October 10, 2010

Arcade Fire turn earth into heaven at Big Sur

Stick Arcade Fire in the middle of a forest and magic is bound to happen.

It's hard to describe how unbelievably special it was seeing the band play the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur on Oct. 5. Thanks to lucky and kind friends, I was able to score a ticket to this once-in-a-lifetime show, seeing the band perform with 250 others amidst a wonderland of trees thriving next to a breathtaking ocean expanse.

It's hard to imagine a concert more glorious  — take one of the most stellar live bands around these days, add the ethereal atmosphere of Big Sur, a few hundred ecstatic fans, and a sprinkling of rain to remind you, "Hot-damn, yes we are watching one of the best bands of the modern era in the center of nature."

Most of the audience wore perma-grins being present at such an event, and Arcade Fire's seeming pleasure at performing at such a special place as Big Sur only enhanced the thrill of being there.

It certainly proved how accessible — and normal — these "music superstars" really are. How cool was it to see frontman Win Butler and company mingling so freely among the crowd, before, during and after the show?

Butler practically spent more time roaming the audience than onstage — fans could spot him catching the pretty amazing sax theatrics of Colin Stetson's opening set, standing beside throngs of fans during "Haiti" to enjoy his wife, Regine Chassagne, and the rest of the band performing in this special place, and just generally being his antsy self onstage, jumping into the crowd whenever he felt like it.

The musical highlight of the night most certainly was "Month of May," which found the band at its most intense and the kids in the audience going absolutely nuts, segueing into "Rebellion (Lies)". Other absurdly awesome moments included "Ready to Start," "We Used to Wait," which brought Stetson and his superior sax skills back onstage, "Neighborhoods (Tunnels)," and a rousing version of "Power Out," made even more interesting by the rain that began to fall and threaten a real power outage.

Oh, that rain. Yeah, it prevented Arcade Fire from getting to soundcheck before the show, and did cut the night short by one song ("Intervention"), but how cool was it to be doused in raindrops during the beginning of "Wake Up," only to have the sky clear by the end of the song?

This show was but a dream.


The Suburbs
The Suburbs (Continued)
Suburban War
Crown Of Love
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
The Well And The Lighthouse
Keep The Car Running
Ready To Start
Month Of May
Rebellion (Lies)
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
No Cars Go
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
We Used To Wait
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Wake Up

"Month of May" into "Rebellion (Lies)," Big Sur, Oct. 5"

September 12, 2010

Missing a Titus Andronicus show sucks

Damn it -- I should have listened to that coin. 

Titus Andronicus doesn't really roll round these parts too often considering the band's all East Coast, so I really should have dragged my arse out to San Francisco on Wednesday when they played the Independent

There's not too many bands out there these days that ooze the spirit of one Titus Andronicus -- total punk rock energy, loud, jolly crowd singalongs, just crazy fun really. Or at least from what I've heard through the online grapevine. 

I didn't make the show for a combination of reasons (worked late, long drive to S.F. and shitty parking situation around the Independent didn't offer hope that I'd catch even half of their set), but the main reason was that my dumbass didn't jump in my car right when I got home from work and head out to the show. Instead I debated back and forth, sorta Clash-like, "Should I stay or should I go?"

I even flipped a quarter -- heads-up meant I should not have missed the show. And heads were up, bitches.

But I disobeyed the coin and procrastinated until it was truly too late. I stayed home and proceeded to listen to The Monitor for the rest of the night, falling even more in love with the album. 

On a positive note, missing this show and soaking in Titus Andronicus' music over the next few days made me feel completely inspired by the band, their energy, love of life. An "absence makes the heart grow fonder" sorta thing.

And l learned something, too. Just as Aesop teaches in one of his more modern fables: Screw the drive and crappy parking -- a show will always be worth it. 

August 16, 2010

Holy redwoods! Arcade Fire to play
Henry Miller Library in Big Sur on Oct. 5

Get your keyboard-clickin' fingers ready, because what could be the show of the summer in the Bay Area goes on sale this Wednesday, Aug. 18 at noon.

Arcade Fire.

The Henry Miller Library in Big Sur.

Oct. 5.

I've only been to one show at the Henry Miller Library, seeing the Entrance Band, and it was a beautiful experience.

First of all, the atmosphere can't be beat -- you're in middle of the forest and feel hundreds of miles removed from conventional society.

Second, it's as intimate as you can get at a show -- the maximum capacity is 400.

Not to mention the Entrance Band rocked the shit out of those trees. Imagine what Arcade Fire could do.

