Category Archives: shows

Show report: Camp Friends and Omni at the Terrace

Beautiful weather last night so I decided, why not, go to the Terrace for the free show WUD put on:  Camp Friends (Madison) and Omni (Atlanta).

Missed most of Camp Friends, who were billed as experimental but in fact played genial, not-real-tight college indie.  Singer took his shirt off.

Omni, though — this is the real thing.  Everyone says it sounds like 1981 (specifically:  1981), and they’re right, but it rather wonderfully doesn’t sound like any particular thing in 1981.  There’s the herky-jerky-shoutiness and clipped chords (but on some songs that sounds like Devo and on others like Joe Jackson) and the jazz chords high on the neck (the Fall?  The Police?) and weird little technical guitar runs that sound like Genesis learning to play new wave guitar on Abacab and arpeggios that sound like Peter Buck learning to play guitar in the first place (these guys are from Georgia, after all.)  What I kind of love about young people is this.  To me, all these sounds are separate styles; to a kid picking up these records now, they’re just 1981, they’re all material to work from, you can put them together and something kind of great comes out of it.

You see a lot of bands with a frontman but not that many which, like Omni, have a frontman and a backman.  Philip Frobos sings and plays bass and mugs and talks to the audience.  Frankie Broyles, the guitar player, is a slight guy who looks like a librarian and stands still and almost expressionless while he plays his tight little runs.  Then, every once in a while, he unleashes an absolute storm of noise.  But still doesn’t grimace, still doesn’t move!  Amazing.  Penn and Teller is the only analogue I can think of.

Omni plays “Jungle Jenny,” live in Atlanta:

And here’s “Wire,” to give a sense of their more-dance-less-rock side:

 

Both songs are on Omni’s debut album, Deluxe, listenable at Bandcamp.

Best show I’ve seen at the Terrace in a long time.  Good job, WUD.

 

 

 

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Show report: Xenia Rubinos at the Frequency

Xenia Rubinos is a — ok, what is she?  A singer-songwriter-yeller-wreaker-of-havoc who plays an avant-garde version of R&B with a lot of loud, hectic guitar in it.  I’ve been pronouncing her name “Zenya” but she says “Senia.”  She played to about 100 people at the Frequency last Thursday.  She seems to belong in a much bigger place in front of a much bigger crowd, so much so that it feels a little weird to be right there next to her as she does her frankly pretty amazing thing.  Here’s “Cherry Tree,” from her 2013 debut, still her best song by my lights.  It would be most people’s best song.

This, live, was pretty close to the record.  Other songs weren’t.  Live, I thought she and her band sometimes sounded like Fiery Furnaces, which doesn’t come through on the records.  “Pan Y Cafe”, a fun romp on the album

is much more aggro live.  It’s kind of what the Pixies “Spanish songs” would be like if somebody who actually spoke Spanish wrote them.  (She likes the Pixies.)

Maybe I should make a post about the greatest shows I’ve seen in Madison.  This was one of them.  Who else?  Man Man in 2007.  The Breeders in 2009.  Fatty Acids / Sat Nite Duets in 2012.  I’ll have to think about this more thoroughly.

 

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Show report: Janeane Garofalo

I had forgotten almost completely that there was once, about twenty years ago, a thing called “alternative comedy,” which seemed about to break out and become part or even most of the mainstream practice of standup as “alternative music” (though by then it was already rare to hear it so referred to) had done with mainstream radio.  That didn’t happen.  Standup, today, is still mostly made of jokes.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  But Janeane Garofalo, it turns out, is still going around doing a different thing, talking, being weird, looking at notes, enjoying herself.  People laugh.

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Show report: Fatty Acids and Sat Nite Duets

Happy surprise: the Fatty Acids were good when I saw them before but great tonight — powerpop played so loud the amps start to get that blown-out sound, and then this very beautiful clean line of trumpet cutting through it all.

Notes on Sat. Nite Duets:

1.  They have arrived at the level of success where one row of people at the front knows the words to all the songs.

2.  Their songs are what you would call “anthemic” but the culminating shouted lyric is often something intentionally without intrinsic affect.  Examples include:

  • “HE’S GETTING ORGANIZED!”
  • “I’VE GOT BOOKS ON TAPE!”
  • “WE ARE ALL REAL ESTATE AGENTS!”

3.   Relationship betw. Sat. Nite Duets and Pavement still not very clear to me.  None of their songs could be mistaken for a Pavement song.  But I think the way the songs are put together — not exactly the way the songs sound, but the way the songs make decisions — is more Pavement than anybody else who’s not Pavement.  Drums also similar.  In fact both Fatty Acids and SND sync drums to guitar in the manner of “Lions (Linden).”

4.  I don’t usually link to the same video twice, but “All Nite Long” is still the best song anyone has recorded in the young decade.  So here it is again.

Sat. Nite Duets’ new album available imminently.

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Show report: Man Man, High Noon, 18 Oct 2011

Are they a troop of monkeys?  Goons?  Are they sailors, lost and pissed?  Are they life coaches to each other and to us?  No one is given to know.  They are Man Man.

