June 9, 2010

Sunday at Sasquatch 2010

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Girls ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

It wasn’t the early bird who got the worm when it came to Sasquatch. No, the Sasquatch early birds got 8-hour traffic back-ups, while people like me, who made our way east on Sunday morning, got to The Gorge in record time.  It was one of the many counter-intuitive surprises that marked Sunday at Sasquatch: the buzz bands lived up to their hype, intimate electronic songs worked beautifully in the wide-open space and the Tallest Man on Earth turned out to be just about my height.

It came as no surprise to me that The Local Natives, who ended up being the first act on the Bigfoot Stage,  played to a packed and appreciative crowd. Just over a year ago I saw the band play to 20 people or so, but even then it was easy to predict that the band would be playing to a Sasquatch sized-crowd soon. Packing every grassy nook available and well-versed in the Los Angeles’ bands songs, a crowd of thousands joined me in an early afternoon sing-along that had me beaming.

I expected the crowd to clear out for the mellower stylings of Swedish folk troubadour The Tallest Man on Earth, but the crowd crushed forward against the barrier as they strained and struggled to be closer to Kristian Matsson. If you want to know what the kids are surprisingly going crazy for these days, it is for this petite Swede. Matsson does Dylan the same way Dylan did Guthrie — with reverent fetishism. Clad in tight blue jeans and with a cigarette smoking cowboy emblazoned on his leather guitar strap, Matsson enraptured the crowd doing Dylan better than Dylan does these days and much more succinctly. The fervor of his crowd and the way he filled the festival stage with just his lyrics and his guitar, was certainly one of Sasquatch’s biggest surprises. His cover of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” was one of my favorite musical moments of the entire weekend. 

The surprises and solid covers continued as the day went along: a new Long Winters line-up showed off a full-grilled John Roderick and they ended their set with the Grateful Dead’s “Touch of Grey.”  Sub Pop’s Avi Buffalo offered an elastic, complex and catchy set which belied the bands youth and showed great promise. They’re definitely a band to watch as they inch towards the legal drinking age. After the rock roller-coaster Avi Buffalo treated us to, Freelance Whales seemed like nothing more than pleasant afternoon filler. Admittedly, despite their sweet stage banter, the band couldn’t keep my interest for longer than the first few songs.

Happily, fellow blog buzz band The xx fared better than the Freelance Whales when it came to impressing and living up to the hype.  As out of place the black-clad British trio looked in the wide open and neu-hippie crowd of Sasquatch, the band’s dreamy and throbbing sounds translated much better than expected (or feared). Despite the almost infinite expanse of the Gorge, The xx’s songs retained the intimacy that made them so pleasing in the first place. Despite the crowd of thousands, it still felt as if the band was whispering the song in your ear. For the most part, the band was all business and no banter on stage, but their aloofness came across as endearing and shy, though on stage they clearly know what they are doing. As I have always been with this band, I was ready to be disappointed by The xx, to pass them off as a blog blip, unworthy of the hype, but the band yet again pleasantly surprised me.

My surprise took a much less pleasant turn when it came to the attendance for San Francisco’s Girls. Their set was the most disappointingly under-attended of Sasquatch, as seemingly 95% of the crowd enjoyed LCD Soundsystem at sunset on the mainstage. Those of us who stayed behind, a lucky handful of hundreds, enjoyed the coming dusk backed by the sad and sunny eccentricities of Girls’ cascading retro hooks. With a twitchy intensity Christopher Owens, clad in high-waisted pleated khakis and a Dwight Yokam tour shirt, took little notice of the crowd (whatever size it was) and performed the hell out of some of 2009′s best songs including “Lust for Life,” “Laura” and the plodding “Hellhole Ratrace.” The band may have been better suited for the smaller stage or an earlier time slot, when they wouldn’t have been challenged by the dance-thems of LCD Soundsystem, but those of us who stayed behind for Girls didn’t regret the decision.

The fastidious Dirty Projectors fared better in terms of attendance and as you’ve hopefully already read, their golden hour set made me a believer in this Brooklyn band. Unfortunately, the night peaked with the Dirty Projectors for me as the final big name acts I caught that night: Pavement and Public Enemy were plagued by technical issues beyond their control. While the false starts and sudden stops added to the sloppy charm of what one would expect from a Pavement show, the technical issues completely derailed the momentum of Public Enemy’s set. For a call and response rap to work, the audience has to be able to hear you calling … after about six moments of sudden silence during the Public Enemy set and having already screamed “Flava Flaaaave” at the top of my lungs, I called it a night on what turned out to be a surprising Sunday at Sasquatch.

The xx ::: Photo by Abbey Simmons

The Tallest Man on Earth ::: Photo by Abbey Simmons

The Gorge at Dusk ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

More photos after the jump…

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January 25, 2010

The Daily Choice: XX – V.C.R. (VIDEO)

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I’m exhausted.  Some sort of insomniac tendency has been creeping in to my mainframe lately, and amongst a lot of smoke and leaked oil I’m starting to buckle.

