Monday, February 18th, 2008
Photo by Frank Yang
Tribute nights are always better on paper than in reality. Whatever the scale of things – be it an all-star salute to Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden or a low-key night in honour of My Bloody Valentine as occurred at the Drake Underground last Thursday – I find the idea of hearing a favourite artist cover another favourite artist is always more exciting in the abstract.
Note that this sweeping generalization is really only with respect to the live affairs where there’s not really a lot of time or incentive to really learn, rehearse or be creative with their interpretation – covers worked into live sets or recorded are exempt. Add in the fact that in most of these situations you have audiences who are presumably in attendance because they’re fans of the band being paid tribute and would reasonably expect to hear the songs done in, if not a faithful style then at least a familiar one – also known as the least creatively interesting approach for the artist. The net result is almost always some degree of disappointment and in the worst cases, the performance is less tribute than parody.
In the case of the show dubbed Loveless and appropriately scheduled for (My Bloody) Valentine’s Day, it was only announced a couple weeks earlier with some acts added afterwards so preparedness was not to be taken for granted. Five acts in all participated and to their credit, the heavy guitar-based jams were not the norm. Things were led off by Hollowphonic, performing a few more esoteric MBV songs (as if their repertoire wasn’t esoteric enough to begin with) on solo guitar with laptop, followed by Gravity Wave – who claimed to have never heard any My Bloody Valentine until just a few weeks prior – karaoke-style overtop pre-programmed beats in an iPod. Continuing the one-man band trend was To Downcast Your Eyes, who coaxed some fine, thickly-distorted keyboard sounds out of his Yamaha but undermined things with an unnecessarily affected vocal delivery. The night rounded off with a couple of proper bands – Buffalonians Sleeping Kings Of Iona only played one MBV song, I believe, and filled their set out with originals but being the most upbeat tunes of the evening, were welcome anyways and finally Germans, who closed things out with, well, heavy guitar-based jams including an extended (read: didn’t know how to finish) finale with “You Made Me Realize”.
By no means was it a bad night of music, but there wasn’t anything especially outstanding either. But it did get me out of the house on Valentine’s Day, and that’s something of an achievement.
NME talks to the Coachella organizers about why the much-rumoured My Bloody Valentine appearance isn’t happening this year and offers some comfort for those who were disappointed (and echo what I’ve been telling everyone who’ll listen, which about five people) – “Don’t worry–they’ll come to America.”
Portishead, on the other hand, are going to be at Coachella and their new record – the cryptically titled Third – has a North American release date. Look for it April 29, a couple weeks after the UK release. The Guardian has an interview with the band’s Adrian Utley about their time away and now their return.