Thursday, May 31, 2007

Voxtrot at the Great American Music Hall, 5/30

Caught the kids from Austin last night with Lindsay, Rebecca, and Victoria after pizzas at Olive. Voxtrot, as expected, were full of energy and very upbeat. They played the majority of their self titled long play, opening with "Introduction" and "Kid Gloves". "Ghost", my favorite song off the new album, followed and Ramesh took over on piano for the next three songs (he commented that he's "not a very good piano player"). He got by just fine on "Ghost", "Steven" and "Soft & Warm". That was followed by "Brother in Conflict" and "Your Biggest Fan". If I recall, they snuck in a spirited version of "Fast Asleep" and closed the set with two more favorites, "Raised By Wolves" and "The Start of Something". Ramesh came on to do a solo acoustic reading of "The Future, Pt.1" as an encore.

It should be said that these guys are kids (I think the majority of the band, including lead singer Ramesh) are probably under 25 (if they're even that old) but their enthusiasm is infections and pockets of bespectacled hipsters danced like nobody was watching and the folks in the balcony had a blast. You couldn't help but tap your foot and nod your head as the band made their way through the set and you can tell that they really like playing together and that they're also in the process of building a formidable stage presence (Ramesh might need to tone down the arm flailing a bit,though). I will definitely check them out again the next time they are in the area.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Big Week

Last night, had dinner with my sister and finally got the story of her engagement. Wedding in the Grand Cayman Islands, President's Day Weekend 2008 FTW!

Tonight: Voxtrot at the GAMH.

Friday: Arcade Fire at the Greek in Berkeley.

Saturday: 31st Annual Union Street Fair.

And there's an outside chance I make the Citizen Cope/Alice Smith show tomorrow night, too.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Voxtrot album review

Just downloaded the self-titled debut album from the next big thing out of Austin. From the opening track, "Introduction", the long play album differs from their previous EP's ("Raised By Wolves" and "Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives) in a few ways. The overall tone of the album is very subdued (which is fine, considering that they sound like an American band channeling Britpop). There's nothing as carefree as "The Start of Something". Strings dominate several songs, including the aforementioned "Introduction", and "Ghost". Recollections of broken relationships are everywhere:

From "Kid Gloves":
Everytime I close my eyes I see you in front of me
Prentending in a love like this
I have no choice but to put you in back of me
Don't cover my footsteps
Dead weight alright, I know you're no good for me
Dead weight alright, I know you're no righteous leader
Dead weight alright, that's fine but get your hands off me
You have to touch me with kid gloves
You have to touch me with kid gloves

From "Ghost" (which swirls at the outset with an urgent push from the piano, guitar, bass and strings):
I have no choice but to be vicious on my feet
I never sleep
I never eat
I am learning how to be lost completetly
I want to be found
We crave the things we push away
These patterns cut like every day
I need you to reach
I need you to need me

& the bridge/last verse:
I don't ever want to be alone like this
Haunted by the presence by of the things I miss
I don't ever want to be alone like this
Haunted by the presence by of the things I miss
I am becoming a ghost of myself
I am becoming a ghost of myself
Chopped little secrets
Little things we never tell
No, I am becoming a ghost of myself

As is sometimes typical with Voxtrot's songs, the music (which ends up kind of soaring at towards the end of "Ghost") belies the starkness of the lyrics.

"Firecracker" (and the song that follows, "Brother in Conflict") contains a punky swagger, and, to me, "Firecracker" is going to be a monster song in concert (and one you'd want to crank up at home when you're alone) due to the chorus:
I will kick the wall
Smash the lights
Rip the shades
Burn it all
I will not complain at all
I will never be tricked by you
I will never be tricked by you

The big ballad sits near the end of the album. "Real Live Verison" is the "get your lighters out" set closer and it's filled with almost mournful strings and quiet piano.

As has been noted in many quarters, people who like smart pop (which is sometimes taken to only mean "British Pop" will find a lot to like here). The oft made comparison is to Belle & Sebastian, but I don't find Voxtrot to be quite as pretentious as B & S. In any case, it's nice to buy an album that is this highly consistent from track to track and I think it's best consumed as a single listen whenever you decide to spin it. Highly recommended.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Anatomy of a MUNI Ride

5:50 p.m.
: 4th and Townsend St.
MUNI Line: 45 (Union/Stockton)
On the iPod: "Up Against the Wall", Peter, Bjorn & John

For reasons unexplained, our MUNI driver, a middle aged black gentleman with a bushy mustache who wears his hat at a jaunty angle, grants rider amnesty. Backdoor boarding, usually frowned upon, is encouraged. This Friday Freebie, while nice, doesn't affect me since I have a FastPass, but who am I to look down on this charitable deed? I take a corner seat on the last row and select some light reading from my bag. All is well.

5:51 p.m. A homeless man, taking advantage of the generous free ride, selects a spot right by the last row. While fully clothed, he smells of slightly warm garbage and b.o. Riders in the back row suddenly become mouth breathers.

5:58 p.m.
Location: 3rd and Harrison
On the iPod: "Down South", Tom Petty

The homeless man, who desperately seemed to want off at the previous stop, gives some woman a full whiff of his armpit while reaching for the stop wire. He disembarks and the back quarter of the bus commences nasal breathing.

