100Bands

100Bands – Herman Düne #1

Herman_Dune_Live

It’s a new year and time for a new challenge and putting the old 100 Bands challenge to rest. I didn’t exactly fail at seeing 100 bands, in fact I saw more than 100 bands, I just neglected to review 65% of the shows I saw which just so happened to be a crucial part of the challenge. Being a fan and not a blogger during concerts proved to be far more enjoyable and I got burnt out on writing in the middle of the year and never quite recovered. At the end of 2011, I wrote this to Lydia:

I saw 72 concerts, went to 3 music festivals, and totaled 182 sets (~130 different bands). Despite all that, I’ve only seen 2 of my favorite albums from 2011 live. Obviously I need to go to more concerts and keep better track of them next year.
So here we are in a new year with plenty of concerts ahead and an odd desire to try out this 100 Bands Challenge yet again. With that in mind, and knowing that it is possible for one person to see over 100 bands in a year, I’m changing the format. This year I’ll count upwards instead of counting down to some grand elusive total (hopefully over 100) and I’m ditching the format and giving a more traditional review. Here goes the first one of 2012. Enjoy.
I knew of Herman Dune, a paris based band, from living in Switzerland when music from the 2009 album, Next Year in Zion, was all over the radio. Specifically the dark americana type song “My Home is Nowhere Without You” with very fitting instrumentation. I never saw him live in Switzerland because his shows were always sold out. I was a little surprised and rather excited to get the chance to see this band in Boston at the tiny and newly renovated venue, T.T. The Bear’s Place. I was impressed with the turnout on a tuesday night and not at all surprised when lead man, who goes by the name of Yaya, took the stage looking every bit like the Swiss radio chart topper I expected him to be with his bandana tied around his forehead and oddly not quite fitted jeans.

 

 

Herman Dune is technically a duo of drummer and guitarist, but tours with the addition of a bass player. After breaking away from a former record label they started their own, Strange Moosic, after which their latest 2011 album is named and released under. Luckily for fans of their quirkiness, overly descriptive lyrics, and upbeat indie folk rock style none of that changed. Although the recorded songs that are laced with a brass section seemed more down trodden without those sections. Herman Dune’s songs are immediately likeable, if clean and easy to listen to folk pop is something you enjoy. They are songs that tell their own stories, very much in the way Jonathan Richman songs do,  and at times elicited slight chuckles from the swaying crowd.
 The show transitioned smoothly from one song to the next and included what I’d consider to be his most popular songs like “Ah Hear Strange Moosic”, “Lay your head on my chest”, “Tell Me Something”, and “Afternoon Dance Party”. Having taken a month long hiatus from live music (my longest in 20 months), this was the perfect way back in.
The first chords played when Herman Dune took the stage grabbed all of my heart strings in a tight fist and pulled me into the music. This had more to do with feeling the rush one gets from hearing a band play your favorite song, than the actual song itself. Man, I missed getting that feeling. I’m happy to be back in the concert going groove. It was nice to have started with such an easy going and enjoyable concert that doesn’t give you the chance to think about anything but the music unfolding in front of you like a story book.

 

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Live: Jeffrey Foucault (100 Bands Review #73)

jeffrey_foucault_10

What’s Left: 8 days. 27 Bands.

Who: Jeffrey Foucault

When/Where: July 27th, Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA

Expectations: Quiet nights with acoustic folk don’t happen too often, but when they do it’s usually because I’m seeing someone I’ve been a fan of for a long time, as was the case when I went to see Jeffrey Foucault.

Concert: It wasn’t that long ago that I saw this concert, but there’s only one song I really remember. There’s a few details I can recall like his lovely wife a great musician as well, Kris Delmhorst, joining him on cello for a few songs. I remember Foucault seeming a bit shy as he started a story but then eased up with the gentle laughter of the audience. He played 4&20 blues and an unrecorded song, Hurricane Land (possibly?) that was downright gorgeous, I wish I had it now after this weekend. But those are just details, what I really remember is the solitary tear that I let roll down my cheek when he played “Mesa, Arizona”.

