03 May 2008

show review: Hearts of Palm, Velella Velella and Bad Weather California

I really wanted to make it to this show, but I was tired. Inertia and anxiety pulled and threatened to keep me home and put me to an early bed as they have many times before. But I fought it. I have more "favourite" bands than I can count on my fingers but two who have never failed to affirm my faith in the magic of music were playing together yesterday, Friday the 2nd of May 2008.

I was tired as everybody else these days, but I am glad I made it to this show.

Never knowing when a show is actually going to start at the hi-dive, and knowing Bad Weather California was coming on first, I aimed for a conservative 9:00 arrival and relieved to find I hadn't missed a note. I had time to chat with some friends I hadn't seen in a while, and then awkwardly stand around waiting for the music to begin. When Chris, Joe, Adam and Xandy took the stage, I was ready to listen, and anxious to hear how they'd play the songs this time. Every time I've heard "My Brave Friend" or "I'm Not the Poet" or any of them songs that don't have a set name, they reach my ears sounding somewhere between a little and a lot different. It makes me think of those great chefs who don't follow a recipe but make what is structurally the same dish using what's in season, never failing to come up with a slightly different but consistently spectacular dish just right for that moment. And it always is good. You always leave the table grateful for such fine sustenance. These are some of my consistently favourite sustaining things about a Bad Weather California show: songs that you never know the name of, but still always know how to sing along with; genuine playfulness; instruments I never see other people use but still sound like the song was meant for it; fierce sincerity; adding and changing lyrics on the fly; optimism in the face of it all. But mostly I love those smiles they deliver that are surely leaving cracks on our faces.

I had never heard Velella Velella before, who I learned are currently on tour from Seattle, but since they were playing in between Bad Weather California and Hearts of Palm I would soon find out what they sound like. I had a little clue from watching them unpack the full-size xylophone, vintage organs, and electronic things. I suspect someone who's more knowledgeable about such gear that I can at best ignorantly refer to as "electronic things" would be more excited than I was, but it looked interesting. With these previously mentioned things, some hand held percussion, a flute and a Rickenbacker bass, (no guitar) they turned out some danceable sounds. They are an energetic foursome, sometimes reminding me of catchy Michael Jackson riffs and other times kinda falling out of time in a discordant muddle. If you are in a dance club mood and want the feeling of a live performance this band might be just the thing for you to check out.

It was getting late, I was sleepy and wanted to go home, but was determined to hang in there for Hearts of Palm. I wish it was easier than it is to switch to calling them Hearts of Palm instead of Nathan & Stephen, because I respect the inclusion the name change reflects, but I know I still slip up. It was announced that last night was to be Jonathan's last night playing as a regular member of the band. Matthew is reportedly going leave Stephen and Dan to carry all the guitar duties and take up his brother's bass duties for the group. I wouldn't be surprised to see Jonathan sharing the stage with them again, but seems to be a case of only having so much time in the day, and a lot of other good things going on. So the stage will have one less person on it but that still leaves eight people up there, who play remarkably nicely together. In Hearts of Palm, there's a sense of celebration of many people and things, threaded through with strands of sorrowful realisations. Overwhelmed with joy, so much that you have to watch out for elbows of exuberance up near the front of the stage. But I don't mind. I made it to the show! And I left happy that I did.

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