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Posts Tagged ‘Eluvium’

Most boring live show?

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Over at I Love Music, there’s a thread going on called “Most boring live show ever?” I’ve been to a lot of shows recently, but it’s interesting how I can only really think of a couple that I would consider “boring.” Bad, painful, embarrassing? Sure. Boring? That’s a little more rare. Only two shows come to mind: Eluvium, a kind of ambient post-everything solo affair that I suffered through a couple years ago; and Tord Gustavsen, whom I actually enjoyed, but all his stuff was so downtempo, samey, and ECM-ish that I actually fell asleep in my seat for a few minutes.

At various post-rock shows I have been bored at times — this includes Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Sigur Rós, Slint, Explosions in the Sky — but never for too long. With that kind of music it almost seems like part of the expectation, although maybe that says something about the genre.

Explosions in the Sky: Post-rock for the masses

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

Post-rock for the masses came to DC last night, as Explosions in the Sky played to a sold-out house at the large 9:30 Club. I am still having a hard time comprehending how these guys have been selling out nearly all their shows, or how their latest album actually, according to their label’s latest newsletter, “debuted on the Billboard Top 100 Pop Charts at a crisp #76 (right between P. Diddy and Jill Scott)!” So bizarre. The crowd at the show was mostly indie-rockers, with a lot of college students mixed in, and it occurred to me that while Explosions‘ upbeat, major-key post-rock is very accessible for folks in general, it’s also perfect hipster date music. Sure enough, there were a bunch of couples at the show.

My friend and I skipped Eluvium, having seen him at the Warehouse Nextdoor a couple years ago in what was one of my worst concert experiences ever — he actually turned me off from staying to see the band I’d come for, Mono. Unfortunately, we arrived in time for the second opening band, The Paper Chase, who had the distinction of being perhaps the worst opening band I’ve seen since Melomane opened for Wilco last year. Aside from a few off-the-wall guitar solos, this was mostly moronic indie-cock-rock, and the only reason these guys were on the bill is because they’re from Texas, as is Explosions. Not a particularly brilliant pairing otherwise.

All was forgiven when Explosions in the Sky started their set at 8:45, the earliest I’ve ever seen a show at one of these indie clubs in DC (and after very little changeover time after The Paper Chase went offstage). It was a beautiful thing. So, at times, was the music: they played their material very close to the vest, without much variation from the studio albums at all, but they were still pretty powerful. The sound in the louder parts wasn’t great, as the interlocking guitars got pretty hard to hear, but overall it was a decent show, though as with many post-rock shows, it had its share of less exciting moments. The setlist was the exact same as the one they played a few days before in Asheville — I have a fantastic recording of that show — so sadly the element of surprise was lost for me. Oddly, they only played about half of the new album, and didn’t play what I feel is easily the centerpiece song from it, the opening “Birth and Death of the Day.” They played a lot of stuff from the popular The earth is not a cold dead place, and even a couple from Those who tell the truth…, which were noticeably more “rocking” than the more recent material.

Not surprisingly at a sold-out show, a big part of the concert experience was the crowd. The club was pretty packed, and most of the crowd didn’t seem to know when the songs ended — the band mostly transitioned seamlessly between songs — and so people were basically applauding every time the group went from loud to soft. That was kind of annoying. More annoying were the testosterone-laden, probably intoxicated, assholes who kept yelling “YEAH!!!” halfway through every soft section. Did they know anything about the show they had come to? I wonder. Anyway, none of this surprised me, nor did it actually annoy me as much as I expected it to, but it was certainly interesting to see how “post-rock for the masses” played out in a live setting to a packed house. The crowd was very enthusiastic in general though, which was nice to see, calling boisterously for an encore that never came (also not surprising, since they didn’t play one at the Asheville show; maybe they just don’t ever do encores on principle for some reason?).

I went to see Mono, I didn’t see Mono

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005

I’ve struck a new low in concertgoing: I allowed myself to be chased off by opening acts. Tonight I went to see Mono, a Japanese post-rock band who has released one album on Tzadik and two on Temporary Residence. Opening for them were two bands; one I’d never heard of, and the other was Eluvium, label-mates with Mono on Temporary Residence. The first band (the one I didn’t know) was quite bad. I feel like post-rock is a genre with little margin for error: bad post-rock tends to be pretty atrociously dull. This band featured an incredibly boring drummer, a serious problem in this particular kind of music, and just seemed gratuitously and painfully loud. Granted, my impressions should be taken with a grain of salt because I could only make myself stay through two songs before I left the club to make a phone call and wait for Mono.

Well, that was my intent, anyway… when I went back in over an hour later, Eluvium had yet to start. I wasn’t too keen on hearing them (er, him — turns out this is a one-man band), but I figured I’d give it a shot. Well, I did, and I hated it. I’m not sure why. This guy plays a kind of drone music, using lots of delayed guitar loops and the occasional piano interlude, that I found alternately boring and grating, like Fripp’s Soundscapes gone horribly wrong (I couldn’t get Fripp’s phrase “a lot of noise from one guitar” out of my head). I suspect I would like his material much better on record than I did live, oddly enough — I just didn’t have the patience for it in a live setting, particularly since all the speakers in the club were overdriven, resulting not only in painfully high volume levels but also in fairly ridiculously obvious distortion. I kept looking back at the soundman and I swear the guy must have fallen asleep standing up. What the hell was he doing?

Anyways, by the time Eluvium had gotten through four ear-splitting pieces, none of which I could tell apart from one another (except for the fact that two were played on piano and two on guitar), I was in a bad enough mood that I stepped out of the club again just to save my ears and nurse a budding headache. At that point I contemplated my options; it’s a weeknight and the show had been delayed an hour and so Mono wouldn’t start until midnight or later, it seemed. At that point I decided to cut my losses and get the fuck out of there.

It’s too bad, really; under different circumstances I might like Eluvium, and I’m sure I would have really enjoyed Mono. I have their second album and there are some absolutely stunning moments on it. But after those two opening acts I just wasn’t in any kind of mood to enjoy music at all. I couldn’t bear the thought of going back into the club and getting pummeled by another noisy band (even one that I liked). I didn’t put my headphones on on the way back home, and I haven’t even put a CD into the player since getting back (which never happens). I’m sure it has more to do with my mental state than their music, but those two bands can be proud to have turned me completely off from music for the rest of the night. Not to mention make me spend eight bucks and then leave before seeing the band I’d come to see. Ha.

You win some, you lose some. Actually, I’ve had very few bad concert experiences up until now, so I can’t really complain.