Friday, September 17, 2010

Vampire Weekend w/ Dum Dum Girls & Beach House!

Know what's better than having tickets to a sold out show at Radio City Music Hall? Having FREE sold out tickets to Radio City Music Hall! That's right, every so often the concert Gods exercise a bit of karma and give this Madame the free gift of Music. Why? How? I consider it only fair considering the epic amounts of money I shell out to the tri-state area for shows!

This time was special for several reasons. My newest friendly addition, Kate, was about to embark on a trip to her beloved England for a month. To send her off right & proper we booked a table at the Highlands gastropub for some fine Scottish fare. Before the dinner even began Kate announced she had to cut the festivities short because a colleague of hers scored tickets to see Vampire Weekend with special guests Dum Dum Girls and Beach House. I was a little bummed because it meant the night was going to have to end early, and a little jealous because it sounded like a great show... then LO- a message appeared unto me in my inbox announcing the discovery of a "spare ticket", and a question asking if I would like to have it. A telepathic "YES!" rang out before I could even type my reply and hit send.

I was handed my ticket just outside the entrance to Radio City Music Hall, along with a little square pink sticker with the writing "Post Show" visible despite the bleed of the fading sharpie marker. "What's this?" I curiously enquired, showing only a tinge of potential excitement. Kate smiles her special half-cocked smile that I've come to know so well, and simply replied "I'm not sure, I guess we'll find out post show, eh?"

We headed to our seats, and I was met with the first of MANY surprises for the evening. We were NOT in the nosebleed section, as I normally am when I attend a concert at Radio City, instead I found myself staggeringly CLOSE to the stage. I mean MIND BOGGINGLY CLOSE. I didn't KNOW what the stage even really looked like- even though I had been there a hundred times before. It was QUITE shock to the nervous system, especially when I turned around, and looked behind me only to startle myself with THIS view:

I couldn't believe my eyes. I had never been witness to the whole all-encompassing look of a SOLD OUT crowd containing primarily lively youth in Radio City Music Hall before (and I have been to the Christmas Show). I was experiencing this venue in an entirely new and different way, and I couldn't have been more excited to be there. 

The Well Dressed & Well Versed Dum Dum Girls!
Dum Dum Girls were, sadly, finishing up their set when I had arrived, but the little sampling I got told me that they're rather legit live- which is always nice to know about a group. The crowd was still pretty light when they went on, and I'd have to say their sound seemed better suited for a smaller venue, like Bowery Ballroom for instance. They were still pretty cool, and kept my foot tapping, but I felt like they weren't really digging the scene.
They were well dressed, and the sound was certainly there, though, and really, that's all I care about at the end of the day. I will definitely be giving them a more dedicated listen when they come on my Sirius XMU Radio Station (which they often do).

Beautiful, Ethereal, Beach House
Second act up was Beach House, a group I can't seem to turn my ear away from. It's like when ever I hear them, I am nostalgic for something that hasn't yet happened to me. The lead singer's voice reminds me of the singer from Tangerine Dream- whose work I am only familiar with because of the movie LEGEND. I hope and I pray that she knows the soundtrack, and will one day sing Legend for me in my back yard! Anyway- Beach House was everything I anticipated and more. They were positively ethereal. I was instantly riveted and surprisingly relaxed. They set a mood that was an alluring soundscape to melt away into. I didn't speak nor could I hear anyone else speaking. I was effectively in a musical ZONE, simply taking in the bellowing wails and droning guitars without any conscious care of the outside world. It was like I was floating in the ocean at night, but I wasn't scared that I'd fall asleep and drown. 

Vampire Weekend Takes the Stage!
THEN, after a proper, contemplative, aural journey courtesy of Beach House, Vampire Weekend took the stage, and the uproar of the excited, young, and eager crowd promptly took over. The show was exactly what I was looking for that night. It was up beat, it was well played, and perhaps most importantly, it was fun to dance to. This upbeat attitude permeated everything about the otherwise stuffy Radio City Music Hall. It was infectious- they almost seemed to DARE you to not smile and shake! It was amazing how effective the positive vibes were, especially considering that during the show, I found out (thanks to the lead singer) that the Long Island Railroad was SHUT DOWN because of a TORNADO that ripped through Queens and Brooklyn-- and I continued dancing anyway!

I mean, at that point, I was so busy smiling and dancing, I figured, what the hell- I will stay a little later and figure out what to do after I see what this little pink pass is all about. The show ended with a banging encore (Horchata is still ringing merrily in my ears), and as everyone filed out of the mammoth theater, we were instructed to wait patiently to the left of the stage...