I watched this bit of drone-y sap from London’s newest import, The xx, two nights ago and imagined it harder, more driven by the actions presented by the on-screen couple.  Turns out it’s a slower, affair, a low-key bit of flattened romantics, perfect to lull me off to sleep.

I will say this, the chorus has the same melody as the theme song to Charles In Charge.  No wonder I enjoy it so damn much.

The xx – V.C.R.

December 29, 2009

Abbey’s Favorite Not-Northwest Songs of 2009

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Nick of Elvis Perkins in Dearland ::: photo by Abbey Simmons

I have to say,  with such a vibrant year of local music, I spent the vast majority of my 2009 exploring things made in the Pacific Northwest; rather than venturing out in to the vastness of the internets and the rest of America. So most of these are pretty well known tracks, albums, and artists or from Noah’s Daily Choices — though I do hope you discover a new favorite you hadn’t heard before too.  These are the records and tracks recorded outside of the 206 that I most enjoyed and listened to on repeat in 2009.  (The top 10 may be in some sort of hierachal order, but after that the order is not nearly as thought out or meaningful.) 

“Much More Than That” and “For You” by Sharon Van Etten | download ‘For You’ | “Blood Bank” by Bon Iver | download ‘Blood Bank’ | “Airplanes” by Local Natives  | download ‘Airplanes’ | “Two Weeks” by Grizzly Bear | listen to “Two Weeks” | “Eet” by Regina Spektor | watch video | “Shampoo” by Elvis Perkins in Dearland | download ‘Shampoo’| “A Violent Translation of Concorida Headscarp” by Emperor X | download track | “Andrew” by Crystal Antlers | download ‘Andrew’ | “Kick Drum Heart” by The Avett Brothers | listen to track | “Lust for Life” (though “Laura” is also tempting me) by Girls | download ‘Lust for Life’ |

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Girls at Capitol Hill Block Party ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

“Garble Arch” by Blame Ringo | watch video | “The Walls are Coming Down” by Fanfarlo | listen to track | “Flirted With You All My Life” by Vic Chesnutt | download track | “The Ballad of the RAA” by Rural Alberta Advantage |listen to track | “Safe Word” by Vampire Hands | download ‘Safe Word’ | “Future Primative” by Papercuts | download ‘Future Primative’ | “Tidal Wave” by Thee Oh Sees | download ‘Tidal Wave’ |  ”Crystalised” by The xx | listen to track | “Lisztomania” by Phoenix | watch videos | “Norway” by Beach House  | download ‘Norway’ “Vanderlylle Cry Baby” by The National | listen to track | “Can’t Talk” by Ty Segall | download “Can’t Talk” | “Day of Sunshine” by Lee & Willbee | listen to track | “Summertime Clothes” by Animal Collective | listen to track | “Save The Day” by Huck Notari 

November 30, 2009

The xx are popular

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The xx ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

Running only a little late, the xx played six or so songs for a positively reverent crowd Friday afternoon. Their in-store performance at Sonic Boom Records in Ballard proved to be just as packed as the band’s later already sold-out engagement at Neumos was slated to be. Shut-out from the night’s drinking-age-only hot ticket brought no small amount of under-agers through the door, and they filled every un-taken space in the store’s many aisles and nooks. And judging on this turnout alone, a measure of the success of their first go-around the states one might say, this trio has genuinely out-hyped nearly every recent virgin ambassador the Isles have sent our way, and then some. I think I can say with very little hyperbole, though their new record has been on the shelves a mere three months, that this London three-piece are riding a wave of momentum that’s starting to reach tsunami proportions. (And we thought Fanfarlo had it good.)

Timing is everything, but making use of your moment in the internet age often means sending young untested bands (such as this) on the road as soon as possible, often while still nascent, and the international rise from obscurity has already been abrupt for these barely twenty-year olds. Earlier this month, following a successful CMJ introducing them to America, they suffered the loss of their second guitarist, an unfortunate occurrence just when a palpable buzz had developed around their quietly romantic boy-girl sound. Now singer Romy Madley Croft is all alone on guitar and both she and bassist/singer Oliver Sim are pitching in on effects where they can fill in.

Drama aside, the steamy dynamic portrayed by Sim and Croft is even more enchanting once one see’s it play out on the stage. Mostly because they aren’t really playing anything out, they’re just singing, and the whole is much more than the sum of it’s parts. All in black, Croft appears adorably shy and awkward, while Sim is possibly just as awkward in his lanky frame and bounty of gold chains. One imagines these songs to be conversations between lovers of deep connection, the tension of their attraction an inescapable cloud over every interaction. Instead they come across as meditations on love by ones still discovering, still unjaded by it’s myriad causes and effects.