Friday, February 29, 2008

March Shows In...


I just know I'm going to get stuck standing behind the Fridge at the Jens Lekman show. I just know it.

We all know the month of March belongs to Austin but there are plenty of goings on around the Midwest as well. Chicago is jam packed (and just wait until you see April, oh boy) and the good news is even if you won't be able to make any of these shows, Maxim has already reviewed half of them for your reading pleasure. The Magnetic Fields are doing a three-day residence at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Malkmus and those Jicks will be at the Vic on the 21st, Jens Lekman at Hickory High on the 31st, and last but not least, our good friend Totally Michael will roll into town on the 29th. It will be nice having him back in town, won't it?

Sat 3/01
The Black Lips, Quintron & Miss Pussycat @ Logan Square Auditorium 8:30pm

Atlas Sound, White Rainbow, Valet, Disappears @ Empty bottle 10pm

Canasta, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir @ Beat Kitchen 9pm

Lightspeed Champion, Never Enough Hope @ AV-aerie 9pm

Sun 3/02
Smoking Popes @ Schubas 10pm

Villians @ Sonotheque 8pm

Mon 3/03
Catfish Haven @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Tues 3/04
Gogol Bordello @ Riviera Theatre 6pm

Bowerbirds, Phosporescent, Brendan Losch @ Schubas 9pm

Wed 3/05
The Pogues @ Riviera Theatre 7:30pm

Working For a Nuclear Free City, Coltrane Motion, Unique Chique @ Schubas 9pm

Earth Crisis, Terror, Sworn Enemy, Shai Hulud, Down to Nothing, Recon @ Logan Square Auditorium 5pm

Thurs 3/06
The Pogues @ Riviera Theatre 7:30pm

The Most Serene Republic, My Were They @ Schubas 9pm

Kingdom of Sorrow, The Killer @ Reggie’s Rock Club 8pm

Fri 3/07
Bob Mould @ Metro 7pm

The Gutter Twins @ Metro 11pm

Headlights, Evangelicals, Audrye @ Schubas 10pm

Kid Dakota, Chris Connelly, Dreamend, Lesser Birds of Paradise @ Abbey Pub 8pm

Sat 3/08
Maps and Atlases, Detholz!, Wax Fang, Black Ladies @ Subterranean 7:30pm

Sian Alice Group, Locrian @ Empty Bottle 10pm

Grand Archives @ Schubas 10pm

Great Lakes Myth Society @ The Note 9pm

Sun 3/09
Look Mexico, Band Marino @ Schubas 9pm

Travis Morrison Hellfighters @ Subterranean 8pm

Mon 3/10
Eagle Seagull, Otter Petter, Hospital Bombers @ Schubas 8pm

Weedeater, Black Tusk @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Samara Lubelski, The Singleman Affair DRMWPN @ AV-aerie 9pm

Saviors @ The Note 9pm

Tues 3/11
Shining @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Wed 3/12
Jonathan Richman, Vic Chesnutt @ Abbey Pub 8pm

Fu Manchu, Burning Brides, ASG @ Double Door 8pm

Thurs 3/13
Chinese Stars, Cougars, KK Rampage @ AV-aerie 9pm

The Whole Fantastic World, Dark Horse Project, Vamplifier @ Darkroom 8pm

Fri 3/14
The Magnetic Fields @ Old Town School of Folk Music 7pm & 10:30pm

Sat 3/15
The Magnetic Fields @ Old Town School of Folk Music 7pm & 10:30pm

Xiu Xiu, Thao Nguyen, Bird Names @ Reggie’s Rock Club 8pm

Sun 3/16
The Magnetic Fields @ Old Town School of Folk Music 6:30pm & 10pm

Mon 3/17
Jose Gonzalez @ Lakeshore Theater 7pm & 10pm

Hanne Hukkelberg, Haley Bonar @ Schubas 8pm

Tues 3/18
The Raveonettes, Black Acid @ Double Door 8pm

The Glorytellers (ex-Karate), Who Shot Hollywood @ Schubas 9pm

Digitalism @ Subterranean 9:30pm

Minmae, The Laureates, The Great Perhaps, Salt & Samovar @ The Note 9pm

Wed 3/19
X @ Metro 7pm

Parts and Labor, The Big Sleep, Pterodactyl, Teith @ AV-aerie 9pm

Bell X1 @ Schubas 9pm

The Slits, Old Time Relijun, Shellshag, Post Honeymoon @ Subterranean 8:30pm

Thurs 3/20
Justice, Diplo, Fancy @ Riviera Theatre 6:30pm

An Albatross, The Apes, Birthday Suits, Mt. St. Helens @ Beat Kitchen 6:30pm

The Spinto Band, Tally Hall, The Moneynotes @ Schubas 9pm

Fri 3/21
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks @ Vic Theater 7pm

Cameron McGill & The Quartet Offensive, Great Lakes Myth Society @ Beat Kitchen 9pm

Sightings, The Emeralds @ Empty Bottle 10pm

Tally Hall, The Spinto Band @ Schubas 9pm

Sat 3/22
Black Mountain, Birds of Avalon, Nordic Nomadic @ Empty Bottle 10pm

The Swimmers, May Or May Not @ Hideout 9pm

Statehood, Kid, You’ll Move Mountains @ Reggie’s Rock Club 10pm

Louis XIV, What Made Milwaukee Famous, Carolina Liar, Holiday and the Adventure Pop Collective @ Metro 6pm

Mon 3/24
British Sea Power, The 1900’s @ Empty Bottle 8pm & 11pm

Langhorne Slim 2 @ Hideout 9pm

Tues 3/25
The Cribs, Ra Ra Riot, Jeffrey Lewis @ Double Door 7pm

The Mekons @ Schubas 7pm & 10pm

Wed 3/26
Boredoms, Soft Circle Human Bell @ Congress Theatre 8:30pm

Beach House, Papercuts, Night Owl Choir 2 Schubas 9pm

Thurs 3/27
De Novo Dahl @ Double Door 8pm

Panther, Detholz!, US Girls, Slow Gun Shogun, Slow Gun Shogun @ Abbey Pub 8pm

Howlin’ Rain @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Fri 3/28
The Paper Chase, Reds and Blue, iflHadAHiFi @ Beat Kitchen 8:30pm

Monotonix, AIDS Wolf, Bottomless Pit, Eyes @ Empty Bottle 10pm

OFFICE, Ultra Sonic Edukators, Unicycle Loves You, SND on SND @ Reggie’s Rock Club 8pm

Le Loup, The Ruby Sons, Throw Me the Statue @ Schubas 10pm

Aloha, Anathallo @ Subterranean 9:30pm

Sat 3/29
Electric Six @ Double Door 8pm

Murder By Death, Dr. Manhattan, O’Death, Kiss Kiss @ Abbey Pub 8pm

Black Moth Super Rainbow, Brilliant Pebbles, Magical Beautiful @ Empty Bottle 10pm

Totally Michael, Zibra Zibra, Sass Dragons @ Peoples Projects 7pm

Citay, Cryptacize, Rock Falls @ Hideout 9pm

Plush, Dragon & Jones @ Lakeshore Theater 9pm

Jason Collett @ Schubas 8pm

We Are Wolves @ Sonotheque 10pm

Sun 3/30
Teith, Nadja, MRDR, Velnias @ Empty Bottle 9pm

Jason Collett @ Schubas 8pm

Mon 3/31
Jens Lekman, Honeydrips, Marla Hansen @ Logan Square Auditorium 8:30pm

Carbon Silicon, Matt Pond PA @ Double Door 8pm

Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. Danava @ Empty Bottle 9pm


Take note of the glue being held by Angels.

Sat 3/01
Drive-By Truckers, Felice Brothers @ Headliners 9pm

Fri 3/07
Black Mountain, Bon Iver, Phantom Family Halo @ Headliners 9pm

Fri 3/14
Built To Spill, Meat Puppets, Helvetia @ Headliners 9pm^

Sat 3/15
Pelican, Your Black Star, Black Cobra @ Headliners 8pm

Thurs 3/20
Man Man, The Extraordinaires, Lucky Pineapple @ Headliners 9pm

Pere Ubu, The Web @ The Pour Haus 9pm

Mon 3/24
N.E.R.D., w/ special guest @ Coyote’s 8pm*

Wed 3/26
Stars @ Bomhard Theater 8pm

^Thank you Doug Martsch.
*First time N.E.R.D. has played at a venue named Coyote’s. Although, this is just an assumption.

--Matt Farra


These guys greet you when you enter Bloomington's city limits.