The song meant a lot to me–more to me than I could sum up here–and was blown away by how much it still means to me. My eyes got misty as Foucault was tuning his guitar and I realized what was coming. The people around me nudged their significant other’s to tell them this was “the one I really like”.  When I heard it, I saw a four year long relationship play from the awkward beginning to the fizzling out end, even though it ended three years ago and I’ve long since moved on, the song and that relationship are eternally interlocked in a way that can never be undone. The song largely reminds me of a time I was carelessly happy and swimming through the depths of a love I thought would last past the confines of college. I once got a phone call from the boyfriend in California when I was in Denver and we decided at 2am on a tuesday to drive 7 hours to a half way meeting point in Utah. I cut days of classes to do this without even hesitating, and yeah I played this song at least twenty times on the drive. But that’s just one memory of many this song has soundtracked for me, and for the ‘we’ that no longer exists. It’s not that I miss the relationship, but rather more than anything I miss the person I was when I was in love.  I felt all of this so intensely during the song that I didn’t realize the tear until it reached my chin, the lyrics “I know when I know nothing, I’ll always know your name” echoing in my head. I was lost inside a memory encapsulated in a song and it’s stunning how powerful music can be.

When you see Foucault play this song he closes his eyes and sings with such emotion you wonder what memory he’s thinking of. I couldn’t have asked for anything more that night.

Afterglow: (speechless) I biked home and took at least five wrong turns because I was still thinking about the concert.

Recommendation: I love indie rock, and when there are seven musicians on stage, and weird effects being used, really I love it all dearly, but what moves me the most and often catches me off guard is a voice and an acoustic guitar. I don’t know if this is a universal thing, but you should give it a shot. Especially if it’s Jeffrey Foucault who constantly turns out wonderful albums.

Jeffrey Foucault – “Mesa, Arizona”

MP3: Jeffrey Foucault – Albuquerque (Neil Young Cover)

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Live: Dastardly (100Bands Review #72)

dastardly

What’s Left: 9 Days. 28 Bands.

Band #72: Dastardly

When/Where: June 16th, The Milk Way, Jamaica Plain, MA

Expectations: I had only been listening to Dastardly for about a week but something about it made me think Dastardly put on a crazy show. Then I read their hysterical tumblr posts, including the one about how they got banned from a venue, I knew I had to go.

Concert: My Dastardly experience started with meeting the band and being offered their whiskey from a brown bag. I could and probably should leave the review at that and implore that you go see them. Instead I’ll tell you how this was the first time in a long time I saw the accordion used to it’s capacity. Instead of just playing chords on the keys, like many bands do, Sarah Morgan skillfully used the bass buttons as well. This isn’t the type of band that would use indie gimmicks just for a certain aesthetic appeal, the songs were written with the accordion in mind and in all cases works incredibly well. There’s more to the band than the accordion and they work as a close knit band should, all shining in the right moments. I just happen to be an accordion nerd with a hazy memory. The band let loose with an unapologetic energy keeping the people packed into the small room captivated throughout the show.

Concert Afterglow: I definitely considered driving to see them at their next show in Rhode Island. I think they win the “every night on tour is an epic party” award.

Recommendation: Based on their tumblr you never know what antics they’ll get up to. Based on my experience however, it’s the type of show where you might over imbibe and simply remember having an incredible time, but the details might be fuzzy.

MP3: Dastardly – Middleground


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Live: Delta Rae (100Bands #71)

Delta Rae

What’s Left: 9 days. 29 bands.

Band #71: Delta Rae

When/Where: August 26, Casbah, Durham, NC

Expectations: The last time I saw Delta Rae live, I had mixed feelings about the band. I thought that they were definitely a very talented bunch, but they were a bit too cheery for me. Their music might have been a little bit too Southern and kind for me, too. Since then, though, I have heard some of their new releases and have been incredibly impressed with the direction they’ve gone in.

