Neil deGrasse Tyson, Symphony Hall, Boston, MA October 18, 2016

Posted by Andrew on 18th October 2016 in Lecture

The night started with the a representative from the mayor’s office reading a proclamation that declared October 18 Neil deGrasse Tyson day in the city of Boston. It was cute (although the mention of Pluto was the one negative written into the proclamation which was a little weird to me) and they sent someone with a sense of humor – Rahn Dorsey, Chief of Education for the City of Boston. After the presentation, Neil started his lecture with… Pluto. Of course, but unlike last time he wasn’t attempting to defend himself. He didn’t went straight to the message “get over it” and moved on to better things.

Like any rockstar, he repeats some of his strongest material from one tour to the next. So there was mention of Pluto, and the shot of Earth taken from the Cassini spacecraft and the excerpt from Carl Sagan, and a coy not coy reference to his published works. But the bulk of the lecture was on space exploration, why it took off in a period in the 60’s and why it hasn’t gone anywhere since. And he went out of his way to prove the point that it hasn’t gone anywhere. One of the main arguments is that rocket technology for space travel hasn’t improved in 40 plus years. Yet in that same time, cars, cell phones, and other electronics have improved on dramatic levels. He also pointed out that we can use space travel to open our imaginations again and find new markets and enterprises for business which will be the spark to take the rest of the world into space. Then, we watched some rockets launched.

Neil does two things that are remarkable and done so well, you feel giddy being in the same room with him. One, he doesn’t dumb down language, but he talks at our speed. That is, he takes science and makes it approachable through language and explanation and a manner that doesn’t seem derogatory to non-science people. Two, he infuses an incredible enthusiasm into the proceedings that you can’t help being caught up in the excitement and energy of this wave of positive thought. So it is because of those two approaches to his teaching, public appearances and lectures that the Q&A at the end is a massive highlight of the night. He engaged with a younger member of the audience, took questions from a science teacher, and other enthusiasts in way that felt like they were having a conversation in his living room. It felt incredibly intimate and was just a joy to be part of.

He ended on a familiar story, the 1% mental capacity between man and apes, and what that might look like if the same difference occurred between man and an alien race. Although it’s one of his go-to analogies, it’s incredibly effective to think out there is a race of aliens whose 4-year olds can build a rocket to the moon or understand the four quantum numbers. But here’s the thing. As Neil tells it, that shouldn’t depress us or make us feel smaller than. Rather, it should inspire us to rise to the occasion, to reach for new horizons, or if you will, to want to grow up.

Soriah – September 29, 2016 – Star Theater, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 29th September 2016 in Industrial, New Age, Performance

[Portland, OR] Less band, more performance art. One older man and a younger guy DJing. The young guy was black t-shirted and definitely the backup. The older man was the centerpiece in a brown cloak and an elaborate be-feathered headdress – maybe black contacts. He roared and wailed to a backup of basic industrial noise in some sort of ceremony of satan. It was ominous, a psychic healing, Twin Peaks, Pink Floyd, Yeah Yeah Yeah. Drone and die. The one-song 40-minute-plus set ended with ten minutes of chanting “Who Am I Becoming” and then five minutes of danceable electronica. It was a regular nihilist party. The best was a hiking-looking guy who did gyrating yoga through the whole set – I’d seen him doing warm-up stretches next to his hiking-looking girlfriend beforehand. I love when people exceed my weirdness expectations. I tolerated the tomfoolery because I believed this was Psychic TV or some part of a Psychic TV collective – but, ah, the venue failed to list or acknowledge a whole slew of openers. I actually kind of liked him and the catharsis he brought to the whole audience and as I google him, I think he might have been drawing from authentic indigenous music (a throat singer?). Plus he has a Joshua tree, my home plant, on his facebook page.

DDDJJJ666 – September 29, 2016 – Star Theater, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 29th September 2016 in Goth, Industrial, New Wave, Punk

[Portland OR] The crowd was the perfect motley crue. No community here, no buzz of shared anticipation – every weirdo for himself. All ages, all sexualities. There were bikers and punks of undefinable genre. One immensely high girl who couldn’t stop herself from twitching and leaping and gyrating – uncomfortably. There were two Pedros and two pregnant ladies – good luck to their babies. A guy in a Dwarves t-shirt with “Teach Children to Worship Satan” on the back. The people who really stuck out were the young upright German in a raincoat with his parents, each in raincoats … DDDJJJ666 were a sight to behold. They were at the back of the main pit facing the stage. A couple probably in their 50s, him a bit more, her a bit less. He was a large tilted eager freak, vaguely gay, definitely deviant, loving every second of his set. They’re really just he but I lump his woman, in her full retro skirt and pink jean jacket and floppy mohawk, with him. He played early noise industrial, a song with snippets of an exercise video, kooky lounge music – anything extremely odd. I was reminded of the mythical Numbers club in Houston. I was honestly sort of sorry when the first band got on stage.