The Bloomington music scene is even more active than it appears here. House parties, basement shows, and so on, occur all the time, sometimes at the last minute. For almost-daily updates, sent direct to yr inbox, register with the bloomingtonmusic Yahoo group. Ain't teh internets great…

Sat 3/01
Pelican, Black Cobra, Unearthly Trance @ Rhino’s 6pm

Mon 3/03
Bowerbirds, Phosphorescent, Ruben and Vanessa @ Waldron 8pm

Tues 3/04
Evangelicals, Headlights, Prayer Breakfast @ Waldron 9pm

Wed 3/05
Broken Letters, Sticky and the Bees @ Bear’s Place 10pm

Thurs 3/06
Balmorhea, CJ Boyd Sexxxtet, Alex Dupree, Drekka @ Art Hospital 8pm

Fri 3/07
Arrah and the Ferns, Folklore @ Art Hospital 8pm

The Payton Brothers @ Bear’s Place 9pm

Tues 3/11
Samara Lubelski, Justin Vollmar, Basia Bulat @ Waldron 10:30pm

Wed 3/12
Bear's Place: Debate @ Bear’s Place 10pm

Mon 3/17
School of Language @ Waldron 8pm

Tues 3/18
Old Time Relijun, Prizzy Prizzy Please, The Big Sleep @ Bluebird 9pm

Thurs 3/20
Islands, Supreeme, Good Luck @ Rhino’s 8pm

Fri 3/21
The Dirtbombs, Kelley Stoltz, Shake, The Coke Dares @ Jake’s 8pm

Glorytellers, Sticky and the Bees, Morrow @ Bear’s Place 10pm

Thurs 3/27
Le Loup, Ruby Suns @ Waldron 8pm

Sat 3/29
Throw Me the Statue, Kentucky Nightmare, Alexander the Great @ Art Hospital 8pm

In other news: Friday, February 29, My House: Bear's Place v. Art Hospital for March 7; Saturday, March 15, Upland: Jake's v. Bear's Place for March 21. Bear's can totally take Jake's, but Art Hospital is scrappy and fights dirty.

--Brian Herrmann

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wilco--Riviera Theater, Chicago, Illinois (Days 1-5)

(As you may know, we already hit upon Wilco's five-day residency at the Riviera but thought this was just too major of an event for just one post. Luckily for us, Jen had a five-day pass and was kind enough to detail what she saw...or didn't see.*)

Since I heard Wilco was playing five nights of shows in Chicago--their adopted home maybe, but I will argue to the death it is not where they are from--I have been planning my attendance. It took three attempts at pre-sale contests and an incredible amount of adrenaline to secure my five-night passes, and required a few postponements at work to be available when the presales began, but I did it! Tickets in hand, plane ticket from DC to Chicago printed out, and suitcase in tow, I'm heading to see Wilco!!!

Night #1

I am old. No. Strike that. I am old enough to know that seats are for sitting. Especially at concerts. The floor is for those idiot college co-eds that drink too much and have only heard three songs off the most recent album of whoever they're seeing. Unfortunately, I think there were a few too many of said Wilco novices at Friday night's show. The floor of the Riv was packed and the security people upstairs couldn't keep people from crowding into every unoccupied inch of the aisles and stairs. Note on the venue: The Riv is a beautiful old building that is all the more awesome for its peeling paint, dreary lighting, and uncomfortable seats.

Greg Kot outlines the whole setlist, so I won't do a rundown for you (I am notoriously bad at identifying at a moment's notice song titles anyway, even for awesome bands). Besides, he does it better justice than I could.

The number of songs from Sky Blue Sky seemed to play well to the folks in front of me, who enjoyed the few tunes they knew, and then proceeded to turn around, while standing, and chat with their friends through many of the subsequent songs. Those of us behind them, then, were left to envision Jeff Tweedy, to create him in our minds while we bopped and nodded and tapped our feet to the music.

I was happy enough to enjoy my favorite Wilco tunes on Friday night, despite the less than savory company I was surrounded by: "Jesus, etc." (which I hear was better and more energized on Saturday night--yes, they doubled up and maybe even tripled up), "Impossible Germany", and "At Least That's What You Said". And Jeff Tweedy looked absolutely giddy to be getting started on this five-night deal and happy to be up on stage. The entire band--including the horn section that joined them on stage numerous times--looked like they were having a good time, which is a sight to see from a group of guys who have come and gone, added and subtracted members. There is no such thing as phoning it in this week.

I will say this: The crowd as I looked around was an amazing mix of hipsters, yuppies, 55-year-old men and their wives, twenty-somethings that had their teenage years defined by this music, and of course that handful of people just looking for something to make them cool. Seeing a bunch of guys my dad's age bang their fist along with the screaming electric guitars is pretty sweet.

Night #2 and Beyond

Alas, I had to make a difficult decision on Saturday night: Enjoy night 2 of 5 of Wilco or trade my lone ticket for Cards/Cubs tickets at Wrigley on my birthday? I went with the baseball game. I'd like to think those tickets will be at least as hard to come by. My companion and I had been debating special guests, so I was near a heart attack when I was woken up by his phone call after the Saturday show with "It was pretty much the same as the night before until Jay Farrar come on." WHA?!?! Of course, if you've heard anything about the show, you know that Jay Farrar was not the special guest. Instead it was Andrew Bird. Cool, not as cool as an off-the-cuff Uncle Tupelo reunion.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday shows were hard to recap. I had to manage a very tight get up/squeeze in work/drive an hour from Indiana/enjoy Wilco/drive an hour to Indiana/collapse in bed/rinse/repeat schedule. But I kept my fingers crossed for a specialest of special guests.

Rollin' In and Out of Chicago

Have I mentioned that Wilco is at the top of their game? I saw them for four of the five nights and--although I did plead to myself "Please don't play 'Impossible Germany' again" at least twice on Wednesday night--it was an incredible series of shows. I thoroughly agree with my companion that Jeff Tweedy's voice sounded better during this Winter Residency than it ever has on the band's records.

Monday night was a mellow show, many, many songs from the early albums that I didn't know as well. But the energy in the auditorium was electric as the old-time fans were able to enjoy so much of the music that has shaped their lives while at the same time, nascent fans were getting an in-depth schooling of our generation's most defining music.

Tuesday night's show was broadcast on XRT, the hip local Chicago radio station that gave Wilco it earliest support. It definitely affected the sound and the setlist. The music was tinny--too much treble, not enough bass. Radio induced sound effects? The setlist was a greatest hits of sorts. To give all those kids out in radio land what they couldn't pay $100 for. Nevertheless, the show hit all the right notes, with Nels Cline rocking like there is no tomorrow in his short pants and Glenn Kotche banging out beats as if no one else was on stage.

The final night was a relatively short 2.5 hour show. Yeah, we only got to hear 14.5 hours of Wilco, not 15 hours. Boo. It was a different kind of show, this Wednesday night show. Tweedy's voice was raspy, and he did blame his wife for making him mess up the words to "Box Full of Letters"--all in good fun, mind you--but the whole place was jubilant. Tweedy chatted with the crowd, didn't scold anyone. And he promised to come back next year. Promised. Seems there are lots of special guests, reunions, jam sessions, and covers to be celebrated.

I am, I think, concerted out for a little while. But I have stored all my ticket stubs and plan on keeping them handy so I can show house guests--yes, I was there for the first Winter Residency, yes I was.

--Jen Maceyko

*Apparently Jen believes Cubs vs. Cardinals in the summertime trumps Wilco. Or at least trumps 20% of Wilco. While, we here at NQL love and appreciate Wilco, we stand by Jen's decision.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

St. Vincent--Schubas, Chicago, Illinois

St. Vincent (the stage name of Annie Clark) was at Schubas this past Friday for a doubleheader. I ventured over there for the first show. Her 2007 debut Marry Me is a collection of artful pop-weirdness and was one of my favorite albums of last year (as evidenced by NQL's review at the time) so I was pretty curious to see it all unfold live.

Folk/rock band Foreign Born from California opened up the show. They were pretty good, seemed like nice guys, and played for about the length of time it takes me to drink 1.5 Budweisers. Their myspage lists coffee and boxing as one of their many influences, which means I know what will be playing in my stereo next time it's 3am and I have been playing Mike Tyson's Punchout! for the last 9 hours desperately trying to beat the champ with that squirrel-of-a-man Little Mac fellow while jacked up on caffeine. Thanks, guys! At one point the lead singer mentioned something about the Chicago cold and some guy yelled out, "It wasn't cold today!" It really wasn't that bad, I think the weather hovered around the 30s all day. But that's what we've been reduced to here in Chicago to try and convince ourselves we don't mind the winter. Anytime someone from California, or worse, Florida, complains about the cold we quickly puff out our chest, call them wimps, and then we all feel better. It's what we do.