Concert: Despite Hurricane Irene’s upcoming trip to the neighborhood, a large crowd made the trek to Casbah to see local band Delta Rae perform. It always impresses me to see the multiple demographic groups that Delta Rae can pull together for a show – the audience ranged from freshmen college students to a flock of post-grads and all the way up to retired folk who chose to spend an evening with their spouses in the presence of some ground-rattling music from Delta Rae.

Delta Rae includes four band members – the front four, Eric Holljes, Ian Holljes, Brittany Holljes, and Liz Hopkins, are all singers, while the back two, Mike McKee and Grant Emerson, provide support on the bass and the drums. They started off the night with an opening song that set the stage for how the rest of the night would continue – all four singers grouped together at the front of the stage and each sang a solo section of the song, as if they were going down the line showing off their incredibly powerful voices and beautiful harmonizing skills.

Throughout the night, Delta Rae played a large collection of songs. It seems to me as if they’ve grown into themselves a bit. Perhaps they once were striving to draw too grandiose of a picture, but if so, they have figured out how to fill those shoes with their wider range of songs, ability to get the crowd clapping, swaying, and dancing, and more energetic movements and actions on stage. One highlight of the night came when they performed their original Gospel song called “Bottom of the River,” during which they proved that despite their majority fair-skinned appearance, they embody the soul, power, and heart of a full choral group with a sound that can  fill an entire church with the echoes of the Gospel. The acapella tune and the beautiful foot stomping and hand clapping made it feel as though Casbah itself had been transformed into a house of worship.

The band played a new song called “Surrounded,” which is repurposed from brothers Ian and Eric’s old band, Running Lights, and is a personal favorite of mine. They also played “Morning Comes,” “If I Loved You,” “Country House,” “Right Before My Eyes,” “Memphis,” “Holding on to Good,” “Rain Down On Me,” “Darling If,” among others. They created a very personal atmosphere by introducing the majority of their songs with the story behind the song or what inspired the lyrics.

I noticed this evening that Delta Rae has found a perfect algorithm to songwriting. Between gripping lyrics to grand choruses, acoustic bridges, solo vocal sections, intricate piano overtones, heavy electric guitar sections, harmonies, foot stomps, hand claps…they’ve got a whole cannon of tricks and talents, and they somehow manage to blend all of these styles together to create beautiful songs that represent what music was created to be: catchy, heartfelt, and emotional. Add to that the raw power and emotion in their live show and you’ve got a band that has just nailed the equation for a successful performance.

Delta Rae proved something to me tonight that until now I wasn’t sure they had in them. They showed me that they are some of the better songwriters I’ve seen in my time, and that they will leave a lasting mark on the music of our generation with their ability to blend historic Southern soul and gospel music with a modern twist of folk, pop, indie rock, and even some heavier rock influences. I learned tonight that Delta Rae is more than just a band; it’s a movement.

Concert Afterglow: This was an incredibly entertaining show. I’ll have “Darling If” stuck in my head for days, and I am not upset about it. I’m absolutely blown away by the strides this band has made since the last time I saw them live, and I’ll be itching to see them again live on a bigger stage soon.

Recommendation: I will go ahead and say that it wont be long before Delta Rae will be playing on very large stages in front of enormous audiences. No doubt about it, they’ll turn that into a beautiful act, but I urge you to go see them in a small setting while you can. It’s truly a wonderful and intimate experience.

MP3: “Darling If” – Delta Rae

“Surrounded” – Running Lights (performed this evening by Delta Rae)

Footage from the show: (apologies for shakiness)

 


 

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Live: The Barr Brothers (100Band Review #70)

Barr Brothers

What’s Left: 25 days, 30 bands

Who: The Barr Brothers

When/Where: April 12th, T.T.’s, Cambridge, MA

Expectations: I was supposed to see Wye Oak this night, but there was a problem with tickets. I went to the concert venue next door instead, with no idea of what or even who to expect.

