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Alt-J Danny Brown Deep Sea Diver Gorge Amphitheater Grimes Killer Mike Live Show Review Menomena O.C. Notes P.O.S. Shout Out Louds The Dirty Projectors The Postal Service

The 2013 Sasquatch diaries, pt. II

{This year, John in Ballard brings us all the bands that caught his attention at The Gorge during Sasquatch! 2013. Read part one of his weekend-in-review here!}

Seattle’s Deep Sea Diver kicked off Sunday with a fun, captivating early afternoon set. They premiered some new music that was well received, and even did a really great cover of Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy”, complete with front woman Jessica Dobson shredding some guitar solos during the choruses. The rest of Sunday’s Sasquatch lineup was loaded from top to bottom with great hip-hop, most notably one of the bigger names, Detroit rapper Danny Brown, who had a pretty energetic crowd gathered at the main stage for his set. Brown can be a polarizing figure: his voice is an acquired taste, and his drunk and drugged out persona isn’t for everyone — but man, is he fun to watch! The Sasquatch crowd ate it up and was happy to dance and rap along with him. Brown ran all over the stage and often down among the fans, where he did a lot of call and response with his energetic audience. Another standout, O.C. Notes, closed out the Seattle hip-hop stage on Sunday with a nice set of genre-blending sounds. With the Golden Gods (Trent Moorman on drums, Erik Blood on Bass, Thomas Hunter on guitar) backing him up, Otis Calvin & Co. banged out tunes that at times sounded like hip-hop mixed with some jam band and funk — Calvin’s vocals were often put through an echo delay, and on occasion sung through a bullhorn. 

Swedish band Shout Out Louds played a really poppy set that was easy to enjoy, even for passerby who don’t know their music all that well. They had great energy and their sound is almost tailor-made for the festival set. They ended with their 2007 song “Tonight I Have to Leave It”, which I hadn’t realized until this point sounds like it could have easily fit into the Cure’s late 80’s early 90’s catalog right between “In Between Days” and “Friday I’m In Love”.

Easily the highlight of Sunday’s performances, and one of the highlights of the entire festival, was Atlanta rapper Killer Mike’s late evening set on the small Yeti stage. He opened with his 2012 single “Big Beast", as he came bounding on stage surrounded by smoke and neon lights. He ended the song repeating the closing line over and over with no backing beat: “I don’t make dance music, this is r-a-p, opposite of the sucker shit they play on t.v.” After a few songs, he took a break to take in the applause and chants of “Kill-er Mike! Kill-er Mike!” When he spoke, his voice cracked as he was clearly moved by the show of support. Numerous times throughout the set, he would let the music drop out at the end of a song and he would repeat the last verse by himself. It made the set feel more intimate and gave more gravity to the words he was saying. He told his crowd that when the sound people asked him where his hype man was, he said, “I don’t need a hype man, they’re my hype man” and pointed to the audience. Fellow collaborator El-P (who also played earlier in the day) joined him on stage for their song “Butane”, but this set belonged to Mike, and he turned in one of the best performances of the weekend.

Grimes closed out the Bigfoot stage with a set that was high on visual stimulus, but left a little to be desired when it came to sound. The problem wasn’t with Grimes herself, just that her music needed to be much louder. It felt like a house party where everyone was excited and ready to dance the night way, except the buzzkill neighbors called the cops — so the music was half as loud as it needed to be. It was a shame too, because other than the sound problems, Grimes was putting on a really good show, often jumping out from behind her sound equipment to dance to the music. She was even flanked on each side by dancers, who did their best to keep the crowd into it. She closed her set with “Phone Sex”, which the crowd happily danced along to.

