Lady GaGa described her debut headlining tour as a “creative orgasm”. While I wouldn’t go that far, her show was indeed amazing. My expectations were high, and I knew she would pull off a creative and entertaining show. Her one-hour set was preluded by three bands who I had never heard of.
Cinema Bizarre, a strange German rock band had a 20-minute set full of generic songs and awkward audience participation attempts. However, the drag queen behind me was loving it. The band failed to excite the GaGa-crazy crowd and the set was changed for Chester French.
The band Chester French, made up of Harvard U. graduates, had an amusing style, with a lot of strange dancing and instrument use (he took out a triangle and a cowbell at one point). Their passion showed through their 30-minute set, and the lead singer even broke his tambourine at one point. Their single, ‘She Loves Everybody’ was pretty well received by the crowd.
By now, the crowd was getting angsty for the Lady. Three support acts is definitely way too much. An fight broke out between annoying little girls, uncomfortable mothers, and the angry drag queen as the stage was reassembled to accommodate The White Tie Affair.
The featured support slot belonged to The White Tie Affair, an emerging pop/rock band signed to Epic Records. Their fun set included glow-in-the-dark, vocoders, and covers of ‘Heartless’ and ‘Love Lockdown’ by Kanye West. They were entertaining and well received by the crowd as they tore through their 45-minute set. After they finished with their latest single, ‘Candle (Sick and Tired)’, a curtain fell with an image of a goddess-like Lady GaGa holding her disco stick.
The anticipation was huge at this point. Shouts of ‘GaGa! GaGa!’ resonated through the crowd. Around 10pm, the curtain fell and The Fame Ball began with a strange pop art video called ‘The Heart’. As the screens moved away, Lady GaGa was revealed, singing ‘Paparazzi’. The crowd shouted back every word as she quickly moved through her set of fun pop songs.
After two costume changes and a sing-a-long interlude hosted by DJ Space Cowboy, Lady GaGa emerged in what is one of the weirdest costumes I’ve ever seen – a bubble dress. However, it was during this set that Lady GaGa’s true talent was shown. She played ‘Poker Face’ and new song ‘Future Love’ on her bubble-filled piano, filling the venue with her unique voice. The passion she feels about her music really showed during this set.
As she closed up the set with #1 hit “Just Dance” and an encore of “Boys Boys Boys” and “Poker Face”, Lady GaGa put her all into the performances and went wild with the crowd. After giving the audience a confident stare, the show ended.
Lady GaGa put on one of the strangest and most creative shows that I have ever attended. It was a big party full of fun music and wild stage antics that made the crowd go crazy. While the show was a bit short, I enjoyed every second and have grown to respect her more as an artist. She is amazing at what she does, and I’m excited to see what she’ll come up with next.
Thousands of bands, fans, promoters, writers, label execs, music directors, and other music industry professionals congregated in Austin, Texas, last week for the 23rd annual South By Southwest Music and Media Conference. For four days and four nights, downtown Austin's roads closed off to make room for the swarms of people and bands hopping from venue to venue (imagine an indie rock Bourbon street) with loud, live music booming in every bar, club, venue, restaurant, park, record store, barber shop, or even just out on the street. (Lots of WTBU pens were distributed, I promise.)
Sensory overload? Most definitely. By day two, I had no choice but to buy some ear plugs, or else I probably would have gone deaf. As a first-time attendee of the festival, which ran from March 18-22, I was completely overwhelmed (in a good way) by the hundreds of events to choose from, including official SXSW showcases/panels/lectures (an official SXSW badge or wristband gets you into these), and tons of "unofficial" day showcases and parties (which no badge/wristband are necessary for).
(photo from nymag.com)
Eventually I'll be posting day-by-day re-caps, but for now: Free music for everyone!!!! Enjoy this POST-SXSW MIX of the best acts I caught in Austin. DOWNLOAD: POST-SXSW MIX (ft. Wavves, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Woods, Abe Vigoda, Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, Cut Off Your Hands, No Age, Titus Andronicus, Crystal Antlers, Harlem Shakes, Department of Eagles, Dirty Projectors, M. Ward, Passion Pit, & The Antlers.)
