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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.


silly little girl said...

You have a great memory. I could never remember much about the opening bands, not enough to comment on so well. Nice entry.

Greg said...

your praise warms my heart, silly little girl. may your recovery be swift.

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