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The advantage of working in the public school system. Chronologically. All shows Minneapolis.
Real Estate with Pure X – Fine Line Music Café – Wednesday, March 26, 2014
I read some negative things about Real Estate coming out of SXSW (“wooden stage presence,” “boring amid the fun,” to quote one local paper), to which I can only say, how deaf do you have to be, and also, what does it say about the value we place on music when we must pit bands against each other in a competition to grab our attention? But if compete they must, basically, as of the sentence I’m writing, this is the most thrilling band on the tour circuit in America, and I can’t imagine what manner of action on stage could enhance their sound. No band wakes me up like Real Estate, like actually pulls me out of the exhaustion of a spent day and binds me to the moment, and their set at the Fine Line was magnificent and I heard and lived inside every note like I rarely do. Anyway, they travel far and wide, they play their music. Must they really do more?
Setlist notes: for opening song “Green Aisles,” Martin Courtney seemed to be responding to criticism of his supposedly meager engagement and tried to do more with the vocal, and it was unnecessary but mostly worked; “Fake Blues,” with dynamic drumming, the toms tuned very high, was made anew; two (2!) instrumentals; a new song possibly titled “Two Part,” with lyrics about walking under streetlights but also a lullaby quality that makes it a more direct response to impending fatherhood than anything on Atlas; for the encore, “It’s Real,” revealed as their least musically complex song, so the crowd can be excused for misinterpreting the chorus as a sing-along.
Green Aisles / Kinder Blumen / Had To Hear / Past Lives / Fake Blues / Crime / The Bend / April’s Song / Horizon / Municipality / Two Part / Younger Than Yesterday / Talking Backwards / Beach Comber / Primitive / Encore: Behind That Locked Door (George Harrison) / It’s Real
Openers Pure X defied genre yet made music that was all softness, no sharp edges. They reach for the common DNA of 80s power ballads and slow R&B and country music, 90s shoegaze, and the kind of harmonically rich guitar music Real Estate play, and return pop music to unclassifiable gestures. Unable to quickly define them, I was unprepared to describe them.
Alejandro Escovedo with Amy Cook – Dakota Jazz Club – Sunday, March 30, 2014
It felt right to hang over the balcony rail and watch him play, because part of loving him is to peer as if from childhood into the great work adults make of their lives. (Full review coming soon.)
Dum Dum Girls with Blouse – Triple Rock Social Club – Tuesday, April 1, 2014
The minor disappointment of the week: Whether it was the sound or the setlist, the band never quite connected. It’s tempting to think of them primarily as descendents of The Jesus & Mary Chain but I think extreme loudness does them few favors and mostly masks how much they accomplish with plain melody and perfect rhymes. No word on whether the Weeknd/Nicki Minaj-favoring playlist that preceded their entrance was chosen by them, but if that’s where they learned their bass-heavy live sound it’s a mistake, even if “Rimbaud Eyes” is basically a rock rewrite of Rihanna’s “Only Girl (in the World).” I can still imagine the vivid Dum Dum Girls show of my dreams, Dee Dee on a higher stage, and the band got close during the encore, a sublime pairing of “Lost Boys and Girls Club” and the elevating “Coming Down.” In the former, identifiable, thrilling guitar sounds, not just molten and intangible, and in the latter, a big, powerful vocal. Yes!
As for Blouse, I caught 20 minutes and it was lovely, in ways I can already only dimly recall.
Against Me! with Laura Stevenson and Cheap Girls – First Avenue – Wednesday, April 2, 2014
I knew none of the songs, they’ve meant nothing to my life, but, no surprise, I was overwhelmed by this band’s energy. Must we insist that punk music sells a lifestyle, life-moments? It was the sound. (Full review coming soon.)
St. Vincent with Noveller – State Theatre – Thursday, April 3, 2014
The awestruck little boy two rows in front of me couldn’t possibly have enjoyed this any more than I did. (Full review coming soon.)
Weekend with Cities Aviv – 7th Street Entry – Thursday, April 3, 2014
By the time Annie Clark finished her unmissable encore and I rounded the corner from the State Theatre to the Entry (sudden snowstorm, brief interlude), Cities Aviv a/k/a Wilbert Gavin was into the final two songs of his opening set and that, despite the almost empty room and the basic setup onstage, didn’t leave nearly enough time to take in what his performance was about. But stumbling in was part of the thrill, even as I seemed to catch him at the tail end of a private immersion in his own material. He mostly danced to distorted, looped collages of melodic fragments (and to live drumming courtesy of Weekend for the finale), rarely intruding as a rapper or vocalist, and this was entirely appropriate and sufficient. I’ve enjoyed his recorded work, and I didn’t expect the live version to sound any less like something happening, somewhere else.
It was counterintuitive yet ideal preparation for Weekend, who also make a kind of fantasy music that still carries hints of the desperation that inspired it. This is a phenomenal band, always on the verge of making its masterpiece (I’ve had reservations about their songs, but this time I cared less about the hooks—modest, but not absent—more about the atmosphere), and even if they never get there, they’ve made some indelible records and they just crushed me with their ability to recreate them live, as a three-piece no less. However hard Annie Clark works, these guys work, well, equally hard. Set-ending “Coma Summer” made me wonder how, as the night grows later, the rooms darker and emptier, passion and noise continue to accelerate. Many thanks to the drummer, a drum machine come to life, his force and precision made expressive, eloquent, by the coloring from the guitars. The color: gray, the grayest band since For Against, but beautifully so.
Neneh Cherry – Blank Project
My favorite of the year so far. I expected to enjoy hearing Cherry sing over sparse electronic backing, but this album, even if it is that, technically, is something beyond, having much more in common with the jazz album she made with her group The Thing a couple years ago. Kieran Hebden’s production, pre-programmed, alive, whatever, responds to Cherry’s voice, with rhythmic irregularity, mistakes almost, and she in turn to it. It’s a dynamic partnership, where a flat one-to-oneness might have existed. On “Spit Three Times” she looks over her shoulder moments before the onset of a terrifying drum roll, and it’s the sound of something large and implacable coming at her, you.
Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Not as outsider-y as the title implies, no dismissal of accepted songcraft in sight, but still plenty weird for those who care.
Carla Bozulich – Boy
Not as sequel‑to‑Geraldine Fibbers’‑great‑1997‑album‑Butch as the title implies, no “California Tuffy” in sight, but still plenty accessible for those who try.
The Men – Tomorrow’s Hits
Recorded in Three Days at Strange Weather in Brooklyn, NY December 2012
All Songs Written by The Men 2013
That must be a typo but I wouldn’t hold it past The Men to record an album before writing it.
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