Some recent shows:
- The Fiery Furnaces at the Annex: The songs sound very different live, without the orchestra breaks and sound effects that dominate one’s experience listening to them on record. You hear more how they rely on a bass line, and on Eleanor Friedberger’s ability to spit out the same line five or six times in a row and not really sound like she’s repeating herself. They rock more. On the other hand, it’s more visible that the same tricks pop up in song after song. Eleanor F.’s between-song banter comes out throaty and British Invasion (“This one is called My Egyptian Grammuh”) which must be an affectation, right? No “Tropical Ice-land”. But a worthwhile show. Also reviewed by Muzzle of Bees.
- Bishop Allen on the Union Terrace. Harvard College, for a place with thousands of 20-year-olds distinguished by all-consuming ambition, extra money, and large vocabularies, produces surprisingly few rock bands. About half of the Magnetic Fields went to Harvard, but to the extent the band has a location it’s been in New York for some time. (“Why do we still live here in this repulsive town? All our friends are in New York!” is surely about getting out of Somerville.) There were the Push Kings, medium popular in the Boston indie pop world in the late 90s. And of course Fat Day, the dukes of Cambridge strangecore. Now there is Bishop Allen, a likeable group of class-of-’99ers who used to live in Central Square and have now moved to Brooklyn. They play a kind of strummy rock that is indie only inasmuch as they are not famous or rich — in some sense they are what Counting Crows would sound like if Counting Crows were smart and good instead of dumb and bad.
- Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! at the Annex. That rarity, a sold-out show in Madison. I kept being told that Alec Ounsworth was the new David Byrne so I was confused by how much he looked like the young Robyn Hitchcock. The band didn’t go on until 11:15 so I ended up spending a lot of time listening to the guy in front of me tell anyone who’d listen how he got fired from Potbelly’s for smoking a cigarette on his break and what bull**** it all was. The show was kind of uplifting but not enough to get me to stay for the whole thing.
- Deerhoof on the Union Terrace. The great thing about shows on the Terrace is that you can buy ice cream. All places that book rock shows should sell ice cream. Deerhoof reminded me of Yes, in that I kept momentarily hearing something that sounded like a ’70s AOR guitar riff but which was actually part of an art project. I like when Yes does it, and I liked when Deerhoof did it too.
Here’s the Fiery Furnaces’ video for “Tropical Ice-land”:
and the cover of Fat Day’s Live Poultry Fresh Killed: