Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 3/23/12
Last night’s show went really well. Thanks to everybody who tuned in and enjoyed the programming. Next Friday I will probably not be able to do my show because I’ll be performing in New Haven, but if that ends up not happening for whatever reason, I’ll probably be back in the studio doing another broadcast of Left of the Dial. As always, here’s the playlist from the show last night with links to stream each song. A number of these tracks were culled from the records I listened to while I was in Paris this past week, which I wrote about yesterday HERE. I also devoted the final segment of the show to Mitch Dubey, who was murdered a year ago today here in New Haven, Connecticut.
- 1. Ben Kweller - “Wasted & Ready”
- 2. Weezer - “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here”
- 3. Pavement - “Elevate Me Later”
- 4. Titus Andronicus - “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With The Flood Of Detritus”
- 5. Okkervil River - “Unless It’s Kicks”
- 6. Japandroids - “Darkness On The Edge Of Gastown”
- 7. The Unicorns - “Jellybones”
- 8. Street Smart Cyclist - “Hoods Up!”
- 9. Wingnut Dishwashers Union - “Never Trust A Man (Who Plays Guitar)”
- 10. Defiance, Ohio - “The List”
- 11. The Cure - “In Between Days”
- 12. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - “Falling Over”
- 13. Belle and Sebastian - “If She Wants Me”
- 14. Beach House - “Lazuli”
- 15. Polica - “Dark Star”
- 16. Passion Pit - “To Kingdom Come”
- 17. College - “A Real Hero (Feat. Electric Youth)”
- 18. Venetian Snares - “Öngyilkos Vasárnap”
- 19. Knife City - “Just Trash”
- 20. s / s / s - “Beyond Any Doubt”
- 21. People Who Love People - “Obligatory Sad Song”
- 22. Titus Andronicus - “My Time Outside The Womb” (acoustic demo)
- 23. Swear Jar - “Charles Bronson (The Man, Not The Band)”
- 24. Rites of Spring - “Deeper Than Inside”
- 25. Snowing - “Pump Fake”
- 26. Into It. Over It. - “Wicker Park”
- 27. Trash Talk - “Blind Evolution”
- 28. Connecticut - “Clean Streak”
- 29. My Heart To Joy - “All Of Life Is Coming Home”
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 2/17/12
Last night’s broadcast of Left of the Dial was an interesting mix. I saved most of the new stuff (Grimes, Burial, etc.) for the second half of the show, and reserved the first for a selection of deep cuts from the Conor Oberst discography. If you missed the broadcast, those early Bright Eyes and Commander Venus songs are definitely worth giving a listen to.
- 1. Bright Eyes - “Haile Selassie”
- 2. Death Cab For Cutie - “Bend To Squares”
- 3. Elliott Smith - “Coast To Coast”
- 4. Bright Eyes - “Falling Out Of Love At This Volume”
- 5. The Replacements - “Color Me Impressed”
- 6. The Get Up Kids - “Valentine”
- 7. Cloud Nothings - “No Sentiment”
- 8. Commander Venus - “The Uneventful Vacation (Part 1)”
- 9. Dinosaur Jr. - “Just Like Heaven” (The Cure cover)
- 10. Ceremony - “Repeating The Circle”
- 11. Desaparecidos - “Survival Of The Fittest / It’s A Jungle Out There”
- 12. Bright Eyes - “Trees Get Wheeled Away”
- 13. Okkervil River - “John Allyn Smith Sails”
- 14. Leonard Cohen - “Crazy To Love You”
- 15. First Aid Kit - “King of the World”
- 16. Burial - “Kindred”
- 17. Grimes - “Oblivion”
- 18. Astronautalis - “Meet Me Here Later”
- 19. James Blake - “A Case Of You” (Joni Mitchell cover)
- 20. Dan Deacon - “Build Voice”
- 21. Bright Eyes - “Touch”
- 22. Sharon Van Etten - “Mike McDermott”
- 23. Sparklehorse - “Homecoming Queen”
- 24. Mercury Rev - “Hudson Line” (Early Rough Version)
- 25. Weezer - “Tragic Girl”
- 26. Nana Grizol - “Broken Cityscapes”
Tune in next Friday for another live broadcast on WNHU.