Monday started off with what most Sasquatch attendees had feared would come all weekend: rain. This is the northwest though, and nobody at Sasquatch was about to let a little drizzle get in the way of enjoying the final day of the weekend. Minneapolis rapper P.O.S. came on stage pretty casually, but quickly picked things up and delivered a energetic, intimate and fantastic set. After his opening song, he was jogging back to his DJ when he slipped on the wet stage and fell flat on his back. Realizing he couldn’t really run and jump around like he wanted to, he made the impromptu decision go down and rap with the audience. Leaning up over the barricades, he jumped from one side to the other, rapping over his enthusiastic fans. I got the sense that P.O.S. wasn’t really sure what to expect as far as audience response, and he seemed a little surprised and genuinely excited that so many people not only showed up, but also jumped around and sang along to all his songs. Dirty Projectors played the same stage a few hours later, and as usual, blew the crowd away. Even though they looked like they were kind of cold, they battled through the weather and played a great set of fan favorites. The highlight of the set were the “Stillness is the Move” and set closer “Useful Chamber”, both highlighting the angelic vocals of co-lead singer and guitarist Amber Coffman.

Over on the Yeti stage, Menomena played a raucous set of songs pulled heavily from their last two albums, Mines and Moms. Since the 2011 departure of co-lead singer Brent Knoff, the remaining duo have avoided all the songs featuring his vocals, which unfortunately comprises a lot of their best songs. Thankfully though, Menomena still have a geat catalog of material to pull from, and they still know how to put on one hell of a live show. On their tour last fall, the band played live as a five piece. For this show they were down to four members, with Justin Harris playing four different instruments over the course of their set.

One of my most anticipated sets of the weekend was for Alt-J, the British band who’s had a huge year thanks to their fantastic Mercury prize-winning debut album An Awesome Wave. The band had a huge crowd gathered well before they went on stage, somewhat impressive considering they went on at the same time as The Lumineers. Awash in neon blue and pink lights, the band played made their way through their set with amazing precision. While some bands throughout the weekend had issues with sound or their instruments not being mixed right, Alt-J had no such issues — in fact, they sounded amazing. Their music hinges a lot on timing and vocal intricacies, and they nailed it on both counts. It was certainly one of the best sounding sets I heard all weekend. In addition to all the crowd favorites from An Awesome Wave, they also filled their set with a few covers: front man Joe Newman and keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton did a fully a cappella version of “A Real Hero” from the Drive soundtrack, and they also did a cover that sounded like the beat of Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” but with different lyrics over the top of it. A little research revealed that it was a mashup cover that they debut’d on Australian radio station Radio J last fall, that combines “Still D.R.E.” with Kylie Minogue’s “Slow”. Like the rest of their set, it sounded amazing.

Closing out Sasquatch 2013 was one of the most anticipated reunions in recent years, The Postal Service, with duo Benjamin Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello joined on stage by Jenny Lewis and Laura Burhenn. Their stage setup featured a large neon light display that was made up of numerous vertical columns, almost resembling a sort of giant, futuristic church pipe organ. Gibbard played drums on many of the songs, with Lewis filling in on others. They played pretty much every song they have in their catalog, including a cover of “Our Secret” by Beat Happening, who Gibbard called 'the best band in the world.' All in all it was a great way to close out the festival, with many fans beign gleefully transported back to the early 2000’s, when The Postal Service were ahead of their time and Sasquatch was setting the standard for what a NW music festival should look like.   

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Alt-J Cody Chesnutt Gorge Amphitheater Imaginary Scoop Menomena Nissim P.O.S. The Dirty Projectors Toro Y Moi

Sasquatch 2013: Your guide to navigating the side stages {Monday, May 27th}

We're giving you the day-by-day for this year's Sasquatch! music festival — check out our recommendations for Friday here, Saturday here, Sunday here, and read on for Monday's picks!

Start Monday off with Nissim at 1:00 on the Cthulhu stage. Nissim is the moniker of Damian Black — who you might know better by his former alias, D. Black, manager and member of Sporting Life Records and accomplished rapper and producer in his own right. Black gave all that up several years ago when he converted to Judaism, got married, and had a son. Recently however, he’s been lured back into making music, although this time around the music is more earnest and uplifting in nature. Follow his set up at the Bigfoot stage at 2:25 for Minneapolis rapper P.O.S., who’s part of the ever-talented Doomtree collective and part of Rhymesayers, the label that brought us Atmosphere and Brother Ali. P.O.S. comes off a little stronger than some rappers, as some sort of hybrid between punk and rap. He’s just as likely to rap over squealing guitar as he is to record scratches and a bass beat. These two back-to-back is sure to wake you up and set a tone for your last day at the Gorge!