Concert: After watching the talented Barr Brothers , I can say with the utmost certainty that this Montreal based band is one you should know about. They were responsible for the bulk of the crowd that showed despite Torquil Campbell (of Stars) and his new side project band Memphis headlining. The Barr Brothers started off the evening playing this song in the most attention grabbing way.  Brad Barr threaded a string around his guitar string so that when he pulled on it, it appeared as though he was flossing his guitar. This created an effect that elongated the notes and probably lots of other stuff that I don’t know about. He also took a tape player and played a little bit of a talking track and then would rewind it and looped the resulting noise. There was a lot going on and it entranced the crowd right away. (For better understanding watch this live video of the song here.)

 

Other highlights included a call and answer section between the guitar and harp player, which isn’t exactly something you see every day. When they played “Sarah Through the Walls” the audience was regaled with the story behind the song. It goes something like this: Sarah Page is the harp player for the band and lived next to The Barr Brothers in Montreal. For months Brad heard her practicing through the walls and found one song especially beautiful. He got up the courage to knock on her door and play his version of the song on his guitar. This was met with a look of confusion and Sarah said she’d never heard the song before. A few awkward laughs later and they became friends and later band mates and this gorgeous song came out of it. It’s a sweet story and one of the few I’ve remembered from the concerts I’ve seen. It’s stuck with me all these months just as their music has.

 

Concert Afterglow: Absolutely one of the most endearing concerts I’ve seen. I want to be their friends.

 

Recommendation: This is a delayed review, so I can say that four months later this concert has made a memorable impression, you need to see them. They are going on tour in support of their debut album being re-released by Secret City Records but mainly in eastern Canada. If you can’t see them you should at least attach yourself to the gorgeous “Beggar in the Morning”.

 

 

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Live: Joe Purdy (100 Band Review #69)

Joe-Purdy-Piano

What’s Left: 26 days, 31 bands

Who: Joe Purdy

When/Where: June 21, Brighton Music Hall, Allston, MA

Expectations: I’ve been steadfastly obsessed with a good portion of Joe Purdy songs for years, yet I have never seen him live. Of course my expectations were through the roof, probably more so than for any other band I’ve seen so far in the 100 band challenge.

Concert: The stage crew set up for Joe Purdy’s set and put down a set list right in front of me. A large portion was from his latest album, The American, released last summer, and a few of the old standbys like “Ball Player” and “Can’t Get it Right”, but luckily Purdy was prepared with more than a few surprises.

He took the stage by himself for the opening verses of “Pioneer”, his foot stomps in place of the drums and was joined by the talented Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale half way through. Purdy surprised us by playing “Four Seasons” and “Canyon Joe” in the middle of his set to break up the playing extensively from his latest album. He appeared perfectly at ease on stage to the point where he looked confidently committed to living the life of a troubadour more than anyone I’ve seen in recent memory.

The encore felt like he would never stop playing all of the requests from the audience. He’d hear someone shout out a title, nod his head in agreement, and launch into whatever suited him best. He played three songs solo during the encore including “You Can Tell Georgia”, “I Love the Rain the Most”, and “Green Eyes Crying”. For the last song he started playing “Ode to the Sad Clown” which finished the concert just the way he started with the two young guys coming out from back stage, joining him half way through as the crowd sang along to the chorus “I’m gonna fill this whiskey cup / I’m gonna pick this banjo up / I’m gonna play with the tragedies/ singing good time harmonies” and stompped their feet and clapped along. The crowd was buzzing with ecstatic excitement as they heard their favorite songs played, which only made me wish the entire concert had been like that.

Afterglow: Even though it dragged a bit at times it was worth it to stay for the end.

Recommendation: If you’re feeling folky, or want to take your girl to hear some swoon worthy tunes, I’d suggest this one. Of course if you’re a Joe Purdy fan I’d say you should see him too, but just like any other artist with an extensive discography, there’s a high chance you won’t hear your favorite songs, so be prepared.

