Sunday, June 25, 2006

Radiohead @The Greek Theatre at Berkeley, June 24th

Oh man, oh man...tonight -- the main reason why I came to San Francisco for this long weekend -- Radiohead. Back in early May, the Radiohead fanclub said tickets would be going on presale sometime that day. No specific time, just "sometime," which meant for many fans, staying up late, refreshing their internet browsers into the wee hours of the morning in hopes of catching the presale before tickets sold out.

Crazily enough, I played the game for a little while, and finally gave up around 3:30am that night. A work night. Sometime between the time I passed out and when I got up at 7am, the presale began. MSG sold out both nights before I had a chance to pounce (but happily, fate intervened and my new best friend Rad hooked me and Wawa up with MSG tix). So instead, I saw that tickets for Berkeley were still available (I guess Californians were sleeping at 4 in the morning their time -- go figure). I quickly checked the calendar and saw one of the nights at Berkeley was a Saturday. I was desperate to see Radiohead, my favoritest band in the world. Amanda, my music authority (and one of my best friends from college), lives in the Bay Area. So on impulse I bought 'em. Pulled the trigger. Bang!

Cut to a month and a half later -- the day I had been waiting for finally came. Yes, I saw Radiohead twice last week in New York, and up close. But I was so looking forward to this trip, to this outdoors show with two of my best friends from MIT -- Amanda, and our friend Di. So it was lovely seeing my girls, especially since we had skipped our 10th year reunion just a few weeks ago (gawd, we're old!). Amanda's brother Ted was gonna use the 4th ticket but unfortunately had to work, so I posted the ticket on the fanclub message board for face and made some fan very happy. Gotta feed the ticket karma gods, ya know? Pay it forward and shit like that (sorry, if it made you think of a burned Kevin Spacey and a gawky Haley Joel Osment!)...

Anyway, back to the music. This night we did not opt for the jam packed pit (so no good pictures, but at least I could focus on enjoying the show), so we hung on the promenade above the pit behind some short girls. The band Deerhoof opened with a tight half hour set. Very experimental and minimalist, but memorable. Loads of chi!

As for Radiohead -- they were AMAZING! They once again changed the setlist to include a few songs I hadn't caught yet on this tour including "Airbag," "Black Star" and a delicious version of "True Love Waits." This was my third time hearing the new songs, and it only made me even more excited to hear them in the context of an album. For the song "Nude," the band got a few minutes in, but then Thom was displeased with his mic, so he had them stop and replace the mic, and started from the top again. Ah, the beauty of live music!

And the setting was great too. The Greek Theatre is on the campus of Berkeley, an amphitheatre that holds about 7,500. It did not get too cold, probably cos I was dancing like an idiot, and the famous fog stayed away until the very end giving rise to an eerie lighting effect, which was nice.

Thom was in a good mood, quite chatty and jokey, and he danced like an idiot, too. God, I love that weird little genius man. At the end of the show before the last song, "The Tourist," Thom said that would be it for the show, unless we invited them to carry on at our place. Um, YES!!!

It was awesome seeing Radiohead this third and final time this tour. I still can't believe I flew out to San Francisco with the main goal of seeing this show. I don't suppose I would have bothered going across the country just to see a band (yes, even Radiohead) so the fact that I have been able to spend time with Amanda and Di has made this trip even more special.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Built To Spill @Slim's, June 23rd

(Why didn't I have my real camera?)

Tonight went to Slim's in San Francisco with Amanda and Teddy to check out their fav, Built To Spill. I still don't have huge familiarity with their stuff, but I was excited to see them live again, having enjoyed them once before in a stellar lineup last October at Coney Island with Rilo Kiley, Gang of Four and the Pixies.

We got to Slim's just as the opener was finishing up. Slim's is a smallish place that probably holds 500-600 people, andthe place was already packed for the sold out show (2nd of 3 nights in San Fran). Where we were by the bar seemed pretty hopeless and pointless, so I explained to Teddy the two beer trick that the Britta showed me -- you hold two beers and make your way through the crowd and pretend you're bringing a beer to someone up front. Plus, people get all worried about spillage, so they're usually more than willing to move aside. Teddy held his and Amanda's PBRs oh so carefully, and we followed him close behind in the wake. We managed to get about 4 people deep from centerstage. Awesome!

BTS tonight had 3 guitars, bass and drums, led by Doug Martsch. I find his singing voice similar to Wayne Coyne's of the Flaming Lips, except without any of the pretension. Doug is a different and somewhat kind of refreshing leadman -- no frills whatsoever. Dressed simply in a black t-shirt, shorts with his balding head and beard, he was simply there to rock. The rest of the band was similar in appearance too -- no preening or posing commonly associated with any otherband. Perhaps the boldest detail by Doug was the sticker on his guitar -- a big W with the red circle and diagonal over it (see above fuzzy picture). The band as a whole was all business -- no banter, no smiles. I kinda missed the subtle interactions you usually see during live performances. I couldn't tell if BTS were having fun or not. But the 100 minutes of music they played were solid.