Top 10 Shows of 2011
Here we are at the very end of my extensive 2011 year end coverage. Among many other things, I saw more live shows in 2011 than ever before. Naming just ten of my favorites was painfully difficult for me, as I’ve seen so many fantastic shows this year, so I’ve included an honorable mention section at the bottom. The top ten are in descending order of preference. Special thanks to Manic Productions for making the majority of these shows possible. Connecticut wouldn’t be the same without them.
The original review for each of these shows is linked in each title, for the ones that I actually reviewed. I’ve also attached links to see more photos at the Lewis and his Blog facebook page when applicable.
WHY?’s show at The Wadsworth Atheneum happened only four days ago, well after I already started putting together my lists, but after I attended it I knew that it deserved a place here. The band debuted new material from their forthcoming record, which sounded great, and interspersed it with classics from their 2008 LP Alopecia and its followup Eskimo Snow. Recent Anticon-signee Serengeti opened, with help from WHY? multi-instrumentalist Doug McDiarmid.
View more photos HERE.
Low’s show back in April at Daniel Street was definitely one of the most surreal and eerie concerts I went to this year. The band played in almost total darkness, and the audience was seated in front, which was an unusual arrangement for the bar/venue. Low brought out songs from their 2011 LP C’mon, and also dug into their archives to play songs like “Sunflower” from Things We Lost In The Fire. The performance was heavy and emotional, but the band didn’t lose themselves for one moment. Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk’s distinctive harmonies never sounded better.
I’m not completely positive about this, but I’m pretty sure that I saw Okkervil River play in my hometown this Summer on the exact day that I got out from school. If that’s the case, I couldn’t have thought of a better way to kick off summer 2011. Although I love Okkervil River, I was just as excited to see opening band Titus Andronicus again, whom I had just seen exactly a week prior at B.O.M.B. Fest in Hartford. Titus ruled as usual, but Okkervil River tore the house down, playing for well over an hour and a half and performing many of my favorite songs of theirs.
View more photos HERE.
Sharon Van Etten’s free show at BAR was one of the first of a long-running series of Wednesday night shows that Manic Productions hosts at the downtown New Haven pizza joint, and also one of the first shows I saw in 2011. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it was also one of the very best. It’s amazing to me how vividly I remember it; the intimacy, the atmosphere, and especially Van Etten’s beautiful vocals resonate in my mind with just as much power as they did on that day almost a full year ago.
As I wrote in my original review, this was a show that I never would have predicted I’d be seeing if you asked me about it at the beginning of 2011. But with his accommodating demeanor and beautiful music, Jeff Mangum transported everyone in the New England Conservatory Jordan Hall in Boston that night back to 1998. Mangum may have gotten older, but you wouldn’t have noticed it if you had been there. Like his songs, it seems like Mangum will last forever.
View more photos HERE.
5. The Antlers live at The Space, Hamden CT - 6/17/11
I actually did take photos at this show, but through some mishap or another I lost the files on my camera’s SD card. In retrospect, I’m pretty upset about that, and definitely disappointed that I was too busy to review this show after I saw it. Anyway, someone recorded audio from the show and took the photo above. The entire show can be downloaded over at Connecticut Recordings. Oh look, there I am in the Sebadoh shirt right behind Peter Silberman. You can actually hear me singing during the “encore” performance of “Two.” Crazy. Immediately after the show, I caught Peter Silberman before he could bolt off the stage, and got a copy of the setlist, which is now hanging on my wall.
My last.fm charts inform me that after The Mountain Goats, Bright Eyes is my most listened-to artist of 2011. Could you have guessed? I’ve been a little obsessive over Conor Oberst in this past year, and that obsession came to a head at the end of the Summer, when I took the train down to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Waterfront to see Bright Eyes on The People’s Key Tour. Oberst and company did not disappoint, playing a lengthy set of songs culled from many of the band’s past albums. The highlight of the night came towards the end, when they played the epic closer to 2002’s Lifted, “Let’s Not Shit Ourselves (To Love And To Be Loved).” Openers Real Estate and Dr. Dog were also stellar.
View more photos HERE.
3. My Heart To Joy live at Madison Arts Barn, Madison CT - 5/14/11
As sad as it may be to admit this, 2011 will probably go down as a year of breakups, both on local and national levels. On the local level, the year’s hardest breakup for me was that of My Heart To Joy, who announced their disbandment in February. Thankfully, they decided to go out with a bang, enlisting an army of the best bands in the Northeast and Midwest punk scenes and playing a generation-defining final show at the Madison Arts Barn in May. More than anything else I did this year, attending this show made me truly proud to be from Connecticut. I wore that orange wristband for months afterward.
