Monday, April 18th, 2005

Oh, Inverted World

I went into last night’s Shins show with equal parts anticipation and trepidation – actually, it was mostly trepidation. Call me a snob if you want, but I don’t like the Kool Haus (big concrete room, pain in the ass to get to), I don’t like all-ages shows (all you kids who love all-ages shows will understand the minute you turn 19) and I don’t like shows whose audience crosses too far into the mainstream (I’ve worked hard in my life to ensure minimal interaction with jocks and frat boys). This show could potentially be a perfect storm of all three – after all, this wasn’t so much the Chutes Too Narrow tour as it was the Garden State tour. Well I’m pleased to say my main misgivings were mostly unfounded. Yeah, the Kool Haus is still a crap venue but there’s not much to be done about that, but there were thankfully none of the unbridled shrieking or “whoo!”-ing that I had expected with the kids and the jocks. Everyone was just there to enjoy the show and have a good time, a-yup.

7-piece Kiwi collective The Brunettes were the openers for the whole tour and I couldn’t think of a better choice to warm up for The Shins. Paul has waxed ecstatic about this act for a while now, but it was only after seeing them live that I fully appreciated their charm. They remind me of a group of music Summer camp escapees who made off with the entire stash of instruments. They had an unbelievable number of instruments onstage with them, from keyboards and glockenspiels to triangles, clarinets, trumpets, cello, saxophones, banjos, castanets, to say nothing of their liberal use of finger snaps and hand claps. With every band member contributing on vocals backing the he-said, she-said lead vox of Heather Mansfield and Jonathan Bree, the result was a gloriously giddy, sun-kissed, retro-pop cacaphony.

Sure, you’re not going to find great profundity in the lyrical content but with music like this, what are you going to sing about, forgiving the third-world debt? C’mon. If you want an idea of where they’re coming from, all you need to know is that they dedicated the last song of their set to the Commonwealth and the metric system, and all donned cardboard masks of Full House-era Mary Kate and/or Ashley Olsen. Really, there was no way to not love them. I dashed out to the lobby right after their set to buy a copy of Mars Loves Venus.

The last time I saw the Shins, it was in a 100-capacity venue. Now they were playing to a crowd twenty times that size. Naturally, I had concerns as to how the Shins’ brand of folky indie-pop would translate in a large, unforgiving room such as the Kool Haus. Answer? About as well as could be expected. Their setlist drew heavily from the more upbeat portion of their repetoire, which was ironic as the quieter, acoustic numbers such as “Young Pilgrims” and the ubiquitous “New Slang” actually came across the best, sonically. The more amped up numbers had the soundman struggling with the craptacular acoustics of the room – it’s saying something that the set was even as listenable as it was. Oh, and the fun cover of the night was The Magnetic Fields’ “Strange Powers”. I approve.

I was also pleasantly surprised how comfortable the band seemed to be on such a large stage (I’m talking real estate). I guess I forgot that they’ve been growing as performers with their audience since the last time they came through town and it hasn’t been as much of an overnight explosion in popularity. James was a bit chattier than he had been in the past, though it was still Marty who assumed the majority of the frontman/banter responsibilities. From where I was, I couldn’t quite make out what he was saying but there was a comment about bagels followed by him showing off his midriff to the crowd. Yeah, I dunno. But it was evident the band was having a great time, as was the crowd and hell – even the oppressive venue couldn’t stifle that. Good show all around.

And as a postscript, big thumbs up to the band for keeping merch prices down. I’ve never seen anyone sell t-shirts at the Kool Haus for $20 before. Very nice. And sorry, no photos – I had no interest in trying to smuggle a camera in nor fight my way through the great unwashed to get close enough to get any sort of decent shots. Yeah, them’s the breaks. But did anyone get a digicam in without any sort of hassle from security? Not smuggle, just carry one in. Obviously loads of people in the audience had em, I’m just wondering if the venue actually cared.

PopMatters talks to Britt Daniel about making records the Spoon way. Gimme Fiction is out May 10 and they play Lee’s Palace June 5.

Looks like there’s a payoff for waiting the four months for the North American release of Mercury Rev’s The Secret Migration on May 17. The Amazon listing indicates that it comes with a bonus disc, and not some piddly one or two tracker – this one’s got nine extra tracks. Huzzah.

