Sunday, June 21, 2009

Shellac / Arcwelder @ GAMH 17-June-2009

Arcwelder have never come West before and the are enjoying it. They call themselves a punk band but they are pretty heavy. The bassist spins around in place. The drummer sings, then mock complains about the bassist taking attention away from him. They know how to put space in their music. Is the guitar/bass/drums trio teh perfect form for a rock band?

The audience is young and white. It is an "all ages" show. I see a couple of young kids and worry if they are wearing earplugs. The twenty-something in front of me is bragging about going to Europe with his parents this summer. Some high schoolers reminisce about middle school.

What do Shellac believe in? integrity, honesty, playing well, ROCKING, sound quality, tuning guitars, having a support band they like, being deadpan, simplicity, stopping and starting. Shellac don't care about impressing the audience, selling a lot of music, advertising.


Arcwelder were good but Shellac are better. They are have a perfect balance of musicianship and attitude. They setup their own gear, with the drums at the front. Todd Trainer is a great drummer, presumably his unavailability is what is keeping Led Zeppelin from touring. Bob Weston mostly keeps it simple but he can play like John Entwistle when he wants. Steve Albini is intense. He can make his guitar do a lot of noises, but it is all for a musical reason. When he tunes his guitar the other two take questions from the audience. This is pretty funny.

  • What's wrong with the Cubs? They need to learn to hit.
  • Why do you hate Canada? We don't
  • What is your bass pre-amp? [redacted]
  • What's that cymbal at the back? A cymbal.
  • Does he [i.e. Albini] ever speak? He will

Near the end Albini breaks a string. He says he is pleased as he gets to play his other guitar ("because our guitar techs all died"). When someone dares to call out for a sing Albini looks confused and assures the heckler that the band have it all worked out.

A concert like this is what keeps me going out to see music. The funny thing is that Shellac aren't perfect. Albini could be a better singer. Some of their songs (e.g. The End of Radio) are superior to the others. They haven't made many records. But I hope they never change.

Charlie Haden, Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Lee Konitz @ Yoshi's SF 14-June-2009

This was my first visit to the San Francisco branch of Yoshi's. It looks very much the same as the Jack London Square branch. It is a large wedge-shaped room, raised at the back with a capacity of about 300. The sound is superb and you can see the stage from wherever you are. This was a Sunday matinee, where you can get a discounted ticket if you go with a child. It is in fact cheaper to go with a child than to go alone, so Grace got forced to go to her first jazz concert. The staff come around to serve you drinks and food: we sampled a delicious malted milk chocolate mousse cake. My idea of what a jazz club should be like is based on Ronnie Scott's and so I was slightly disappointed that it was not smoke filled, but overall Yoshi's is a great jazz club.

This trio of players had apparently not played together before this booking. Rubalcaba (piano) and Konitz (alto) started as a duo. Rubalcaba is one of those pianists who colors rather than drives. Konitz seemed to take a while to get going. Next Haden (bass) and Konitz played for a bit before they all played as a trio. Haden perked things up a bit. He doesn't really lead form the from but he made the other players better. The lack of a drummer made for a quiet show, but after a time the stew started to cook up with Konitz leading the way. Unfortunately Konitz seemed to be having a few technical difficulties and a few times you could see he was frustrated that he wasn't playing what he heard in his head.

Grace enjoyed the show and would go again to Yoshi's. She also now wants to go to a rock gig. My own first jazz concert was Stan Tracey at Chester Town Hall (which is not a famous jazz club) in about 1976. I remember being very impressed with drummer Clark Tracey who was then about 15.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Photos by Tom Jenkins

These are pictures of the 2008-2009 premiership season by the Grauniad's Tom Jenkins. It is worth clicking through to the gallery so you can read the photographer's interesting comments. It is notable how much he plans a photograph, he positions himself somewhere in the hope that something will happen.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Literal Videos

Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler):

Losing My Religion (R.E.M.):

No Surprises (Radiohead):

Take on Me (Aha):