2. LCD Soundsystem live at Madison Square Garden, New York City NY - 4/2/11
If My Heart To Joy’s breakup was the saddest local disbandment, LCD Soundsystem’s was the saddest national one. This was a band at the peak of their creative output and potentially on the verge of massive commercial success, and they gave it all up for reasons that are still unclear to me. Thankfully, I got the chance to see their last show at Madison Square Garden, which, if anything, showed exactly how much this band mattered. The show sold out months in advance, and was anticipated with bated breath as everyone waited to see if an independent band could pull something this extravagant off. LCD Soundsystem proved that this was absolutely possible, and if they needed to break up to show just what an indie rock band could do, perhaps it’s worth it after all.
Although it wasn’t as big or as extravagant as LCD Soundsystem’s final show, Sufjan Stevens’ two night run at Prospect Park in Brooklyn holds a place in my heart as undoubtedly the most personally significant live music event of the year for me. In many ways, the two shows (both of which I attended) felt like the culmination of all of Sufjan’s previous efforts. It was a cataclysmic declaration of his creative voice, and a stunning indication of his ability to exercise that voice, with well over a dozen musicians, electronic light displays, and a focus on music from the highly conceptual Age of Adz LP from 2010. And yet, perhaps because the show took place in a venue that Sufjan called “his backyard,” the shows also felt incredibly intimate and personal. Sufjan Stevens deserves the credit for being the first artist to “get me into” modern independent music, and with the Prospect Park shows in August, I felt like my musical interests had finally, truly been validated.
View more photos HERE.
The Guru live at The Space, Hamden CT - 6/11/11
Frank Turner live at Heirloom Arts Theater, Danbury CT - 9/20/11
Hostage Calm live at The Space, Hamden CT - 9/24/11
Thank you to everyone who read and enjoyed any of my 2011 lists. This has been a very enjoyable ordeal for me, and I’m really satisfied with how everything turned out. 2011 has treated me very well musically, and all I can do is attempt to give back in some way. Now that I’ve finished covering 2011, I’m going to set my sights on 2012 and hope for the best. Thanks for everything.
Summer Shows Recap
Hey everybody, I was recently contacted by someone who writes for my school’s newspaper. She is writing an article about Summer shows, and was asking if I could provide her with some information about the many shows that I’ve seen over the past couple months. I wrote her a very lengthy response, so I figured I would post that here as well, in case any of you want to read it. It’s basically a recap of all the shows I’ve seen, some of which I’ve only covered in passing prior to this.
Anyway, this is what I did this Summer…
For me, the summer concert series really began with B.O.M.B. Fest in late May, which took place in Hartford at the Comcast Theater. The festival wasn’t planned very well, and the lineup featured some really bizarre choices for bands in addition to two really irrelevant headliners, but I did get to see a lot of my favorite indie rock bands that don’t come around here too often. At its best, B.O.M.B. Fest was cool because I got to see my favorite local bands (that friends of mine are actually in), such as Midi & The Modern Dance and The Guru, play with my favorite current nationally touring bands like Titus Andronicus, Free Energy, Man Man, The New Pornographers, and Wavves, although Wavves had a pretty disappointing live set. It was fun to see Weezer too I guess, because I was in the front row and they played a set heavy on material from their debut and their second album Pinkerton, which is one of my favorite albums. Also, this guy Bryce (who plays in Chalk Talk, another band I saw at BOMB Fest), stagedove from backstage during Weezer’s set and actually jumped over me. There’s a hilarious video of that somewhere.
Here it is:
In June I saw two shows that are really worth mentioning. The first one took place at Toad’s Place on June 4th, with Okkervil River headlining and Titus Andronicus and Future Islands opening. I got to meet Patrick Stickles (of Titus) for a third time after meeting him again at BOMB Fest the week before and he remembered my name. It was awesome. Titus’ set was pretty good, but it was the same setlist as their BOMB Fest show, which was disappointing. Okkervil River were fantastic, and played for well over two hours with a set heavy on material from my two favorite albums of theirs, Black Sheep Boy and The Stage Names. Their new songs also sounded really good. HERE are some photos from that night.