I already have tickets to see the Flaming Lips on Oct. 2, when the Arcade Fire plays the 8,000-capacity Greek Theater, so Big Sur's my only chance to catch them here.

I don't want to say it'll take a miracle, but I just hope I'm one of the lucky 400 to win the concert lottery this Wednesday.

August 15, 2010

Show review: Autolux @ Great American Music Hall, Aug. 11

Carla Azar beams "The 
Bouncing Wall" into the
GAMH ether on Aug. 11.

Holy crap is it great to see Autolux back in action.

Six years have passed since the L.A. trio released its debut album -- or, six years that the band has had to take a Louisville Slugger to the question, “When is your next album coming out?” 

With that, last week Autolux liberated Transit Transit from the confines of record label turmoil, offering up a solid follow-up that expands on the dreamy art rock of Future Perfect by dipping into more sonic effects, piano-driven Beatle-esque melodies and drum machine grooves.
Translating this more complex sound live is a bit more complicated than the three-piece blissed-out rock of live performances past. Their tour kickoff show at the Great American Music Hall on Aug. 11 went off grandly with only a few hitches that are expected of any first show, but the band has plenty of time on their month-plus tour to work out the kinks.
If there’s anything Autolux proved to the packed GAMH it’s that they’re ready to move the *cuss* on. They played the entirety of their new album, bookending the show with the opening first two tracks and closing with "Heartless Sky," despite an audience pleading for "Capital Kind of Strain."
Good move. Some members of the crowd -- which contained a few overenthusiastic frat-packers up front who insisted upon an awkward "Autolux! Autolux!" football chant at times -- perpetually requested tracks from the Future Perfect canon, but the band didn't cave.
Vocalist/bassist Eugene Goreshter seemed surprised at the shout-outs for so many "oldies but goodies." But I think Autolux proved their new songs' worth with energetic renditions of "Audience No. 2," "Census" and the epic "The Science of Imaginary Solutions."
Sure, the guitar could have been louder at points and technical issues didn't do "Spots" and "The Bouncing Wall" justice, but the songs of Transit Transit are perfectly Autolux -- beautiful, drugged-out, but not in a junkie kind of way, and utterly rocking.
That's not to say they ignored their first record, as those "oldies" are still damn good. "Plantlife" toward the end of the show served as a peak for me, seeing these three beast musicians attack their instruments, particularly Carla Azar on drums.
I left the show on an Autolux high, contemplating a drive to L.A. to catch the last show of their tour, Sept. 18 at the El Rey.

August 1, 2010

Show review: Wolf Parade @
Fox Theater, July 30

Wolf Parade rocked the Fox Theater in Oakland in a way I haven't seen them rock before.

I don't know if it was the absence of sound manipulator/synth player Hadji Bakara, who quit the band to work on a Ph.D., or vocalist/keyboardist Spencer Krug's longer hair, but for a band that often infuses their sound with baroque keyboards, Wolf Parade had a respectably rowdy crowd thrashing about the front of the stage throughout the entire show.

Part of it could be the excitement generated by their setlist Friday night -- they played an equal mix of songs from all three of their albums, yet placed their most epic tracks where they counted most: opening with "You are a Runner and I am my Father's Son," the song that launched their classic debut Apologies to the Queen Mary;  peaking midway with an orgasmic rendition of "I'll Believe in Anything;" and closing their first set with "California Dreamer" and finishing the show's encore with "Kissing the Beehive," colossal tracks from their second record, At Mount Zoomer.

I have to say the songs from their latest album, Expo 86, sound even better live, despite the Fox Theater's sometimes inferior acoustics (Wolf Parade's delicate keyboard lines sounded a bit fuzzed over on Friday). Expo 86 hasn't grown on me as immediately as their first two records, but "Cloud Shadow on the Mountain" and "What Did My Lover Say" especially earned a deserved spot on Wolf Parade's setlist.

One thing that really stood out was vocalist/guitarist Dan Boeckner's fired-up presence. Sure, Wolf Parade has always been balanced with Krug and Boeckner's alternating vocals, but I've always been a Krug girl, enjoying Krug's odd yelps a bit more than Boeckner's deep-throat crooning. I guess I'm not the only one who felt that way, as I overhead a fellow concertgoer exclaim "Go Dan!" and "See?" during the second song to his obviously Krug-loving wife.

But after Friday it ceased to be a Krug-or-Boeckner question. Wolf Parade is the ultimate yin-and-yang band.