You know you’re a huge fan of a band when a friend asks you how many times you’ve seen them live, and you realize you’ve lost count. It’s funny, because I haven’t really considered myself a massive Switchfoot fan for quite a while, probably since the mid-2000s when The Beautiful Letdown hit it big, and was admirably followed up by Nothing Is Sound and Oh! Gravity. Paradoxically, that’s my favorite era of Switchfoot’s discography, and yet I got to the point where I became downright sick of the most well-known songs from those albums being must-plays in their setlists. It’s probably because I saw them live several times that decade, and when I see a band live multiple times, I prefer to hear them play stuff from their newer albums, or if they’re gonna play old stuff, I’d like to hear a few I’ve never heard live before. The Beautiful Letdown is my favorite Switchfoot album (an area where I’d guess I’m agreement with the majority of their fans), but I’d be perfectly fine never hearing that album’s heavy-hitters “Dare You to Move”, “This Is Your Life”, or “Meant to Live”, from them ever again. I love those songs. A ton of other people do too, and I guess I can’t fault someone who shows up, never having seen the band before, for wanting the trip down memory lane. It was because of this (and a string of less than impressive albums in the late 2000s/early 2010s) that I cooled off on seeing them live for a while after witnessing a just-OK live set on their tour for Vice Verses in 2011. (Even then, there were a couple of Fiction Family shows in between, and the Jon Foreman solo show I went to this time last year, because he is simply one of my favorite people in the entire universe.) This year’s Native Tongue isn’t really one of my favorite albums of theirs, either, but 2016’s When the Light Shines Through was a pleasant surprise that seemed a bit underrated among the fanbase, and I kicked myself for missing out on their tour with Relient K that year (who themselves had just put out the startlingly excellent Air For Free). When they announced a tour with Colony House slated for this spring, I knew I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.Continue reading
There are certain bands whose recorded material I’m absolutely over the moon for, and yet who I feel hesitant about seeing live. Chvrches was one of those bands, right up until a friend decided to get tickets to their Love Is Dead tour when it rolled through Los Angeles. They are absolute wizards of synthpop in the studio, and all three members of the band are capable of playing multiple instruments. Yet when a band plays a style of music that is sufficiently programmed, I often wonder if it’s worth showing up just to watch them press buttons on laptops. As it turns out, that’s not at all a fair characterization of Chvrches’ live shows, where really all that comes pre-recorded is the background effects and loops – the synths, bass, whatever guitar parts their songs might occasionally feature, and most obviously the vocals, are all performed live. For their latest tour, they’ve also added a live drummer. This type of music can get me really excited when delivered with a sufficient amount of live energy, and I should have known better than to doubt Chvrches in this regard. Their three studio albums thus far have been about as close to uniformly excellent as the discography of any band in my collection, so of course their setlist was going to be packed with wall-to-wall favorites, almost no matter what they chose to play. This might have been a little more expensive of a show, with a slightly bigger crowd, than I’m used to when I go to concerts these days, but at no point in the evening did I doubt that this would be 100% worth it.
Deep into Katie Herzig‘s set at the Troubadour in West Hollywood last night, as she was playing an acoustic version of the fan favorite track “Hologram” by request, two odd realizations suddenly came to me:
- Wow, this was the first Katie Herzig song I ever heard, and that was 10 frigging years ago.
- Why wasn’t this song a huge hit?!?!?!
Now, there are a ton of more-or-less independent artists I follow who seem to have a strong cult following on the Internet, and who I could get salty about in terms of the mainstream pretty much ignoring them. But a lot of them make music that might not be “catchy” in the conventional sense, so I’m cool with it not being mainstream radio fare. Katie Herzig, though, seems to be the type of unabashedly poppy singer.songwriter who should have had a real shot at some hits back in the late 2000s. I probably only think that because I’ve always been super out-of-touch with what it takes to actually make music popular, but regardless: “Hologram” was a fun, upbeat, ridiculously catchy, self-effacing song about relationship failure that should have found a much larger audience.
Jon Foreman’s “25 in 24” tour provided not only a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse at how his unlikely feat of performing 25 shows in 24 hours came to be a few years ago, but also reminded fans of just how deeply his conviction to live each and every hour of life he’s been given to the fullest still runs. This was a breathtaking show, with unique arrangements of songs from Foreman’s solo albums and a few fan-selected Switchfoot tracks, revealing entire new worlds of possibility behind even songs I’d known and loved for close to two decades.
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.