Matt & Kim, the Brooklyn-based dance-punk duo best known for their infectious energy and delightfully manic live shows, have been busy. In four short years the pair has gone from playing kitchens and basements to festivals such as Siren and Lollapalooza. Their second CD, Grand (which is more fun than a gallon of ice cream and twice as sticky) has been enjoying giddy momentum, and opening for Cut Copy on their latest tour is getting the band some well-deserved exposure. Matt Johnson did a phone interview with us before their House of Blues show to discuss Grand, art school competitiveness, crayons, and most importantly that no matter how big they get, they're still just Matt and Kim.
Emma Dessau and Nina Mashurova: Hey Matt. Thanks for taking some time to talk to us on your way up to Boston. We’re really excited for the show tonight. When did you start touring with Cut Copy?
Matt Johnson: We started touring with them in Austin I think maybe 2 weeks ago. It was about a week or so before South by Southwest that we were there, but then Kim and I had a day off from the Cut Copy tour between Chicago and Toronto so we decided to go back to Austin again and we did play a show. It was very tiring.
ED + NM: We’ve heard from other bands that South by Southwest is exhausting.
MJ: Pretty much. I know Kim was definitely leaving the hotel at 3 AM to go potentially party but she found herself eating pizza with a friend on 6th Street and she just saw numerous people really drunk and crying on street. It was that kinda day.
ED: People were just so tired that they were breaking down and hysterically crying in the street?
MJ: Yeah. And it was Thursday too so it was like the first day of the festival. It was a little early to have overdone it. I mean, come on! Hang in there!
NM: How do you feel being in New York and going to school at the Pratt Institute has influenced your music? Do you feel like the scene in Brooklyn has helped you guys along?
MJ: I think it’s really helpful to be around a lot of people that are doing cool stuff. It doesn’t really matter what it is. People who are playing music or people who are writing... or making cool stuff happen with video stuff or art stuff. If one of my friends is doing something cool I feel like I have to be doing something cool. It’s a kind of art school competitiveness. We’re trained to be competitive in a creative way rather than like, beating someone in arm wrestling. It’s just inspiring to have people doing rad stuff around you, and I think there is a lot of that in New York. It’s a place to not really think about getting stuff done because it’s so expensive to live there, but it’s the place to go to get stuff done.
ED: You recorded “Grand” in Vermont in your old room in your parent’s house, right?
MJ: Yeah. Even though we are inspired by New York like I said, and a lot of the songs on the album were written there, we wanted to go somewhere where we could actually finish something. There’s no where up in Vermont to get distracted by. I grew up in southern Vermont by the Massachusetts border and there is just nothing, there’s nothing. It’s not like people are calling you saying, “You have to come to this bar, you have to come to this thing, it’s awesome!” There are just no distractions. A lot of people are always like oh yeah, I know Vermont like Burlington and northern Vermont and stuff and I just don’t know anything. Whenever we went to shows we would drive down to Boston. To drive two hours is no big deal.
ED: How does it feel to have gotten your start at warehouse parties and playing people’s basements, and to now be playing at places like House of Blues in Boston or Terminal 5 in New York which are pretty big venues? Do you feel like you’ve needed to change the way you guys perform at all?
MJ: I don’t think so. I remember we were nervous about that when we played our first festival which was Siren in Coney Island in Brooklyn. It was the first time we were playing for like 15,000 people and we were like “Oh crap.” We were used to playing art galleries and stuff like that, but we just did what we always did.
NM: I saw you guys at Siren and I thought you handled that big crowd really well.
MJ: That’s awesome. Yeah that was the first time we’d ever done anything like that, and that was two years ago. That summer we did like Capitol Hill Block Party (in Seattle) and Lollapalooza (in Chicago) and we just kept doing what we do and it worked. So many people come and tell me the first place they saw us was a festival and it made them want to come back again.
NM: I was taking pictures of the crowd and during your set there were so many people crowd surfing and having the time of their lives.
MJ: I remember at that show they had that big press barricade and that was bizarre too, for a band that’s used to playing on a floor somewhere. I told everyone to jump the barricade. The security got really mad about it, but it was half successful.
ED: Since you guys got your start with such an informal but close relationship to your fans, do you feel like you are trying to keep that relationship the way it was in terms of keeping ticket prices low, and reaching out over your website to keep that dynamic going?
