concert reviews in heat

The ear Staff

SHOUT OUT LOUDS: brooklyn, ny

The Luna Lounge is nestled only one subway stop up from the famed hipster capital Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg (for those pretending not to know, that is in Brooklyn, NY). A little way off from the bars, music stores, and people on Bedford, the Luna Lounge : which lacks the same garish signs that some other venues have : is actually kind of easy to miss. That is, unless there is a show. Then the Beford-ites and East Villagers swarm like bees to their Indie music honey. With a capacity of nearly 400, that is quite a lot of thick black-rimmed glasses and skinny jeans. The saving grace is, of course, that it is a 21+ venue, so it bars the being-young-and-living-with-my-parents-sucks hipsters of the next generation.

Upon entering the venue, you immediately encounter the crowd around the bar, which is understandable given the relatively cheap drinks the Luna serves. The venue is basically one big, plain, rectangular room with minimal seating on the sides and a slightly sloped floor down to the elevated stage. The view for the stage, therefore, is pretty good anywhere. In fact, the only real problem with the layout is that the soundboard is in the middle of the floor.
Saturday Looks Good To Me opened up for the Shout Out Louds, and played a solid set to the capacity crowd. This Detroit-based group played nice country, soul, and blues-inspired rock with some of the best guitar licks I have ever seen played live. Somewhere between the lead singer’s frequent stories about Detroit and the guy from Big Star he knew and the mounting excitement for everybody’s favorite Swedes to take the stage, the set was ruined. I thought the group was rather good, so I thought it was a bit unfortunate.

The crowd redeemed itself when the Shout Out Louds took the stage. This might be the best point to mention the fact this is the goddamned best looking group I have ever seen. Every single member, except perhaps for the David Cross look-alike drummer, is unreasonably attractive. Since the band is mixed-gendered, a person with any sexual orientation can rest assured that they will be satisfied with some great eye candy. What makes the band members look even better is their dress. It is modern and hip, yet classy and refined in a sort of business-chic way.

As well as being fuckable, the Shout Out Louds put on a great show. The mix of Swedish Pop, crowd interaction, and band energy combined to make an unforgettable experience.

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: tacoma, wash.
katie presley

Justin Timberlake is a confused guy. His concert at the Tacoma Dome on September 8th was nothing if not deeply conflicted. As is to be expected from a show entitled “FutureSex/LoveShow,” everything was bright and exciting and sexy. However, Justin is caught in a series of contradictory positions: Is he a credible musician or a showy boy-bander? Is he a grownup or a teenager? Is he over Britney or isn’t he? The answer to all of these questions is yes, which made the entire concert-going experience one big sexyback-bringin’ sociological study.

Over the course of the night, Justin played several of his own instruments: guitar, keyboard, piano, and some drums. He beatboxed, avoided lip-synching, and had well-dressed, racially diverse backup singers. Justin clearly wants to be taken seriously as a performer. And he ought to be: he played all of his instruments well and has a fantastic voice. Over the top of all this legit singer-songwriter business, though, were huge light displays, a laser show, and enormous projection screens with elaborate holographs and at one point a backup gospel choir. I smell bleach blonde curls and lying about virginity…

In other words, Justin has not gotten the theatricality of his former life out of his system.
The peak of JT drama took place in the closing lines of “What Goes Around…Comes Around,” his Britney-bashing, Timbaland-collabo’ed video extravaganza. He picked up a small camcorder and sang to it angrily while his distorted image swirled on the big screen. He zoomed in on his crotch. He scowled. And finally, he flipped off the screen and threw the camera onstage. The crowd went WILD. Everyone loves someone else’s nasty breakup, after all. I laughed out loud for this entire portion of the show. It’s not really acceptable, I think, to bank on the public implosion of your relationship as part of the excitement of your show. Everyone knows what that song is about; he could have just sung it. That being said, I liked looking at his crotch and if anyone understands what a voyeuristic crowd wants to see, it’s Paris Hilton. But if it’s NOT Paris, it’s Justin Timberlake.

