• Smoking Popes via cellular telephone

    29 Ago 2006, 0:59

    Due to one of those informational lapses that tends to plague my concert-going plans, I missed the Smoking Popes when they were in Boston last week. Around ten o'clock last night I got a call from Jocelyn, who told me that she was at a Smoking Popes show in North Carolina. I told her to have fun & to tell me about it.

    Twelve thirty last night I got another phone call, again from Jocelyn. This time she says she's in line to get a shirt signed & do I want to talk to the band? I said okay! forgetting that I tend to be wicked awkward on the phone. Jocelyn gave her phone to Eli [at least I think it was Eli - he didn't identify himself]. He said hi, I said hi. I told him I didn't see the band in Boston because I didn't know about the show until it was too late. Eli told me that was a lame excuse. I agreed. He tried to make me feel better by saying that the Boston show was terrible, the worst on the tour. He must have missed the sarcasm when I replied by saying, "See, then I'm glad I missed it," because he then informed me that he was just saying that. He told me to keep up with the web site & to come see them in Boston when they came back next year & he gave the phone back to Jocelyn.

    I told Jocelyn that the conversation was kind of awkward because, really, it was. But she was going to get Josh to sign her t-shirt, too, & she wanted to know if I wanted to talk to Josh as well. Of course I wanted to talk to Josh, so when Jocelyn went up to him, she told him that her friend from Massachusetts was on the phone & that she [meaning me] didn't go see them when they were in Boston last week. She gave the phone to Josh, who said hello & asked who he was speaking to. I told him he was speaking to Bern & he told me he was Josh. I told him that my friend [Jocelyn] made me sound like a terrible person, that I just didn't want to go see them in Boston. He told me that it was okay, that he understood that I was gravely ill, bedridden, & in need of a kidney transplant. Of course. He forgave me for not going to the show & I thanked him for his generosity. He told me they'd be back in Boston next year & told me to make sure to see them then. We said goodbye & he gave the phone back to Jocelyn.

    In short, Jocelyn wins my Favorite Person of the Week Award.
  • Matt Costa

    7 Jul 2006, 3:22

    Matt Costa gave a free concert in Boston on Wednesday. I've never heard of Matt Costa, but I'm as big a fan of a guy with a guitar & of the city of Boston as the next girl, so I went. & I was pleasantly surprised. The guy's pretty good. Nothing too exciting - basically a less surf version of Jack Johnson, but certainly worth a listen. Anybody who poses for pictures with little kids & covers Buddy Holly can't be unlikable, anyway.
  • Bottoms of Barrels / Ganging up on the Sun

    27 Jun 2006, 15:58

    Bottoms of Barrels
    Let me start by saying that call-&-response, organ, & prominent percussion are three of my favorite musical characteristics. Bottoms of Barrels, therefore, is a perfect album for me. Jamie Williams's tap dancing gives songs like Bad Education a driving, unique, urgent sound. Tilly & The Wall sound a little too much like Bright Eyes when Derek Pressnall sings tracks like Love Song [which is, nonetheless, a heartbreakingly gorgeous song], & the intro to Urgency sounds like a sped-up Daydream Believer, but the rest of the album more than makes up for those two minor complaints. Bad Education is a driving, percussion-driven track with a catchy call-&-response/alternating vocal section near the end. Lost Girls, Love Song, The Freest Man, & Coughing Colors are slower, mellower songs with gorgeous lyrics. The album as a whole has a great balance of driving tracks & more laid-back songs that make it a great listen from top to bottom. I think I'm officially a Tilly & The Wall fan.

    Ganging Up on the Sun
    When I saw Guster in April [see [url=]], I didn't realize how many songs they played off their then-unreleased album. I thought I was just a loser who didn't know some of their old songs. & therein lies the Guster paradox: live, with Brian's arms flailing at his drum kit/bongo drums, Guster's new songs have the same energy & two-guitars-&-hand-drums sound that characterize the band's older music. But Ganging Up on the Sun continues Guster's trend in which each album gets slower & utilizes more instruments. For this album, they've added a full-time bassist & a part-time trumpeter. Ruby Falls, for example, has a long instrumental portion, & Dear Valentine features a trumpet, trombone, & flugelhorn [I'm proud of myself that I actually know what a flugelhorn is.]. Lightning Rod is the slowest album-opening track I have ever heard. Satellite is a little more up-tempo, & Manifest Destiny is a peppy return to the bongo-playing Guster that I know & love. One Man Wrecking Machine rivals Keep It Together's Amsterdam in terms of catchiness, potential to make Guster finally famous, & un-Gusterness. It's pretty damn catchy, though. The rest of the album sort of blands together for me, alternating between slow tracks like Ruby Falls & Empire State & more up-tempo songs like C'mon & The Beginning of the End. Hang On is inspirational, but, again, it's not what I look for in Guster. I don't want to say that I'm disappointed with the album; it's not a bad album & I'm glad Guster's evolving as a band, but I really do miss the bongo drums.
  • Blessid Union of Souls

    5 May 2006, 23:48

    Remeber Blessid Union Of Souls? They had that one song, you know, like seven years ago? Don't pay to see them.