BTS can get kinda jammy, but not in that stinky, smelly hippie kind of way. They have lots of extended guitar solos and use a lot of fuzz and distortion, but vary their sound somewhat too. One of their newer songs had a reggae beat that I remember hearing at Coney Island. And a few tunes verged on the political, one in particular which made good use of the images and video clips projected on this white sheet suspended above and in front of the band while the band simply played an instrumental. Some of their recorded music feature more poppish, catchier stuff, but none of that came out tonight, which was too bad. As both Amanda and Teddy put it, BTS played almost nothing they wanted to hear, but the band still sounded great live.

Our trip back to Oakland was a bit of a pain -- I'm not psyched about the public transportation in the Bay Area late at night. The BART shuts down at midnight so we had to take a series of buses to inch back closer into Oakland. We ran into some drunk doods on the last bus we caught back to Amanda's 'hood and they wanted to pick a fight, but we managed to diffuse the situation. For the next time I come to this city, I had better work on my kung fu!

Friday, June 16, 2006

More photos, Radiohead @Theatre at MSG, June 14th

I finally made it to kung fu tonight -- man, I can't walk now. Owie! Anyway, like I promised, more pictures from the amazing Radiohead show I went to last night.

Seeing some of the pics on actual blogs gives me a little camera envy. But whatevs, I have iPod envy and cellphone envy from time to time too. It's just a function of being two steps behind, technologically speaking. I mean, I just figured out this thing and how to insert photos on myspace!

I'm just stoked I got to see Radiohead! In the Pit!! Twice!!! Unbelievable!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Radiohead @Theatre at MSG, June 14th

(Better photos tonight, baby!)

Tonight, met up with Wawa, my new best friend Rad, and some of his buddies to catch my favorite band again, the wondrous Radiohead. Now, I don't usually bother seeing a band twice in a row (the only recent exception I made to that rule was the Robinson Brothers acoustic tour, but I knew the setlists would be very different). But this is Radiohead. They could play the same 10 songs all the time, and I would still be in love.

We arrived at the Pit slightly earlier than the previous night and caught half of the opener, the Black Keys, who are a drum and guitar band which has been compared to the White Stripes, except bluesier. They were nice and loud. After they were done, I made the executive decision to part from my group and get as close as I could without being too pushy. I stayed on Jonny's side of the stage, but managed to get within 6 or 7 people deep from the stage, and strategically placed myself behind a very petite girl.

I thought the night before was astonishing; tonight they managed to top it even more. Not only did I have better familiarity with the new tunes (which I imagine will sound great in the context of an album), and I was closer to the stage, but they pulled out all the big guns. In the two hours they played, we heard gems such as "Myxomatosis," "A Wolf at the Door," "Just," "The Tourist," "No Surprises," and what many consider their opus, "Paranoid Android."

I feel as though I died and went to heaven...

I cannot wait to see them in 10 days in Berkeley with Amanda, Teddy and Di!

Thanks again to Rad, who Wawa called our guardian angel. May good ticket karma floweth over for him forever.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Radiohead @Theatre at MSG, June 13th

(Sorry for the shitty pictures. I really need a new camera.)

So, tonight, thanks to my new best friend Rad, Wawa and I were able to go to see Radiohead from the GA Pit for face value. Ticket karma abounds!

I had been dying to see Radiohead properly for....forever. I had only seen them twice before, once on each of the last two tours, each time grabbing a crappy last minute nosebleed seat just to experience any part of my favoritest band. (I love them so much, I even missed kung fu tonight to see them!) When tickets sold out like hotcakes for these two shows at the Theatre at MSG, I was crushed. But justice prevailed and goodness sprang forth in the shape of Rad.

Now, Radiohead could have played just two songs, and I would have been ecstatic. We were treated to a decent hour and forty five minutes or so of amazingness. I'm not going to go into too much detail since it will all be gushing and useless anyway. They mixed up songs from their old albums and debuted a good number of new songs too. Ended with a gorgeous "How to Disappear Completely." It was all awesome. Truly. I'm not lying.

And thanks to the powers of craigslist (which is how we met Rad), and Wawa's extra pair of Pearl Jam tix (I never thought I'd be thankful for that), for which Rad traded a pair for tomorrow night in the Pit, we'll be there to do it all over again, baby!

Yay!!!!! So happy!!!! I'm as giddy as the time I saw Depeche Mode!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cat Power @Town Hall, June 10th

NOTE: I've decided to open a account so I can spruce up these blog entries with random pictures I take.

Tonight, caught the amazing Cat Power (Chan Marshall) at Town Hall. The ticket karma continues to flow -- grabbed 4th row center when they went on sale (hence the pretty decent photos on my shitty camera) and took dear Shana to sit with me.

Now, Chan's live reputation preceded her. Cat Power was supposed to play earlier this year at Town Hall but cancelled her tour mysteriously. In fact, I had a sweet pair for that show as well, and was gonna take the Britta for Valentine's Day, but we won't dwell on that...

