Starlight Mints @ The Mad Hatter – 7.25.06

I’ll keep it short: the Starlight Mints show this past Tuesday was one of the best I’ve seen all year. Yes, it was in a converted strip club, and yes the opening bands were sub-par, but the Mints more than made up for it.

Setlist:
Rhino Stomp > The Bee
Pumpkin
Black Cat
Rinky Dinky
Margarita
Goldstar
Eyes of the Night
Irene
Rosemarie
Pages
Seventeen Devils
Bandit
Submarine #3

Sound Team @ Cincinnati – 7.22.06

I didn’t feel sorry for Sound Team, exactly. Actually, I felt kind of impressed. Following Cold War Kids night after night (especially as soon after them as they did on Saturday) takes a lot of guts. I don’t know how it was anywhere else, but in Cinci the Kids did an amazing job and completely stole the show. Still, Sound Team did a respectable job and would have really shone anywhere except right after Cold War Kids’ inspiring performance.

I guess the most impressive thing about their show was that they seemed so into it. Even though the six(?) members of Sound Team were cramped into a space about half the size of a college dorm room, they still jumped, shook and just generally rocked out. Their bassist even went so far as to put a tambourine around his neck (seen above) and jump around with it. A+ for effort on that part.

Cold War Kids @ Cincinnati – 7.22.06

For the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I went into a concert with no expectations. Sure, I’d heard Cold War Kids and Sound Team, and had even been told by a reliable source that the Kids put on an amazing live show–but the truth is that I just hadn’t had time to think about the show on Saturday night, let alone surmise what might lie in wait for me across the river.

MP3: Cold War Kids – We Used To Vacation

Now, saying that a band are “good live” is a bit of a weird thing to toss out these days. What does that mean, anyway? Do they move you emotionally, like Sigur Ros might, or do they just finish their set with little to no mistakes? Still, Cold War Kids Are–as much as I hate to put it this way–“good live.” Now let me explain.

If you had seen the venue on Saturday, you might have laughed as I did. The bands were in a tiny corner of a bar, competing with UFC and Futurama on the projection screen TV. But for the entirity of Cold War Kids’ set, it wouldn’t have mattered if they were playing in a back alley dump–we were transfixed. Not since I had seen Q and Not U had I felt that I was a part of something so funky and so powerful.

MP3: Cold War Kids – Hang Me Up To Dry

But it was the little things that won me over more than anything. Their bassist’s half-twisting dance he did when he was really feeling the music. The ever-so-precise way that they used drumsticks on beer bottles on “Saint John.” The way their lead singer pounded the keys on “We Used To Vacation” like he was massaging the tension out of it. They were like specialists. Guys who might not have been the most skilled musicians, or the most talented singers, but who knew what makes a “good show” honestly good.

Final Fantasy @ Alchemize – 6.29.06

Let me start by saying that Final Fantasy is no novelty act. When Owen Pallett performs solo live, using just a violin and a handful of pedals, it’s not because he’s trying to be cute about it. I think the problem is just that we’re not used to a rail-thin Canadian sauntering on stage with just the aforementioned tools and putting on one of the best live shows you’re likely to see all year.

I’ve always loved seeing great bands in intimate settings, but this one was so to a fault. It’s the age old story of weekday booking: bar books great act and no one shows up, presubably because they have work the next day. Well, those willing to wake up groggy-eyed or after noon were rewarded with a performance that was both emotionally charged and passionate.

For those who complain when songs in concert stay too close to their album version, you won’t find this problem at a Final Fantasy show. Again, because of his particular solo layout, Owen had to completely rework songs like the piano-heavy “The Lamb Sells Condo” into a violin-only composition.

Similarly, “Song Song Song,” which draws its power from multiple layers on the album, was stripped down a bit. Live, he tapped the strings with his bow, looped that with the thudding sound of his thumb against the violin’s body, and then sang over all of that. But that’s not where it ends. For the section where Owen cries out “concern yourself with the invincible,” he yelled into his violin like one might do into a cave. The resulting echo and distortion through his instrument’s microphone gave his voice an eerie, otherworldly quality.

While attendance was low, and the venue was hot, Owen still put on a remarkable show. To perform solo, arguably the scariest thing in live music, and do it well, that’s something that warrants praise. And it’s worth mentioning that his between-song jokes were pretty hilarious. Here’s one exchange:

Owen: We have stuff for sale, too.
Guy in the audience: Where?
Owen: That’s a good question. Someone just pointed ton the mens room. (laughs) I don’t do that…..anymore.