MJ: That’s something that is really important to us, actually. That’s kind of why we ended up accidentally being called Matt and Kim. We basically couldn’t think of a name, and at our first show they just listed us as our first names and we were like, “Ok! Sounds good.” But I think it made a lot of sense because it’s just, you know, we’re as much about just being people as we are being this band. I hate it when they want to set the lights up at a venue like really bright on a stage and leaves the crowd in total darkness. I want them to light the crowd, because we’re all just here, doing this together. Kim and I wouldn’t be playing if all these other people wouldn’t be here. We had this banner for a while that we tried to get everyone at our shows to sign. It eventually got so destroyed, but it had thousands of signatures on it. It started to look like the inside of a bathroom stall. But the idea behind it was that we are all the ones making this show and this tour happen, so having all these people sign this thing made sense to us.
NM: Does it seem harder to connect now that you’re reaching a bigger audience?
MJ: I don’t know, it’s confusing. After a show we try to just put on some kind of usher or something so we can jump into the crowd and dance with people. But it is a little bizarre. With the Cut Copy shows its a little different because it’s not our show, we’re supporting them and there are a lot of people who don’t know us. We like the competition of trying to win all these people over, but it’s sort of a different vibe it feels a lot more disconnected. Some of these bigger venues its just like so far away, there are people on balconies like two stories up so it’s a little different but we try to connect as much as we can.
ED: Well it seems like at BU a lot of people really like you guys and know who you are. I can’t speak for the entire city of Boston, but at the show tonight there will be a lot of people looking forward to seeing you guys.
MJ: That’s great. I have to say I love playing in Boston because like I said it’s kind of the start of my whole “going to shows” began with driving down from Vermont to Boston to go to punk shows and all that. Kim is from Rhode Island so tonight there’s going to be like 10 members of her family there. So Kim’s not allowed to swear tonight or her dad will give her an Italian slap which I guess is a tap on the back of the head.
ED: Do you feel like there are any specific musicians or bands that have influenced you?
MJ: It’s hard to say a specific band. You take something from everyone you hear, whether it be like a top 40 band or like a Snoop Dogg song or a more punk rock band or I don’t know, any music we find fun. I remember early on being like, “Hey that Destiny’s Child song is kind of bad ass!” And that’s not a good song at all.
ED: I don’t know, I think Destiny’s Child was sort of bad ass. That’s a respectable influence.
MJ: Really? You’d put Destiny’s Child in the bad ass category?
ED: Some of their stuff, a little bit... you can’t rule it out.
NM: How do you feel about your new album in comparison to your older stuff? I think it’s interesting you have a completely instrumental song on it.
MJ: We went into this album with the goal of making the best recorded album that we could. On the last album we put out, the songs sounded similar to the way we played them live. This time we wanted the whole structure of a well rounded CD. We went into it with 25 songs only wanting to make a 10 song album. We wanted it to feel diverse, kind of like how a movie feels complete is like to have its ups and down points, its intros and a conclusion and stuff like that. So we thought about it that way in choosing what songs to pick. Also lyrically, we went about the narrative process in a kind of weird way. We just wrote it like lists of sentences of whatever came to mind, and then we’d go through and start picking out sentences that I thought were cool and that resonated with me somehow and we’d try to fill in the blanks between those. It’s kind of like the song wrote itself. We didn’t want it to be too literal, we just wanted the songs to mean to people what they meant.
NM: It definitely works really well as an album. What about the decision to make “Daylight” both the intro and the outro?
MJ: We felt like it would kind of like a storybook, or like a film where the camera swoops in to begin with and then the first shot is the last shot and the camera swoops back out. I guess I talk in film terms, I went to school for film, but it made sense.
NM: “Daylight” is so infectiously great, it’s so happy and wonderful.
MJ: The outro part of it... I’m making a snap sound right now with my fingers because it just came really quickly. But “Daylight” itself took us like 7 months to work that song out. To get it to work was really hard, but now we’re so happy with it.
ED: Do you have any crazy stories from the road, anything that stands out as some ridiculous thing that happened to you guys?
