Moonface, Flow Child, Nervous Curtains
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Better than: the Rangers' performance that night, by a moonshot.
Moonface is essentially Spencer Krug's solo project, the purest distillation of the twisted melodies and lyrical longing we're likely to hear any time soon from the yelpier of Wolf Parade's two singers.
But as one can surmise from the title of the forthcoming (due August 2) LP, Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped, or last year's Dreamland EP: marimba and shit-drums, it's not quite as straightforward as Krug strumming at an acoustic guitar or plunking away at a baby grand.
In fact, on this tour, the hypnotic rhythms from the machine-like Michael Bigelow on electric drums and percussion was so crucial to the sound that last night's show bore little resemblance to a solo project.
This collaboration definitely felt like a band -- and a great one at that, even if it proves to be as short-lived as Krug seems to indicate it'll be in promo material.
Rocking an old organ -- not a Hammond, more like something you'd find at a Baptist estate sale -- and accompanied by two cheap tube TVs showing video of a dancing friend along with Bigelow, Krug laid down his signature eerie melodies over long, heavy droning grooves.
And I mean long: The shortest song on Organ Music is more than six and a half minutes in length. Yet none feels needlessly stretched out or self-indulgent. Rather they all seem to undulate and build slowly to big moments that coincide with some line that breaks your heart or gives you a wry smile. Live, with Bigelow's incredibly fast mallets, the dynamics were considerably more pronounced. "Shit-Hawk In The Snow" was especially grand, its jittery rhythm and octave-jumping overdriven organ burning like fire.
It was just seven songs, including an "encore" (if it can be called that when the band doesn't leave the stage) of Swan Lake's "All Fires."
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If it was a small crowd, it was a respectful one, almost to a fault. At one point, Krug made fun of the big empty space in front of the stage: "Thanks for clearing room for a potential mosh pit." He also made light of his reputation for onstage awkwardness, at one point whispering for no apparent reason between songs and offering little in the way of stage banter. Near the end of the set, he finally broke the ice with a funny story about his drive up from Austin: He cut a driver off, who returned the offense and then gave Krug the middle finger. Krug returned the gesture, and then remembered an earlier idea he had to try to give an emphatic thumbs-down instead of flipping the bird -- so he sped up to let everyone in the van give the offending driver big frowns and thumbs-downs. Moral of the story: "Thumbs down to the middle finger, and thumbs up to the thumbs-down."
But while people at least stood during Moonface, they remained seated during middle act Flow Child and opener Nervous Curtains.
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Flow Child, who looked like a barefoot homeless waif in filthy oversized hand-me-downs, created dense loops of glitchy noise and dub-deep bass and sang pop melodies over them -- one of which sounded like it could have been an Elvis Costello cast-off. A friend compared him (dismissively) to Panda Bear, but it'd be a more uptempo, dancefloor-ready version. Surprising that it couldn't get the crowd on its feet.
The two songs I caught from Nervous Curtains -- their recent-ish "Something Sinister" and the raucous closer "Wired to Make Waves" -- sounded great.
Personal bias: Bias-wise, I'm a big fan of Spencer Krug's songs whether they're performed by Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown or Swan Lake or any of his various projects. As far as the personal, I almost didn't go because my wife is out of town and I wasn't in the mood to go out by myself - but I'm glad I did.
By the way: The tail end of the Rangers game was on both televisions above the bar opposite the stage, but it didn't seem to draw any gazes until after Nervous Curtains' set. Maybe that's because it was already a blowout, but perhaps this concert foul is as much to blame on the audience as the venue choosing to show the game.