The Shondes – September 3, 2016 – The Know, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 3rd September 2016 in Modern Rock, New Wave

[Brooklyn NY] Power vocals (female with male backup) over cheerful rock pop. Distinguished by a regular violin accompainent. This band was so reminiscent of somebody to me… maybe Ida Maria but more somebody I’ve known for longer (Meat Purveyors? Ani Difranco?). Their fundamental upliftedness, and obvious chemistry as a band, made me think of The Hidden Cameras but I’d never say they sound like them. Technically, I really liked them – heartfully, I wasn’t feeling them. I did think the lead singer was awesome, especially with her six-month pregnant belly.
The Shondes2

Creature to Creature – September 3, 2016 – The Know, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 3rd September 2016 in Goth, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Industrial, Prog Rock

[Portland OR] Dark heady prog rock. Tiger Army, Tool, Gun Club (especially the drums). The lead did vocals, guitar, and drums – great stage persona. This was their second show ever – I really really loved their sound but they’ve got to scale up the singing – two band members sang but neither were powerful. I kept thinking I wouldn’t have ran across a second-show in Austin but probably false nostalgia. I really really liked this band’s sound. And lots of female power too.

Husky Boys – September 3, 2016 – The Know, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 3rd September 2016 in Hard Rock, Pop, Prog Rock, Punk

[Portland OR] I’m not squeamish about dirty or rough clubs but this was just disrespectful to music – and I should have known with the club actually billing themselves as “low-budget.” A curtain divided the drinking crowd from the listening crowd (Oregon’s got weird rules). You paid your cover and found yourself stuck where you paid because the listening side was jam-packed, with all of 30 people, 30 low-brow cheap-ass people…0 and not in a cute, scenester, or sexy way. The band was at ground level and essentially interspersed in the crowd. And you can imagine what this all did for the sound. I decided a week or so ago I was going to work through the Portland clubs A to Z (more or less – this one’s about to close, for obvious reasons) so these trials satisfied me – rewards come to those who barrel through the brambles. Power pop and 70s punk with a lot of proggy guitar. Plimsouls crossed with Weezer. One of the band member’s (from my limited viewpoint) had a man bun stuffed through the back of his ballcap. Most troubling part was the woman walking around with a “Gentrification is weird” t-shirt on – was she for gentrification to keep Portland weird? Was she being ironic? Was she referencing the gentrification going on in that very club? Despite all the troubling, I liked this band a lot.

Quarterflash – August 15, 2016 – Sellwood Waterfront Park, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 15th August 2016 in Soft Rock

[Portland, OR] “I’m gonna harden my heart… I’m gonna swallow my tears…” … I’m near positive I had an 80s mix ordered via TV with this song on it… or heard it on the radio in errand-minded drives in the mom minivan. I was charmed by the idea of seeing this B-level band in a park in the city they’re actually from. Flame had no idea what he was in for, even after I warned him with a Youtube video. The event was mostly as expected – typical sorts for our neighborhood letting loose as aging white people will. But truth be told, we liked them. We were in the awkward/comfortable middle ground of being young enough to snicker at the older people excited by old lame music but old enough to recognize the music and know we weren’t too far ourselves from celebrating bygone days. They had a big hard/soft rock sound – thoroughly 80s – Heart, Pat Benatar. She had a voice – maybe couldn’t hit the high notes like she used to – and distinguished the band with her sassy saxophone playing. Their new songs were more touch and go – leaned a little too heavy on the we-can-solve-the-world’s-problems-with-our-wise-lyrics approach – Flame liked the ‘we were all one’ message more than I did. We agreed on the song that started with ‘rapping.’ I was very much reminded of this middle-aged band from Austin, Greezy Wheels, that pop-glossed all sorts of genres pretty competently but still with an ultimate effect of wading in waters they ought not. The unanimous cry that erupted from the crowd when they closed with Harden My Heart was great – as was the unsolicited but appreciated encore.

Bleached – April 30, 2016 – Doug Fir Lounge, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 30th April 2016 in Hard Rock

[Los Angeles, CA] The band that motivated my/our attendance. I had a vague notion I knew them and that they were garage pop/punk n roll – didn’t have time to verify any of this. Ended up next to a Music Millenium employee who compared them to the Go-Gos – I scoffed in my head – he was right. Straight Pat Benatar 80s female hard rock. I am totally positively biased toward female rockers but I was so unpersuaded by this band. Maybe because they didn’t align with my preconceptions. Maybe because they were so derivative … unfair because so was the first (all male) band. The lead singer—sexy kitten furry sweater and miniskirt and distractingly awful Courtney Love hair (a la 90s)—was just absent, passionless… maybe it was a bad night. The nerdy awkward bass player kept making awkward comments to the crowd as if she weren’t, that only confirmed she was. I hadn’t even noticed the lead guitarist (sister of lead singer I think) but Flame pointed out she was excellent – the bassist actually was too. And suddenly the second song was really catchy and good (may have been a cover). And then the third song was flat. I just couldn’t get into this band. Got home and properly looked them up in my files and I didn’t only vaguely know them but had seen them before – at SXSW – with Hunx and His Punx – so what’s up with the lack of garage pop?? They’re really good recorded – must have been a bad night. Or they’ve taken a wrong turn – in my not-humble opinion – with their sound.
2016-04-30 22.40.02

