7/12/17 Echo & The Bunnymen, Violent Femmes

(i) lineup

1a. Echo & The Bunnymen
2b. Violent Femmes

(1a) (Echo & The Bunnymen’s) setlist

    1. Rescue
    2. Villiers Terrace
    3. All That Jazz
    4. Seven Seas
    5. Bedbugs And Ballyhoo
    6. Over The Wall
    7. Never Stop
    8. Bring On The Dancing Horses
    9. Nothing Lasts Forever
    10. The Killing Moon
    11. The Cutter

Encore:

  1. Lips Like Sugar

(1b) highlights

  • Echo & The Bunnymen! Love these guys and this was my first time seeing them live
  • Not many groups that formed over 30 years ago can still sound good today – the Bunnymen are one of them
  • if you claim to be a fan of the Bunnymen, but have never cried in a dark room to “The Killing Moon,” then you’re a liar
  • the chorus of “Lips Like Sugar” is one of the greatest choruses ever written, please fight me on this, I love a good squabble over the important things in life
  • the Ford Amphitheater on the Coney Island is pretty freaking cool – the idea of seeing a show right on the boardwalk with all the rides and games just behind the stage is so charming

(1c) lowlights

  • our seats were pretty far away and the Bunnymen didn’t have a screen or anything to watch, so they were very small; their moodiness and goth aesthetic was still evident from the high seats though, thank god
  • the band was billed as the headliner, yet they performed first for this co-headline tour and I was anticipating them closing. I wish their set was longer, but can’t complain much for the great performance they put on.

(1d) overall thoughts

Like most of the music I listen to, I first discovered Echo & The Bunnymen back in high school. Around 14, I got really into The Smiths, The Cure, U2, Joy Division and similar 80’s groups, so it wasn’t long before I discovered Ian McCulloch and his moody tunes. Sophomore year of high school, we actually had to take a required religion course for a semester, so I ended up in a class called Hebrew Scriptures. Miraculously, the teacher of that class was not only a big 80’s music buff, but mentioned in passing that before he considered entering the seminary, he was a touring roadie for Echo & the Bunnymen for several years. Naturally, I was in awe.

Some of my earliest memories with EATB music is riding in the back of my parents’ car with my headphones on (back when you would put headphones on instead of in, what a time to be alive), wearing all black, and feeling emo af listening to the dark, sexy sounds of men from the 80’s who emotional and wore makeup because being different is being cool. I probably listened to “Lips Like Sugar” hundreds of times on a playlist stuck between The Cure’s “Disintegration” and New Order’s “Ceremony.”

Seeing EATB at Coney Island very much reminded me of that time in my life, and by the looks of the crowd, that music transported others too. Everyone was in their late 30’s to mid 40’s, mostly tattooed, and felt like they were from a different time. It’s not difficult to allow yourself to be carried away by the music when you remember how, in some form or another, it was there for you when no one else was.

Bottom line: Whether it’s 1984 or 2017, Echo & The Bunnymen are moody, broody artists who know exactly how to tap into just that perfect realm of Sadness. But that doesn’t mean they won’t also make you dance with lips like sugar kisses.

(2a) (Violent Femmes’) setlist

    1. I’m Nothing
    2. Memory
    3. Good For/At Nothing
    4. Love Love Love Love Love
    5. Blister in the Sun
    6. Kiss Off
    7. Country Death Song
    8. Waiting For the Bus
    9. Jesus Walking on the Water
    10. I Held Her in My Arms
    11. Gimme The Car
    12. Gone Daddy Gone
    13. Black Girls
    14. Add It Up
    15. American Music

(2b) highlights

  • Fun Fact: it’s impossible to dislike Violent Femmes, and if you say you do, then by God you cannot be helped
  • Violent Femmes feel like a true phenomenon – they tore through the alternative scene for a solid as all hell 7 years in the 80’s, took some time off, then came right back for another solid 11 years and it feels like no one noticed
  • I feel like most of life can be broken into two parts: the very brief window of time before having heard “Blister in the Sun” and then the rest of your life after hearing it
  • Not many bands can start a song, then completely stop singing and playing their instruments so the audience can finish an entire verse and chorus, but the Femmes can
  • If you think because VF mostly sang “coming-of-age” DIY Midwestern garage alternative rock when they were young so their high-level energy must be behind them…you’d be wrong. These guys are still killing it
  • There was what can only be described as a 10-foot tall brass saxophone onstage the whole show that was played maybe 3 times, amazing
  • Amanda Palmer randomly showed up to join the band on a few songs; as a Dresden Dolls fan, that was pretty cool
  • The drummer, who is currently John Sparrow, played drums standing up, oh and his “drums” were a single snare drum, a giant gong, and a genuine backyard BBQ grill on wheels – need I say more

(2c) lowlights

  • again, our seats were far, but Violent Femmes actually had a screen to watch and the crowd was pretty into it, so not too many complaints here

(2d) overall thoughts

Violent Femmes are a band with music so specifically iconic that I struggle to remember the first time I even heard them. They’ve always existed in culture and the zeitgeist for me in a strong visceral way. To put it super crudely, there’s something about VF that feels so youthful, fun, and particularly DIY that I imagine discovering them as a weird kid in the 80’s is how alternative 90’s kids felt discovering Blink 182. The songs are kind of dumb but speak so specifically and strangely to that audience. (Violent Femmes have a thick layer of authenticity that Blink is lacking, but there’s an analogy somewhere there.)

