Thursday, April 1, 2010

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.

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