Within a few short questioning moments, we were escorted through a heavy as lead black painted door through a narrow hallway and for a brief moment, while they were directing us to an elevator I caught a glimpse of something not many civilians get to witness... the view of Radio City Music Hall from behind the stage. It's a view so vivid for its scale, and its scenery that I doubt I will ever forget it. The dull glow of the burning lights, the impeccable black shine of the stage's lacquer, and the muted sea of maroon seats spanning for what seemed eons beyond it. It made that little pink square of a sticker on my leg, seem a little more precious, and I could've gone home right there, and thought I got to experience something pretty damn cool. Then, we took the elevator up and up, until we ended up somewhere that I'd NEVER thought I'd be inside of... the Radio City Rockette's Dressing Room! I'm a New Yorker after all, and as a little girl, I loved picturing all those ladies getting dolled up prim and proper for the big Radio City Christmas Spectacular! Again, I thought that was pretty cool, and the night could've ended there on a high note! Oh, did I mention that I had a brief friendly encounter with Vampire Weekend's drummer, Chris. Who, incidentally is a really friendly guy, who is also a pretty good photographer to boot. Need I say more? Oh... there was free beer too.  

About as close as I'll ever be to a Rockette!

If you were curious, here's VW's Setlist for that night: Holiday. White Sky. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa. I Stand Corrected. M79. Bryn. California English. Cousins. Taxi Cab. Run. A-Punk. One (Blake's Got  A New Face). I'm Goin' Down (Springsteen Cover). Diplomat's Son. i Think Ur A Contra. Giving Up the Gun. Campus/Oxford Comma

Encore: Horchata. Mansard Roof. Walcott.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Marina & The Diamonds!

I've been to a quite a few great shows over the years, but I have also gone to a handful that have been embittering experiences. Either the sound was off, the smell of the venue made your toes curl and question the very state of humanity, the band didn't have any "oomph" live, or the crowd was a writhing pack of maggoty rotten brained zombies and/or generic bastards- or worse- all of the above. I pretty much experienced ALL of these horrid concert moments individually and all at once... at Webster Hall. Yes, Webster Hall my most be-hated venue in all of New York City (Terminal5 being a close second). Needless to say, when Marina & The Diamonds announced their American tour I let out an audible groan at the venue listing. The tickets were an intended birthday present for one of my nearest and dearest friends, so, I begrudgingly entered "2", and hit "purchase", sadly acknowledging it was at best going to be a mediocre night.

The night commenced with me literally flying out of the office at exactly 5 p.m. in desperate need of a beer and some quality frivolity. We went south east toward Ippudo, an incredibly delicious Japanese Ramen Noodle restaurant conveniently located near the damnable edifice known as Webster Hall. Clearly, I was in a state of distress about the impending entrance into the venue, because I forgot to photograph the pork buns and modern style ramen! Or, maybe it was just too delicious to pause and take a picture of. The delicate Wonderbread-esque fluffiness of that little taco shaped bun was a perfect precursor to the the zippy tang of the mayo and hot sauce coating the spicy little slabs of pork within. My only complaint was its price. FOUR BUCKS for one 3-bite item?! I think the Japanese must have tiny bellies or massive wallets, because, this broke-ass Italian was a little sad about her want for more and her inability to satiate the desire. The lack of pork bun satisfaction was forgiven, however, when a bowl FULL to its brim with beautiful ramen was brought over. Here's the exact description from the menu: "The original tonkotsu' soup noodle with Ippudo's special sauce, pork belly chashu, cabbage, kikurage, scallions, miso paste & fragrant garlic oil" Now that you know what's in it, you may be asking yourself, how was it? It's comfort to the extreme in a beautiful deep colored vessel. It was salty, but not overbearingly so. It was warm and well balanced in flavor and texture, dancing expertly from crunchy scallions to warm salty broth, to al dente mouthfuls of noodles, then to the easy flavorful tender shreds of pork belly. It was literally 91 degrees outside, and I didn't mind the hot soup noodle concoction one bit. It was exactly what I needed to ease my worries for the night.

We arrived early to the show by a solid half hour. We were into the idea of getting a decent shot of the stage, but were also not interested in being packed in against the guard rail either. My age is showing, no? We stepped into the dank mad house that is Webster Hall, impulsive cringes constantly pulsing through my body. I tried to not let my cohort know my distaste for this place, but, alas, I wear my emotions on my sleeve... and my hyper-expressive face. We scored a spot stage right, next to an obscenely large industrial fan [Thank God]. I don't understand how a 2000+ capacity venue doesn't have a decent air conditioning system. It's Ridiculous! After getting over the sweltering heat, I took a moment to notice the overall crowd demographic. Now, I don't want to stereotype... hell, yes I do- I kid you NOT the crowd was mostly gay men and their hags, including my comrade and I. The age range was predominantly 18-27 with a smattering of gen x'ers, and the occasional older person. And... mostly quite nice to look at. I couldn't decide if I was at a fashion show or a concert. I guess that's what I get for going to a pop show?