6:01 p.m.
3rd and Market
On the iPod: "Read My Mind", The Killers

Standard day after Thanksgiving shopping style test of wills between riders attempting to get off and people attempting to get on through the back door of the bus. It looks like a rugby scrum, only with chicks in 3 inch heels and fake fingernails. One day a riot will ensue. But (thankfully) not today. Should it ever come to blows, I've got my money on the short Asian ladies.

6:07 p.m.
: Post and Kearny
On the iPod: "Supersonic", Oasis

The man sitting directly in front of me, speaking slightly accented English, launches into a conversation on his cell phone at a cringe inducing level.

6:12 p.m.
On the iPod
: "Slide Away", Oasis

I am deliberately deafening myself to avoid hearing the details of the ongoing conversation in front of me but I can still hear virtually EVERY WORD. The old woman in the raspberry colored sweater next to the man looks panicked. I think she wants to climb out the fire escape hatch.

6:19 p.m.
: Stockton and Broadway
On the iPod: "Cherchez LaGhost", Ghostface Killa

Loud Talking Guy finally shuts the hell up.

6:20 p.m. I get a call. Nine times out of ten, I would have let it go to voice mail, but it was about a ticket hook up, so I take it. I keep it quick and make sure my voice is low (I'd look like a hypocrite if I was broadcasting my conservation like the jackass in front of me).

6:22 p.m. I hang up and Loud Talking Guy begins another blaring conversation with God knows who. I think I hate him.

6:24 p.m.
: Stockton and Columbus
On the iPod: "The Start of Something", Voxtrot

Loud Talking Guys exits bus. There's no applause. I should have started it. A couple of Chinese tourists almost fall over when the bus screams out across the intersection.

6:27 p.m.
: Union and Columbus
On the iPod: "One More Time", The French Kicks

The rest of the ride is shockingly uneventful.

6:31 p.m.
: Union and Jones
On the iPod: Nothing

Home again, home again.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Peter, Bjorn & John at Bimbo's, 5/16

Caught PB & J at the venerable Bimbo's last night. The evening got underway over at Kennedy's, where my partner in crime for the evening, Catherine, and I enjoyed the cheap beer and people watching (there was a rather intense game of beer pong going on right inside the door and the lights at the pool table were so bright as to make you think you were playing outfield at a night game in the Phone Booth). The bar at Kennedy's has been remodeled, so where the jukebox once stood, the bar now extends and, behind it on a ledge, were a collection of hookahs and stacked on the floor beneath sat an odd array of cowboy hats (at least one of which was pink). The hookahs I get, the cowboy hats, not so much, since Kennedy's bills itself as an Irish Bar and Indian Curry House.

The doors for the show opened at 7, but PB & J were not coming on until after 10. Thankfully, we missed most of the first act while at Kennedy's, so we ended up passing the time in the lounge at Bimbo's watching the depleted Suns (that's bullshit, David Stern, by the way) lose a close one to the Spurs.

As expected, the crowd contained a multitude of hipsters (both foreign and domestic) and the vibe was mellow, but good. PB & J hit the stage to much applause and immediately launched into "Roll the Credits". The third song in, if I recall correctly, was "The Chills" and Peter announced that they were going to do it with "a different beat". They did and it was a great...the song morphed from the industrial drum machine driven version on the album into a slinky come on, with Peter channeling Prince as he purred out the lyrics with Bjorn adding the "shh-shh-shh" for effect.

Bjorn provided the vox on "Amsterdam", which was performed as an acoustic duo with Peter on guitar. Very well done, as was "Paris 2004", with Peter on harmonica (Peter remarked after the song was over that, "It can't be cheesy if it's true", alluding to the lovey dovey nature of the lyrics).

Towards the end of the set came spirited renditions of "Objects of My Affection" (watch those Swedes jump around!), and, of course, the big one, "Young Folks" (with the band's manager taking over the bongo duties and Peter singing both his part and Victoria Bergsman's (and running around the stage brandishing something that looked like a martini shaker).

The set closed out with my favorite song from "Writer's Block", "Up Against the Wall". With Peter exhorting people to dance, the band charged in and really dug into it, building to a careening crescendo of guitars and propulsive drumming.

A great evening with a truly fun band.

Share Our Joy

I lol'ed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Where have I been?

Here, mostly...had yet another wedding (that one in Chico, CA) the weekend after my trip to Marietta. Chico was a blast...we even "snuck" into a bar...

Well, the Warriors dream post-season ended last night. They gave it a good go, but I Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson haven't looked right since game 3 in Oakland. I think the fatigue finally caught up with them. Still, what a ride!

This weekend...many birthday's, the Oyster & Beer Fest, AND Bay to Brakers.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007


A classic site. I only wish is was still being updated. Comedy of the highest order.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Obama in the New Yorker

An in-depth profile from Larissa MacFarquhar. I'm not quite done reading it, but it's one of the more interesting and nuanced takes I've seen on the man yet. It might raise a few eyebrows here and there.

Four Short Crushes


Friday, May 04, 2007

More G.S.

There is a certain part of the population that looks down on sports...not quite getting how visceral it can be.

I sit's 3:06 a.m. and I am STILL shaking about the Warriors. To this point, the only other clearly transcendent sporting experience I ever had was the UVa defeat of FSU my first year at Virginia back in '95. To anyone who thinks they are above the utterly raw power that sports can bring, I command you to reconsider in light of tonight.