Stick around the Bigfoot stage for Cody ChesnuTT’s set at 3:25. Last year saw the release of his second full-length album Landing On A Hundred, the first since his debut in 2002. Fans of southern soul, R&B, funk, and blues will find a lot to like in ChesnuTT’s music, and his live shows are energetic and oozing with passion. Up next is Dirty Projectors at 4:30, led by the dizzying guitar work of the band's founder and guitarist David Longstreth. The really captivating aspect of Dirty Projectors are the vocals of Haley Dekle and especially Amber Coffman, who at times hit some serious Mariah Carey-level high notes. Their 2012 album Swing Lo Magellan may have been their most gorgeous and explorative release to date.

The 6:00 hour brings one of the biggest scheduling conflicts of the whole weekend: on the El Chupacabra Stage is Toro Y Moi, Chaz Bundick’s electronic, R&B project; and on the Yeti stage at 6:05 is Portland duo Menomena {whose fifth full-length album Moms I reviewed back in October}. You really can’t go wrong with either one: Toro Y Moi’s live set will surely have a lot of people bouncing their heads and nodding along to the beat, while Menomena’s always-energetic live show hinges on the energy between Danny Siem’s drumming and Justin Harris’ captivating bass hooks (and occasional crowd pleasing saxophone riffs). Coin toss!

At 8:30 on the Bigfoot stage is Alt-J, a British band who’s had a meteoric rise this past year. Their debut album An Awesome Wave won them the Mercury Prize for best British Album last year, and they sold out their April show at the Neptune Theater in minutes. Their sound is hard to pin down, at times sounding like slower Radiohead experimentations, at others like fellow Mercury nominees Django Django. No matter how you interpret it, they'll be a great closer to an incredible Memorial Day weekend.

Who are you excited to see? Let us know in the comments below!

{Sasquatch takes place at the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington from Friday, May 24th through Monday, May 27th.}

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Live Show Review Showbox at the Market The Dirty Projectors Wye Oak

Dirty Projectors bring their gorgeous harmonies to the Showbox

Monday nights can be a little hit and miss as far as shows go: crowds can often be worn out from the preceding weekend — in this case, that weekend involved three days of Block Party goodness — and occasionally reluctant to venture out again for yet another show on Monday. That was certainly not the case with Wye Oak and Dirty Projector’s show at the Showbox this past Monday night.

Wye Oak opened up the evening to an already fairly crowded Showbox. The duo of drummer (and occasional bassist) Andy Stack and guitarist Jenn Wasner made enough noise that you have thought you were listening to a much larger band. Maybe it was the sound capacities of the Showbox on this particular night, but even if not, Wye Oak is much, MUCH louder and heavier live than their recorded version is. Wasner’s guitar playing often created a punishing wall of sound, with her vocals just barely lifting over the top. Their moody and contemplative sound harkened back to some of the shoegaze bands of the early 90s. This was my first time seeing Wye Oak, and I was certainly impressed.

{Wye Oak / by Beth Crook}

{Wye Oak / by Beth Crook}

Dirty Projectors took the stage to an anxiously excited crowd, with lead singer David Longstreth high-fiving audience members in the front row upon entrance. The first twenty-five minutes of their set consisted of songs from their new album, Swing Lo Magellan. That fantastic new material punctuated their setlist, as they played the majority of the twelve songs on the album, with highlights from their 2009 album Bitte Orca interspersed throughout.

