Saturday, September 22, 2007

Random thoughts from the last bunch o' days

- Tonight's New Pornographers show was fantastic. Each time I see the band (this was the third) I like them more and more. Songs from the new album were really well done and the band filled the theater with an incredible, swelling energy during "The Bleeding Heart Show," causing the song to leap over a handful of others to become my favorite NP song. Dan Bejar is hilariously tangential to the overall performance. He just hangs out in the wings drinking beer most of the show, emerging four or five times to play guitar and sing. At one point, one of Neko Case's dogs wandered out onto the stage and just plopped down at her feet. Fun times indeed.

- Afterwards I had several good chats, ending up down the road at Sports On Congress with a certain Chango Malo bass player. We talked about bands and playing live and being on the road and "making it" and what dedication really means. I have high hopes for that band, a bunch of great dudes who possess an absolutely electrifying live show and a new album that combines swagger and nuance, a mess of energy and guitars wrapping up a singer who you can just hear leaving the last drop of his soul in the songs.
We also talked about the antiquated notion of "selling out," a topic I visited here, curiously enough using the New Pornographers as an example.

- I'm currently listening to Okkervil River, a live show from fall 2005. I'm hedging in some ways here, but for my money there's no better band to emerge this millennium. (Sure, the band was technically formed and released its first EP in 1999, but they themselves call the 2002 LP Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See the first "real record." Another gem from the Will Sheff-penned band bio at describes the addition of an ornithologist as a multi-instrumentalist - "He was a fine electric guitarist, so we handed him an accordion.")
I've failed up until this point to write my thoughts on the band's amazing new album, and their live set that was my personal highlight of the third annual Hotel Congress festival, so here goes a brief description: The new songs hold every bit the emotional and intellectual weight that the band's previously acclaimed records do, but with more accomplished musicianship all around. It's a wonder to watch a precocious band getting even better.
It helps that they're friends, at least in a superficial way, though with each new swing through Tucson I get to know the band better. After the Congress show some friends and I hung around with half the band and two thirds of the Friends of Dean Martinez until the wee hours, getting busted by Congress security for noisiness and violating the non smoking rule/law/policy.

- For any music fans out there, I can't say enough great things about and NPR's live concert series. Both are absolute treasure troves of fantastic music, all full live shows.
I must have downloaded 30 or so shows between the two, all legal, free and with sound quality at least equal to regular live albums released commercially. But a full show start to finish is much better than most commercially released "live" albums, which tend to be collections of live songs from many shows, or heavily edited in some way. I love the banter, the set lists and all the in-between stuff that really makes a live show stand out for someone. has more than 43,000 concerts at this moment, with more added all the time. Here are just a few Catfish Vegas recommendations: all six Calexico shows in the archive, a somewhat scratchy but absolutely captivating Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne radio show from Germany in 1976, Giant Sand's set at the Congress 20th anniversary festival, the Mountain Goats' show from the 40 Watt in Georgia last year, several Elliott Smith performances that show just how delicate the singer's life became in his latter days... and on and on. It takes a long while, but browse through the artist list for your favorites. There are plenty shows in MP3, as well as lossless FLAC versions. For more recommendations, write me or comment.
NPR's live concert series is something I've been impressed with for about two years, starting when I found a crystal clear sounding recording of the joint Calexico and Iron & Wine tour, which I saw here at the Rialto, transfixed for most of the night. Since, I've downloaded shows by Wilco, the Decemberists, Neko Case, the Walkmen, Sleater-Kinney, Arcade Fire, Son Volt, Jenny Lewis and the Drive-by Truckers. And all are top-notch. The lineup for this fall includes John Vanderslice, Rilo Kiley, Animal Collective (which I'll either avoid or download to try and figure out why I enjoyed their show here so little), Okkervil River, Josh Ritter, Spoon and the New Pornographers. No shit, NPR is gonna bring it this fall.

- Many, many more shows in town this fall. I'm certainly going to have to pick and choose. I did already pick up Ween tickets for myself, The General and Katred, so that'll be a strange evening. Other shows on the horizon include Neko, Modest Mouse, Gwar (??!), Iron & Wine and Ted Leo (with local openers The Swim and The Deludes -- AWESOME!), and that's honestly just a cursory list of the upcoming shows. Some decisions will have to be made.

- I keep getting the occasional stranger approaching to bestow monster props on my Rad Racing T-shirt. For a 21-year-old movie about BMX racing that hasn't even made it to DVD, Rad has some fucking staying power. As I say when I get those compliments, "Hells Yeah." Order yours today online.

- Lots of big goings and doings coming up on the horizon. I head to Flagstaff this week. Then out to San Fran and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival early Oct. Then barely a week later I leave for the East Coast - gonna rock D.C., Philly and NYC for 11 days. Boo-yah!

- That's probably it for tonight. Gonna crash then devote tomorrow to picking up my framed Jackie Robinson photographs from Michaels, get the oil changed in ol Excaliber Jeebus, buy some more plants from Home Depot to give the house a more lively appearance, have dinner with Robert Anthony Peters and then head Downtown to catch The Swim.
Everybody have a nice September. I hate to cop to how rare my blogging is, but I have to steal this line from Cicci: If this blog was a pet lizard it would've died by now.

- Maybe if there was an ancient Norse god of blogging I'd be doing better.

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