Friday, June 17, 2011

Yeasayer (More Like Yeah!! Sayer)

Last night, I again found myself completely blown away by a show at the 9:30 Club. Seriously. While I missed the first of two opening bands - Hush-Hush - I hear it was not all that much to miss (unless you like a lone nerd standing at a computer making digital music about eating pussy).

That's not to say I don't enjoy a good friendly jab at the expense of the fairer sex, as proven by the second opening band, Smith Westerns. These Chicago natives came on right at 9pm, and played a full and fun set. The lead singer, Cullen Omori, looks like he could be Julian Casablancas' younger brother (or evil twin). Young and thin with long, black locks and a shit-kicker attitude, this kid can sing, and his band is obviously down to have a good time (though most of them are underage). They sound something like a mix between early David Bowie (without the flair) and some of the newer surfer rock bands we've been hearing lately (i.e. Cults, Best Coast, The Donkeys). They have a good following mostly due to opening for the likes of Passion Pit and MGMT, and will likely find themselves doing well if they can improve their flow and sing about something other than girls.

I will make note of this favorite moment of the set. Cullen leaned into the microphone and said, "Ok, this one goes out to all the sluts out there!" Too bad for him, marked nonchalance is a game killer for the girls of that ilk, and I doubt any of them got laid (the band or the sluts). Well, except maybe the girl who agreed to make out with her boyfriend at the bar even though he was so drunk he was actually making out with her chin. Get a room!

Anyway, moving on from the children, let's talk about Yeasayer. Holy shit this band is incredible.

The core band, as they are frequently called, consists of vocalist/pianist/music maker Chris Keating, bassist/vocalist Ira Wolf Tuton and guitarist/pianist/vocalist Anand Wilder. These Brooklyn folk are an unbelievably tight band, who can not only belt out tunes so heartfelt you could cry, but also so fun that you really want to dance. And I don't dance in public very often. Seeing this band perform reminded me of a line I read in a review on We Love DC regarding the Beirut show.

Columnist Brittany wrote,

"As much fun as it is to see a great band that just learned to play their instruments play like they are flinging every last bit of themselves out onto the floor, it is a pleasant contrast to see a band like Beirut who take a more elegant, measured approach while still seeming engaged and with great presence on stage."

The same can most definitely be said about Yeasayer. Their calculated approach to making amazing music is greatly appreciated and refreshing. So much in fact, that when I emerged form the show and found myself caught in a serious down pour, I hopped right on my bike and pedaled home in the rain laughing and smiling (I may or may not have hollered a bit too).

Yeasayer played everything I wanted to hear, and threw in some new tunes that seem to be a little less Electronica heavy, and a lot more Pop (in a good way). Hits off All Hour Cymbals like "2080" and "Sunrise" were absolute crowd-pleasers, though my favorite was the closer "Ambling Amps". Hearing the live versions of songs off Odd Blood such as "Madder Red" were well received and helped solidify the rather mixed audience of old and new fans. My friend R.J. took one look around from our perch on the top level of the 9:30 Club and determined that Yeasayer draws a hot crowd. It helps that Chris Keating is really cute too.

Now that I've seen them live, I must admit I can't stop listening to them today, and if given the chance, I would really like to see them again. Maybe next time I can catch them on their home turf of Brooklyn. I bet it brings out the best in them all.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Cults Sure Like Their Long Flowing Locks

Ever wary of a show at the Rock and Roll Hotel, I came into the Cults show with the sneaky suspicion that it would be packed with underage creeps. What I was not prepared for was the opening band's oozing concert fog filling the crowded space. It did not give me the ethereal feeling it was likely supposed to evoke, in fact it kind of pissed me off. That stuff burns your eyes, man! Especially if they are particularly dry from other activities of the evening (wink).

That aside, when Cults finally hit the stage, I was glad I made the trek over to H Street. This young duo (backed by several other youngsters) comprised of Brian Oblivion (great name!) and Madeline Follin are seriously talented. They sound like they just popped off an Austin Powers movie set, like we are supposed to believe we are in the 60's enjoying catchy dance party guitar riffs all the while knowing the lyrics suggest a more modern world view.

They played almost all of their recently released hit album "Cults", winning the young crowd over with their fun and laid back style. Brian Oblivion has a rare talent that allows him to both lead the band on guitar and vocals, yet manage to slip into the background and sing seamless duos with Follin. It probably helps that their obvious chemistry onstage is based on their real relationship off stage. I know, how annoying... actually, only because it trickles of stage and standing next to a ridiculously drunk couple who thought swing dancing in the middle of a sold out crowd would be cute.

P.S. It is not. Someone else's hair on me is gross. And not only does the band have a lot of hair (see below), but the drunk dancing chick's blonde locks whipped me more than I would like to admit.

 But other than a few elbows and a lot, and I mean a lot, of long flowing hair, Cults is a band I expect good things to come from in the future. For now, add them to your party mix and play when you have friends over, it'll make everybody happy.


Things were frantic when I approached the desk to pick up my ticket for Beirut at the Black Cat. Several employees crowded around talking loudly, a girl stood near tears because she had bought a bad ticket from a scammer and couldn't get into the show, and some drunk dude was yelling. I had already had a pretty crummy day (only slightly improved by a hug and a shot of Jameson from my friend Matthew), so I really was just trying to move it along.

When I finally got up to retrieve my ticket it turned out I had bought two. Oops. With the show starting within the next 15 minutes, and no one around to call and join me, I said fuck it, and handed the extra ticket to the sad, ripped off girl. Sometimes, it's just best to pay it forward.

With the load of the day slowly lifting, I found my way to the bar, found some friends and headed into the belly of the crowd. We had a great spot, four or five rows back stage left, and could see most everybody. There were four microphones stationed in a row up front, a drum kit in the middle, and a stand-up bass sitting aloof and alone. The band clamored on stage just after 10pm and took their places in front of the microphones, with lead singer Zach Condon front and center. To the left was the bass player, and a 70's porn-star-look-alike playing the Accordion. To the right were two brass musicians who seamless transitioned from song to song playing a Trombone, Tuba, Trumpet and a French Horn.  If I knew more about these instruments, I might even suggest there was a Flugelhorn too!

Zach took lead vocals and mostly stuck to playing the Ukulele, though he also he also played several of these brass instruments throughout the show. They played a full and lovely set, complete with standard hits like "A Sunday Smile" and my favorite, "Postcards from Italy" (see below). Truthfully, it is hard to keep track of all the titles as often the songs blend together. This doesn't mean Beirut doesn't perform well live, they are a beautiful band (well, not in looks), and the Accordion adds a certain old world French feel to it all. Check out the video below and you'll see what I mean.