Reunion Tower’s shiny balls are ready for the holidays. (Photo by Justin Terveen)
I saw Sarah Jaffe play again tonight and she prefaced this song with a short tale about its last minute composition (“About five years ago in Arkansas, we needed another song to fill out the set and I wrote this shortly before we went on”) and said it was her Mom’s favorite. She then pointed to her Mom on the lawn, and the crowd applauded whole-heartedly.
I hope she one day captures the magic of her live show in the studio. Tonight, with just herself and a drummer, she absolutely tore the overly controlled studio recordings to little shreds and let them fly in the wind. In the two shows I’ve seen she’s been as good as it gets, but her records are so tentative in comparison. If you can see her live, run out and make it happen, whether she’s solo or with her band. There’ll be no regrets.
And so, a 1,325 pound-Frito Pie was created at the State Fair of Texas. Today is a good day: the humans at Frito-Lay, in their infinite wisdom, have built the World’s Largest Frito Pie. For real, it broke the Guinness Record.
(via City of Ate, photo from Frito-Lay Twitter)
Before you ask, no, I did not go to the Fair to take part. Just knowing it exists gives me heartburn.Source: dallasobserver
I bought tickets to see Adam Ant in January. The original date for the show was February 7th, but it was rescheduled for September 21st when it turned out his new album was delayed until Fall. When I heard that the new record was delayed again until early in 2013 I feared the show too would be bumped, but thankfully it went on as rescheduled.
Opening for Adam was a local band called The Justin Kipker Show, fronted by the titular Justin. At first I thought they might be having a bit of a go at Adam, for they came out in odd, sort of steampunk, kinda cowboy, kinda cabaret costumes. However, once the music started and they were playing some varient of say, Nick Cave in a “spooky” Doors-go-surf-rock melange, I figured this was their thing and not a sad send-up. Neither myself, nor my wife, nor the crowd was too interested in their set of originals. They closed with a cover of T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy” that wasn’t too bad, though it ended up being the second best T. Rex cover of the evening.
To be fair, nobody was there to see the opening band. This sellout crowd was for Adam. It was weird to be at a show and be part of the younger end of the audience demographic; I would say the median age was late 40s to early 50s, with a good smattering of folks within 20 years of that on either end, and a few families with young kids to skew the average. But this was mainly folks reliving their teen years, and many a Pirate Grannie were to be seen in the crowd.
Adam took the stage in proper Dandy coat and a bicorne hat, worn rakishly athwart like a bespectacled and mustachioed Napoleon.
[This is not my photo. Mine suck and are from far away. This is from Chris Matthews, taken at the Apple Cart Festival earlier this year]
He and his band — the Good, the Mad and the Lovely Posse — launched quickly and powerfully into “Plastic Surgery”; a surprising opener, but one which heralded that this was Adam in full rock mode, guitar heavy and forceful, more akin to the original Ants of the Dirk Wears White Sox era than the heavy horns of his pop megastardom. Over the next 90 minutes or so the band tore through 28 or 29 songs (I don’t think they played “Deutscher Girls”, but otherwise the setlist matched the one from Austin a few nights earlier). Though he played most of the big hits he had both here and abroad (though no “Apollo 9” nor “Puss ‘n Boots”), it was the deep cuts and b-sides that surprised me. I would never have guessed that the set would include “Beat My Guest”, “Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face)”, “Lady/Fall-In”, “Christian D’Or”, “Fat Fun”, or “Red Scab”. When that last song started up I turned to my wife with an ear to ear grin and said, “I can’t believe they’re playing this!”
I was also excited that this show featured so much of the material from the original late 70s Ants releases. It made up about a third of the set, and the one new song, “Vince Taylor”, was more akin to that sound than to the popstar era. It makes me hopeful that the upcoming Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter will be a solid addition to his catalog.
But back to the show. Adam took a few songs to warm up his voice, and he missed a few vocal jumps in “Dog Eat Dog”. But by the time he launched into “Car Trouble” he was nearly note perfect, with no strain on those high notes that launch each chorus. His voice continued to be strong and supple throughout the night, with no sign of diminishing capacity as he nears 60 years of age. He may not be as svelte as he once was, and his catlike grace is now one of an aged feline with a bad hip, but this was a man giving everything to his audience and getting pure adoration in return. The man still has charisma by the bucketful; you couldn’t take your eyes off of him for more than a few seconds. He has a towering presence.
As I said, he had the crowd hypnotized. These were fans, not people out for a casual night of entertainment, and the singing along, screaming and roars of applause were ever present. It was like the Iron Maiden show I saw a little while back, a tribe of like minded individuals there to pay homage as much as to listen to the music. To hear a packed house of around 1000 people sing “A new royal family/A wild nobility/We are the family” along with Adam and his band at the start of “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” was thrilling.
