Thursday, May 29, 2008

Birdmonster @Mercury Lounge, May 28th

Encouraged by a post I recently read on The Music Slut, I signed up for a free early show at the Mercury Lounge by the San Francisco treat, Birdmonster (which actually has a somewhat well-written blog). Prior to tonight's performance, which promoted the band's upcoming sophomore release, From The Mountain To The Sea, due out on August 5th, I knew little of the band other than its cute name and a cursory listen of songs from MySpace. They proved to be a fun and talented live band, and definitely merit a closer listening. The guys were full of stage energy (reminding Shana of the time we saw Cold War Kids opening for Tapes 'N Tapes a few years ago) but managed to still put out some tight melodies and lyrics (unlike the trainwreck performances I witnessed by Team Robespierre and The Teenagers a few weeks ago).

Here is a cut from the new album entitled,"Born To Be Your Man" (sorry for the boominess of the audio):

And the opportunity to follow a free show with a pastrami sandwich at nearby Katz's is always a good thing, in my book!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wilco @The Riviera, Feb. 16th

(Sorry it's been so friggin' long since I should have posted this review! Today, a friend sent me the bootleg of this show, which I'm listening to now, and it has reminded me how awesome it was to be there, and that I should POST! Thanks, M.!)

Sometime in early February I was IMing with Wawa about the latest Wilco contest -- a pair of tickets to one of their sold-out 5-night residency at their hometown Riviera Theatre during which they supposedly would cover a majority of songs off all their albums. He declined to enter since he had a wedding that President's Day Weekend, but I figured I had no real plans, so why not? Well, lo and behold, on Valentine's Day, Thursday the 14th, I got a call from Wilco's management that I had won the contest, and would I be able to join them in Chicago two days from then? You betcha!

For the rest of that afternoon, I scrambled to find someone to share in my winnings -- people either were already committed to plans or didn't quite jump at the idea of booking a last minute plane ticket to Chicago. Luckily for me and for my old roommate Fer, we both had enough frequent flyer miles to merit a cheap ticket each. So we packed our bags and off we went the very next day!

We got put up in a nice room at the Hard Rock Hotel in Downtown Chicago, and this was our spectacular view:

After a dinner of Chicago-style deep dish pizza, we cabbed our way up to the theater, and were slightly dismayed to find a line already blocks long emanating from the entrance in the freezing cold Chicago temps. I decided to go into the lobby and talk to security and the management, and explained that I had won the contest and was supposed to pick up tickets up front, and miraculously, they told me and Fer to wait right there indoors and to wait for the lady with the guest list. Cool beans! I started getting a little antsy as doors opened, and people streamed by, and the guest list lady was still nowhere to be found. The floor was general admission, and I could sense my chances of being up front like I had been for the last time I saw Wilco diminishing rapidly. Finally she showed up, and instead of handing us tickets, gave us those cool stickers that you see guest list people often wearing:

Fer and I headed towards the floor, but the usher directed us to go upstairs. Crap! I didn't want to be stuck up in the mezzanine. But then the next usher upstairs directed us to go to the very front and center of the mezzanine. Sweet! It was a perfect view of the stage, and was wonderful placement acoustically-speaking, and we were seated as opposed to dealing with the standing crowd below us.

The show itself was utterly amazing. It clocked out at just over 2-1/2 hours, and as promised, the setlist drew from all of Wilco's albums, with about 2/3 of it coming from pre-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot songs, which was good, since the last few times I had seen them, they had focused on their latest release, Sky Blue Sky. From my ideal seat, I was able to record eight of their selections, including the ultra-rare "Dash 7" for which violinist Andrew Bird joined them:

The guys, as always, were a pleasure to watch, and you could tell that Jeff Tweedy was having a good time playing to the folks of Chicago who supported each song, rarity or not, with loud roars. In fact, after the show seemed to be over, the crowd refused to budge and kept chanting for another encore even after the house lights and the back curtain went up and the roadies started putting equipment away. The guys came out after a good amount of coaxing and treated us with a final encore of two more songs, "ELT" and "Hoodoo Voodoo." I felt so happy!

