Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Concert review: Girls, Dum Dum Girls

Girls, Dum Dum Girls
Monday April 5 2010 at Mr. Small's
with Lisa, Jessie, Robert

The Dum Dum Girls rocked my world. I first heard their single "Jail La La" back in January, loved their sound, bought the 7", and marveled at the B-side track when I received the package at home and played it at 45 rpm straight into my ears: it's a molasses-laden version of The Rolling Stones' "Play With Fire", but mostly in the viscous sense with only a hint of sweetness. They opened their set at Mr. Small's with this cover song and I knew it would be a good show. The singer, Dee Dee, stared at the audience for most of their set with a deep glow in her eyes, and they all had a cultivated seriousness to their demeanors, dressed in goth black with black striped tights and dark, dark hair (except for the fire-red-headed bassist and the drummer with a big floppy hat [noted Jessie: "Hats are making a comeback!"]). Their songs live in the dark, fuzzy pop genre, with reverberating guitar strums crashing in waves over the beautiful (up to) three part female vocal harmonies, backed by a simple but driving drumbeat. I noticed the drummer seemed to have trouble with her monitor or sound system or something, which disturbed a couple of the songs and threw her off, alas. But no matter, the singer's amazingly spot-on-key vocals and penetrating stare and whimsical little guitar flails, plus the other guitarist's backing harmonies and focused playing were enough to distract my attention from the drummer's tribulations and the bassist's scary and robotic aloofness. Robert noted an obvious homogeneity of their sound, but that doesn't bother me; it's exactly what I want them to sound alike. Their full-length LP
"I Will Be"
arrived in my mailbox only a week or so before the show and I had already listened to it at least 5 times by showtime. It's all-around solid, and it really showcases how well they've perfected their form in such a short time together as a band. I'm looking forward to more music from them, even if it does all sound the same.

Girls rocked the house (well, converted church), as well, but in a different way. I remember when their internet buzz really exploded last year, and I listened to a few of their songs and didn't really see what the big deal was. "Lust for Life" is irresistibly catchy and fun, but the others were just . . . underwhelming (i.e. "meh"). It turns out that their debut album, Album, really works better as a cohesive unit, and specifically in a live setting. Any one song is good enough, in its own right, but it's the amalgam of genre-blurring, multi-tempo, simple-yet-beautifully melodic songs that really makes this band good, not to mention the bare-facedly honest lyrics from Christopher Owens, no doubt due to his
crazy backstory. Their set veered from psychedelia-laden guitar riffs to crunchy blues to country twang to shoegaze solos just oozing with feedback. It was an all around super cool combo. Also, the crowd seemed rather sparse for this show, considering the apparent popularity of the band on the web. I stayed towards the front/middle of the stage for most of the show, whereas usually the front area of Mr. Small's is packed with teenagers and I end up hanging around the back area by the bar. This time, I got a chance to see both bands up close (standing a couple feet from the Girls singer during the Dum Dum Girls set, for instance) and really hear their lyrics.

Speaking of the Girls singer, he had an intriguing charismatic aloofness to him; he was very much involved in his music, not looking up too often and limiting between-song banter, but this made everyone (or, at least me) seem all the more interested in hearing what he had to say in his songs. Consider the heart-wrenching-cum-jubilant chorus of
"Hellhole Ratrace" (around the 1:00 mark in the video):
"And I don't wanna cry my whole life thru
I want to do some laughing too
So come on, come on, come on, come on and laugh with me
And I don't wanna die without shaking up a leg or two
Yeah I wanna do some dancing too
So come on, come on, come on, come on and dance with me"

Musically, in addition to the mix of sounds and styles, their rhythm section was fantastic. The drummer kept perfect time with lots of fills and flourishes, including a few drumstick twirls whenever he had more than a nanosecond of waiting to do and a few sections of songs where he played his kit with maracas. The bass player was also quite good, and he's a big part of the songwriting duo with the singer, too. Their overall set was really good and enjoyable, except for a super loud section at the end, which a few
other Pittsburgh music
blogs have pointed out in more detail. Other than that, it was great, and they came back for a three song encore, even for a smallish crowd.

In my post-show notes from later that night, I wrote this sentence:
"Reminded me how simplicity can be great if you're talented, and how "cool" has so many different definitions."
I'm not entirely sure what I meant by that, but there it is.

