typhoon @ brighton music hall (review, photos)

September 30th, 2013

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It was that kind of night–you and your partner were both kind of sick and aching, both tired, both not looking forward to starting the week tired. Did we really want to go to this show? I mean, we bought tickets months ago but still…?

Looking back after Typhoon finished their set at Brighton Music Hall last night, the answer was so obviously and emphatically “YES!” that I’m glad we at least said ‘I guess’.

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Getting into the venue a few minutes before Typhoon went on, we slipped into the audience behind the two post-college dudes on a man-date and next to the extremely differently heighted couple on perhaps their third date. The band came on the stage in all their glory: two drummers, two violins, one flugelhorn, two trumpets (one doubling on keyboards and guitar), one bass, one guitar, one ukulele/ glockenspiel, and Kyle, the lead singer on guitar and Wurlitzer electric piano.

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The crowd–though it was a Sunday night–was packed in and excited. The band and the audience fed off each other immediately and it quickly became an atmosphere of astounded magic. The band played excitedly, skillfully, beautifully and the crowd collectively felt like it was witnessing something wonderful and unique. The dozen instruments and as many voices blended into a wave coming off of the stage, paradoxically more together and more individual than on the records.

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After each song there was an increasing amount of applause to the point where, with a few songs left, the audience was cheering like it was demanding an encore. Kyle had to say something like “Thanks so much! We still have more songs.”

The end of the set came too soon and there was thunderous applause calling for an encore this time, which the band obliged. Three more delicate, lively, wonderful, and raucous songs later and the band was done and people were streaming back the merch table and out into the cool autumn day. My feet felt like they were hardly touching the pavement.

Best shows of 2012

January 21st, 2013

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Charles Bradley at the Brighton Music Hall, photo by ipickmynose

During 2012, I went to the most concerts I’ve been to since 2009. It still wasn’t that many but I decided I’d like to wrap up the year in concerts in some way.

Top 5 shows:

  1. 2/4 Charles Bradley @ Brighton Music Hall – This show blew me away. Thinking back on it, almost a year later, I’m still a bit in awe. It’s a bit hard to describe why, but here’s a shot: Bradley is truly ecstatic to be performing and when he says “I love you” to the crowd, it feels real (and he backs it up by hugging perhaps dozens of audience members after the show). His band is tight and his performance is fantastic. He’s truly a soul showman, not in some retro way, but like he’s living it.
  2. 5/18 Damien Jurado @ Davis Square Theater – I’ve seen Jurado something like nine times now and a few years ago I thought I’d seen the best show by him that I ever would. Turns out I was wrong. The previous eight times, he performed sitting (and often solo), concentrating on playing his fantastically written songs. Never would I have thought a show would end with him excitedly playing through a song as the clock ticked into the small hours and then finish it on his knees, head on the floor, shout-singing into the microphone. I walked away stunned and happy.
  3. 11/3 Crooked Fingers, John Vanderslice @ Great Scott – Often great shows are a combination of many things, with one element being the music. In this case, an exhilarating and brisk bike ride through Cambridge and Allston brought me to Great Scott, where I hung out with JV and friends, had some nice beers, struck up great happenstance conversations, and ran into an old friend, all while and after both JV and Crooked Fingers put on great sets.
  4. 11/13 David Bazan @ Brighton Music Hall – Here was David Bazan playing my favorite Pedro the Lion album, Control interspersed with other great songs from his catalog and even with an appearance from one-time Pedro member TW Walsh on the drums, all skillfully and passionately. If you know me, you know I’m a big Bazan fan and this may be my favorite full band show I’ve ever seen.
  5. 4/27 Archers of Loaf @ Middle East Downstairs
    In a dark and cramped room full of most 30-somethings, the 41 year old Bachmann and company ripped through classic Archers songs on their first stop through Boston since they reunited. Seemingly in unison the audience was reliving their high school love of unbridled musical energy, and the way that could connect one with other people.