MJ: There was one time I can think of. We were driving to somewhere in Kansas, and on the way there the sky just turned real, real black and the wind started picking up and we were like, “What the hell is going on?” Then we start seeing all these cars pulled under overpasses. Then, these gigantic hail balls start coming down, and we’re both from the northeast and are like, “Do these cars know something we don’t know? Why are they all pulled over?” So we turned on the radio and hear that a half mile wide tornado is coming towards exactly where we are. The radio kept saying, “Do not stay in your car, if you are in your car you should get out and find shelter, or a hole, or anything.” We were like, “F*** that,” so we keep driving and then we pull over to a gas station and they are all watching the news. Then we took a second to inspect where we are which happens to be not only a gas station but a fireworks warehouse, it was a tin can of a warehouse. We just said, “Screw this! We are not staying.” And the radio keeps saying, “Keep shelter, do not stay in your car, do not try to drive in this weather!” We swing around and point at the highway, put the metal to the metal, there were no cars anywhere, the sky was black and we finally make it through. Then we got to the venue to find out there was no power and we couldn’t even do the show anyway. But, that definitely sticks out in my memory.
ED: That is pretty traumatic, tornados are my biggest fear, I would have been crying.
MJ: People in that area just seem to know how to deal with these things but nothing they were telling us made any sense, like, get out of your car? Why would I do that? We wanted to check the news later and see if anything happened to that gas station with the fireworks, but I think everything probably ended up okay.
NM: Okay, one more question. This is pretty random, but one of our other DJs thinks this is the best and most exemplary questions to ask in an interview: If you could be any color crayon, what would you be?
MJ: I know Kim would be red.
NM: Straight up just red? Not any kind of special red?
MJ: We got out van painted red and the color we got it painted was called “super red.” That’d be like the no-nonsense red. I think Kim would be super red. I don’t even know what I’d be. I keep thinking gray but that seems kinda drab to me. Do they even make gray crayons?
ED: I think they do make gray. I don’t know if there are different variations of gray, but they do make a gray crayon.
MJ: I’m into pretty monochromatic things lately. But let me ask you a question. Is it pronounced “crayon” or “craan”?
NM: Crayon. Are you a craan person?
MJ: Yeah I am.
ED + NM: Thanks for talking to us for so long on the phone with a bad connection, Matt. Have a great show tonight.
By Emma Dessau and Nina Mashurova from Nick at Night, Emma in the Evening (Saturdays 2-4 AM)
Due to scheduling conflicts, the Allison Francis on-air performance has been moved to Monday the 30th - same time (The Fleshy Fresh!), same place (wtburadio.org!), so don't worry, and keep your pants on.
May I first note that the Brattle Theatre seemed to be tailoring to my tacit desires? First of all, this show was booked, by some struck of luck and divine grace, on my birthday, and I found out about it shortly after an intense bout of Juana Molina obsession at the beginning of the semester. Needless to say, I was already pretty excited about this show – about as much so as I have been about any show I’ve seen in the last year. On top of that, though, playing before and after the actual performances over the PA system was Broadcast, which was almost all I had been listening to up until the show itself for the last two weeks. Obviously, this show was bound by fate to be mind-blowing, and I hope it was as incredible for everyone else as it was for me, even if the circumstances were leaning in my favor.
Faces on Film, a local act, opened, and the singer, Mike Fiore, first played a few acoustic numbers by himself. His voice was reminiscent of that of Dr. Dog frontman Scott McMicken, and his brief solo numbers set a calm tone for the show. His bandmates then came out and sat at an instrument, one at a slide guitar and the other at an organ, which together created a slightly deeper backdrop for songs with more of the same feel as the first few. The highlight of this set was when Fiore was accompanied by a female singer, who unfortunately only harmonized on the wordless bits of the outros of the songs they played – I imagine that the harmonies, if carried through whole songs, would add another layer of depth to the songs and give them more staying power.
The wait between acts was brief. Juana Molina came on stage with her bassist and percussionist and immediately took to her trademark looping. She opened with the title track and opener from her latest album, Un día, first recording herself playing a simple piano loop and chanting, “one day.” Then, she stopped the loop and began the first line of the song, starting the loop again mid-line and continuing from there. Her percussionist and bassist added to the mix, and the song seemed to strain the speakers simply with its volume. Molina herself at first seemed to be pushing the notes out – the melodies in that first song get awfully high, so it’s no surprise that she had to warm up a bit with the opening number. She quickly found her flow and, in between lines from the song and language-less scatting, she added more layers of vocal sound and synthesized percussion to the loop. Rare for Molina was the English singing that characterized this song, which stretched it to an utterly hypnotic seven or eight minutes as it continued to build beyond the scope of the recorded version and of what anyone could expect from this song.