MP3: Joe Purdy – Highways

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Live: Bon Iver (100Bands Review #67)

Bon Iver

What’s Left: 37 Days. 33 Bands.

Band #67: Bon Iver

Expectations: Over the past couple of years, Bon Iver has earned a position in my list of favorite artists of all time. That being said, I think it’s fair to say that my expectations were very high. However, I have heard complaints that Justin Vernon’s voice isn’t nearly as great to hear live, so I was interested to see if that was true.

Concert: The second that Justin Vernon and his eight (yes, eight) bandmates stepped onto the stage, I knew I was in for a treat. Bon Iver featured everything from multiple guitar players to a keys player to a traditional drummer to a standing drummer to a baritone sax player, violinists and more. For a music lover, this was a dream come true. If I remember correctly, he opened his set with “Perth,” which is the opener on his new album. Throughout the night, he mostly sang songs from Bon Iver, his new album, but was sure to perform keepers from For Emma, Forever Ago, including “re: Stacks” and closing the entire night with “Skinny Love.” As he tends to do, he performed a cover in the middle of his performance, this time choosing a Bjork song. It’s incredible to see how wonderfully a man can emulate an incredible female singer’s music.

In response to those who say that Justin Vernon doesn’t perform well live and that he only sounds good when he’s looped over and over again using professional studio equipment, I challenge them to go see Bon Iver live. Sure, there are times when it isn’t quite what it sounds like on record, but that’s only human. As a whole, his live set is stunning…breathtaking, even. He hit high notes at times and covered low notes at others. Though I love his falsetto, I must say that I was swept off my feet when “Hinnom” was played and Justin sang the low notes. It was, quite simply, beautiful.  Beyond his singing, it’s easy to tell that Justin pours his heart into every song he creates and every performance he gives. Stepping back from the microphone at times to play the guitar with all of his might was just one of the ways that Justin Vernon showed his emotion on stage through his music.

The artfulness of the performance was one of my favorite aspects of the show. Between using one of his bandmates as a beatboxer for the Bjork cover, stepping back and allowing his compatriots on stage to take the spotlight in their solo moments, and sitting down for an acoustic solo performance during his encore, Justin emitted a sense of artistry rather than trying to shine in the limelight. There was a beautiful moment during the closer (“Skinny Love”) when Justin was seated on a stool playing guitar and singing and his bandmates gathered around him, stomping and clapping to the beat. The atmosphere seemed triumphant, as though his friends were gathering around him and cheering him on, which, in contrast to the sad nature of the song, seemed a beautiful marriage.

It was easy to tell that Justin Vernon and his band, Bon Iver, have come a long way. Everything from a completely stunned crowd to the great light show on stage signified success for such a talented musician. It was so great to see Vernon back in Raleigh once again, after leaving here years ago heartbroken and at what may have been rock bottom, yet this time able to prove to the locals that he is truly an influential musician of our time whose name will long color the minds of indie music lovers. Justin Vernon’s euphoric return as Bon Iver brought with it a night that I will not soon forget.

Concert Afterglow: As I tweeted earlier today, it seems fitting to sum up this Bon Iver concert with two words: Aural Sex.

Recommendations: Well shoot, if this review doesn’t convince you that a somewhat pricier ticket is worth your money, I’m not sure you and I are on the same page. I HIGHLY recommend seeing Bon Iver live.

MP3: “Calgary” – Bon Iver

PS: I apologize for the lack of concert photography. I was seated on the lawn in the back of the amphitheater.

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Live: The Rosebuds (100Bands #66)

The Rosebuds

What’s Left: 37 Days. 34 Bands. (Yikes.)

Band #66: The Rosebuds

When/Where: July 29, Raleigh Amphitheater, Raleigh, NC

Expectations: The Rosebuds put out a killer album this year – and being that they’re a local band, their show should attract sufficient attention from the fans. Should be a good time.