One noticeable difference between the current incarnation of Dirty Projectors and previous ones is the adjusted lineup. While most members remain the same, former drummer Brian McOmber left the band on amicable terms and was replaced by Mike Johnson. More noticeable however, is the absence of Angel Deradoorian. The trio of Deredoorian, Haley Dekle, and Amber Coffman made some of the most unique and gorgeous melodies in indie music — however, Deredoorian left the group earlier this year to pursue other projects and was temporarily replaced by Wye Oak’s Jess Wasner, who has since been replaced by former Chairlift member Olga Bell. Considering some of the harmonies and offbeat timing involved in playing their songs live, Bell did a fantastic job and certainly held her own with the rest of the band. When the three of them harmonized together on songs like “Useful Chamber”, they didn’t just settle for singing their beautiful melodies in perfect harmony, they did so at full volume. Not only were they all perfectly on-key, they absolutely belted those notes as loud as they could, and the audience loved every second of it. I noticed several people around me turn to their friends with that "wow, that sounds fucking amazing!" look on their face. 

Also of notice at this show was Amber Coffman’s guitar work. While past Dirty Projectors shows featured Coffman playing guitar in small spurts, it mostly featured her playing more simple melodies and chords, with Longstreth doing the majority of the heavy lifting. Since the last time I saw them at Neumos in 2009, Coffman’s guitar skills have gotten considerably better and she now plays a lot more of the intricate guitar picking parts than she ever did before.

{Dirty Projectors / by Beth Crook}

{Dirty Projectors / by Beth Crook}

{Dirty Projectors / by Beth Crook}

{Dirty Projectors / by Beth Crook}

{Dirty Projectors / by Beth Crook}

I think it’s safe to say that everyone in attendance Monday night was more than happy they'd made the trip out for such a fantastic show, from two great bands that really seem to be hitting their respective strides. 

{All photos by Beth Crook.}

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Imaginary Scoop Showbox at the Market The Dirty Projectors Wye Oak

Recommended show: Dirty Projectors at Showbox at the Market

{Dirty Projectors}

Through the course of their ten year history, Dirty Projectors have been a band of constant change and progression. From their sound and album concepts to their ever-evolving lineup, Dirty Projectors has grown from the solo project of front man and guitarist David Longstreth into it’s current six member strong incarnation. The mastermind and creative force behind Dirty Projectors remains Longstreth, who manages to find a way to expand the band’s sound with every release. As Longstreth recently told Pitchfork: “One of the things that's been consistent about Dirty Projectors is that the band reinvents itself, and that we're not one of these bands that does one thing sublimely well over and over and over again, until people don't need it anymore. It's about taking risks and with all the glory and hideous failure that that entails.”

Their sixth album Swing Lo Magellan (which came out on the 10th) is no exception; it contains the same captivating interplay between Longstreth’s intricate guitar play and the soaring, angelic vocals of his female counterparts Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle that made their 2009 release Bitte Orca so fantastically beautiful. For proof, check out some of the goose bump-inducing high notes hit in their 2009 single “Stillness is the Move”:

And if that’s not enough to persuade you, you can listen to the fantastic Swing Lo Magellan in it’s entirety over at the New York Times (dot com).

Convinced? We figured as much. You can catch all of this amazing firsthand later this month, when Dirty Projectors bring their live show to the Showbox at the Market on Monday, July 23rd. Opening the show is Baltimore duo Wye Oak. Tickets are available, along with more show details, at the Showbox page here.

{8p doors / all ages / $22.50 adv / $28 DOS. Photo courtesy of the band's Facebook page.}

Categories
A Place to Bury Strangers Animal Collective Atlas Sound Bachelorette Bibio Black Moth Super Rainbow Fuck Buttons Gui Boratto Imaginary Scoop Neon Indian Raekwon St. Vincent The Dirty Projectors YACHT

Shrie's favorite albums of 2009, NOT in a "Top Ten" list

I have come to really dislike putting together “Best Of” lists or year-ending spreadsheets of music that everyone has already heard. This time I’m gonna do it differently…Shrie -style! These are just a few albums/songs/artists that tickled my fancy and got some good stereo-play at our house. Some are indie critic darlings (and disliked by many), some are sure-fire ins and some won’t be at the top ofanyone’s lists this year. It’s a mish-mash of sonic goodness, extrapolated on by your friendly local music writer (and sometimes critic).