St. Vincent sauntered onto the stage with three dudes. Don’t let that crazy cat lady-esqe cover of Marry Me fool you: this Clark gal is cute as hell. They opened up with first track from the album, “Now Now”, and really turned the end into a loud and beautiful mess. They might as well have left the stage when they finished; it felt like a closer. They moved on to a few other songs from the album (I don't remember the names; they mostly came from the first half of the record) with each leaving me mesmerized by Clark’s guitar prowess. Accompanying her was a guy on violin, another on drums, and a multi-instrumentalist. And they have quite the boisterous stage presence which shouldn’t be too surprising: She has been part of the touring band for such acts as Sufjan Stevens, the Polyphonic Spree, and Ike Turner…all of whom are/were no slouches when it comes to the art of the theatrical stage show.

Clark told the crowd this is the 17th time they have played Schubas which I find to be amazing. Apparently this is their first time headlining, though. They’re in the midst of a small two-week tour and she mentioned she was thrilled to be in Chicago because they picked only the cities that they really wanted to play: San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, Columbus, Pittsburgh, DC, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Cambridge, and New York. If you don’t see your city on this list you might want to take a look in the mirror and figure out ways you and your fellow denizens can improve. The fact that Pittsburgh made it over your city should tell you it’s time to act now. Just ask Sienna Miller.

Right before they played the title track some guy in the crowd yelled out “Marry me, Annie!” which was immediately followed up by a girl yelling “Babysit me, Annie!” Annie acknowledged the "Arrested Development" fan in the crowd and then talked about everyone’s favorite extinct show for a bit. I had no idea the album title was culled from an "Arrested Development" reference…which I confirmed from this old Pitchfork article. This just makes me like her more! But I’m confused, is the title track also a reference to this line? The lyrics don’t exactly scream Maeby Funke.

This show was much better than I had expected. Not that I was prepared to be bored but I had no idea I would leave as impressed as I did. From where I was standing I couldn’t really see the drummer but he sounded great as did the rest of the band. It was loud when it should have been loud and they dialed it down when appropriate. She worked three different microphones that ranged her vocals from high to low. The stage show was as creative as a confined space like Schubas will allow with back drop tapestries, trees, and bells. And lastly, she was fantastic. She has a great voice, she’s funny (as evidenced when she told the crowd they were about to play a new song and a few people clapped and without missing a beat she said "Oh, you haven't heard it yet."), and she writes good songs about love and dysfunction that only the Bluth family could really appreciate. With only her debut album out (though they did play a few songs not on Marry Me) they played for just over an hour and when I left I overheard a few people raving about how much they liked the show. They weren’t alone.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Interview: Eric Elbogen of Say Hi

Eric Elbogen and his brainchild Say Hi (formerly Say Hi To Your Mom) roll into town this Friday and are bringing their dry humor and electronic beats to the Beat Kitchen in support of their latest album The Wishes and the Glitch. (For you Bloomington readers, they will be hitting the Waldon Arts Center on Sunday.) We shot Eric a few questions over email and he happily entertained us with his thoughts on the current state of the music industry and his ever bloated video game prowess.

nql: Say Hi has played Chicago numerous times in the past, any show or memory (good or bad) stick out? Any particular venue in town you enjoy playing?

Eric Elbogen: Playing the Metro with Nada Surf was my favorite show ever. There something very majestic about that room. And they help you load your gear in and up the stairs. Bless them for that.

nql: You and the rest of the band take off soon for a tour all over North America for the next couple of months. Any cities you always look forward to playing when going out on tour? (When you’re in Cincinnati on the 27th if you have time you should hit up Zip’s CafĂ© for some food. I can’t stress this enough.)

EE: Yeah. New York, Chicago, Austin, San Francisco, among others.

nql: Anything on tour you anticipate the band listening to in the van? Any new bands you are into at the moment?

EE: I’ve been really enjoying new stuff from Hot Chip, MGMT, Black Mountain and The Helio Sequence. We also always listen to a lot of Radiohead and This American Life.

nql: Opening track on the new album “Northwestern Girls” feels like a total hit song. Can I assume the title and song allude to girls in the Seattle region and not those walking around the campus just 11 miles north of me in Evanston? (I ask because I often ride my bike up to that campus and while a few will surprise you, Northwestern University girls as a whole hardly warrant an entire song paying homage to them……in my opinion.)

EE: Heh heh, yes, you assume correctly. A friend of mine, who actually went to Northwestern, thought for weeks that the song was about the latter, but I’ve never met any girls who went / go there.

nql: Did anything in particular prompt the move from Brooklyn to Seattle? And does the move signify any sort of evolution for Say Hi because The Wishes and the Glitch seems to have a different feel than Impeccable Blahs or Ferocious Mopes. And both Brooklyn and Seattle have large music scenes that I would think would embrace a group like Say Hi. Can you give a quick comparison of the two music scenes and how well you feel the respective communities have been supportive? And do you miss Grimaldi’s pizza at all? I mean, even a little?

EE: I do miss New York Pizza in general, yes. I needed a break from New York and all the craziness that goes along with living there. I’m perfectly content now on my quiet street in Seattle, where it’s especially nice not having five roommates anymore. Yeah, I think you can hear some of what I was feeling before and after my move in the record. As for the differences between the two cities: I’ve never particularly felt part of a music scene anywhere. I certainly have lots of musician friends in both cities, but Say Hi has always sort of been more of a touring band than hometown heroes, if you know what I mean.

nql: You’ve toured in the past with a drum machine and other electronics to back yourself up. Does having a band behind you take off some of the pressure of being on stage alone?

EE: Well, I don’t really feel pressure being on stage anymore. I’ve been playing shows for almost fifteen years now, and you sort of build up a tolerance to getting nervous. But, to answer your question, I like both ways of performing, for different reasons.

nql: Some of your earlier albums have been said to have a concept or a theme, anything a first time listener to The Wishes and the Glitch should know or look out for?

EE: It’s not a concept record by any means, like the previous one was. But there are some themes I tried to stick to, that reflected where I was at with things, where I still am, actually.

nql: Say Hi has been compared from everyone to Belle & Sebastian to the Beatles. Who are your influences?

EE: Everything with an electric guitar that has been released since the late 50’s.

nql: I’m trying to do my best to avoid any of the questions that are on the FAQ section of your website. How do you feel I am doing so far?

EE: You’re doing fine, thank you for the consideration.

nql: Say Hi seems to have the ultimate DIY approach to releasing their music. Have you found this to be the most feasible and profitable approach in terms of getting your music out there and heard? And with record sales down for whatever straight year, it seems like a band is lucky to release one album on a label before being dropped. Do you think the record label as a whole is slowly becoming obsolete?

EE: My answer to this question would have been different a year ago, but it’s a scary time for musicians and labels alike. In the past, putting out records myself always seemed the sensible thing to do, but less and less people are actually paying for music these days, and I feel it as much as any indie or major. We’re all having to look for different ways to continue doing what we enjoy doing, but it’s getting harder and harder to do so. I think the labels that have already realized that they need to rethink the role of a label will be the ones that last …

nql: You famously record all of your albums on your Windows machine. As Say Hi becomes bigger, which could very well happen with this latest album, any chance you see yourself moving into a more sophisticated studio to record future works?

EE: This isn’t true actually*, and I wish someone would fix the Wiki that says so, but I’ve been on a Mac for three years now. But that’s besides the point. It just has never made sense to go into a big commercial studio, because I spend two, three, four, eight months at a time making a record. There’s no way I could afford hundreds of dollars a day at that rate. Besides, it’s more fun doing it myself.

nql: Did you really break up with a girl for breaking your high score in a video game? And if so, would you end this interview abruptly if you knew in my video game playing prime on any given game I could probably obliterate any score you or your ex-girlfriend could even possibly dream up?

EE: No. That was fiction. I bet I could beat you at Ms. Pacman. Really.#

nql: Do you have a favorite video game of the moment?

EE: Ms. Pacman

nql: The Wishes and the Glitch was released in cd form on February 5th but has been available in vinyl or on the internet for a couple of months. With the advent of things like iTunes have you found cd release dates to be less important than they used to be?

EE: Your facts are slightly off, actually.$ It’s been available on CD, Vinyl and in Digital form, from us, since October. It started being available in stores on February 5th . And no, I think release dates are still very important, I just thought I’d reward people who still pay for records, but offering it to them early. For business reasons though (things like press lead time, etc.) it would be hard to do away with the release date completely.

nql: How much do you pay attention to the reviews when you release an album?