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Best show for old people:

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  • 10/6 Neil Halstead @ Lizard Lounge – This show started at 7:30, had one opener and was done by 9:45. It was seated and gloriously quite. And the bar had a great beer list. If liking that makes me old, so be it. (Also, the music alone was fantastic–this show was a strong contender for the top five shows of the year above.)

Best non-venue show:
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  • 11/15 The Local Strangers @ Sommervile house show – These friends-of-friends put on a really solid set in a small setting as I was sitting on couch next to some nice people I’d just met. Before and after I chatted to the band and other attendees, had some snacks and a beer out of the fridge. If you haven’t gotten onto the house show bandwagon yet, seriously consider it.

An honorable mention for this was Kelly McFarling and Goodnight Texas @ Heartbeat Collective in Jamaica Plain, which is essentially a barn and yard next to someone’s house. Lots of fun as well.

Best standing gig:

  • 3/16 Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens @ Fat Cat, New York City – If you’re in New York early on a Friday, I’d strongly suggest checking out this standing gig, which runs every Friday and will run you all of $3 in cover. Shelton puts on a fantastic set of soul gospel while patrons watch, dance and chat.

Best large show:

  • 11/16 Matt & Kim @ House of Blues – I typically don’t like going to large (1000+ capacity) venues and I will often not go to them because I often don’t enjoy them, but after seeing Matt & Kim last year on Jimmy Fallon’s show, I became a bit obsessed with seeing one of their live shows. It paid off as they were dense balls of energy, dancing through their songs, crowd walking (thinking crowd-surfing, but upright), and singing their lungs out.

Best small show:

  • 8/17 Tom Thumb @ TT the Bear’s – I’ve followed Tom Thumb for a few years and when I finally got a chance to see him, I was excited. It turned out that he was the first of four bands, playing on a CD release show for the headliner at his friend’s request. There weren’t many people at TT’s yet, but he put on a great set, interacting charmingly with the couple dozen people in the audience.

Best nostalgia show:

  • 4/27 Archers of Loaf @ Middle East (downstairs) – See the description above. This was just about the pinnacle of nostalgic rock show.

Of course, David Bazan’s show, described above, would be a good choice for this, but with the set of songs from throughout his catalog, that show wasn’t as purely nostalgia as the Archers show.

Best sing-along

  • 12/20 Sufjan Stevens @ Royale – When I saw Sufjan was embarking on a tour entitled “Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant on Ice”, I was a bit skeptical of all the claims in that title. It turned out, though, the sing-a-long part was very true, with audience member being given lyrics books of various Christmas carols which we all sung together heartily (except for the people trying to do their best impersonation of the dad at the end of Elf). It was oddly fun to unironically sing old carols with 700 or 800 other people tossed into the same room.

Well, there you have it. What were your favorite shows this year?

charles bradley & his extraordinaires @ the brighton music hall (review, photos)

February 7th, 2012

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Charles Bradley says “I love you all” and I believe him. We all believe him. Then, as if there is any doubt, he walks to the edge of the stage, looking for a moment like he’ll take a stage dive, climbs off the stage and starts hugging people. He makes his way through the crowd for what seems like a long time, just hugging his now fans.

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63 year old Charles Bradley, after years of poverty, living on the streets, being a chef in Alaska and a handy-man in New York, and occasionally playing a James Brown-like show as “Black Velvet”, finally released his debut album No Time for Dreaming last year. (He also released a few 7″s starting in 2002.) It was among the best debuts of 2011 and one of the best entries in the retro soul genre of bands recalling the sounds of R&B in the ’60s and ’70s.