With probably one of the most fully-realized debut albums ever, VF had and still have some of the most iconic singalong songs I can think of. Even after hearing “Kiss Off” and “American Music” one time, you feel like you know the words. Every song feels familiar and intimate, and I really think that punky garage band quality of their sound convinces people that they could’ve written “Blister in the Sun” or “Good Feeling” too. Like, do you even remember the first time you heard “Gone Daddy Gone”? It feels like it’s always been in the air, in the back of your head, on the tip of your tongue.

The guys are older now, decidedly less punk with their t-shirts tucked into their jeans, but damn, they can still jam. Name another band who can bring a 10-foot tall brass sax and BBQ grill onstage and use them as instruments. Who else would have the guts? They still sound great, they still have that wink, wink-nudge, nudge attitude, and they still want everyone to singalong. By the looks of this show, everyone is still willing to join in and everyone sure likes American music.

Bottom line: Gordon Gano might be the original Rivers Cuomo; only the best of the best can make authentic dorkiness genuinely cool. Violent Femmes started out by speaking for the weirdos, so I only hope they continue being a mouthpiece for those not afraid enough to be different.

Bonus Material!

Clip of “Blister in the Sun”:

Franz Ferdinand 6/5/17

(a) setlist

    1. Jacqueline
    2. No You Girls
    3. The Dark of the Matinee
    4. Paper Cages
    5. Do You Want To
    6. Walk Away
    7. Stand on the Horizon
    8. Lazy Boy
    9. The Fallen
    10. Michael
    11. Huck & Jim
    12. Take Me Out
    13. Ulysses

Encore:

  1. Always Ascending
  2. Darts of Pleasure
  3. Love Illumination
  4. This Fire

(b) highlights

  • Franz. motherflipping. Ferd. i. nand.
  • “Stand on the Horizon”! “Darts of Pleasure”!!!! Also, every other song.
  • Warsaw is kind of a fantastic venue and slowly become a favorite of mine
  • The crowd was a joy for the most part; awesome Franz fans were surrounding us with only one sour grape and everyone was so, so happy to be seeing these guys for the first non-festival real show since late 2013. That is way too long to go without them
  • Let’s all use this opportunity to give Bob Hardy a shoutout – what a bass player, what a gem, what a guy
  • throwback to that brief month in mid-2013 when I sang that bit from “Ulysses” every day: “laaaa la la la la, Ulysseeeeees” – what a time
  • Alex ripped his shirt sometime before the encore and like, just kept playing and his entire right side was exposed and it was so punk rock, but in a Scottish art school kind of way.

(c) lowlights

  • one crappy person in the crowd and that’s it; this show was a gem

(d) overall thoughts

I will never as long as I live not love Franz Ferdinand. Even when they’ve put out music I wasn’t crazy about, I still liked it and respected it more than other groups I like. Everything Franz has ever done has been deliberate, artful, and with joy – what more could a fan ask for?

This night at the Warsaw was just fantastic, even including the fact that there were two openers. Alex Kapranos, forever a joyful and hammy frontman, was quick on his toes and jacknifed more than a few scissor kicks while playing guitar. His hair is long and his face looks a bit older than we remember him, but the whole package is still there. You can tell that he’s still revitalized by the music they play and really enjoys himself up there. Bob Hardy on bass is the textbook definition of solid bassist – not very quick to take to the spotlight but whose presence would be immediately noticeable if he were gone. He has an air of Mark Stoermer in his playing, but with a bit more of a smile and I love it.

The obvious standouts in the set – “Do You Want To,” “The Fallen,” and “Michael,” to name a few – don’t make the tracks before and after pale in comparison, but instead bolster the performance. With red shoes tapping on hardwood floor, Alex remained spry even through the unbearably fast songs and thoughtfully measured during the ballads. I could’t help but let my mind wander during their performance, asking myself what could’ve and might’ve been if America had embraced this band in the same way they took to Arctic Monkeys in the last decade. As I mentioned after seeing Franz at Gov Ball, their influence is still resonating throughout the indie genre to this day; Franz might suitably be the grandfathers of the modern new wave genre, but how many people actually acknowledge that?

In a world where The Strokes are somehow worshipped for creating the post-punk revival, I constantly ask myself where Franz Ferdinand sits. Even if they never quite get the recognition they deserve in their own musical lifetimes, I have no doubt that their forebears will remember their lasting effect. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard an audience sing guitar riffs aloud and two of those times were when Franz played “Take Me Out.” That means something. this band means something, their music means something, and the memories they forge with every performance of their timeless songs will forever mean something, if only to me.

 

Bottom line: Franz Ferdinand are nothing but treasures. If I could ever in some way make a mark on how we conceive of new wave alternative music, or the post-punk revival of the 21st century, I will be the first pallbearer and light to illuminate the works of Franz. I might hope that they forever live on, but, luckily, I know their music always will.

Franz Ferdinand, Zane Lowe 6/4/17

(i) lineup

1a. Zane Lowe
2b. Franz Ferdinand

(1a) (Zane Lowe) setlist

    1. To quote Zane, “I’m doing 80 songs in 40 minutes, so let’s get it, New York!!!”
    2. does it matter what the songs were?

