Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rasputina: Highline Ballroom 2/26/11

How Soon is Now?
There's not much left that I can say about Rasputina after seeing and talking about them for over a decade now. The thing about Rasputina is, no matter how many times I see them live... it's a pleasure to be there. Every time I hear the strum of that throaty cello, it is a pang in my ribcage and a sinking sort of romance in my head. The chills that run up and down my spine and wriggle around my brain have never ceased in all the years that I have been attending their shows. It has to be true love, for these feelings have only gotten stronger with the years.

Melora's playing is perfection incarnate- the delicate intricacies of her cello performance is rivaled only by her protege Daniel DeJesus. Her unique voice with its strange and charming inflections rang out melodically throughout the entire concert, drawing smiles across the faces of her fans as the sound of it fluttered over us. If Melora's singing was the meat of the song, then paired with it, like a fine wine was Daniel's backing vocals, which added body and an extra emotional depth.

Snow Hen of Austerlitz
It is quite clear just by listening to last night's performance that Melora does indeed run a very tight ship. Each song was deliberate and concise and as always an epic pleasure to listen to.

Someday, I hope to be able to boast seeing Rasputina enough times to fill an entire year. It would be one of the greatest years of my life, for sure.

Here's the setlist from what I remember.. (out of order)

1816, The Year Without a Summer.
Holocaust of Giants.
Thimble Island.
Snow Hen of Austerlitz.
Possum of the Grotto.
Saline the Salt Lake Queen.
Oh Bring Back the Egg Unbroken.
In Old Yellowcake.
How Soon is Now?
This, My Porcelain Life.
The New Zero.
The 2 Miss Levens.
Calico Indians.
Wacth T.V.
Signs of the Zodiac.

My personal highlight: Hunter's Kiss.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Voltaire: Highline Ballroom 2/26/11

There are so many potential adjectives, metaphors, and similes one can use when describing the man known as Voltaire. Yet, the first thing that pops into my head is this... Voltaire is a GOTH Weird Al Yancovic... 

But honestly, that’s too narrow an explanation of the man. Most of his expansive catalog is original and is soaked with sarcasm, screaming with morbid visual imagery, and positively dripping with obscure and ridiculous Gothic pop-culture references. When you first take a look at Voltaire, it comes as no surprise to find him dressed in all black- black pants, black shoes, black shirt, and even a well-tailored black brocade jacket, with a tilted black top hat partially obscuring his face. Beyond the dapper black top hat- we find a man of pale complexion with dark hair, and dark eyes- no big surprise considering the style. What amazes you, however, is the inevitable revelation of his half cocked smile while he jovially jokes with the audience. What he’s saying between songs, and even while he plays is usually some melodramatic self-deprecating jab about his looks and character, his wife, friends, fans, or the idiots plaguing life in general-- all while taking enormous swigs of booze- erm- I mean "Apple Juice". 

Despite your Goth tendencies, it’s hard not to laugh out loud at the playful tunes he bellows out. Songs like “Zombie Prostitute” will have you cringing while you chuckle, and the “Twilight” Edition of “Vampire Club” will have you rooting for Team Voltaire by the time the song is done.  Sometimes, it’s good to not take yourself so seriously, no matter what genre you might be affiliated with.

Here's a disorganized list of some of the tunes bellowed out 
by Voltaire whilst playing a BROWN (**gasp**) guitar:

Death, Death (Devil, Devil, Evil, Evil Song)
Zombie Prostitute.
Hate Lives in a Small Town. 
All Women are Crazy. 
When You're Evil. 
Vampire Club (Twilight Edition)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Decemberists at The Beacon Theatre January 25th

The Beautiful Beacon Theater
The Decemberists are common folk with uncommon taste. As eclectic genre hoppers they try to transcend a specific style and just play in the tune of what inspires them. I stand by what I've said about them in the past, they're wandering minstrels. They find inspiration in every corner of what ever continent they happen to be upon. The crowd of a Decemberists show is just as wayward a group of lost souls as the band-members themselves. In the sprawling crowd you could see the young, old, & middle-aged. You saw the hippies, the rockers, the hipsters, the mathematicians, the literary scholars, and the dropouts all gathering to stand and smile while gently rocking and humming along to the Decemberists' song. 

Sadly for me, there isn't a rather substantial bone in my body that has an ear for modern country music, so, you can imagine my disappointment when I gave a listen to The Decemberists newest album "The King is Dead". I even had a brief moment of regret at buying my ticket to the show! However, I'm glad to say that I minded the live renditions of the songs from the new album significantly LESS than on the recording. These are a very talented group of musicians INDEED. For, who else could get me to listen to country-esque sounding music, and NOT totally hate it? I honestly wasn't bothered by any of the twangy pop tunes in the least. This is no small feat, I assure you. I feel that their performance has helped develop my ear a little more for different kinds of music I may not have been open to before...  

This show was very different from the previous performance I had caught a while ago. For one thing, it was a lot more light hearted. There was banter, wit, sarcasm, and especially a playfulness with the audience I hadn't had the opportunity to witness before. There were moments of sheer joy- I still can't believe that they plucked two unsuspecting ladies from the audience and made them play the Colin's and Chris' guitars in an impromptu "ROCK-off". I kept fantasizing that one of the girls would've startled us all by being a total guitar virtuoso, but, sadly... no such luck! It was OK though, you could tell that they had fun once the shock of being on stage in front of a sold out crowd in the historic and beautiful Beacon Theater had subsided. This was just one of many moments that made this show a pleasure to be at. There were guitar solo duels between band-members complete with a wandering spotlight frantically dancing between them, jokes between songs that kept everybody giggling. The show even began in jest, with an introduction by the "mayor" of The Decemberists' home town Portland, Oregon which required us all to get to know our neighbors better and break the ice- complete with a smile and handshake. There were sing-alongs- especially during the energetic "16 Military Wives", and random girls dancing in the aisles, during just about every song.

My personal favorite moment had to be the HIGHLY necessary audience participation nearing the end of my favorite song, "The Mariner's Revenge Song" where we all had to act the part of the crew aboard the ship being consumed by the massive jaws of an angry giant whale. We were asked to include a lot of wailing and choked screams in the midst of our imminent death at sea. I feel we the audience played our part rather well, and though I did NOT break character, I was brimming with joy on the inside. The performance of our "death at sea" was only enhanced when the entire band, save frontman Colin Meloy, laid down on the stage, evidently dead as well. There was an ominous pause followed by a stifled giggle as Colin sung out, "Don't know how I survived, the crew was all chewed alive, I must've slipped between his teeth..." It was then that the band slowly reanimated then zestfully sprang up in perfect timing to finish the song loud and strong.

The Decemberists are energetic, talented, and, perhaps most importantly, don't take themselves too seriously. Despite the regal setting of the beautiful theater, the band never lost focus on what mattered most, the music, and its listeners. I look forward to watching them evolve, and see how they shall challenge themselves in the future.

Here's the set list: 

California One
Down By The Water
Rox In The Box
Calamity Song
Red Right Ankle
January Hymn
Don't Carry It All
All Arise
Won't Want For Love
The Crane Wife 1
The Crane Wife  2
The Crane Wife  3
The Infanta
Sixteen Military Wives
This is Why We Fight
The Chimbley Sweep
The Mariner's Revenge Song
June Hymn