November 12, 2010
The turn out was epic in its minutiae when Wolf Parade played the Fillmore in Miami Beach the other night, and keyboardist /singer Spencer Krug would remind the audience of the fact throughout the set. He even said, “This is our first time in Miami and probably the last” citing concerns no promoter would ever have them down again. “Someone lost a shit ton of money,” he added.
Still, the indie prog-rock influenced outfit would not skimp on the energy when it came to their songs. Despite Krug’s bitching in between several songs, these boys from Canada tore into their music with some of the highest energy I have seen on that stage.
Still, it was a worrisome site when I arrived uncharacteristically late to the venue (almost an hour after doors had opened). There were so few people inside the Miami Beach Fillmore– the site of sold-out performances for MGMT, Vampire Weekend and Phoenix just last month– that one could hear the barmaid in the corner of the hall from across the room mutter to herself: “Shut up. This is Awful,” as she looked up from texting on her smartphone at the smattering of 50 or so people who wandered to the front of the stage when opening band Ogre You Asshole started their set.
Here’s an image of the stage just a few minutes before Ogre You Asshole took the stage with said barmaid in the corner (on phone):
But, wouldn’t you know it, the bands played with more heart than most I saw during Rocktober. Though playing to only about 50 or so people in a theater designed to hold 1,000, Ogre You Asshole charmed the audience almost immediately with their hyper-melodic and intricate songcraft. The four boys from Japan were amazingly tight and melodic and held everyone’s attention even while singing entirely in Japanese. The band members played with exacting precision and little flash (there was no set dressing on stage whatsoever except for a large fan, only there to serve a practical purpose).
Despite, the fear-inducing name of the band, Ogre’s songs were nice and meandering—almost cute. Their MySpace page features many songs across their three-album plus career, which mostly other indie US musicians have appreciated, being a band’s kind of band.* Krug would later acknowledge this was Ogre’s first US tour. I was able to capture “Balance” on video:
Turns out it ain’t easy getting their music in the US, so I was glad I picked up the vinyl for their second album, Alpha Beta vs. Lambda. The whole band was at their own merch stand, which was crowded with new appreciative fans. I had them sign the album cover after I bought it (yes, and they are smart enough to include a CD copy, as well):
After Ogre played there was a lengthy pause before Wolf Parade came out (probably in hopes of a larger audience). Still, the maximum number of audience members probably would not exceed 150, and it looked like half of those were with dates who did not really want to be there. Still the Miami Wolf Parade fans responded to the Canadian quartet’s angular, prog pop with an enthusiasm that made up for their lack of numbers. Here are a couple of pictures I took that captured that energy:
Here, a fan can’t contain his enthusiasm while riding on another fan’s shoulders:
One the first videos I made was for one of their punchier new songs, “Palm Road”:
Krug may have sounded dismal between songs (at one point he noted how pretty the giant chandeliers high overhead were but how he had to avert his gaze from them to keep from feeling depressed about the turnout). But his band tore into their catalog with ferocity.
May I present a pretty sped up and enthusiastic version of “Ghost Pressure,” also off the new album Expo 86:
It was all about the music and Krug and fellow vocalist/guitarist Dan Boeckner pushed their voices and slammed on their instruments reaching for the high empty balcony seats (notice the echo in the video). If they had a set list, they must have damned it because, in the end they even invited requests. Here is one they took, “Oh You, Old Thing”:
After that new number off Expo 86, the band reached into their back catalog to close with the lengthy 10-minute finale off 2008’s At Mount Zoomer, “Kissing the Beehive.” It offered a great range of dynamics and changes, true to Wolf Parade’s undeniably prog-roots (one hip chick called them “King Crimson-y”). Here is “Kissing the Beehive,” captured in its entirety:
It looked like there would have been no encore. The house lights went on soon after Wolf Parade left the stage, and the recorded music came on, yet the crowd, which had diminished even further would not let up cheering. The band came out and Krug said “We weren’t planning on coming back out,” but he expressed some genuine gratitude and the band played a song Krug introduced as a song he heard several members of the crowd scream out for: “Fancy Claps.”
