Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sundays are just so different now

Saturday, October 17, 2009

When cool things happen at strange places: Mayer Hawthorne at the Westfield Mall

They’d been promoting it for weeks, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world: Ann Arbor, MI’s new soul sensation Mayer Hawthorne, performing a free concert at the Westfield Mall in Culver City, CA, as part of a KCRW promotion.

I when I say mall, the Westfield shopping plaza is of the classic mall of your youth variety. An endless maze of multi-leveled consumer madness, my buddy Tony Pierce tells me Westfield was originally built as something of a buffer to keep the people from southern L.A. from raiding the Beverly Center.

The stage was set up in the ‘Dining Terrace’ area. When I arrived, Garth Trinidad was spinning some tunes. A few people were seated in the about 200 folding chairs set up in front of the stage. I quickly grabbed a second row seat on the aisle.

By the time Mayer and his band the County hit the stage, there were a few hundred people amassed to see them play. There were a few hipsters, lots of random shoppers, and some cool families—a real polyglot of people. It was a classic mall scene.
Hawthorne and his band rocked it. They played a majority of the songs from his debut album “A Strange Arrangement.” They also slipped in a couple of nice covers – “Fall in Love” by Slum Village and “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra.

Dude was charming and smooth, and had the mall rocking pretty nicely for most of the set. It was bizarre and kind of random, but in the end it was really, really cool.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Satan's lasers

Fever Ray is scary. And amazing.

A couple of years ago, a friend (hi Henry!) offered me a ticket to see this band the Knife at the El Rey. Something had come up, and he was unable to go.

I’d heard the buzz on the Knife, but really didn’t know them from the proverbial Adam. But I knew the show was crazy sold out and the hottest ticket in town, so I bought it from him. Sometimes, I am smarter than I look.

The show was a mind-boggling multi-media event that kind of defies description. The Swedish brother-sister duo brought it on every level, and then some.

Fast-forward to this week. I knew Fever Ray (which is a solo project from the sister half of the Knife) was coming to town. But being generally overwhelmed by life, didn’t really pursue it. I have enough shows on my plate, you know.

Randomly on the day of the show, I get an email from Fever Ray’s publicist telling me that I’m on the list.

OK, the universe had decided that I was to see Fever Ray. Who am I to argue?

Once again, I’ve proven myself to be smarter (and luckier) than I look.

Despite the show being sold out, I was able to secure a nice comfy seat in the balcony.

That’s when I noticed the crowd. It was a pretty wild mix of hipsters and collegiate types. My favorites were the hardcore fans that came in full neo-tribal face-paint, a look that goes very interestingly with jeans and a t-shirt.

The opener was Nosaj Thing, a one-man show operation. 

Dude makes nice music. It’s very M83-lite meets the more melodic end of Radiohead. Lots of synths, very dreamy. All good. 

My only issue is calling his performance a “live show.” Basically, we watched a guy tweak some knobs on a box and stare at a laptop screen while interpretively dancing. Where I come from, that constitutes a DJ gig. That’s all.

Things got really interesting in the time leading up to Fever Ray. The music being played was so messed up. I called it “music to disturb people.” It was reminiscent of an Italian horror movie soundtrack from the late ‘60s.

But then Fever Ray came on. Whoa.

The show was like a cross between Daft Punk and an ancient satanic ritual. With lasers. Lots and lots of lasers. It was one of the coolest nights out at a concert I’ve had all year. The music is just as techno-primitive as the Knife, all hypnotic beats and weird chanted vocals. Awesome.