I mentioned earlier that the opener’s best song was the second best T. Rex tune of the evening. Well, Adam and co. played “Get It On” in the middle of the encore, and they made it properly Ant-like. The dual drummers definitely gave it more kick, and Adam rolling from it into “Prince Charming” made perfect sense; Adam’s evolution of the Dandy In The Underworld laid bare.
I told my wife there is only one possible closer, for nothing can follow it. And when Adam sang, “You’re. So. Phys-i-cal!” and the quick snare figure led to that low bass rumble, I merely nodded. It might not be the best Adam Ant song, but it’s a singular work, the most grinding of grinding sex songs. A perfect sweaty end to the evening.
Adam Ant and the Good, the Mad and the Lovely Posse.
I went back to Deep Ellum the night after YOB, but this time I was across the street at Trees to catch Swans. I was pleasantly surprised to see my new friend Kenny, whom I had met at the Agalloch show a few weeks back. He and his wife (whose name I forget, because my ability to retain names is legendarily horrible) and I chatted for a while before the show, and I would return to talk and hang with them throughout the night. It’s always a pleasure to have someone to share a show with, and I expect Kenny and I will see more shows together in the coming year.
Before the show, I made my way over to the merch table, figuring I’d buy a shirt or the live disc from the last tour. I was tempted by both, but I ended up buying only one thing, this stunning Brian Ewing print that was done for this particular show:
As the poster indicates, opening for Swans on this tour was Xiu Xiu, an artist I’ve never warmed to or even found particularly palatable. I appreciate that Jamie Stewart’s art is intense, personal, and incredibly heartfelt by his fans, so I approached it with open ears and an open mind. His set this night did not convert me, but I could appreciate his intensity. Though his one man band was never going to approach Swans in volume, the energy and fierceness of his performance was a good aesthetic fit with the headliners. It was almost uncomfortable to witness, a soul bearing flagellation through music.
[One quick aside: he used a single pole theremin for a screaming peal of sound on a couple of tracks. As a proudly incompetent thereminist I hate the faux theremin sound effect thing, whether from Xiu Xiu or Jimmy Page.]
Swans took the stage shortly after the Xiu Xiu set and from the opening notes the volume was visceral and painful. I was about 10-15 feet from the stage, and my loose jeans rippled around my ankles, my sternum felt like I was being slapped, and my guts began to churn. I’ve only been at two other shows that approached this level of physical assault; My Bloody Valentine in 1992, and A Tribe Called Quest in 1994 (the bass at that show was nearly bowel loosening, and was not helped by being in a concrete box of a venue). After the opening song, as Michael Gira berated the club for having televisions on during his set, I went back another 25-30 feet from the stage in the hopes of lessening the assault and not throwing up. This seemed to do the trick; they actually got louder, but my pants stopped rippling and my stomach stopped churning.
Swans present a rather static alignment on stage, with only Gira free to move from set positions. He did move a bit to engage with his fellow musicians, though it was more often to correct and express displeasure than to commune in any positive way at the shared experience of the music. But despite his occasional outbursts, the band was amazingly tight, almost a singular entity. It wasn’t a case of lockstep, machine-like precision, but a oneness of a common pulse, a shared heartbeat. This organic singularity, when combined with the modulating mantra-like quality of Gira’s lyrics, is what makes this current incarnation of Swans so powerful. The volume, the intake and outburst of the music, the monotone repetition of the vocals, and the length of the songs (they played I think 7 songs in 2 hours) all combined to bind the audience to the band in a way I’ve rarely experienced. It forced me out of myself and into the sound; the volume almost erases conscious thought (The Goslings’ Grandeur Of Hair is the only record to ever do this to me, and My Bloody Valentine the only live act), the living pulse connects to the body rhythms in a way that made me sway and move like a sea anemone in the ocean current, and the vocal repetition became prayer-like.
This came to the finest focus in the vocal glossolalia Gira employed in the song “Avatar”; he began with vocal play through rearrangement, with a line something like, “Her mind is in my mind” becoming “Her mouth is in my mind” then “Her mind is in my mouth” then “Her mouth is in my mouth” over a minute or so, each line repeated multiple times. After several verses of simple line repetition and variation, the play broke down to sound, a “ba ba bla bly blue bla blee bly bee bee ba bla bleeeeeeee” or somesuch as he waved in and out of the microphones pickup range. It hit me like a truck; a moment of zen enlightenment through nonsense koan. Swans had moved from concert to religious experience.
