a wealth of shows

September 23, 2006

I went to three shows in the last week. If I were a different person and didn’t have any responsibilities, I would have gone to at least two more. It has been one of those weeks around here. Sometimes a bunch of touring bands converge on the Chapel Hill area in one week, and there are too many shows to see, and not enough time. And then other times, no one of interest to me comes to play for weeks on end.

Tuesday – M. Ward/Lambchop/Portastatic – at the Cat’s Cradle

I have not ever really been a fan of Portastatic, but I liked their set this time around. It was not rocking at all really and Mac’s singing voice sounded pretty good. I was ill (I am still ill now) and I was determined to drink a lot of beer, and I only had three beers, but that was enough. I had never really heard Lambchop before, and after their set I have decided I need to get ahold of their albums. I was standing close in front of the crowd and was entranced by their slow lovely music. They had a dozen people onstage. M. Ward simply rocked, and I was glad of that. He played my two favorite songs of his (“Four Hours in Washington” and “Poison Cup”) back-to-back early in the set, which suffused me with happiness. The happiness lasted all evening and into the next day, actually. It was a perfect convergence of an evening.

Thursday – Sufjan Stevens – at Memorial Hall, UNC

The venue is lovely (although the air-conditioning vents being directly underneath the seats make for a VERY UNCOMFORTABLE evening), the music was lovely, Sufjan’s chatter between songs was lovely, the night was lovely. But I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the time that I saw him play last year at the Cat’s Cradle. It was not as engaging, which is likely just due to the difference in venues. Also maybe had something to do with the fact that I felt so very, very OLD at this show. I have to say, the kids going to shows don’t bother me at all, it’s just that when I’m surrounded by them at a show, their very presence makes me feel very, very startled. The rendition of “Casimir Pulaski Day” made me want to cry, which is unsurprising, as the song always has that effect on me.

Friday – Beirut – at Duke Coffeehouse in Durham

I’d been wanting to see a show at this venue for a while, and I finally had the chance. It’s a student-run cafe at Duke University that somehow manages to book some good acts every once in a while. I was standing at the back, on a step that gave me a good view of the stage, right next to the soundboard. The people working the soundboard were either too drunk or too incompetent. The band was constantly asking them to fix the mics (with good reason), and the people working the board were talking on their mobile phones or just gazing off into space. It was beyond annoying. But the band! It was great. Seeing the band play gave me a sense that it’s not just one guy’s bedroom project anymore. And they were really tight together and looked like they had a lot of fun. Zach, the frontman, had a fever and he looked like he was feeling pretty awful, he was pale and clammy looking, and I felt pretty bad for him, but he definitely gave it his all, performing really well I though. For their last song the band brought their instruments into the crowd and played in the middle of everyone, and people sang along (not difficult as the crowd didn’t need to know the words…just a bunch of yodeling, for the most part) and I was very excited and happy to see this band bring their music down to such a personal level for the people around them. It really warmed my heart to see all these young “hip” kids in the crowd being drawn into the experience of live music like that, and such a strange sort of music it is, Balkan folk music through an American filter. I have more to say about this but not the words for it. However, the best part of it all for me was their tambourine man, who was channeling Bez, banging the fuck out of two tambourines, dancing around, throwing his arms around people. It was really quite astonishing and incredible. That crashing tambourine sound is so integral to Beirut’s music, and the tambourine guy just did it so perfectly.

(not spell-checking like I usually do…cheers!)

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2 Responses to “a wealth of shows”

  1. robin of rockville Says:

    i am going to get the new m. ward this weekend, i don’t know why i put it off, i think it was because ‘transistor radio’ really disappointed me after something as beautiful as ‘the transfiguration of vincent.’ sufjan is my celeb bf.

  2. Rullsenberg Says:

    Oooh, Lambchop! And live as well. We saw them about 2 years ago and they were incredible. Only 6 on stage then, but KW dominated the stage with his presence even though he was sat on a stool and barely did more than tap his toes occasionally (though he did engage with the audience beautifully).

    I don’t know if they sang it live for you, but when I saw them they did “TheOne” as an encore and THAT was when I truly lost it to Lambchop. Just one of the most incredible and amazing songs ever committed to record.


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