(1b) highlights

  • Zane Lowe indirectly helped shape my entire music taste and he certainly has no idea

(1c) lowlights

  • Zane Lowe indirectly helped shape my entire music taste and he certainly has no idea

(1d) overall thoughts

  • This image below includes the only important takeaways from the performance

IMG_20170617_004929

Bottom line: Zane Lowe was a Radio 1 DJ and legendary host of MTV’s Gonzo hour interviewing people I loved, and now resides at Apple Music interviewing dumb people I hate. He made me dance at Gov Ball, even when I thought he looked dumb. Good guy. Dumb banter, but good guy.

 

(2a) (Franz Ferdinand’s) setlist

    1. Jacqueline
    2. No You Girls
    3. The Dark of the Matinee
    4. Paper Cages
    5. Do You Want To
    6. The Fallen
    7. Walk Away
    8. Love Illumination
    9. Michael
    10. Always Ascending
    11. Take Me Out
    12. Ulysses
    13. This Fire

(2b) highlights

  • FRANZ!!!!!!
  • but but FRANZ!!!!
  • that setlist. like. what. Jacqueline. Dark of the Matinee. Michael. Ulysses. All of it.
  • Hit after hit after hit after hit, this band NEVER QUIT.
  • if you’ve never seen or heard a festival crowd sing along to probably one of the greatest guitar riffs of the last 30 years in a huge festival crowd, then you’ve never seen “Take Me Out” and you’ve never LIVED

(2c) lowlights

  • the first three rows of people were all there for some tool ass DJ named Logic and every bro in his crowd made me wanna commit suicide; none of them deserved to even be in Franz’s presence

(2d) overall thoughts

 

Franz Ferdinand were one of the first bands I ever listened to and truly loved. I remember having their debut Franz Ferdinand and 2005 hit You Could Have It So Much Better rotating in my CD player, along with Hot Fuss and the Hot Hot Heat album that came out that year. Their first two albums were so incredibly formative for me that it’s entirely possible my life would’ve gone a different direction had I not discovered them. That’s powerful.

Despite being a huge fan since Day 1, this show was only my second time seeing Franz. For some reason, they tend not to make it out to NYC – or American in general – all that often. The first time I saw them was only in 2013 and I still think that performance is one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. At Governor’s Ball, my friends and I were close to the stage, but trapped in a sea of non-Franz fans. I later learned that nearly everyone behind us, going back nearly 40 rows – which is notable considering they weren’t on a main stage – were there to see them, but at the time…it really felt like an intimate concert just for us. And I swear I’ll never forget it.

The interesting thing about desperately loving music that was popular over a decade ago is recognizing when that music, and the people that create them, start to feel their age. Franz Ferdinand absolutely captured a musical moment in time when they hit the scene in the early 2000s. Some people might even say that they created the scene, and I wouldn’t disagree with that. A bunch of art school kids, Franz transformed the post-punk revival into something that was dirty and gritty and from New York (a la Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Strokes) and made it something cool, slick, arty, dance-y, and fun. 90% of indie alternative bands out today would not exist if it weren’t for Franz Ferdinand and I will fight anyone who says different.

Opening with “Jacqueline,” “No You Girls,” and “Dark of the Matinee” perfectly reveals how resonating this band’s influence has been not only on music, but for fans. Even without having heard “Jacqueline” in years, aside from occasionally coming up on shuffle, I didn’t hesitate in the slightest when it was time to scream-sing, “It’s always better on holiday, so much better on holiday, that’s why we only work when we need the money.” I was back in my parents car with my CD player and headphones wrapped over my ears with those orange and brown, cracked CD cases.

Bottom line: Franz Ferdinand is iconic, not simply in what they did for music and the genre, but for their undeniable ability to bring joy and showmanship to performance. When other bands have found it easy to play their back catalog straightforwardly, Franz elevates their songs to classic status by throwing themselves completely into the sound. I pray this band never goes away, but if they do, their music will live on and there’s nothing more comforting than that.

Phoenix, Local Natives 6/3/17

(i) lineup

1a. Local Natives
2b. Phoenix

(1a) (Local Natives) setlist

    1. Jellyfish
    2. Wide Eyes
    3. You and I
    4. Airplanes
    5. Colombia
    6. I Saw You Close Your Eyes
    7. Ultralight Beam (Kanye West cover)
    8. Past Lives
    9. Fountain of Youth
    10. Dark Days
    11. Who Knows, Who Cares
    12. Sun Hands

(1b) highlights

  • first time seeing Local Natives who I’ve casually enjoyed since around 2010 when they first hit the scene and man, they were great
  • unexpectedly surprised by not only their stage presence but ability to keep such intimate tracks feel lively and awake in a festival format
  • normally I get annoyed when lead singers decide to crowd surf solely for the sake of making a set suddenly more interesting, but when Taylor Rice came into the crowd twice during the set, it felt so deliberate and genuinely fun
  • their lighting and simply yet pretty stage production was beautiful; it perfectly set the scene for these fellow Angelenos
  • the sun setting around the time their set was ending, and the dust was picking up at their stage – it reminded me of my home in LA in the best way

(1c) lowlights

  • nothing comes to mind – they came out and did exactly what they needed to

(1d) overall thoughts

Local Natives popped up in my life when I was having a difficult time a little less than a decade ago. I always liked them even though they were a bunch of hipsters from Silver Lake. They had goofy mustaches and their music videos looked like Urban Outfitters, sure. But unlike the usual pack of hacks out there, Local Natives also had the tunes.