On June 11th my friends The Guru played a special show in celebration of the release of their first official full length album Native Sun at The Space in Hamden. People went crazier at that show than I’ve ever seen at that venue. It was such a fun, life affirming experience, and I was so proud of those guys for being so great.
Then on June 18th I saw The Antlers play a really intimate show at The Space. This band has sold out venues like the Music Hall of Williamsburg and the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn so seeing them play at such a small all ages venue was really a treat. I’m a huge Antlers fan and the show was absolutely gorgeous. I know I took photos of the Antlers show but I can’t find them anywhere.
The last show I saw in June was Bomb The Music Industry! at Lilly’s Pad, the small venue upstairs at Toad’s Place. I had seen them once before opening for Titus Andronicus last summer, but this was the first time I had seen them headline. At the time, I wasn’t actually a big fan of theirs. It’s a shame, because they released their new album Vacation a few days later, and I actually love that album. It’s definitely the best thing they’ve released and I love the change in style. The show was pretty fun and energetic though.
I guess July must have been kind of a dry spell for shows for me because I only saw one that month. I wanted to see The Feelies in Milford in July but I was away in North Carolina. I also wanted to see Animal Collective but my ride dropped out. Anyway, on July 1st I saw my favorite band from Connecticut, an atmospheric emotive hardcore/post-rock/whatever band called The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, from Willimantic. It was my fourth time seeing them, and first seeing them in a headlining role. They played at a DIY venue in downtown New Haven called Popeye’s Garage, because it was literally a tiny garage behind the Popeye’s there. Pitchfork BNM’ed punk band Iceage played there a few days earlier. It’s the real deal. Anyway, they had some technical troubles but they played two new songs that are going to be on an upcoming 12” split with Deer Leap, and they sounded fantastic. Also, Football, etc. opened (along with three other bands) and they were really good.
August is only half way over, though, and I’ve already seen four great shows. Sufjan Stevens played at Prospect Park in Brooklyn on August 2nd and 3rd and I was at both of the shows. Collectively, they were my favorite show of all time and the highlight of my summer if not my whole life. Seriously. I wrote a huge review of that show with pictures and stuff on my blog and you should check it out:
Here are some more pictures from both nights.
The first night was breathtaking and full of surprises for me, and the second night was a huge awesome dance party in the pouring rain except it wasn’t shitty dance music, it was Sufjan Stevens and he was amazing.
It was funny coming back from Brooklyn on August 3rd and then going to a completely different show on August 4th. I went back to The Space to see Grown Ups play with a bunch of great bands, but I was mostly there to see The World Is A Beautiful Place… again for the fifth time. I can’t get enough of them. Grown Ups were okay, TWIABP was awesome, and the other openers Legs Like Tree Trunks, Martin Luther King, High Pop, and Deer Leep were also great.
This past tuesday I saw my most recent show, which was pretty funny actually. I’ve seen a lot of punk rock basement shows, but none like this. I’m used to dingy basements and tiny, packed rooms for house shows, like The Cookie Jar in New Haven was before it was retired as a venue. Instead, this show was in a basement in Easton, CT, probably the least punk place in the world. It was at this massive house with fountains and shit. It was hilarious. I brought Jared Eisenberg along because he had never been to a show that wasn’t in a giant arena or something before, and he said that he had a really good time. It was just funny because I was trying to explain what punk was about to him, and then we pull up to this house that is even bigger than his… it was just really funny. But I went because Suns were headlining and releasing their new EP Be Good Boy and because a bunch of other great bands were playing, some of whom I hadn’t checked out before. It turned out to be a pretty awesome punk night after all. Co-Pilots were amazing. Maharati was kind of an oddball choice because they were a hardcore punk band, but they were touring so whatever. Year In Review was kind of a cutesy pop-punk band with 90s roots, and they were pretty good. Ovlov was incredible. They sounded just like a 90s indie rock band like Sebadoh or something and it was really great seeing them play with such admirable apathy. They really didn’t care how they sounded, which worked because they sounded fantastic. Martin Luther King played at this show too, which was their last show before the members all go off to college. It was amazing though, and everybody was really into it. Finally Suns played, and I was surprised at how much I was into it. I went crazy at that show. I wish I had taken pictures. Sometimes those basement punk shows can really be more rewarding than anything else. It’s about losing your sense of self-importance and reveling in the communal acceptance that punk provides. It doesn’t matter that the new Suns EP is ‘just okay’. It was an amazing show, and I loved everyone who came.
