Sunday, February 8th, 2004
Last night’s Wrens show was the first concert of 2004 I was really looking forward to, The Meadowlands being my favorite ‘new discovery’ album of last year. Before the headliners, though, there were a couple of local openers hoping to make an impression on the punters.
Nassau didn’t succeed, at least not for me. Drawing inspiration from the sludgier, riffy side of Oasis and shoegaze in general, they were hampered mostly by a drummer who hit hard but only had one (slow) tempo and a weak vocalist. Mine wasn’t the concensus opinion, though, since I heard a guy asking them if they needed a keyboardist right after their set. Okay.
Raising The Fawn are currently best known for being one of the many feeder bands for Broken Social Scene members and for being fronted by that guy who works at Soundscapes. Well I can personally add to the list that he’s also the guy who bought the Telecaster I sold at Songbird last Fall. Seriously, as they were setting up I saw him pull the guitar out of the case and I spent most of the set trying to confirm visually that it was indeed mine (which it was). It’s worth noting that he broke a string on it halfway through the set, so while my old guitar did make it onstage at the Horseshoe before I did, it also choked like an Ottawa Senator. The band themselves were alright, I liked some of stuff, didn’t care for the more experimental bits (they do sorta spacey, atmospheric pop if you’re wondering) but did like the guitar sounds. Don’t regret selling the Tele, though.
The Wrens travel with a LOT of gear. Way more equipment than I would have thought necessary, but I guess they like to reproduce as many of the sonic nuances of the record live as possible. Watching them set up, they looked like a car pool of substitute teachers but as soon as the rock kicked in, it was like a shower in the fountain of youth. From my earplugged vantage point right up front, they sounded great but an opinion from further back in the room wasn’t quite as impressed with the sound or vocals. I could understand this, these guys aren’t really touring veterans with hundreds of gigs under their belts. I wouldn’t doubt it if nerves and excitement were contributing to a little performance slop, but the sheer energy and exuberance of the performance made up for it in my opinion. They were apparently coming off a less-than-successful show in Montreal last night, and were truly gratified by the overwhelming response they were getting from Toronto (it was pretty much a packed house) and their joy was contagious. After getting called back for two encores, they had to end it there because they really did run out of material to play. I would like to think that Toronto made enough of an impression that they’ll be back the next time they load up the van and head out of the Garden State. And maybe next time they’ll have something more than CD-Rs of their old albums to sell (somebody reissue Secaucus already!).
Being up front really does afford the best photo opportunities, and with high-energy jump-around shows like this one, I don’t feel bad about using the flash (the stage lighting was so dim that it was impossible to get a shot otherwise). Hopefully the pics can convey some of the energy of the show. It really was a barnburner.
Dave at Largehearted Boy always does a great job of selecting artists worthy of his evangelicism and providing the audio evidence to back it up. Today, he’s spreading the word about Laura Cantrell, who has certainly caught my ear after just a couple tracks. She sounds like Lucinda Williams’ younger, less world-weary sister. Or cousin. Yeah, cousin. I also picked up the new Drive-By Truckers record, Decoration Day, pretty much entirely on his recommendation. Also good.
Hold My Life is a new blog that gets a shout-out from me not only for the Replacements-inspired name, but for helping stock up the cover of the week bombshelter with material. Stop by and welcome Mark to the crackhouse that is blogging.
Another Conan in Toronto interview, this one by JAM!.
Salon.com and their readers lament the death of the mix tape, as do I (In the interest of fairness, Salon also celebrates its passing). I was a holdout for a while, being a firm believer in the art of the mix tape – balancing levels, track selection and sequencing, the importance of side A and side B, all that High Fidelity stuff. I made my last mix tape a couple years ago for a friend of mine in Italy who was driving a cheese delivery truck with only a cassette player to keep him from going mad. Now, I don’t even own a cassette deck. I can’t say I’ve become a convert to the mix-CD either – I’ve made one, ever. Besides not having any compelling reason to do so, it just doesn’t feel the same. It’s too easy. There’s not the same investment of effort and care in the process. I think part of the problem is that in the process of ripping and burning, you’re at no point required to actually listen to what you’re doing. It’s all point, click, wait. Decide you don’t like the track sequence, you can just go back, drag the songs around and re-burn. With the tape, you were physically involved in the creation of your mix. Pushing buttons, listening for cues, flipping sides. You had to really think about what you were putting on the tape and in what order, because any mistakes were a pain to rectify, if you even could. You had to care. I’m not suggesting that we should abandon the conveniences that modern technology affords us (I say as I continue to download season upon season of The West Wing), but it is true that progress never comes without a cost, and sometimes it’s a shame what’s lost.
np – Stephen Malkmus / Stephen Malkmus