Concert: As much as I dig The Rosebuds’ music, I came to see Bon Iver. This was just an added benefit as an opener. To be honest, though, when The Rosebuds started playing, I hadn’t really settled in to the environment yet. I was still focused on the blistering heat, the great company at my side, and the fact that Bon Iver was on his way to the stage before too long. That being said, they did put on an entertaining show, flooding the large stage with a sound true to their genre: reverb-filled at times, drowned out at others. They played a strong collection of songs, but their set felt rather short. Given that this show was held at Raleigh Amphitheater, who apparently has to be very timely due to city ordinances regarding sound levels, perhaps they weren’t given much time to perform.

I will say, the one thing that struck me as odd about The Rosebuds is the central focus on female member Kelly, who tends to be a backup vocalist and primarily a keys player. The main singer is Ivan, who was tucked away on the left side of the stage and taken out of the spotlight. It seemed bizarre to me, and maybe it’s because it struck me that they might be forcing the whole “female in a male band” image. Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but something about it irked me.

What I did love is how genuine The Rosebuds seemed when they said they were so excited to be playing and particularly for their fans in their hometown of Raleigh. It’s always great to see a local band doing so well.

Concert Afterglow: Frankly, the afterglow was short, as I was anxious to see Bon Iver perform.

Recommendation: The Rosebuds deserve their own attention. It’s an honor but also a challenge to open for somebody as popular as Bon Iver, because you will always be in the shadows, but at the same time it’s certainly a way to gain fans. I suggest seeing The Rosebuds in a more intimate setting than I was granted, and that could truly be a special experience.

MP3: “Nice Fox” – The Rosebuds

PS: Sorry I wasn’t able to capture my own photography. I was seated in the lawn in the very back, which was actually quite a pleasant change of pace!

 

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Live: Tristen (100Bands #65)

Tristen

What’s Left: 59 Days. 36 Bands.

Band #65: Tristen

When/Where: June 22nd, Local 506, Chapel Hill, NC

Expectations: I didn’t even know the main band, I definitely don’t know these guys.

Concert: I made my way to Local 506 for the first time, and arrived just as Tristen Gaspadarek picked up her ukulele and promised to “make it sparkle” for us. As a stranger to Tristen’s music, at first glance I expected her to be a folk singer, however, Tristen’s music turned out to be much more indie-pop, or maybe as she describes it: “neo-traditionalist pop.”

Before every song, Tristen starts up her handy-dandy drum machine which supplies each song with a simple beat behind her undeniably powerful vocals. Add in some live instrumentals and Tristen and her “band” orchestrate these wonderful pieces of music that (if I had known the words) are lovely to sing along to. During her performance, I imagined myself listening to her while riding around in the car, folding laundry, or writing a paper; her music is easy on the ears, and there’s something truly organic and therapeutic about her sound.

Besides wanting to listen to Tristen on a 24/7 loop, she’s one of those acts that makes me want to be her best friend as well. In addition to engaging the crowd during her songs, she was able to entertain us with quick one liners between tunes. Her matter-of-fact sense of humor kept the audience hanging on to her every word, “This song is about babies on drugs. It’s called baby drugs.” After her set, I even got a chance to chat her up by the merchandise, and she’s as nice as she seems on stage. Tristen is an all around lovable artist.

Concert Afterglow: I wish I was in a band like Tristen’s. Just kidding, what I really wish is that I had one of those drum machines to follow me around while I walk down the street.

Recommendation: If Tristen ever makes her way out to LA, I’ll probably try to see her again. In addition to an amazing pair of lungs, she’s super friendly and funny. I’d definitely recommend buying a CD (she even has vinyl!) or seeing a show.

Written by Ambrielle (Blog | Twitter).

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Live: David Bazan (100Bands #64)

David Bazan

What’s Left: 71 Days. 36 Bands.

Band #64: David Bazan

When/Where: June 25th, Local 506, Chapel Hill, NC

Expectations: I haven’t been a huge David Bazan fan for that long, but recently I’ve found myself attached to his music. I heard from a friend that he puts on an excellent show, so I guess you can say my expectations were high.

