I was just thinking about how I have been to a crapload of concerts in the last year. This is notable just because I had previously averaged 2 to 4 shows a year, and now I’m thinking, off the top of my head, I’ve been to about eleven shows since last June. Part of this, I think, is jsut realizing there are some decent smaller bands out there that I would have overlooked completely before. I’ve really been engrossed in discovering new bands in the last year or so.
Basically, this came to mind because I felt like recapping some of the better shows I’ve been to in the last year, so here we go…
I have to go back to May of last year to talk about The Raveonettes (I didn’t realize until now that this show was over a year ago!)… This was the first show I remember hearing about during 2005 that I just got a big itch to attend. At Christmas 04, The Raveonettes had a song on the “Maybe This Christmas Tree” compliation and I really dug the sound – very melodic with a male/female harmony vocal in a Phil Spector-esque echo chamber. Their LP tracks are a little edgier, awash in crunchy guitars, with occasional feedback or electronic sounds on the fringes. In concert, the band was top notch, making their records sound kind of flat in comparison. Their cover version of “My Boyfriend’s Back” had enormously greater punch live, and my favorite track of their last album, “Ode to L.A.” was represented faithfully by playing back the guest vocals by Ronnie Spector (of the Ronettes/”Be My Baby” fame) from a computer. I really can’t wait to hear the new album from this band and I hope they come back here again when it’s out!
At the end of 05, I stumbled into a group of four good concerts within a space of about three weeks. The first of these was the Canadian band Metric. I really didn’t know much about them, but they stuck in my head because Amazon.com kept putting their album in my reccomendations list based on stuff I already own. I checked out a few tracks of theirs, but again, the band turned out to be even better live. On record, Metric’s songs come across more structred and produced. Live, the vocals come with a bit more unpredicability and the guitar parts cut through the sound and become essential.
Next, I went to see sister duo Tegan & Sara (also Canadian). After hearing the song “Walking With a Ghost” I dug in and checked out some more tunes by them. While their earlier material is more singer-songwrier/acoustic folk, their sound mutated over two records into more of a new wave power pop vibe. The sisters have unque singing voices that blend together rather attractively. And to my utter pleasure, they turned out to have an awesome sense of humor. The banter between the twin sisters was a lot of fun. I would certainly see them in concert again.
Within a few days, I was at a another show, with the band Shout Out Louds. While not as good as the last two shows, this one was still notable. Shout Out Louds have a bit of the “emo” vibe in their songs, with the reaching, stressed emotional vocals but with more of a guitar pop backing. A competent band, but I imagine they were not on the top of their game that night. Also notable was the opening band, The Rosebuds. Very charming, breezy pop tunes. I picked up their CD at the show.
The final show in this string was the one I was most looking forward to, Hot Hot Heat. I was most familiar with songs by them, and despite general disinterest from critics, I thought their second album, “Elevator” was quite to my liking. Hot Hot Heat’s tunes are mostly from the angular new wave school, evoking in my mind comparisons to early XTC (but almost all neo new wavers give me that vibe, so take that with a grain of salt). I have to say that this show didn’t live up to my expectations. The band really didn’t get cooking until half way through their set, and even then they just weren’t doing justice to the album cuts I really liked. Part of this might have been the venue, a cavernous theater with major echo issues. I’m still ready to give them a shot next time round.
February of 06 brought a rescheduled concert from one of my all-time faves, Aimee Mann. If she had made the original date (cancelled due to hurricane), we would have been treated to a full-band show, but the early 06 tour was an acoustic affair. She did have a band with her, but it was not a full-on electric show. Not better or worse, just different. As usual, Aimee was witty and charming, delivering some anecdotes, being generally personable and interacting a bit with the crowd. I am a big fan of her newest album, “The Forgotten Arm.” It’s got a great sound I would have LOVED to hear with the full band, but I wouldn’t even pass up just Aimee and a ukelele.
In April, a tour came around headlined by The Sounds, a Swedish band with a lead singer that evokes Debbie Harry, but with more attitude. Their first album was a bit on the light side, but their second really classed things up, broadened their sound and sported some political edges. The Sounds were dynamic and entertaining, but the big discovery of the evening for me was the opening band, Morningwood. At first, I had just considered this band a guilty pleasure with their leering, come hither songs and balls-out rock attitude. But in concert, the whole enterprise is laid bare and I realized no guilt was necessary. Why feel bad about shameless, unpretentious fun? Morningwood just goes all out and has a good time. It doesn’t hurt that singer Chantal Claret is an adorably sexy ball of energy. As my friend Steve said, “She stole my beer, stole my keys, and stole my heart.” And band co-founder Pedro Yanowitz lays out some awesome bass lines. Just two moths later, Morningwood headed out on their own headlining tour so I eagerly headed back to the same venue for more crazy fun.
In between Morningwood shows, I saw two other bands that I rank very highly. First up was all-time favorite They Might Be Giants, returning to Florida for the first time in something like four years. I have seen TMBG more than ten times, and while I’m always happy to see them, this show unfortunately ranked near the bottom of the list. First off, since the band is pretty much releasing their own records, the hard sell factor was a bit more obvious during the show. Second, the show had an odd flow considering the mix of songs from their excellent full-length album “The Spine”, their noveltyish project “Venue Songs” and a handful of new, unreleased songs planned for the next record produced by the Dust Brothers. I have to say I am salivating over the potential of the new record, because I really liked the sound of the new songs. They stopped the show cold, though, because the concert crowd obviously wanted more familiar material.
Lastly, I’ll mention the band Wheatus, going above and beyond in concert, impressing me to no end. I won’t get into it too much because I wrote a blog on it following the show, so I’ll just point you to that one (called “Someday you’ll learn”)…
I’m looking forward to another show coming up this week, which will be Panic! At The Disco with OK Go opening. I remember those guys opening for They Might Be Giants a while back, and their new album is a bit edgier and interesting. I’ll have to claim ignorance on Panic! At the Disco. I’m sure I’ve heard some of their songs, but I wouldn’t be able to identify them. Evidently I’m finally behind the curve on this one, because the show’s sold out. Tune in Thursday to hear all about it, kiddies.
Until then, Keep on Rockin in the $10 World…
= Derek =