Very Contemporary: Field Music at the Crocodile

Field Music at the Crocodile, Seattle | 29 March 2016


After six albums Sunderland, England’s Field Music finally made their Seattle debut Tuesday night at the Crocodile (though David Brewis played the Nectar Lounge back in 2008 with his School of Language). The band are often compared to XTC and Steely Dan, and could be accused of being a musician’s band. Meaning that you need to be a musician to appreciate them, and to be honest as I looked around the room that night it looked like I might be a minor and younger music nerd compared with many in the crowd. So this show was a long time coming for many Field Music fans, but well worth the wait

The Brewis brothers are supporting their latest and possibly best album yet Commontime which contains a new lightness of being that gives a new dimension to the band. They sound like they’re having more fun and of course there’s the added funk element. How much funk you ask, well Prince is a fan and the brothers have admitted to looking to both Beyoncé and Hall and Oats for inspiration. That was evident right from the start as the band blasted into the Noisy Days Are Over with its looping base. It was obvious that Field Music were here to have fun. It featured Peter on guitar and vocals and his brother David on drums. They would take turns on guitar and drums throughout the night. I kept changing my mind about which was the better drummer and which the better guitarist. Both of them seemed to in a jovial mood  with lots of banter between songs and encouraging of hecklers. At one point they were invited to karaoke after the show, but declined saying they only did Michael Jackson BAD at karaoke.

Other highlights in the set included Disappointed and It’s a Good Thing from Commontime, Let’s Write a Book from Measure, If Only The Moon Were Up from their debut, and A House Is Not a Home from Tones of Town. It was a perfect combination of old and new in front of a truly appreciative audience. One of the best shows of the year to accompany one of its best albums.

The Quietus has an insightful interview with the Brewis brothers.

The setlist from the show:

The Noisy Days Are Over
I’m Glad
Let’s Write A Book
Don’t You Want To Know What’s Wrong?
A House Is Not A Home
It’s A Good Thing
Who’ll Pay the Bills?
Them That Do Nothing
If Only The Moon Were Up
How Many More Times?
Just Like Everyone Else
Stay Awake
(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing
Give It Lose It Take It



A Sunny Day In Seattle or Not Sighing, Singing

A Sunny Day in Glasgow at the Crocodile, Seattle | 12 July 2014

asdigA Sunny Day In Glasgow are not from any single place as the band’s six members are split between Philadelphia, New York and Sydney, but funny enough not Glasgow. They are also a very different band than the one that made Scribble Mural Comic Journal back in 2007. Ben Daniels is the only surviving member of that first album. Daniels is the band leader and writes most of the songs. His band’s fourth album Sea When Absent still sounds like a Sunny Day In Glasgow, but it is also is quite different.

Every good band evolves of course, and A Sunny Day in Glasgow have progressed from being an airy shoegaze band whose songs sometime floated by without anyone taking notice to a pop band with shoegaze roots with songs that capture your attention. Previously the vocals mostly consisted of a lot of sighing, but that has been drastically changed. Singers Anne Fredrickson and Jen Goma with their strong, passionate vocals power the band and are its focal point.

The Crocodile’s back bar was full for this early show on one of the sunniest and hottest days of the year. For the opening band Oh! Pears the garage door was up, keeping the place relatively cool. Unfortunately they pulled the door closed before the start of A Sunny Day In Glasgow causing the mercury to rise in the packed room (the pizza oven in the back didn’t help either). No matter, the band incorporated tribal rhythms, washes of guitars, subdued electronics and earnest and soulful vocals to send breezy waves of pleasure out into the room nearly making forget the beads of sweat.

The biggest change and best thing about the current incarnation of a Sunny Day in Glasgow is how they have rethought the vocals in their music. They still like a lot of guitars but Fredrickson and Goma both have strong voices and their performances last night made me think that this band could take shoegaze beyond the niche genre that it is. One of my nieces who likes stuff like Aaliyah, Kelly Rowland and Beyoncé often laughs at some of the music I listen to saying that they sigh instead of sing. Sunny Day in Glasgow aren’t sighing any more. They are making big pop songs that threaten to break into the mainstream.

stream: A Sunny Day In Glasgow – Bye Bye Big Ocean (the album Sea When Absent is available from Lefse) Records)