Concert: The venue was packed full of people who came out to see David Bazan late on a Saturday night. As soon as I saw Bazan and crew completely wiping the stage free of others’ gear, I knew I was in for a treat. They set up the stage from scratch with their electronic material, leading me to believe that the sound quality of this show was going to be tip top. Sure enough, it was. From the get-go, David Bazan sent out a vibe of being an upbeat but professional performer, mixing jokes with a true sense of concern for the way his performance sounded to the crowd. If there was an audio glitch, he was sure to get it fixed before continuing on with the set. As a fan of quality music, this was very much appreciated.

David Bazan performs in a way that conveys a sense of deep emotion rooted in his music. He does this move on stage, starting with a little wiggle in his feet, moving upward through his legs, into his torso, and finally into his head and arms, as if sending shock waves throughout his entire body. Finally the movement lands on his guitar, resulting in a frill and a shake that creates a sound that echoes throughout the room, bouncing from wall to wall. His act of carrying this out in important moments throughout the entire set was not only fun to watch, but was an impressive display of stamina.

Needless to say, the visual performance was entertaining, which went perfectly with Bazan’s sense of humor. Throughout the show, perhaps because we happened to be a very quiet crowd, David Bazan kept asking if we had any questions at that point in the show. People were yelling out random questions from all corners of the room, which were answered in a manner of wit and satire. We were informed of factual things such as his love of The White Album, his fair mood on that night, his satisfaction with two kids and not wanting any more. The real kick came, though, when somebody asked the question, ‘What do you look for in a man?’ Bazan handled this question perfectly. He stood still for a moment, as if thinking, and said wittily, ‘Well…hm. I..uh…see, the question was vague. Are you talking about trying to fuck, or just, you know, trying to be bros? [Pause] Tiny penis. If the man’s trying to fuck me. Small as possible. That’s all.’ He continued playing, but opened the floor up for questions again later in the show. Every time, he entertained the crowd with his sense of humor.

So what about the music? I tell you, it was flawless. Bazan’s voice is so effortlessly breathtaking and unexpected. When he speaks, it’s a bit raspy, but when he opens up his vocal chords to sing, he releases a beautiful noise that delivers his lyrics perfectly. I wondered if he’d sound as good in person as he does on record, and sure enough, he does. His voice is flawless. You could also sense the emotion in some of his songs, as it’s known to any David Bazan fans that he writes about issues that he battles with in life. He has opened up to the public about his song “Virginia,” saying that he wrote it about a male friend who died. In an effort to avoid any exploitation of his death and offending his friend’s family, he decided to indirectly reference the story by inserting a nickname for his friend. When Bazan performed “Virginia,” his eyes were closed the entire time, as if it was a cloak that could hide his emotions. At intense moments in this song, he squeezed his eyes shut even tighter. For some reason I’m not quite sure how to pinpoint, it was truly beautiful.

It’s clear that David Bazan expresses truth and raw emotions in all of his songs. What’s fascinating is that he remains so ordinary to the eye – standing on stage in blue jeans, New Balance sneakers, and a solid t-shirt, it’s as if David Bazan is just your buddy from down the street standing on a stage performing to his friends. Once the show gets going, though, it’s obvious that David Bazan is one of the better songwriters of our era, who should, in actuality, be performing on stages and in front of crowds much larger than the one at Local 506. It makes me feel all the more lucky for having a front row spot. David Bazan is truly a gifted man with his talents and his willingness to share them with the world.

Concert Afterglow: The whole thing, honestly, counts as an afterglow. I guess the realness of the whole show was what stood out the most. His ability to open up to us about issues both silly and real, through song and joke. But also the ability to see such a talented musician perform a mere four feet away from my face – it’s just incredible.

Recommendation: David Bazan’s performance was one of the best I’ve seen in this year of trying to review 100 shows. If he is coming to your area, you must see his show. If he’s not coming to your area, do your best to go find him elsewhere.