While flipping radio channels on the way home, I happened across Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” playing on a classic rock station. I’ll admit that I chuckled a bit to myself because of the line “it just soothes the soul.” Owen’s music–about as far from classic rock as you can be without getting too weird–is hardly soothing to the soul. After having spent an evening listening to it, I can safely say that it challenges the soul. And thank God someone’s not afraid to challenge us.

The Late B.P. Helium @ The Dame – 6.26.06

MP3: The Late B.P. Helium – They Broke The Speed of Light

Is there a better way to celebrate your new “non-teenager” status than with The Late B.P. Helium? If so, please tell me because this one was stellar in every sense of the word.

For starters, it was the first time I’d seen Robert Schneider’s (the Apples in Stereo) new band, Thee American Revolution. If you can, imagine Robert playing the game Guitar Hero along to 70s and 80s guitar rawk and you’re pretty much there. It was cool to know that he’s not all pop, and can still rock out with the best of them when the mood strikes him. Much like his Marbles performances, I think this was a case of him just having a bit of fun; but I’m glad I was able to witness it.

There are live bands, and there are studio bands. The Late B.P. Helium have now earned the distinction of being both. I’ll admit that I didn’t own their album Amok until about two weeks ago. After first popping it in, I thought “there’s no way they’ll be able to sound this good live.” I mean, how do you top a kazoo solo? Yesterday I found out how: with lots and lots of guitars.

Between Bryan Poole (B.P.) and his rotating cast of co-guitarists (including no less than Casper Fandango of Casper and the Cookies), my ears never got a break from their psych-rock. Then again, they never wanted one. If I might borrow one of Douglas Adams’ more descriptive similies, seeing the Late B.P. Helium up close and in person was a lot like having your brain smashed in by a brick wrapped in gold.

“But what about the kazoo solo?” you must be asking yourself by now. Rest assured, Bryan knew that the best way to make up for the lack of one of Amok‘s more awesome parts (I say that without any sarcasm–it’s really wonderful) is by doing what the Elephant 6-ers have done for generations: guest appearances. Bryan invited up Robert Schneider and his wife to provide some percussion in the form of tambourine and maracas while he and Casper soloed as only they can.

MP3: The Late B.P. Helium – Candy For Everyone

Aside from that, it was a treat to get to see “Rabbit’s Ear” live. I’d been a fan of the album version, but they absolutely killed with it live. Of course “They Broke The Speed of Light” and “Johnny Rad” were thrilling as well. It was the kind of good that made me want to run out of the Dame and shout “WHY AREN’T YOU IN HERE?” at passers-by. Maybe it’s best that I just stayed put and enjoyed the show.

Afterwards I go to gush to Casper about my love for his band and lament that I’d forgotten to preorder their new album, The Optimist’s Club. Thankfully they’d brought copies on tour so I was able to pick it up along with one of BP’s most excellent shirts. Before I’m accused of product placement, I’ll just say that while this photo was not my idea, I do think it’s one of the few me-and-a-band photos that have turned out halfway decently.

The Late B.P. Helium’s Official Site
Catch The Late B.P. Helium on Tour
My Interview with The Late B.P. Helium

Download: Radiohead @ Bonnaroo

If you follow any Radiohead messageboards, you’re probably aware that their performance at Bonnaroo is considered one of the band’s best in recent years. The setlist was near-flawless and the band were energetic and, dare I say it, playful.

Here’s Radiohead’s 2006 Bonnaroo performance. If you’re just looking for the new songs, you can hit up IGIF for those (we seem to be doing a lot of cross-posting lately). Grab this fast, because it’s not staying up long.

ZIP: Radiohead – 2006-6-17 Manchester, TN- Bonnaroo Festival (191 MB) Technical difficulties. Appologies. Download it here.

Actual review and photos coming soon–I swear.

Radiohead @ Bonnaroo (6.17.06)
01 There There
02 2+2=5
03 15 Step
04 Arpeggi
05 Exit Music
06 Kid A
07 Dollars And Cents
08 Videotape
09 No Surprises
10 Paranoid Android
11 The Gloaming
12 The National Anthem
13 Climbing Up The Walls
14 Nude
15 Street Spirit
16 The Bends
17 Myxomatosis
18 How To Disappear Completely

Encore 1:
19 You And Whose Army?
20 Pyramid Song
21 Like Spinning Plates
22 Fake Plastic Trees
23 Bodysnatchers
24 Lucky
25 Idioteque
26 Karma Police

Encore 2:
27 House Of Cards
28 Everything In Its Right Place

Fun Fact: Apparently Bonnaroo grossed $15 million this year. Yowza.