Live in Seattle Last Week: Disappears, Fresh & Onlys, Bleached, Veronica Falls, Cate Le Bon, Charles Leo Gebhardt

The glacially exciting winter touring season started to thaw out and this week and provided an early spring rush of shows that got me out of my winter show-going hibernation.  On Sunday, the Fresh & Onlys were up from San Francisco along with Chicagoians Disappears. Disappears are about to release their third and best record Pre Language. It’s their first with new drummer Steve Shelley who use to be in some other band called Sonic Youth.  Shelley is game for touring with his other band on indefinite hiatus and the Disappears are all the better for it. They played an amazing set of  intense, anxiety fueled post punk. Up until this night I was uncommitted to Disappears, their first two albums didn’t really fully materialize in my mind, but with Shelley on Drums and this new record they’re firing on all cylinders evoking the Fall, Girls Against Boys and even a little Sonic Youth.

Stream: Disappears – Replicate (from Pre Language)

After Disappears I thought that the Fresh & Onlys might have made a mistake in having them as openers. Not many bands could follow the Disappears’ powerful set and not come off sounding pale in comparison.  I shouldn’t have been concerned, because the Fresh & Onlys are a formidable live band themselves. You’d never know it by looking at them, Singer Tim Cohen looks like a mountain man that hasn’t bothered to shave or change out of his PJ’s.  They had a new drummer, Kyle Gibson is on the temporary injured reserve, who more than ably filled in. I should also mention that I think that the F&O’s musical prowess is closely linked to the height of guitarist Wymond Miles’ hair. Every time I see them his hair is taller and every time they’re better than than the last. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s some kind of biblical Samson thing he’s got going on (or he has a secret love for the Alarm). There wasn’t anything new in their set, which as kind of a surprise since we know these guys are prolific. They must have decided to keep the songs from their upcoming album due on Mexican Summer under wraps. They plucked the highlights from their slew of past records, it was especially cool to hear Peacock and Wing which is essentially their theme song with its “You should really be my fresh & only” refrain. It just reinforced my belief that any band worth its salt should have a “theme song” with its name in the chorus.
stream: Fresh & Onlys – Peacock and Wing (from their first self-titled album on Castle Face)

Skip forward to Tuesday night and the Tractor in Ballard where Veronica Falls and Bleached played along with Seapony. Seapony seem to be in between drummers and were using a drum machine again, but sounded ok nonetheless. Bleached, who have a handful of very good singles to date, but no album as of yet consist of two dudes and sisters Jessica and Jennifer Clavin, formerly of LA punkers Mika Miko. Bleached may consist of former punks from LA, but they sound like they now subscribe to more paisley shade of it with a little cow-poke thrown in for good measure.I have a feeling that they have a few Gun Club records in their collection. Their set was full of confident swagger, good songs and even a cover of the Ramones‘ Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World.

stream: Bleached – Searching Through The Past

Headliners, Veronica Falls were in town a little more than three months ago opening for Drums. I’m glad they returned, giving us another chance to hear the great songs from last year’s excellent self-titled album. While their opening slot at the Crocodile last year was good, seeing them at the more intimate Tractor was a whole lot better. Drummer Patrick Doyle seems to be designated guy to talk to the audience between songs. I kept expecting him to pull a Ric Menck and come out from behind his kit to grab the front mic to talk the way the Velvet Crush drummer use to do, but he seemed happy to lob his one-liners from the back of the stage. The rest of the band said little, but let their harmonies and playing do the talking. The sound was great, and the band played like a well oiled machine, making every song sound better than the record if that’s possible. They slipped in a few new ones including My Heart Beats which I assume is going to be an upcoming single. It was great fun, I wish I walked every show I go to feeling this good.

stream: Veronica Falls – My Heart Beats (new song)

The following night Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon played at the Crocodile with her band in support of her second album Cyrk. I wasn’t enamored with her first album, but she has made a huge leap with record number two. It evokes many of her compatriots like Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Super Fury Animals, but isn’t easily pigeonholed as a Welsh record. It’s also easy to compare her voice to that of Nico, though she is less deadpan and on stage she displays an easy sense of humor. She referred to the audience as Seattle-ogians and when her drummer corrected her with Seattleites, she insisted that we should be called Seattle-ogians.
She wore a silvery, cosmic looking cape and switched between playing guitar and keyboard. Besides her voice and fashion standing out, her guitar playing was formidable as well. She demonstrated this during both Fold the Cloth and Cyrk which brought cheers from the audience. She had three guys in her band who switched around on instruments (with the exception of the drummer who stayed put). Her keyboard player did harmony vocals and did an amazing job with an ability to hit some really high notes. The set ended with Ploughing Out Parts I & II after which she returned alone for one final song and then left the stage leaving everyone more than satisfied.