No Parents – April 30, 2016 – Doug Fir Lounge, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 30th April 2016 in College Rock, Punk, Thrash

[Los Angeles, CA] Uncomfortably trashy. One band member was wearing a Bud Light t-shirt and a studded neck collar for gods sake. Who knew neck collars came in different flavors but they do… and this one was the uncomfortably trashy flavor – thin and studded with fake diamonds. We’d unwittingly passed another band member, long dark hair bleached blonde, picking at his nipple in the venue’s restaurant. Their first song started with some pot reference and I gave Flame an encouraging smile – see, you’ll like them! Turned out the pot reference was an intro to their song “Die Hippie Die” – not so much… And then I just fell flat in love with them. Stupid vaguely offensive songs: Cock Surfer, Punk is So Easy, Wall of Death, Hello Grandma Merry Christmas I’m in a Punk Band. Picture perfect cover of all varieties of old southern California punk – Falme heard NOFX (in the end, he liked them too), I heard Rancid. Skatepunk, hardcore, rowdy pop punk. In the end, the lead singer was the thing. He was deliciously terrible. Incongruent sleazy booty-shaking dancing. Introduced the song “Cock Surfer” with a flourish. Hard but musical – joy and fun – seriously!
2016-04-30 21.34.11

Ivan and Alyosha, Washington State Convention Center Seattle, WA March 6, 2016

Posted by Andrew on 6th March 2016 in Acoustic, Alternative Rock

Seattle locals Ivan and Alyosha opened their convention set with an acoustic version of Be Your Man. The harmonies were lifting even if the song’s message was a little strange for convention goers. But I guess that’s what you get for a corporate gig. 

They played a fully plugged in show during the opening night event in a big industrial ballroom the likes that are found in the bowels of every convention center. Their set was heavy with tracks from their 2013 album All the Time We Had although they did divert for a glorious version of the Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down

The venue was a challenge. The vocals survived in the cavernous (and mostly empty) hall, but the sound mix suffered. The bass amp was way too intense and the mic on the kick drum vibrated the entire room. Songs like On My Way didn’t get the treatment deserved. That said, the band put on a respectable show. 

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – February 1, 2016 – Wonder Ballroom, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 1st February 2016 in Art Rock, Industrial, Orchestra, Thrash

Godspeed You! Black Emperor: [Canada] I obsess over this band. I hear them everywhere – in everything. But they’re totally unique – totally new – to me – still. This band is in my heart and I’m in theirs. They defined my mid 20s and I defined theirs … (not really- but it sounded good). I was introduced to them in my early Austin days and never got over them. Introduced by a guy recently released from jail for dealing pot, working on a communal farm outside of Austin, and still trying to figure out how to reconcile living as a human being in the trap of society. Ironically, Godspeed You’s darkness is my perfect antidote when I feel most dark – the sweet comfort of nihilism bundled up in one little band. So getting to see them was a minor dream come true. Unfortunately, or maybe apropos, I was in kind of a fiercely bad mood – Flame claims I was being all sorts of unruly establishing our place in the line to get in – I don’t have any patience for anarchists who can’t figure out how lines work. I actually don’t know much about the band beyond the fact that they’re a Canadian collective and that the only people I meet who have seen them live in the NE US. And that they put all the other chamber rockers to shame (e.g., Explosions in the Sky). Their albums have long unwieldy names like “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven,” “Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress,” “Allelujah! Don’t Bend Ascend.” I imagine they started the wave of psych folk bands with similarly ridiculous names for their albums and songs. Not to mention their inconveniently placed exclamation point. So they took the stage – the crowd depleted by the onslaught of Vast Plains – with little fanfare, no costume, and no interaction with the crowd. Bombastic. Possibly a little more abrasive than their recorded material I’ve heard. Flame kind of broke of my heart when he pointed out they have somewhat of a NIN sound – which they did, at least live … I realize again and again lately that my favorite bands as an adult relate in at least some way to my teenage obsession with industrial music. And then a girl screamed, “Fuck you, you motherfucker!” It almost sounded like a set up but the fight continued in little intervals – I was embarrassed for America – the Canadians don’t need further confirmation of our loser-ness. Fortunately, soon after, a surly woman & man were escorted past us. They were classic instruments with electronic sound accompaniment. Flame was right to point out they sounded like Pink Floyd, the earlier weirder Pink Floyd. They are gripping – they have a repetitive drone quality like Wu-Tang – of course in an entirely different format… but the same all the same. You are drawn in and can become entranced. I was fascinated by a guy to our left head thrashing the whole time to what was a pretty unfollowable beat. They are an individual experience sort of music. Local reviews acclaimed their film show but I didn’t find it remarkable – repetitive black and white footage, mostly notable for its light contrasts or speed. Too bad because this band does spoken loops really well, they didn’t play any of those songs – I only fully recognized one song. I’ll still listen to Godspeed You when I need perspective, but as for this show, Vast Plains endures.

