Archive for May, 2009

The Avett Brothers @ The Fillmore. 5.15.09

May 29, 2009

2008 2009You might have faith in their records, but seeing The Avett Brothers live will make you a true believer—and this has less to do with their religious allusions than it does with their almighty energy. My friend and roommate, Orlena Scoville, falls into this burgeoning cult-fan category, having recently tried to coerce me into flying to Portland for a weekend to see them perform there before they (thankfully) added the SF dates to their tour. Upgrading from two nights at Slim’s to The Fillmore in the course of a year, the duo (plus bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon), it seems, is getting its due—and shaking things up a bit. Since last spring the siblings have swapped looks, Seth shaving his latter-day Jim Morrison beard and transferring a pared-down version of it to Scott, only to grow out a mane worthy of Vidal Sasson himself. (Please refer to accompanying photos.) Armed with new styles and a few fresh songs this fateful Friday night, the four stood poised to play. In suits.

Now, sporting old-timey attire would almost seem incongruous for these guys with back-porch personas (you’d expect something a bit less buttoned-up, especially considering how much heat they generate during their performances), but when one thinks of Jude Law’s Cold Mountain clothing, it makes perfect sense for these North Carolina boys to hearken back to the fashion of their home state. Like with their sound, they are taking pieces of the past, integrating them with more modern, unlike elements, and presenting an entirely new product—and, in so doing, paying homage to their roots. If The Avett Brothers were writing a paper, the result would involve less plagiarism than ample researching. Though roots they have many, they have managed to synthesize them into a sound that just can’t be so simply defined.  Nevertheless, Wikipedia will bombard you with terms like “indie roots,” “folk punk,” and “grungegrass” before pointing out that the band eschews such nomenclature, letting the music speak for itself free of the confines of labels. And they were free on Friday night, navigating seamlessly between home-grown bluegrass to folksy ballads to punk-inspired raps, digging deep into their past, pulling out parts of their repertoire I didn’t even know. Intentionally ignoring Emotionalism in favor of older records, Seth (the Avett spokesbrother) repeatedly informed us “this one’s from Mignonette,” “this one’s from The Second Gleam,” etc. Yeah, we get it. You have 10 records. And one more on the way. Lest we forget.

Despite the difference in height, the way Seth and Scott play off each other it’s clear they share something more than agreeable tonality, which is especially fortunate given how much two-part harmonizing they do. Music runs in their blood. As multi-instrumentalists, Scott was equally as comfortable on the drum kit as he was on the bad-ass banjo, and Seth simultaneously strummed his guitar and tapped out time on the hi-hat, which his hips seamlessly incorporated into his dance moves. But it didn’t stop there. Channeling his inner Mozart, Seth tenderly took the keys by storm—most notably in the ending to “Salina,” one of the highlights of the evening augmented by Kwon’s (the Avetts’ own Yo-Yo Ma) graceful cello—following the brothers’ brief but raucous foray into homesickness after life on the road. One look at their wedding bands and you can see why. Ostensibly players with a Southern drawl and a penchant for pretty women, it looks like they may have forsaken their philandering ways for their wives. During an acoustic solo set that set a spell of silence over the audience, Scott sang “Murder in the City,” whose lyrics, contrary to what one might think, stress the importance of family: “Always remember, there is nothing worth sharing / Like the love that let us share our name.”

But make no mistake: these bourbon brothers haven’t conquered all their vices. If they’ve stopped cheating, they haven’t stopped drinking. Scott’s solo was followed by Seth’s ode to (and cautionary tale for) drunk driving, “In the Curve,” in which he admits “I’m loose but my steering wheel’s tight”—but it’s when he confesses “Well my bottle of bourbon is gone / See it flew away all by itself” that the audience really went wild. He got the same impassioned reaction when he implored with a shout, “I’d give up the drinking, just tell me how!” in “Please Pardon Yourself.” But then, like their outfits and a song about killing your girlfriend’s boyfriend (“I Killed Sally’s Lover”), it’s hard to tell if their lyrics are truly autobiographical, or if they’re pulling a Dylan and just writing the words that people want to hear. In the end, I guess it doesn’t really matter, because whatever the case, they do it damn well.

