Info Gluttony

Best Shows of 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by echan on January 2, 2014

It’s that time of the year again, where I look back and reflect on concerts that I went to over the past year. In 2013, I saw at least 27 bands* perform full sets over the course of 17 shows and 3 music festivals. Since I spent 3 days at my first and last trip to Coachella, I’m going to say that my show attendance was the same, if not more, than 2012.

The year was notable because there were a lot of bands that I saw perform twice in 2013 (Yo La Tengo, Alt-J, Peter Hook, and the Savages). I also got in a fair number of nostalgia acts (Blur, the Postal Service, Peter Hook x 2, Johnny Marr, the Stone Roses, New Order [without Peter Hook], OMD, and Stone Temple Pilots [without Scott Weiland]).

The list format doesn’t work really work any more, so here are my notable shows of 2013:

  • The Savages at the Independent – We were supposed to see the Savages full set at Station to Station the night before, but we were running late. We did arrive at S2S in time to catch the last 2 songs and were completely blown away. Before arriving at S2S, we were ambivalent about going to the Independent show the next day, but as soon as we heard them, we decided that we had to go. This show experience was unique in that the band requested absolutely no photography of any kind and for most of the show, the audience complied (no smartphone screens to mar the experience). Their album also ranks in my top 5 of the year.
  • Alt-J at Coachella – This band has the bro-iest following ever, but they must be experienced live. Their recorded music doesn’t do their live music justice. This is one of the few Coachella bands that I made a point to see again when they came through the Bay Area.
  • The Flaming Lips Halloween Bloodbath at Bill Graham – Wayne Coyne + Carrie + Miley Cyrus + so many beautiful balloons (video link).
  • Tame Impala opening for the Flaming Lips on Halloween (and at Coachella) – they were the perfect opener for the Lips and their album from 2012 wins for gradually growing on me over 2013.
  • Junip at Bimbo’s – in spite of the drunk concert bros shouting “We love you Jose,” this was my idea of a sonically perfect show, the sound was perfect, the performance was perfect. Even though J did not know who we were going to see, he walked away saying this was probably going to be the best show we saw all year (and I think this was back in June).

Hopefully, I’ll be able to do another write-up next year, but for me, 2014 is the “year of no,” in terms of going out less, so I think my show frequency will fall significantly. Let us hope that the dozen or show shows that I select in 2014 will make for another amazing music year.

*By way of checking my Instagram and Google calender, these were the acts: Arcade Fire, Lorde, Alt-J, Phoenix, Flaming Lips, Tame Impala, Billy Bragg, Savages, Peter Hook, Junip, Stone Temple Pilots (this was not by choice; it was a festival surprise act), Of Monsters and Men, Yo La Tengo, Tamaryn, OMD, Grimes, Bat for Lashes, Janelle Monae, the Postal Service, Johnny Marr, Blur, Stone Roses, Thao Nguyen, Glass Candy, Twin Shadow, Efterklang, and Starfucker.


Yeah…Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

Posted in concert, indie rock, music, personal, Uncategorized by echan on April 18, 2012

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.

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Siri, Remind Me Later

Posted in personal, san francisco, Uncategorized by echan on March 9, 2012

In the spirit of this brief, earlier post, I want to memorialize the winter of 2011-2012 that’s about to end (even though it feels like that it’s already over).

This was the winter where San Francisco had an L.A. winter. There were a few, scattered cold days, but there were far too many sunny days, even in the Outer Sunset, where the fog usually reigns. This was the winter when I did not bother to go up to Tahoe even once, since there was no snow. This was the beautiful, warm, dry winter that will lead us to ration water later this year, or next. This is the winter when it did not rain on my birthday, even though it always rains on my birthday.

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Best Shows of 2011

Posted in concert, music, personal, Uncategorized by echan on January 20, 2012

In keeping with my tradition of annual round-ups, here are my noteworthy shows of 2011, a year, where I saw everyone from Prince to St*rF*ck*r, and Arcade Fire twice. I didn’t cry tears of emotional joy at any of the 2011 shows, but the band that took the top spot very nearly put me into concert retirement with their performance at the Greek Theatre.  So, in ascending order of how much I enjoyed myself:

8.  Cut Copy at the Regency – This is the runner-up in the dance party category, simply because it was the most energetic. It took me forever to steady my phone to take a picture because people were jumping so hard on the dance floor. Oonce oonce oonce.

7.  The Kings of Convenience at the Fillmore – Based on Erlend Oye’s past work with Royksopp, this show was in some ways a companion piece to entry #5 below.  This was a two-man acoustic guitar and vocal set, which definitely emphasized, loud audience aside, that quiet is the new loud.

6.  Thao and the Get Down Stay Down – Miss Thao always gives her all, in her full messy glory for her shows. She’s definitely my favorite local musician.

5.  Royksopp at the Regency – This won the dance party category by the sheer force of Royksopp’s sound.

4.  Foster the People at Outsidelands – I went to the festival for Arcade Fire, but on day one, Foster the People stole the show. I didn’t think of them their album as all that dance-y beforehand, but I had fun doing the indie bop in Golden Gate Park during their set. Plus, it helps that like everyone else on Spotify, I spent a few weeks listening to their album non-stop.

3.  Fitz and the Tantrums at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – Such stage presence! I boogied! I shook! Hands down my favorite act of HSB. Thank you, Mr. Hellman.