And after this performance, I realized that they have the presence and performing chops too. Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer take turns on lead vocals, guitar, and keyboards, harmonizing in that sweet spot of Beach Boys-inspired and pre-folk explosion that happened because of half-ass bands like Lumineers and Mumford and Sons. Local Natives’ songs are sweet and floaty and fit right in around the Coachella Valley, sure, but they have a lasting effect because they come from some place real. “You and I” practically floats across the stage and dances in the light, and is there a sweeter sunset-y singalong than “Who Knows, Who Cares”? You don’t want to miss these guys live.

 

Bottom line: To the uncultured eye, Local Natives might get lost in the sea of same-y folksy LA-transplants, but they’re so much more than that. Their stage presence, resonating harmonies, and purposeful guitar work really makes them memorable and standout.

 

(2a) (Phoenix’s) setlist

    1. Ti Amo
    2. Lasso
    3. Entertainment
    4. Lisztomania
    5. J-Boy
    6. Long Distance Call
    7. Fences
    8. Try To Be Cool / Drakkar Noir
    9. Lovelife
    10. S.O.S. In Bel Air
    11. Role Model
    12. Girlfriend
    13. Love Like A Sunset Part 1 / Bankrupt! / Love Like A Sunset Part 2
    14. If I Ever Feel Better / Funky Squaredance
    15. Armistice
    16. Rome
    17. Fior di Latte
    18. Meant
    19. 1901
    20. Ti Amo Di Piu

(2b) highlights

  • Phoenix!!!! Those dudes have such class, style, and grace – so damn French
  • yo, I don’t know if Warren Fu is the man responsible, but Phoenix have the dopest stage set-up I’ve seen in recently memory. A giant panel of mirrors is all you need for endless joy and entertainment
  • everyone in Phoenix feels so refined and older than their contemporaries, and I’m so into it
  • have you ever heard a band write so many catchy earworms that don’t make you wanna die? me either.
  • Love. Like. A. Sunset. enough said.

(2c) lowlights

  • they could’ve played for another hour and I would’ve been into it
  • the crowd could’ve and should’ve been bigger – I blame the fact that Childish Gambino was playing the opposite stage at the same time

(2d) overall thoughts

I first encountered Phoenix sometime in late 2005, early 2006. I undoubtedly saw their name in fine print somewhere in NME or Uncut or Mojo or Spin, and wrote their name down as a band to not forget. To me, they were always that “fun, French band,” and then somehow, just when I forgot about them, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix dropped into the world and every car commercial ever was never the same.

When Phoenix got huge, I had no idea how to respond. What happens when a bunch of older dudes finally hit it off with their fifth album? Luckily, Phoenix didn’t completely lose their minds and instead decided to put out pure joy with Ti Amo, and brought all that passion to the stage. Words can’t do their production justice; few bands can so easily meld sound, aesthetics, and production into such a complete package. You watch Phoenix perform one live song on their stage and you suddenly feel like you understand them as a band. New Order is another band that comes to mind that really nails this combination of performance and art, but no one’s doing it like Phoenix today.

There’s few things I respect more than when big bands headline at festivals and skip over the obvious tracks to play deep cuts and objectively “unsuitable” tracks. “Love Like A Sunset” doesn’t belong at any festival but a song never felt so appropriate for a summer night on Randall’s Island than that one. The reds, oranges, and yellows washed over the crowd in real-time and in the reflection of the giant mirror that framed the performers. Yeah, everyone danced when “Lisztomonia” started, but everyone felt when “Love Like A Sunset” hit like a sonic boom.

 

Bottom line: Phoenix are not only clearly impeccable songwriters, but they’ve manage to create the perfect marriage of sound, aesthetic, and art that elevates every performance to another place. Their contemporaries better recognize what Phoenix brings to the world, because – from where I’m sitting – it’s nothing but light.

Lorde 6/2/17

(a) setlist

    1. Tennis Court
    2. Magnets (Disclosure cover)
    3. 400 Lux
    4. Buzzcut Season
    5. Ribs
    6. Sober
    7. Sober II (Melodrama)
    8. Hang With Me (Robyn Cover) (Feat. Jack Antonoff)
    9. Liability (Feat. Jack Antonoff)
    10. Royals
    11. Perfect Places (Feat. Jack Antonoff)
    12. Team
    13. Green Light

(b) highlights

  • LORDE!!!!! This. girl. is. FAB.U.LOUS.
  • Seriously, can I be friends with Lorde. I know she has several posses and what not, but like…I can contribute.
  • First time seeing with witchy girl and I am SO on board with everything
  • The clear, glass shipping container that was the focus of her stage production was so oddly unique and clever. The dancers, the lights, how she interacted with the stage – whoever’s job it is to conceive of that stuff needs a raise
  • looking back on the setlist right now, I can’t believe she only played 13 tracks – I felt like we spent the whole weekend together; everything was perfectly paced and I totally loved how many new tracks she threw in. I’m not here for singles-only sets and neither is Lorde
  • there was a group of young 20-somethings/late teens standing near me and my friends and they were low-key crying throughout the set and even though I felt a lot older than them that night, I just wanna say “same”
  • this completely accidental and beautiful moment during the final bridge of “Team” when all the lights were flashing, the sun was finally setting over the horizon, Lorde is singing “we’re on each other’s team,” and then I look up into the sky and this perfect pack of ducks are flying in a V formation right over the stage. it was so bizarre and beautiful and oddly perfect.