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Walking off the college-student-filled streets of Allston, into the sold out Brighton Music Hall, I saw DJ PJ Gray spinning some slamming soul 45″s on his turntables near the soundbooth. I took this as a good sign. Finding my way through the mostly young, mostly white crowd, I found a spot near the front on the left side of the stage. The Extraordinaires, Charles Bradley’s backing band–guitar, bass, drums, organ, tenor saxophone and trumpet–for this tour, took the stage to average applause. All young and mostly white, they launched into an instrumental groove that quickly dispelled any doubts if they could play authentic soul and funk–these were obviously kids who were not only talented at their instruments but were well versed in the classics they were emulating.

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After a couple instrumental numbers, the organ player came to the main microphone and, in soul show style, played the hype man and introduced the singer, ending with “Give it up for ‘The Screaming Eagle of Soul’, Charles Bradley!” The room filled with cheers.

Bradley, smiling and wearing a ’70s style three-piece suit, greeted the crowd as the band launched into the next song. Rhythm section grooving, organ adding accents and horns nailing backup lines, Bradley’s voice quickly soared above it all. With James Brown-like screeches and wails, he blew through songs, full-voiced and using a deep well of emotion and experience to give appropriate and fantastic weight to his words. By the third song, I turned to my girlfriend and said, “This is why I go to live music.” This is that once-a-year (or more) live show that buoys the spirit and leaves one with new respect not only for the artist but music in general.

Bradley sang and gestured and balled up his fists against his chest, but he also knelt, pantomimed his cross to bear using the microphone stand and, of course, danced–sometimes slick, practiced moves and others that seemed like he came up with on the spot. He did fast feet, went down in splits, and ground his hips.

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Midway through the show, Bradley left the stage while the band did another instrumental groove. Bradley reemerged having gone through a costume change–shiny pants and an African-print vest that split open at the bottom to reveal his slight gut.

As the show went on, the band hit their hard notes harder, their soft notes softer and Bradley’s anguish, pain–one song is about his brother being shot and killed; another about drifting around trying to find a job–and joy all worked themselves out simultaneous. Here was a man who had led a tough life, struggling and striving to be a performer for years, finally getting his chance to perform in front of sold out audiences. And this audience accepted this and returned with an ecstatic atmosphere–cheers, shouts, hands-in-the-air.

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The set ended in a frenzy with the band in a loud, hard groove and Bradley on one knee talk-singing the words to the Lord’s Prayer, transported perhaps somewhere between the Lord and the audience for that moment. He stood up, declared his love for all of us and went into the audience for that multitude of hugs.

The show seemed over, the band left the stage and Bradley was somewhere in the crowd, but eventually the loud cheers brought the band back to the stage. After one last, quick instrumental, Bradley returned to the stage for “Why is it So Hard,” the anguished burning ballad from No Time for Dreaming, letting his own anguish pour out, leaving the audience nearly speechless.

At the end of it all, there was only one thing that could be said: I love you, too, Charles Bradley.

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See the full set of photos on flickr.

Enter a contest to have Charles Bradley serenade your loved one for Valentine’s day.

Tour dates for the US, Canada, Australian and Europe after the jump. I highly recommend trying to see him if you can.

Read the rest of this entry »

jeff mangum @ sander theatre (review, setlist, etc) + new neutral milk hotel box set to come

September 14th, 2011

On Friday I saw Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, recently out of his self-imposed reclusion, play an acoustic set at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge.

In the Aeroplane over the Sea is an album of great importance–perhaps so Important that it needs to be capitalized–to me, as it is to many people, so you would think that I was unbelievably excited about this show in the days leading up to it.

I was excited but I tried to keep things realistic. Jeff Mangum is a guy that wrote some songs–they happen to be very very good songs–but they’re still just songs. I read some reports from earlier shows and it seemed like he might not actually be every fan’s hermit-savior, despite how nice the mythology of that idea is.

ACME, a string quartet opened the show. They played a nice version of the Erik Satie’s lovely Gymnopédie No.1 and an extended version of Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Perhaps in a different setting I might have enjoyed them more but I was getting antsy for the main act.