Anyway I realize that I just recounted my entire musical summer to you, and I’m sorry that I basically wrote a novel just now, but hopefully that will give you something to go on. Feel free to use whatever, but I guess if you’re going to use pictures or quotes or anything, just source them back to my blog.
Thanks for reading!
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 8/5/11
Here’s the playlist from last night’s Left of the Dial radio broadcast, which aired from 6 to 8 PM on WNHU. Remember to tune in next Friday at 6 PM Eastern time!
- 1. Neutral Milk Hotel - “Holland, 1945”
- 2. Titus Andronicus - “Richard II”
- 3. Okkervil River - “Song Of Our So-Called Friend”
- 4. Grown Ups - “Three Day Weekend”
- 5. Suns - “Be Good Boy”
- 6. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - “The Body”
- 7. Anamanaguchi - “My Skateboard Will Go On” (Daytrotter Session version)
- 8. Starfucker - “Julius”
- 9. Little Dragon - “Ritual Union”
- 10. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - “I Will Be Okay. Everything” (Live at The Handsome Woman)
- 11. Martin Luther King - “Don’t Push My Head Down”
- 12. Codeine - “D”
- 13. Football, etc. - “Sudden Death”
- 14. Hightide Hotel - “Elementary Biology”
- 15. Idaho - “The Space Between”
- 16. Built to Spill - “Big Dipper”
- 17. Morrissey - “Suedehead”
- 18. Castevet - “(Get) Bucktown”
- 19. Bomb the Music Industry! - “Why, Oh Why, Oh Why (Oh Oh Oh Oh)”
- 20. Uzbeks - “Electro Man & Highschool”
- 21. Iceage - “White Rune”
- 22. My Heart to Joy - “Can You Feel It, Captain Compost?!”
- 23. The Feelies - “Crazy Rhythms”
- 24. The Stone Roses - “Bye Bye Badman”
- 25. Sufjan Stevens - “Vesuvius”
- 26. The Mountain Goats - “High Hawk Season”
- 27. David Bowie - “Panic In Detroit”
- 28. Belle and Sebastian - “I’m Not Living In The Real World”
- 29. Sufjan Stevens - “Enchanting Ghost”
- 30. Girls - “Vomit”
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 6/24/11
I forgot to post this playlist from last friday’s Left of the Dial college radio show this weekend, so here it is a few days late. A youtube link to each song is provided when available. As always, this show’s playlist was comprised mostly of music that I had been listening to a lot in the past week, new and old alike. Remember to tune in this Friday from 6 to 8 PM on WNHU to hear the next Left of the Dial broadcast!
- 1. Okkervil River - “We Need A Myth”
- 2. Low - “Dinosaur Act”
- 3. R.E.M. - “E-Bow The Letter”
- 4. Sinforiano Diaz - “Congregation”
- 5. Real Estate - “Beach Comber”
- 6. Bon Iver - “Minnesota, WI”
- 7. WHY? - “Gnashville”
- 8. Madvillain - “Accordian”
- 9. Aesop Rock - “No Jumper Cables”
- 10. Crystal Castles - “Suffocation”
- 11. Weezer - “Blast Off!
- 12. Weezer - “Who You Callin’ Bitch?”
- 13. Pavement - “Date With IKEA”
- 14. By Surprise - “Mostly Harmless”
- 15. Defiance, Ohio - “Condition 11:11”
- 16. John Galm - “Kids in Catholic School”
- 17. Ramshackle Glory - “Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of Your Fist”
- 18. The Flaming Lips - “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” (Demastered)
- 19. The Antlers - “Rolled Together”
- 20. Joan of Arc - “A Party Able Model Of”
- 21. David Bowie - “What In The World”
- 22. The Flaming Lips - “Fight Test” (*Request*)
- 23. The Mountain Goats - “No Children” (*Request*)
- 24. Weezer - “Butterfly”
- 25. Beck - “The Golden Age”
- 26. Pavement - “Transport Is Arranged”
- 27. Man Man - “Life Fantastic”
- 28. The Beach Boys - “I Know There’s An Answer” (*Request*)
- 29. Modest Mouse - “Cowboy Dan”
Song of the Day Number 168
Okkervil River - “White Shadow Waltz”
If you still haven’t listened to the new Okkervil River album I Am Very Far, why haven’t you? The veteran folk rock band from Austin opened their show at Toad’s Place in New Haven with this on Saturday night, and it was awesome. The album as a whole is somewhat divisive among fans, but the songs are good and the new sound is definitely worth hearing. Seriously, give I Am Very Far a spin or two. If you still don’t know how to find free music on the internet, what are you doing on this blog? But seriously.