Vast Plains – February 1, 2016 – Wonder Ballroom, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 1st February 2016 in Electronic, Trance

[Hell, Down Below] I came out of the bathroom and Flame was nowhere to be seen. I finally decided to see if he’d already gone in, pushed open the double doors, and was hit with a wall of hellish noise – an inferno, if you will. I pushed the doors back against the inferno, positive Flame wouldn’t have ventured in there on his own – settled back to wait. Oh but he had. Seconds later, he wandered out, twitching. We stared into each other’s eyes, nodded, and ventured in together – hand in hand – lights pulsing – abrasive music. Pound. Pound. Pound. All one repetitive screeching incessant enduring seizure-inducing tone. We wandered around, disoriented, perturbed. Pretended to look at the table of anarchist books. I eventually just had to face away from the stage – which was fine – there was plenty of people-watching to do. The only action on the stage was a dark figure huddled over a big metallic suitcase. The sucker crowd [anarchist/ punk/ intellectual – read, in black or army green clothing, aloof and nonchalant but exceedingly kind – not to mention the girl in the Laura Ingalls dress with a crocheted squirrel hat (at least she was unique)] was committed to pretending like it was all completely normal – just standard fare. Flame couldn’t take it: “Bam – that part was amazing – Oh, remember that one part!?!” It was so awful, we couldn’t stop laughing. I decided I had to partake and forced myself to stare at the lights, seizures be damned – in the end, it was transportative. In a way that left you depleted, limp, scared. I kind of liked it. The weird thing was, I was pretty sure it was an intro from Godspeed You, designed to break us down – completely- before they lifted us up. And it wasn’t – the set list, only available in-venue, listed Vast Plains. Vast Plains has no internet presence but might end up being the more memorable part of the show than Godspeed You.

Muse, TD Garden Boston, MA January 25, 2016

Posted by Andrew on 25th January 2016 in Alternative Rock, Arena Rock, Rock and Roll

The cult of Muse is something I almost understand after seeing them live. To be sure, a variety of ages and income levels came out to see their blazing road show, a mix of theatrical lights, flying set pieces and the delivery of sonic crescendo that never abates until they say it does.

I never really thought of Muse as a rock band until they walked on stage to the fanfare of flying drones and a blinding, hypnotic light show. It’s weird to think of it now but three days ago, but I didn’t think they could rock. I expected the theatricality and the crowd singalong goodness of Starlight. But I didn’t expect Psycho to shred through me like Enter Sandman or the lovesick take on Madness. Through all the layers of noise from the stage, Madness penetrated as a ballad in a way I never noticed before. The point is…this is ARENA rock.

It was a lot to take in. Things flew, balls bounced, lights flickered and screens dissolved into into sexy deconstructed women that would have worked hard for a James Bond film. The band used every inch of their elongated stage, literally running from one end to the other in an effort to connect with everyone all at once. The night’s best moments included Uprising followed by a Drones deluxe track The Globalist that closed the main set.

The band’s style is largely carefully pitched frenzy. Back to back new songs Psycho and Dead Inside set the tone early.  Even a ostensibly slower track like Mercy was offered up like a tornado. And when you present that big, it takes a lot of planning and meticulous execution. The result was visionary but cold. It lacked any sense of spontaneity. There were wondrous moments and it was an incredibly entertaining night out. But moments like the [JFK] interlude were more confusing than illuminating. I saw glimpses of the cult of Muse, but I’m not quite sure I made it over the threshold to a convert. 

Straight Outta Compton Intro
Dead Inside
Hysteria/Heartbreaker/Back in Black
Map of the Problematique/Who Knows Who
The 2nd Law: Isolated System
The Handler
Voodoo Child/Supermassive Black Hole
Apocalypse Please
Munich Jam
Time Is Running Out
The Globalist
Drones (Reprise)
Knights of Cydonia

X Ambassadors, TD Garden Boston, MA January 25, 2016

Posted by Andrew on 25th January 2016 in Alternative Rock, Indie Rock

As a live band, X Ambassadors swivel and gyrate between frothy punk energy and a surprisingly macho emo awkwardness – all delivered with the volume cranked way up. They present the kind of music that becomes your theme song for a really bad day – though I mean that in the best possible way. Sam Harris roamed the stage like a caged animal ready to pounce on the fool stupid enough to violate his space. That vibe permeated the opening set, from the plaintive Hang On to the pulsing – but mostly boring – closer Jungle. The best of the night was a primal take on Love Songs Drug Songs that soared high above the other songs in delivery and the falsetto-driven Gorgeous. Of course, they played Renegades because how could you not?