Slip into melodrama #2 was when Justin took a shot at the beginning of the show and said ‘fuck’ as many times as possible. We listened, and duly took him seriously as an adult. He is 26 years old, after all. But then he did his choreographed dance moves to songs about having me naked by the time he was done singing, and we all got confused again. Justin, who are you? What do you want from me as a faithful fan? You need to keep playing instruments, get out of stadium shows, and give up the lasers. I know you love the lasers. But you’ve got. To let them. Go.

keith cushner and bryan sonderman

If you’re from Seattle, you’ve probably already heard of the Capitol Hill Block Party. If you’re not from Seattle, but you read Pitchfork, then you’ve probably heard it’s the shit. This year the event featured such notable acts as Spoon, Aesop Rock, Girl Talk, and Blue Scholars as well as a handful of others. We were only there on Saturday, so we missed Girl Talk’s supposedly life-changing set, but Saturday had its share of face-melting performances.
When we initially got to the Block Party, we made our way immediately to the Beer Garden which was relatively empty at 1 pm. After getting our much needed wristbands, we headed to the Vera Stage where Tina and Gina, two overtly-feminist hipsters turned-b-girls, were “enlightening” a scattered crowd of Broadway rejects on the wonders of Foucault, lip gloss and their liberal arts educations. The next four hours were spent in limbo, perusing the many early-afternoon drink specials that Capitol Hill has to offer. When we returned, we were just in time to catch the tail-end of John Vanderslice, who played some stripped-down renditions of songs off his newest album, “Emerald City,” and although his set was not the most entertaining of the night it was still great to hear “Cellar Door” in a live setting. Somewhere towards the end of the Vanderslice set, we heard about free cigarettes and beer, so we promptly stumbled over to the Camel booth and sold our souls for a quick fix. We then caught Aesop Rock on the mainstage, who closed off a stellar set with a surprisingly genuine version of “Daylight” (a song which he has publicly denounced in the past).

Against Me! took the stage next and, as a result, forced our crew to evacuate to the nearest sanctuary a.k.a. Taco Time. We were happy to fill our bellies without missing any good music in the process. We arrived back to see Spoon’s roadies prepping the stage for what would be the best performance of the day.

The crowd had grown in size throughout the day and it was at its peak when Spoon started off their set with the first track of their latest album, “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” (“Don’t make me a target”). Much to our surprise, Spoon played a varied set with a majority of their set coming from “Girls Can Tell” and “A Series of Sneaks.” Their setup was relatively barebones, but all of the essential elements were there, and the band played flawlessly through their encore. Notable moments included “The Underdog” (their newest single) and “The Way We Get By,” which made all the girls cheer as they had just put in on their Ipod running mix.

Afterwards we hit Neumo’s for the nightcap, which featured a DJ set by Devlin and Darko of Spank Rock. After we got sick of the three-dollar Dewars and Coke, we headed out and ran into Brit Daniels and Jim Eno (the core members of Spoon) and drunkenly asked them to come play Whitman, which they politely considered, although they were happy to hear they were number one at KWCW. While the Block Party treated us well, we could have just gotten drunk at a Spoon show and had as much fun.

HOT CHIP: portland, ore.
keith cushner

Do you know what I love? Synthesizers. Goddamn, do I love synthesizers. If you love said musical instruments as much as I do, then catching Hot Chip’s live show is highly recommended.

Hot Chip is a quintet from London that plays electronic music without samples. So all of the individual parts are played live and then looped onstage while the song is being played. Each member of the band has multiple keyboards in front of them, as well as some auxiliary percussion instruments and guitars. They play a unique brand of catchy dance music with vocals as smooth as butter over the top.

Having been a huge fan of Hot Chip, especially after their most recent album “The Warning” dropped, and seeing them for the first time, I was incredibly excited for the show. After missing the first opener, Datarock, and sitting through the second, Planning to Rock (who was very appropriately named), I was ready to have my mind blown. So were the rest of the crowd at the sold-out Wonder Ballroom.