(c) lowlights

  • I’m not exactly a fan of Jack Antonoff so I thought his presence was a bit much, but honestly, Lorde loves him and he didn’t really talk, so he was the perfect accessory to her fantastic performance

(d) overall thoughts

Like most people, I discovered Lorde after “Royals” dropped out of practically the sky above. But it wasn’t until I heard a few years ago that David Bowie was a fan before he died, so I knew it was time to start paying attention. I never watch the Grammy’s or generally acknowledge its presence, but for some reason, I really remember the year that Lorde won and how she so awkwardly accepted her award, all dressed in black, her hair long and curly, and sort of ran off-stage. Her inherent authenticity – a word I dislike and rarely use – totally killed me.

A bit after, I got into Pure Heroine and realized that this chick was special and couldn’t miss her at Gov Ball. She walked out wearing a lace veil over her face slowly singing the refrain to “Green Light” and pretty much the rest is history. Dressed in black and lace and heels I would’ve died in, she danced across the stage like she owned it and everyone was at her whim. She opened with my favorite song “Tennis Court,” which I still feel like is such a bizarre song for a pop singer to have as a single off their first album. The melody is so unusual, the imagery is almost mismatched with Lorde’s aesthetic, yet everything about it works so well. It’s the interesting contradictions that make Lorde so special. What even is this girl? She’s herself.

Her banter in-between songs was so genuine and authentic, I swore that we were old friends. The stage and festival grounds became a very, very large bed where we all chatted at the largest and most intimate pajama party ever. And I mean that in the least condescending way possible. Lorde is ethereal, young, fresh, weird, and everything you wish you were at her age. The tracks she played from her new album feel powerful, meaningful, and I won’t be one bit surprised when Melodrama completely blows up the world.

Bottom line: Lorde is one of the most authentic performers in recent memory; her unique vulnerability and fresh perspective almost makes me wish I could relive my high school years if only so she could be there to guide me.

Father John Misty 5/12/17

(a) setlist

    1. Pure Comedy
    2. Total Entertainment Forever
    3. Things It Would’ve Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution
    4. Ballad of the Dying Man
    5. Birdie
    6. A Bigger Paper Bag
    7. When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay
    8. When You’re Smiling And Astride Me
    9. Strange Encounter
    10. Nothing Good Ever Happens At the Goddamn Thirsty Crow
    11. Funtimes In Babylon
    12. Nancy From Now On
    13. Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)
    14. True Affection
    15. Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
    16. I Love You, Honeybear
    17. The Ideal Husband

Encore:

  1. Bored in the USA
  2. The Memo
  3. Real Love Baby
  4. I’m Writing A Novel
  5. So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain
  6. Holy Shit

(b) highlights

  • I got to see Father John Misty three nights in a row in two different venues, pretty sure the whole experience was a highlight
  • My best friends came to this show with me even though they aren’t huge Josh fans (their loss) so the whole night was 60% me having a great time, 25% me asking, “isn’t this amazing?!!”, 10% me asking, “are you enjoying this?? you get, right? do you get it?”, and 5% me saying “this is my favorite part!!!!”
  • Josh played three shows in a row plus a spot at Jimmy Fallon this very same day and wasn’t tired at all, what a champ
  • Farmer Jah Misery forgot the words to “I’m Writing a Novel” ….twice, and then just decided to rewrite the final verse and include a refrain of “T is for Tennessee, T is for Texas…Freedom!” and it was fantastic.

(c) lowlights

  • This crowd was the worst of the three days by far; literally no one likes when that person yells out between songs to commandeer the show. Stop yelling out song titles and dumb shit so the artist will respond to you, this is not your comedy hour – it’s his performance. Go home.

(d) overall thoughts

Three nights in a row of Father John Misty just confirmed that I would literally follow this dude for an entire tour, an entire album, an entire…whatever. The setlist was identical as the previous night, but I didn’t even notice until someone pointed it out to me. When everything can still feel so fresh after three days, you know he’s doing something right.

Something notable to mention is how many tracks completely transformed for me through the process of this show and the whole week, really. I was never a huge fan of “True Affection” on Honeybear; I would often skip it or listen to something else twice in place of that. But the way it’s presented live, it’s impossible for me to not hear it and want to completely lose it in a mindless dance. The stage was backlit pink every night it began so that you could only make out Josh and the band’s outline. A giant neon-seeming heart would pulse and light-up in the upper right corner of the scrim behind the stage. When I hear that song now, I see that heart – it’s still lighting up for me.

