As you can probably tell by now, I rarely get inspired to write about most of the live shows I see. There are a couple of reasons for that. For one thing, the internet has killed the element of surprise when it comes to seeing live bands for the first time. There are a lot of different reasons to deem a live band “good,” and some of the reasons can be a bit gimmicky. The first time you saw Trail of Dead destroy their instruments, it was exciting. By the third time, not so much.
By the time your favorite new band comes to town these days, there’s a good chance you’ve seen clips of them on Youtube, you’ve read multiple blog postings about them and you’ve already downloaded bootlegged MP3s. Takes the fun out of it, doesn’t it? Some other reasons I tend to avoid writing about live shows: I hate to pan a new local band before they’ve had a chance to find themselves; most bands just aren’t all that interesting; and most of the time, you just had to be there. I do get a perverse pleasure out of writing about it when somebody really disappoints me, but that’s another story altogether. And I tend to hate taking photos at shows. Nothing takes me out of it more than watching it through a camera.
All that said, last week was a particularly active week for me with live bands….
Monday: I hadn’t seen Everest since the release (and my subsequent absorption) of their new record, so Spaceland was the place. As usual, they didn’t disappoint. After a few weeks out on the road they were tighter than ever. Some of the arrangements were a little different than the album, they added a Byrds’ cover, and did some pretty heavy jamming at the end. They’re in Europe with My Morning Jacket right now, and I hear they might have a pretty cool tour coming up in the Fall. You can track their whereabouts on their new website HERE. I only caught a little bit of Afternoons, but plan to make it back next week to see more.
Tuesday: Again with Spaceland. I’ve seen Henry Clay People more than any other band in the past year (with the possible exception of Le Switch). Unfortunately I was with some friends watching the Celtics celebrate their victory and missed most of Tuesday’s set. I got there just in time to see Joey jump off the stage and hand his guitar off during their version of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” The crowd was a bit stiff and seemed a little confused, but I’m sure they made some new fans. Next up was the Deadly Syndrome, who I hadn’t seen since a few songs at SXSW. It was another really strong set. They’re another really fun band to see live. By the end of their set it was hot as hell and electricity was in the air for Airborne Toxic Event. Spaceland was packed with people who’ve heard them on KROQ and Indie 103. The next day they announced that their next local show will be a headlining gig at El Rey. They’ve got an appearance scheduled on Conan O’Brien too. Impressive.
Thursday: It was time to finally see one of the newer venues in town, so I Google’d Crash Mansion for the address. We were on the list for the show, but were informed that unless we were buying tickets, we had to wait in a long line to get in. Something seemed backwards about that. You make the customers who planned ahead wait? We walked up a very steep set of stairs and were greeted by Jermaine Stewart’s “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off to Have a Good Time.” An odd DJ selection given that we had tickets to see the Old 97’s. We discovered that there are two rooms at the Crash Mansion. One lounge (home to the bad 80’s music) and the venue. The venue was a large rectangle with a very wide stage. Hayes Carll was on stage and sound in the room wasn’t bad. I’d heard good things about him at Stagecoach, but couldn’t really get into it. It was the kind of thing that probably sounds a lot better at a bar in Texas. The drawl seemed exaggerated and most of the music fell somewhere between early Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt. I know he’s worked with Guy Clark, so I’m wondering if I’d like his earlier stuff better. We ordered some $6 beers (reasonable I suppose) from one of the four bars in the venue (not counting the bar in the lounge) and watched guys pass around plates of wings. They don’t have any beer on tap. Next up was Old 97’s. They started off with some newer songs and it took a while for the sound guy to get it right. Eventually it sounded good. The highlight of night for me was when they brought out Ricky Jackson from Carll’s band (and Brothers and Sisters) to play pedal steel. It seemed to bring a new energy to the show. Jackson played on about six songs before heading back off stage.
Saturday Day: I needed to see Explorers Club and opted for the daytime show at Little Radio’s Summer Camp. The band took the stage in shorts and t-shirts and I was instantly engaged. Lots of great harmonies and they seemed to be having so much fun up there. Obviously they adore the Beach Boys, and invited Darren from the Tyde onstage to sing lead on a cover. They followed that up with a smoking version of “Johnny B. Goode.” Bonus points for the member who did the backflip off the stage. Next up was the Deadly Syndrome. Two shows in a week and they still impressed. Last was No Age. After a few songs, it was nap time at home.
Saturday Night: My third trip to Spaceland in a week. I needed to see The Broken West to hear songs off their forthcoming record, Now or Heaven, due September 9th on Merge. I caught a little bit of opener Dead Confederate who, by the way, sounded a lot better than they do on their Myspace page. The Broken West was loud. The sound man had it turned way up. And they sounded great. Really looking forward to that new record…..
It was a great week, but I’m totally burnt out on live shows, although it hopefully won't stop me from hitting the Bowl on Saturday and All Star Lanes and Spaceland on Sunday.