Dum Dum Girls:
"I Will Be" live @ SXSW 2010
"Hey Sis" live @ SXSW 2010
"Be My Baby" (Ronettes cover) live
"Bhang Bhang" live @ Pabst Theater, Milwaukee on 04/11/10

"Laura" music video
Bunch of videos from a live set @ The Blue Note in Columbia, MO on 2/8/2010, only a few weeks before this show (should give you a good sense of what this show was like):
"Hellhole Ratrace" and "Morning Light"

Show review from Spinner magazine posted the next day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Concert Review: Dan Deacon, Ed Schrader

Dan Deacon, Ed Schrader
Saturday April 3 2010 at CMU (Baker lawn)
with Lisa, Deepak

This was a fun show, and drew quite a crowd of CMU students on a Saturday night. It was held outside on the campus quad between Baker and Doherty Halls. Deepak and Lisa and I were in the office all evening working on probability homework; that reminds me of an interesting problem that came up on that homework that is simple enough to pose to anybody but somewhat tricky to solve. Consider the following game: a single die will be rolled (up to) N times. After each roll, we can choose to either accept the current roll and get paid $x where x is the face value of the current roll, or else reject it and roll the die again. Once rejecting a roll, we cannot return and get paid that amount. When the Nth roll is reached, we must accept its value. What is the optimal stopping strategy? That is, how do we decide whether to accept the current roll (based on current value, rolls remaining, what we've seen, wind direction, whether Jupiter aligns with Mars, etc.) such that we maximize the average expected payoff? Keep in mind this is a function of N, so the answer may be different for N=1,2,3,4,...

Okay, that was tangential. Hah. Anyway, we wandered outside around 9ish to catch the opening act, Ed Schrader. I'm usually curious about any act, opening or headlining, that is just a single first name-last name combo. It signifies some kind of lead singer with a backup band, or some one-man-band style music. This time, Ed played a drum and sang. And that was about it, from what I could see/hear. It was crazily captivating; his voice was deep and droning and the drumbeat pulled that feeling along like a lovesick tugboat with someplace to be. (Good luck figuring out what that means.) Here are some videos and links related to Ed Schrader. More music links below. I enjoyed his music. Unfortunately, some douchebag behind us did not and kept yelling stupid shit. So somewhere towards the end of the set I turned around and told him to shut up. Except I yelled it fairly loudly, quite possibly in his face. Oh well. Some people are just so fucking rude.

Dan Deacon played next and “rocked” the “house”. I saw him once before last summer as part of the No DeacHunter tour at Mr. Small's and was fairly impressed, although he seemed like the odd man out of the 3 bands. I love Deerhunter and No Age is great, but his style just didn't quite mesh with mine; it was too dancey and electronic for my usual taste. For some reason, this show at CMU changed my view. Maybe it was that, due to the superior sonicality of the venue (i.e. the great outdoors), I could understand his banter and lyrics. And his banter was pretty great. He started the set by dictating a so-called shared experience for the whole audience, wherein we all knelt on one knee and said some stuff in unison. Sorry but I'm fuzzy on details. From there, we collectively proceeded to jump and bop and hop and slop and chop and drop and mop and flop around to his funktastic electronical futuristicopoppytoppy beats. Not to mention his crazy light displays. I've never really listened to his album stuff (a handful of tracks on Lala the day of the show, basically) but the live stuff is fantabulasticous. I really enjoyed the show as a music show, not necessarily as a musical oeuvre. Sobeit. My only regret is wearing Birkenstocks, since my toes were fairly frequently trampled by fellow concertgoers. Also, the Facebook event for this show, run by CMU's Activities Board, sent the following message later that night:
“It brings us great sorrow to announce that one of the attendee's of Dan's recent show stole Mr. Deacon's prized green-glowing-strobing skull. We offered to buy him a new one, but he noted that the skull has been around the world with him. He was visibly saddened by this loss. If you or anyone you know has any information on how to reclaim Dan's skull please let us know. We won't try to get you in trouble, we just want to make Dan happy.
Before the skull went missing he announced that this was the first night in a while in which he had not wept. Please do everything in your power to help him out.”
And yes, Dan did announce that he had not wept that night, for the first night in a long time. Some people are so fucking rude. Two hours later, a message was sent to announce the skull had been returned, thankfully. In the future, let's all try to be nice to each other, mmkay?