Sanders Theatre is a 1166 capacity wooden theater inside Memorial Hall–a list of all the Harvard students to die in the Civil War is etched into the stone of the lobby–on Harvard’s campus. Completed in 1875, the wood has the weight of history in it; it also was built for an era prior to amplification and the natural acoustics of the space are pretty amazing.

During the time between the string quartet, the anticipation built up in the theater. With tickets selling out within a few minutes of going on sale six months ago, you knew the people in the theater were true fans, perhaps even in the original fanatical meaning. Minutes away, one of my and their favorite artists was coming out to play his first songs[1] in the area since Neutral Milk Hotel’s July 24, 1998 show at the Middle East.

Mangum came out to thunderous applause with some people even giving him a standing ovation before he even played a single note. He sat down in a plain chair surrounded by four acoustic guitars and with a small music stand just to his right. Wearing a brown-and-white plaid shirt, brown corduroys and a black fisherman’s hat over his chin-length hair, he looked not too different from what he did thirteen years prior in the few promotional photos now floating around the internet.

As the applause died down, he started into the somber epic “Oh Comely”, which lasts 8+ minutes on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and ends with someone in the studio yelling “Holy Shit!” While the performance was immediately good–deft guitar playing and singing in a clear but slightly nasal voice–the expletives likely to be going through audience members’ heads was about seeing Jeff Mangum live rather than about this particular song.

That quickly changed for me on the second song, “Two Headed Boy, Part II.” On the album version (as well as some live versions like that on Live at Jittery Joe’s) he sings in a fragile, almost-broken voice which was lacking on Friday, which left me initially disappointed, but by the time he sings “In my dreams you’re alive and crying// As your mouth moves in mine soft and sweet” I had chills and I was forgetting any comparisons to the album.

Much like the rest of the night, the end of the song was met with a loud round of applause and shouts which seemed to bring out a big grin on Mangum’s face.

After a disappointing miss with the Roky Erickson cover “I Love the Living You”, he invited the audience to sing along to “In the Aeroplane over the Sea”. In a cathartic moment for me and likely many others, we sang along, knowing all the lyrics notes and inflections by heart. (We even sang the fluegelhorn solo later in the song.)

A man from the balcony yelled “I can now die happy!” Mangum had him repeat it twice more, apparently not able to hear him. After considering for a moment, he said he was singing well that night and that he could also die happy.

After the On Avery Island opener “Song About Sex”, he played another track from that album, “Baby for Pree”. With some feedback and some issues with too much reverb on the vocals, the sound hadn’t been perfect all night, but it reached a new low during this song when the microphone cut out immediately. Jeff turned this potential problem into perhaps one of the most awesome moments of the night, walking to the front of the stage while continuing to play, taking a knee and finishing the song unamplified. The acoustics of the hall proved to be excellent as I could hear clearly from my 3rd-to-last-row seat in the balcony.

The set continued. He played a long-time favorite “Naomi” and had us sing along at the end of “Gardenhead”. “King of Carrot Flowers, Parts I-III” quickly became a singalong, with more people in the 20s and 30s hipster set heartily singing ‘I Love You Jesus Christ’ than has probably been seen in a long time. He finished the set with the favorite “Holland, 1945″ which lacked a little bit of the urgency (and all of the distortion) of the recording, but still sounded great.

After leaving the stage and a short amount of booming applause, he returned to play “Holland, 1945″‘s b-side, “Engine”. Then he left the stage again to loud applause.

He obviously hadn’t planned on playing a second encore, but the applause continued. After a few minutes, they brought up the house lights. The applause continued. After a couple more minutes, they started playing some music over the house speakers. The applause continued. It continued, in fact, till Mangum probably had few other options but to return to the stage.

