Here's what I thought about some recent shows I attended....
Field Music @ Spaceland on 3/18/06
Before the show I downloaded a few tracks that I really liked. Having not heard the entire album, I was cautiously optimistic. The touring band consists of the three core members. Two of the guys switched between guitar and drums while also trading off lead vocalist duties. Their music matches their appearance. They're well dressed, clean cut guys playing polite guitar pop with chamber pop elements. Ultimately having only three guys in the touring band was too limiting. The interesting arrangements on the songs I downloaded were not fully duplicated in the club. I was entertained enough to still want the album, but not entertained enough to go see them again (at least not until they round out the touring band).
Belle & Sebastian / The New Pornographers @ the Wiltern on 3/19/06
I knew what to expect because I've seen Belle & Sebastian three times before and the New Pornographers twice before. The New Pornographers are best experienced on record. Their albums are so much fun to listen to (I recommend starting with Electric Version), but their performances are so average. The first problem is that Neko Case doesn't tour with them. She's nice to look at and I prefer her work with the New Pornographers to her solo stuff. The second problem is that Dan Bejar doesn't tour with them. He contributes about three songs to each record and I prefer his work with the New Pornographers to his stuff in Destroyer. I was very happy that they played the song that got me into them, "The Slow Descent into Alcoholism."
Belle & Sebastian was so good, even better than I expected. Stuart and the band are very charming and appreciative of the audience. The setlist was sprinkled with songs from throughout their career. I didn't write anything down, but I remember them playing....
Tigermilk: "Electronic Renaissance" (danceable and much better than the recorded version) and "The State I Am In" (part of the encore and one of the my favorite songs);
If You're Feeling Sinister: "The Boy Done Wrong Again," "Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying," "Me and the Major," "Judy and the Dream of Horses" (such a poignant song and it always makes me think of my mom - who's named Judy, loves horses and was a teenage rebel);
Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant: "The Wrong Girl" (a Stevie song - not my favorite);
Dear Catastrophe Waitress: "Piazza, New York Catcher," "I'm a Cuckoo" (my two favorite songs off the album);
The Life Pursuit: "Act of the Apostle," Another Sunny Day," "White Collar Boy," "Sukie in the Graveyard," "Funny Little Frog," "To Be Myself Completely" (another Stevie song that I would trade for a Stuart song)
singles/EPs: "Meat and Potatoes," "Belle & Sebastian"
The songs from The Life Pursuit came alive and I enjoyed them more than the recorded versions. I go back and forth with that album which makes me think it's probably the production. Some highlights from the show: somebody threw some "knickers" on stage and Stuart made a joke that Stevie should do something about it since he was the one out partying all night, Stuart later picked them up and flipped them into the audience; somebody threw a giant rubber ring onto the stage and Stuart joked that it was an arab strap and then after considering it for a second said it must be an arab strap for a horse; Stuart invited Tony Hoffer on stage (the producer of The Life Pursuit) and asked him to bring a group of girls from the audience to clap during a song; Stuart wanted to shake hands with the kids in the pit for waiting so long to get into the show, he shook a couple of hands and then fell head first into the crowd, it didn't seem intentional because security had to help him back up and he looked pretty shaken up, meanwhile Stevie joked to security to grab the guitar, not Stuart. The only bad part was the house sound. The Wiltern never sounds very good from the floor. I'm looking forward to the Hollywood Bowl show on July 6th.
Cold War Kids / Tapes 'n Tapes @ Knitting Factory Alterknit Lounge 3/21/06
Cold War Kids is growing on me. They can pack most local venues and they're starting to get national attention. They remind me of a happier version of Modest Mouse. They've got a discordant sound and play with passion. Lots of people were predicting that Tapes 'n Tapes would be the breakout band of SXSW 2006. I had downloaded a few songs off the internet and thought they sounded like the Pixies mixed with Broken Social Scene. I was expecting to really like them. I didn't. It's not that they were bad, it's just that they're terribly average. No compelling songs and no real stage presence. They're a young band with some potential. Right now I'd much rather see Cold War Kids again. Both bands are playing Spaceland tonight. Check it out and let me know what you think.