stream Cate Le Bon – Puts Me To Work (from Cyrk)

Charles Leo Gebhardt opened the night with a full band. I’ve seen him before with guitar and drummer but never with a bassist. Tonight he had Ratchel Ratner of the Wimps and Butts playing bass, TV Cohran on a full drum kit and Brian Standeford of Idle Times on second guitar. He played  songs from his two releases on GGNZLA and the full band treatment added another dimension to already quality stuff. Mid-set he broke a string and proceeded to try to tell a story, when that didn’t work out so well, the band played Idle Times’ Prison Mind and Gebhardt sang it as he fixed his string. A consummate entertainer!  Hopefully he gained a few new fans with his lively set, because his Ray Davies-esque pop deserves a larger audience.
stream: Charles Leo Gebhardt – Chapel of Roses

A House In the Country

Real Estate were solid playing to a comfortably full Crocodile last night. I was standing on the Alex Bleecker side of the stage, which I would recommend. His bass was more audible which added a bit more substance to the songs and kept the lighter airy aspects anchored to solid ground. Real Estate are a suburban New Jersey band that write songs that go perfectly with driving on six lane arterials, waiting at red lights late at night with no one in sight and wandering through office parks. Their edge city rock wandered off into more bucolic places a few times last night. A couple songs midway through their set seemed to float by causing a yawn or two, but for the most part they kept it interesting and chill, focusing on the songs from their much stronger second album Days. After a 40 minute set that left everyone wanting more, they shyly sauntered back on stage for an encore and let Bleecker take the reigns to sing his song Wonder Years. That song momentarily took them out of the suburbs and landed them in a California canyon. It was possibly the best song of the night.

Stream: Real Estate – It’s Real (from Days on Domino)

I saw Big Troubles a few weeks back open for the Pains of Being Pure At Heart and thought they were good. Last night opening for Real Estate they were downright great. Amazing what a few weeks of touring will do for a band. They confidently blasted their songs to an audience waiting for Real Estate. Co-singers/guitarists Ian Drennan and Alex Craig had it down. Perfect timing, nonchalantly delivering killer riffs and just generally doing everything right. These guys seem older and wiser than the young band that they are. From their Boo Radleys (Lazy Day) sounding Freudian Slip to getting the legendary Mitch Easter to produce their new album Romantic Comedy to choosing to cover the Go-Betweens‘ Bachelor Kisses (which they did at the request of some super-geek who tweeted at the band the day of the show asking them to play it). There were no let downs in their 35 minute set. I kept thinking: ok, the next song is going to be a let-down because they can’t have another one that sounds this good, but they kept delivering. This was one of those shows that changes how you feel about a record. Before last night I thought Romantic Comedy was a fine record. After last night, I’m in love with it.

Stream: Big Troubles – Minor Keys (from Romantic Comedy on Slumberland)

Here are the remaining dates for Real Estate/Big Troubles tour:
11/11 San Francisco, CA Slim’s
11/12 Los Angeles, CA Echoplex
11/13 San Diego, CA Sunset Temple
11/14 Tempe, AZ Sail Inn
11/16 Austin, TX The Parish
11/17 Dallas, TX Club Dada
11/18 Memphis, TN Hi Tone Cafe
11/19 Lexington, KY Cosmic Charlie’s
11/20 Pittsburgh, PA Garfield Artworks
11/21 Philadelphia, PA Johnny Brenda’s
11/23 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom

Yang Yang: Anika At the Crocodile

Anika played the Crocodile Sunday night. She looked and sounded like Nico fronting Metal Box era Public Image Limited. Actually she was fronting BEAK>,Geoff Barrow of Portishead‘s other band. His body double was behind the drums somehow making them sound as if they were being recorded by Martin Hannett.

Anika has the stage presence of an icicle, but it works. The songs have a steely isolating feel to them and her icy demeanor perfectly compliments them. When listening to desolate, dark dub music, I don’t want jokes and “Hello Seattle” in between songs. I want to feel on edge and slightly uncomfortable and that is what I felt as she awkwardly looked at the floor and moved her mic stand from one side of the stage to the other between songs, not speaking a word.