He grabbed his chair and a guitar and brought them to the front of the stage to play a song unamplified. The audience’s focus was intense as he played “Two Headed Boy”. People sang along but quietly. Even in the balcony I could hear his voice ringing out with a supporting chorus of a thousand fans all pleading a surreal story of freaks and sex and love and World War II atrocities. Getting quiet to hear the end, Mangum told us “sing it” and we did. “Dah dee dah dee dee dee// Dee dee dah dee dee dee dee deee// Dee dee dah dee dee dee dee dee deee.” And then we walked into the night, hearts swollen and satisfied, seeing the moon a bit bigger and the sky a bit closer.

Jeff Mangum @ Sanders Theatre, September 9, 2011 setlist:

  1. Oh Comely
  2. Two Headed Boy, Part II
  3. I Love the Living You (Roky Erickson cover)
  4. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (singalong)
  5. Song About Sex
  6. Baby for Pree/ Glow Into You (finished unamplified after mic went out)
  7. Naomi
  8. Ghost (singalong at the end)
  9. Gardenhead
  10. King of Carrot Flowers, Parts I-III (singalong)
  11. Holland 1945
  12. [Encore 1]
    Engine
  13. [Encore 2]
    Two Headed Boy (unamplified, singalong)


Here’s a video of the second encore from this show. Definitely worth watching.

For coverage of the other Boston-area show and some audio, check out this site. Pitchfork also has audio from the Toronto show.

If you haven’t heard, a vinyl box set with all of the release Neutral Milk Hotel along with 16 unreleased tracks will be out in November. (The unreleased tracks will also be available for digital download.) You can pre-order it now (and hear an unreleased track) at the Neutral Milk Hotel website.

[1] Not entirely true: I saw Mangum play with Circulatory System at the Middle East Upstairs in 2001.

three recommendations for shows in New Orleans

February 15th, 2010

I was in New Orleans with some friends over New Year’s and I keep thinking back on the first three nights we were there. They were among the most satisfying consecutive nights of music I’ve had. And the great thing is that they were standing gigs, so if you go, you can probably see the same events.

So without further ado, here are three recommendations for shows in New Orleans:

  • Zydeco night at Rock n Bowl: This one is not quite a show as much as a musical experience. My friends and I headed to Rock n Bowl our first night in New Orleans for Zydeco. (The night we went Geno Delafose was performing, but I think the music is pretty consistently good there.) There was a stage, a dance floor, a bar and a bowling alley, all right next to each other. Zydeco, a style of Louisiana dance music with heavy use of the washboard, along with some accordion and rock instruments, is a lively and fun music to watch and dance to. Even better is bowling to it. And if our night wasn’t complete by drinking, bowling and jiving to the band, near the end of the night the bartenders got on the bar and hula-hooped. Check calendar for nights.
  • Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf: The next night we went to Uptown to Maple Leaf to see the Rebirth Brass Band’s (myspace) standing Tuesday night gig. Their first set started at about 11pm; after a half hour break, their next set started at about 12:30am. I’m not sure how many sets they played that night but they were coming on for at least another. Mixing traditional New Orleans brass band (second-line) elements with hip hop, funk, soul and jazz, the band tore the roof off of the packed and sweaty Maple Leaf in a long continuous set of originals and covers. The sound wasn’t the best at the club but the tunes and atmosphere were great as everyone seemed to enjoyed the performance. Tuesdays.
  • Walter “Wolfman” Washington at d.b.a.: For our third night, we headed to the Marigny to see Walter “Wolfman” Washington’s (myspace) at d.b.a.. “Wolfman” is an old school R&B/ soul musician. He has a bunch of young guns filling out his band and they’re tight. D.B.A. is also a nice bar with a good selection of the beers, so between that and the solid music, it’s a good time. Wednesdays.

best personal music moments; or, top memorable music moments of 2009

December 21st, 2009

Sandy from Slowcoustic asked me if I wanted to take part of his “Best of…Bloggers” series and I was happy to take part. This originally appeared at there. I had a bit of a hard time deciding what “Best of” I could do for 2009 since my music involvement has been very different for the last four months of it, so I decided to do this.