EE: I used to pay a lot of attention. I’ve stopped reading most things though. I’ll read some of the bigger reviews, because I enjoy what an insightful, well spoken writer has to say about the music, good or bad. But, it’s unhealthy for me to read most of the stuff out there, because I’ll obsess on a negative review, when, most of the time, they’re just written by someone spiteful who doesn’t really even listen to the record. It’s also frustrating to see stuff that clearly wasn’t fact-checked^ …

nql: People seem to really appreciate your lyrics and enjoy trying to dissect the meaning in a lot of your songs. What or who do you typically look for as an inspiration or influence when it comes to songwriting? At the same time, most of your songs are incredibly catchy (thinking “A Hit in Sweden” or “Back Before We Were Brittle”), so do you even care if people correctly interpret your lyrics so long as they’re having a good time while listening?

EE: No inspiration really, I just write a lot about whatever pops into my head on any given day, and go back and find the best stuff later. And no, I think however people interpret songs is right.

nql: Waterworld was a critical and commercial failure--one of the worst of all-time. However, with age and further consideration, the film presents a particularly cogent view of our possibly dystopic near-future. If you had to, could you grow gills? That first liquid breath would be tough, but after that I bet it would be gravy.

EE: Yes. I could.

nql: Pitchfork often asks people about their ringtone. My question is, if you ride mass transit, what’s the worst possible ringtone you could imagine hearing while minding your own business and trying to read a book?

EE: I think any ringtone, really. I’m a big fan of vibrate and often wish others were too. That’s kind of why I rarely leave the house though.

nql: Eric, again, thank you very much for the time. Enjoy the tour.

EE: Cheers! Thanks.

*An NQL intern was fired over this fiasco. Note to future interns…do not use Wikipedia for fact checking!
#That’s probably true. Ms. Pacman wasn’t my bag. Now Excitebike on the other hand…
$Another intern….canned!
^Let’s hope he wasn’t referring to the question directly above.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Record Review: The Mountain Goats

The Mountain Goats
Heretic Pride
NQL Rating: Good

John Darnielle is no slouch when it comes to word play, so it should come as no surprise that the latest album from the Mountain Goats, Heretic Pride, is 45 minutes of metaphors, ambiguities, and triumph. During those 45 minutes those desperately seeking another “This Year” or “No Children” are going to come up empty handed but that is by no means a slight on what might be the most balanced and listenable album in the Mountain Goats’ catalog.

You won’t go five seconds into first track and single “Sax Rohmer #1” without instantaneously recognizing the marching tempo that implies Heretic Pride picks up right where the last few albums left off. That’s not to say you should expect another sometimes frustratingly quiet effort such as 2006’s Get Lonely. (For the record, I’m a big fan of that album and label it “sometimes frustrating” because that’s the feeling I had when I excitedly jumped headfirst into the album and expected my joy and anticipation to be immediately reciprocated. Instead, it took me a solid two months of listening to realize how much I actually liked that album. Perhaps I should review Heretic Pride again in a couple of months???) Nope, instead you’re thrown right into an upbeat song that has Darnielle singing “And I am coming home to you/with my own blood in my mouth” for the chorus. Don’t worry, it sounds much more encouraging than it reads. And that’s a good thing, too, because that song is followed by “San Bernardino”, a comforting arrangement of guitar plucking and strings. I’ve never been to this California city but Darnielle is so talented with his words when he sings of the “Eastern sun rising over the mountains / yellow and blood-red bits, like a kaleidoscope” I get a strong grasp in my head of the setting without having to google image the San Bernardino’s skyline. (Or maybe I’m just kidding myself and this is no more than a hopeful mirage after being slowly beat down by Chicago’s rope-a-dope winter.)

As I alluded to earlier, Heretic Pride doesn’t have any singles that will immediately smack you in the face (though there aren’t any tracks you’ll skip with any regularity either) but the title track comes the closest. Cut from the same cloth as “Sax Rohmer #1”, Darnielle tells a story of someone being dragged through the streets on the way to the city square (potential Biblical undertone?) for some sort of public lynching. Though only those with the keenest of ears will even pick up on this because “Heretic Pride” cloaks itself behind smiley piano and drums and Darnielle singing “And I feel so proud to be alive / And I feel so proud when the reckoning arrives” in what are the songs most decipherable and conspicuous lyrics. I wasn't expecting the welcome sense of pride and triumph this song gave me, which speaks even more to Darnielle's talent: His songs leave me confounded, unable to decide whether to feel happy or sad.

The next memorable track is stuck in the 8 slot. “Lovecraft in Brooklyn” begins with a noisy guitar riff and our protagonist remembering a blistering hot day in Brooklyn. Although no Radio Raheem, there is a guy in a Marcus Allen jersey who asks for a cigarette and he concedes his loneliness with the line, “Companionship is where you find it / So I take what I can get”. (I’m assuming this refers to a Marcus Allen Los Angeles Raiders’ jersey--the Oakland Raiders were in LA from 1982-1994 which consumed Allen’s entire Raider tenure—and not his Kansas City Chiefs’ jersey. For one, Darnielle spent a considerable portion of his life in California. Second, the idea of some hoodrat in Brooklyn hanging out in a Kansas City Chiefs’ jersey doesn’t give this song quite the sinister feel that I think Darnielle was going for.) Those that enjoy the Mountain Goats more seedy side will probably look at this song as a nice throwback to those yesteryears of All Hail West Texas. And speaking of throwbacks, my first instincts told me “How to Embrace a Swamp Creature” was a b-side from Get Lonely. He’s out of his element. He can’t breathe. He can’t remember his own name. Someone help him!

Right on cue, here comes the help in the form of “Marduk T-Shirt Men’s Room Incident” which bring the strings full circle from “San Bernardino”, and “Sept. 15, 1983”, a nice quiet folk song that again brags on Darnielle’s lyrical talent with the a chorus of “And if I forget Israel, let me forget my right hand.” I don’t know what this reference means and I don’t need to know (another Biblical reference, perhaps?)...ah yes, the subtle powers of lyrical ambiguity. (In a quest to find more of this song’s meaning I hit up Wikipedia. On September 15, 1983 Israeli premiere Menachem Begin resigned; Kansas City Royals’ pitcher Luke Hochevar,who is known more for numerous contract hold-outs instead of his prowess on the field, was born; and Prince Far I, reggae toaster and producer died. Hmmm…let’s go back to the drawing board.) The album ends with “Michael Myers Resplendent” which again brings back the strings and puts the finishing touches on an album that covers all the ranges of the Mountain Goats’ lyrical strengths of visual imagery and humor.

If this album has a flaw it’s that nothing jumped out and surprised me. There are no real mysteries outside of some precious spots of lyrical ambiguity. Past efforts from the band have always left me guessing, surprised, and sometimes needing a few months to digest (see: Get Lonely). Heretic Pride is filled with hardly a single or a filler. It’s solid but not great. Dependable, yet not boring. And perhaps that’s the mystery right there.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Wilco--Riviera Theater, Chicago, Illinois (Day 1)

(In honor of Wilco's five day residency at the Riviera, NQL decided to send a self-confessed Tweedy Bird to report on the first night of action for a special guest post. Enjoy.)

February is a rough month for Chicago. The holidays are long gone, leaving us with extra poundage and no motivation to do anything about it. The cold, dreary weather lingers on for months, creeping through our windows and burying our cars. My co-pay for Prozac this month got traded in for one night’s ticket to the Riviera Theater in Chicago’s historic Uptown neighborhood for the first night of Wilco’s Winter Residency. For the depressed, the jilted lover or Wilco nutcases like me the timing could not have been better. This night was the first of a veritable Wilco smorgasbord, where the band promised to play over the course of five nights every song officially recorded. According to, this show was considered an “Evening with Wilco.” Apparently this meant there was no opening act. Unabashedly my plan all along was to arrive early and claim my piece of land front and center. Clues to suggest this would not be the case:

(1) The shows sold out online within seconds. To my dismay I was not able to land tickets to all the shows.

(2) The line of likeminded Wilco fans wrapped around the block all the way to the corner of Magnolia and Lawrence waiting to get in.

Fortunately the line moved quickly and I was inside the doors in a short time, but too late, sadly, for my frost-bitten fingers. Within minutes my mottled, grey hands pinked to life by gripping a $7 Heineken and I decided to take no prisoners as I made my way to the front of the stage floor. I quickly learned that you have to prove your Wilco fanaticism in this city. I managed to slither my way to within about fifteen feet of the stage, in a comfortable, surprisingly spacious spot. Spacious, I realized, because it was directly behind the Tallest Man on Earth.

