Saturday, December 21, 2013

Show Reviews: Andrew Bird Gezelligheid and King Krule in San Francisco

I'd not been to a single live show this year until last week.  It was a plan that had been made for at least two months in advance and it was a devious one, indeed.  Andrew Bird one night, King Krule the next.  It seemed almost too good to be true that such a coincidence was occurring, but alas, here I am a few days later and still basking in the wonderfulness I experienced. 

Staying in SF, just blocks away from the synagogue where Andrew Bird was playing, I did not mind getting away from the freezing temperatures of Reno and into the Bay Area's downright hot by comparison low 60's temperatures.  This meant, basically, a lot of walking.  And, inevitably, you see some street names in SF that are funny in one way or another.  Although it's mostly an alley now, this one was rather amusing to me for obvious reasons:
Earlier in the day, we made the walk over to Haight-Ashbury and hit Amoeba.  They now advertise their prowess in their video stock, unfortunately:
I was on a budget, so I shopped wisely and picked up mostly hole fillers for my collection:
(I'll get to them at a later date, but I will say right now that Amoeba's prices on used items have gone up in the last few years, but if you know what you're shopping for, the place still remains an absolute dream of a record store for nerds like me)

As I mentioned, Andrew Bird was playing the Sherith Israel synagogue.  A venue presumably picked for its acoustics and certainly did not disappoint in that regard.  It's an absolutely beautiful piece of architecture and the time spent waiting for the show to begin passed quickly, just admiring the gorgeous attention to detail throughout the place:

The before show house system played a strange, but somehow fitting combination of crackling Carter Family songs and newer solo instrumental guitar work by the likes Bert Jansch (among others).  Andrew played essentially alone, although he was joined by a bassist (whose name I unfortunately did not catch) and Tift Merritt later in the set (and boy did their harmonies sound great!).  He played two sets that lasted about fourty minutes a piece and there wasn't much stage banter or song title announcements.  He started out with one of the instrumental songs from his newest I Want to See Pulaski at Night EP (and then closed the first set with the title track from that EP) and then played a combination of older songs ('Dear Old Greenland'!!), a few from Break it Yourself and a handful of cover tunes, by both contemporary and classic sources.  All of the older material received slight arrangement adjustments and tweaks that made them sound as fresh as ever, and somehow right at home in between the cover tunes.  The show was billed as "Gezelligheid" (pronounced "gah-zell-ig-hide) and the word is supposed to mean something like a relaxed atmosphere.  In that regard, Andrew definitely succeeded.  He closed with the old standy 'Weather Systems' and I have to say, of the three times I've seen him, he's played it every single time and this one was the best.  There were numerous instances where he seemed to change the words to a song because he could, made mistakes that would have gone unnoticed by anyone who didn't already know the song extremely well and, through most of the show, it felt like he was up there letting the audience in on a rehearsal.  Now, when you're as good as Andrew Bird is at what he does, this is the highest compliment that can be paid.  Because he was completely on that night.  It just cemented to me that he is absolutely one of the best musicians on the planet and even when he's basically up there screwing around, he still manages to make completely unique and beautiful music.

Tuesday was, for me, the main event: King Krule at the Independent over on Divisadero.  I'd never been there before, but I was extremely excited upon entering the place and seeing it was only about a four or five hundred capacity room.  This meant any spot in the place could be a good one.  Well, I don't want to brag, but we may have managed to get the best spot in the house:
The opener was Tops (no really, that's their name).  I thought they were okay.  Angel III thought they were good, just based on how much fun they were clearly having up there.  When Archy took the stage around 9.30, I was shaking in anticipation.  Amidst dark blue lights, he launched into 'Has this Hit?' and it wasn't until the second half of the song and Archy burst into his rapping over that irresistible faux-rockabilly riff that it struck me: this is happening.  This is real.  It seemed totally surreal up until that point.  Before I knew it, he was rapping the words at me as I was rapping them right back at him.  The rest of the set just blew me completely and totally away.  His band was completely ace, and through a setlist that included a lot of 6 Feet material, sprinkled with past favorites, something occurred to me that I never thought I would say: the arrangements on 6 Feet Beneath the Moon actually hinder his presentation as a performer.  Good as the album is (and, to be sure, it's my favorite album of at least the last two years), the songs as they were played live in a more sparse, four piece band presentation hit harder and have more immediacy than on the record.  The entire set was full of energy and in the moment beauty that can only lead me to suggest that a live album is not only advisable, but necessary at this point.  The rawked up, "Fuck you, I'm punk as fuck!" run-throughs of 'A Lizard State', 'Rock Bottom' and 'Easy Easy' (with the obligatory audience singalong, no less) were bubbling over with intensity and properly controlled anger, while slower, meditative renditions of 'The Krockadile', 'Baby Blue' and 'The Noose of Jah City' ventured off into six and seven minute lengths that left goosebumps crawling all over me.  The proper set closer 'Out Getting Ribs' was not only a guitar playing clinic (less than five feet in front of my face, no less), it was the highlight of the evening (among many).  A one song encore of 'Portrait in Black and Blue' and a short handshake with the man left me with tears of joy welling up in my eyes.  There is so much contradiction in his music that having such overwhelming feelings of sureness that he is the future of music is definitely confusing.  I may make silly overbearing statements like that, but after seeing him with my own eyes, I can say one thing definitively: he is the real deal.  He is the absolute embodiment of creativity and talent. 

All that, and he totally does a "I don't care if there's people watching me" dance while he plays:
A wonderful way to end out the year.


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