Although the translation of the central lyric from this title track is often mentioned in reviews and press releases, it is so apt that it begs to be discussed here as well: “One day I will sing the songs with no lyrics and everyone can imagine for themselves if it’s about love, disappointment, banalities or about Plato.” This first line sets the stage for the rest of this album in particular and some of Molina’s songs from her older albums, as much of the vocals take the form of percussive vocals and simply scatting, more often eliciting a raw emotional and physical response from the listener than demanding that a Spanish speaker pay attention to the lyrics, which are often buried in instrumentation, or that a non-Spanish speaker translate them. This sort of choose-your-own-adventure approach to her music and lyrics even applied when she sang in English in the first song, since what sounded like, “Should I stay? Or should I go?” could have really been anything under the chorus of Molinas already singing nonsense or “one day,” so even as she broke the language barrier, she built it up again, as is the principle of this album and the direction her music is taking as a whole.
The first song then transitioned seamlessly into the next, “Vive solo,” on a keyboard loop over which she looped a simple guitar line. This song was characterized more by waves of buildup and falling away than by the slow and overpowering build of “Un día,” but by this time Molina’s scatting was in full form, and this song, too, cycled through upward of seven minutes. Particularly impressive about this song was the flexibility of the rhythm section in the usually strange time signature of 7/4, especially during one bridge, which features a bass line that demands considerable skill with the instrument. Next was “Lo dejamos,” a much darker piece compared to the almost sunny first two songs; instead of on vocal or guitar loops, this song is centered on a dark, almost atonal synth loop and features sparser percussion. Molina’s vocals cascaded through the synth and climb up again as a steel drum sound quietly contrasted the keyboard loop, then the loop changed and the song floated through several more minutes of soft guitar playing and harmonizing between Molina and the bassist, whose voice blended so smoothly with hers that it could have been a prerecording of her singing.
“Lo dejamos” allowed Molina to transition to a few songs from her previous album, Son, as they all have more traditional use of lyrics and slightly less use of loops than the first two of the set. Following “Lo dejamos” was “Elena,” which never struck me as a highlight from Son but which was executed perfectly here, once Molina straightened out some technical difficulties with the guitar. She then performed two of the longest, and strongest, songs from Son, “La verdad” and “Un beso llega,” both of which are characterized by bright, upbeat guitar and even more scatting and vocal layering. “La verdad” included a particularly interesting instance of the loops, as she used a very short sample of several layers of her voice repeated through a large section of the song, over which she improvised. She followed this sort of suite of vocal trickery with “Desordenado,” which again featured the bassist’s harmonies, though this time often just an octave below Molina’s melody. This song in particular allowed for a lot of improvisation, especially for the percussionist, who had an incredibly unique style and method to his drumming and percussion. He often played cymbals on the side only, employed innovative rhythms during a buildup section, or alternated brushes and sticks on the same drum, creating an unpredictable sound to underscore the interplay between the stringed instruments.
The rhythm section then left the stage and Molina introduced her next song, written for her daughter when she left home for a week to record her first album. She said that the line that she repeats most toward the end is basically, “mama, please don’t leave again,” so, “the part with ‘mama, mama, mama,’ over and over, that’s me. I’m the mama.” The song she was introducing was “¿Quién?” from her second album, Segundo, and it started out simply enough with the familiar original version, held together by a repeated guitar riff, but she seamlessly transitioned into “¿Quién? (Suite)” from the new album, which features, like the others, a great deal of layering and beatboxing. However, this song was particularly spectacular because she was on the stage alone, making her own percussion with her keyboard and her mouth. Aside from the (now typical) impressive improvisation, this performance was highlighted by a number of breathtaking moments: first, she looped herself vocalizing on both the upbeat and the downbeat, which created an effect which I can best describe as the sound of her voice bubbling up between itself. Second, after looping herself several times, she hit her loop pedals in rhythm to, essentially, switch herself on and off as she continued to play guitar. Last, at one point, she wasn’t adding anything to the mix but simply stepped back from her array of pedals and keyboards simply to dance for a few seconds. It was encouraging to see that she was enjoying this as much as her audience was, even if she wasn’t as awestruck as the rest of us. She finished the song with an outro like the intro, as if to suggest that the whole piece could be repeated and still be just as original each time she performs it, injecting a new melody or inflection in her voice.