What song will they open with? For a band whose career spans six albums, side projects, and numerous unofficial records over thirteen years, the possibilities were limitless. There are so many hits, so many potential ass-kickers. There was no doubt they had the repertoire to sustain a five-night marathon. But the quality of the shows, like a well-crafted mix tape, would depend heavily on the order in which they play the songs. I asked a man standing next to me what he thought they would open with. In striking up conversation with this complete stranger, he revealed to me that he got a five-day pass that night on craigslist for face-value. Hate is not a strong enough word. My mind was so clouded with anger over this that I can’t even remember his pick for the opener. My speculation was soon put to rest as Wilco took stage, understated frontman Jeff Tweedy festive as ever with his unintentionally unkempt hair and nondescript denim shirt. They chose to open Summerteeth-style with “Every Little Thing” followed by “Shot in the Arm.” There’s nothing better to get heads bobbing than a line like Ashtray says/you were up all night. They went on to play two hits from Sky Blue Sky, then two from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, including one of my personal faves, “Pot Kettle Black.” A burgeoning pattern, perhaps? Wrong. After a few selections, Tweedy spoke and enticed us with the knowledge that in addition to playing their officially recorded music, they would also play from Mermaid Avenue and other unreleased songs. Next came a rare lyrical gem, “When the Roses Bloom Again” from the Chelsea Walls Soundtrack.

One by one, Wilco bulldozed through fantastic hit after hit. See the set list here. They skipped around from one album to the next, leaving me salivating in anticipation for what they would play next. Some highlights included “Why Would You Wanna Live,” “At Least That’s What You Said,” and “Misunderstood.” In his most delicate moment of the night, Tweedy sang Music was my savior/I was maimed by rock and roll/I was tamed by rock and roll in a rarely performed version of “Sunken Treasure.” With those lyrics he probably melted even the iciest of hearts all across the Riv. (Editors Note: This has fulfilled our quota for the use of phrase "the Riv" for the year. We'll be sticking with "the Riviera" from here on out. Thanks.) By no small coincidence a few unsuspecting men probably got lucky that night as well. Before going to intermission they played what I’m sure is a band favorite, “Kidsmoke,” a song that gives them license to just flat rock out.

I find crowd behavior at shows interesting. Wilco’s alt-country-turned-daddy-rock appeal has always lent itself to a tame overeducated, underpaid following. Fans seem to go for a sincere appreciation for the music, have respect for personal space even when packed like sardines, and thankfully they use Dial. For the most part this was no different from other Wilco shows I’ve attended. As always, crazed fans begged for songs, and one dude next to me between every flipping song yelled out “CARS CAN’T ESCAPE!!!” This kid was that guy, with a flat-brimmed baseball cap, skillfully angled to the side, three sheets to the wind and checking his cell phone for txt msgs every minute. While “Cars Can’t Escape” is definitely one of my top 100 Wilco songs, I sort of began to hope that they would not play it. To my delight, the local crowd began self-policing, and Tallest Man on Earth calmly told him to shut it because chances were good over the next five nights that they would play it. The kid put a sock in it. Soon after Tallest Man on Earth noticed that I was behind him and offered to let me stand in front of him for better viewing. There is justice in this world! Unfortunately, though I never thought I would say it like this, they did play “Cars Can’t Escape.” It was only to get this guy to shut up or sheer coincidence, not because the band wanted to honor a crappy fan’s annoyingly excellent request. I will believe it no other way.

Crowd antics aside, this was a highly enjoyable show. Wilco has gained a reputation for being a great live band, perhaps one of the best right now. Their shows are great and their heads have managed to stay squarely between their shoulders. For better or worse the band has been in constant evolution, yet they never seemed as comfortable in their own skin as they do now. Their sound is polished, no more evident by the growing presence of Nels Cline whose brilliance is featured in songs like “Impossible Germany.” The love affair between Tweedy and drummer Glenn Kotche is as uncut and wildly passionate as Kotche’s hair. The faithful John Stirratt remains steadfast on stage to Tweedy’s left. This night featured the best of the best, mixing their current pared-down, simplified sound with some older favorites and lesser known gems.

Drunk on Wilco and dizzied by their set list it was sobering to re-enter the frigid Chicago night. Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? I left the show sated but longing for more. Luckily, I have Tuesday and Wednesday to continue this drug holiday (Joining me will be my sister, a fellow Tweedy Bird, who has made pilgrimage from Germany to attend). I don’t profess to have any sort of fair and balanced reporting of this show because I’m just a fan. Perhaps I should have made a disclaimer at the beginning to divert anyone expecting a real piece of journalism. That said I will feel free to say that this was the best Wilco show I have ever seen. I must be high.

--Audrey Wen

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Halfway To Forecastle--Headliners Music Hall, Louisville, Kentucky

Better Late Than Never...
January 26, 2008
"Weary my mind is to say the least. . . . I think I'll slow down if I am able."

The date is not a typo. Deadlines loom. Dogs seize. Wives demand attention. Life intervenes. But we at NQL believe in the old axiom "better late than never" (in fact, it's going to be in our masthead after redesign). So, yeah, Halfway to Forecastle. It happened. Almost a month ago. Which is like eons in Internet time.

Headliners is a great venue--an NQL Choice Pick that draws big-time touring acts and makes us think, "Indianapolis, get your shit together"--and I was amped to see Band of Horses stopping to throw down. I had an inkling that Cease to Begin is meant to be heard in a cramped, sweaty, not-that-good-sounding concert hall.

I secured a ticket when only Band of Horses were on the bill--only later were Early Day Miners, Catfish Haven, VHS or Beta, et al., added and the show turned into a benefit, the proceeds of which were to go to an xTreme athlete recovering from injuries sustained while shredding, dude. My thinking dictates that he assumes any an all risks inherent in, and therefore any and all consequences of, the activities in which he chooses to participate. I'm all for collective helping-out, and I understand it's tough when one of your homies is down, but I feel like somewhere along the way Band of Horses got fucked out of a sold-out show. Maybe I'm wrong, but I doubt it. Or perhaps that's guilt talking: I wanted BoH to have 60% (or whatever) of my $15 because I never paid∆ for Cease to Begin and I bought a used advance copy of Everything All the Time.

Of the other bands on the bill I've seen only Catfish Haven--at Headliners just over one year ago opening for the Hold Steady--and they were completely unremarkable. Friends saw Early Day Miners last autumn and left the show for sheer, seething boredom. Tyler Ramsey would've been nice, but there was Rock Band to play (or, in my case, watch and critique) and fermented barley and hops to consume.

From the Ashes of Guitarded and Band of Beards: Jim, Ryan, Andrea, and John performing as The Dong Machine, Rock Band demigods.

Preceding statements notwithstanding, I can be wowed by an unknown-to-me act. My love affair with The Thermals began last March after they torched my dome in their slot opening for, coincidentally, the Hold Steady.

We arrived just before Cass McCombs took the stage. Never having heard him I kept an open mind, but his set failed to hold my attention--and, judging from the general anti-enthusiasm, the rest of the audience's as well--for more than one song. Jim (you all remember Jim, right?) summed it up thus: "This sounds like a CD I'd like." Agreed. We used this opportunity to visit the bar and the unoccupied restrooms.

Before settling in for Band of Horses, we ran through the NQL Concert Preparedness Checklist:

$2 High Lifes? Check.
Smoke machine? Check.
Tallest concert ever?‡ Check.
Coat check? Negative.

Ben Bridwell and company took the stage to a thunderous welcome and kicked off melancholic with "Monsters", a favorite featuring Bridwell sitting before his pedal steel. After opening with that high-lonesome, Band of Horses upped the energy, tearing through the more raucous highlights of both albums--no rest between songs, no banter, no bullshit, a full concert's worth of material in abbreviated stage time. (Thanks, gents.) Including, in no particular order, to the best of my recollection: "Weed Party", "No One's Gonna Love You", "Is There a Ghost", "Marry Song", "Lamb of the Lam", "Ode to LRC", and, of course, "The Funeral". I hoped they wouldn't play their big one--not that it's bad or that I didn't want to hear it, but just because. Almost as if to tell the audience, "We're past all that. Here's where we're going." But play it and play it well they did, and the crowd sang harmony to the rafters. (Incidentally, the band played at least one new song, composed by the keyboardist, a fellow whose name escapes me. It was a solid, rollicking number that, if nothing else, allowed Bridwell a few minutes' rest and possibly introduced us to the new, two-headed Band of Horses songwriting attack.)