That was it for the encore, despite another attempt by fans to get the group out, chanting “One more song, one more song!” Hopefully, this truly does not mean the end of Wolf Parade’s visits to the Miami-area. There are an array of venues that could appear packed for these guys, should the promoter choose the right spot. There is certainly a passionate Wolf Parade following in South Florida. Maybe they need one of their songs featured in a TV commercial to get noticed by the other Miami “indie” hipsters.
*According to the All Music Guide, Modest Mouse’s bassist Christened the band, and I had personally first heard about them on the blog of Bradford Cox (of Deerhunter and Atlas Sound). Apparently, Atlas Sound had toured with Ogre in 2008, but in Japan.
October 29, 2010
Yes, the pictures are the proof, I was right up front for this show. The irony is, after seeing intimate shows by Vampire Weekend and MGMT in the balcony, Phoenix did a show whose visuals, not to mention grandiose music, often spilled beyond the stage.
However, standing up front at the last show of Phoenix’s world tour, at the intimate Miami Beach venue at least provided a behind-the-scenes feeling while still having the full effect of the music. At one point, during an instrumental, singer Thomas Mars laid down on the floor with the back of his head on a monitor, casually tapping his toes out of the view of most of the audience, except those right up front.
But before the main act hit the stage, the members of Wavves ambled on as the house lights dimmed only slightly with little fanfare and barely any affectation on stage. Singer/guitarist Nathan Williams even taped his own hand-written set list to the stage. The rough-edged post punk group from San Diego played spirited and raw music. They served as a stark contrast to the slick pop rock of Phoenix, with their fancy lights and perky guitar-work. It made me wonder whether Phoenix hired the Wavves just to make them look better. Not that the Wavves are a bad band. Their ragged rock certainly follows the tropes of the post punk aesthetic, and their first album, 2009’s Wavvves, actually features some odd musical experiments of drones and noise that they left off their more classic punk album, 2010’s King of the Beach.
On Wednesday night, they tore through their repertoire with consistent, raw and simple energy. There wasn’t much thrashing or posturing by the band members, just a self-absorbed energy for their music. I captured the full version of “Beach Demon,” from their first album on video below:
After a short wait, Phoenix took the stage in darkness, a mist of smoke and flashing lights. Guitarist Christian Mazzalai was practically right in front of me. His airy, bright guitar licks came out as effortless as they sound on record. His stared out into the audience with a distant kind of casual quality, as his hands did the magic, driving Phoenix’s unique in-offensive, peppy rock. The French group’s sound would have sounded comfortable on late 70s commercial rock radio, alongside late period Who and ELO, it’s so classic in its sound. It’s not even remotely edgy like the post-punk sound that came out of England during that time. Hence, the odd juxtaposition with Wavves. I only caught two videos of Phoenix during the show. Here is the first, “Armistice”:
Phoenix probably performed the most theatrical of the shows I have seen at the Fillmore, Miami Beach this month. They made the smart move to elevate the drum kits and additional keyboards and had an array of lights, often super-bright and blinding to those too close to the stage. At the end of “North,” they suddenly dropped a giant, thin white curtain over the stage, which also created a waft of the smell of fresh, clean linen, a perfect complement to the fresh, crisp sound of the band.
Behind the curtain, Phoenix slowly and dramatically began building up the epic and mostly instrumental “Love Like a Sunset,” projecting giant shadows of themselves through the flowing fabric. Here is the beginning of the video captured on someone’s cell phone camera (unfortunately, the amazing climax is cut short):
This wasn’t the only time Phoenix made a strong attempt to reach the audience beyond the stage. Toward the end of the set, the band did a couple of songs from beyond the stage– as far as they could go. The two brothers and guitarists, Christian and Branco Mazzalai climbed over the barrier and through some fans to stand on a platform at the side of the stage. Meanwhile, bassist Deck d’Arcy took a small Yamaha keyboard and sat on a monitor right in from of me. Mars took his position on the barrier near the other side of the stage. They performed one of their mellower tunes, as well as a French classic from the sixties, “La Fille aux Cheveux Clairs.” I did not make a video, but I was able to snap some stills.
