Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Went to a Show: The Dwarves at Dante's (October 27, 2011)

I've been annoyingly late to the last few shows I went to - when I thought I was getting there with time to spare - so this time around, I figured I'd show up a little earlier than usual. My pal (who was nice enough to go with me to the show so my wife didn't have to) and I got to Dante's at about 9:30, and the opening band wasn't even setting up yet. I'll get it right one of these times.

Eh, whatever: it gave me time to check out the merch table, which was filled with Dwarves CDs, vinyl, DVDs, buttons, stickers, keychains, belt buckles, girls' undies, at least six different styles of t-shirts, and Blag's out-of-print novel. When it comes to merchandising, the Dwarves are at a Supersuckers level of shamelessness. But, records don't sell like they used to, so I don't fault bands for doing what they can. And the ticket prices for this show were completely reasonable, and so was the cost of the stuff they were selling, so there's nothing wrong with that.
American Friction, the opening band, came on around ten, so we didn't end up milling around for too long. They got right into it, playing a strangely stark kind of post-rock that I really liked. Not sure they were the perfect fit to open for the Dwarves, but I guess it worked to ease the already half-assing-out crowd into the night of speed-rock ahead.

As is the case at every show I go to lately, there was a hammered 55+-year-old lady dancing around by herself. She looked like someone's mom; possibly someone's grandma. My friend said to me, "I have a bad feeling we're going to see that lady's tits before the night is over." And, we did. I'll get to that.
Zeke were up next, which shouldn't be surprising to anyone, because when it comes to bands that I never intend to see but end up seeing all the time, they're at the top of the list. Their bass player couldn't find a cable to plug in with, so there was a short lull while he tried to locate one. A piss-drunk girl near the front of the stage took this as a sign that she should entertain the crowd with edgy comedy, so she hopped up there, grabbed the mic, and started in: "A white guy, an oriental, and a black rapper..." Needless to say, she did not have the audience in the palm of her hand, and her material did not "kill." She would later be ejected for trying to do it again before the Dwarves came out.
I'm not a fan of Zeke, but there is some fun to be found in watching them play ridiculously fast for 45 minutes straight. Their drummer looks like he's in pain during most of it, and during the breaks he just flips off the crowd and insults his fellow band members. So, you know, there's something for everybody.

After what felt like a little too long of a break, the Dwarves finally emerged, walking out to the "Mighty Mouse" theme and all wearing masks because, you know, it's getting close to Halloween. One thing became very clear once they had taken their places on stage: guitarist Hewhocannotbenamed was not with them. It never even occurred to me that he wouldn't be touring with them, but I've since looked it up and apparently he hasn't been playing live with them for a while now. So, that was a bummer, and instantly made me feel like I wasn't getting the true Dwarves experience. But, they tore into "Dominator," and it was pretty sweet, so I chose to enjoy it and not dwell on the conspicuous lack of spazzy dong-flappery taking place on stage.

Speaking of flappy appendages, about five songs into the Dwarves' set, Blag announced that there was a topless girl near the front of the stage, and when we looked toward where he was pointing, there she was: the grandma lady, pressed against the front of the stage, completely shirtless, with her purse still strung over her shoulder. It was initially hilarious, then unfortunate, and ultimately depressing.
The members of the band all eventually lost their masks and tore through a ton of songs from all over their catalog, during what was probably a 45-minute set. Then they left the stage and didn't play an encore. To be fair to them, I'm not sure if it was their call or the decision of the sound guy, because he was pretty quick to jump up on stage and start shutting off amps right before he turned the house music back on.

But either way: kind of lame. So, between that and the lack of Hewho, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. I did get an import 10" of theirs on red vinyl that I had been looking for, though, so that was cool. Still, it wasn't quite the show I had hoped for. There was only one small scuffle, Blag's stage-diving seemed perfunctory, and there was no male nudity. This was not the Dwarves I had been promised.

In protest, I did not buy a Dwarves belt buckle. That'll show 'em!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday Night Record Shopping.

It was payday for me today, and since I look for any excuse to go record shopping, that seemed like not only a good one, but one that I hadn't used in a while. After braving downtown Portland to go to the Apple Store and handle some business, I decided I better stop at Music Millennium on the way home. And after that I decided I better stop at Everyday Music, because MM didn't have 12" protective sleeves and, you know, I really needed some. The things I tell myself.

Anyway, I didn't go nuts, but I found more cool shit than I figured I might. Here's what I picked up, and I'm not going to divide it by store, because I don't feel like it. But I will divide it up by record size, starting with 10", then going to 7", and finishing with 12". Just to keep you on your toes.

Dwarves - "Fake ID" 10" (2011)

I'd been putting off mail-ordering this record for almost six months, and I'm glad I did, because I got it for the mail-order price, but didn't have to pay the shipping. I'm a bit surprised that Music Millennium had this, but there it was. I also saw that they had a copy of the new Dwarves LP, too. Maybe my special order from last month inspired them. And yes, it was a proud moment walking up to the counter with this one.

