My concert reports are becoming fewer and farther between as I get older, largely because I’ve become more selective about how much trouble I’m willing to go to in order to see a band live. Simply recreating the sound of the record isn’t enough. There has to be a little something extra about your live show – a special energy, an infectious personality that easily wins over audiences who might not all be familiar with your work, a tendency to change up setlists and sprinkle in surprising deep album cuts, etc. More of the bands I’m into nowadays are independent, so unless they call the West Coast home, they might not even make it out to L.A. terribly often. That’s why I made it a priority to see The Last Bison at The Mint last night, even though driving out to West L.A. on a weeknight isn’t normally something I’d be inclined to do. My wife and I hadn’t been to a live show together since Nickel Creek last May, and The Last Bison was one of those bands that might sound a little rough around the edges on their records, but in a live setting, that’s exactly what makes them so much fun. (Plus The Mint is a comfortably small venue with easy parking on the nearby residential streets, and their rather chill policy regarding cameras and will call and people getting to shows late and all of those other little details that can be a hassle at other venues makes it a place I’d highly recommend if you’re ever fortunate enough to discover that a favorite artist of yours has a gig there.)
Last night, Anberlin put one of the most high-energy rock shows that I’ve ever attended – the kind where just watching is exhausting. (Not being able to resist moving to the kinetic rhythms of many of their songs – even when socked in by the presence of several other sweaty bodies – might have something to do with that.) You know how a runner who is otherwise exhausted can somehow still find an extra dose of strength to make that last sprint to the finish line? That’s what seems to have happened with these guys on their final tour. They tore through over 20 of their songs with hardly any breaks, only stopping briefly to thank the audience for making their 12 years of existence as a band such a blast.
Saw Chatham County Line at The Mint last night. I’d never even listened to any of the band’s work up until a few weeks ago when a friend recommended I check them out. Their new album has been slowly growing on me. This same friend’s wife didn’t want to go to the concert with him, and my wife’s out of town, and I figured I should get out and be social, so we went together.
The last two times I saw Nickel Creek were at the exact same venue where I was fortunate enough to see them perform earlier this week, on the final evening of their reunion tour. I realized just as I was typing that sentence that I’m incredibly spoiled.
“We keep changing the music, and you guys keep coming.”
Michael Gungor said this during a heartfelt moment of thanking the audience for coming to see him, his wife Lisa Gungor, and their band perform at the El Rey last night. It’s standard operating procedure for bands to thank their audiences for attending shows, but I could tell that seeing us all there at each stop on the tour was especially meaningful, given that a lot of the music on Gungor’s latest album I Am Mountain had arisen from a season of doubt and distress, and the new songs discussed these in sometimes metaphorical ways that weren’t as clear on the outcome or “answers” as a lot of Christian music fans might expect. And that’s to say nothing of their stylistic shift, from kinda rock-oriented indie worship band on Beautiful Things, to full on baroque and even a bit bluegrassy on Ghosts Upon the Earth, to the snapshot of a sort-of-electronic, sort-of-acoustic, sort-of-jammy and sort-of-abstract band in flux captured on I Am Mountain. You just never know what you’re gonna get from a Gungor album, or from one of their concerts, but they remain one of the most talented and prolific bands on the “indie” side of Christian music, and they’re always a treat to see live.
Saw Vienna Teng at The Largo tonight. Geographically, West Hollywood might as well be Timbuktu for folks living on the side of L.A. that we do, and there aren’t many artists for whom I’d brave the weekday rush hour traffic. But Vienna is one of them, especially due to the long gap between tours due to her attending grad school in Michigan.
Sleeping at Last had a slot in the “Make Music Festival” today, which featured about 100 bands all playing different venues in my hometown of Pasadena, California. I had heard of about 1% of those bands, so SAL was the only one we stuck around to see. It was nice to hear them in an outdoor venue, with a full band arrangement including a string trio. That made a lot of the Yearbook songs sound truer to their album versions, plus the one older song played, “Umbrellas”. I’ve heard SAL play that one every time I’ve seen them live since Keep No Score was brand new, and this was definitely the best arrangement of it so far. I wish more new material from Atlas had been played – only “Uneven Odds” made an appearance – but it was a rather short set, only seven songs, so presumably they had to stick with stuff that passersby might have stood a chance of recognizing. Free show in a city park and all that.