Of possibly everything related to music that people rate, probably one of the most subjective is live performances. There’s so much besides the music that factors into the experience–what else happened that day, were you with friends or alone, what your expectations were, what the people standing near you were like–that one’s review sometimes not even up to the performers.

With that in mind, I present to you, in chronological order, very personal list of most memorable music moments from 2009.

  • David Bazan @ house show, Berkeley (2/18)
    I saw two of Bazan’s house shows this year but this was easily the better. Attentively sitting on someone’s living room floor, about thirty big-time Bazan fans watched him perform without amplification a few feet away. The music was great, the between-song conversation was good, the crowd was awesome–there wouldn’t be a lot of ways to make this show better.
  • david bazan @ san jose house concert

  • Yoni Wolf @ Apple Store (2/28)
    I hadn’t much considered Why? before this. This show with the frontman and an electric piano changed that somewhat. But what is most memorable about this performance was the once-off cover of “This is the Day.” I remember the hymn from church growing up but Wolf’s version that day was dark and haunting and still sticks with me.
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  • Les Savy Fav @ the Mezzanine, San Francisco (3/1)
    I’d heard many stories about the antics of Les Savy Fav live show and, in particular, frontman Tim Harrington’s antics. This show did not disappoint whatsoever. Harrington came out covered in toilet paper but quickly stripped down to his shorts. Before the night was up he spit beer into the crowd, licked the lens of the photographer standing next to me and duct-taped a girl to him. In between all of this, he managed to sing some songs.
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  • The Rural Alberta Advantage @ Central Presbyterian, Austin (3/19); @ Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco (7/9)
    Two very different shows but both very memorable. At the Central Presbyterian show during SxSW, I saw the band completely win over an audience of people largely unfamiliar with their music. They were on top form and I had chills for about half the show. When the finished the show acoustically in the main aisle of the church, I was in awe like everyone around me. The Bottom of the Hill show was the last Ipickmynose Presents show and it was a rousing success. Two days after their debut album came out to much acclaim, the band seemed to still be surprised by their success and performed a fantastic show.
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  • The Tallest Man on Earth @ the Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco (3/25)
    I’d been obsessing about Shallow Grave for months leading up to this show, which was just a week after I’d seen the Swede, Kristian Matsson, at SxSW. This show was more noteworthy than the SxSW in that this performance was just perfect. Matsson has a way of performing that is just as much about movement as it is about music. He sits during the slow beginning of a song and then stands moves fluidly to the front of the stage and looks out into the audience. After this show nearly everyone I talked to said they thought he was looking right at them, bringing the performance to each audience member in a way few artists do.
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  • Damien Jurado @ Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco (5/5)
    I’ve seen Jurado perform about six or seven times now, but this show seemed to have what would have been my hand-picked setlist of favorites performed with intensity. In his first four songs were “Ghost of David”, “Medication” and “Ohio” and I knew it would be a good night.
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  • Iron & Wine @ Swedish America Hall, San Francisco (5/7)
    I’d seen Iron & Wine a few times, including one magical time in 2004 at the Great American Music Hall, but even that time wasn’t at a venue as small as the Swedish American. Maybe this show stuck with me because his setlist, chosen by fans on his website, was filled with nostalgic favorites. Maybe it was because the Swedish American has great acoustics for solo shows. Maybe it was just a great performance.
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  • Or, the Whale @ the Independent, San Francisco (6/6)
    I love Or, the Whale and this show was good, but the experience here wasn’t about the music (which was great as always). Two months before I was to leave for South Africa, the experience was noteworthy because every time I turned around there was a friend of mine or someone I wanted to talk to. It was a blast and I went home thinking I might be making a mistake moving away.
  • or, the whale

  • John Vanderslice @ Secret House Show, San Francisco (7/25)
    I’m still not sure how this all came together but my going away party in San Francisco was a secret show by John Vanderslice in my apartment to me and thirty of my friends. Completely without amplification, JV was accompanied by Jamie Riotta on upright bass and vocals. My cheeks hurt from grinning so much. It was utterly spellbinding and will probably go down as one of my most memorable music experiences in my entire life.
  • White Plains from ipickmynose on Vimeo.