Thick-ass 10" on pink marbled vinyl, double-sided cover, and three songs from the new record, and two that are exclusive to this release. They are "Fruit Boots" and "I'm Not Dead," and they are pretty sweet. Apparently there's also another 2011 German import 10" floating around that has another unreleased track on it, and I saw rumblings online that someone bought it at a recent show. I'm going to see the Dwarves on Thursday, so maybe I'll be able to pick it up. Looking forward to that, by the way.

Gas Huffer - "Firebug" 7" (1989)

The Huff! If I'm not mistaken, this is Gas Huffer's debut release. They were one of the first bands that I saw at a "real" rock show when I was a teen (the same show at which I first saw the Supersuckers), and I bought a Gas Huffer shirt there that used this same lettering but had a different design. (It's this one, though I don't know how long that link will last.) The shirt even glowed in the dark. I still have it somewhere. Anyway, this single was two bucks, it's on black vinyl, and it's pretty sweet.

Shellac - The Rude Gesture a pictorial history 7" (1993)

One of two Shellac purchases I made tonight, which is sort of out of the blue, I guess. But, I don't often come across their stuff used, and so I figured I'd give it a go. This is actually their first release ever, a hand-stamped (and smeared) single that comes in an envelope-type sleeve with an insert that has, not shockingly, overly extensive liner notes. Black vinyl on the Touch & Go label.

Scrawl - "Your Mother Wants to Know" 7" (1993)

I bought Scrawl's He's Drunk LP a few months ago at Music Millennium (I thought I wrote about it here but I can't find it), and actually enjoyed it quite a bit. It's lady-rock from the 90's, and it's rough but fun. Came across this 7" for two bucks at MM tonight, and thought I'd add to my collection. The fact that it has this weird fold-y cover sealed the deal. Couple of cool songs on black vinyl, and a fellow beardo who was up in the record room with me complimented me on the choice, so I knew I had struck two-buck gold.

Eddy & The Back Nine - Improving Our Lie 7" (1993)

Ed Fotheringham, backed by Flop. When it comes to records that I have known about and wanted to hear for almost 20 years but never made it a real priority to actually do that, this would be on that list. Fotheringham is Australian (I always forget that), and his accent comes in and out on these punky songs about golf and washing dishes. Four tracks, black vinyl, fold-open cover with full lyrics and a little bit of Fotheringham art, on Steve Turner's Super Electro label. I'm actually really excited about this one.

The Spinanes - "Madding" 7" (1996)

Another Spinanes single to add to my slowly growing collection. This one has the "single version" of "Madding," which is the first track from their Strand LP. I think it just cuts out some of the noise at the beginning of the album version. The B-side is "10 Metre Platform," which appears to be a non-album track. These are both slow, really textural songs, and I may have to wait until it's dark and raining before I really embrace them. But when the time comes, I will know. And I will weep solemnly. Black vinyl, Sub Pop black late-90's label.

Jonestown/J Church - J Town Revisited 7" (1992)

I had no idea this record even existed. Not that I should have, but it's a combo of two groups who are somewhat on my radar, so you think I might have seen it at some point in the last 20 years. Nope. Found it tonight, told my brother about it, and he told me he just bought it, too. Cosmic. So, yet another Jonestown 7" to add to my collection, and another song of theirs that sounds like they were really stoned when they recorded it. They're hard to nail down, and I simultaneously love them and hate them. It's a pleasure. Black vinyl on the Allied label. Boom.

Shellac - Terraform (1998)

I bought this LP from Jackpot Records sometime around 1999, on a whim, because I thought the cover was badass and it felt like it was time for me to get into Shellac. In a rare move, I sold it back to Jackpot within the year. I just didn't have the patience for it. Turns out Shellac - and particularly this record - doesn't go good with tons of beer. Anyway, I always regretted getting rid of it and told myself I'd buy it again if I found it used. Finally did. Still remains one of the most beautiful LP packages I've ever seen. Thick black vinyl; Touch & Go.

Okkervil River - I Am Very Far (2011)

Speaking of beautiful packaging, this thing is gorgeous as well. I've been wanting to hear this LP, but brand-new it's been in the $22 price range, and I guess I haven't wanted it that bad. I like the River, but it comes and goes. I found this set used tonight for 12 bucks, and that seemed reasonable. I think I got dicked out of the CD booklet that's supposed to be included, but whatever. Three sides of black vinyl with an intricate etching on the fourth side. Plus, the cover is, what do you call that? You know, raised like a relief map. Hoping the music is equally detailed.

ZZZZ - Palm Reader (2005)

After Sweep the Leg Johnny broke up, main-dude Steve Sostak formed another band with Sweep's guitar player called Check Engine. That album is sweet. This is the project he did after that one, and it features Sweep's bass player. I have been looking for this for like a year now, and when I got to the Z's at MM and it was there, I was excited. I heard the album once online a long time ago, and I remember it being weird and gypsy-y. Can't wait to get to know it better. Sostak is a stallion of the saxophone variety, and that's rare. Really glad I got this.