As part of my prize, I also got hooked up with a bunch of merchandise, including a limited edition poster screened specifically for that night. It's the second one from the left:

The next day, I received a pair of tickets in the second row by a goal for the Chicago Blackhawks hockey game, and some merchandise for them as well. I wore this dorky baseball cap, which was a good move because the die-hard Chicago fans around me immediately accepted me as one of their own, and high-fived me as their Hawks skated to victory. I had never had such great seats before, and got to see everything mega-close-up:

including a FIGHT!!! Funny thing is that my Wilco weekend didn't end the night before; the bassist, John Stirratt participated during one of the challenges during an intermission:

How random was that?

All in all, it was a super-amazing weekend, including visits with an old friend and Fer's family, and plenty of good eats:

A Chicago-style dog at the airport. For breakfast. It doesn't get any classier than that, folks!

I'm looking forward to seeing them again this summer at McCarren Pool on August 13th.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Teenagers @Bowery Ballroom, May 5th

Welcome to the Hiptarded Parade! Last night, thanks to The Music Slut, I got to witness the spectacles known as The Teenagers and Team Robespierre at the Bowery Ballroom. Each band adroitly employed the finest non-singing/talking methods available to man while backed by throwback '80s synthesizer/drum sounds. They both also used the "let's jump into the crowd and get them going" technique. Whee!

A fun albeit forgettable time....

Friday, May 2, 2008

Drummer steals the show!

(Thanks to Karen for the youtube!)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tribeca/ASCAP Music Lounge @The Canal Room, Apr. 30th

Yesterday, courtesy of The Music Slut, Julie1 and I headed to The Canal Room for an afternoon of free tunes. With the exception of the final performer, Sondre Lerche, whose music I've enjoyed for years now but hadn't seen live, I didn't really know of or care about any of the other performers, but free passes, cushy couches and an open bar made it all worthwhile. Thank you, Jameson's!

A good number of these performers in the Tribeca /ASCAP Music Lounge were selected (I think) due to their previous work providing music for films. Coincidentally, the only other time I had been to The Canal Room, which is a nice, intimate venue, was about 2-1/2 years ago to see Jon Brion, a musician/producer also known for his work in such notable films such as "Magnolia" and "I Heart Huckabees."

The day started off with Jon Foreman of the band Switchfoot, of which I know nothing about. His singing was pleasant enough but not particularly enticing. I was hoping he'd break into some "Bawitdaba" by Kid Rock seeing as how they kinda resemble each other, but no dice.

Next up was Lizz Wright, whose music can be best described as soul/R&B/jazz. Beautiful voice. At times, while she was harmonizing with guitarist Toshi Reagon, the music reminded me of the Indigo Girls, strangely enough.

The third set of the afternoon (which accompanied my third serving of Jameson's and ginger) belonged to Chris Thile, who I hear is a member of the band Nickel Creek. Perhaps I am a cretin for not knowing anything about him/them as well, so be it. He was mildly/wildly amusing, playing a mandolin with wonderful dexterity and telling us funny stories of unrequited love for Natalie Portman and dropping his phone in the toilet at MSG.

Here's his cover of "Heart In A Cage" by The Strokes:

And a charming original: "If You're Gonna Leave Me (Set Me Up With One of Your Friends)."

Finally, the main reason why I attended the showcase (no, it was not for the Jameson's) -- Sondre Lerche. My dear friend Mandi turned me onto him some years ago, and it's easy to admire the breezy, cheery vocals and melodies of this Norwegian.

He really is adorable and I'm happy to have finally seen him live. I think I'll try to catch him when he performs at Joe's Pub soon. Here's the track "Everyone's Rooting For You" off his third album, Duper Sessions:

He also performed "Sleep on Needles."

My photoset here.