Ed Schrader:
”I Can't Stop Eating Sugar” live in Chicago
Live with No Age's Randy Randall (yes, his real name)
Live with Jana Hunter of Lower Dens
A totally different Ed Schrader

Dan Deacon:
”Crystal Cat” music video
Interviewed/featured on ABC's indie music series Amplified
Live at Pitchfork Music Fest 2k7

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Concert Review: Smith Westerns, Male Bonding

Smith Westerns, Male Bonding
Wednesday March 31 2010 at Brillobox
with Lisa

I saw the Smith Westerns at Gooski's back in September when they were first causing some internet buzz after releasing their debut epnoymous album. It was a great live show and I think Gooski's was the perfect place for it: a local music scene bar in Polish Hill, down in the back part of the bar, good acoustics for a small blocky room, crowded space. I saw they were coming here again, to the Brillobox, and they were giving away two tickets in the Opus One weekly contest. I usually enter one or two of their weekly giveaways and never win, but this time I did! We usually do pub quiz at the Brillobox on Wednesday nights, too, so I decided to split my time between upstairs and downstairs. I stayed downstairs for the first half of trivia then popped upstairs to catch some of Male Bonding (note the capitalization). They seem reasonably popular at the moment in the fuzz-pop lo-fi indie rock scene, and they've been signed to Sub Pop records, which is a big deal. I didn't know anything about them going into the show, and I wasn't unimpressed, but it was a pretty nondescript show. Perhaps it was the noticeably practically empty room (where was everybody?), and we only managed to catch 3 or so songs (apparently it was doors at 9, show at 9:30 which is 30 minutes ahead of the Brillo's usual schedule . . . odd), but I left thinking that it was just an upbeat live show and not really anything I'd find myself wanting to listen to later.

The Smith Westerns went next and played a super solid set, running through most of the songs on their album. The melodies are super catchy and the lyrics are so simple and fun that I almost wanted to sing along, if I knew them better . . . They have a surprisingly confident, yet withdrawn, stage presence, given that all of them are 18-20 years old; there's a certain swagger to their step and guitar strumming, but they hardly look at the audience and have no between-song banter. No matter! Their songs are great and snappy and fun.

Male Bonding:
”Perfect Day” (Lou Reed cover) with the Vivian Girls
“Pumpkin” live
”Years Not Long” live studio session

Smith Westerns:
”Girl In Love” music video
Live in Atlanta
”Be My Girl” live
Acoustic session

Concert Review: Citay, Queening, The Temps, Free Clinic

Citay, Queening, The Temps, Free Clinic
Monday March 29, 2010 at Helter Shelter
with Lisa

What a night; this was such a crazy evening, in terms of locating the venue and the show itself. I only happened to find out about the show about a week beforehand via a poster on the stairwell leading up to Wicked Discs on Craig Street. I was walking upstairs and did a double take: “What? Citay!? How did I not know about this?” Seriously, there was pretty crappy advertising for this show, and even with what there was, I had a damn hard time finding the venue (this ad was not in the print version of the CP and I only discovered it after the fact when Topekaing to find info on the openers and the venue). But you'll read about that below. The only reason I was even going to Wicked Discs (other than the fact that I go there every couple of months just to see what they have on vinyl) was because I saw on their Facebook page that there was a newly-acquired used Velvet Undeground album called A Symphony of Sound, and I had never heard of it and thought it was worth checking out. Turns out that it's a live recording of (what seems most likely to be) a practice session with Lou, Mo, Sterling, John and Nico (and her son who's pictured on the cover and plays tambourine, haha) in Andy Warhol's Factory in NYC in late 1966, preparing for a show of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. The album consists of roughly 50 minutes of instrumental song, split on two sides, full of reverb and experimental sounds. It's interesting to listen to, and seems to be a nice collector's item (numbered 961/1000 and put out by a record company in Osaka, Japan and labeled as an “unofficial” release). Anyhow, I bought this record after discussing it with owner, and I also bought a vinyl version of Television's Marquee Moon, one of my favorite all-time albums.