On the other hand, I always enjoyed “The Thirsty Crow,” but I don’t think it was until this performance that I actually “got” what it was about. The way that Josh acts out this pseudo-masculine conversation back and forth with a girl who’s only present in the lyrics but not physically onstage completely blew my mind. It felt like watching a play performed aloud that I had only previously read. “When The God of Love Returns” took on a whole new meaning of creation, life, and belief in a way that had completely gone over my head the first 20 times I heard the album. The closing line “To make something out of nothing sounds like someone else I know” feels insanely portentous and crippling and moving live, I cannot believe it didn’t connect sooner. Amazing.

Even classics like “Bored in the USA” and “Holy Shit” come across as Next-Level-Classics when performed in a setting that isn’t your bedroom, or coming through headphones on a crowded train. Hearing others sing along and watching how Josh puts new emphasis on certain words in lyrics you’ve heard a million times is like watching your favorite movie with the director’s commentary turned on. The show couldn’t feel more intimate and you couldn’t feel more connected.

 

Bottom line: Father John Misty’s shows are so memorable and staggering because the context of performance elevates even the simplest of songs; when Josh is able to control how you hear his music and deliver it in a unique way, everything takes on a new meaning. Even if a song goes over your head, all it takes is half a lyric to help you connect, and then the music is all yours.

 

Father John Misty 5/11/17

(a) setlist

    1. Pure Comedy
    2. Total Entertainment Forever
    3. Things It Would’ve Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution
    4. Ballad of the Dying Man
    5. Birdie
    6. A Bigger Paper Bag
    7. When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay
    8. When You’re Smiling And Astride Me
    9. Strange Encounter
    10. Nothing Good Ever Happens At the Goddamn Thirsty Crow
    11. Funtimes In Babylon
    12. Nancy From Now On
    13. Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)
    14. True Affection
    15. Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
    16. I Love You, Honeybear
    17. The Ideal Husband

Encore:

  1. Bored in the USA
  2. The Memo
  3. I’m Writing A Novel
  4. Real Love Baby
  5. So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain
  6. Holy Shit

(b) highlights

  • Didn’t think the setlist could get better from the night before, and then the setlist got better from the night before
  • This was the closest I’d ever been to Josh during a performance and it was, uh, a lot of emotions
  • This was my first time at Brooklyn Steel and it was bomb; the stage set-up fit perfectly despite being standing-room only, the lighting was still ace, and the energy was so fresh
  • Adding “The Ideal Husband” and “Real Love Baby” and “I’m Writing a Novel” totally killed me – three wonderful songs that felt like a perfect treat
  • The crowd was so hyped, Josh was so into every song, every moment, and every feeling; felt like a religious experience by the time everything ended

(c) lowlights

  • If I had to choose one thing, I’d say that people yelling out at Josh between songs makes me so upset. Stop demanding songs from him, stop trying to get him to be your monkey and make him dance. (But this crowd really was overwhelmingly great minus a few, good job FJM fans.)

(d) overall thoughts

As I mentioned in my previous post, I wasn’t sure anything could top seeing Father John Misty perform at Kings Theatre the night before this show. And in a way, that show remained untouchable and in tact. But this first night at Brooklyn Steel was a whole other bag of goodies. It was magical, intimate, enlightenment, and special. He played for over to hours, what more could you ask for?

My first night at Brooklyn Steel was promising. I’m always skeptical of new music venues in the city – especially when they’re in Brooklyn – but this venue was fire. Feels like Bowery Ballroom in the front and looks like Terminal 5 in the back, the acoustics were solid, the space was well-used, and I’m psyched to go back. If only because it might remind me of this show with Josh.

Opening with Pure Comedy again in that sort of space felt so deliberate and intentional that it was impossible to not get wrapped up in its meaning. Josh has no fear in performing songs whose main component is “existential dread with no situation for dancing” and I love that so much. I stood second row center and felt like everyone hung on his every word from beginning to middle to end. The thematic structure of the performance was my favorite part, hands down. With the first third of the night featuring his newest album, Josh eases you into a sense of The Current. It feels like now, it feels politically scary, but it remains ever so hopeful. You reflect over and within every song and feel yourself give away to his story. Then the second third of the show begins.

If the performances first third was all about existential dread, then the second third was all about slowly unraveling to carnal desires. The Honeybear-heavy set reminded everyone how stupidly and sonically perfect that album was, while also highlighting beautiful it is to watch Josh become unglued over a woman. The inclusion of Fear Fun moments painted a picture of Josh as an artist and I could not look away. By the time he got to “The Ideal Husband,” half the crowd was jumping around and dancing everywhere, completely juxtaposing the beginning of the set when everyone stood quietly agape and listened to how the world might end. The lights were wild, I was jumping and scream-singing along, but couldn’t help asking myself, “How did we get here?”

When the encore hit, I didn’t think the show could get better. But that’s right when the final thematic kick happens. Just at the end it when you reach enlightenment. I lost it at the inclusion of “I’m Writing a Novel” and “Real Love Baby,” which took on a different light in that context. When “Holy Shit” began, it felt like everyone around me was crying, or at least in some other emotional headspace. I still have no idea how we got from point A to point B to point C, but I was so willing to let Josh take control and give us a ride. And damn, was that ride a wild and magical one.

