Normally, I save my concert reviews for year-end one-sentence summaries. But by the time December comes around, my memory grows hazy, and it’s hard to reconstruct my feelings about a show based on a single Flickr upload. I’m breaking from routine, and giving Pulp a full review now because I’m pretty sure that last night’s show will garner the top spot on my 2012 Best Show list.
Last fall, when Portishead played the Greek, I was pretty ready to retire from show going because I thought there was nothing left. Essentially, if I got to see Radiohead live every two years or so, I thought that I’d be happy. Well, I was wrong. For my birthday, J got me general admission Radiohead tickets for last week’s show at HP Pavilion, and for a few weeks, I was happy. Then, I missed the Pulp ticket sale by an hour, and walked away empty handed when I acted on a rumor and tried the Warfield box office that night.
I checked Stubhub and Craiglist religiously and one of my friends added me to a “Help everyone get to see PULP at the Warfield!” group on Facebook, and in the end, everything worked out. J’s roommate ended up having a pair of extra tickets, and I let out a squeal of delight when she nonchalantly offered them to me without knowing of my quest.
Thus, even before yesterday’s show, I was pretty psyched. I spent an entire hour clockwatching while sitting through a lecture on Biophilic cities right before the show. And for once, the show, ended up exceeding my keyed up expectations.
Jarvis Cocker, at age 48, may be the best showman that I’ve EVER seen. He likely arranged the opening green laser messages that added up to the build up of the band coming on stage. He read out facts about Isak Dineson, whose birthday was yesterday. He threw out to the audience a book of poetry that he bought at City Lights that afternoon. He handed a beer to someone in the front audience, and told them to share it. He did this again with a couple of glasses of wine (Greg, who patiently waited hours to secure a front spot, deservedly got one of these glasses). But most of all, in playing Pulp’s hits, he alternated from a writhing dorky-sexy rockstar to a guide who gently coaxed me to re-live my awkward adolescence in verse. He owned the entire audience.
Yesterday’s show also answered the mystery of why I hadn’t seen Pulp live before. The last time they played in San Francisco was at Bimbo’s when I was in high school. I wasn’t even old enough back then to make it through ID check.
The concert gods have blessed the Bay Area this week. Pulp matched Radiohead’s two-plus-hour set with double encores, with their own two-hour set with double encores, albeit shorter double encores. By the end, Jarvis sweated through his dress shirt a la Morrissey and looked a bit misshapen as he performed Misshapes. But everyone left smiling as they sweetly ended with Pulp’s earliest song.
I was going to do a post on the 10 books that I read in 2010 (not “best” books, mind you, but the 10 books that I read in full) under the mistaken impression that I wrote a post about the books that I read in 2009. It turns out, however, that my only year-end round-up post last year was the Best Shows of 2009. So, in the spirit of that post, here’s the 2010 edition.
Although I saw more acts this year (my unscientific count via TwitFlick photos is 28), I thought 2010 was only a “meh” concert year overall.* So, instead, I’m just going to list shows that I really really liked (once again in good to better to best order):
10. Phantogram at the Indy – Such a big sound for such a simple 2-person duo.
9. Mirah and Thao Nguyen at Noisepop – This sounds bad, but it was actually quite good: this show = your Gender Studies T.A.’s performing while a bit drunk.
7. Pavement at the Greek – And to compliment #8, this one occupies the spot of “Grandfather of all Indie Bands from the 90s that I’ve been waiting forever to see.”
6. The Morning Benders at the Independent – I’ll let my pal Wenlin’s cartoon speak for this night.
5. The National
at the Independent (Correction – GDubrow points out in the comments that this was at the Fox in Oakland. My memory failed me because I didn’t think that I could get that close to the stage at the Fox) – I thought Matt Berninger and the band engaged the crowd more at Treasure Island (with the quips that only Matt is allowed to wear suits and that “Slow Show” is the National song that’s most often played at weddings), but it can’t beat the spot that we had at the Indy the Fox.
3. DeadMau5 at Treasure Island Fest – This is the year that I converted from being an Indie Sunday to Dance Saturday person at T.I. Fest. The Mau5 was a huge reason why. Oonce oonce oonce
2. Thom Yorke at the
Warfield Fox (addendum: My brain completely erased the knowledge of the existence of the Fox Theater in Oakland while writing this post) – If it wasn’t for Arcade Fire, Mr. Yorke (one day, Sir Yorke, when William is king?) would automatically get the number one spot. This show was a reminder to take Eraser out again, and give it another good listen (in fact, just writing this post is forcing me to put Eraser on).
1. Arcade Fire at the Greek – Though I’m still not in love with The Suburbs, this was the first concert that made me cry in a long time. There’s something about this band, where the crowd wails out in unison, and feels better afterwards. Collective catharsis, however cheesy that may sound.
*I started this post thinking that 2010 was a “meh” year, but by the time I’ve reached this part of the post, I’m pretty darn satisfied with what the 2010 concert calendar delivered. No Portishead, but I’ve decided that “Waiting for Portishead” is the new “Waiting for Godot.”