Download: The Apples @ Desdemona

God bless the internet. Someone already put the Apples in Stereo’s performance from Desdemona online. Unfortunately I don’t have a DIME account, so I can’t download it. If any of you can get it to me, email me and I’ll tell you the best way (hint: yousendit.com). Thanks.

I’ve got it, and it’s online for you to download:

ZIP: The Apples in Stereo – Desdemona 6.23.06 (75 MB)

Or get the FLAC files from DIME: The Apples in Stereo at Desdemona

Well, Andrew and I are leaving to go catch day two of Desdemona. On the docket: Enon, Mates of State, The Spectacular Fantastic and anyone else we can see.

The Apples in Stereo @ Underlying Themes 5.18.06

From the stage setup on Underlying Themes Thursday, you would have thought the Apples in Stereo were poised to throw the spotlight on frontman Robert Schneider. I mean, it would make sense. Robert is just coming off of his on-again-off-again live stint as Marbles (and act which, among other things, features him singing karaoke to his own songs), and is a great showman. But this wasn’t the case. Rather, Thursday’s show was a celebration of the band as a whole, right down to their special guest: Bill Doss of The Olivia Tremor Control.

The internet has recently been abuzz with rumors about the “special guests” that will be appearing on the new Apples in Stereo album, New Magnetic Wonder. If you hadn’t guessed by the fact that Bill Doss is touring with The Apples in Stereo on their opening slot for the Strokes, he’s one of those guests. From the very get-go, the chemistry between Robert and Bill made it apparent that they’d literally been friends all their lives. If you weren’t an Apples aficionado, you might have thought that he’d always been a members (when, in fact, it was his first time ever playing with the band); he provided great backing vocals and even joined Hilarie in teasing Robert about referring to himself the “lead singer.” It felt like watching a family interact, more than a band come together.

The set kicked off with “Go!,” an appropriate enough opener, before launching into “Skyway,” a likely candidate for New Magnetic Wonder‘s single. The show was chock full of classic Apples tunes like “Seems So” and “Ruby,” but had a handful of new songs as well. “You Gotta Play Tough” was an cute, uplifting song that had some of Robert’s best lyrical work all night. But the big winner of the evening was the their closer, “Srawberryfire.” The Apples in Stereo are by no means a jam band, but when you see them perform “Starberryfire” live, you start to think that maybe they could pull it off. Revolving around Eric Allen’s excellent bass line, it allows Robert and John Hill to go nuts with reverb and bended notes.

Even more impressive than their musical prowess, was the fact that the Apples in Stereo have been in the business for over a decade, but still act like they’re kids. I dare say that I’ve never seen anyone as happy as Hilarie Sidney was when she sang on “Rainfall;” maybe it had something to do with the crowd’s deafening cheer when Robert announced that she was going to see the next song.

Similarly, Eric and Bill cracked jokes all night about their microphones and equipment. Eric, a usual back-up vocalist, was micless, but still had a stand in front of him. So as a way of simultaniously lamenting his situation and giving the audience a laugh, he began asking for “more micstand in his monitor.”

And really, why shouldn’t the Apples be all smiles? They’re nearing completion on what could be their best album yet, they’re about to go on tour with The Strokes, and they’ve added an extra cast member to their traveling theater, and he seems to be working out quite well. I mean, Bill was even telling “indie” jokes before the show. My favorite? Q: How many indie rockers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: I have that on vinyl.

Petticoat, Petticoat @ The Dame (4.05.06)

MP3: Petticoat Petticoat – Crosshair

Petticoat, Petticoat played their first headlining show at The Dame since I can remember. And while the crowd was sparse, those in attendance were among the most rabid fans of the band.

Sometimes I feel sad that my city isn’t more receptive to indie-pop. Sure, the citizens of Lexington will show up in droves for Parlour Boys (who, while “pop” and “indie” are far from “indie-pop”), but appear to less about Petticoat, Petticoat. And to talk to the band, it seems like they’ve all but given up on being accepted by their city. Even so, they’re reaching out to us with shows like last night’s. Yes, it was a low turnout compared with some other shows, but the band didn’t seem to mind.

As Petticoat are currently recording for their first full-length LP, Every Mother’s Child, the setlist got a nice dose of new songs. Hot on the heels of their old favorite “Crosshair” was a new condender for the crown: “Love in an Alley.” It gave their lead singer, Kristin Messina, a chance to flex her vocal skills. Unfortunately I’m unable to remember the name of the other new one that blew me away, but I do know that it focused on how they “have no money.” Oh well, I’m sure we’ll hear it in a month or two. The new album isn’t that far away.

Petticoat, Petticoat will be playing April 15th at the Beaumont YMCA in Lexington, KY

Petticoat, Petticoat on Myspace