  • “Oh How I’d Miss You” @ my apartment, San Francisco (7/25)
    Following JV’s performance, I played a killer soul playlist with this Marvin Gaye/ Tammi Terrell number on it. After people trickled out, my lady friend and I spontaneously danced in an empty living room to this song. But, given that I was leaving the country a week later, the lyrics were a bit too topical and near the end of the song I looked up to see her crying.
  • Sangoma Ceremony @ private home, Khayelitsha, South Africa (8/15)
    Saying yes to a series of opportunities led me to be in a tiny tin-sided house off a dirt path in a township outside Cape Town. A new sangoma (sometimes translated as ‘witch doctor’) was being initiated and there was much dancing, singing and clapping among the couple dozen people packed into the house. It was an experience that few outsiders get to have.
  • sangoma ceremony

  • Zulu hymns @ small church, Ingwavuma (9/6)
    This church is at the end of the road, literally. The tar road ends about 2km before it and the dirt road ends right at it. A few hundred meters father, the hill drops off steeply into Swaziland. The hymns during the actual service were sung in both Zulu and English but were largely not noteworthy. While I was sitting waiting for the service to begin, though, women scattered around the room spontaneously and seemingly without coordination started the most beautiful hymns I’d ever heard. Four part harmony filled the room. It was baking hot in that room and I still had chills.

What have been your most memorable music moments this year?

john vanderslice secret house show (videos, photos)

September 25th, 2009

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One may wonder how I’m so lucky. I often wonder the same thing. A great going away party has all your friends, plenty of good conversation, and maybe some beer if you’re into that sort of thing. Add to that an intimate, acoustic performance by one of your favorite musicians and it’s really hard to describe how amazing the outcome is.

John Vanderslice (myspace) did just that for my going away part. He and Jamie Riotto (on upright bass) played about an hour with no mics or amplification whatsoever. The gathered audience, sitting on the floor of my cleared out Mission apartment, was entranced. There was hardly a sound except for thunderous applause and “woos!” after each and every song. Figuring that the effect of having this show in my own apartment and for me had skewed my perspective, I said to a number of people afterwards “that was pretty good, right?” Every single one of them corrected me: “No, that was amazing.”

Thanks, JV, for making it a wonderful evening an unforgettable one. And if you were in the audience, thanks for coming. These videos and photos don’t do it justice, but they’re something I’d like to share here anyway.

Romanian Names from ipickmynose on Vimeo.

White Plains from ipickmynose on Vimeo.

Lucifer Rising, by John Vanderslice from ipickmynose on Vimeo.

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I have a signed set list among my prized possessions but unfortunately I don’t have a scan of it handy. I will add it to this page eventually.

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JV, by the way, has a new 7″ coming out with “Too Much Time” on it. You can get it from Dead Oceans. They’ve also posted a demo version of the song, which is flippin great:

John Vanderslice – Too Much Time (demo) (mp3)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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rural alberta advantage @ bottom of the hill (photos, review, etc)

July 13th, 2009

For the latest ipickmynose presents show, the Rural Alberta Advantage (myspace) and Half-handed Cloud (myspace) played the Bottom of the Hill last Thursday. Okay was scheduled to be the middle band but had to cancel due to illness.

Half-handed Cloud went on a bit later than the original start time due to the schedule only having two bands instead of three. The growing crowd was getting a bit restless. John Ringhofer played a half a dozen instruments–banjo, omnichord, percussion and trombone among them–sometimes accompanied by pre-recorded instruments on a tape player. He played his quirky, short and cute folk pop songs in a straight-forward but endearing manner. It was a fun set.