It reminded me of Coldplay’s efforts to reach the lawn seats at the Cruzan Amphitheater in West Palm Beach last year, when the band ran out beyond all the assigned seats to take to a small stage and play a couple of acoustic songs. Phoenix really made an effort to reach out to as many attendees in the theater as possible, like no other show I have seen at the Fillmore this month.
Their finale was their pièce de résistance. At the end of “1901,” crew members made a fire line to get a glowing orange cable out to the back of the pit, where Mars would show up to sing reprise the end of the song. The crowd held him above their heads, and he crowd surfed his way back to the stage. At one point he tossed his mic out into the crowd. Here’s a video from the back that captured the action from a distance:
After audience members carry him back to the stage, and the band ends their song, Mars begins grabbing fans and yanking them up, inviting everyone to storm the stage. As he helped pull fans up, people also ran for it. Mars actually pulled on one of my friends’ arm, but he passed on the invitation.
It was a scary sight to see a swarm of indie rockers who were not necessarily in their best shape climbing the chest-high barrier to step over a wide chasm to the stage. Some would later regret it. I saw one girl take a nasty fall between the barrier and the stage. I thought I had just seen someone get crippled, but thankfully she got up. I think my wife may have saved a life, by telling another girl not to do it, telling her “you’re too fat.”
Those who made it to the stage smiled, jumped around, hugged band members, took pictures and many even trembled in a mix of fear and delight. I haven’t found YouTube video of the chaos after the music, but here is a closer (and louder) view of Mars crowd surfing right by someone’s camera, as he is carried back to the stage:
At the beginning of the other song I caught on video, “Rome,” Mars declares this as the last show of their tour (it also seems to look sharper than the first video I took, though the screaming around me is more intense):
It was a great show and nice to finally see a band who could push the limitations of the stage at the Fillmore in Miami Beach. As Phoenix heads off to the studio for their follow-up to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, maybe they will come back at a bigger venue, where they belong.
(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)
October 14, 2010
As established in my last post praising LCD Soundsystem, the bar for live alternative rock has been set high for the rest of the year, and quite possibly my lifetime. Vampire Weekend had a tough act a to follow because once you know their music, you know what to expect. There’s little room for extra groove and tangential surprises. In fact the only surprise for me came with opening act Beach House, who I never bothered to listen to, though many had recommended them to me. After seeing them live, I now see why.
The four members of Beach House took the stage shrouded in darkness and mostly illuminated by three large, throbbing illuminated pyramids, which sometimes created a visual effect of a cavern disappearing into infinity behind them. For some reason (poor sound or my altered state?) I could not understand a word Victoria Legrand sang with her husky, breathy voice. Her vocals carried memories of Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star or a mellow Liela Moss (of Duke Spirit), as she stroked the keyboard. The songs unfolded slowly and reverberated with undulating keyboards and mellow affected guitars, on a steady beat that poured out softly thanks to guest drummer Graham Hill use of soft timpani sticks on the kit. It was some beautiful, dreamy stuff. I videoed three songs here:
Then Vampire Weekend were on, and they brought energy and spunk to their songs on a very simple stage set-up with a couple of projected images for visuals. It was really about the music, and they did their songs respect. The crowd ate it up and sang along when ordered to do so. Not much else to say beyond that their performance was tight with a nice flow of songs culled from their two albums, their self-titled debut and Contra. I was able to video several songs; they are all complete:
This one got cut after my memory card got full:
April 10, 2010
When Of Montreal took the stage at the Jackie Gleason Center at the Fillmore Miami Beach, I expected some new songs and hoped for a performance as wild and theatrical as the year before at the smaller Club Revolution in Fort Lauderdale, just a county to the north. OK, so I got neither (except for one new song– “Like a Tourist” from the upcoming False Priest album. According to singer Kevin Barnes it comes out in September). Still, it was an enjoyable, if not poorly attended show. The band did enthusiastic renditions of music that mostly spanned their later albums during an all too-brief set.
Here are the videos I made at the show. All songs are intact, from start to finish and are in the order they were played, with some songs missing (I have to enjoy the show from outside the camera screen on occasion)…
“Suffer for Fashion”
“Like a Tourist”
“Du Og Meg”
“Oslo in the Summertime”
“Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger”
“Requiem for O.M.M.2”
“I Want You Back”