The highlight for me, though, was a phenomenal cover of CCR's immortal "Effigy". (Fitting, because when you think about it, every band is really a CCR cover band. Except Liars. They're a Bang Your Face Against the Wall Because You Took Too Much Lithium cover band.) No commentary; the band can speak for themselves.

There were supposed to be videos of the show to accompany this review but I had technical difficulties. Who knew the camera wouldn't re-orient itself when tilted on its side? You learn something new every time you bootleg a concert to post on the Internet. Anyway, chiefly I discovered this night that Band of Horses are a consummate concert band, and that, good as Bridwell's voice sounds on wax, live it sounds stronger--even more athletic, nimble, and clear. After Band of Horses loaded out their gear, the evening was basically done for me. I saw what I came to see, but local favorites VHS or Beta were to take the stage next.

Stop sweatin' me.

Knowing nothing of VHS or Beta, again I defer to Jim: "More leather." Agreed. Without getting (unable to get?) specific, their set left me unimpressed. Each song sounded the same, and frontman Craig Pfunder was a brat, uttering ridiculous things between songs that he surely meant to be funny but came across as WTF. In a lame attempt at thanking the crowd for attending, Pfunder quipped, "If you weren't here we'd probably be at home slitting our wrists." Huh. Then I would've stayed home.

Headliners becomes a sauna after a while, so John and I stepped outside for some air and made our way into the woods behind the venue in search of some plane that is surely a Louisville urban legend. We almost got "there" before a back-door bouncer summoned us to return, giving us the stinkeye they whole way back, probably because John was trashed, was making tons of noise, and had already fallen down once. (At least Lance Armstrong wasn't around.)

After that we took the best cab ride ever# to have pizza with Burt Reynolds.

Excuse me, ma'am, did I leave my boots under your bed?

∆I still owe someone money for my ticket. Jim? John? Speak up. Your grace period is running out.
‡At 6'3" I did my part. But I even asked the very short girl behind me if she could see, did she want to switch me spots, and she assured me that yes, she could see, switching spots wasn't necessary but thanks. However, I suspected otherwise, a suspicion confirmed by my inestimable colleague Matt Farra.
#Scoop: John called some guy named James, apparently a cabbie, who redirected his van's path to Headliners. When a van showed up John ran to it and said, "Are you James?" He was not James. John asked, "Well can you give us a ride anyway?" He could, and we entered an amazing-smelling, toasty-warm Rasta cab that was jamming sick reggae. Never mind that I had to smash into the way-back seat.

--Brian Herrmann

Friday, February 15, 2008

Interview: Scott Carney of Wax Fang

Thanks in large part to their imaginative, pulsating new album, La La Land, Wax Fang is destined to garner even more acclaim as people get to see Scott Carney (theremin, guitar, vocals) Kevin Ratterman (drums), and Jacob Heustis (bass) conjure up their inner beasts to create a tremendous musical experience. Unfortunately, the band was forced to cancel upcoming shows in Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Milwaukee due to a freak accident involving Kevin. Don’t fret, their shows will continue with a concert at Headliners on February 22 and will include subsequent dates in Washington, D.C. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Lexington (just to name a few) before they head on down to the blue dot in the red state and make some real noise. Luckily, Scott Carney was able to take his watchful eye off Kevin and answer some questions via email about Waterworld, his 1995 Walkman, and that creepy child on the cover of La La Land.

nql: I heard that you majored in filmmaking in college and you frequently utilize 16mm in your shows. How do you think these visuals enhance either your performance or the audience’s experience?

Scott Carney: I’d like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to our friend, Ryan Daly--the man behind all of our projections. Cheers, mate!

I haven’t felt that my own performances were enhanced by the use of projection since before I had the band and, even then, I felt that way only because having them there gave the audience something else to look at, which took some of the focus off of me and, consequently, relieved some of the pressure of performing. I hardly ever see what’s going on back there in the first place, so I rarely feel directly affected by it. Yet, there are those moments, few and far between, when I do look behind me and catch a glimpse of a child being born or a volcano shooting lava high into the air or a car smashing into another car in super slow motion and, I must say, it’s quite a thrill!

From an audience standpoint, I feel that projections enhance a performance tremendously. Projections can make a band with absolutely no stage presence tolerable to watch (and this may be because you’re not actually watching them) and can make a band who is entirely enjoyable to watch on their own seem like they’re on another planet.

: What are the differences in making a movie versus recording an album?

SC: Well, that depends on what type of film or album you’re making. In general, I would say that making a film is more challenging than making an album, because you have to appeal to the eyes as well as the ears. However, some film compositions are more like musical scores than films and vice versa. Take the animated works of Oskar Fischinger and Norman McLaren or the cinematic scope of the music of Pink Floyd, for example. You may find, then, that film and music are not so different after all.

nql: What is your favorite movie that nobody has seen?

SC: I am generally too indecisive to play favorites, so here are a couple of films off the top of my head: A really great film few have seen is called David Holtzman’s Diary by Jim McBride. Equally great and unseen is The Man with a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov.

nql: Hey, you know movies, let’s discuss. Waterworld was a critical and commercial failure--one of the worst of all time. However, with age and further consideration, the film presents a particularly cogent view of our possibly dystopic near-future. If you had to, could you grow gills? That first liquid breath would be tough, but after that I bet it would be gravy.*

SC: When I think of liquid breath, I’m reminded of that scene in The Abyss where Ed Harris’s diving helmet is flooded with breathing fluid to keep it from imploding under the intense water pressure of the deep. To answer your question, considering the rate of development in the field of stem cell research, I would venture to say that, before too long, growing gills may even be a thing of the past.

nql: How has the music scene in Louisville changed since you returned home after college?

SC: When I first moved home, there was a collective of bands and musicians that operated under the name Debauchery Records. It was with some of these bands that I got my first shows when I was starting out. There seemed to be a lot of promise with a few of these groups in particular, but then the whole thing sort of fell apart. That is the last I’ve seen of a true musical community existing here, though, I don’t get out much nowadays, so I’m a bit at a loss. What I can say is that Louisville has had a great, eclectic music scene for some time now, from the beautiful guitar layering of the Photographic to the Caribbean funk punk of the Lucky Pineapple to the thrash psychadelia of the Slow Break to the mellow jams of the Fervor, to name a few.

nql: Everyone likes to refer to the glory days of the Louisville music scene as the “post-rock” days of the late 1980s with bands like Slint, etc. Chicago and Louisville seemed to share a big connection with this movement back then. Outside of Louisville, how do people now define/classify the Louisville music scene?

SC: It’s hard to say. Some folks are still fixated with bands like Slint and Rodan and for a good reason--they made exceptional music. Others recognize My Morning Jacket as ‘the’ Louisville band. More often than not, when I tell people that we’re from Louisville, Kentucky, they are more inclined to see if I’m wearing shoes than to mention any music that comes from here.

: Speaking of home, what do you look forward to the most when you return home?

SC: My lady friend and our cats, Boscovs and FDR. Other than that, privacy is always welcome.

nql: Many people often describe the indie scene in Indianapolis as one big musical orgy because many of the bands share, trade or split up band members. No one appreciates a good orgy more than us at NQL, but has it been difficult for the band’s relationship within the Louisville scene to have predators like Jacob, who came from Cabin?

SC: Having Jacob in the band has proven to be a challenge, but that has nothing to do with Cabin. Just kidding. You know, I wish I could say yes, because that would be more interesting than the truth. The truth is, it really hasn’t been that difficult at all.

: What did you learn by going on tour with My Morning Jacket in the fall of 2006?

SC: I learned that those guys are some of the nicest and most down to earth people I’ve ever met and are one of the, if not ‘the,’ best live bands out there today. Also, that driving from Austin to St. Louis in November totally sucks.

nql: I’ve read somewhere that Neutral Milk Hotel is one of your band’s influences. It has been almost exactly 10 years since In The Aeroplane Over The Sea was released. What do you remember about the first time you heard that album and describe the impact that album had on you?

