If it’s Tuesday it must be another concert at The Sinclair in Harvard Square (best venue in the Boston area). This time it was Angel Olsen whose stagecraft has come on in leaps and bounds since I last saw her two years ago. Her six-piece band were all in sharp suits, the lighting was dramatic and thought-out, and Angel herself seemed more like a genuine rock star than the simple girl-with-guitar she was before.
Not only were the band dapper but they were a crack unit, especially on the rockin’ numbers where having three guitars gave them real power. They played an absolutely ferocious version of “Shut Up Kiss Me” that was one of the best performances of a song I’ve heard in years. Add that extraordinary voice of hers on top and you’ve got quite the live powerhouse.
My only gripe was being a little frustrated by the pacing of the show. She started and finished with uptempo numbers and in between was a lot of ballads. Not that these weren’t great but so many in a row can be a drag and leave your feet itching for something to tap to. Storming rockers like “High Five” gave the crowd such a buzz I was dying for her to play another one, especially as she has a band that can really tear the roof off. But any misgivings I had were blown away by the encore, a stunning one-two punch of “Intern” and “Woman” with Angel playing synth against moody lighting, and the band building to an intense crescendo which the ended the show on a massive high.
As you can see from the terrible photo up top I didn’t have a great view (the place was packed) so I didn’t shoot any video again. This is from a few nights before in New York. Heart-stopping stuff.
I love the Small Faces but I’d forgotten that they reformed for a few years in the 1970s. The quality of this video is pretty bad but it’s still well worth watching. Steve Marriott is in fine voice and is such a cool dude he even looks good with that hair and mustache.
I went to see Sleigh Bells for the first time last week. I knew it would be an intense and VERY LOUD affair so I planned to enjoy the show from a distance, well away from what I imagined would be a mad crush at the front churned up by their eardrum-battering guitars and sledgehammer beats. As they say in the movies, I’m too old for that shit.
That was the plan anyway. Instead I found myself drawn to the front by the sonic and physical energy of the band which sucked me in like a vortex. The main generator of that energy was dynamo lead singer Alexis Krauss who threw herself around the stage like a possessed doll and was one of the best I’ve ever seen at getting an audience revved up and involved in the performance. Cooly observing from the back wasn’t an option and I happily joined the mass of sweaty bodies rocking their socks off near the front.
Sleigh Bells don’t really pace their show, they start at 100mph and keep the pedal floored the whole way, with guitars dive-bombing and programmed drum beats punching through walls. Add to the mix the disorientating strobe light they use and it’s quite the sensory experience, like being hit by waves of white noise and light. Hard to pick a highlight when it was all so much of a singular assault, but I did have a good fist-pump to “Minnie” and enjoyed Alexis crowd-surfing to “Crown On The Ground.”
I thought I would come out of the gig feeling old, but instead I felt invigorated. My ears were ringing for days and I couldn’t have been happier about it.
As usual I was enjoying the show too much to shoot any video myself so here’s a clip from a few nights previous in New York.
br> Tancred is a group created and fronted by Minneapolis singer/songwriter Jess Abbott who also plays guitar in a band called Now, Now. I’ve never heard anything by them but I do love the noise she makes as Tancred: punky power pop with a hint of fuzzy 90s alt-rock.
Their terrific third album Out Of The Garden is stuffed with addictive choons like this one. Listen and buy here.
I struggled to stop smoking for a long time, falling in and out of the habit for years before finally quitting. Obviously I was addicted, but almost as strong as that — and my worry about dying a premature death from cancer — was the feeling that without cigarettes I’d just be some safe and boring middle-aged bloke. I know it sounds stupid, but smoking meant being a nonconformist rebel and sticking two fingers up at society with it’s smug health and fitness obsession (you can’t even smoke at a concert anymore, how rock and roll is that?) Most of all, a cigarette went with being young, drinking too much, clubbing till late, living on the edge, being cool. It was hard to let go of that, without it I might as well start wearing comfy shoes and listening to Coldplay.
We like to say that one of the best things about getting old is not actually caring about being cool anymore which is true to a certain extent, but no one wants to be un-cool, do they? The worst thing is that feeling you aren’t where it’s at anymore, the culture has moved on and replaced you with annoying young people — and young people are always annoying when you’re not one. Just to rub salt in the wound, a lot of these kids are into the same bands you were at their age so it’s like the little buggers are parasites living off your past coolness.
A while ago I was on the bus and there was some kid wearing a Clash t-shirt with their first album cover on it. I became very aware that, while he was in his cool Punk Rock shirt, I was sitting there with my reading glasses and hair greying at the temples, so to this kid I’m just some old fart with a boring life. He probably didn’t even notice me but inside I wanted to shout at him “I SAW THE CLASH BEFORE YOU WERE FUCKING BORN! I TOOK DRUGS! I USED TO BE COOL!”
Maybe I should have just lit up a fag on the bus, that would’ve shown him what a rebel I was.
As I was writing this post I realized I might as well have just posted this record and left it at that.