The Outside Lands lineup might not light a candle to last year’s (how is the sum of Pearl Jam, DMB, and The Black-Eyed Peas a fair trade for Radiohead?), but having them there might make it worth your while, if only for one day.  I’ll be bringing my flask.

Veckatimest Out Today

May 26, 2009

VeckatimestThe wait is over, my friends. Named after a small, uninhabited island off the coast of Cape Cod, the much-hyped Grizzly Bear album is out today, May 26.  If you’d like to try before you buy, the band is currently streaming the entire record on their MySpace page. Even the New York Times thought it worth mentioning in the article “Riding the Wave of High Expectations.” And look, it’s already made history on Wikipedia.

SF Concert Calendar

May 21, 2009

JANUARY 2010

Tues, 1.5: The Blank Tapes @ Cafe du Nord.

Wed, 1.13: Builders and the Butchers w/Blue Giant @ Bottom of the Hill.

Thurs, 1.14: Final Fantasy @ Bottom of the Hill.

Wed, 1.20: White Denim @ The Independent and AA Bondy w/Willy Mason @ Cafe du Nord.

Thurs, 1.21: Black Lips @ Great American Music Hall.

Fri & Sat, 1.22 & 1.23: The Devil Makes Three @ The Independent.

Sat, 1.23: Cold War Kids @ The Fillmore.

Tues, 1.26: Phoenix @ The Fillmore.

Wed, 1.27: Horse Feathers @ Bottom of the Hill.

Thurs, 1.28: Bowerbirds @ The Independent.

FEBRUARY 2010

Sat, 2.6: Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons @ Rickshaw Stop.

Wed, 2.24: Foreign Born w/Free Energy @ Rickshaw Stop and Japanese Motors @ Cafe du Nord.

MARCH 2010

Tues, 3.2: El Perro del Mar @ Cafe du Nord.

Tues, 3.9: The Cave Singers w/The Duchess and the Duke & The Moondoggies and The Clientele @ Great American Music Hall.

Fri, 3.12: You Say Party! We Say Die! @ Bottom of the Hill.

APRIL 2010

Wed, 4.14: Beach House @ Bimbo’s.

Thurs, 4:15: Miike Snow @ The Independent.

Sat, 4.17: Yeasayer @ The Fillmore.

MAY 2009

Thursday, 5.14: Theresa Andersson @ Swedish Music Hall. $14.

Friday, 5.15 & Saturday, 5.16: The Avett Brothers @ The Fillmore. $25.

Tuesday, 5.19: The Kills @ The Fillmore. $22.50.

Wednesday, 5.20: The Virgins @ Great American Music Hall. $15.

Friday, 5.22: TV on the Radio @ The Fox.

Tuesday, 5.26: Passion Pit @ Bimbo’s.  (sold out)

Tuesday, 5.26: Animal Collective @ The Fox.  (sold out)

Wednesday, 5.27: St. Vincent @ Bimbo’s. $16.

Thursday, 5.28: King Khan & The Shrines @ Great American Music Hall. $15.

Thursday, 5.28 & Friday, 5.29: Jenny Lewis @ The Fillmore. $25.

JUNE 2009

Monday, 6.1 & Tuesday, 6.2: Jens Lekman @ Bottom of the Hill. $15.

Tuesday, 6.2: Cotton Jones @ Cafe du Nord. $10.

Wednesday, 6.3: Little Joy @ The Independent. $15.

Monday, 6.8: Handsome Furs @ Great American Music Hall. $16.

Monday, 6.9: Camera Obscura @ The Fillmore. $21.50.

Tuesday, 6.9: Neko Case @ The Warfield. $27.50. 

Tuesday, 6.9 and Wednesday, 6.10: The Felice Brothers @ The Independent. $16.

Thursday, 6.11: Nikka Costa @ The Independent. $20.

Saturday, 6.13: Bat for Lashes @ Great American Music Hall. $15. (sold out) 

Saturday, 6.13: Jay Reatard @ The Independent.  $15.

Saturday, 6.13: Au Revoir Simone @ Bimbo’s. $16.

