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Archive for the ‘Philadelphia, PA’ Category

[ATTENDED: April 14, 2017] The Decemberists

Two years ago Sarah and I went to The Decemberists concert at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. It was spectacular.  A great venue, a dignified crowd and a great set deign.  The only complaint we had at all was that we couldn’t stand up and dance (well, we could, but we try to be considerate of those around us).

We knew we’d want to see them again, so when they announced another show in Philly–this time at the Fillmore, we were super psyched.  We love the venue, the sound is great and best of all, you can dance.

I was telling Sarah that I have become spoiled by smaller venues like Union Transfer, which holds about 1,000 fewer people than the Fillmore, because I can get up really close.  Well, this show was sold out big time (we were packed in a little too tightly for my liking).  I wanted to try to get there as early as possible, but a few things led us to getting there about ten minutes later than I had hoped.  And as such we were just a little too far out for my liking–the tall people seemed to have a wall set up about five rows of people ahead of us and we just couldn’t break through it.

So that meant a lot of leaning side to side depending on who you wanted to watch and, of course, terrible pictures.  But wow did they sound great.  This tour was a little less elaborate than the previous one. There was no real “set,” just lights.  And that’s fine because the focus was on the music! (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 14, 2017] Julien Baker

I first heard Julien Baker from All Songs Considered.  Her song “Sprained Ankle” is simply beautiful.  She plays a very delicate guitar and on that song you can barely hear her voice–everything is very gentle.

I was intrigued when I saw that she was opening for The Decemberists, but I wasn’t entirely sure how much I’d like a whole set of such mellow music.  But Bob Boilen has said on many occasions that you need to see her live.

And that proved to be true.

Her set started quietly with a new song, “Funeral Pyre” and then the incredibly pretty harmonics (looped) of “Funeral Pyre.”   But she wasn’t all about delicate folksiness.  Because on a few of these songs she belted out powerful notes–signing loud and hard and letting those notes linger for a long time.  Her voice was absolutely amazing.  And for just a “girl with a guitar,” she won the audience over pretty easily. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 13, 2017] Tanya Tagaq performs Nanook of the North

No use burying the lead: I just witnessed something singular.  Something unique and unforgettable.  Tanya Tagaq is a magical performer and I consider myself lucky to have seen her (even if I wasn’t always looking at her). And to have heard her incredible band live.

Tagaq is an Upik performer who incorporates throat singing into her music.  And when she performs, her entire body is possessed by the music. She becomes animalistic, both low and growling as well as high and soaring.

Nanook of the North is considered the first documentary film.  Filmed in 1920 by Robert J. Flaherty, it depicts Nanook, a “happy Eskimo,” and his family as they go about their lives.   For many people it was their first and only exposure to Native culture.  This film has been praised for its documentary techniques, but ridiculed for its patronizing attitude and for fudging reality.

I learned last night that part of the reason some of it was fudged was because his original film was destroyed in a fire and he returned to get more footage–often recreating what happened the first time.  [Some Wikipedia details shed some light on his good intentions and controversies–see bottom of the post for a few details].

I first watched Nanook of the North about 20 years ago in a college film class.  It was fine–less boring than I imagined, with some interesting moments, but not exactly gripping after 80 years of filmmaking.  But with Tagaq’s new soundtrack, the film took on an amazing and powerful component which added intensity, drama and tension to this film. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 26, 2017] Foxygen

I really loved Foxygen’s album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic.  The whole thing is great–retro and modern at the same time with a great sense of theatrics.  They recently put out a new album Hang, which is also retro (touching on nearly every era–disco, big band, swing, rock and even (apparently) a concept.  I’ve been really enjoying Hang (although I prefer Ambassadors still).

I had also heard that their live shows were crazy, so I thought it would be a great theatrical show.  (Before they came out I was delighted by the keyboard tech’s shirt that sat Not My President with shaking hands (one hand was a snake biting the other).

So I was a little surprised to see that there were no theatrics at all–no props or elaborate anything.  Well, except for lead singer and center of attention Sam France.  The show opened with Jonathan Rado sitting behind the piano and then the rest of the band coming out.  There was a three-piece horn section, drums, bass (which was mixed waaaay too loud in the first half of the show–why don’t sound people recognize that right away?) and then a second keyboardist/guitarist. ( I can’t find names for anybody). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 26, 2017] Gabriella Cohen

I typically check out who is opening for a show before I get to the show.  I never had a chance to look up Gabriella Cohen beforehand, so I had no idea what to expect.

When she first came out it was just her with her guitar and her bandmate Kate ‘Babyshakes’ Dillon on backing vocals (red lights are really harsh for a camera phone it seems–very hard to not get a blurry pic). They sang a song together which was simple but charming (it seemed to be about a breakup).  They made me smile as they tried to figure out which side Kate should stand on.  And while Gabriella’s playing and singing were fine, I was delighted with Kate’s backing vocals–soaring and high. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 17, 2017] Sunn O)))

My friend Lar has been a fan of Sunn O))) for a long time.  Their music is like an ambient death metal–drones and drones of noises with heavy chords played very very slowly.  There’s no drums at all, just beats from the guitars.

And I had heard that their live shows were amazing–louder than anything you’ve ever heard, tons of fog, guys in hoods, and just sonic intensity.  And as soon as I saw that they were playing locally I grabbed a ticket.

I was prepared for the loudest thing I’d ever heard (and brought super great earplugs accordingly).  But I have to say it wasn’t as loud as I was expecting.  I mean, sure it was loud, but I had heard that you could feel it in the pit of your stomach–I was prepared to have to head to the back of the building for the sound waves.  But it wasn’t that loud at all.  On the other hand, it was loud enough that I could feel my nose hairs vibrating, or the cuffs of my pants vibrating.  S that’s pretty loud.  In fact, normally after hearing loud noises, you get a tinnitus ring.  After this show, I had a low throb in my ears for a day after–I’ve never experienced anything like that before.  I’m actually thinking it may have been because the earplugs were in too far.

But aside from that, what was the show like? (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 18, 2017] Big ‡ Brave

I hadn’t heard of Big ‡ Brave when I saw that they were opening for Sunn O))).  Before the show I read this compelling description: “Big Brave utilize many elements of drone, noise, and post rock with female fronted vocals that are almost reminiscent of Bjork as far as tone.”

They play slow and loud.  And their songs are very bass-heavy even though there is no bass!  Two guitars making very low rumbles.

The band is a trio–2 guitars and a fairly sparse drum kit.  Robin Wattie (here’s a video of her singing) stood on the far side of the stage.  She sang an impassioned wail and often kept time by thumping her guitar (generating more drone I’m sure) before playing low, loud chords.

Closest to me was guitarist Mathieu Bernard Ball.  He was constantly in motion, rocking up and down as he played wondrous noises (see video) with his guitar.  (more…)

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