2.  Erasure at the Fox – Oh, L’amour, I broke out my gold suspenders for this show, and it was worth it.

1.  Portishead at the Greek – Half of the number 1 spot was earned through anticipation alone, but Beth Gibbons’s and her haunting presence earned the rest. It was nice to see that they moved beyond the screaming banshee rendition of Sour Times, into a more jazzy, lounge-y mode.  After waiting over a dozen years for this show (and after having checked off all of the other acts on my list), I felt very satisfied after this show to enter into concert semi-retirement (I had a very long post-Portishead show lull in ticket purchases). In 2012, I’ll probably halve, if not quarter, my show going habit, but I’m looking forward to Radiohead and M83 at Fauxchella.

Other honorable mentions:

Washed Out at the Great American – This originally made the list above, but I couldn’t remember anything from this show, other than it was good.

Ellie Goulding at Outsidelands – Her music is not quite my cup of tea, but an excellent set, plus the sunglass scramble added to the fun.

Best Coast at the Regency – Along with Thao, this goes into the messy, drunken, emotional vocalist category, and I mean this in a good way.

Beach House at the Fillmore – I was worried about this show because Toastyken had told me that seeing Beach House live was one of his least enjoyable concert experiences, but despite the droning vocals, I liked this show, and the teepee stars were a neat touch.

The Poetry of Youth and Loss

Posted in books, Uncategorized by echan on January 27, 2011

My first encounter with Patti Smith was at a Ralph Nader rally in 2000, where she gave a speech over at the Kaiser Auditorium in the East Bay. I simply thought of her as the middle-aged, frizzy-haired hippie-type that I encountered all the time growing up. I’m still not really familiar with her music, but I recently finished Just Kids, her testament of close friendship to the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

Just Kids is essentially the Portrait of the Artist as a young woman in the New York in the late 1960s and 1970s. Patti runs away from the factory life of New Jersey and has brushes with Andy Warhol’s factory instead. If it was anyone else, you would call the author a name-dropper, but because Ms. Smith is famous in her own right, her casual references to Warhol, Alan Ginsberg, Sam Shepard, Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Jan Wenner, etc., function as a catalogue of ships, or rather catalogue of artists at the Chelsea Hotel. This is Patti’s origin story, and she was surrounded by gods.

Her relationships with the young, famous, and damned, however, weren’t the feature of the story that made the deepest impression on me. Rather, my head was stuck on her descriptions of living in artistic squalor. She describes catching lice, not once, but at least twice, once in Paris, and once from one of her boyfriends. Her wardrobe was chic, but expertly thrifted or found on the street. Mold was removed from loft spaces, turned into art studios, and food was cooked over a hot plate. For whatever reason, her narrative brought back a memory of my third-grade teacher, Ms. S, who told us stories of living a missionary life in Nicaragua, and of dumpster diving for food in San Francisco supermarket parking lots (these stories were told with an eye towards getting her students to donate their change to Catholic charities). They were kindred spirits in pursuit of art or public service.

Patti’s story is also Mapplethorpe’s story, the artist-hustler, who would later go on to be the center of the 1980’s culture wars (as a kid in San Francisco in the 1980’s AIDs, earthquakes, Dan White, and Mapplethorpe seemed to dominate the local TV news that I consumed). The tale of youth is sandwiched in between an elegy for Mapplethorpe, and Patti’s dirge echoes another recent memoir on loss, Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. While Didion’s book was written while see was still in grief’s throes, Patti’s tale is one of the loss that lingers, even two decades after a dear friend has died.

Made in the USA, the Luxe Edition

Posted in Uncategorized by echan on August 31, 2010

A Continuous Lean pointed out that some of Louis Vuitton’s handbags are now made in the USA.  Perhaps this can serve as a template for economic growth in America.  Instead of Florence Henderson, we could hire some glamorous spokespeople to push luxury goods that are manufactured or handcrafted in the United States.  While the manufacturing costs may be a little higher, this segment of the consumer goods market is the most able to handle the increases.  When people are already dropping two or three grand on a handbag or $800 on a pair of heels, then what’s another fifty dollars?  Supply sliders could rejoice because this would be a true, domestic trickle down effect.

I Could Watch This All Day

Posted in Uncategorized by echan on August 23, 2010

Copa Mundial Sudafrica 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by echan on July 12, 2010

Oh, what a great month!

The unpredictable, controversial, bouncing Jabulani ball!

The Nike ad that whet everyone’s appetite, before becoming the Nike Curse.

France’s disgrace.

Vuvuzelas, as in Vuvuzela-rolling, counter-vuvuzela hacking, the iPhone app, and just plain zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

The Sir Mick Jagger curse.

Boateng v. Boateng brother

Jogi Loew’s lucky blue sweater and Germany’s 4-goal games.

Team America, and a 91st minute winning goal!

Unfulfilled wishes (the England v. Argentina match and Germany v. Netherlands final that never happened).

Maradona, the coach.

Paul, the Octopus, who won the International World Cup pool, and was in turn not served for dinner.

A new first time World Cup winner, Viva Espana!

And a bunch of stuff that I am forgetting, but will recall in 4 or 8 or 12 years from now.

On to Brazil 2014!

This Will Not Be My Summer Reading

Posted in Uncategorized by echan on June 7, 2010

The last time that I followed one of Jonathan Franzen’s book recommendations, I fell down the rabbit hole of Thomas Musil’s The Man Without Qualities, Volumes 1 and 2, and lost a semester’s worth of time, but gained absolutely nothing (not even a well-crafted sentence).  Therefore, I will not add this to my Amazon cart.


Addendum: Frazen’s Freedom, landing on 8/31/10, will be my fall reading.  Adding to pre-order now (you can preview it here).


Posted in concert, music, Uncategorized by echan on May 3, 2010

I went to see Phantogram open for the Antlers yesterday.  For their encore, they played, “When I’m Small,” and I think the reason why I love this song is that it reminds me of very good Moby, not car commercial Moby.

Otherwise, the duo really rocks the electronic-industrial sound live.