The set was heavy on the covers, but with a band that has such a strong aesthetic, they could cover just about anything and make it interesting and their own. The set included covers of Twinkle‘s Terry, Dylan‘s Masters of War, the Kinks‘ I Go To Sleep, and Yoko Ono‘s Yang Yang all of which appeared on the Stones Throw album. There were new ones too. The Crystals‘ He Hit Me and the Chromatics‘ In the City were both highlights. The set ended with a version of the Talking Heads‘ Once In a Lifetime which seemed so new to them that Anika pulled out a little black book for the lyrics. The setlist had one more song on it that they didn’t play, another cover, He Needs Me from the Popeye soundtrack. I’m sure it would have been sublimely weird, but Anika turned and left the stage after Once In a Lifetime with nary a goodbye.

A Hazy Shade of Jangle Goth

A ton is being written currentlyabout Veronica Falls and their new self-titled debut long player and for good reason, it  is easily one of the best pop records of the year. If you are a fan of  the autumnal sounds of the 60’s like the Mama’s and the Papas and Simon & Garfunkle, lightning fast jangle similar to the Bats or early Wedding Present,  lyrical darkness that verges on goth,  the innate ability to incorporate the psychedelia of the 60’s into a pop song and still make it danceable the way the Stone Roses did on their first album (yes, it’s that good) and have not heard this album then see about correcting that as soon as possible (details below).

Veronica Falls were in Seattle last week to open for the Drums at the Crocodile.  The four piece band slashed through their set to a nearly packed Crocodile. I’m pretty certain that the majority of the people  were there for Drums, but they got an unexpected treat while waiting around. Singer and guitarist Roxanne Clifford handles her big red hollow body Fender guitar like it is an appendage she was born with, moving it about and strumming the hell out of it. Her playing is perfectly timed with other guitarist James Hoare to create a jangly web of bliss inside the listener’s head. She’s a great front person too, with confidence and a classic indie look. I bet Stuart Murdoch is ringing her up so he can photograph here for the next Belle and Sebastian cover. The songs sounded great live with the harmonies from both Hoare and drummer Patrick Doyle standing out over their little maelstrom of strumming.

Doyle and Clifford were in Sexy Kids and the Royal We together while Hoare played in Your Twenties, and that previous experience is evident in their playing. They’re a young band, but they seemed like old pros playing with seasoned confidence. I guess confidence is easy when you know that you’ve got a gold mine of great songs.

Here is some video of a new song they played:

Order the album on CD or vinyl from Slumberland.

Weekend On a Monday

Weekend and Talk Normal at the Crocodile, Seattle | 26 September 2011

I’m not sure why this show was booked at the Crocodile. With only a handful of people showing up to see Weekend and Talk Normal, someone had to lose money. This show would have been much better for all in involved in a smaller place like the Comet, Lo-Fi, or Sunset. At any of those places, it would have seemed like enough people showed up to see them. At the Crocodile it was conspicuously empty. This didn’t seem to phase either band in the slightest. Weekend filed on stage, switched on their red lights and smoke machine, turned up the bass amp to 11 and proceeded to pummel all 25 of us.

Sometimes a band pummels in the right way and sometimes it’s not. I wanted San Francisco’s Weekend to do it the right way. Their records do it correctly, balancing just the right amount of noise and melody, but Monday at the Crocodile it was mostly noise devoid of any melody. Weekend feature bass guitar prominently in all of their songs, but live it overpowered everything. I moved around to see if it was where I was standing (there was a lot of space to move around), but the mix was the same. The guy would sing, but you couldn’t hear it. The other guy would play guitar but you could barely hear it. Everything was overwhelmed by out of control bass. Last year at the Vera Project they seemed to have a better handle on their live sound, or maybe I just had higher expectations for them the second time around. Their new Red EP is a leap forward for them. The songs are less buried and a more nuanced atmosphere is created than on their album from last year. Hell, you could even dance to Hazel. Any nuance flew out the window Monday and it was replaced by sheer volume, making it hard to tell one song from another. Kind of a bummer.
stream: Weekend – Hazel

