Saturday, September 16, 2006

Eric Bachmann w/ Richard Buckner and Richard Buckner w/ Eric Bachmann @ Schubas

In hindsight, I still can’t tell whether it was a good idea for me to spend six and a half hours at Schubas. At least it’s smoke free. At the end, my back and left knee were killing me. But it was definitely worth it. Richard Buckner was about to begin and Chrissy wisely said, “Let’s go right up front.” We were standing about five or six feet away from him. The ensemble consisted of Buckner and Guided by Voices guitarist Doug Gillard. The set was a bit weird in that there was no dead air. Between songs, he would put chords or harmonics or some finger picking into a loop until he grabbed another guitar, tuned it and went immediately into the next song. Consequently, no one knew when a song had ended and nobody gave any applause. Couple that with the fact that he was playing a ton of songs from his new album, and it made for one confused crowd. He did throw us a couple of bones early in the set, playing two from Since (Believer and Goner w/ Souvenir), and one from Devotion & Doubt (A Goodbye Rye). But the rest was mainly from the new album (which I picked up after the show and is excellent, if a bit short).

Eric Bachmann had two talented ladies with him – one on violin and cello, and the other on keys and percussion – both doing an excellent job on backup vocals. They led off with New Drink for the Old Drunk and proceeded to play nearly his entire new solo album. Without question, the pinnacle of the night was Man O War. There’s something amazing about Bachmann’s vocals live. He hits every note the same as on his album, but there’s something more expressive and meaningful when he plays live. It seems like you hear his lyrics better, but I think it’s more likely that he somehow communicates them better, if that makes sense. Like the emotion comes through more clearly. They closed their main set with You Must Build a Fire, and it was completely captivating. Erik and I both commented during the break that when we saw Crooked Fingers play that song at the Abbey Pub, it moved us even though we’d never heard it before. This version may have been even better. I can’t remember which song was the first encore, but they closed with Little Bird (quite possibly my favorite song off the new disc), and it was great. Really tight, moving, beautiful show. At this point, I decided that there is no way I’m missing any upcoming Erich Bachmann shows (no matter who he’s playing with).

So I immediately put that into effect by sticking around for the second show. Bachmann started late, and again played nearly his entire album. The setlist was very different, starting with Islero (with the violin replacing the mariachi trumpet) and going into Man O War. It didn’t have the same punch as before (when it was in the middle of the set), but that could have been because of my supper of four pints of beer. They did Andalucia again, and it was better than in the first set. Everything else had a bit of an edge off it, but they were still superb. Instead of Build a Fire, they played Sleep All Summer (I would have preferred Coldways, but it was still solid). There were a few other people who were there for both shows, including one obsessive indie guy who seemed a bit off. Of course, he’s standing directly in front of Eric Bachmann, and his cell phone goes off right at the beginning of the second song. He lost all his indie-dork cred in that one moment… They closed with So Long, Savannah which is now another one of my favorites.

This time for Buckner, Brad and I were standing about three and a half feet away from him – right against the stage. If he had opened his eyes at all, it would have felt like he was singing directly to us. His voice has such a presence when he actually sings out. On his older songs, he chooses to mix them up to the point where he almost seems like he’s mumbling. I never realized what a skilled guitarist he is. He and Gillard were remarkably in time with one another. Of all the new songs, the one that stood out the most was Spell (“Now you’re talkin’”). But many of them were excellent and played well live given this setup (no percussion or bass). It’s really hard to comment on the tracks he played since they all ran together and there wasn’t much time to process it all, but again he played some of the old favorites. It seemed like Dents and Shells was avoided completely and like he played maybe just one track from Impasse. Too bad as I think a lot of those songs are excellent. Brad took off at 12:15, and I thought it had to be near the end of the set, but they finally wound things down at 1:00 with Fater (“Leave and travel well”), but not the a capella version – he had all kinds of cool effects behind him. I found this set to be vastly superior to his earlier one, and I was glad I stuck around for both. I really wish I had the new album before the show, but it only came out two days previous.

Sorry this review ended up being a bit long. But it was six and a half hours…

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Band of Horses w/ Chad VanGaalen @ Metro

Chad VanGaalen is certainly a weird dude. He was alotted 45 minutes, but chose to play only 20. He did play my favorite song of his, Echo Train, but I believe that was the only one from Infiniheart. He seemed extremely nervous and self-conscious as he began, but still, 20 minutes is weak. We were wondering if he realized how short his set was. Too bad as I thought he was just picking up.

That left the crowd pretty flat for Band of Horses. We had to wait about 40 minutes for them to take the stage at their appointed time. No idea why they couldn't come on early, but it's one of those mysteries.

Ben Bridwell's scruffy beard and crooked grin compliment his manic jitters and force a resemblance of some kind of muppet on ecstacy. They opened with "Funeral", much to the crowd's appreciation (I wouldn't say delight as they had all been lulled to sleep by Chad's early exit). They then went into "Wicked Gil" and things got snappy immediately. Everyone was into the show from this point on. Bridwell is kind of nuts the way he jitters and flashes his grin during the songs, but it comes across as endearing rather than immature or wild. There was less banter with the crowd than at Pitchfork, but perhaps that was because the crowd was subdued. In the middle of their main set, they played a couple of new ones and another new one towards the end that was way upbeat and totally great. Covers during the set included "Darlin' Darlin'" by David Allen Coe and a slowed-down bluesy version of Showdown by ELO (weird witout the strings, but they pulled it off really well). "Great Salt Lake" appeared late in the set and was more rawkin' than on the album (they opened with a more straightforward version of this at Pitchfork). The main set closed with "I Go to the Barn Because I like The".
Encore kicked off with "Monsters", which is such a super encore track. Then they played a cover which Kyle said very much resembled a Radiohead song, but I'm not sure which one. None of the five of us could place the song they played.

All in all, great show. They claimed to be playing "every song they know how to play," but Chris and I were both disappointed that there was no St. Augustine. It was worth staying up late on a Tuesday for this one!