The Pleasures Of (Live) Music

It’s my birthday today.  To be frank this isn’t really my favorite time of year and I could wallow in this post and try to find a way through this funk but who needs that?  Instead I am going to write about something I rarely do anymore, which is see live music.  By happenstance, four bands played in Columbus that I wanted to see in a span of eleven days; two were on the same bill.

The first concert was the double bill of Marnie Stern and Deerhunter at Skully’s.  I have only been to Skully’s once before and the set-up of the place seems nice for small shows.  This wasn’t a small show.  I stood with some friends for about a half-hour before Marnie Stern took the stage. By the time her set was over, I knew I wasn’t moving anywhere.  The back bar really pinches the crowd in front of the stage.  I wouldn’t care about any of this if I still was 18 (or 22 or 28) but two weeks shy of 37 I want to be able to go to the bathroom, get a beer and not be in a pit any more.  Marnie Stern was good, Deerhunter were great.  They played an “all-request” set which made me even more impressed with them than I would have been otherwise.  When they played Cryptograms two or three songs in, I knew it was going to be a great night.  (As an aside, why is Alabama Public Television this great?  Does this happen on all PBS local affiliates and I just don’t know about it?  If you were looking for Antiques Road Show and  got this, what, exactly, does your brain do?).  It sounded like a jet engine and all I could do was smile.

The second show I saw was Julia Holter at Kobo.  This was a decidedly different experience.  I counted about thirty people total in the audience.  It was really intimate.  Her touring band is a violinist, drummer, cellist, saxophonist and she plays an electric piano.  I love her albums, mostly because they were huge growers (a grower is an album that might be even a little off-putting at first but gets better every time you listen to it until you are unsure how you existed before that album).  Live, the performance was better than I ever could have hoped for.  I have spent a bunch of time looking for youtube clips that convey how this came across live and the sound in this clip is close to the concert even if it looks like someone filmed it with a helmet-cam.  Julia–we’re on a first name basis now–sold her own t-shirts and albums at the end.  This was a concert were I felt like I underpaid for the evening.

The final show of this stretch was Vampire Weekend.  Shannon and I went to this one together at the LC Pavilion in Columbus.  It was a cool, almost chilly, night.  Their stage was huge and I was a little surprised that it was only the four of them out on tour with how complicated their newest album is.  There were parts of the show that were amazing.  The drums, in particular, were mic-ed to sound like cannons.  There were some off moments though.  The sound cues the drummer was firing for some of the samples sometimes didn’t work quite right.  At times some of the songs sounded a half beat slow; others felt more like karaoke than a live band.  Which is kind of a shame to me because I really love when they strip things way down, like in this video:

It was still a really nice show and we enjoyed ourselves, it just wasn’t exactly what we had hoped it would be.

And, all that being said, it was my favorite show.  Shannon and rarely get out of the house together like that right now.  We sat on a blanket, outside, under the stars.  I wrapped her up in it when it got too cold for her.  We wandered back to our car at the end of the night reminiscing about concerts past.  When Vampire Weekend played “Step” Shannon turned to me and said “Miles’ song” because it is one of the songs he asks for in the car.  The songs echo in my head now and have transformed from sound to emotional memory.  On Monday, September 23, 2013 with our son safely in the care of friends and our unborn child safely with Shannon, Shannon and I took some time for us; “I can’t do it alone, I can’t do it alone” echoed through the air.

Gratuitous picture of the day (Cousins edition):Image






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