Openers and tourmates Talk Normal come from Brooklyn and can trace their roots to their city’s rich No Wave past. The duo of drums and guitar created a respectable cacophony in the cavernous Crocodile. Screwdrivers were insterted into the necks of guitars and drums were pounded in rhythmic patterns. Not being a conoseur of No Wave, I can only assume that this made for a great set.
stream: Talk Normal – Lone General

The Black Hole of the Crystal Stilts

Crystal Stilts, Case Studies and Posse at the Crocodile, Seattle | 11 May 2011

Brooklyn’s (by way of Florida) Crystal Stilts played the Crocodile this past Wednesday night to a sparse audience. Apparently their darker take on the pop song doesn’t resonate as well with the kids as their labelmates and neighbors the Pains of Being Pure at Heart brighter stylings who sold the place out a few weeks ago. Where the Pains are bright colors and glistening pop hooks, Crystal Stilts dredge around below the ground in the dark of night. Their second album In Love With Oblivion recently released on Slumberland is a more assured effort than their debut. JB Townsend’s guitars rattle, jangle and shatter with a Bo Diddly tenacity while singer Brad Hargett keeps his vocals murky making you dig just a little for the melody.

Oblivion doesn’t make you dig too deep with its abundance of hooks as their previous effort Alight of Night did. Its glistening guitar more often than not offsets Hargett’s caliginous musings.  The band have never been ones to lead sing-alongs at their shows, opting to put up a distinct boundary between them and whoever shows up to see them play,  and this night was no different.  Crystal Stilts where there to play, oblivious to whether there were 50 or 500 people in the room which was good and bad.  Good  because there were only about 50 people there. They belted out a set of big moody songs that sparkled at times like a partly cloudy day in Seattle.  Sun breaks came with the Felt inspired Half a Moon, the pop of Through the Floor, and single Shake the Shackles and then darkness reigned on Prometheus At Large and Flying Into the Sun. Bad because it seemed like their set was cut short by the band’s disaffection or their general awkwardness of just being on stage.  Their music sounds intimidating, but to see them play, much of the mystery and malice that their songs conjure disappears because of their lack of a charismatic stage presence. They seemed uncomfortable playing to a mostly empty room and made a short night of it, only playing nine songs plus and encore.

I should not complain too much, because what they played sounded great. Evoking the Bunnymen, Velvets, 13 Floor Elevators and Felt at once is no easy feat, but it felt like it was phoned in. If you’re only going to play nine songs then why even bother with an encore? Just play 10 and leave the stage. Do it like you mean it and leave me wanting more. A band like Crystal Stilts who seem to not give a fuck about whether you’re there or not shouldn’t conform to the tired encore. If they would have done it like they meant it they would not have come back for an encore of Love Is a Wave. They would have left me wanting more, but as it was they left me wondering why they only played 10 songs and hoping they gain some charisma before they play Seattle again.

mp3: Crystal Stilts – Half a Moon (from In Love With Oblivion available on vinyl and CD from Slumberland Records)

Jesse Lortz who was the Duke in the Dutchess and the Duke has a new moniker in Case Studies. I had seen him a couple months ago at Cairo with only an acoustic guitar and thought his new songs were ho-hum, but this time getting some help from 3/5 of the Crystal Stilts the songs seemed to have more of an impact. The performance felt more like a practice with Lortz coaxing the Stilts on to “try another one”, but it seemed like they were on the right track and left me hoping the Lortz employs a band when goes to actually record some of these songs.

Kicking off the evening were Seattle’s very own entry into the 90’s retread, Posse. Versus come to mind and that in and of itself should wet your whistle. The trio sounded amazing, and seemed totally comfortable on the Crocodile’s super high stage giving a shout out to their parents who showed up to see them play.  If you haven’t checked them out over at their bandcamp page, what are you waiting for?

