Monday, April 18th, 2005
Oh, Inverted World
I went into last night’s Shins show with equal parts anticipation and trepidation – actually, it was mostly trepidation. Call me a snob if you want, but I don’t like the Kool Haus (big concrete room, pain in the ass to get to), I don’t like all-ages shows (all you kids who love all-ages shows will understand the minute you turn 19) and I don’t like shows whose audience crosses too far into the mainstream (I’ve worked hard in my life to ensure minimal interaction with jocks and frat boys). This show could potentially be a perfect storm of all three – after all, this wasn’t so much the Chutes Too Narrow tour as it was the Garden State tour. Well I’m pleased to say my main misgivings were mostly unfounded. Yeah, the Kool Haus is still a crap venue but there’s not much to be done about that, but there were thankfully none of the unbridled shrieking or “whoo!”-ing that I had expected with the kids and the jocks. Everyone was just there to enjoy the show and have a good time, a-yup.
7-piece Kiwi collective The Brunettes were the openers for the whole tour and I couldn’t think of a better choice to warm up for The Shins. Paul has waxed ecstatic about this act for a while now, but it was only after seeing them live that I fully appreciated their charm. They remind me of a group of music Summer camp escapees who made off with the entire stash of instruments. They had an unbelievable number of instruments onstage with them, from keyboards and glockenspiels to triangles, clarinets, trumpets, cello, saxophones, banjos, castanets, to say nothing of their liberal use of finger snaps and hand claps. With every band member contributing on vocals backing the he-said, she-said lead vox of Heather Mansfield and Jonathan Bree, the result was a gloriously giddy, sun-kissed, retro-pop cacaphony.
Sure, you’re not going to find great profundity in the lyrical content but with music like this, what are you going to sing about, forgiving the third-world debt? C’mon. If you want an idea of where they’re coming from, all you need to know is that they dedicated the last song of their set to the Commonwealth and the metric system, and all donned cardboard masks of Full House-era Mary Kate and/or Ashley Olsen. Really, there was no way to not love them. I dashed out to the lobby right after their set to buy a copy of Mars Loves Venus.
The last time I saw the Shins, it was in a 100-capacity venue. Now they were playing to a crowd twenty times that size. Naturally, I had concerns as to how the Shins’ brand of folky indie-pop would translate in a large, unforgiving room such as the Kool Haus. Answer? About as well as could be expected. Their setlist drew heavily from the more upbeat portion of their repetoire, which was ironic as the quieter, acoustic numbers such as “Young Pilgrims” and the ubiquitous “New Slang” actually came across the best, sonically. The more amped up numbers had the soundman struggling with the craptacular acoustics of the room – it’s saying something that the set was even as listenable as it was. Oh, and the fun cover of the night was The Magnetic Fields’ “Strange Powers”. I approve.
I was also pleasantly surprised how comfortable the band seemed to be on such a large stage (I’m talking real estate). I guess I forgot that they’ve been growing as performers with their audience since the last time they came through town and it hasn’t been as much of an overnight explosion in popularity. James was a bit chattier than he had been in the past, though it was still Marty who assumed the majority of the frontman/banter responsibilities. From where I was, I couldn’t quite make out what he was saying but there was a comment about bagels followed by him showing off his midriff to the crowd. Yeah, I dunno. But it was evident the band was having a great time, as was the crowd and hell – even the oppressive venue couldn’t stifle that. Good show all around.
And as a postscript, big thumbs up to the band for keeping merch prices down. I’ve never seen anyone sell t-shirts at the Kool Haus for $20 before. Very nice. And sorry, no photos – I had no interest in trying to smuggle a camera in nor fight my way through the great unwashed to get close enough to get any sort of decent shots. Yeah, them’s the breaks. But did anyone get a digicam in without any sort of hassle from security? Not smuggle, just carry one in. Obviously loads of people in the audience had em, I’m just wondering if the venue actually cared.
Looks like there’s a payoff for waiting the four months for the North American release of Mercury Rev’s The Secret Migration on May 17. The Amazon listing indicates that it comes with a bonus disc, and not some piddly one or two tracker – this one’s got nine extra tracks. Huzzah.
JAM! talks to Kevin Smith and Neil Gaiman about making films based on comic books in a market where everything and anything from the funny pages is being adapted for celluloid. Gaiman also reveals his plans for the film version of Death: The High Cost Of Living:
“It’s a nice, cheap, low-budget movie about a miserable teen and a girl who thinks she may be death and the day in New York they spend together. The only reason I’m directing is that I don’t want anyone (messing) it up.”
It sounds like he’s dispensing with the whole Endless angle, and I don’t think it’ll suffer for it at all.
np – Douglas Heart / I Could See The Smallest Things