Hang On
Love Songs Drug Songs

Indigo Girls, Orpheum Theatre Boston, MA, November 7, 2015

Posted by Andrew on 7th November 2015 in Rock and Roll, Southern Rock

Touring with a full band seemed like a good way to flesh out the new Indigo Girls album One Lost Day and revive some of their best stuff from a catalog almost thirty years deep. But it was on the songs where one or more of the band was off stage where the best songs of the night appeared. They took a deep dive into their catalog, mostly avoiding hits and spending a long chunk on the new album. The setlist hasn’t varied much night to night – another effect of touring with a band that have to learn a lot of songs. The result was uneven and strangely lackluster.

There were moments though, the shining star was a finger-bleeding take on Faye Tucker about halfway through the set. The audience were on their feet for The Wood Song and campfire singalongs of Watershed and Galileo. Kid Fears, with Sean Kelley as a stand-in for Michael Stipe, created the wintry, wistful sentiment that the song can evoke anywhere, anytime. Happy in the Sorrow Key was offered with more pop than dirge – a flip of the studio version. And The Rise of the Black Messiah was a spine chilling take on a song as desperate and aching as its subject matter.

But the early songs fell a little flat, as though they were finding their way through Fill it Up Again and Moment of Forgiveness. While I appreciate the audience-sings-a-verse tactic of Power of Two, it didn’t quite amp the energy in the room. The new songs didn’t quite get the band back on track. Findlay, Ohio 1968 was wasted and managed nothing special with the full band behind it and in following Olympia Inn, caused an almost fatal power drain from the stage. The worst offender of the new material was Learned It On Me. Easily the brightest pop star of the new album, the band stripped it of the cocky swagger and never found the energy that should be requisite for a f-you song. Things slowed up considerably more than once with a boring take on a boring song Starkville and the beautiful but slow-motion Deconstruction. Yes, closing with pounding Ozilline and always winning Closer to Fine ended the night on a high, but it wasn’t matched by much that came before it.

Fill It Up Again
This Train Is Bound for Glory
Power of Two
Olympia Inn
Findlay, Ohio 1968
Get Out the Map
Moment of Forgiveness
Come a Long Way
Lay My Head Down
Faye Tucker
The Wood Song
Happy in the Sorrow Key
Learned It on Me
Share the Moon
Rise of The Black Messiah
Spread the Pain Around
Kid Fears
Closer to Fine

A Fragile Tomorrow, Orpheum Theatre Boston, MA, November 7, 2015

Posted by Andrew on 7th November 2015 in Garage Rock, Southern Rock

Four young sonic holdovers from 1996-peak Gin Blossoms era offered an energetic opening act, if one that was first cousin to Til I Hear It from You (listen to Tie Me Up Again and tell me you can’t hear it). You could hear sonic references to Elvis Costello in lead singer Sean Kelley’s wispy, ballad-ready tinged vocals, but that’s going back even further and frankly they weren’t old enough to appreciate the Gin Blossoms in real time, much less Alison.

It took them a few songs to power up, but they hit their stride with Siouxsie, a song from their new album Make Me Over. Mary Lou Lord, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers joined them on the dirty jam One Way Ticket (the studio track features Joan Baez). Altogether, they satisfied the criteria for any opening act. They intrigued enough to make me want to hear more.

Yacht – October 24, 2015 – Wonder Ballroom, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 24th October 2015 in Electronic, Techno

2015-10-24 22.26.21
[Los Angeles (used to be Portland)] Entranced – I was entranced. I don’t know how I came to know this band but my awareness was cemented by their song, “Love in the Dark,” which uses deadpan synth pop to mix up small town and S&M references. And then… my female friends in Gunnison were 25 or 75 – and the ladies on the latter end of life culturally schooled me as much as the younger ones, as Gunnison people will do. For instance, OffTheGrid, a lady of exceeding grace & intelligence, raised her children off-the-grid in Telluride and now splits her time between Gunnison and Portland. Her daughter, it turns out, was the ex-girlfriend of the founder of Yacht. The point is, with all the Gunnison, Portland, person crossing, seeing Yacht became essential. They were, on first glance, two Flock of Seagull guys behind podiums with upside down happy faces on them. And then a beacon of female showmanship with minimalist white hair and a voluminous blouse, bare midriff. Deep dramatic voice – reminds me of someone I can’t place – Annie Lennox but something more too. The guys were sometimes on keyboard, sometimes on electric guitars. The woman controlled the stage and the audience with grand hand gestures, controlled dancing, eccentric singing. They’ve transitioned from Portland to LA and are described as constantly evolving art pop, but their music was, fortunately, more listenable than I feared: 80s synth pop, 90s techno, 00s hard electronica. A super light show too (as in epilepsy-inducing lights). Sometimes they did little ‘what has technology done to our lives’ skits. Moreover, they were exceedingly modern and inventive but still warm and unpretentious – traits that seem to be Portland staples. After they finished a song about ‘wanting to fuck you until I die,’ the woman joked with the audience something to the effect “I’m delighted to tell you my parents are in the audience tonight.” But she could go from that to crowd control based on a cross of domintrix crossed with 60s dinner party hostess. In one glaring mis-step, she was lip-syncing and got worse at it as the show went on. Why? I forgive her.