 

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Miscellaneous awesome

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December linkdump

Noted with minimal comment:

  • Add to Ellie Kemper another former student making it in showbiz:  Damien Chazelle, who was actually in high school when I taught him number theory, had a feature in the Tribeca Film Festival.
  • Can William Langewiesche write a boring magazine feature?  If so, it is not this one about a Brazilian prison gang.  (Langewiesche previously on this blog.)
  • The Judybats are more thoroughly forgotten than they should be.  Frontman Jeff Heiskell, a decade after the last Judybats release (and fifteen years after the last Judybats release anyone heard)  sounds bitter about it.  If you like the fact that Heiskell says, in this interview, “My rectum draws up tight like a little antique button,” you will probably like their records.  Here’s the video for “Native Son.”  Look at these beautiful 1990s mid-South college town hepcats!
  • Yellow Ostrich was a band from Appleton and now is a band from Brooklyn like everyone else.  They put on a great show at the Gates of Heaven synagogue last spring, right before the move east.  Here’s the simple and compelling “Whale”:
  • People like to complain that today’s parents are too fond of giving kids names with novelty spellings.  But have you met a kid named Gregg lately?
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Show report: New Pornographers at the Orpheum

New Pornographers played the Orpheum last night.

  • Boston’s “Foreplay” on the sound system before the band comes on.  Comes off as witty.
  • On the records Dan Bejar’s singing doesn’t stand out as much as it does live.  Something about the way he approaches the microphone makes him look like he’s always about to rap rather than sing.  Bejar leaves the stage during the songs he’s not singing.  This seems churlish to me.  He couldn’t just stand there and bang a tambourine on his hip?
  • “My Slow Descent into Alcoholism,” the best song they ever wrote — probably my favorite song anybody released last decade — appears in the encore.  It is great, but all live versions lack the precision which is part of the glory of the studio version — precision married to absolutely unmoderated rocking-out-ness.  See: 
  • Kathryn Calder, once an occasional vocal stand-in for Neko Case, is now a full member of the band, playing keyboards and singing backup.  Both facially and in manner she reminds me very powerfully of Doris Finsecker.

Calder:

Finsecker:

  • Show ends with “Testament to Youth in Verse.”  Openers the Dodos come on stage, everybody’s singing the big “no no no…” at the end of the song, swaying, waving goodbye, drinking beers.  The cellist in the back picks up a saxophone.  It’s an almost exact replica of the credit sequence of Saturday Night Live. On purpose?
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Sleepytime Gorilla Museum: Origin Story

The cast of Cats is locked in a room.  They are there for a long time.  Deprived of an audience their theater becomes steadily more vivid, gestural, and non-referential.  To a certain degree it ferments. Thus it acquires a rotten taste but also a depth and richness it lacked previously.

The actors and singers begin to believe they are receiving messages.  Maybe from the outside, maybe from each other.  They are required to retransmit these messages:  sometimes in the form of a roar, sometimes as a jerk or spasm.

Some members of the troupe are slow to learn the new theater.  They drop beats and misreport their lines.

The strong consume the weak until only five are left.

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Mountain Goats have sold out the High Noon

Nothing ever sells out here. I’m proud of Madison. And looking forward to the start of the show.

Update. Home from the show.  A few notes.

  • JD is an interesting guitar player but a boring piano player.
  • I don’t think I’ve seen him play with a full band since, I dunno, 2004?  I like the rocking-out full-band Mountain Goats better than the hushed one-guy-with-guitar Mountain Goats.  But best of all I like the rocking-out one-guy-with-guitar Mountain Goats.
  • So I have a theory that the correct way to listen to Mountain Goats music is not to play the record, or to see him perform, but to play the songs on guitar in your room by yourself.  Given this you’d think I’d approve of the many people singing along at this show, but I did not.  It was annoying.
  • John Darnielle and Persi Diaconis do the same oversized “I’ve won this crowd over” grin.
  • Opener was Final Fantasy, kind of like Andrew Bird if instead of one guy he was two guys.  Violin guy Owen Pallett backed up JD for a sort of great pizzicatified “Going to Bristol,” the only old number on the setlist.
  • Songs I thought I might hear and was sad not to hear:  “Palmcorder Yajna,” “The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton.”  Songs I knew I wouldn’t hear:  “Sinaloan Milk Snake Song.”  “Deianara Crush.”  “The Monkey Song.” “Going to Marrakesh.”
  • Looking through the Wikipedia Mountain Goats pages I’m amused to find my own name, credited with translating the Swedish phrases in the liner notes to Sweden.  I didn’t translate them but I did get them translated, by the Swedish guy who ran the Calla Lily Cafe, where Cathy O’Neil and I used to study Milne’s article on abelian varieties every morning when we were in grad school.
  • I was going to link to a Mountain Goats track here, but something he played made me think of another song I really love: “Radio Silence,” the single from Soviet rock god Boris Grebenshikov’s unsuccessful 1989 attempt to break into the English-language alternative pop market.  He should have made it!
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