and Love and You drops tomorrow.

P.S. The Swell Season's Tiny Desk session was also quite good. You know, 'cause Glen Hansard's kind of a baller.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Anti-Software Piracy, 1992 style

Props to Fardeen for showing me this. The bastardization of hip-hop culture is truly breathtaking. Also, check out the guy's hair at 3:13!

Remember kids, DON'T COPY THAT FLOPPY!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Weakerthans at Paradise Rock Club, 9/16/09

I got four hours of sleep the night before. This show kept me awake like no quantity of caffeine could dream of doing...

With a huge assist from my friend Adam who made Escape From Worcester possible with his environmentally savvy motor carriage, and with the small but ever endearing Dana in tow, we set off from THE CLARK: HARBINGER OF DISGUST AND GENTRIFICATION as the sun set on a cool September day. Despite a temperamental iPod radio adapter, much tuneage was consumed, largely of the ALK3 variety, at which time I showed my lack of knowledge of their full catalogue, hanging my head in shame and pretending to nod off. As it turns out the venue was located just about smack dab in the middle of the BU campus. Parking was not readily apparent, but after a few minutes of search it was procured, although our fair driver would later find the sneakiness of the parking attendant somewhat off-putting. We found our way in to the club, and as I stood next to the the bar for a moment, as Adam sauntered in he was trailed by who other than John K. Samson. After the group was reassembled we picked up our tickets from will call (because what's the fun in saving a piece of printer paper with a barcode on it?). I flirted with the idea of getting one of the excellent shirts from the merch tayblay but quickly realized that I'd be far too broke to get food after the show if I did so, that however snazzily attired I might be, that would not satisfy my stomach. I was taken aback at how small the place was. Any spot on the floor was a good spot. However, being the only one of the group that could be classified as vertically gifted, we moved along to an open balcony spot that had a fantastic view and was not too far away from the stage.

The first opener was Tomte, a German band on their first American tour. The lyrics were all-German (with the exception of a brief foray into The Killers' "Human" that was all in good fun), and the stage banter was of a delightful, wide-eyed, aw-shucks-we're-so-happy-to-be-in-the-land-of-the-free variety. As Dana pointed out to me, there was one guy in the audience with a sweaty shaved head who was REALLY into it, while everyone surrounding him could simply not touch his enthusiasm. Funny stuff. I didn't really get into the music too much, but there was nothing blatantly wrong with it. It just may have helped if I had taken Intro to German last year instead of Intermediate French (which thusfar has only enhanced my understanding of a couple Arcade Fire songs and of course The Weakerthans' "Our Retired Explorer...").

The second opener was the fairly strange and rather good Rock Plaza Central. Their lead singer both looked and sounded like a Keebler Elf, with a nasally voice that definitely could do battle with John Darnielle's in a whine-off. They had a banjo and mandolin which were employed several times each, and much of their lyrical content involved robotic steel horses who think they're people (or so I thought the lead singer said). There was some awkward forays into politicized stage banter that didn't really go anywhere or extract a positive reaction from the audience. These missteps aside, the band was enjoyable.

The Weakerthans rounded out the all-foreign bill. Adam was so dedicated as to figure out the setlist, which I have re-posted below:

John poked fun at himself over the solo to "Utilities" which he said was the only solo he's ever written, and he'll never have to write another because this one was so perfect, that it has changed forever how people play guitar. Soon after, he pulled a member out of the audience who had beseeched him for an opportunity to top that solo, and while perhaps not a spectacular solo ensued, the kid was undeniably good at playing the instrument. John moved to the floor to watch the performance. Definitely a highlight.

The set, as you may have gleaned from the setlist above, was a nice blend of older and newer songs, expertly performed. They might not have put on the loudest or most energetic show, but they really looked like they were having a good time up there and not just phoning it in. The songs are strong enough on their own that the delivery didn't need to be overwhelming, but I would say watching this show put to rest for me criticisms I've read of the band being too lackadaisical on stage. If they're ever in the area again, I'm totally going to another show. Plus I liked still having 80-90% hearing the next day, even without earplugs.
9.75 (that's right Pitchfork, I go to the hundredths place!)

As a side note, I just found out that John will be releasing a series of seven-inches over the next 18 months. Very exciting stuff. I do love me some offbeat hyper-literate folk-punk-rock.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Jason Anderson Comes to Clark. Good Things Happen.

Yesterday the pasteurized bar in the basement of the former gymnasium which today is known as The Grind at Clark University was graced by the presence of one Jason Anderson, a native New Englander with a penchant for awesomeness. Similarly to the Andrew W.K. experience of last April, he brought a positive attitude, a sense of hope, pure joy, and the promise that Rock'n'Roll is not dead and that the feelings it conveys and creates can be used to make each listener's life better, and the whole of humanity improved if we all manage to stop and listen. He played to a much smaller crowd than Andrew W.K., but that did not stop him from putting on a memorable show. Frequently audience (and band) members would chuckle at the frankness of his lyrics, a sort of workingman's straightforward poetry often held together by giant major chords, and yet broken with moments of great quiet and intimacy, lyrics whispered, guitar strings barely plucked. To be in the crowd was not to merely watching the band play, it was to play along, to shout, to sing along, to clap your hands and stomp your feet. It was Anderson's show, but it was yours too, an easy joint custody of an evening that in his words "will never happen exactly the same ever again." Admittedly and ashamedly I was new to his music, and sometimes seeing an artist live that can be prohibitive to full enjoyment of the work, but in this case there was no such barrier to be broken. Everything sounded familiar, but not overly derivative or generic. He seemed perfect parts Glen Hansard, Josh Ritter, and Ted Leo, a seasoned professional who knew exactly what he was doing, but did it with a level of emotion and humility that made him and his music instantly enjoyable. I left hoarse and ecstatic, hoping that the endorphins would never wear off, that I could always go through life with the sense of right and purpose I felt this night, that I wouldn't need additional doses of that drug called music to stay on course. Michael Skinner (perhaps not the best person to mine for meaningful quotes, but why not?) once said that the two great narcotics are Christianity and alcohol. He prefers the latter, and I prefer live shows in the vein of the one that Jason Anderson put on last night. Sometimes the option not given is the best to take. 8.5