The venue was getting pretty full by the time the Rural Alberta Advantage went on. Having just come off their CD release two days prior and very positive review from P4k among many others, the band was obviously basking in the glow of the new attention.

Playing most of Hometowns with a couple new songs thrown in, the band came out and gave it their all. From the audience members around me, I literally heard gasps at the band’s performance, particularly Paul’s intricate and barely-contained drumming. When the RAA hit “Don’t Haunt This Place”, their third or fourth song, I don’t thing there were many at the show who were left unconvinced at the greatness of the band’s live show.

They were very appreciative throughout the show of the crowd and the reception they were receiving. And the audience was receptive–it felt like everyone was leaning forward just to be a little closer to the band.

At the end of the set, the band came out for an encore, of course. Nils led off with a convincing solo rendition of “Eye of the Tiger” that turned into a sing-along. After the song, Nils remarked that he wanted to just keep repeating the chorus because it was so much fun singing with the audience. After another song, they left the stage again, only to be called back for a second, non-obligatory encore. It was a gorgeous version of “Sleep All Day”. All in all it was a fantastic show that I was proud to be involved with.

tallest man on earth @ the independent (photos, review, etc.)

July 7th, 2009

On Thursday I saw the Tallest Man on Earth at the Independent. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Wheel from Denver opened.

As I walked into the club, I saw that tables were laid out, covering most of the floor. I’d been to partially seated shows at the Indie before but I did not expect this show to be seated. It definitely changes the dynamic of the show to have people seated and spaced out as opposed to crunched up against the stage.

The Wheel opened the show. A five piece with two guitars (electric, acoustic), keyboards, upright bass and drums, they played a fairly subdued sort of indie country/ alt country. While I wasn’t completely enthralled, they did play a nice set and their songs were good. They had some particularly nice moments with three vocalist harmonizing together.

It was the third time I’d seen the Tallest Man on Earth in six months. And, yet, it was still an excellent show.

After a month long tour with John Vanderslice and touring on and off for most of the last year, he’s developed new and different arrangements for some of his songs from both the recorded versions and previous live versions. Kristian Matsson is an excellent performer that uses his songs, his multi-faceted voice and movement around the stage–sitting on his chair, walking up to the very edge and looking out into the crowd–to pull people into his songs. While he may not have the banter and stories of fellow Swede Jens Lekman, he’s a gifted showman. In the end the Rickshaw show in March felt more intimate and may stay with me longer, but this show was still great.

8 bands whose live show changed how I listen to their recordings

June 30th, 2009


Andrew Bird, changing the way I hear his music, at the Fillmore, May 2007

Usually, I like a bands’ recordings and then I’ll see them live. Sometimes, though, something about a band’s music won’t click until I see them live. I find the oddest part of this phenomenon not that I’ll like bands live whose recordings didn’t work for me, but that when I go back to listen to the recordings afterwards, I’ll hear them differently often forever.

For example, I’d listened to Mumford & Sons before SxSW and thought they were ‘meh’. I saw them there and really liked their show and now I love listening to their recordings, though they’re the same recordings I thought were ‘meh’ before.

Bands whose live show changed how I listen to their recordings [in chronological order from first show]

  1. Mates of State
    (first seen: October 2001 at the Middle East (upstairs), Cambridge)
  2. the Polyphonic Spree
    (first seen: August 2003 at the Paradise, Boston)
  3. Ted Leo
    (first seen: March 2007 at the Great American, San Francisco)
  4. the Dodos
    (first seen March 2007 at the Cafe du Nord, San Francisco)
  5. Mount Eerie
    (first seen April 2007 at ATA, San Francisco)
  6. Andrew Bird
    (first seen May 2007 at the Fillmore, San Francisco)
  7. Frightened Rabbit
    (first seen: November 2008 at the Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco)
  8. Mumford & Sons
    (first seen: March 2009 at the Flamingo Cantina, Austin)

So which bands changed the way you heard them?