She thanked the audience and left the stage, only to return shortly with her rhythm section, as well as a small table and three plastic cups, which they used to create a sort of rhythmic jive, not unlike the kind one learns at summer camp, only much more complicated. They then launched into “Los hongos de Marosa,” another highlight from Un día, although here it was somewhat overshadowed by the showstopper that was “¿Quién?” However, it still featured some of her catchiest beatboxing as well as some more percussive showcasing and bizarre but lush keyboard flourishes. If any one song most exemplifies her idea of the listener taking from the wordless music whatever they choose, this one in particular contains the briefest appearance of actual lyrics and is dominated by endless layers of vocals. It could be considered a microcosm of the whole album, as it both builds and comes in waves over the course of its eight minutes, and, as such, it was a perfect closer for the evening.
To put it quite simply, Juana Molina is one of the best performers I’ve ever seen. Aside from her obvious musical proficiency and songwriting skills, she can easily banter with the audience and is not even afraid to let them in on a little mistake she has made, such as looping something in the wrong place, by telegraphing her mistake with her face. She may have noted that they were playing something from the new album (the last song) because “that’s what they’re supposed to do,” but she clearly has fun doing it, as she engaged the audience in the story about “¿Quién?” and danced to it herself. A Juana Molina show is worth attending whether or not you’re familiar with the music. I’m a huge fan, and I looked forward to my favorite songs and my favorite parts of each songs, but I was pleasantly surprised by the extra effort she puts into originality live and watching her make each sound herself. One person who attended the show with me said that, toward the end, he closed his eyes, since sometimes he could see if she was about to loop something or add something new, and he liked being surprised. Either way, it’s certainly a spectacle, and I recommend to any fan of cutting-edge and original music to check out her records and see her if at all possible.
Let me tell you about the climax. It involves lights, an enthusiastic crowd, and four men playing trance-fusion style music on the bass, guitar, keyboard and drums. I am speaking, of course, of the Disco Biscuits, who played a sold-out show at the House of Blues on Saturday, Feb 28. The best way I can describe this particular Bisco show is that it wore me out, in the best sense of the term. The entire night felt like a journey—Marc Brownstein (bass) and Allen Aucoin (drums) kept me anchored to my surroundings while Jon Gutwillig (guitar) and Aron Magner (keyboard) transported me into a trancelike state.
It all started with the first song, “Uber Glue,” off their new album, which comes out later this year. Unfortunately, the line to get into the House of Blues stretched around the block and I had to strain my ears to listen through the doors. During my interview with Gutwillig two weeks ago, he mentioned that the band would be playing new songs on their winter tour and I was upset I missed it. From what I could tell, however, the song got a phenomenal reaction from the crowd.
After “Uber Glue,” Bisco got right into their dance fusion with “Astronaut,” a fast-paced song that shows off Magner’s insane keyboard skills. Dance parties were erupting all around me, as I stood in awe of the band’s ability to keep up. There was a reciprocal relationship between the energy of the crowd and that of the band. As Bisco rocked out, the audience became animated, encouraging the band to take their sound to a higher level. Eventually the level of energy would reach a peaking point, but instead of letting up the band kept playing, sending the crowd to new heights. While most bands have songs that last somewhere between three to five minutes, Bisco jams can stretch as long as twenty. The first set lasted almost an hour and a half but consisted of merely six songs.
By the time Bisco played “Astronaut”, which segued into “Digital Buddha,” I was wiped out. It seemed like all of the songs the band had played so far culminated in the last few notes of “Buddha.” I began to notice the diverse group of Bisco fans I was dancing with and it made me appreciate the variety of lifestyles the band brings together. To my right there was a group of PBR-drinking bros, to my left a bunch of hippies, and in front of me a pack of rave kids, fiddling with their glow-sticks; but here we were all rocking out to the same music. The first set ended on a high note and I was glad to have some time to rest before Bisco took the stage for another mind-blowing performance.