So who knew what was gonna happen this go-around. Her latest album, The Greatest, is gorgeous and was recorded with the Memphis Rhythm Band -- a few members of which played with Al Green in the '70s. The stage was filled with musicians -- several guitars, horns, strings, drums, bass, piano, organ, and even backup singers. When they started playing without the lady of the moment through one instrumental and then another, I got a little nervous. Was Chan gonna pull a no-show?

But she did not disappoint -- she bounded out for the title track and the crowd went mad. The focus of the evening was on the latest cd. Her voice was lush, haunting, aching, delicate. She seemed fidgety or maybe suffering from a slight case of a.d.d. at times, fussing with her hair constantly or her rings. Her dancing bordered on goofy -- she flapped her arms like a chicken and flopped around her thin limbs. But it was all too charming. She seemed genuinely happy to be performing this second sold out night in front of the New York crowd.

And as she progressed through the songs, she gradually warmed up and became slightly chatty, at one point commenting how this was her sober. There was even a costume change. She started off the evening with a simple black tank, black pants, a gold medallion on a chain around her neck. After the last song of the main set -- "Where is My Love" and god, it was so beautiful, I almost cried -- she returned to the stage in a white cocktail dress and big silver hoop earrings, which she almost immediately removed from her ears. She was barefoot the whole time, too. The best was when she unabashedly kept adjusting her little white dress pausing at times to pull a wedgie. Utterly kooky and charming!

While the main set was absolutely beautiful, the encore songs made it completely worth it. She played a few songs solo either on piano or guitar, including a gorgeous cover of "House of the Rising Sun." Then, the full band returned and accompanied her once again.

I didn't know what to expect from a live performance by Cat Power, having heard that she could be crap live. After tonight, I'm totally hooked -- I loved her so much, I even begged for a setlist, ended up with two, and also copies of one of the musician's notes featuring the chord progressions of some of the songs. Awesome.

PS -- spotted her Matador labelmates, Yo La Tengo, as well as David Byrne there in the audience. Sweet!

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Tapes 'N Tapes @Bowery Ballroom, June 4th

Met up with Shana and Eddie early for yet another smashing pre-concert meal at La Esquina, followed by ice cream at the Nolita Ice Cream Factory -- yay, almond cookie! We met Julie1 at the doors and headed in.

Tonight featured a 3 band lineup. The opener was Cold War Kids, and boy, did they have loads of chi. The drummer remained stationary as the lead singer, lead guitarist and bassist ambled all over the stage. You could only wonder how they would fare at a tighter place like Rothko or the Knitting Factory. I really enjoyed the first 5 or so songs. The lead singer yelped it like he meant it. Meanwhile the mostly lead guitarist would alternate between guitar and smashing a lone cymbal atop a wooden crate with a maracca or drum stick with a splintering drum stick. And the bassist kinda creeped me out -- I think he kept locking eyes with me -- but it was in an axe-murderer kind of way. They were interesting both vocally and visually. I don't think they'll achieve any great success, but I was not upset I saw them.

The second act of the night was this band from Denmark named The Figurines. Now, if you had given me their cd, I probably would have appreciated it. There are definitely some solid rock/punk elements to their music, with good bass riffs, energy, etc. But seeing them live? It was during their first song that I immediately wished I hadn't been out till 3am partying with the kung fu crowd and Shifu -- how often do you get to do special water training with the man himself? I really hit the wall with the Figurines. The speakers were too loud for me, yet I wasn't sure I wanted to relinquish our prime spot 5 people deep from the stage. As for the band visually -- never have I seen a group so disparate in appearance. The lead guitarist looked normal and cute. The bassist -- a member of Bon Jovi circa 1998 with his tight black polyester shirt, leather pants and perfectly coiffed hair with blonde highlights. The lead singer -- if you asked Ryan Adams to wear a horrible poofy bleached blonde wig and sing like Neil Young meets Jello Biafra. His hair was the worst -- it really reflected the various light effects very well. Perhaps this mashup of styles accounted for their music -- it was a little all over the place. The Figurines were solid musicans. They just managed to be very loud without being interesting, which is how I think Eddie put it.

Last, but not least, the reason why we came -- Tapes 'N Tapes. I had bought these tickets a month and a half ago based solely on buzz, both in blogs and in print. Rolling Stone named them as someone to watch in 2006. Their sound has been compared to the bastard stepchild of Frank Black and Stephen Malkmus, and that assessment might be right for some of their songs. I heard all kinds of similiarities with them and many bands. Particularly, their cut "Manitoba" reminds me of Arcade Fire. Then again, it could only be because Manitoba is in Canada, right? I'm so geographically retarded...

They were a solid live band. I enjoyed them but unfortunately, I was really, really tired at that point, so I was impatient to leave. I have enjoyed their debut cd very much, and probably would see them live again at some point. But they didn't knock me out, like Arcade Fire or Clap Your Hands have during their fledgling careers. Once they finished their main set, Eddie and Shana made a beeline for the doors to head back to Jersey and Julie1 and I met up with Heather and Julie2 at the back. We were all ready for bed.