So, thankfully, I learned about this show. I also knew about a show at the Brillobox by Miles Kurosky, former lead singer of Beulah (one of my favorite bands, and part of my fortuitous introduction to the Elephant 6 collective in college), happening the same night, and apparently I missed a great show, but I'm glad I got to see Citay live. I first found out about them about two years ago via the “recommended artists” algorithm feature on eMusic and downloaded (and greatly liked) their album Little Kingdom. It's mostly instrumental, and has been a perfect accompaniment for work-time in the office, but their new album (and the live set we saw) features more lyrics yet maintains the same musical sound and offers the same enjoyment, for me. This exact phenomenon reminds me of Saxon Shore, another band I've always liked and thoroughly enjoyed seeing live (3 times in college; I have an mp3 of one of those performances if you're interested) and whose instrumental albums are great but whose newest one features more lyrical content, in a good way.

So anyhow again, I was excited for this show. I was on campus until 6 for class and then went out to the Union Grill for dinner with a prospective math grad student. I thought I knew where the show was happening (The Nerve) based on Citay's MySpace page and had an address for it (off Liberty Ave. in Bloomfield) so I biked there ahead of time to scope it out. What I found was a desolate and rundown residential street, and the address corresponded to an abandoned warehouse next to a fenced-in schoolyard. Okay . . . I guess somebody was wrong. I biked back to Liberty and ordered a caramel latte at Crazy Mocha to use their interwebs and research the current venue problem I was facing, and Lisa met me at the coffee shop. I found a phone # on The Nerve's MySpace page for the owner/manager of this gallery/performance space and called. A woman answered and I said I was inquiring about the concert and she sounded . . . confused, basically muttering to herself that she oversees many venues and can't keep track of them. “For tonight? Do you mean April 1st?” she asked, and I said that I hoped it wasn't a premature April Fool's prank, and that the website listed tonight as the correct date, at The Nerve. She corrected me and said, “It's called 'The Shop' now” and said there's a different address (which explains the abandoned warehouse, I suppose). She gave me the phone # for a guy named Ed to call for more info (after accidentally hanging up on me while searching for the # on her phone). I called the new # and got no answer, so I went back inside to Google some more. What I realized was that The Nerve's MySpace page does say that they are moving and changing their name to The Shop and having an opening ceremony in May of 2009. (Update your website, please! Change the MySpace name! Do something to avoid this confusion!) Also, the little excerpt of the page that shows up underneath the URL in the Google search takes text from a comment on the MySpace page by some random person posting info about an event happening at The Nerve in 2009 before the move to The Shop. Why is that the extracted text? Jeez Google. Anyway, I found an address for The Shop and it was on Main, only 2 blocks from the very coffee shop where we currently were, so we decided to walk that way and see what's there.

Naturally, the address corresponded to an empty building on the corner of Main and Liberty. I thought it was about time to try calling Ed again, and this time he answered. I told him I was standing at “The Shop” hoping to find the Citay concert, but he said matter-of-factly that the show is “actually happening at Helter Shelter”. Okay, how am I supposed to know that? He gave me an address, near the corner of 50th & Butler and told me how to walk there from our current location, which was nice, and said I should call back if we got lost, which was even nicer. So despite all the confusion up to that point, I had a good feeling that it was going to work out. We set off on foot straight down the hill to Main & Butler, then took a right and walked the long 11 or so blocks to 50th Street. We passed some interesting shops and restaurants and bars, and it reminded me how little of Lawrenceville I know and how much I'd like to explore it. We passed the Allegheny Cemetery and I thought about giving my friend Joe, who works there, a call, but I decided we were in a semi-rush. So when we finally got there, at the corner of 50th & Butler was a local business of some kind (insurance, I think?) and we could see down to the end of 50th and it looked quite dark . . . so we decided to walk another block or two just to see what else was around. We noted a bar on the corner of 51st and then more restaurants and shops, so we just turned around and decided that we must have missed something at the end of 50th. And we did. Walking down 50th into the darkness was interesting; it seemed like we were heading into the middle of a residential street (which we were) and then we saw a group of 3 people standing in front of a white van smoking and I said, “Ooh people, that's a good sign, right?” So I was thinking that the van was a good sign of musicians on tour, and those people could very well be a band between sets. However, Lisa was quick (and correct, verily) to point out that a group of people on a dark street standing around a nondescript van smoking some unidentified substance is not necessarily a good sign. We forged ahead anyway and discovered two groups of people who also seemed very confused about whether this was the right place for the concert. I should have asked them more about how they found out about the show and how they got there, but at that point I was just happy to learn that the concert was, indeed, happening at this place (someone's house, actually) and that they were just waiting until 9:00 to start. We could peek into the back entrance and see an empty room with red walls and a drumkit and amps, and through the window of the main entrance we could see into the kitchen where a sizable crowd of musician-y looking people were standing around talking and drinking.