The set break, however, lasted for what felt like hours. Although there was a DJ playing in order to pass the time I, along with the rest of the crowd, became anxious for Bisco's return. Finally, over forty-five minutes later, I heard “Shelby Rose” begin to play as the lights dimmed. The crowd went wild all over again. During their second set, Bisco drew down their crowd with a low-key yet still energetic vibe. “Shelby Rose” melted into “The City” (one of the crowd favorites) and then back to “Shelby Rose.” This method of jamming songs into one another is a traditional Bisco method. In my interview with Gutwillig he told me that “it makes it more fun for us to make different set lists and jam songs into different songs. It keeps things interesting.” It also makes the show a more stimulating experience for the audience due to the unpredictability of when a song will end and another will begin. Bisco kept the audience hanging on throughout the entire set, maintaining the peaks and dips that so thoroughly rocked the first one. I enjoyed hearing their famed cover of Pink Floyd’s “Run like Hell.” They took a jam perspective on a dark track and it worked wonders. I saw some of the most provocative dancing during this song in particular. The next two songs were a bit slower and almost brought the show to a close. Although the songs weren’t unsatisfying, they put me in a dreamlike trance that made it harder to concentrate on the music. While my mind was wondering, I barely noticed that Bisco had left the stage and come back for an encore.
An energetic continuation of “Basis for a Day” from their first set got me back into a grooving mood. I enjoyed the lively tone of this song and got excited for when “Aceetobee” began, ending the show. The lights were at their most dazzling, the crowd was at its most frenzied, and the band had finally reached their climax. As soon as Bisco got everyone in the theater to come to a musical peak, Acoin hit the drums, one, two, three—and, just like the concert was over. I could feel relief tinged with disappointment in the audience as I gathered my coat and walked into the cold night. The Disco Biscuits had put on a show that will likely be a topic of conversation for years to come.
Folk/Indie rock singer Jennifer O’Connor played a show at the Middle East in Cambridge on Thursday February 26th. She and her bassist Michael Brodlieb sat down with us beforehand to talk about her roots, influences and the plethora of bands she’s worked with. Jennifer’s fourth full length CD Here With Me is out on Matador Records and has been getting great reviews from Spin magazine, as well as NPR radio.
Emma Dessau: Where did you grow up and when did you start playing music?
Jennifer O’Connor: I lived in Connecticut until I was about thirteen in Danielson. It’s a small town about an hour from here. Then I moved to Florida before high school and I went to college in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a lot of moving. I took piano lessons when I was a kid, but I didn’t really start playing until after college.
Nina Mashurova: You were in a punk band in Atlanta, right?
JO: Punk makes it sound a little cooler than we were but yeah, my first band was called “Violet.”
NM: Was that after the Hole song?
JO: Yeah it was! I think you’re the first person that’s ever guessed that. I was a big Nirvana and Hole fan in college. That was right around the time Nirvana became really huge.
NM: It seems like a big shift from a punk band to what you play now. Do you still listen to that kind of music at all?
JO: Oh yeah. I like all kinds of music.
ED: I saw you in Hoboken when you opened for Yo La Tengo. That was a really awesome venue, I am from that area and had never been there before, and you were really good.
JO: Oh cool! That was really exciting.
ED: Do you have a favorite venue to play in?
JO: In New York I like the Mercury Lounge. I like playing here at the Middle East, I haven’t been here in a while. ED: When was the last time you played here?
JO: It’s probably been about a year or so. We played here with Langhorne Slim.
NM: I think I saw you! I remembered that Langhorne Slim had a girl open for him. Did you cover “Achin’ to Be” by The Replacements?
JO: Probably! Yeah it must have been me. I played solo. It’s funny because I recorded that as a B-side for the record so I must have played it that night.
ED: When I saw you you played a Carly Simon cover, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”
JO: Yeah that was probably the first time we ever played that. We tend to learn covers right when we play them.
ED: I heard that you recorded some tracks with Franz Nicolay from The Hold Steady on your record and someone from Ben Folds Five.
JO: Yeah, Darren Jessee was the drummer for Ben Folds Five. He is actually a very good friend of mine, so that was really cool to work with him. He’s a great singer and songwriter. I didn’t really know much Ben Folds stuff, but apparently he is a fantastic drummer. He’s apparently one of the best drummers in the area.
Franz (from The Hold Steady) is really great, we met him through our record producer. He made records for the Hold Steady and he made our records. That’s how we got hooked up with him. We’re actually doing a show with him tomorrow night, which we’ve never done before. It should be really fun.
ED: We’re kind of obsessed with The Hold Steady.
JO: They’re a lot of fun. They live in our neighborhood in Brooklyn. Craig Finn goes to our gym.
ED: That’s awesome. Does he spazz out when he’s working out at all like he does on stage?