And, that's it. Not a bad way to spend some money on a Friday night.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I Went to a Show: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks at the Crystal Ballroom (October 13, 2011)

I haven't gone to a show by myself in a long time, but apparently Malkmus on a Thursday night is a tough sell. So, I rolled solo to the Crystal Ballroom, and after waiting in line for a half hour to get my will call tickets (?) I climbed the stairs and found a nice spot in the all-ages section, right next to a couple that looked roughly my age and their son who looked to be about nine. Yes, us Gen-Xer's are getting old. But we're still out on the town, making it happen!

Much like my recent expedition to see the Supersuckers, I somehow managed to completely miss the opening act, so when I got there, the crew was setting up for The Jicks. They came out about 20 minutes later, said some quick hellos (this was Malkmus' return to Portland after having moved to Berlin a little over a month ago), and then launched into "Jenny and the Ess-Dog." Boom.

After that it was pretty much wall-to-wall Mirror Traffic jams for the majority of the show, but I was fine with that. Malkmus is one of those dudes who always seems to be most interested in the stuff he recently wrote and recorded (one more reason the Pavement reunion was a big surprise), which makes sense, so it's nice to see he and the band do the new shit that they're still excited about. Plus, the songs on the new record are fantastic, so I was more than happy to see them play that stuff.

In true Malkmus fashion, "Senator," the band's most recent single - the video for which was released the morning after the show - didn't make the setlist cut, because, you know, that would make too much sense. I thought that was pretty funny.

So, yeah, they played a lot of the new songs, and at least two new songs that are so new they aren't even out yet: one of 'em was "Surreal Teenagers," which they played as a web exclusive for Jimmy Fallon recently. They also played Neil Young's "Mr. Soul" (I did not recognize that one, but have since figured out what it was), and a raaaaandom cover of the Sweet's "Love is Like Oxygen," which Malkmus was snickering through, but you could tell he secretly enjoyed the shit out of it.

The weirdest moment of the night was their performance of "Real Emotional Trash," which started out fairly standard, and then spiraled into an all-over-the-place jam that found the band looking at Malkmus, trying to figure out what the hell he was doing, and attempting to follow. If you know the song, you know it's long to begin with, and has a bunch of different parts. This time they just did the first few verses, went into the jam part, and never came back out. They rattled around for what felt like 15 minutes, and eventually it sputtered out. I really like the mid-section vamp in that song, so I was a bit bummed to have that excised, but whatever.

They also did "Baby C'mon," either as the last song or part of the encore. A random smattering of songs as always, but a strong bunch. Malkmus was freewheelin' on the guitar all night, and it was damn fun to watch. Dude's got some fancy fingerwork.

Not a bad way to spend an evening out on the town by yourself.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I Went to a Show: Supersuckers at the Hawthorne Theatre (October 2, 2011)

Sunday night with the Supersuckers. I'm sure I've spent a Sunday with the 'Suckers before, but I can't remember when.

Because I don't go to many Sunday night shows, I failed to take into account that the gig would be starting early, so my friend and I arrived at 10, which meant we missed both opening bands and got there about five minutes before Eddie and the boys took the stage. That was fine, but it was $15 to get in, and I kind of wished we would have caught one more of the acts to get our money's worth. But, whatever. At least we didn't miss any of the band we were there to see.

My pal hadn't seen the Supersuckers in years, so he was a great candidate for seeing their show. He knows most of their catalog, doesn't know what to expect, and is happy that the band is still doing it at all. Me? I'm happy they're still doing it, but their shows have been semi-predictable for years, so I don't go into 'em anymore expecting to be surprised by any of the material they whip out. There's always that random show where they play that random song, but for the most part, they stick to the tried-and-true numbers that the fans expect. I could complain about that forever, but I've made my peace with it: I know what I'm going to get when I go to a Supersuckers show, and I just sit back and enjoy it. If they play something that I didn't think I'd hear that night, it's a treat. If not, I at least get to watch Dan Bolton be awesome.
They didn't wow us with any deep cuts on Sunday night, but they did play three or four new songs, so that was something. I'm not going to pass judgment on them until I hear the album versions, but my initial take is that they sound a lot like the stuff from the last record, so you can take that as you like. Speaking of their new stuff, Eddie said they're finishing up their new record, and it should be out next year. We shall see.

This show was the third or fourth in what is to be a massive tour, and maybe they were just getting warmed up, but they didn't seem crazy-excited to be there. It wasn't the most packed gig, so maybe that was part of it. I don't know. It wasn't a bad show; just a standard one, I guess.

But I had a good time, as I always do. Bolton looks like he's trimmed up a little bit, and his guitar work was on point. And like I said earlier, I'm always down to watch The Steak wreak havoc on his Gold Top.

They're coming back to Portland for New Year's Eve, so it looks like I'll once again be ringing in the new year with the Supersuckers. And Reverend Horton Heat, apparently. My wife couldn't be happier.

I'm going to at least two more shows this month, so I'll be reporting on those soon. Stay tuned.