My full review of the show on Saturday, which also included performances by Future Islands and Titus Andronicus, can be read HERE.
OKKERVIL RIVER live at Toad’s Place. New Haven CT. 5.4.11
In promotion of their new full-length album I Am Very Far, the veteran Austin, Texas folk rock band Okkervil River stopped by New Haven’s beloved Toad’s Place, bringing tour-mates Future Islands and Titus Andronicus along as well.
Wham City’s Future Islands opened the show up with their strange brand of synth pop. Although I had never listened to their music before, I’m not exactly inclined to listen to it now. There was something incredibly perturbing about watching singer J. Gerrit Welmers writhe around onstage, growling and moaning like an insane person. His enthusiasm was definitely remarkable, but not particularly appealing. At one point, he shoved his hand down his throat and let the saliva drip onto the crowd below him. Needless to say, it was a little gross. Incidentally, while he was running across the stage and singing emotively, the band’s bassist and synth player stood stoically at their respective posts without moving at all. Their performance was entertaining in a sense, but pretty overwhelming from a musical perspective.
Thankfully, Future Islands were succeeded by Titus Andronicus, one of my favorite bands ever. I had seen the Glen Rock, New Jersey punks twice before, including once last week at B.O.M.B. Fest in Hartford. When I approached frontman Patrick Stickles before the show, he actually remembered my full name from when I spoke to him last Saturday and vowed that I would see him again within a week. As always, Patrick was incredibly nice in person, but that niceness did not translate onstage. Although they performed the same set as they did at B.O.M.B. Fest, the indoor intimacy of Toad’s Place was better suited to the band’s music than the massive outdoor Comcast Pavilion. All of their songs were culled from last year’s The Monitor, one of my favorite albums ever, but I still would have loved to hear at least one song from their debut The Airing of Grievances. It’s somewhat unfair comparing this show to the first time I saw Titus Andronicus, back in July of last year, when they played a 2 hour + set in Lilly’s Pad upstairs in Toad’s Place, but that show was undoubtedly superior in my mind. They did seem to fit better in the larger downstair venue, though. Given Titus Andronicus’ dedicated fanbase, the crowd went crazy for them, screaming along to every word and jumping about with reckless abandon at the risk of getting kicked out early. The highlight of their set came during their performance of “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future”, in which Patrick Stickles grabbed a piece of paper from an audience member that said “YOU WILL ALWAYS BE A LOSER” on it and held it up for all to see. Unfortunately, their set was marred by technical errors. During at least three of the band’s five-song set, Stickles’ guitar cut out right before he was supposed to launch into a solo, making for an underwhelming climax to songs like the opener “A More Perfect Union” and “Richard II”. Nevertheless, it was incredibly fun seeing Titus Andronicus for a third time and I’d love to see them at least once more in the near future.
As the crowd packed into the relatively intimate Connecticut venue for Okkervil River’s headlining set, a certain heartwarming nostalgia seemed to take over the place. For the first time in a while, the long-standing Toad’s Place felt like it was serving its real purpose again — to provide touring bands with a place to play a show between New York and Boston. Frontman Will Sheff even offered his own homage to Toad’s Place, noting that he used to see posters for shows at Toad’s Place as a young kid in New Hampshire and think “That’s where bands play!”
Of course, it was Sheff’s band’s turn to play that night. As if to pay respect to all of the other great bands that used to (and occasionally still do) come to Toad’s Place, Okkervil River played with all the energy and heart they could muster.