Bottom line: This performance at Brooklyn Steel was one to always remember and never forget. The essence of the stories Josh tells might not always ring true for everyone present, but it’s undeniable that you walk away learning just as much about yourself as the mystical man who performed them. Go see Father John Misty, or miss out on something special.

Father John Misty 5/10/17

(a) setlist

    1. Pure Comedy
    2. Total Entertainment Forever
    3. Things It Would’ve Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution
    4. Ballad of the Dying Man
    5. Birdie
    6. A Bigger Paper Bag
    7. When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay
    8. When You’re Smiling And Astride Me
    9. Strange Encounter
    10. Nothing Good Ever Happens At the Goddamn Thirsty Crow
    11. Funtimes In Babylon
    12. Nancy From Now On
    13. Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)
    14. True Affection
    15. Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
    16. I Love You, Honeybear

Encore:

  1. Bored in the USA
  2. The Memo
  3. So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain
  4. In Twenty Years or So
  5. Holy Shit

(b) highlights

  • Three words: JOSH. U. A.
  • Where do I begin…everything. Just everything. The beginning, the middle, the end
  • That setlist. The whole thing seemed to be constructed in three parts, somehow representing a bit from each album and telling a wider narrative with interweaving narratives, god I wanna puke, it was great
  • The Kings Theatre. Holy shit, what a place. It was staggering how impressive it was in person. The high ceiling, the seats, the acoustics. Fantastic.
  • I had amazing seats: dead center and maybe 20 rows back. I got to see the whole stage set-up while feeling still so close. It was beautiful.
  • The lighting was next-level and whoever constructed it needs a raise
  • Josh was just…wow. Wow. Josh.

(c) lowlights

  • The venue was hard to get to, but I am reaching so hard here, I might throwing my back out. The night was perfect.

(d) overall thoughts

I’ll admit, I was looking forward to this show for months. The first time I saw Father John Misty live was last summer at Gov Ball. Even then, I had been listening to his albums and was super hyped for that set, which totally killed. I went into that show excited and a fan of his music. I left saying, “When he comes back, I’ll follow him anywhere.” So I guess that’s how I ended up seeing Josh three nights in a row. This was night one.

I’ve written my thoughts on Pure Comedy elsewhere, but to sum it up: it’s damn good. It’s complicated, it’s sad, it’s raw, it’s great, it’s too much, it’s just right, it’s an existential nightmare. It’s a bit like Josh himself. To say that the show – particularly the first third -that really functioned as a mini-Pure Comedy microcosm is an understatement. We were taken to Pure Comedy‘s depths almost instantly. I know Josh initially conceived this tour as a musical, or at least a more traditional theatre type of performance, and you could really feel that in the first third. Every word sung felt heavy with meaning and a sort of permanence. Every note was relevant and every movement deliberate.

I was so incredibly shocked and moved by “When The God Of Love Returns They’ll Be Hell To Pay” – a song that I had neither hated nor exceptionally loved the first twenty or so times I heard it. But seeing it live made it click in such a real way that I’ll never forget that performance. “The Memo” is my favorite song on the new album and I was ecstatic when he played it. It lived up to all my expectations and more. Getting to hear more of Fear Fun is always a treat and we all know Honeybear is timeless art.

I think the most memorable part of the show will be how, for the first time in quite literally my whole concert life, by the time we got to the end of “I Love You, Honeybear,” I genuinely thought the show was over. Because it felt over. It felt perfect. The thought of an encore didn’t even occur to me. I seriously had the thought, “What else could he even play? He played everything and it was perfect” even though I know intimately the depths of his discography. But then he came back and played more. And again, at the end of every song, I thought, “That was perfect. This could end here and I’d be happy.” But he kept going. And he it kept getting better and better. Somewhere just before the key change in “Holy Shit,” I was crying.

As a whole, the show was perfectly presented in the best setting and, above all, beautiful. Josh directed the crowd several times throughout the night to either sit or stand according to whatever song he was playing and there is no reason at all that should’ve worked for someone with an average fan-age younger than 60, but it did. He was the perfect conductor and I felt totally at his whim in the orchestra.

Bottom line: Father John Misty is a vision, a poet, a performer not worthy of our time. This performance is one that will stick with me for years to come and I’ll never not see this man live if he comes to town. If I could be so lucky.

New Order 4/13/17

(a) setlist

    1. Singularity
    2. Regret
    3. Love Vigilantes
    4. Crystal
    5. Restless
    6. Superheated
    7. Your Silent Face
    8. Tutti Frutti
    9. Bizarre Love Triangle
    10. Waiting For the Sirens’ Call (Planet Funk remix)
    11. Plastic
    12. The Perfect Kiss
    13. True Faith
    14. Blue Monday
    15. Temptation

Encore:

  1. Decades (Joy Division cover)
  2. Love Will Tell Us Apart (Joy Division cover)

(b) highlights

  • Superheated!!!!! I one song I’ve been wanting to hear for over a YEAR
  • The crowd was older – as to be expected – but everyone stood for every song and was having a good time
  • the setlist was noticeably measured, well-paced, and wide-ranging; with the exception of maybe “Ceremony,” I wouldn’t have added or taken anything away
  • Bernard Sumner is like a fun grandpa, you just want to hug that guy
  • New Order’s visuals and art is always so spot-on; the way they integrate art, video, sound, and lights is supremely underrated and under-appreciated these days

(c) lowlights

  • although New Order played for about an hour and 45 minutes, they could’ve added another hour of hits and deep cuts and everyone would’ve stayed

(d) overall thoughts

Like the beginning of all great shows, I ended up at this one on accident. I had seen New Order last year play Radio City Music Hall and that show was good, but not great. The crowd was only passable and my seats weren’t the best. But this show ended up being better than I could’ve imagined.