Larry Gus – October 24, 2015 – Wonder Ballroom, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 24th October 2015 in Electronic, Performance

[Greece] New venues! A big bland room that smelled like burnt plastic – the bathroom smelled like vomit – somehow it all worked… nice big professional stage. Larry Gus was a frenetic guy (an increasingly frenetic guy) behind a keyboard. Except he usually wasn’t behind the keyboard – spazzing to the left, spazzing to the right, climbing the wall behind him. It wasn’t clear if the non-English sounding lyrics were because he was spazzing nuts or because he was from Greece. He was basically a DJ? Flame called the sound, Men at Work, Borat. Talking Heads too. Everybody, Flame, girls in the bathroom, were discussing the high likelihood that Larry Gus was coked the coke up. He was a touch flamboyantly gay but then offered up his wife to the crowd… and whatever else we wanted… and several times. A spectacle – whether you hated or loved him, you were paying attention. The big boy with the poorly wrapped man-bun, belly flush to the stage, set the tone – fist thumps demonstrating how Enraptured He Was by everything Larry Gus did.

Margaret Cho, Wilbur Theatre Boston, MA October 10, 2015

Posted by Andrew on 10th October 2015 in Comedy

Margaret Cho has always used comedy as a way to touch on touchy subjects. In that way, she mirrors the attitude of her mentor, Joan Rivers. Rivers’ passing, and that of Robin Williams, clearly influenced Cho’s latest tour Psycho. She came out with salvos aimed at Ann Coulter, the Pope and Jesus but didn’t stop there.

This tour was more political than we’ve seen Cho in many years, due as much to the climate of the nation, the mass gun shootings, and death threats against Cho’s life. The combination was stunning and relentless. She reflected the anger and hopeless that a lot of people feel in the wake of what is becoming endless gun violence, but her message was one of empowerment. She encouraged the audience to fight back, to take back their bodies. She said when people use racial slurs and homophobia and hate words, that’s raising the white flag because they have run out of cogent arguments to give you.

There were less jokes imitating her mom, less poop jokes (but a little of both) than on some of her previous tours, but her act always finds the humor even when the topics are deadly serious. Cho knows how to find the punchline without sacrificing her point. To a gay man in the audience, she asked “Would you eat pussy if that would make it rain in California?” Followed by a five minute pantomime of him doing that. Both bleak and ruthless, but exceptionally on point.

Selene Luna, Wilbur Theatre Boston, MA October 10, 2015

Posted by Andrew on 10th October 2015 in Comedy

Selene Luna used her small stature to great effect in her thirty-minute comedy routine, talking about how her family thought she wouldn’t live past 20, but didn’t tell her until she was 43. Her act is foul-mouthed and pot-laced, offering spitfire takes on sexual fetishes, dating in her 40’s, in style close to Margaret Cho but with a lot more I-don’t-give-a-damn baked in.

Tyrants – September 28, 2015 – Anarres Infoshop & Community Space, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 28th September 2015 in Art Rock, Indie Rock

2015-09-28 21.13.31
[Portland OR] Despite the “anarchy,” everyone was exceedingly polite and well socialized – the set changes were efficient. People in Portland wear Carharts – it’s bizarre. Noise rock – three guitars & a drum – everyone bouncing to an uncomfortably absent beat. I ended up liking the band before better. I’ve been reading too much sociological theory lately and couldn’t help watching how everyone was social objects, so aware of how they looked. The venue had really amazing descriptions of the band – they know music.