We ended up deciding to walk back to that bar on the corner of 51st Street for the 20 minutes or so until 9:00. It was called the “Blue Moon” and it still had a neon Blue Moon (beer) sign in the window. We walked in to find a mostly empty barroom with no one seated at the bar (everyone was at circular tables on the side) so we plopped down just inside the door and ordered some Yuengling on tap. It was only then that I took stock of our surroundings: the TV was showing some RuPaul reality show, there was a large rainbow flag over the bar, and when I went into the men's bathroom there were pictures of penises everywhere. Yup, a gay bar. I chuckled to myself in the bathroom (as strange as that sounds) for not being so observant upon first entering the bar, and then realized I didn't care. We ended up staying for another beer (when I slid my glass away from me apparently that meant “I want another one, thank you”) that I drank quickly, and then I bought a 6 pack of PBR to go, since we realized that if the bands were chilling in the kitchen of this house before the show, this was probably going to be BYOB. We walked back there and wandered into the house via the drumset room; no one was in there. It was a tall-ceilinged room with red-painted walls and not much else, save for the aforementioned drumkit and amps, and a keyboard/organ. This room was still creepily empty so we wandered further into the dining room area, and still found nobody: everyone was in the kitchen.

We decided to just plop down awkwardly on the couch in the dining room (yeah, there's a couch in there) since we didn't know anybody. Shortly thereafter, people started milling about in both rooms as more people walked in after us. Somebody walked up to us and introduced himself as Ezra and asked if we were in one of the bands; we said no and then learned that this was Ezra Feinberg, Citay's main man. Cool. I didn't recognize anyone else in the band, but as it turned out, a majority of the people there either were either performing or lived in the house (or both). Finally, it was music time. Sorry for the meandering narration here, but it really was quite an adventure even getting to this place.

A local trio played first, Free Clinic. They had a drummer and two guitarists, one female and one male and they both sang. Well, they both yelled. There were some melodies somewhere, but mostly it was pure, sloppy, live rock; it was actually kinda perfect for the time and place, but I'm glad they played a short set (under 15 minutes). At that point everyone migrated back to the kitchen/dining room for 10 minutes until the next band came on. The Temps were a 4 (maybe 5?) piece with guitar and keyboard and drums. For their introduction, the singer declared, “We're 'The Temps', for now . . .” Har har. They were slightly less sloppy than Free Clinic but just as loud and punk/poppy. I liked what they keyboard added to the sound, but other than that they were kinda forgettable. Apparently most of the people in this band lived in the house, as told to us by one of their friends, Sean, who was quite friendly. He even gave both of us some beer later on, and told us about some other shows around town in the near future. The third band was Queening, from Brooklyn. They fit in well with the sloppy punk rock genre of the two openers but had a much tighter sound. They had a male drummer and a female guitarist/singer, and that's it, but their sound really filled the room and didn't feel thin. Again, nothing particularly memorable about them, but it was quite enjoyable in the live setting.