    I worked security at their show at UMass last night [admittedly, I spent more time checking purses & IDs than I did listening to the music & I was pretty far away] &, from what I heard, they kind of sucked. Even that one song that everybody knows, Hey Leonardo wasn't good. They stopped in the middle for some reason, started talking, & then started again. & then at the end of the show or for an encore or something [like I said, I wasn't paying that much attention] they played half of "Jolene". Not the whole thing; just enough to prove that they know "Jolene". I don't know how many UMass students know "Jolene", but that's not the point. I'm glad I didn't actually go to this concert. Also, it was very muddy.

    Then some sketchy guys tried to pick me up when I was walking through Southwest. & that's why I don't make a habit of walking through Southwest alone at night.
  • Guster

    5 May 2006, 23:40

    I actually went to this show almost a week ago, so let's see how much I remember.

    Tom & I went to see Guster at Amherst College Saturday night. They made us stand in line outside for over an hour, made us empty our pockets, & patted us down before we could get in, but it was worth it. I've never been to a friendlier concert. Everybody knew the words to almost every song & Ryan praised the audience for being "attentive", "Japanese", & sober. I'm not sure if the first two were compliments or not & the last one was a little bit surprising given that at least half the audience consisted of UMass students, but that's okay. The audience really was great.

    The opening act was Luke Temple [at least that's who I think it was]. He was alright & everything, but had almost no stage personality & after standing in line for over an hour & standing around inside for another half an hour, the audience just really wanted to hear Guster.

    I know I have Guster's set list right because they post them on their website. That makes my life slightly easier, especially because I'm unfamiliar with a lot of their songs. I know Parachute & I know Keep It Together & I know nothing in between. I shouldn't say nothing. I know a bunch of songs from Lost and Gone Forever, but not really any of the songs they played.

    Holy shit, Mike Lowell is my new hero.

    Anyway, they played I Spy, Careful, Demons, Center of Attention, Hang On, Amsterdam, Manifest Destiny, Come Downstairs & Say Hello, Two at a Time, Window, New Underground, Diane, Captain, Barrel of a Gun, & Airport Song.

    They were fantastic to watch. I hadn't realized that Brian plays almost the entire drum kit with his hands & I was mesmerized [the fact that there were a bunch of tall people standing in front of me & Brian was the easiest to see notwithstanding]. Mesmerized. White t-shirt, limbs flying, it was great. Ryan told an anecdote about how he really wanted to go to Amherst College when he was younger. Apparently Amherst didn't think he would bring enough ethnic diversity to campus. I feel like the audience appreciated that story more than if it had been a strictly Amherst crowd because most of us were from UMass.

    Ryan read an email he had gotten from a girl named Emily who had deep roots in the Amherst community & would like to join Guster for a violin song. They brought her up for Two at a Time & Window. She was cute. & very good at the violin parts.

    Before the last song of the set, Ryan told us that, after the next song, Adam jwould leave the stage & that if we cheered hard enough for him he'd come back out & they'd do an encore. Adam left, we cheered, Ryan sang an "Adam come back" song, & eventually Adam came back. They played One Man Wrecking Machine, Great Escape, & Happier.

    Then they all left, we cheered some more, the lights came up, & they came back out & instructed the lighting powers that be to turn the house lights back of. The concert was in a gym, so that was more of a production than it would ordinarily have been. The encore to the encore was Hunger Strike, which made it seven songs in a row I didn't really know.