In alphabetical, not ranking, order. The “Top Ten” theme is too restrictive for my wily mind to grasp.

A Place to Bury Strangers – Exploding Head
As I’ve noted before, this band kicks my ass to hell and back. Noise with a purpose.. sheer brunt psych-rock reminiscent of Jesus & Mary Chain.. superb.

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
This album is a favorite, an early favorite released so early in the year, because I played the shit out of it. I was obsessed… and with good reason. The impeccable complexity of sound, which could turn cold but remains engaging and warm throughout, is just what my ears needed this year. It’s a fruit basket of tones and movement, playful and large and utterly addictive.

Atlas SoundLogos
Bradford Cox seems to grow with each album, each venture into music-making. Logos is evidence of that slow and hesitant transformation. It’s fuzzed-out and tricked with timely percussion and droney swells. They lyrics are at times heartbreaking, like on “Sheila”, but approach frivolity at times… it’s a mixed bag that he’s carefully constructed to ebb and flow. Each track different enough from the last, but fitting together perfectly like a puzzle.

Bachelorette – My Electric Family
Bachelorette charmed the hell out of me when they opened for Bill Callahan, so much so that we bought the album during the show. It doesn’t fail to satisfy… the meshing ofsynths /keyboards/computers and her lively step and voice achieve a hand-woven, comfy aesthetic that has been an irresistible listen for months now.

Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue

Bibio already released Vignetting the Compost only five months before the release of Ambivalence Avenue, so a new album caught me completely by surprise. Often channeling Boards of Canada, Bibio seemed to take a slightly different direction on this new release. It’s more autumnal, letting natural elements and sounds of nature shine through and in turn creating something a bit more organic. Summery, warm and brimming with found sound and a childlike feeling of fascination, Ambivalence Avenue far exceeded my expectations.

Black Moth Super RainbowEating Us
BMSR are weird. They’re trippy and psychedelic and have, fittingly, toured with the Flaming Lips. I immediately fell in love with their earlier release, Dandelion Gum, and while this album is less poppy in a lot of ways it still maintains the gorgeous arrangement and hazy vocoder vocal style. The sound is more polished, more impeccably layered… the influence of famed producer David Fridmann to be sure. This album was meant for a sunny joyous day. It’s root is in childlike and fun sounds, but the intrigue continues as each layer of sound expands and blooms around you.

Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

There isn’t much to say about this band and this album that others haven’t said already. Their live show was phenomenal and I still can’t get over the other-worldly voices and stunning guitar rhythms on this album. It’s a slightly challenging listen because it makes you think and hear the background intricacies, but it’scatchiness and bright sensibilities firmly plant it in the realm of pop music.

Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
Fuck Buttons are technically a noise band. Their innate ability to put together a fine melody and accompany their well-placed noise with a very modern electronic approach places them outside the constraining “noise” category however. Their songs are cinematic, bold and important-sounding. Tarot Sport is fantastic electro-with-a-dash-of-weird. Tribal, industrial and complex, it’s not necessarily an easy listen but it is extremely worth the effort.

Gui Boratto – Take My Breath Away

I’m an unabashed fan of IDM and complex dance music. There’s something about a strong beat and the way crafty fingers seem to be able to place those beats into booty-levitating sequences… it makes me swoon. This new GuiBoratto release is heavy with dance sentiment, void of any raver or house fluff. This is dance music for people who like indie rock and ambient, dance music for people who just need to shake their ass a bit. It’s driving and wonderful, and I PROMISE it won’t let you down.

Neon IndianPsychic Chasms
Talk about trippy… Psychic Chasms is the epitome of psych-electro. It sounds as if it was recorded underwater on a tape recorder. Layered electronics, slight funk, quirky synths and dreamy pop all coalesce into a product greater than it’s parts. A joy to experience!

Raekwon – Only Built for Cuban Linx Pt II
Mafioso rap is Raekwon’s style, gritty and bombastic. The Wu Tang Clan has produced some fabulous solo efforts by it’s members, but this seriously may be the best (sorry Ghostface!). This album is cohesive, and shows an impressive array of stellar guest production, vocals and beats. It’s a collage of the best that Raekwon has to offer, and it continues on the legacy from Cuban Linx I… I dare to say it’s even better.