I can't say much for the opening act except that they were audible, and they held my interest. I couldn't quite catch the name of the band, but, they were pretty good. They had good energy, talent, and massive amounts of likability. My only qualm was they reminded me a bit of every indy band ever- I couldn't really discern a distinct enough sound. On the plus side, I found them rather endearing. This was mainly because before they started their set, they all stood in a closed circle with a variety of beverages in hand, and drank to the performance about to commence. Another epic plus was that they were efficient and punctual! I didn't grow impatient once. Pleased at the efficient timing, I noted I was still surprisingly comfortable. There was no bum-rush to the stage, I had room to breath and move, and the super industrial fan kept any offensive odors away. I also noted that thanks to the crowd being predominantly gay New Yorkers and their hags, their body types were predominantly petite, making the stage still perfectly visible for me- which was a nice change. I was still rather anxious for Marina's arrival. I thought for sure that that would be when the rudeness would ensue.

At promptly 9:15 the stage went black, and Marina's backing band entered the stage. Cheers and hoots and hollers filled the hall like a symphony of eager insanity. Within a few minutes, one of the best crowd driven shows I HAVE EVER BEEN TO began.

"The Outsider"
Marina, decked out in Peace Sign Sunglasses hit the stage with The Outsider. I laughed at her get-up, clearly this girl is a product of a child born in the 80's. The day glow lipstick, the eyewear, the hair, the skin tight black velvet body suit, she was Vanity dressed for a part on Dynasty. Then, she began to sing, and my heart sank. The sound, where was the sound!? Her vocals weren't there! I became terrified, thinking that what I appreciated at home was just another auto-tune success, unable to be replicated live. It killed all hope for the show in an instant. I looked over seriously at my friend, shaking my head and apologizing for the disgrace of the sound. Then LO! Something amazing happened. Apparently I wasn't the only one who noticed the issue. For, as soon as the song ended, Marina held up one index finger and pointed up. By the time the 2nd song started, I learned quickly that Marina CAN sing and DOES hit all those strange notes and vocal stylings. I promptly began doing exactly what Ms. Diamandis asked me to do, which was "wag my tail to the beat". It was then, just the 2nd song in that I realized it- I could dance comfortably! There had been no rude shoving, and absolutely NO indecent uncomely behavior. People were being courteous to their neighbors while still having a good time. It was WONDERFUL! There was humorous sarcastic banter, nods of approval, and laughter splashed with enthusiasm for the duration of the entire show. I think Marina has some mystical positive powers lurking behind her neo-new wave sound and style, because I haven't felt that care free in years. The dancing was cathartic and led only to a rather excellent glow among fellow concert goers. We reeked of sunshine and promise- as opposed to the usual Webster Hall stench of stale beer and mold.

The show was worth every second of waiting, and all that worrying only further amplified the joys of the night. Marina and the Diamonds did something that I thought was impossible. They improved my opinion of a show at Webster Hall. Her stage presence was inviting, and although she can be perceived as immature- it never came off as obnoxious. She was having as much fun on stage as we were having off, and it made the whole room radiate in a day glow joy. Not to be ignored were Marina's quirky little costume changes consisting mostly of hilarious sunglasses or odd little props. They added just a bit of flair to a rather simple set and her other more slightly unnecessary costume changes. There was a little bit of everything in this show too, a light and fluffy pop groove in songs like "Hollywood", to dark and a tad foreboding in the synth drum epic "Guilty". The highlight of the show for my friend was Marina's quiet piano rendition of his favorite song on the album- "Numb". With only a few streams of blue light shining down on her face, she sat at the piano and gently serenaded us with her tale of tragic disconnection and redemption.  People were enraptured. I was amazed at the quiet, patient reverie of a crowd that was previously so boisterous. At the end of the night, I have to say, the highlight for me (beyond the black light extravaganza, of "I'm Not a Robot") was definitely the crowd. These are happy, fun loving people that you don't mind being stuck in a thousand degree room with. I just hope and pray every Marina crowd in every city is like the one I found myself in, here in New York City.

Here's the Set-list:

The Outsider. Girls. Seventeen. I'm Not a Robot. Oh No! Numb. Obsessions. Rootless. Hollywood. Shampain. Are You Satisfied? Guilty. Starstrukk. Mowgli's Road.

WHY they didn't bother completing the catalog with Hermit the Frog is beyond me. Oh well.

Thursday, September 2, 2010