    The lights came up for real & we all shuffled to the door. But Guster came back! Again! & they swore they didn't just do it for the drama. The roadies had already dismantled most of their shit, so they told us that they were going to play the song acoustic & that we had to be wicked quiet [they didn't actually say "wicked" - that's just me]. Jesus on the Radio is one of my favorite Guster songs [& one of Tom's, too, I think], so we were excited. The entire audience had been singing along to every song, & the admonition to be quiet didn't stop them now. We sang, but we whispered. It was amazing - like I said before, the audience was great. Guster was great & it was a warm, fuzzy, congenial, small-community-building ending to the concert.
  • OK Go

    27 Abr 2006, 5:04

    There are very few places at which I, as a nineteen year-old who looks seventeen at the oldest, should feel old. If I walk into a middle school, I would expect to feel old. I expect to feel old when I listen to the Playground on WERS. I do not expect to feel old when I go to see OK Go in Northampton on a Wednesday night. But I did tonight.

    An audience of dozens of high schoolers & maybe ten college students? Now there's a recipe for a good time. Erin & I stood in the back.

    The opening band was Fashion People. I'm ninety-five percent sure that all the members of the band are in high school; frankly, it was a little disconcerting. But they didn't take themselves too seriously & gave us cookies [seriously!], so it was all good.

    OK Go was fantastic live. I'll admit I'm not that familiar with their music - I own Oh No & know all the songs off of that, but I don't know any of their older stuff. That being said, I knew almost all of the songs they played - Television, Television, No Sign Of Life, Let It Rain, Here It Goes Again, A Good Idea At The Time, Oh, Lately It's So Quiet, & Invincible - probably not in that order. There were a few other songs I didn't know in there, too. The lead singer went on a rant about hump day & soberness. Immediately after he asked why everyone seemed so sober tonight, he realized that the vast majority of the audience was a good four or five years from legal drinking age. & despite their apparent hatred of encores, they came out to preform a Talking Heads cover & It's A Disaster before launching into their music video dance for A Million Ways. I forgot they did that dance, & it was hilarious.

    Altogether, it was a great show. I could have done with a different audience, but OK Go was energetic & entertaining & loud & sounded almost as good as they do recorded - basically everything you would want in a concert.

    Three [two?] days until Guster.

    EDIT: I just reread that & realized it was almost completely incoherent. Sorry about that. I'm kind of tired.
  • Ben Kweller / Matt Nathanson

    3 Dic 2005, 4:45

    A perfectly good show ruined by a perfectly miserable "friend" & a strangely set-up auditorium. Ben Kweller was much more manic than I had expected, & I was pleasantly suprised. Matt Nathanson referred to us as "motherfuckers" & it just wasn't as cool as it could have been. Maybe I should write about this sometime when I'm not quite so bitter about going with someone who insists that a guy from Texas with an acoustic guitar invariably plays country music.
  • The Damnwells / Blue Rodeo

    22 Nov 2005, 18:33

    Saw The Damnwells (well, half of them) & Blue Rodeo at Iron Horse last night.

    The Damnwells were amazing, even with half of the band missing (off having babies). It was just Alex & Dave, acoustic guitar & lap steel. I really don't understand why these guys aren't famous - Alex has an amazing voice & there's nothing alienating about their music. The middle-aged people who came to see Blue Rodeo all seemed to like The Damnwells a lot. They have a new album coming out sometime soon; maybe that one'll get some radio play or something.

    Anyway, the set was really mellow (as a consequence of the acoustic-ness). They played a bunch of new stuff that I obviously didn't recognize, but they also played most of my favorite songs: Electric Harmony, Kiss Catastrophe, I'll Be Around, Assholes (the extended version from There's No One Left in Brooklyn but You), I Will Keep The Bad Things From You (the song that gets my vote for sexiest song of 2004, even if Alex moved away from the mic for the "I will feed you fries with steak sauce" line), & of course Sleepsinging. In other words, they played every song I wanted them to play other than New Delhi & Death After Life (which would have been alienating to play when opening for a country-ish band, anyway), both of which were probably too upbeat for the acoustic set.

    I was extremely impressed overall - it was my first time seeing them live & they don't lose anything in translation for the studio to the stage. The fact that all of the songs were amazing stripped down so much just proves that they're great songs - they don't need much production to sound good.

    Blue Rodeo was a little bit... country (& a little bit rock & roll, for that matter), mostly the kind of music I don't like to admit listening to. I'd never heard of the band, but the audience was full of yuppies & middle-aged people who knew all the words. The band managed to remind me of everyone from Elvis Costello to Chris Isaak to Franz Ferdinand to Chuck and Mudd. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not - they didn't seem to have one specific style. Some of the songs were too buegrassy for me & others could have been performed by any contemporary rock band. They certainly weren't bad, but I never would have gone to see them had The Damnwells not been opening. I'm glad I did go, even if I felt out of place being one of the youngest people there.