I’ve been M.I.A. on this here blog as of late- attributed to a sense of comfortable complacency, the antithesis of any creative venture. Oh, and I have been obsessively going to shows these last few weeks, to overcompensate for my lack of Coachella attendance. It started with a rapid-fire, trigger-finger purchase to see Radiohead at HP Pavilion on April 11. The justification was easy enough- Once in a lifetime opportunity! Can’t miss Thom Yorke (and his ponytail) live in the flesh! Things spiraled quickly, to a month filled with bleary-eyed mornings and overt amounts of of “woooo!”-ing.
Ian S. Port of SF Weekly’s music blog “All Shook Down” described “Faux-chella,” for those Bay Area residents who want to experience Coachella’s lineup without the desert pilgrimage.
Maybe you hate traveling. Maybe you’re broke. Or maybe you’re allergic to waiting in long lines under the hot sun while privileged pre-teens gyrate to David Guetta.
With this year’s double weekend format, there were even more possibilities for artists to swoop up to the Bay Area in the interim four days between festivals (April 13-15 and 20-22).
I made the trek to Coachella for the last three years, but with a full-time position, it didn’t seem like a feasible, or even desirable, possibility.When asked if I was attending the festival, I would reply with a grim, tight smile and that “I’ve had my time.” Now is the time for cubicles and being the target audience for the Starbucks-queue, for responsibility and self-sufficiency. I had my heyday of being a cool pseudo-music journalist, now’s the time to keep my head down and play the role of the respectable professional.
And yet… there is this niggling weirdo inside, the one that inadvertently starts humming loudly and skipping to some imaginary beat in my conservative J.Crew finery. I suspect that this is a common ailment of those creatures we call “adults,” and one of the toughest tasks is simply masking your eccentricities for eight hours of your daily waking consciousness.
The following is the month in review, my hand-crafted “Faux-chella” Roster:
Wednesday April 11: Radiohead at HP Pavilion
Although our seats were located in the area known as Nosebleedus Maximus, Yorke & Co. performed a mesmerizing set that reached every crevasse of the massive arena, with a sold-out attendance of 19,000. In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Yorke discusses the sheer feasibility of performing the heavily manipulated, looped songs of The King of Limbs live, and the unexpected changes that come with a performance of this magnitude.
“There is no way in hell we could have come up with what we’re doing now, live, if we hadn’t been sitting in front of turntables and samplers, piecing the record together in this method. There is no way it would have turned into this dynamic thing,” says Yorke, analyzing Limbs’ electronic composition. Radiohead appeased long-term fans and new converts with a two-encore set that featured gems like the robotic vocals of “Kid A,” aggressive guitar snarl of “The National Anthem,” and schadenfreude inducing “Karma Police”. Getting to see Yorke do his “Lotus Flower” convulsing-wiggle (clad in tight red pants) was worth the price of admission.
Friday April 13: Youth Lagoon and Porcelain Raft at The Independent
22-year-old Idahoan whiz Trevor Powers (aka Youth Lagoon) brought dream-rock at its twinkly haziest. Although the songs on his debut album The Year of Hibernation follow an easily recognizable pattern, that of reverb-heavy delicate vocals which give way to chest-pounding bass and eardrum-aching drum machine beats (referred to as “Dropping the Bass” in the evil twin dubstep version), it’s an effective musical technique. The smallest details shone in the live performance, like the delicate high plinks in “Daydream” (above) and the slight crack in his voice while waxing nostalgia about being 17. He brought a delightfully strange stage presence, chomping on a banana onstage and feeding it to his guitarist.
Monday April 16: The Black Angels and The Horrors at Bimbo’s
I came for The Horrors and left a Black Angels convert. The Austin-based band’s dark psychedelics were undeniably mesmerizing, a band whose album doesn’t hold a candle to the overall aesthetics and impact of their live performance. The Horrors’ tight performance felt like an under-water, goth prom… in a good way!
Thursday April 19: Wild Beasts at The Independent
My second British band of the week- Wild Beasts blew me away, possibly my favorite concert of the whole month. That undulating falsetto and dramatic vocal range, my god! Goosebump-inducing, groovin’ jams with just the right touch of theatrics. Best of the night was 2009’s “All The King’s Men,” listen above.
Friday April 20: School of Seven Bells at the Rickshaw Stop
A definite flop. A peculiar mesh of an unfriendly crowd that seemed like they came because they heard one of the band’s songs on Gossip Girl. Strange attempt at a flirtatious dynamic between SSB’s singer and guitarist that seemed contrived and uncomfortable. Left early to go listen to Bright Eyes’ Digital Ash In A Digital Urn in my apartment.
Tuesday April 24: Tune-Yards and St. Vincent at the Fox Theater
A joyous homecoming for Tune-Yards’ Merrill Garbus, who opened for St. Vincent at the gorgeous Fox Theater in downtown Oakland. Garbus mentioned that she last performed in the East Bay at tiny Mama Buzz Cafe, showcasing her rapid ascent since the release of 2011’s whokill. With her signature live vocal looping technique, Garbus performed breakout tracks like “Gangsta” and “Bizness” with an infectious exuberance. For her final song, Garbus brought on stage the kids from her new video “My Country,” who rocked it HARD. The kids are part of the San Francisco Rock Project, a nonprofit music education program. Tune-yards has an ongoing Kickstarter project to benefit the arts program… check it out!
Whew! I think I have satiated my obsessive musical tendencies… for now!