Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Concert Review: Telekinesis/Blind Pilot/The Broken West/Say Hi

So I actually went to a show last night--possibly my last one before the next bun comes out of the oven. It needed to be a good one, and when I saw that Blind Pilot and Say Hi were playing a double bill at the Middle East (with two Merge artists I'd never heard of), it was a go. It's rare, for me at least, to see four bands in one night and not have at least one of them suck. There was no suckage last night, so...yay! The breakdown of the sets:

I nearly bumped into Michael Benjamin Lerner, the man behind Telekinesis, in the bathroom right before his band's set. An apparent Telekinesis fan started chatting him up while he was peeing, and for a guy who's clearly new at this indie rock pseudo-fame thing, he handled the situation well. Lerner is clearly a nerd, but he's a nerd who can rock your socks off, and I can dig that. Though he wrote and performed all the music on his forthcoming debut album, he (wisely) brought along a band for the tour. Lerner himself played drums and sang, which you just don't see all that much. The rest of the band was capable, if slightly bored looking. Lerner pretty much made up for that lack of energy all by himself however, and was the quintessential "I'm just so happy to be here" guy. The songs were punchy little numbers, and almost too short. Just as you were getting into them, they were over and the next song started. All in all, it was a fun set. I put a lot of faith in Merge, arguably one of the best indie labels out there, and I think they've got a potential winner here. Though sadly, the band has thus far failed to move a single object with the power of their collective minds.

Just a side note, I've never seen such a petite bass player. Seriously, her bass guitar was nearly as big as she was. She was also very cute, and I'm pretty sure my single friend didn't stop looking at her for the entire set. But for real, she could have fit inside her own bass case.

Blind Pilot
This was the band I was most looking forward to, and they met and surpassed my expectations. Blind Pilot is or was originally just two dudes, Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski , but the band that got on stage last night was much more than that. When six people get on a stage and start tuning their trumpet, standing bass, vibraphone, banjo, ukulele, mandolin, etc, then one tends to be wary. Too many wacky instruments can lead to a big ol' mess if not done correctly. But this band pulled it off with aplomb, and they enhanced the music from what was already an excellent album. I wish could find out the name of the woman who played the banjo, uke, and dulcimer (and on one song, the drums), because like The Dude's rug, she really tied the room together. The banjo, so often a scorned instrument, meshed remarkably well with the songs. This group had clearly been playing together for a while, and they seemed to be sincerely enjoying what they were doing. Even the banter was good.

They pretty much played most of the songs from their one and only album, as well as a few new ones (sorry I don't keep track of playlists like certain other bloggers, but I'm just too lazy). The new songs were great, and I sincerely hope it means another album is forthcoming. I also hope the album is recorded with this band. If so, I predict Blind Pilot is going to be on the radar of a lot more people in the next couple years.

Here's a video of the closest thing I could find to what I heard last night:

The Broken West
I probably have the least to say about this band. It's not that they were bad, but Blind Pilot was just a tough act to follow. Another Merge band, the music was pretty solid, but I was completely unfamiliar with the songs and I couldn't tell you what a single one of them was about. Stylistically, they reminded me of The Figgs, a band I really enjoy listening to when I hear them, but not a band I actively seek out very often. Good stuff--not great stuff--but good stuff. I kind of had the feeling they were having an off night though...I think they only played about 5 songs, then suddenly they were done with nary a "goodnight and thanks for coming." Kinda weird.

Say Hi
I just blogged about Say Hi's newest album the other day, and that post pretty much summarizes how I feel about the band. I didn't have super high expectations for their set, but I wanted to stick around for a band I'd been listening to off and on for years. Much like Telekinesis, the band that's actually touring with them right now, Say Hi is essentially a one man show, with Eric Elbogen recruiting whoever's handy for his tour band. Elbogen played his new album sequentially from start to finish, which was fine, I guess. I understand The Decemberists are doing that with their new album on the current tour, but that's a concept album, so it's a bit more understandable. As far as I can tell, Oohs & Aahs is not a concept album, so why play it like it is? At least they wrapped up with two of my favorite songs from my favorite album, "These Fangs" and "Sweet Sweet Heartkiller" from Impeccable Blahs.

Two things I found myself thinking about during their set. One, Eric Elbogen looks exactly like how I'd imagine Jay Sherman's son looking like, all grown up. Have no idea who Marty Sherman is? Here:

Yes, I am a pop culture geek. Two, and more importantly, I never really appreciated the odd structure of most of Say Hi's songs: they're all chorus. Whereas most songs are "Blah blah CHORUS blah blah blah CHORUS blah blah blah CHORUS" (wow, you can tell I never had any formal music training), Say Hi's songs are more like "Blah CHORUS CHORUS blah CHORUS CHORUS CHORUS CHORUS" full stop. In other words, it's like Elbogen stumbles upon two or three lines that sounds really good and just runs with it, generally unconcerned about whether or not they can or should be considered a real song. This is kind of a backhanded complement I suppose--I do genuinely like a lot of his songs. But they're simple. Some of them are REALLY simple. But any good ear worm has to be.


lalalala said...

Blind Pilot is AMAZING!! Kati Claborn is the name of the banjo/ukelele/dulcimer player/singer

EJP said...

Wow, ask and ye shall receive! Thanks, lalalala (if that is your real name).

Indiestereophile said...

I just discovered Blind Pilot...wow...love their sound..i'll surely put a review on my blog!!!