Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Day After Yesterday

Well, I did some kind of weird stuff at the concert, like take short videos with our Kodak EasyShare from the balcony and write down all the set lists for both bands (the better to remember you with, my dears), but I enjoyed myself thoroughly. I was on the edge of my seat most of the time.

I went with my friends Paul and Stacy Petersen. They were excited about the concert as I was, and we bought our tickets pretty early. We were lucky, because it sold out in six weeks. We had a nice drive down, discoursing on many topics, and got some pizza on the way. I thought I was getting sick because of the weird taste in my mouth at dinner time, but it turns out it was the water in our pitcher. Somehow I don't find that reassuring. The parking lot was full, so we had to park at the high school next door. We walked out on the black-iced blacktop and slid into our seats right on time, just as the head honcho of the theater introduced the first act, Andrew Bird.

Andrew Bird is quite stunning live. You have never seen anything like him, I tell you. He was a scarecrow in a three-piece suit, and he still looked like his thin legs shouldn't support his weight. His hair flew around when he shook his head in time to his music. He gestured with his violin bow, not like a conductor, but like a fiery orator stabbing his finger into your chest to convince you otherwise. And that wasn't even the music.

Paul says he sounds like Beck, but with a good voice. Here is how you do that: He starts a groove pizzicato on his violin, then sends it looping, then another one and loop. His drummer comes in and starts an awesome beat, then he starts whistling pure notes and playing the glockenspiel at the same time. A few times through the loop, then he starts singing and playing the electric guitar. Later, the drummer starts playing a keyboard with his left hand. You just won't believe it if you don't see it.

He is on the Live Music Archive, so you can listen to tons of his music. His album, The Mysterious Production of Eggs is very different from the live shows and can be heard in its entirety at the link. And I just found something awesome: a live video of a concert he did in May 2005. I managed to get it running ok at 56K in IE (I have 256k DSL and would prefer Firefox, but this is what I got to work) so you will probably need a true 500K connection to see it well. So you can see for yourself; the drummer is in that one.

The song of the night was probably "Capital I". I have heard a lot of runs of this song, but that one was incredible. It will only see the light of day in concert because the lyric, "We all live in a capital I," is from a song on Sesame Street ("Capital I" is about why kids are so mean to each other, and the answer turns out to be something like the number 1, Isolation, Independence, and I; maybe a religious person would add Iniquity). If you listen to his live shows, listen to that and you will see how arresting it is. He played a new song too, "Plasti-cities", that I'll call second best. It was very human, about the power of art and song against the dehumanizing marketing and consumerism of modern Plastic society (at least, that's what I took from it; I only heard it once). It was catchy, and, for a song lionizing art, more free from the arted-up filigree than some of his songs from his latest album.

In "Why" he did something very interesting; I never imagined it while I was listening to the live concerts on the Archive. He played this part in the song very strangely, like not with the loop or in rhythm or in tune; he is a sort of twitchy artist live, but this looked like he was totally nuts, like he was really frustrated and barely able to handle himself. So right in the middle of the song, he does this sort of dialogue where he says, for the audience, "Why'd you do that?" Then he answers for himself, nervously: "Why'd I do what? I'm just standing here, you know." And so on, listen to this to hear what one is like (incidentally, "Why" is also in the video I linked above). It was like an Andy Kaufman joke where you can't be quite sure if he's pulling your chain. The more I thought about it, the funnier it was.

He finished his set, took a bow, and then quickly dismantled so Nickel Creek could come on. Paul and I used the facilities, then headed back in.

They dimmed the lights once, then dimmed them down all the way. I'd just finished telling Paul that they would probably be introduced (Andrew Bird had gotten an introduction last time). But instead Nickel Creek all came out together. The cheering was electric, so loud. I hope they felt like rock stars. I really think my voice wasn't very loud because I had yelled it out the other day. But I clapped with the best of them.


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