U Sco – September 28, 2015 – Anarres Infoshop & Community Space, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 28th September 2015 in Grunge, Indie Rock, Punk

2015-09-28 20.34.20
[Portland, OR] How anarchists make me chuckle. This was a bookstore with a shabby room in back for the band. While I waited for the music, I strolled through the books – academics are the consensus (this is not good), watch out because they will sell out. How they make me chuckle. The one on uterus vacation (not the good kind) was painful to read. The atheist one was boring. When I’d dragged out skimming the zines as long as I could, I ventured to the back. 4 people on a ramshamble couch – a couple making out enthusiastically in the corner. Sigh. I unfolded a chair and sat firmly, hands crossed on my knees. One guy on the couch was going on about the government and how terrible it is – it took all my ability to not go off on how great societies and cooperation are. Sludgy no wave. 90s indie rock. Voice altered like Butthole Surfers but without any screaming etc. In fact, they were generally kind of pig-fuck for you genre freaks. I wasn’t happy with their discordance at all but they got much better by 2nd song. Angular. Kind of drone or stoner. Good but a little simple – the bass lines were not killer – 4 notes repeated and I had the songs figured out one minute in. This guy in the crowd yelled “next time, play the heavy one” and I found myself nodding because I’d been thinking damn they’re not that heavy – but then I realized the yeller was making a joke, as in oh how hard it had all been.

Mandarin Dynasty – September 18, 2015 – Turn! Turn! Turn!, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 18th September 2015 in Pop, Soft Rock

[Seattle, WA] Totally different from the first two bands but as unexpectedly pleasing. Hidden Cameras crossed with TOPS. My new friend from Eastern Washington thought they were Karate (wha???). They were really pretty, really fresh, and still really modern – thus TOPS. The guy’s style of singing and voice was verbatim Hidden Cameras & I love those Cameras.

Mommy Longlegs – September 18, 2015 – Turn! Turn! Turn!, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 18th September 2015 in Grunge, Pop, Punk

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[Seattle WA] Thrilling. At first hear, they made me think of The Coathangers but they’re way less dirgy, dirty and unhappy. They’re more garage pop, punk n roll but with a tinge of riot grrrl. Some new wave sound – Delta Girls, Slits. Lyrics are often political but sometimes silly. The singing was great but the music was terrific – amazing bass lines, great riffs. Maybe they’re just straight happy punk. JC Satan for sure. Female-centric for sure. I almost never buy albums at shows but this band was a wow – and the girl told me they only had cassettes – silly hipsters. Outside of that, everyone but everyone in Portland is ridiculously nice and unpretentious, similar to Brooklyn – Austin tried really hard.

Golden Hour – September 18, 2015 – Turn! Turn! Turn!, Portland OR

Posted by Dara on 18th September 2015 in Art Rock, New Wave

2015-09-18 20.56.01
[Portland, OR] It was an ill-planned night. I kind of intended to go to the Fir Lounge to see Gin Wigmore (Rockboy used to talk about her) and Patrick Park (I came upon him somehow and both me & DeepSister really like him) but didn’t intend enough to buy a ticket beforehand. Because come on, do singer/songwriter shows really sell out? Yes, yes, they do. And with a line around the corner. Being a Dara, I had a backup plan – not to mention, I didn’t fucking want to see any singer/songwriters anyway (even if they’re as good as Patrick Park is – I was kind of surprised how downplayed he was in the billing for the show). So I headed toward the first show on the list of possibilities for the night, which happened to be super close to my new place. I was pleased the music would be harder but didn’t expect much. The venue was quiet and didn’t have a striking vibe either way. Just right for tonight. So I was surprised when this band turned out to be solidly solid. New Order crossed with The Slits. No wave. Done really well.

Ayron Jones and the Way – August 20, 2015 – Hiawatha Playfield, Seattle WA

Posted by Dara on 20th August 2015 in Blues, Rock and Roll, Soul

[Seattle, WA] Concert in a park in West Seattle – kids playing, adults picnic-ing. Nice. The best thing about the show was the complete disjunction between the paper’s description of the band and the reality. They were described, see below, as some cross between hip-hop (because they’re black???) and punk (because they are black yet use guitars???). They were Ben Harper, blues rock – did a ton of Jimi covers. It’s possible they were toning things down for the setting. … “Seattle guitarist and frontman Ayron Jones (Eh-Rahn), has become one of Seattle’s hottest up-and-comers with his brand of Seattle Rock. Jones has taken a hybrid style of guitar playing, in which the chord and solo are played at the same time, and infused the raw energy of punk with the inner-city attitude of Hip-Hop. The result is a soulful reincarnation of that iconic Seattle sound. Think, Stevie Ray Vaughan meets Nirvana.”
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Flatbush Zombies – July 26, 2015 – Main Stage, Capitol Hill Block Party, Seattle WA

Posted by Dara on 26th July 2015 in Underground Hip Hop

[New York, NY] I was kind of excited to see them – I don’t know why I have them but I classify them as death rap – it’s a good genre. They really weren’t. It was stoner rap and the crowd started becoming everything the reviews on this event had warned. And then it started to rain and these strange Pacific Northwesterners all whipped out rain gear they had stored in some mysterious part of their body. I had an old-fashioned umbrella and started getting flack from people near me within a few minutes – apparently, I lack umbrella etiquette. I got sad. I left.
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The Julie Ruin – July 26, 2015 – Main Stage, Capitol Hill Block Party, Seattle WA