Much to my surprise and delight, Hot Chip chose a path that is incredibly rare for commercially successful artists: they played their studio tracks completely different in a live setting. It took the crowd a good two minutes to figure out they that were playing “Boy from School,” but once everyone figured this fact out the place exploded. The band’s set actually consisted of about 70 percent new material, which the crowd didn’t seem to mind as it was all danceable. All of the of-agers crowding the bar and pounding their $3 PBR’s didn’t mind either, although, obviously, older tracks like “Over and Over” and “No Fit State” were crowd pleasers.

Amid the breaks between songs, random drum sounds were quite audible as the beats for the upcoming song were being looped. However, the band was quite subtle about setting this up. The two most entertaining members of the band were definitely Alexis Taylor, the lead vocalist who slightly resembled a short, hip, English Steve Urkel who could solo on a set of bongos like you wouldn’t believe, and Owen Clarke, who plays lead (and only guitar), and, simply put, balls hard. Both of these members provided for some great visuals, as did the random people in the crowd (it would prove very difficult to imagine the amount of hipsters grinding on each other like it was their 9-5 on Wednesday). The band filled the stage well and the light show was not particularly elaborate, but that fit the band well as it was easier to actually see what each member was doing. Hot Chip’s set lasted a good hour and forty five minutes and it was all equally entertaining. It is rare that a band can play a set filled with so much unfamiliar material and hook a crowd well, but they did so flawlessly.

david kanega

Daft Punk is getting ready to release a live album of this year’s tour in a few months. If you go to your computer and search out “coachella set 2006,” I imagine you’ll be able to download what is essentially a lo-fi version of what they’re packaging in pretty plastic for holiday purchase. And if you listen to it, you’ll likely be very impressed. And then, when you are told that they performed this same set about a dozen times in the last two years, you’ll likely be slightly less impressed by their lack of characteristics that define a good band. And if you are slightly less impressed, it is likely because you did not have the opportunity to, or chose not to, see them in concert this last summer.

I did see them, and post-concert, the idea of criticizing the show for having been musically almost identical to something I had already heard was absurd. Sure, it can’t have been too hard to do what they were doing on the stage: playing loops from all of their songs on top of each other, and occasionally mixing things up with a glorious crowd-appeasing one-second glitch-fill: but virtuosity of performance was not what was important here.

Rather, it was virtuosity of preparation. In a way, the concert had the appeal more of something packaged than of something live. That is, almost all of our crowd-wonder came from the fact that we were witnessing masculine hard-set truths prepared to a point of perfection. The music was already perfect for the Coachella set. Why change it? To mix things up?

Bah! Is it still 1920? No: sound was perfect. Check. Now the lights: they were the same at Coachella, too. And they were perfect. Check. Light up robot lines? That’s new: throw em in, mix em up, give these babies what they want. Glitch fills: yes. More please.

What we have is a rigorously prepared, rigorously structured show. A show that cannot possibly be recreated on paper. A show that cannot possibly be recreated on November’s “Alive 2007” CD. A show that cannot possibly be recreated on a concert DVD…..and yea, I know you must be thinking “well, uh, aren’t uh all shows uh lika lika that? I saw the mountain goats last year, and it changed my life, uh.” The answer is no. I didn’t see the mountain goats, but they sucked compared to Daft Punk. You can pretend you like Godard more than Star Wars, but honestly….do you really think you’re that smart? Money translates well into emotions.

A lot of dough went into the Alive tour, and it shows. Pretty lights. Good sound. Pretty images. Yea, it was moving: touching. Production value was everything.

So pick up the CD when it comes out. And look at pictures of the concert on the internet. Look at those robot lines. I haven’t explained anything here. I’ve only been mean: I’ve only been a critic. You can’t expect me to recreate the show: although I guess I probably could do that if you gave me enough money.