The other week, I shot Tune-Yards (or tUne-YaRdS, or some strange capitalization) and Buke and Bass at the Red Palace. The Red Palace is becoming a favorite place of mine to see shows in DC, decent lighting (LEDs, though), nice beer selection, small room but you can see the artist pretty well regardless… I had never heard Tune-Yards before, which was basically a one-person band with some back-up on some songs from a bassist and a horn section, but it was an interesting show. She makes loops with her voice, right on the spot, and then plays over them… she creates a sound that is reminiscent of African traditional music (to my ears, anyway), mixed with drone/ambient. Pretty interesting stuff.
Sunday, after a looong weekend, I saw Lykke Li and Grimes play at the 9:30 Club. I had never heard of Grimes before this show was announced, but I have been a pretty large Lykke Li fan for years, since before her debut album Youth Novels came out. Grimes turned out to be a one woman band, who played an odd, eclectic mix of pop/noise/danse music. I’d have to listen to her stuff recorded to really pass judgement, but live it was interesting, if really distorted.
Lykke Li, who I’ve seen before, has upgraded her sound and more than upgraded her stage show. The set was almost like an arena rock performance, with blasting strobes, synchronized lighting, tons of fog, weird cloth strips that hung from the ceiling and swirled around the stage… The new material is also bigger and more bombastic (even as the song thematic material is darker and somber at times), so it’s quite a spectacle. For me, it left me a little unsure if I preferred this new Lykke Li to the one from Youth Novels and before. She got her start with small, intimate songs with a stripped down sound. Part of the reason I loved those early singles and her first album (and her earlier stage show) was how it felt like she was really putting herself out there with little artifice. While this new record and show are way, way more pro and accomplished, I think it loses a little of that feel. Still, it was a super impressive show and she is certainly flexing as an artist.
A couple of weeks back, I caught an assignment from the Sun to shoot Wye Oak’s homecoming show at the 2640 Space in Baltimore. This is a great venue, a retired/decommissioned church in Charles Village… huge, and beautiful, withc great acoustics. I have seen a lot of great shows there over the years, such as Celebration, Future Islands & Arboretum and negativland.
Wye Oak was extremely tight, coming off a month(s?) long US tour in support of their new Merge Records album, Civilian, and the sold out crowd was super receptive… after a weird incident with a drunk guy screaming about how he loved Titus Andronicus ended with crowd members escorting him out, anyway. As Erik Maza from the Sun said to me after the show, “Who gets drunk on Sunday BEFORE going to see Wye Oak at a Church?!” But back to the show… Wye Oak were good, and supplemented with a horn section for a few songs, which I thought was interesting and sounded good, I wonder if that is going to become a normal thing?
This band was not what I expected… I guess the name and the pedigree made me think this would be some driving, semi-aggressive indie rock, but in actuality they are basically the exact opposite… soft rock, made me think I was at a waterfront restaurant in the 80s or something. Not bad, though, and the crowd certainly enjoyed it…
Mid October was pretty good for shows… starting out with the super rare performance by former Clockcleaner leader Sharkey’s new solo vehicle Puerto Rico Flowers. How rare? This was apparently their first, last, and only live show. Backed by a temporary group of friends, he played with Screen Vinyl Image and the Pfisters at the Talking Head Club in Baltimore, with the help of Fan Death Records and Unregistered Nurse.
Then there was the last Lower Dens show of the year… Lower Dens is a Baltimore band, fronted by former solo artist Jana Hunter, they are pretty new and getting a lot of buzz… they just put out a debut record on Devendra Banhart’s record label and are just about to go out on what sounds like a GRUELING tour, starting with 11 shows at CMJ this past weekend. They are great; check them out.
Then I snuck out to Arlington, VA to see Japanther and the Death Set play at the new Artisphere space. The staff, and the space, were awesome but somehow virtually no one showed up! Those of us who were there were treated to what amount to a private performance… really odd but a lot of fun! Both bands played new material, much of it related to the passing of Death Set member Beau Velasco, who died sadly last year. Really great performances from both bands. The Death Set has a new mixtape out next month, then a new full length in January and the songs they played off of that sounded good so pick it up when its out!
This post also appeared in a different form on BYT.