Finally, Citay took the stage around 11:30. They played a fairly short set (at least it felt short and Lisa's post-show shout of “Come back and play some songs you haven't played yet!” had no effect) of songs from the new album, of which I ended up buying a vinyl copy from one of the singers afterwards. The songs are superbly uplifting, with lots of strummed guitar and vocal harmonies, but they add some flourishes, like a swirly-psychedelic guitar on the opening track “Careful With That Hat”, and a faithful-yet-unique cover of Galaxie 500's “Tugboat” (which they may have played that night without me recognizing it). It was a good set, really quite different from the preceding three bands, and I think they really wowed the crowd with their ability to play loudly but not out of control and mix catchy pop hooks with a full 7 person sound. Oh yeah, they squeezed seven people (three guitars, drums, keyboard, multiple singers) onto that tiny stage (i.e. corner of the room)! I was both incredibly excited to be able to see them live and in such a setting, but it was also unfortunate that it wasn't a bigger, more widely-known venue so that others in the citay (hah) could see them. Oh well. I'll definitely be on the lookout for the next time they roll through town. After the show we milled about the dining room a little longer and ended up talking to one of the female singers for a while about math concepts and math education, of all things. Neat. Eventually it was time to go, and we made the long trek back down Butler Street then up Main and Liberty back to Shadyside although, in retrospect, it didn't seem so distant at the time. I got home around 1 or 1:30 and collapsed into bed, tired from a long walk and a good night of music and adventure.

I actually can't find any internet info about the first two openers, and Queening only has a MySpace page.

Band profile and album review, with streams of 3 tracks
“Little Kingdom” live in NYC
“Eye on the Dollar” music video
Live in Seattle

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Concert Review: Big Hurry, Satin Gum

Big Hurry, Satin Gum, (DJ Gordy G. of Title Town)
Friday March 27, 2010 at Brillobox
with Deepak

I biked over to the Brillobox after playing a few rounds of Saboteur with some other mathies at Marla's games night. I hadn't seen Big Hurry in a while (since August I think), and in the meantime they finally released their EP in December. (When I first saw them last June opening for Jenny Owen Youngs and Jukebox the Ghost, they handed out free CDs with 3 songs, labeled “EP Coming Soon...” haha.) I saw Satin Gum opening for Donora at the Brillobox back in December, and they put on a fun show, too. I wasn't interested in seeing whoever this DJ character is, so I showed up a little late and only caught two songs from Satin Gum. They were just the perfect upbeat, guitar-heavy pop/rock songs that they have all over their EP and album, which they have been offering for free at their shows. I suppose they're doing this music thing for fun, or hoping that the giveaways will boost live show attendances, or something. Either way, good for them. Also, I like their humorous song titles, like “Interesting, Yes You Are” and “No, We Are Not Naming Our Kids After IKEA Products” and “I Got a DUI, Babe”. The upstairs room was jam-packed (I'm surprised it wasn't sold out and I got in as late as I did, phew!) and I could almost feel the floor swaying as most people danced and head-bobbed along. I also spotted all 4 members of Big Hurry hanging around the bar and chatting with friends up until the point where they went onstage. Cool beans.

Big Hurry pleased the crowd, and me, greatly with their set. It's a perfect mix of rock/dance pop/punk that can set the room ablaze. Their blog features the description “the Smiths having a street fight with Pat Benetar in the year 4000”, which is strangely accurate but doesn't quite say how awesome it is, and here is a concert review for them that summarizes their appeal far more eloquently than I ever could. They played through the songs on their new Silver Screens EP and totally nailed it. I could listen to “Save Your Breath” all day, and it's even catchier and more enjoyable live. Apparently they've also released a remixes EP (free track in the link), and the South Sound Machine is bassist Lenny Flatley's moniker. I'm hoping I get to see them again sometime soon, and I encourage you to check them out!

Satin Gum:
”Dance Me Home” live at the Brillobox
”Running Red Lights” live at the Thunderbird Cafe
”September Gurls” (Big Star cover) live from the very night about which I am writing!
photos of Satin Gum from the same night!

Big Hurry:
”Radio” live at Garfield Artworks (from 2008 when they had another synth player, apparently?)
”Paper Trails” live at Lava Lounge, December 2009
”Tell Me” acoustic, live in their attic/practice space
Burgh Sounds writeup on the remix EP
Hughshowsredux concert review and photos from the show

Concert Review: Woods, Real Estate

Woods, Real Estate, (Lohio)
Thursday March 25, 2010 at U. Pitt
with Robert, Jessie

I was excited to see this show listed on the Woods tour schedule a couple months ago, since I've been listening to their latest album Songs of Shame fairly frequently on my record player since buying it last summer. I didn't know much about Real Estate, except that they've been getting lots of buzz in the indie blogosphere. Lohio played an opening set, but I left campus a little late and conveniently just missed their set; I saw them at the Brillobox back in February and didn't really feel the need to rush to see them again. Unfortunately, it was raining fairly hard and I got drenched on my bike ride from CMU to the University of Pittsburgh's medical building. I locked my bike to a railing outside the venue and sloshed inside to find Robert and Jessie seated towards the back of the lecture hall. It seemed odd to me to have a show like this in a classroom with tiered seating, making the chalkboard area up front the stage, but it ended up working fairly well. There were probably on the order of 100 people there, and when Real Estate took the stage, most people filtered down to the front and formed a crowded blob right in front of the “stage”, while we stayed towards the back to maintain a better view.