St. Vincent – Actor
Annie Clark is a quirky girl. She wears big white-framed sunglasses and looks awkward as all get-out on stage, yet endears herself to fans with her sweet rocker attitude, lyrics and killer delivery. This album ispristinely pop, and gloriously arranged. I was pleasantly surprised by this album and with each listen, she endears herself to me even more.

YACHT – See Mystery Lights
I wasn’t all about listening to the new YACHT. My impression of the band was that of sugary sweet nonsensical twee NW variety, which is not typically my cup of tea. See Mystery Lights, however, convinced me otherwise. Laced with vocoder pop, bouncy lollipop rock and floaty lyrics, their sound really seemed to change upon the label switchover to DFA. DFA’s voice and sound is so distinctive that it somehow influenced YACHT’s sound on this new album. DFA is one of my favorite labels by a long shot, so this new metamorphosis in sound agrees with me.

{Dirty Projectors photo by Bobby McHugh from the TIG Flickr Pool.}

Categories
Live Show Review On The Road The Dirty Projectors

The Dirty Projectors stun Neumos with their intricate beauty

Angel Deradoorian, Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle must be angels. There is no other way to describe their other-worldly harmonies. Their voices are Coco Rosie-esque at times, a moving and lilting choral pop display. Instead of traditional dueting harmonies, the three ladies voices are orchestrated into something resembling more of an instrument, and less three individual voices. David Longstreth made a very wise decision in adding them to the Dirty Projectors family. When I saw DP in ’06 sometime at a super small club in Texas, it was just him and a guitar and a disturbingly enthralling video that was projected (heheh) onto a wall behind the stage. The performance bordered on the avant-garde, but I’m happy to say that seeing them in ’09 was a completely different experience.

Little Wings, the project of Kyle Field, was the sole opening act for Dirty Projectors. Breezy and pastoral, akin to his seaside hometown of San Luis Obispo , Field’s music as Little Wings is sprawling. Little Wings is basically a man and his guitar, crooning warm and breezy alt-country with a pinch of cheer. His songs took on more of a narrative style, often prophetic, reminiscent of old country standards. His performance was engaging and possibly poignant, but the loud crowd chatter that swelled during the middle of his set made it difficult to fully absorb what you were hearing.

Dirty Projectors finally came onstage to a sweating mass of people in the crowd, uncomfortably jammed up against each other. David Longstreth’s voice is piercingly beautiful and surprisingly odd at the same time. After listening to their newest record, Bitte Orca , I was certain that the sounds I heard couldn’t be produced live, assuming that the overall aesthetic was very much a product of in-studio knob twiddling. Live, however, they nailed it. The ladies let their voices fly to the very top of the ceiling, maxing out at an ungodly soprano range. Longstreth played his right-handed guitar left-handed, his hands both plucking wildly at the strings. His finesse on the guitar is unbelievable: lightning quick fingers racing along the strings, intricate rhythms perfectly played and an almost classical Spanish guitar technique.

It was obvious early on that this six-piece was a well-oiled machine. The punchy drumming collided with Longstreth’s angular guitar playing and the trio of femme’s ethereal vocals to form a purposefully disjointed and experimental, sound. Their rhythms are unpredictable and changed time signature multiple times during the length of any given song. From spare vocals over a simple bass line to a full-on onslaught of brash noise and off-kilter harmonies, they somehow sounded completely practiced, appropriate and complex. Every note was strong and confident, their eccentric sound giving them freedom to abandon traditional song structure.

They played an encore, of course (doesn’t EVERY show get an encore these days?) to the packed crowd uproariously calling for more. And I can’t blame them… I couldn’t get enough of their weirdness, their strangeness, their intense interlocking rhythms that get stuck in my head. The Dirty Projectors are truly an experimental band, but judging from the crowd last night, they can also be dance-worthy, tear-soaked and absolutely stunning.