Their fantastic setlist that night was economically culled from their new record and fan favorites Black Sheep Boy and The Stage Names in nearly equal measure. Opening with the anxious I Am Very Far track “White Shadow Waltz”, the band seemed engaged and serious. It didn’t take long for this facade to disappear, thankfully. As soon as the bubbly bass riff of The Stage Names’ “A Hand to Take Hold of The Scene” started after that song, Sheff and his bandmates seemed comfortable and loose. This pattern remained throughout the night, more or less. Watching the band play new songs like “Piratess” and the rhythmic opener “The Valley”, it was clear that they were locked in and focused. Their note-perfect renditions of the new album tracks were certainly impressive, but watching the band cut loose and have fun with themselves on exuberant, life-affirming cuts like “Unless It’s Kicks” was more entertaining. Perhaps the darker tone of I Am Very Far can account for this, but I think that the band was mostly just trying very hard to convey the sonic complexity of those songs in the live setting. Only once did the band seem particularly animated when playing an I Am Very Far song, and that was during their performance of “Rider”, one of the album’s simpler, more upbeat cuts.
It was also interesting watching how fans reacted to the newer material. While some went crazy, most looked on in unmoving appreciation while apparently waiting to hear some of Okkervil River’s older material. As someone who enjoys I Am Very Far but connects more with Black Sheep Boy and their other records, this seemed like a reasonable reaction from the crowd. Maybe my perspective was skewed after watching everybody go insane for Titus Andronicus, but it seemed like it was only when the band brought out their heaviest-hitting songs, such as The Stage Names’ “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe”, that the crowd truly became engaged. Obviously their music is less intense and punk-influenced that Titus Andronicus’ music, so this is reasonable as well.
I really was impressed with the setlist though. In addition to the aforementioned ones, the band played a number of my all time favorite Okkervil River songs, such as Black Sheep Boy’s ”The Latest Toughs” and breathtaking album-centerpiece “So Come Back, I Am Waiting”. Aside from “For Real”, which elicited an incredible response from the audience, the highlight of the night for me was their performance of The Stage Names’ closer “John Allyn Smith Sails”, which Sheff prefaced with a lengthy story about the song’s subject, poet John Berryman’s suicide. The wordy song was perfectly situated in the middle of the setlist, and by the time it transformed into a delightfully bittersweet “Sloop John B” cover as it does on the album, the mood in the venue was positively joyful.
Another highlight of Okkervil River’s set included my favorite song from the new album ”Your Past Life As A Blast”. By the time they played that song, it was late enough in the set that they had finally settled into the newer tracks and seemed more comfortable performing them onstage. On “Your Past Life As A Blast”, Sheff shared vocal duties with bassist Patrick Pestorius, whose velvety croon offered a nice contrast to Sheff’s emotive warble. Eventually the band finished and left the stage, only to be coerced back by the supportive shouts of the audience. At first, only Sheff returned to the stage. Alone with his acoustic guitar, he performed a gorgeous version of “A Stone”, which may have been powerful enough to procure tears from some audience members. Afterwards, the band returned to close out the night with “Unless It’s Kicks”, ending the show on a joyful note and bringing closure to a night of great music. Seeing established bands that have been around for a while is sometimes a risk (Ahem… New Pornographers at B.O.M.B. Fest), but Okkervil River showed last night that they are still engaged, interested, and both willing and capable of saying something new and exciting. This was one of the best overall shows I’ve seen in a long time.
Here are some photos from the Okkervil River / Titus Andronicus / Future Islands show last night in New Haven, Connecticut. A full review is coming, possibly tomorrow. Thanks for being patient.
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 6/3/11
Last night’s show on WNHU was another great one. It was also the first show of the summer, so I included a selection of summery music to get listeners in the mood. Remember to tune in next Friday on 88.7 FM if you’re in the New Haven area, or online HERE. I’ll be having the founders of the Red Rash Collective on my show to talk about their work, the state of DIY music in Connecticut, the festival that they’re planning, and more. I’ll also be having Red Rash Collective band The Helveticas on the show the same day for a live in studio acoustic set. The playlist from last night is below, with youtube links to each song (when available).
- 1. Pavement - “Summer Babe (Winter Version)”
- 2. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - “Parallel or Together?”