Posted by Dara on 26th July 2015 in New Wave

[New York, NY] I associate Kathleen Hanna with guilt – 90s feminist icon and I never listened to her. Her latest band started and I realized I didn’t listen to her because she’s NOT A RIOT GRRRL. A personal misclassification… ??? The Julie Ruin are new wave, Slits, B52s, Bow Wow Wow – once I adjusted, I really liked her. For one, she handled her age (and sickness) with grace – cute but not stupid – fun but not silly – pretty but not slutty – kind of awesome. So now that I’m out of the exhausting mess that was the Capitol Hill Block Party, or that was Dara that day, I realize I do know Kathleen Hanna – Le Tigre, a kind of recent band of hers, is very similar but better than this band. I was always so mystified why this riot grrrl had a band like Le Tigre – well all the confusion is maybe justified. Because she was a riot grrrl!! The one song I did discover (in the 2010s) from her 90s band Bikini Kill is amazing and one of my favorite songs (that I can’t remember) – blends girl power with girl respect and a little touch of girl love. Recommitting to watching the documentary. And listening to Bikini Kill.
2015-07-26 16.56.52

CHARMS – July 26, 2015 – Cha Cha, Capitol Hill Block Party, Seattle WA

Posted by Dara on 26th July 2015 in Industrial, Punk

[Seattle, WA] This band saved the day. Dark. Despairing. Abrasive. Clean. They were picture-perfect synth punk… well being that the Pacific Northwest apparently never ventured far from the 90s, they were more 90s industrial – NIN. Ironically, it had never occurred to me that there was possibly a connection between my current obsession with what I call synth punk and my teenage obsession with what I called industrial. Thank you CHARMS. And this was about when I decided this event was AOK – not hipster-y at all – no drunkenness – crowds manageable. A little stage-raising and sound equipment improvement all that’s needed! Thank you CHARMS.
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I Will Keep Your Ghost – July 26, 2015 – Neumos, Capitol Hill Block Party, Seattle WA

Posted by Dara on 26th July 2015 in Electronic, Soul

[Everett, WA] This was the second band I saw on this stage and it became clear the venue’s sound just wasn’t right. Nonetheless, this first quite decent band was three guys with all sorts of guitars and keyboards. Electro rock, soul rock, soul electronica – dense, pretty, big. They reminded me of NoCeremony but not as glorious. I picked them based on the pretty lead singer’s great voice but that ended up not being their standout feature. They weren’t one dimensional (although not a fat mess of diversity like the last band). Upbeat without being cheesy. They’re the music that would accompany you as you ran through a city – because you had something to do – not because you were being chased. Also a bit of disco rock like Bright Light Social Happy Hour – but more dangerous. I started this band in a fairly bitter mood & so was doing a little bit of work in the back of the club – turns out it was the part of the club where people do their drugs – drug use is generally more public in Seattle – maybe because pot was just legalized … although I saw a guy shoot up in public during the broad daylight a few days later.
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Great Spiders – July 26, 2015 – Cha Cha, Capitol Hill Block Party, Seattle WA

Posted by Dara on 26th July 2015 in College Rock

[Seattle WA] Despite their billing, they were not garage pop. Just straight up rock n roll – boring rock and roll. They started with a Van Morrison cover – why why why would they do that? Their second song was a lot better – more 70s punk. Then they were spaghetti punk. No identity – I hate a band with no identity. So you get a picture of the sweet venue instead.
2015-07-26 15.03.04

So Pitted – July 26, 2015 – Neumos, Capitol Hill Block Party, Seattle WA

Posted by Dara on 26th July 2015 in Art Rock

[Seattle WA] Awful. Weird to be weird. Can’t craft a song. Or won’t. They reminded me of Captain Beefheart and I hate Captain Beefheart. People can stop pretending Beefheart is proto-punk – I don’t understand why people equate weirdness with punk music when punk music is simple, straightforward, three chords. Annoying music is art rock ART ROCK. Anyway, in the one bright point of their music, it was sludgy – this was the beginning of my realization that the 90s are still alive in the Pacific Northwest. They’d switch off lead singers and one of the fools had something like a mini fluorescent toilet plunger stuck on his forehead. It’s possible I was wary because of the crazy negative reviews on this entire event I made the mistake of reading right before leaving the house – basically massacre-ing hipsters, drunk hipsters, young people, drunk young people. One band member was wearing a Sublime shirt – maybe ironically – maybe not – I stopped caring. I was mostly watching the crowd of youngsters pretending like they liked them. Kathleen Richards, Seattle’s The Stranger: “In theory music festivals expose you to a bunch of different bands that you normally wouldn’t pay to see individually – too often the music festival will just make you want to kill a teenager.” I did like the venue – the area felt like home, like Austin.
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