Before Ladytron (pictured) came onstage at the Trocadero in Philadelphia on Monday night, I mauled a random kid for a handful of glowsticks, claiming they carry special powers that give me confidence in my dancing ability. A few minutes later, I spotted Jared. Jared had bracelets up to his elbows, a tight, sleeveless turquoise shirt, eyeliner and lip liner and stars tattooed on his face. I immediately ran up to him and handed him my glowsticks.
“Hey, you look like you could use these,” I insisted.
My motive was somewhat selfish, because I was hoping he’d bust out in some crazy figure-eight light show when Ladytron started playing. No such luck. However, the rest of the crowd was eager to get their dance on the minute they stepped in the door. They probably didn’t even need the Faint or Ladytron, judging from the pockets of sweaty bodies bumbling around between sets.
Ladytron, an electro-rock quartet from Europe, upped the ante. Possessing the same intense, androgynous sex appeal as Karen O and Annie Lennox, frontwomen Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo juxtaposed their fluttering vocals with thumping dance beats as they keyed away on antediluvian synths. While the Faint took what seemed like an inordinate amount of time setting up, the energy buildup among the masses was almost tangible. I chewed impatiently on my glowstick. When Todd Fink and the gang finally appeared, it was sweet sensory overload. Video clips of crowds and faces that flashed in the background, billowing smoke, flickering strobe lights and the gangly dancing of the keyboardist made me grateful that I wasn’t: a) on ecstasy, or b) suffering from a latent neurological disorder. Their heavy drum and bass collided with blippy keyboard melodies that inspired my body to flail in an uncoordinated fashion, unable to decide whether to mosh or rave. The Faint played about half the songs from underachieving 2008 album Fasciination but made up for it in the encore with three classics, including “I Disappear.” Plus, you know, I got glowsticks.
Ladytron’s “Black Cat” (download):
The Faint’s “The Geeks Were Right (Does It Offend You, Yeah? Remix)” (download):
Ben Gibbard is a stud now. The famously bookish Death Cab For Cutie frontman known for crooning heartfelt indie-pop lyrics jumped around onstage Tuesday night at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia, swiveling his hips seductively in time with his guitar. These are moves he clearly honed since the last time I saw the group four years ago. Death Cab played a healthy mix of old and new: tracks off The Open Door EP (due April 14 on Barsuk) alongside mellow, acoustic palate-cleansers such as “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” and classics like 1998’s “President Of What?”
However, Gibbard and the gang could have taken the night off and left the rest to a guy sitting next to me named Steve. Steve’s air guitar, air drums and air bass rivaled the band itself. He screamed requests during every brief interlude. His font of knowledge about each track was impressive. With sweaty enthusiasm, Steve detailed to those around him the backstory of every third song: “This one is about those fires in California. So sad!” Also, his Death Cab lyrical proficiency was in the 99th percentile.
Ben Gibbard: “Oh crap, I forgot the second verse of ‘Title And Registration.’ Where is Steve?!”
Back onstage, the smoke machines fused with Gibbard’s nostalgia-steeped vocals to carry us all back to freshman year of high school. Murky high-beam lights and trippy strobes united with guitar crescendos and rolling drums. You almost had to close your eyes in order to take it all in (and block out Steve’s flailing).
“Title And Registration” (download):
Three months ago, my editor introduced me to East Hundred’s first full-length, the charismatic breakup soundtrack Passenger, and since then I’ve looped it on repeat every time I’m in the office. At this point, he probably wants to lock me in the mailroom. [Actually, that’s because I want you to do the mail. —ed.] One of the better emerging Philly bands (read MAGNET’s recent profile of the group), East Hundred doesn’t quite square with a local indie-rock taxonomy that includes Dr. Dog, Man Man and the War On Drugs. The quintet branches off with its own brand of catchy, keyboard-laced alternative pop/rock. On Friday night, they played a gig with Seattle products Say Hi and Telekinesis at Philly hipster HQ Johnny Brenda’s.
Unfortunately, even the venue’s superior acoustics couldn’t save East Hundred when a guitar amp went kaput in the middle of the set. After a few minutes of confusion (the audience promptly used the unexpected intermission to grab beers and check iPhones), the group managed to punch out a few more songs before time ran out. What I saw, however, in East Hundred’s salvaged performance stirred my latent childhood dream of singing in a band; it’s similar to how I felt about Gwen Stefani in the late ’90s, before she tried to rap. Diminutive vocalist Beril Guceri exuded an outsized stage presence punctuated by her sweet, wistful vocals.
“It gets very hot up there when something like that happens,” said Guceri after the show, referring to the STD (Supreme Technical Difficulty). Considering the singer’s history of stage fright, she and her bandmates kept their cool as they ironed out the glitch.
“Slow Burning Crimes” (download):
“I’m havin’ such a good time,” said Kurt Wagner, shortly into Lambchop’s 90-minute set at Ohio State University’s Wexner Center For The Arts, “I don’t wanna fuck it up.”
Wagner made the sheepish crack as much to break the silence as anything, since the initial atmosphere inside the Wexner’s black-box performance space was all about the gravity of High Art. The Center’s current exhibit was a collection of seminal Andy Warhol films and audio recordings, and the film theater was running a lauded documentary on venerable sculptor Louise Bourgeois through the weekend. So by the time Lambchop’s audience of fewer than 100 people made its way through the maze of hallways into the black box, we’d been shushed into the quiet respect that comes with wandering through spaces where you have to check your coats, cameras and pens at the door.
Continue reading “Live Review: Lambchop, Columbus, OH, Jan. 25, 2009”
“We’ve now played 48 out of 50 states,” Jeff Tweedy proudly announced to the sold-out crowd at Wilmington’s Grand Opera House. “We’ll hit 49 next week,” he continued, alluding to Wilco’s headlining slot at the Jackson Hole Festival in Wyoming. Earlier this year, Tweedy and Co. announced plans to perform in cities and states otherwise ignored over the course of Wilco’s 14-year career. In addition to wowing newer fans at mega-fests such as Lollapalooza or Baltimore’s Virgin Mobile Festival, Wilco’s summer tour took it to the geographic edges of its U.S. fanbase, with dates in Montana, New Mexico, Alaska and North Dakota. The band’s performance in the historic Delaware auditorium spanned their celebrated nine-album catalog (save a curious absence of anything from 1999’s Summerteeth).
Continue reading “Live Review: Wilco, Wilmington, DE, Aug. 10, 2008”