SC: Like most of the music I come to adore, when I first heard In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, in the fall of 1999, I didn’t like it. I had actually seen Neutral Milk Hotel open for Superchunk at Sudsy Malone’s in Cincinnati the year before and didn’t like them then either (at the time, I was listening to a lot of Shellac and other, more aggressive music, and hadn’t yet embraced the sort of sloppy, out of tune-ness popularized by Pavement, if that gives you any indication). I was living in Pittsburgh when I first heard the record and was spending a lot of time alone, locked up in my bedroom, writing. My roommates would listen to that album over and over again and, before long, I grew to like a few songs and started to write with the door cracked and then, eventually, with it wide open. I remember the first time I ‘listened’ to that album quite clearly: It was the day before Halloween. I was driving with a friend on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It was late afternoon. The sun shone gold upon the changing leaves as it faded into the horizon and we listened to the entire album from start to finish without saying so much as a word. It was truly a magical, one of a kind experience. It totally blew my mind. I have held it as one of my favorite albums ever since.

nql: How was recording with a full band in La La Land different from your solo effort in Black and Endless Night?

SC: Recording with a full band is much more rewarding on both a personal and artistic level than multi-tracking everything yourself. When you multi-track, you are essentially trying to sound like you’re not multi-tracking. In a sense, you are creating an illusion--the illusion of a group of performers playing together in real time--and that illusion can be very difficult to mask. Even when you do succeed in masking it, it’s still just a mask and not the real thing.

: Were you able to focus on anything (songwriting, guitar, etc.) because you had Kevin and Jacob for La La Land?

SC: Having Kevin and Jacob in this band is a luxury I’d not known to exist before playing with them and one for which I am extremely grateful. It’s everything you might imagine being in your own concept of a ‘dream band’ to be. That being said, having them around has certainly helped me maintain a level of objectivity in the process, to be able to stand back and look at the work from a distance and to concentrate on the writing, arranging and producing elements, as opposed to being overwhelmed by having to do every last little thing as was the case with Black & Endless Night.

nql: It seems like the new trend in indie music is for bands to self-release their albums. With the album now out, what, if anything, do you think was hindered by you having your hands in all parts of the process?

SC: I see the DIY approach as more self-empowering than hindering. It allows you total freedom and control over your work and that’s not a bad thing. Right now, there are simply more bands than there are labels to house them, so unless you’re comfortable waiting around while your record sits on a shelf, you’re almost left with no other choice than to release it yourself.

: Your recordings and/or shows are often known for your unusual use of certain instruments (theremin and kazoo in particular). Any different instruments you would like to use in the future?

SC: I’d really like to incorporate a cheerleading squad into a piece of music at some point.

nql: Many of the songs off of La La Land have been played in concerts, at least in Louisville, prior to the actual release. Have you noticed any difference in audience reaction with this last tour?

SC: Somewhat, though I still think most folks outside of Louisville are still becoming acquainted with the songs.

nql: What has been your favorite city that you’ve played?

SC: Louisville aside, Lexington (Kentucky) is always a consistently good time. Those kids know how to throw down. Faux real.

: What has been your favorite venue that you’ve played?

SC: The Tabernacle (Atlanta, GA). I liken our experience there to the film Beyond Thunderdome. “Two men enter! One man leave!”

: I have only seen you guys play in Louisville and Lexington. Assuming crowds are more receptive at these two places (although the latter is still Lexington), does that make it easier to put all your energy into a show?

SC: It absolutely does. You know, it takes two to tango--if the energy you put into a show is reciprocated by the audience, it makes for a much more rewarding show for everyone.

: Are you playing any new songs on this upcoming tour?

SC: You’ll just have to wait and see…

nql: You have a number of shows between now and March. What’s the band’s plan for the rest of 2008?

SC: Aside from playing shows and writing new material, our main plan is to fashion a trailer/mobile home out of a sailboat!!!

nql: Any chance of a Danny Glover Cover Band reunion before next New Year’s?

SC: There’s talk, but, then, talk is cheap. Danny Glover himself could probably give you a more accurate answer than I could.

nql: Do you know where that enchanting munchkin is now from that album cover? Also, please put to rest this nasty rumor. Is that really a childhood picture of Brett Butler, the comedian, not the former Los Angeles Dodger?

SC: I wish I knew. That photo was found at a thrift store by our friend, Thea Lura, who modified it into what it is now. Consequently, I cannot dispel any rumors about the child growing up to be a comedian or a Dodger.

nql: It’s 1995, what was playing in your Discman?

SC: Don’t you mean Walkman? At least, that’s what I had then. Inside of it, you would probably find Nirvana In Utero.

nql: It’s 3:30 in the a.m. and you are alone in your house. You set the mood and you pick the album. What would I hear? (Remember you are alone in your house. I can only hear it from a nearby bush.)

SC: If I’m awake at that hour, which I rarely am anymore, I would likely be trying to fall asleep, in which case, I might listen to The Sinking of the Titanic by Gavin Bryars.

nql: What was the best concert you saw in 2007?

SC: Umbrella Tree at the Exit/ In, Nashville (Tennessee). I had never even heard of them before and they came out and knocked my socks off. Really, I had no socks after they played.

nql: You are going to die in five hours. What are you going to listen to before your heart stops beating?

SC: I would listen to the sound of my inner dialogue freaking the fuck out!

: Best thing you had stolen from you this year?

SC: My innocence.

: Kimmy Gibler or D.J. Tanner? (Please justify your response.)#

SC: D.J. Tanner. I always found Kimmy to be a bit annoying and, well, not as attractive as D.J.

: Although I saw the movie, I didn’t learn until after the fact that one your concert posters made it on the wall at the party scene in Cloverfield. How close are you and J.J. Abrams?

SC: So close, yet so far away.

--Matt Farra

*This won't be the last time we ask this question.
#We looked up Kimmy Gibler a few weeks ago, she's wicked short. Let's just say Scott made the right call. Plus, Candace Cameron is looking pretty good these days which shouldn't go unnoticed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Nina Nastasia--The Hideout, Chicago, Illinois

I wound up at everyone’s favorite dive earlier this week because New York City-based singer/songwriter Nina Nastasia was in town. This past December when I was trying to pick out my favorite record of the year, her effort You Follow Me with Jim White was left standing so it’s safe to say I’m a fan. I had been looking forward to this concert for some time—the fact that it was at the Hideout made it all the better. Other than actually figuring out a way to get there, has anyone ever had a bad time at the Hideout? Yeah, I haven’t either.

It sure is nice of this guy to take time out of his busy schedule to scare children.

Local group the Bitter Tears opened things up. Let me tell you, these clowns have about all the charm of the McCarthy hearings. When their first song was nearing its end the lead singer began crying into the microphone. At the time I wasn’t sure whether this was actually happening or if he was faking the whimpering and tears (he was), all I know is it made me feel uncomfortable. They were trying to pull off this Andy Kaufman improv-type thing. Lots of jokes, awkward pauses, a guitarist in a dress with smeared makeup…you know, that whole act. Sometimes it worked. Usually it didn’t. Although that didn’t stop the guy behind me from laughing at every single thing they did. He might have been a plant.

With limited mass transit options from the Hideout, after the show this guy's eyebrows crawled out the door and hailed a cab.

I haven’t mentioned their music yet because I didn’t stop to acknowledge the fact that music was being played until their third song. And what’s telling is their music isn’t bad at all. Their Hanukah song or the song that referenced Hanukah was great and caused me to crack a smile once or twice. Meanwhile, the guy behind me was laughing all over himself. Throughout the set, the guy in the dress would pick up a trombone or some other instrument and just quickly blow it into the microphone at a completely inopportune time. It was pretty funny but I would like to see this band play and leave just some of the theatrics at home. Actually, scratch that, I’m being too harsh and should probably concede that they were rather amusing. Later when trying to think of what song to play they tried an impromptu version of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”. The lead singer hadn’t the first clue what the lyrics were so watching him trying to sing was rather awesome but that was after the guitarist asked, “Isn’t this the song about that time Clapton’s wife killed their son?”. Yikes. I think we’ll leave the Bitter Tears on that note. Thanks for the good time, guys.

I don't think we'll see the Bitter Tears opening for Eric Clapton anytime soon.

Nina Nastasia was slated to play by herself for this evening. No backing band. No Jim White. Just Nina. You should have seen how they propped her up on the stage. She was sitting on a chair that was resting on top of a very unstable four legged platform atop the stage. Had she moved her chair back six inches she would have fallen off onto the stage. Was that really the best the Hideout could do? It would have looked less awkward if they had just had Tim Tuten on all fours with Nastasia sitting on his back playing guitar. In fact, later she didn’t even leave the stage for an encore. She just stayed there because she was afraid to try and climb down. I’m not kidding. (I would have advised against whiskey being the drink of choice while being on that thing but she seemed fine with it.)