Michael Brodlieb: No, he just completely ignores everybody and rides his bike. He only benches like one pound.
ED: Yeah, that’s what I would guess. He’s not the type of guy I could see lifting a lot of weight.
MB: That’s pretty much what I can bench too so I can’t say anything.
ED: You’ve released a couple records on Matador and you’re making your own record label now. How is that going?
JO: Well my first CD that I put out I had made it on my own label. All that really means is I came up with a name to put on the CD. And after that I put that by the wayside. I’ve put out a couple of 7” since then, but I’m sort of bringing it back a little bit to put out a few CDs of some of my friend’s bands.
ED: Is that the main reason why you’ve decided to do it, or do you feel like you have less freedom on a bigger record label?
JO: I’m still on Matador. This is just kind of like a side project I guess. I just want to help out and be involved with friend’s music and help them reach a new audience as well as put out little side projects of my own.
ED: Matador is a really good record label, right? It’s got some big names like The New Pornographers.
JO: Yeah definitely. It’s done tremendous things for me. This is just my way to build my own little thing as well.
ED: You’ve been compared to Aimee Mann and Elliott Smith. That’s a pretty big compliment. How do you feel about that?
JO: I feel good. I mean, I think that you tend to get compared to people no matter what you do and those are people I really like. I think they are great song writers so I would much rather get compared to them than somebody I don’t like at all.
ED: Is this your first headlining tour?
JO: We’ve done a couple of headlining tours. Not that many. You’d be right in thinking
it was. We’ve been mostly opening for other bands. This is probably our second or third headlining tour. We were on a really long tour before this.
ED: Who else have you toured with?
JO: We’ve toured with Damien Jurado, Jamie Lidell and Amy Ray (of the Indigo Girls) most recently. We’ve done a few shows with Wilco. I wouldn’t call it a tour but, I’ll stretch it and call it a tour. Who else? I’ve done a few shows with The Mountain Goats, and Mason Jennings. I’ve pretty much been all over the map. I do shows with a lot of singer/songwriter people and then some indie rock shows as well. Sometimes I play with these guys (Michael Brodlieb and Jon Langmead) and other times I’m solo.
ED: Is it true that you recorded your latest CD “Here With Me” in 12 days?
JO: Yeah it is. Our record producer helped us out with that, John Agnello.
ED: And he’s also produced Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.?
JO: Yeah, that’s really why I wanted to work with him. Someone recommended him and I went to his website and saw that he’d made some of my favorite records. I saw Sonic Youth a million times in college and Dinosaur Jr. too. We did it really fast, but it was awesome.
ED: Do you have a favorite song to play live?
JO: That’s a good question. Yeah! I have a few actually. What’s your answer? I wanna know what you think.
MB: I’d say Lightbulb.
JO: Yeah. We have this song Lightbulb that didn’t make the record, but it’s a B-side. You can get it online. I like playing that and I like playing “Here with Me,” the title track. I also like playing “Dirty City Blues” from my last record.
ED: I bought your CD after I saw you and I have a new favorite song from it every week.
JO: Oh good! That’s what I like to hear. What’s your favorite right now?
ED: I really like “Daylight Out” right now. Actually, I’m not sure if you played it in Hoboken or if I just heard it online, but I also really like “Hole in the Road” from your older CD “The Color and the Light.”
JO: Oh yeah. We’re gonna play that tonight, just for you.
ED and NM: Thanks a lot for talking to us guys! Have a good show.
-Emma Dessau and Nina Mashurova of Nick at Night, Emma in the Evening
Sarah J Berg - General Manager Peisin Yang Lazo - Programming Director Liz Pelly - Music Director Ali Donohue - Music Director Blair Dowd - BU in the Morning Director Sylvia Kim - Intern Director Adam Lauria - New Media Director Tara Jayakar - Public Relations Director Adam Azahari - Promotions Director Jessica Rowley - Live Events Director Brittany Nahum - Underwriting Director Kendra Long - Underwriting Director Joe DiFazio - Productions Director Sopan Deb - Sports Director Jackson Tobin - News Director Justin Monestime - Station Admin Nick Loureiro - Tech Director Anne Donohue - Faculty Advisor
Send music submissions to: WTBU Music Directors 640 Commonwealth Avenue Boston, MA 02215
If you have a question regarding the WTBU blog, contact: email@example.com