Apparently, Real Estate was having travel issues; when I got there, Lohio had finished and gone and Real Estate hadn't even arrived, so Jessie and Robert and I chatted for a while about upcoming concerts and bands we want to see. I lamented not being able to see of Montreal in May and marveled in jealousy at their ability to get 2 tickets to the upcoming Wilco show on April 11 when they released some tickets after initially selling out in 10 minutes back in January. After not too long, the band members walked in with equipment and set up pretty quickly and launched into their set. Their first move was to beckon everyone to the front, asking mockingly whether we were “just gonna sit there the whole time”. They made the usual audience pandering, noting towards the beginning that they were in Cleveland the night before and the crowd just wasn't as good (whoo Cleveland sucks, yadda yadda), and saying towards the end that they wanted to go out drinking after the show, prompting cheers from the younger crowd. Their set lasted a while and definitely pleased the crowd to no end; it's hard to say that they “rocked the house” since they never played particularly loudly, nor were their songs really heavy or head-bangin' or scream-inducing. Basically, they played a bunch of upbeat, guitar-driven, melodic rock/pop songs that featured lots of intricate and bouncy guitar melodies backed by some harmonic riffs and straightforward drumming. It's such a simple rock formula, but they do pull it off rather well, I must say. As a live show, it became a little boring after a while, and the most “interesting” song was an instrumental number in the middle that featured some more distinct sounds and melodies, and that Robert and I both mentioned afterwards as being our favorites. The most interesting thing, to me, was how engrossed and excited most of the crowd was. Many students cheered as they walked down to the front in the beginning, applauded and hollered at the beginnings of songs when they recognized them, chatted with the guitarist between songs, and even help up lighters (in a classroom?!). I saw many people walking around with newly-purchased LPs after the show, too. I'll probably listen to them again, but I'm also curious to see in which direction they take their music from here.

Woods took the stage next after an unfortunately unnecessarily long sound check. The singer was particularly meticulous with his monitor, although I'm sure it takes some intricate effects to get his voice to come across well the way it does, all high-pitched and such. They seemed a little off rhythm at first, but they settled in during the long, opening instrumental jam, full of reverberating psychedelic guitar riffs. Later on, the drummer and bassist switched places for "Rain On" and they seemed to sound better with that lineup, interestingly. It was sad to see people walking out during the show, but their sound is noticeably different from Real Estate, and given how much the audience seemed to love them it's not surprising that this wasn't quite their cup of tea. I wanted to see them succeed, but I realize now that I think they sound better on record. A couple of their songs were missing that squealin' and rockin' guitar sound that they have on record (like Songs of Shame opener “To Clean”), and at times it was difficult to hear the singer's voice (which I actually like, although it might turn others off, I guess). They played one other song I recognized, too, and mixed in a bunch of new songs of their forthcoming album which I had already ordered and am eagerly awaiting! This included a fantastic, faster and upbeat version of “Suffering Season”, quite different from the one they recorded a while back at their Daytrotter Session. Overall, I enjoyed the set but was disappointed to see others experiencing the opposite. I think it was not the right venue for them, and Robert suggested a trendy coffee shop that also serves alcohol as an ideal spot.

Real Estate:
”Pool Swimmers” live at SUNY Purchase
”Black Lake" live at The Annex in NYC
Real Estate featured on e-magThe Drone, with live footage and an interview

”The Number” live in a record store
”Ring Me To Sleep” live on the streets of Brooklyn
album version of ”Military Madness” (which is a cover of a Graham Nash song, I just learned!)
interesting cover version of "The Number" by random YouTube user BlackJackzOO

EDIT: scouring the Woods blog led me to these NYC Taper links for live sets by Real Estate and Woods on March 12, 2010.