Right in the middle of her first song the indie-paparazzi showed up. About four people stationed in the front just started clicking away with cameras. And I’m not talking about silent, innocuous digital cameras. These were large, loud, and impossible to ignore. They might as well have been those old-fashioned cameras with bursting bulbs. They didn’t just take a few pictures from a few angles and quit either. They relentlessly snapped pictures throughout the show. (On the bright side, the guy behind me stopped laughing.) But it was incredibly distracting. I remember towards the end of the show wondering what that noise was that was taking my mind off of all the cameras and I remembered Nastasia was playing seven feet away from me. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but when you’re talking about an acoustic show with no backing band it’s a different story. People were not pleased.

I think this is a fantastic picture. Please don't use it without my permission.

Even though one of the members of the indie-razzi (hereinafter referred to as “girl in the black shirt”) was standing right in front of me, I successfully evaded her for a bit and enjoyed “Late Night”. You have to give Nastasia credit, she seemed undaunted by the commotion up front and played nearly every song off of You Follow Me. (For a small measure of revenge I lifted all of these pictures off what I think are the girl in the black shirt’s flickr account. They seem to be from the precise angle from where she was standing. She posted some pretty good pictures but this should surprise no one because she had 179 to choose from.)

Nastasia really is a great performer and even better songwriter. I was impressed with how effortlessly she breezes through songs that seem to have a somewhat difficult range and…uh-oh, I think a girl in a white shirt is giving the girl in the black shirt a dirty look. There might be an incident…stay tuned. Yep, as soon as Nastasia finished “I’ve Been Out Walking” the girl in the white shirt came over and sternly told the girl in the black shirt to stop taking so many pictures. The girl in the black shirt looked a bit flustered and lowered her camera. Good work, girl in the white shirt! You just saved the day. About this time Nastasia started bantering with the crowd and this happened:

Girl1: Play “This Is What It Was”!

Nastasia: You mean “This Is What It Is” (from The Blackened Air)?

Girl1: Yeah, that one!

She started to play it and realized she had forgotten how and quit. High comedy. And what is this!? The girl in the black shirt is taking pictures again! Nooooooo! Although, you have to kind of admire her. She’s keenly aware that she’s in a room where 95% of the people despise her but the prospect of ruining everyone’s night doesn’t concern her in the slightest. I respect that. (The girl in the white shirt is fuming.)

This is just some dude from the girl in the black shirt's flickr account. I think it said his name was Tom.

If this review reads completely uninformative, incoherent, and nonsensical that’s because that’s how the night felt. I was excited to be there even after the Sideshow Bob opening act left the stage but it really was hard to focus on the show with the girl in the black shirt taking pictures. I never felt like I completely got into the show because I allowed myself to be distracted by the indie-razzi which is partially my fault. When my friends and I left we couldn’t do anything but laugh at the experience we just had. Just know she played most of the songs off of the album of the year and as I recall mixed in some from The Blackened Air and Run to Ruin. If she returns to town anytime soon I’ll be there in a heartbeat to hopefully hear her again for the first time.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

MGMT, Yeasayer--Schubas, Chicago, Illinois

Some of you may remember the interview with Jessica Gonyea of OFFICE last month when she mentioned MGMT as a band she just started listening to. I hadn’t heard of them at the time but seemingly right after I hung up the phone this curiously titled act (whose name I’m convinced was picked out by Britt Daniel) started popping up everywhere. First I was flipping through channels and I happened to catch them on Letterman. Then, my brother dialed me up to let me know their single “Time to Pretend” was currently a free download on iTunes. I checked it out, gave it my full stamp of approval, and proceeded to purchase the entire album. This flavor of the month rolled into Schubas this past weekend with Yeasayer for two sold out shows. Yes, two shows. Following a trend I’m not wild about, each Brooklyn band played Schubas twice in the same evening with both sharing opening and closing duties (i.e. MGMT was scheduled to open the first show for Yeasayer and Yeasayer was scheduled to open the second for MGMT.) I made it to the early all-ages show where MGMT was supposed to kick things off.

I’m not sure if the schedule was wrong or what happened but Yeasayer ended up opening the first show (I heard rumblings that MGMT was late to the venue but I can’t confirm this.) I must confess that I didn’t do my homework for Yeasayer. I hadn’t listened to their album nor had I read much about them. My Yeasayer knowledge going in consisted of the collective buzz I had recently been hearing. But they turned out to be a really good band. They have this experimental Man Mannish sound going on with a lead singer (Chris Keating) who is eerily reminiscent of Steve Buscemi. Their set was rather farcical but also pretty awesome with lots of energy mixed in with some weird noises and tribal screams (I thought this YouTube clip captured the spirit of the band pretty well…sound quality isn’t that great because it’s YouTube.) At one point while the band was playing at Minutemen-pace, Keating was banging on the keyboard and bloodied his hand. No worries, the show went on. And he was kind enough to let everyone know how happy they were to be playing with MGMT…..and gave the pronunciation as M-G-M-T. M-G-M-T?! I had been pronouncing them “Management”! Which is it? Can we get an official ruling on this, please?

Yeasayer (From L to R) That guy, this guy, weird guy that sings, weird guy who plays drums.

I didn’t stick around to see how Yeasayer fared for Round 2 at 10pm. They seemed rather spent by the time they finished and Keating begged for clarification from his bandmates that this was in fact their second show. Unfortunately for him it wasn’t but I doubt anyone who came to see them later in the evening was let down (I would love to hear from someone who was at the second group of shows…please feel free to leave any sort of report in the comments.) Their album, All Hour Cymbals, has been out for nearly four months now. They convinced me it’s time to give it a listen.

Between bands I conducted an unscientific survey with the audience on the issue of a band playing two shows in one night (I’ve never been a fan, I’d rather a band just add another show the following night or move to a bigger venue.) The results are as follows:

Me: How do you feel about bands playing two shows in one night?

Guy1: I don’t know, I don’t care, I guess.

Me: Do you feel confident you’re getting the same caliber show you’d be getting if the band was slated to just play one show.

Guy1: I don’t know, sure I guess. Usually it’s smaller bands that do this so they don’t have much of a set list to choose from anyways. Seriously, who cares.

(You know, that’s a pretty decent answer. Unscientific survey has concluded.)

MGMT, now a five-piece, came out with a few of them sporting headbands that were either supposed to channel Jimi Hendrix or John McEnroe. Pick your poison. And I think I figured out why this was an all-ages show. The lead singer of MGMT looks like he’s all of 17. (If you’re not familiar with MGMT, don’t let the Taylor Hanson circa 1997 appearances fool you, they really have blown up this last month. Their album, Oracular Spectacular, is a fantastic blend of ten poppy/funky songs with opening track “Time to Pretend” being the very definition of an instant hit.) I believe they opened up with “Weekend Wars” but my memory is somewhat fuzzy from the bass that was racking my brain. I wasn’t that impressed with their sound at the beginning. They sounded more like some sort of bad 70s stoner rock band. I was expecting to hear some funk, not Foghat. Early on, MGMT’s evaluation wasn’t looking good. Potential problems with punctuality? Check. Great sounding cd not translating well in concert? Check. Hmmm, if they keep going at this pace we may have to demote them to an Assistant MNGR position.

I like this picture of MGMT. One guy goes one way, the other guy goes the other way, and this horse's sayin', "Whadda ya want from me?"

My complaining may have been a bit premature. After playing a few deep cuts from the album and a song or two I didn’t recognize they dusted off the aforementioned hit “Time to Pretend”. Packed full of quirky beats, heavy layered guitars and heroin and super-model ridden lyrics, I have a feeling you’ll be hearing this song on a lot of playlists this summer. But the band sounded strongest when they grooved into “Electric Feel” which had the crowd in a tizzy and seemed to be the first time they matched the polished hipness that is prevalent throughout the record.

In another moment of honesty, I have to fess up that I bailed before the show was over. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, especially since I had yet to hear the “The Youth” which might be my favorite song on the album but other already-made plans beckoned. And yes, I do find it rather cheap when someone writes a review of a show (especially when it’s a negative review) and doesn’t even stay for the entire duration. So, I guess I’m calling the kettle black but I hope this doesn’t come off as too negative of a review. I still think that album is fantastic and I’m sure any less-than-great critique is merely a bump in the road, if not just one man’s opinion. A few weeks back I sent their myspace page to a friend of mine who is in music biz. He commented that he liked the band but didn’t hear many hits and expected Columbia to drop them before their next record. Although I don’t agree with the “lack of hits” assessment, it remains to be seen whether MGMT will strive for relevance or just become a 2008 flash in the pan. Whatever the case, the album that is currently in front of us deserves our attention and praise. Hopefully their live shows will eventually live up to that standard.


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