- 3. The Tallest Man on Earth - “You’re Going Back”
- 4. Belle and Sebastian - “Another Sunny Day”
- 5. Okkervil River - “Black”
- 6. Titus Andronicus - “Upon Viewing Brueghel’s “Landscape With the Fall of Icarus”
- 7. Algernon Cadwallader - “Pitfall”
- 8. Rites of Spring - “For Want Of”
- 9. The Replacements - “I Bought a Headache”
- 10. The Hold Steady - “Your Little Hoodrat Friend”
- 11. Snowing - “KJ Jammin”
- 12. The Strokes - “Gratisfaction”
- 13. R.E.M. - “7 Chinese Bros.”
- 14. My Heart to Joy - “Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory” (Guided By Voices cover)
- 15. Titus Andronicus - “A Pot In Which To Piss”
- 16. Pixies - “Velouria”
- 17. Ra Ra Riot - “Boy”
- 18. The Love Language - “Heart to Tell”
- 19. Defiance, Ohio - “A Lot To Do”
- 20. Modest Mouse - “Paper Thin Walls” (Request)
- 21. Arcade Fire - “Speaking In Tongues” (Feat. David Byrne)
- 22. Grandaddy - “Hewlett’s Daughter”
- 23. The Octopus Project - “Bees Bein’ Strugglin’”
- 24. of Montreal - “You Do Mutilate?” (Request)
- 25. Okkervil River - “Your Past Life As A Blast”
- 26. Bon Iver - “Perth”
- 27. Andrew Jackson Jihad - “Who Are You?”
- 28. Thurston Moore - “Illuminine”
Thanks for listening!
Song of the Day Number 167
Titus Andronicus - “Talking Oral Fixation Blues”
When Okkervil River comes to Toad’s Place in New Haven tonight for a show thanks to Manic Productions, New Jersey’s favorite patriotic punks Titus Andronicus (pictured above at B.O.M.B. Fest 2011) will be opening. This perfect matchup show is part of an extended tour that also includes stops in New York, Boston, and various other spots throughout the United States (the full tour page can be found HERE, via Pitchfork). To get psyched up for the New Haven show tonight, or for any of the other forthcoming Okkervil River / Titus Andronicus shows, check out this lesser-known Titus Andronicus demo featured on the unofficial bootleg compilation Feats of Strength. The compilation can be downloaded HERE, via titusandronic.us. “Talking Oral Fixation Blues” is startlingly lo-fi, but if you can make it through the noise, it has some really excellent lyrics. Click HERE to read the lyrics, and stream the song above!
Song of the Day Number 165
Okkervil River - “Rider”
Okkervil River’s new record I Am Very Far is a dark, mysterious, and brooding album of impenetrable sonic density, slow melodic passages, and heavy, pronounced rhythms. As an album, I Am Very Far is just that — “very far” removed in sound from the band’s earlier records. From the stuttering, throbbing opener “The Valley” to the slightly jazzy “Piratess,” there is little about I Am Very Far that recalls the trademark Okkervil River sound that the band has hewn over the past half-decade or so. Even frontman Will Sheff’s typically over-emotive vocals sound muted and obscured.
But then there’s “Rider,” a gorgeous piece of bombastic folk pop that sounds so much like an Okkervil River song that perhaps it’s telling how little it seems to fit on the album. Out of that context, however, the song is fantastic, and would have easily fit in alongside such brilliant theatrical Okkervil River tracks as The Stage Names’ cut “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe” and Black Sheep Boy’s “Black”. While it lacks the lyrical depth of those songs, it matches them in melody and bombast, calling to mind the more upbeat moments on Arcade Fire’s Funeral in addition to the band’s own earlier work.
Stream “Rider” above, and if you’re in the Connecticut area, make sure to check out Okkervil River this saturday (June 4th) when they come to Toad’s Place in New Haven for a show with the New Jersey punks Titus Andronicus and Baltimore’s Future Islands. More information about that show can be found HERE at Manic Productions’ website.
I also got to catch up with Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus later in the day at B.O.M.B. Fest on Saturday, when he posed with me for this photo and signed my dollar bill. I wish I had recorded the ~20 minute conversation we had, because he was incredibly insightful and he answered a lot of the questions that I’ve had about his music and him personally, including how this happened (a lamp fell on his head). Since I didn’t, though, I guess I’ll just have to keep all of my Patrick Stickles secrets safe with me. If you ever run into Patrick, definitely chat him up though. He’s a fascinating person in addition to being a great musician. It was great talking to him again, and I hope to meet up with him for a third time when Titus Andronicus opens for Okkervil River next week at Toad’s Place.