I’ve been a real fan of New Order for over a decade now, and seen three times. Each time, I’m reminded not only how many hits these guys have made over the years, but how ageless and timeless they all still are. This band was created from the ashes of Joy Division in 1980 and completely transformed the idea of post-punk into new wave. It’s sort of staggering how many artists owe themselves and their work to New Order without even knowing it.

Perhaps even more staggering than the New Order legacy is the fact that this band is nearing their fourth decade together and still creating fresh music. 2015’s Music Complete was honest to god a true work of art to add to their discography, even with the loss of previous bassist Peter Hook. I was ecstatic that they played the album’s closer “Superheated,” which features vocals by Brandon Flowers and is all-around super catchy and classic New Order. “Restless” and “Singularity” were other highlights both on the album and in this performance.

While it’s more than evident that the band is a bit older, not as lively or spry as they used to be, no one would say they don’t still play with integrity and heart. Bernard is still so earnest and joyful in his guitar-work and never fails to not dance around a bit. The crowd rightfully roared at the sound of the first or second note of every hit, and deeper cuts were enjoyed with reverence. It still feels like everyone cheers the loudest for Joy Division tracks, but who could blame them? If you don’t feel that nostalgic pang during the show once those drums start at the beginning of “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” you’re lying.

Bottom line: New Order may have been rocking for nearly 40 years, but they show no real sign of stopping, nor should they. Whether performing Joy Division hits, their own classics, or newer tracks worthy of note, it’s undeniable that New Order are the type of band worth seeing every time they come around.

 

Swet Shop Boys 4/12/17

(a) setlist

    1. Zayn Malik
    2. Shottin’
    3. No Fly List
    4. Shoes Off
    5. Tiger Hologram
    6. Phone Tap
    7. Half Mohgul Half Mowgli
    8. Soup Boys
    9. Sufi La
    10. Need Moor
    11. Aaja
    12. Sour Times

Encore:

  1. Zombie
  2. Thas My Girl
  3. Benny Lava / Batalvi Medley
  4. Din-e-iLahi
  5. T5

(b) highlights

  • Riz Ahmed knows what is UP
  • Himanshu Suri aka Heems is my new style and confidence hero, what a dude
  • the crowd was wild and into every single song – nothing better than being in a crowd like that; it also ruled that so much of the crowd were punjabi, desi, and mostly people of color
  • “No Fly List,” “Shoes Off,” “Aaja,” and “T5” were stand-outs, which really are all thematically talking about the same things, but damn, those killed
  • “Sour Times” was shoot-you-through-the-heart devastating, moving, and incredible; can this song go viral? please? somehow?
  • the sound and lights were on-point, even from the back of the venue – it all looked and sounded solid

(c) lowlights

  • this performance absolutely did not need three openers, but I’m reaching because everything about the show was fantastic

(d) overall thoughts

Before this show, I’d only heard a couple of Swet Shop Boys songs through general osmosis. My roommate has been a fan of the group pretty much since the beginning and I’ve enjoyed Riz Ahmed’s work as an actor in movies like Nightcrawler and Rogue One, but that was all the background I had. So I went into this show knowing very little, and left a bonafide fan.

For those who don’t know, Swet Shop Boys are a rap trio consisting of Riz, a radical dude named Heems – formerly part of Das Racist – and producer Redinho. Riz is a practicing Muslim raised in Wembley in England and Heems is Hindi and from Queens, NYC, which greatly influences not only the subjects of their raps, but highlights vitally unique perspectives from voices that are otherwise silenced in 2017.

Even going in blind, it didn’t take me long to realize the crux of Swet Shop Boys; it’s all about being cool, being brown, and confronting the racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic garbage that the world throws at brown people. Just taking a look at their tracklisting alone proves that no topic is out-of-bounds, and no hate is tolerated. More than once, Riz commented that Webster Hall was a safe space for the night where people could be themselves and enjoy the music.

Even though I’m not really well-versed (no pun intended) in a lot of rap music, I was taken with Swet Shop Boys not simply because of what they were saying, but how melodic their verses were. While the lyrics themselves might not be for “everyone,” the music and beats that back them are approachable even to a casual fan. Ultimately, it’s impossible to not be moved or taken aback by the heart, vulnerability, and truth these guys speak. On “Sour Times,” Riz raps specifically about the Islamophobia in Britain, and even the terrorists that sully the name of Islam when he says, “Don’t you think it’s kind of strange that / all this terror outrage / These last gasp castaways / These bastards that will blast away / Just turned up in the last decade / When Islam has been the way for millions / From back in the day.”

Bottom line: Swet Shop Boys are doing incredible things for South Asian representation by speaking their own truth; as a white girl who doesn’t know much about rap but is interested in listening, I can’t wait to hear more from these guys. May their voices and all the other silenced voices behind them reach larger platforms for both their message and undeniable talent.