**Peter Hook and Co. playing all of Unknown Pleasures, LCD Soundsystem at the Fillmore, the Magnetic Fields at the Herbst, and Hot Chip at the
Warfield Fox probably deserve some kind of honorable mention, but whatever.
***Vampire Weekend at the Warfield gets the award for “loudest concert of the year.” My ears are still ringing from that show.
4 3 different venues on my list, The Independent wins my vote for favorite venue of 2010. I’m a bit amazed the the Fillmore isn’t on this list at all. And I’m amazed that I forgot that a couple of the shows were at the beautiful, albeit acoustically challenged Fox in Oakland.
Other than In n’ Out wrappers and bags from Forever 21, I rarely come across Bible verses. My curiosity was piqued after I downloaded the Mountain Goats’ latest album, Life of the World to Come, where each song takes its name from a Biblical chapter and verse (or an entire chapter, in the case of the final track from the album). I tried searching online for a chart with the song title and text side-by-side, but I couldn’t locate one, so here’s my compilation of the title and verse (from the King James Bible):
- “1 Samuel 15:23” – 4:07 – For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
- “Psalms 40:2” – 3:13 -He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
- “Genesis 3:23″ – 3:10 (mp3 link because it’s a heckuva good song) – Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
- “Philippians 3:20-21” – 3:03 – For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: / Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
- “Hebrews 11:40” – 2:48 – God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
- “Genesis 30:3” – 3:24 – And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.
- “Romans 10:9” – 2:42 – That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
- “1 John 4:16” – 3:09 – And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
- “Matthew 25:21” – 5:47 – His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
- “Deuteronomy 2:10” – 3:21 – The Emims dwelt therein in times past, a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims;
- “Isaiah 45:23” – 3:38 – I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
- “Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace” – 4:46 – Here’s the link, since it’s the full chapter.
This past week, I attended two very divergent live acts containing “Kids” in their respective band names, the New Kids on the Block and Black Kids. They are at opposite ends of the career spectrum, but there are certain lessons that could be gleaned from each show.
On Friday, I saw NKOTB in full reunion tour glory at the HP Pavilion. Long ago written off as a joke, NKOTB had to wait 15 years for this stadium tour, which didn’t sell out, but which probably lined their pockets with enough dough to make their retirement even more comfortable. In my grunge, indie, electronica, Britpop filled teens and twenties, I had almost forgotten that at one time, the New Kids were the biggest act in the world. The fact that I knew most of the lyrics to their hits also reminded me that as a Catholic middle schooler, I horded their cassette tapes, bought Bop for pictures of Jonathan Knight, and even owned NKOTB fashion plates.
The lesson from the New Kids, is patience, patience, patience. These guys did not go on terrible druggy benders in their 20s, but instead settled down into either completely reclusive lives (in the case of Jonathan, who was always the shy one) or at worst, joined other C-list stars on the reality show circuit (Joey and Jordan), or took their hand at acting (Donnie, who was soon eclipsed by his little brother Marky Mark). For their late-30s, the New Kids were in remarkable dancing and crooning form.
While the New Kids were manufactured as a Boy Band back in pre-WWW era, around this time last year, the Black Kids picked up blogger buzz, with a very infectious song, I’m Not Going to Teach Your Boyfriend to Dance with You (which is currently iTunes’ free download of the week, a sign that it has crossed over to mainstream popularity). Despite this buzz, they are a young band, and their manager was a little too ambitious in booking them in SF this time around. In the spring, they split the bill at Mezzanine with Cut Copy, but their most recent show at the Fillmore was moved to the much smaller GAMH. The initial booking shows that their manager ignored the normal SF venue size progression (from small to big fan base): (1) Slims / Bottom of the Hill; (2) GAMH / the Regency/ the Independent / Bimbo’s; (3) The Fillmore / Warfield / Paramount / Zellerbach; (4) Greek / Shoreline; and (5) HP Pavilion / Oracle Colliseum. In the case of the Black Kids, it was definitely a bit ambitious to book the Fillmore, since they only have enough material to be a festival / split billed act (their set was only 60 minutes along, because that’s all they have to play, making for a short Monday night dance party).
 My favorite line from this song is still, “He’s got two left feet and he bites my moves.” One of my favorite versions is Kate Nash’s gender bending cover.
I’m debating whether or not I should take an international trip this year, or travel domestically in the interest of conserving resources. Evil K is hitting Scandavia, starting in Iceland, then onto the continent. I am tempted to go, because I am rather infatuated with the sound of Sweden: Jens Lekman* (reminiscent of the Magnetic Fields), the Knife (a Royksopp connection), Jose Gonzales, and Suburban Kids with Biblical Names (the one with best band names that I’ve heard in a while). My indie rock compass points north.
*I’m rather entertained by the intro of this Pitchfork review of Mr. Lekman:
Jens Lekman does not have a girlfriend. This seems to be an injustice on par with the Sony rootkit fiasco and the cancellation of “Arrested Development”. Lekman is charming. He writes orchestral pop songs that swoon like silent movie damsels in distress. He rhymes “chili” with “chilly.” The Swedish singer/songwriter hasn’t been in a relationship for four years. Blaming the music business for his non-existent love life, he recently threatened to quit releasing records to become a telemarketer.