Categories
Domino Imaginary Scoop The Dirty Projectors

Wednesday's Recommended Show: Dirty Projectors at Neumos

I’ve been a fan of Brooklyn experimental rockers Dirty Projectors for years now, before they caught hold in the indie music community with their most recent (and definitely most accessible) album, Bitte Orca. I first saw them at a tiny club in Texas, and I think they scared the bejeesus out of everyone with their weirdness, but I was absolutely enthralled.

Bitte Orca took their strange angular approach to lo-fi and mixed it up with SUPER catchy melodic hooks and a disjointed dance-feel, which really propelled them into the indie spotlight. Dirty Projectors‘ brand of wiry rock punctuated with puzzling shifts in song structure is complete addictive, gorgeous and promises to pack a good punch.

This is a don’t-miss show at Neumos, this Wednesday, November 4th. Little Wings opens.

Doors 8pm / $15 ADV / 21+ / Tickets on sale at Moe Bar, Tickets West or Rudy’s

[video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMPF6lpM0XM]

Categories
Chop Suey Live Show Review The Dirty Projectors

Deserved hyperbolic praise for The Dirty Projectors

OK, the holiday weekend is over and I’m finally sober enough to write about The Dirty Projectors show at Chop Suey on Friday night. I’m forcing myself to make this quick. Otherwise you’ll all end up getting annoyed with the veritable geyser of praise that my poor friends put up with as I talked about how their performance was close to a religious experience.

I’ve never found God or any version of any concept of God. But when Angel Deradoorian, Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle were singing, it sounded like a choir. Seriously, I’ve been to Vienna and heard the boys choir there and, yeah, that was amazing, but you know what they lacked? Dave Longstreth’s mind-blowingly fast finger picking talking over and around the flighty sounds of the second guitar. Or maybe the Vienna boys choir could use some of the downright funky bass lines that Nat Baldwin laid down alongside the pristinely cymbolic (pun intended) drumming of Brian Mcomber.

Other than Longstreth’s slightly jilted cry of “Bitte Orca” that seemed to lag behind the rocked out “Useful Chambers” chorus, every single song they played was pitch perfect and an innovative variation of their recorded material. You could tell how happy this band was to be playing together and how good they knew they sounded. Their a’cappella strength was mighty and on this tour they seem all about harnessing a musical sound that people can hang onto as the band “Rise(s) Above” (yes, they did play it).

If you’ve tried to sing along with one of The Dirty Projectors’ songs, you know that the melodies and notes exist stratospheres above our heads. It felt like the band was doing us all a favor by bringing us something that we could dance and damage our vocal chords to. Before they spin off out of our orbit, leaving our only access to their sound as microwaves picked up from millions of years away by NASA, you should see The Dirty Projectors play live. And you should probably go soon; one the lovely ladies may have to return to her home planet where singing in glorious harmony is the only form of communication.

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Dead Oceans Record Review The Dirty Projectors

Rise Above

On paper, the concept behind this disc is a fairly intriguing one: pay tribute to one of punk’s most influential albums – in this case, Black Flag’s seminal full-length Damaged – by trying to recreate it using your memory as your only guide.

In practice, though, the Dirty Projectors’ version is a mystifying experiment, one that seeks to emasculate the grinding punk rock of the original with an arch, evasive pop sound that seems to shelter itself under a thick coat of gloss and artifice. The martial rhythms of the original “Gimme Gimme Gimme” are eschewed for a clattering beat over which a spiral of singers, both male and female, render the lyrics as a Danielson Famile-esque sing-along; “Six Pack” is turned into warbling ‘70s progressive rock (precisely the music that Messrs. Ginn, Dukowski, Stevenson, and Rollins were rebelling against in the first place).

Call it the Red House Painters effect. After hearing Mark Kozelek turn a dozen or more AC/DC songs into funereal folk pleas, far too many artists are taking it upon themselves to “pay honor” to their forebears by rendering their versions virtually unidentifiable from the originals. They are not cover songs; they are carpet bomb songs.