MP3: “Wont Let Go” – David Bazan (opened the set with this song)

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Live: Centro-Matic (100Bands #63)

Centro-Matic

What’s Left: 71 Days. 37 Bands.

Band #63: Centro-Matic

When/Where: June 25th, Local 506, Chapel Hill, NC

Expectations: Similar to Sarah Jaffe, don’t know much of Centro-Matic’s music, but the little that I’ve heard seems good.

Concert: Centro-Matic kicked off their set with a beautiful opening piece, which I unfortunately do not know the name of. The highlight of it, though, came when lead singer Will Johnson, after spending the whole song against the mic, took a step back and belted out the lyrics in natural space, but still loud enough for the whole room to hear it. It was a powerful way of proving the strength of his vocal chords.

Centro-Matic brought to the stage a guitar, bass, drums, keys, and a fiddle. The harmonization by the keys player, who also played the guitar at times, was one of my favorite aspects of their sound. The band looked like they were having a great time – rocking out in songs that called for it, while emotionally singing the hell out of other songs that were slower and deeper. During their last song, I caught an exchange of smiles between the lead singer and his backup harmonizer – it summed up the atmosphere on stage perfectly.

Concert Afterglow: The power of Will Johnson’s voice is what I will take away from this show.

Recommendation: I’m not sure I’ll be seeing another show by Centro-Matic again soon, as I’m not sure their act will be much different than the one I saw last night, but I’m glad I saw this one. The energy from frontman Will Johnson, who is also a member of Monsters of Folk, is contagious.

Song: “Twenty-Four” – Centro-Matic (MP3)

 

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Live: Sarah Jaffe (100Bands #62)

Sarah Jaffe at Local 506

What’s Left: 71 Days. 38 Bands.

Band #62: Sarah Jaffe

When/Where: June 25th, Local 506, Chapel Hill, NC

Expectations: I really know very little about Sarah Jaffe. I listened to a bit of her music, though, and am digging her acoustic sound.

Concert: I arrived to the show a little bit late, so I only caught what I assume was the second half of Sarah Jaffe’s set. I walked in to a pretty full room full of silent onlookers. At first thought, I figured it these people were just watching, not too into the set. Upon settling in at my front row spot, though, I realized that these “silent onlookers” were actually taking in Sarah’s music and the low level of noise was rather respectful. Sarah commented on it herself, noting in her hoarse-sounding voice that she was very appreciative of the quiet crowd; she loves what she does and it’s nice once in a while to have a crowd who quietly listens.

The concert was a peaceful one; the drums were played rather softly, which accentuated the strength of Sarah’s voice. The serenity of the music let me focus my attention on Sarah’s lyrics, which were breathtaking. When she played her song called “Even Born Again,” a tune with lyrics so moving I felt myself placed into in the story, Sarah powerfully sang the entire song with her eyes shut, until she opened her eyes to the crowd for the line “I would gladly die for you.” It was as though she knew that every single one of us was imagining ourselves in this song – opening her eyes at that point made it incredibly personal and even more believable. It’s clear that Sarah Jaffe puts her heart into every single word she writes.

Sarah Jaffe puts on a very intimate show. Quick to thank the audience for this opportunity, she also let out a heartfelt thank you to both Centro-Matic and David Bazan for inviting her to be the first opener. For her last song, she invited the audience to sing along with her, which always ignites a moving experience – the crowd was accepting of the offer, but handled it gently. Our singing wasn’t loud enough to overpower hers, and it still allowed me to hear the soft picking of the electric guitar. It was, put quite simply, a beautiful experience.

Concert Afterglow: I was moved by the power of Sarah Jaffe’s words and physical performance. What a pleasant surprise of an opening act.

Recommendation: I don’t quite see Sarah Jaffe hitting the big stages quite yet, but if you’re looking for a quiet and moving show, she is certainly an act to catch.

Song: “Even Born Again” – Sarah Jaffe

 

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