Sunday, May 4, 2008

i'm from barcelona & thao @ brooklyn masonic temple, 5/1/08

i've been extremely fucking busy as of late, friends. i don't even know if anyone still reads mr. mammoth anymore. i don't blame you if you've gone away, since i haven't been able to offer anything in nearly a month. i am still extremely fucking busy, but i'm going to try hard to find time to balance my working life with my blogging life, though i don't doubt that the scales will continue to tip towards work, since blogging don't pay jack. but it's a labor of love, so forgive me if the lapses between posts remain; i'm doing the best i can.

one reason i've been so busy is that i've taken a couple jobs at live music venues around the city, which rocks for me, because now i get paid to see shows! but since i'm working the bands, i don't have time to really think about whether it's any good or not (hence, no postings about shows i work). but working in concertry has really made me much more aware of how important technical quality is to performances - ultimately, a good soundperson can make or break a set, almost regardless of how good the band is. so i went to brooklyn masonic temple the other night with all this new awareness in my head, a little wary of the promoter's claim that doors were at 7.30, show at 8 (uh duh, show was at 9. masonicboom, you get a C- for honesty), but eager to check out a new space with what seemed to be a lot of promise.

even after the technical abomination that was the i'm from barcelona show, i still think that BMT has serious potential as a concert venue, but only if they fire most of their crew. to fill the (large) floor space, they only had six stage-mounted speakers, and i don't think there was a sweet-sounding spot in the house. adding insult to injury, these speakers (i didn't see the maker) apparently have no mid-range, but LOTS OF TREBLE, so every snare hit was like a painful laser through my eardrum even though i was straining to catch any of thao's vocals. even the between-set music sounded terrible - not that the between-set music really matters a whole ton, but how hard is it to set levels from a CD? (answer: not very). i was right up in front for thao, but she sounded so bad that i moved further back for i'm from barcelona. it did sound a little better, but i don't know if i should give the soundguy more credit, or just assume that it was from the 16 voices bellowing lustily onstage (i'm leaning towards the latter). i wasn't even able to find any comfort in the lighting - the performers were drenched with white front light, and the backlight couldn't compete in the slightest. the best-imagined part of that rig were some well-placed LED bars, but the lighting person had no clue how to use them. the stage had that hasty, sloppy look, and i hope (for their sake) that it was a one-day job, loading in in the morning and out after the show, because that is one fucking sorry house rig, both sound- and lighting-wise. i think there's finally a venue worse than studio b!

this was the third time i've seen thao (and the longest band name ever) this year, and while this wasn't the best of the three (that was the soundfix show - no surprises there), i really relish her onstage dynamism. she's had pretty much the same set each time, but the songs never are. unlike a lot of performers, she and the get down stay down (of whom only 2 were in attendance) freely stray from their recorded melodies and just improvise new ones that fit the tempo. thao's skill on her guitar is unquestionable, and without frank stewart, the band's electric guitarist, there was a lot of space for her to explore. her physical energy is another appealing trait of the get down stay down's live shows - whenever she doesn't sing, she gets down (but stays up).

thao is definitely doing well for herself, having copped support spots for a number of established names (rilo kiley and xiu xiu as well as i'm from barcelona), but i'm curious as to how well the saturation scheme has worked. by the end of next week, she will have played new york five times since february, but many heads weren't bobbing, even for the always-boisterous "swimming pools." then again, even i found myself drifting from time to time; "feet asleep," one of my favorite tunes of hers, was a little stilted, and i'm not sure if thao yet has the personal presence to command the attention of a large room like the BMT. i would prefer to see her headlining smaller shows for the time being. she was also showing off her new guitar (in that photo), but i'm a fan of her older one - i'm not sure if this one had steel strings or not, but the metallic twang of the black one is a part of thao's sound that i've happily embraced.

stymied by fate, i was unable to see either of i'm from barcelona's summertime shows (matt from musicslut saw both), and i was definitely psyched for this event (also, it was my first non-worked show in weeks). i had heard from several people that their live sets are similar to the polyphonic spree's (you know how much i love them), so i was all excited for a joyful night of carousing and un-self-conscious happiness, but i was kind of dismayed by the actual result. trapped behind a solid wall of stoic, unsmiling mid-30s guys, unaffected by emanuel lundgren and his merry band, my night consisted of ducking around them to see the band and taking my earplugs out every so often to doublecheck that yes, it did actually sound that bad. okay, i'm exaggerating a little (not about the sound quality), and i was able to get into the spirit of things, though not as much as i wanted to. that, however, wasn't because of the stoic guys, but because i had really overanticipated i'm from barcelona's stage show. the 'spree sing happy songs and have fun onstage, but their first commitment is to performing their songs well - i'm from barcelona were more interested in the spectacle, rather than the sound. it was fun to watch them (especially the mustachioed "caped crusader" and dueling guitarists perched upon their amps), but i definitely felt like the music suffered as a result.

that being said, there were plenty of highlights, not least of which was the awesome segue into "like a prayer" during "rec and play" and the adapted-for-16 voices version of "meet the mets." there were tons of pink balloons and we were repeatedly showered in confetti, explosions of which accompanied every other song (also punctuated by spontaneous fistfuls from the stage), and the encore of "ola kala" concluded not with the band exiting from the stage, but diving into the crowd for a conga-line to some euro house track. in addition to favorites from let me introduce my friends (show opener "treehouse," "collection of stamps," and "the painter" fucking rocked), i'm from barcelona played a number of new tracks and "britney," their 7" release. the band was playful and exuberant (and generously mustachioed), and i left with a smile on my face, but it didn't match my expectations. as i've made abundantly clear, a lot of the blame for that should be attributed to the venue, but the band themselves were a shambles more often than they were a band, and i was left wanting.

1 comment:

Christopher said...

Big up Mr. Mammoth!