Saturday, 6.20: White Rabbits @ The Independent. $12.

Sunday, 6.21: Grizzly Bear @ The Fillmore. $22.50.

Tuesday, 6.23: Starfucker @ Bottom of the Hill. $10.

Thursday, 6.25: Papercuts @ The Independent. $13.

Friday, 6.26: David Byrne @ The Greek. $$$

Saturday, 6.27 & Sunday, 6.28: Wilco @ The Greek. $39.50. 

Tuesday, 6.30: Bill Callahan @ Bimbo’s. $16.

JULY 2009

Wednesday, 7.1: Deer Tick @ The Independent. $12.

Thursday, 7.2: The Moondoggies @ The Rickshaw Stop. $10.

Saturday, 7.11: Wooden Shjips @ Bottom of the Hill. $10.

Tuesday, 7.21: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone @ Bottom of the Hill. $10.

Tuesday, 7.21: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart @ The Rickshaw Stop. $12.

Friday, 7.24: Of Montreal @ The Fox. $27.50.

AUGUST 2009

Saturday, 8.15: The Octopus Project @ Bottom of the Hill. $12.

Chris Pureka @ Slim’s. 4.20.09

May 12, 2009

chrispurekaIt was 4.20 in San Francisco, and this all-female audience was far too busy undressing Chris Pureka with its eyes to celebrate the miracle of marijuana. Can’t say I blame them. Years had passed since the Northampton-hailing folk singer first caught me in her web of deep, emotive vocals, well-penned lyrics, and deft guitar skills—and no, I don’t mean just for a girl. Pureka can play, goddamn it—and her picking patterns prove it. Pulling heavily from “Dryland,” “Driving North,” “Chimera” (her new EP), and a wealth of fresh material intended for the new album, Pureka presented the perfect recipe for heartbreak pie.

Although one can’t help but appreciate the lone guitar that stars on her two full-lengths, for this tour she augmented that stark sound with a pair of highly competent ladies who lent their lungs to harmonies and their hands to the bass and fiddle. Both women engaged in an eerie duel of strings during a tune I assume was titled “Hangman” based on the repeated invocation of the word, and one of the highlights of the night. Stripped to bare bones but full of minor chords, this sinister descent into the depths of the human soul was a song I can’t wait to get my paws on once it’s recorded.

But let’s discuss Pureka’s existing repertoire. While in the spring of 2007 I was forced to archive “Dryland” after I played it like a broken record to get through a breakup (misery loves company, right?), I was recently able to resurrect it sans association with my former lover. Let me tell you, nothing is as indulgently sympathetic to love lost as this album, and seeing Pureka perform a good portion of it provided a sort of closure for me. “31 and Falling” began as it always does on the record, steeped in sadness, timidly reflecting on a relationship that isn’t quite over: “You call again, as if I don’t know what you’re going to say.” But this time it built even more dramatically until culminating in the most majestic crescendo of a chorus you could dream of, made even more spine-tingling with the lush backing harmonies. When the refrain came around for the second time, regret washed like a wave over the room, leaving only sorrow in its wake. From there, Pureka launched right into “Momentary Thief,” my personal favorite, the fiddle expertly executing the deliciously chaotic downward spiral that precedes the chorus.

She sure knew how to cater to her Bay Area fans, closing the set with “Swann’s Song,” bound to be a crowd pleaser with a mention of “the shores of San Francisco town,” along with the song “California.” Both elicited the expected applause, but make no mistake—this crew didn’t come for a laugh. We came to wallow. Which is why when she covered “Wagon Wheel” I didn’t shed tears of joy like I did back when I saw Old Crow perform it back at Bonnaroo 2007. She has mastered the art of melancholy—why mess with it? Although I’ll admit her anecdote about the CVS casino in Reno left us all in stitches, and it was refreshing to learn that as a person she reeked of humility—despite being the most lusted-after woman in the room.

Which brings me to my next point. Although my friend and I were clearly the only straight females in attendance, when she half begged, half remarked “I wish you would stay” during “These Pages,” I kind of hoped she was talking about me. Chris, if you’re reading this, I’d like to offer you a beer and my body next time you’re in town.