Tinseltown In the Rain

Destroyer at the Crocodile, Seattle | 18 March 2011

My expectations for Destroyer last Friday night at the Crocodile were not high. Seeing Dan Bejar play with a small band or solo under the his Destroyer moniker was always good, but I had never been blown away. I knew I was going to hear the songs from his latest Kaputt, but I had no idea that what I would get would far exceed that very good record and as well as any expectations I had. I kind of got a feeling that something different was in store for us as the stage was a buzz as the band set up, trumpet, saxophones, guitars, basses, keyboards all being set up and sound-checkd with people dodging each other and moving around with purpose. I wasn’t sure how big Destroyer was going to be this night, but I was pretty sure it was going to bigger than I’d ever witnessed. The trumpet player had his trumpet going through two effects pedals which sometimes made it sound like a trumpet, sometimes like a guitar and sometimes like neither. The sax player was on the other side of the stage with a big old tarnished horn that mostly sounded like a sax.  The band formed a half circle around Bejar. Besides the horns, there was a guitarist, bassist, a guy who switched between guitar and bass, a drummer, a percussionist and a woman playing keyboards who also provided backing vocals.

To say that Kaputt is steeped in the 80’s is stating the obvious, but there was a guy behind me pointing out to his friends that one song sounded like Dylan‘s All Along the Watchtower and another sounded like Mike and Mechanics‘ All I Need Is a Miracle. I suppose Mike & the Mechanics was 80’s but I was thinking more Prefab Sprout‘s Two Wheels Good, Blue Nile‘s Hats and the Cocteau Twins‘ song Lazy Calm from Victorialand.  I guess it’s all about point of reference and the point being, Bejar writes classic pop songs and on Kaputt he’s chosen to drape them in a funky, synth, horn romantic sheen that may or may not hit your sweet spot.

For the sold out Crocodile it was a definite sweet spot.  Bejar appeared on stage after everyone was situated in a pink shirt, black leather jacket and his trademark wild curly hair and beard.  He grabbed the mic delicately with on hand and held the chord with the other like you might have seen Bowie or Brian Ferry do it back in the late 70’s. They started with the one-two punch of Chinatown and Blue Eyes, the first two songs on Kaputt, and my jaw just dropped. Was it really possible that they were surpassing Kaputt?  The bass was a little funkier, the horns blasted a little louder and Bejar was his same cool self.  For a moment I thought they might play the while  record in order, but it got better with Bejar plucking jems from my second favorite Destroyer album Your Blues.  That record is a close relative in style to Kaputt, and they played It’s Gonna Take an Airplane and Certain Things You Ought to Know.  Both songs had an extra sparkle as the they were embellished with a full band treatment compared to the Roland/Kurtzweil treatment they received on Your Blues. Rubies was the only other album that we heard from this night.  Painter In Your Pocket was an easy crowd favorite with many of us singing along. The sax and trumpet, so out of favor with pop music for so many years, were front and center this night. They wailed like guitars at the right times and tickled the eardrums at others. I remember the end of Downtown dissolving into a horn barrage that was nearly Live-Evil Miles Davis crazy. Nearly every song featured prominent horns as if Destroyer were single-handedly trying to bring them back into favor.

Bejar is not one for chit-chat, the only time he said anything other than thank you (he also bowed a couple times after songs) was when he complained about the puritan Washington state liquor law that doesn’t allow drinking on stage and requested some weed for his drummer.  The audience responded by buying beers and throwing buds on stage. I don’t think Bejar or anyone else in the band took notice, they were in a zone.  Clearly the crowd was on Destroyer’s side with the center of the floor full of dancing that you don’t often see at shows in Seattle, and for those our excuse was that we were too busy being seduced by the band and its effortless way of providing the 80’s white boy romantic funk so long forgotten.

The epic Bay of Pigs was saved for the encore.  It started with four of the band on stage.  Guitar, Flute, Keyboard and Bejar. The rest of the band sauntered out as needed like it was a video of a studio session with the band pulling in the right guy at the right time as the song kept building.  Bejar sang it holding a paper with the lyrics, and as he did throughout the night when he wasn’t singing, he would crouch down and just listen to his band as if he were just as enraptured as the rest of us at how good they were.

Here’s a video from the night of the title track from Kaputt:

Here are the remaining dates for the Destroyer tour:

