31 October 2006

show review: Calvin Johnson / Karl Blau / A Dog Paloma

One of my favorite ways to see a film is to go in knowing as little as possible about it save for the knowledge that people I trust like it. I'm totally willing to put up with the jeers from film snobs in order to gain this experience. The stigma of ignorance is a low price to pay for the treat of this sort of unexpected goodness. I don't get the same experience often with live shows. Someone is always filling me in with the dope before I get there. And that's cool too. But… unexpected goodness is what I got this past Wednesday at Chielle on Colfax Avenue. The Detroit Cobras were rockin' out in the Bluebird next door but the all the wall to wall people in the fab little store that made room for us knew we were in a great place for music that night.

I decided to go to the show in the first place because I wanted to hear A Dog Paloma. That was reason enough to go for me. Although I'd seen the lo-fi flyer on the bulletin board at the bookstore, I was too preoccupied with a week of speeding tickets, tow truck bills and other bad news and didn't pay much attention to who else was playing. Not yet anyway. I just knew that Joe Sampson and Nathaniel Rateliff could be counted on to counteract the crummy and melancholy October days that had gripped on tight. And they did make my week better. Joe and Nathaniel are great to hear on their own…but together…chalk it up to chemistry or creative competitiveness but either way they sound beautiful. I like Joe's songs and am glad to sit and listen anytime he sings them. The Wheel finished off the set solo delivering a single song with energy and intensity that probably was as loud as it got all night. And it was great.

Next up was Karl Blau. Watching Blau perform was like hanging in the kitchen while the best cook you know makes your dinner. He'd start out by making a vocal beat or backing sound and with the click of a pedal it'd be looping then he'd play over that and then add another sound or line and layer that on top and before you knew it you were surrounded with an array of sounds like a beautiful and tasty plate of food in front of you. Sometimes seeing how things are put together takes away from the magic of it, but Blau's approach was like a super cool sleight of hand…you thought you saw everything he was doing but near the end of a song, you're looking at him up there with his brilliant red guitar and you realize that there's so much more going on than the pieces you saw put together. I don't think I'm easily impressed, but this was one of the coolest performances I've ever witnessed. Low key, and it still blew you away. He makes a subscriber cd called KELP! monthly and I'll bet that stuff is like having Christmas twelve times a year.

Finally up walks Calvin Johnson, just him and his acoustic classical guitar. He stands there and looks at everyone. Patient as a mountain. I'm sorta thinking, like the forgetful dork that I can be…hmm Calvin Johnson…that name is so familiar. But it wouldn't be until the next day that it would all come back to me, and after being reminded by a friend. Um, K Records, Beat Happening, oh shit! If you don't know what I'm talking about, well, that's cool…you can just google that stuff and catch up. Or better yet ask your favorite indie rock music fanatic to fill you in. These guys live for that sort of talk. But back to the night. Calvin Johnson began to play and like a tremorous bass note filling a chapel Johnson's deep rumbling vocals filled the air and people got quiet and listened. He alternated between the mellow, sedate and the more rock n roll side of things. At times his voice reminded me of falling asleep in church, lots of hymnal tones and references, although not like things you might find in the psalm book. Songs about St. Peter and about busting holes in the wall of heaven to pull his girl on through had a dream like quality to them. And then the more up-tempo songs like Rabbit Blood would rattle me wide awake. All goodness. Love songs and all. You know the stuff. And if you weren't there, I hope this little description gets you outta the house next time a show looks interesting to you, but you are preoccupied and tired. Get out there. Your week will be better for it.


01 October 2006

show review: Mudhoney & the Geds, 15 September 2006

The Larimer has shiny new bathrooms upstairs. The infamous ones downstairs are now nothing more than empty space. Like any other girl who has had to use the LL facilities, I've dreaded the broken toilets, the door with no hinges and that damn useless curtain. Boys tell me that's nothing compared to the old men's room, um, scent. So no question that the new bathroom is a better place, but still, I kind of miss the old one now that it's gone because it took time for it to be the way it was. Gross, yes, but it also it had character with all those stickers and grit. There was history in there. And since there was no Las Vegas investor to preserve it, I suppose it's exclusive to the memory banks of those who were there.

Seeing Mudhoney felt kinda like that though. And damn if they didn't sound just like Mudhoney. They did! And they played the stuff the aging flannels and fuzzes remember from back in the day: You Got It, Touch Me I'm Sick, Mudride, Need, Chain that Door, and more, topping it all off with a raucous mosh pit pleasing encore of In 'n' Out of Grace and Hate the Police. I haven't spun Superfuzz Bigmuff lately. In fact, I lost my copy of it over a decade ago. Though I might have a tape with that EP on it somewhere. But I was amazed at how these songs have permanently imbedded themselves in my memory. At the first note of each, I realized these are songs where I can recall every word, chord change, break and thump of drum. Mudhoney's music really meant that much when Sub Pop first sent those records out into the world. And here in 2006 they filled the room with gigantic and still relevant sound.

Before the show I was trying to remember if I had seen Mudhoney perform before. I felt like I had to have, but couldn't recall when or where. After Friday's show I'm sure I never actually did see them and that it was a case of photo and and story induced fabricated memory. I would've remembered this. Yes, Mark Arm, Dan Peters, Steve Turner and Matt Lukin (or was that Guy Maddison?) played it like you, the Mudhoney fan that you are, would hope for and imagine. It's hard to think of what to say beyond that, not without getting my shoes caught deep in the swamp of overused to stale adjectives: fuzz, rock, distortion, scream, and all those others that skirt around the old G word. They were fun and loud and…wow.

But that said, here's my griping section that I usually delete before submitting a show review. Old school bands tend to bring out the I-don't-go-to-shows-anymore-but-I-used-to crowd that evidences their status by pulling their faded concert shirts from the late 1980s out of the bottom of their dresser. Which is okay. I guess. And then there's the baseball-capped Bronco-shirted frat boy type kids who are hitting their bi-annual rock show and both times they come out it seems it simply must turn it into an episode of minor alcohol poisioning or it just isn't a rawking night. Fine. Except pushing the monitor speakers into the middle of the stage with their moshing overspill sucks. Sorry, I do not enjoying your idea of a rock star persona. Besides you spilled beer on me and yes that sharp jab of my elbow to your stomach was my way of telling you to keep your damn hands off my back. Next time Scott Campbell decides to increase his bar prices for the night maybe he could give the alcohol prices even more of a jacking up (and let the regular folk drink normally at normal price.) Maybe it would slow down the rate of consumption on amatuer night. Just a suggestion.

Okay, now that the venting is outta the way I can get back to the music. I know this show review is backwards by getting to the opening band last, but that's just the way this one is. On the night I went to Mudhoney, the Geds were the opening band. I had never heard the Geds, and not having musically grown up around these parts, I actually hadn't heard of them until this show. But it didn't take more than a few songs to get an inkling that these three have been around and that they command no small amount of respect from other local talent. This I gathered from my own uninformed senses of observation. I confirmed it later by listening to what other people were saying. I probably should've researched before the show, then I'd have more substatial things to say, like what songs they played. My apologies to those who would've liked to know. But I can say what I do know; they were a great choice to open for Mudhoney, sharing sonic kinship but no mere mimeograph. Fuzz and volume and great songs and fun to see. I hear they don't play out too often, but next time you see they are playing I'd bet you might be glad to take the time to listen to them sans the historic Seattle headliner. I probably will.