Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

The Evening Descends

Photo by Frank Yang

So while I was excited about the debut Toronto show for Champaign, Illinois’ Headlights this past Sunday evening, it appeared that I was one of the only ones. There were maybe a few dozen people in attendance when the quintet took the stage and while that’s a disappointing turnout, it’s not an unexpected one. Their debut Kill Them With Kindness was well-received from those with a taste for sweet, fuzzy indie pop (like myself) but didn’t exactly set the world ablaze and their newly-released Some Racing, Some Stopping, while evidencing the sort of growth you like to see in a sophomore effort, probably isn’t on a much different trajectory.

But there’s nothing wrong with dedicating oneself to writing sharp, unpretentious pop songs, particularly when you’re as good at it as Headlights are. They drew the opening slot straw of this co-headlining tour with Okies Evangelicals and served up a sweet but too-short set drawing largely from the new album (which I haven’t spent enough time with) and a few older numbers, all while fighting off feedback issues and vocals which were buried too far into the mix.

What impressed me most were the little touches the band applied to their live arrangements, more subtle and effective than I’d expect from your typical indie-pop band. Manipulating their effects pedals to actually sculpt the static coming out of their amps and not just make random squelches, inviting the Evangelicals out for one number to man multiple floor toms on “So Much For The Afternoon” and just generally doing the little things that you might think would get lost in the mix but really do make a difference. They’re playing what seems to be a millions shows at SxSW next week – I’m hoping to catch at least one of them.

I’d seen Evangelicals a few years back in support of their debut So Gone and they didn’t do much to shake the “Flaming Lips Jr” tag that they’d been saddled with, earned as much for their noisy psych-pop as their shared home state though Evangelicals seemed to draw on inspiration several shades darker than Wayne Coyne ever has. Their new one The Evening Descends is more refined than the debut, less frantic, but it was in the live show that the band has grown the most. They’re still not much for stage lights and favour a spooky, Halowe’en-y atmosphere but frontman Josh Jones is now demonstrating a fey, Kevin Barnes-like charisma which suits them quite well. His sense of vocal pitch could still use some work – singing swoopy-style around the correct note just doesn’t cut it – but the songs, which are considerably rockier (in a classic and glammy sense) live than on record, are certainly there and so is the stage show. They’ve got the strobes, black lights and smoke machines and everything.

The New Haven Advocate and The Maneater talk to Josh Jones of Evangelicals while Headlights have been keeping a tour blog for Smile Politely.

Photos: Evangelicals, Headlights @ The El Mocambo – March 2, 2008
MP3: Evangelicals – “Skeleton Man”
MP3: Headlights – “Skeleton Man”
MP3: Headlights – “Cherry Tulips”
MP3: Headlights – “Market Girl”
Video: Headlights – “Cherry Tulips”
MySpace: Headlights

So did you catch Wilco on Saturday Night Live? If not, this is what you missed – two of my less favoured songs from Sky Blue Sky nonetheless delivered with such aplomb that you can’t help but think, “damn these guys are tight”. The Des Moines Register talks to bassist John Stirratt. Update: Denied! Damn you, NBC. Update 2: In your face, NBC! Thanks, Karl.

Video: Wilco – “Hate It Here” (live on Saturday Night Live)
Video: Wilco – “Walken” (live on Saturday Night Live)

Steve Earle talks to JAM about the mixed response his Washington Square Serenade live shows have been receiving. NPR also has a radio session and interview with Steve. He’s at Massey Hall tonight.

Josh Ritter, who’s at the Phoenix tonight, has conversations with The Grand Rapids Press and The Winnipeg Sun. Congratulations to Matt, Tualla, Derek, Eddie and different Matt who won the Ritter contest last week.

The AV Club and Country Standard Time talk to Gary Louris about his new record Vagabonds, which will bring him to town for a show at the Mod Club on March 30.

Prefix gets an update from the road from Jason Isbell.

Harp reports that the Old 97s are coming back with their first album in some years with Blame It On Gravity, due out May 13, and are streaming some samples from it at their MySpace.

Peter Buck of R.E.M. talks to Filter, discusses the Live DVD and disavows Around The Sun. Accelerate is out April 1 and they play the Molson Amphitheatre on June 8.

Filter talks to Spoon about their grand 2007, Spoon records a song for the Black Cab Session, the Black Cab Sessions are featured by The Guardian. It’s the circle of life.

Video: Spoon – “I Summon You” (live on Black Cab Sessions)

The New York Daily News has a feature on Keren Ann.

The Boston Globe and Pitchfork talk to St Vincent’s Annie Clark.

Nina Persson of The Cardigans tells the BBC that the release of their Best Of compilation doesn’t mean the band’s done. Nor does the fact that she’s releasing her second A Camp solo record this year, with the title Here There Are Many Wild Animals.

Some upcoming concert announcements – Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin will be in town at the El Mocambo on April 18 to offer their thoughts on the election of Medvedev as President of Russia and play some songs from their new album Pershing, due out April 8. Via Audio will be along for the ride, Pitchfork has full dates.

MP3: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – “Glue Girls”
Video: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – “Pershing”

Breaking-space averse British post-rock outfit 65daysofstatic will hoof it from their opening gig for The Cure at the Air Canada Centre on May 15 to the El Mocambo for their own headlining show.

MP3: 65daysofstatic – “When We Were Younger And Better”
MP3: 65daysofstatic – “Don’t Go Down To Sorrow”

Brazil’s Bonde do Role, new singer/MC in place, will tour North America this Spring and wrap things up with a show at The Social on May 18.

Welsh kiddies Los Campesinos! are hitting the road in support of debut full-length Hold On Now, Youngster… and stop in at Lee’s Palace in Toronto on May 23. Neu! has an interview with Ollie from the band.

Video: Los Campesinos! – “Death To Los Campesinos!”

And according to Dave Bookman, a date in late May from Rilo Kiley is in the offing. The rumoured impending nuptials between Blake Sennett and Winona Ryder? Maybe not so much.

By : Frank Yang at 8:21 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Andrew says:

    Well, those Wilco videos didn’t last long; they’ve been taken down due to a "third party claim".

    Also, I hate to nitpick, but "Xanadu" starred Gene Kelly, not Danny Kaye. True story: on the half day before Christmas break in grade 5, our entire middle school in small town New Brunswick was made to watch "Xanadu" in the gym before we could go home. I think there are laws against that now.

  2. uwmryan@yahoo.com says:

    Check out Shipwreck – another Champaign band, John from the band is currently touring with Headlights. I really dig both bands.

  3. Pedro says:

    I’ll go to Lisbon next Saturday 8th March to see The Cure (for the second time) and 65daysofstatic will play in the opening act…reports later on!!!

  4. Cletus says:

    You’ll kick yourself later for missing out on 65 if you miss it so, don’t. Circle it on your calendar now. They’re electrifying live. Post-rock you can mosh to.

  5. Karl says:


    Steal my Wilco TV links!