03.21.2011 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
03.22.2011 Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour
03.23.2011 Tucson, AZ – Club Congress
03.25.2011 Austin, TX – The Mohawk
03.26.2011 Dallas, TX – The Loft
03.27.2011 Little Rock, AR – Sticky Fingerz Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicken Shack
03.28.2011 St. Louis, MO – The Luminary Center for the Arts
03.29.2011 Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
03.30.2011 Pontiac, MI – The Pike Room at The Crofoot
03.31.2011 Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace
04.01.2011 Montreal, QC – Le Cabaret du Mile End
04.02.2011 Cambridge, MA – Middle East Downstairs
04.03.2011 New York, NY – Webster Hall
04.04.2011 Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Church
04.05.2011 Washington, DC – Black Cat
04.06.2011 Asheville, NC – Grey Eagle
04.07.2011 Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
04.08.2011 Atlanta, GA – The Earl
04.09.2011 Nashville, TN – Mercy Lounge
04.11.2011 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
04.12.2011 Minneapolis, MN – Cedar Cultural Centre
04.13.2011 Winnipeg, MB – West End Cultural Centre
04.15.2011 Edmonton, AB – The Starlite Room
04.16.2011 Calgary, AB – #1 Royal Canadian Legion

Keen on the Radio Dept.

Radio Dept. and Young Prisms at the Crocodile, Seattle | 12 February 2011

As the Radio Dept. left the stage after their main set, I wondered did we really need the band here?  They had left the stage, but crackling and frayed recorded backing was still blasting from the PA.  The song continued to Ebb and flow without the band even there. A minute passed and it peaked and then faded out, and I thought to myself, wow that sounded amazing and it was just a tape.   We were left standing there hoping that the trio would come back out for another song because even with their pre-recorded drums and sounds, the Radio Dept. had just finished a solid set that put to rest any lingering questions I had about them not being able to do the live thing without a drummer. They had effortlessly created the early shoegaze of Lesser Matters, the cinematic sounds of Pet Grief and their newer jazz and Ibiza era New Order influenced songs and had left me and the rest of the Crocodile wanting more.

Apparently the band played Seattle back in 2003 at Chop Suey, as singer Johan Duncanson mentioned that he ran into someone that was at the show.  That was after their first album Lesser Matters had come out here on Shelflife.  I’ve got to imagine that it was quite a different show than the one at the sold out Crocodile last night.  I doubt it had girls on their boyfriend’s shoulders looking like they were ready to throw undergarments on stage yelling for them and  I doubt it had guys waving lighters above their heads during songs. Obviously Radio Dept are on the cusp of leaving, or have completely shed  their cult status.

They pulled heavily from last year’s Clinging To a Scheme, but left out one of my favorites from the record, the noisy Memory Loss which sounds like it could have come off of Lesser Matters. A minor quibble really, and I’m sure everyone there could have easily named another five songs they wished they would have played, but they pulled highlights from all three records and some b-sided to try and satisfy on this rare trip over to the U.S.  The set may have lulled a little in the middle, but when Heaven’s On Fire kicked in everyone perked up and they didn’t lose our attention for the rest of set.  Duncanson and Martin Carlberg are both really good guitarists (Carlberg picked up his Gibson Bass for a few songs, but played it like a guitar) and Duncanson’s sleepy cool voice is no fake, sounding exactly like it does on record. I had heard reports that they come across as a bit reserved live and had heard some complaints about them being drummer-less, but the sound did the talking and more than made up for any Nordic stoicism the band may have.  A lot of their music is fabricated from electronics on record , so it wasn’t as if they were faking it live.  The opposite in fact, it felt as real as any show I’ve been to in the last year and hearing songs like David, 1995, Heaven’s On Fire and Ewan live was something I thought I’d never have the chance to do as this notoriously reclusive band rarely tour.

mp3: Radio Dept. – The New Improve Hipocracy (from Passive Aggressive)

mp3: Radio Dept. – 1995 (from Lesser Matters)

Buy some Radio Dept. music.

Set List (from memory so it may not be 100%): Freddie and the Trojan Horse | This Time Around | The New Improved Hypocrisy | David | I Wanted You To Feel The Same |The Worst Taste in Music | Messy Enough | Ewan | You Stopped Making Sense | Domestic Scene | Heaven’s On Fire | Never Follow Suit |Closing Scene | Encore: 1995

San Francisco’s Young Prisms opened and were way better than the impression they made on me with their EP on Mexican Summer and their recent album Friends For Now on Kanine.  The came across as confident and competent in the art of shoegaze as well as garage.  On record it sounds like it’s mostly a guy singing but live Stefanie Hodapp is the obvious singer and the band are much better for it.  She reminded me  more than a little like Rachel Goswell from her Slowdive days.  They only played about 30 minutes, but it was more than enough to make me want to give their record another spin.

mp3: Young Prisms – Sugar (from Friends for Now)