The Houston Chronicle asks Jeff Tweedy why Wilco holds such appeal for music geeks. Answer? Because he’s one of us. One of us. From Largehearted Boy.

More Cowbell sent me this Questionable Content comic strip which I found amusingly-bang on until the last panel. As if these guys would even KNOW any girls.

JAM! talks to Kevin Smith and Neil Gaiman about making films based on comic books in a market where everything and anything from the funny pages is being adapted for celluloid. Gaiman also reveals his plans for the film version of Death: The High Cost Of Living:

“It’s a nice, cheap, low-budget movie about a miserable teen and a girl who thinks she may be death and the day in New York they spend together. The only reason I’m directing is that I don’t want anyone (messing) it up.”

It sounds like he’s dispensing with the whole Endless angle, and I don’t think it’ll suffer for it at all.

And finally, Sin City scribe Frank Miller was profiled on 60 Minutes last week. Via Achtung Baby!.

np – Douglas Heart / I Could See The Smallest Things

By : Frank Yang at 9:15 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Paul says:

    I really am glad you enjoyed the Brunettes, Frank. I’m always afraid I’m steering people toward stuff that only I like.

  2. Ryan Waddell says:

    When I went to see The Killers at the Kool Haus last fall, they were letting in everything except for SLR cameras. Well, and my friend’s Sony, which isn’t an SLR but has a big long lens on it which makes it look like an SLR (and try explaining the difference to one of those boneheaded bouncers).

  3. Frank says:

    yeah, my camera looks nothing like an SLR. Maybe I’ll bring it for Doves and see what happens. The sightlines there make it hard to get a shot that’s not 40% peoples’ heads, though.

  4. PG says:

    my friend mark brought his aging digicam into the show without hassle. the frisk was rather uninspired, and whence I get my new canon, I intend to take it in to future shows there.

  5. Frank says:

    I always just fear the worst when I bring the camera anywhere larger than Lee’s or Mod Club. I mean, I’ll check it if they insist, but that’s such a pain. At least they seem to realize that stopping P&S cameras is an exercise in futility since everyone has em now.

    How ’bout the Opera House? I haven’t been there in a couple years.

  6. PG says:

    when I saw DFA1979 at the opera house a little while ago I was practically *molested* by the bouncers, and would not smuggling there.

    the thing is, won’t camera phones beat the system in the end? I always see people snapping away with them now.

  7. Andrea says:

    Y’know, I used to hate all-ages shows too until I realized that the kids are a lot more attentive than those who are legal drinking age. I think it’s because they’re there for the music and not there to drink with a musical backdrop.

  8. Mike says:

    Frank, didn’t see you at the Shins concert. I was near the front, off to the right side of the stage. Did you get a decent view? I brought my P/S camera and got in. If I’m lucky, I got a couple of decent pics. I’ve been to shows at the Kool Haus before where they said you can bring in cameras just as long as they are not videocameras/digicams.

    The Opera House once told me I couldn’t bring in my P/S camera(when I went to see Zero 7) because the promoters weren’t allowing it. Although I saw a bunch of people at the show clicking away with their cameras. Subsequent shows I’ve brought in my camera to The Opera House…whether they allow it, I don’t know, but I usually put my camera in my back pocket because they don’t usually have the nerve to feel your ass up when they do their body search.

  9. mao says:

    Anyone go to M. Ward at Lee’s Palace last night?

    Pretty darn good show…the ending Credence cover ("Green River") was pretty surprising.

  10. toni says:

    a little late to post here, but the Shins shirts were 30 and up in Montreal last night. How in the hell did the prices change by that much in 2 days? talk about rip off. They so were not worth over 20.

  11. Frank says:

    I think merch prices also depend on the venue – some demand a cut of the sales, so the band has to adjust the pricing to compensate. I’ve never seen shirts for less than 25/30 at the Kool Haus, which is why I commented on it.

    Me, I bought a Shins shirt two and a half years ago for $12! Still good, too.

  12. Barry says:

    As someone who has seen the Brunettes live several times, and in fact organised a gig for them in my former home town, it gives me a nice warm feeling to see that they can go overseas and people will get what they’re doing – not everyone does here.

  13. Matt Roberts says:

    The Brunettes were brilliant. I was at the Montreal Show…. But they Ran out of Mars Loves Venus! I’m still ticked off i didn’t run out a get it earlier.

    The shins played a great set – though i found the crowd a bit quiet (maybe just me.)

    Great review!