My reverie didn’t break until, during the performance of set closer “The Apostate” from new album The Seer, Gira became visibly and vocally upset at drummer Phil Puleo, who apparently was not varying the beat to his satisfaction. I say that was the issue because Gira would, at the end of a verse, step back toward’s Puleo, facing him and waving his arms in imitation of a crazy drum fill, smashing air snares and cymbals with reckless, haphazard abandon. Phil Puleo would then play a series of anarchic fills, before returning to what was already a hectic baseline drum pattern. This in turn would cause Gira to turn back to him, get even closer to his kit, and manically play his air drums yet again. Puleo would dutifully nod his ascent, play a series of crazy fills for 30 seconds or so, then exhaustedly drop back to the baseline. Eventually, this was too much for the bandleader who stepped away from the mic in obvious disgust, waving his arms back and forth at waist height, the universal sign for cut/stop/end. The band began to wind down, slowing gradually to a stop over the next minute or two, while Gira continued waving his arms and yelling at Puleo off mic. As they stopped he said, “That’s it. You can meet us over there,” motioning to the merch table. It was a bit of a sour note to end on, and though it couldn’t dampen my experience of the preceding two hours, it did stop me from bringing my poster over to get signed.
Would I go again? Absolutely. My hearing should have recovered by the time the come back through in a year or two.
Photos of Swans from their show at Trees on September 16th. Xiu Xiu opened, but the one obligatory photo I took was even more crap than usual.
I went to my second show at La Grange last Saturday, to see YOB for the second time this year.
I arrived at the bar a little early, and took the opportunity to talk for a while with Mike Scheidt, the guitarist/vocalist/songwriter for YOB. He was manning his merchandise table and I talked with him about mutual friends, the show in Austin, the present tour and the upcoming VHOL project that I’m expecting to blow my mind. He was an absolute gentleman, answering every question (no matter how stupid).
I had found out on Friday that a third band, Sabbath Assembly, had been added to the bill. The name was familiar, and some quick googling confirmed that I knew them. A few years back, they released an album based on the prayers and rituals of the Process Church. The revamped band (only founding member Dave Nuss remains from that lineup) have a new album coming out in early October and, as I found out, they were playing because most of the band members hail from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It turns out that this was one of the first shows with these new members. I talked for a few minutes after the set with their guitar player (I apologize to him and you, but I’ve forgotten his name. I’m horrible with names. Truly), who passed on all this information.
Sabbath Assembly may not be as heavy as before (and they weren’t particularly heavy to start with), but they have a late 60s psych and hard rock sound they can call their own. With beautiful two part female harmonies (I understand it is normally three parts, but their keyboardist had a prior engagement; his additional male vocals and vamping keys should only make them better), and controlled bursts of guitar they crafted something quite moving. I hope I can catch the full band at a latter date.
Norska was next, and though many articles call it a side project for YOB bassist Aaron Rieseberg, it’s the band he was in before joining YOB. Like YOB, they play a style of heavy, lumbering, doom that seems to run in the waters of Oregon. At first I though they were just okay, but as their set went on, and as they opened up from the glacial slog of the first few songs to greater dynamics and bursts of energy, I grew more and more interested. Whereas YOB become almost psychedelic behind the guitar pyrotechnics of Mike Scheidt, Norska tear through the woods behind their bear of a singer Jim Lowder, whose growl is deep and clear and room filling. When he broke out a strong clean singing voice in sections of the last two songs they played it all clicked. The last track, an epic called “They Mostly Come At Night”, was the best song of the set and a definite high point of the night. As with Mike and the guitar player from Sabbath Assembly, Jim was a joy to talk to about the band, the tour, and their plans. Definitely a band I will follow from here on in.
YOB were, as before, absolutely stunning. Loud as hell, locked in tight, and Mike was once again in fine form both vocally and on guitar. His playing is absolutely fluid, his left hand a liminal blur, seeming not to be touching the neck or strings but coaxing specific notes out of the ether (song pun intended, YOB fans). He conducts the sound from the strings as much as plays them. I think at times that Aaron Rieseberg and Travis Foster don’t get enough credit for the power of YOB, particularly as a live band. Their symbiosis allows for YOB to pulse and move at Mike’s whim like a squid in the sea, bursting or floating as need be, the propulsive power of the rhythm section ready to kick in as impulse strikes. This was never more apparent than when, as an encore of sorts (once they cleared it with club management that one more song was cool), they answered the loudly yelled request for “Ball Of Molten Lead”. It’s a song they haven’t been playing on this tour, but Aaron and Travis nodded their accord when Mike asked if they were up for it. So Mike leads, the bass and drums lock in place, and it sounded just as rehearsed as the set they’ve been tearing through night after night.
Once again, one of the best bands in metal tore through Texas, and I was lucky enough to be there.