The last time I saw someone try to take on the whole three thousand-capacity Fox Theater alone with an acoustic guitar was nearly a year ago, when Robin Pecknold unplugged his dreadnought and stepped over his monitors to belt out a solo tune. At the time, it was impressive, and that youthful tenor rippled off the sparkling, chameleon ceilings and lavish rugs. It seemed incomparably pretty.
Last night, Jeff Mangum made Pecknold’s performance, in retrospect, look like a gaunt and admirable attempt, at best. It’s not so much that the Fleet Foxes frontman is pale in musicality, as much as that Jeff Mangum is just an impeccably well-oiled, trim, and efficient music-producing mechanism. His show last night was a rare thing today – a guy who’s willing to sit in front of thousands of people with a guitar. When you think about it that’s a frightening prospect, and it’s hard to think of many musicians who would choose to do so if given the option.
A recent New York Times headline challenged the canonical placement of pianist Robert Glasper’s new album, Black Radio, by posing the question: “So is it jazz?” Although writer Nate Chinen never came up with a definitive answer, he showed that the question itself was pretty reductive. Glasper argued, diplomatically, that just because his music veers into other styles (namely gospel, hip-hop, and R&B), doesn’t mean it can’t have a strong foothold in the jazz tradition. But I'd put it more bluntly: If you don’t hear the jazz in Black Radio, you’re not listening.
Apparently, something in the air of the show at the Independent Friday night made it particularly easy to overshare — in fact, it seemed impossible not to. Perhaps it was because the show was sold out weeks in advance; being inside felt like you had won the lottery, and the crowd seemed utterly grateful (at least upfront; audible chatter from the back of the room could be heard in quieter moments). Likewise, the bands* seemed humbled and happy to be there, which always helps. Or maybe it was the weather that day, which had been more summerlike than mid-winter. Whatever the case, both frontwomen of Sea of Bees and Wye Oak indulged in quite a bit of talking last night, which only seemed to endear them more to their fans. “I’m gonna shut up now,” was the line both women said at one point.
(* Apologies that I missed openers Social Studies and 21st Century)
Alexis Krauss is the cutest person alive. Can we all agree on this, just take the other seven billion people on earth out of the running right now? I mean, LOOK AT HER. The best. Definitely no less than usual last night at the Regency for her and guitarist/partner-in-crime Derek Edward Miller's sold-out show, at which Krauss shimmied, strutted, skipped, and jumped, head bobbing, booty shaking, and face posituvely beaming, like a hyperactive eight-year old, a giddy teenager — or maybe just a 25-year-old from Brooklyn, punch-drunk on her first real stretch of totally-deserved fame. A friend who'd seen Sleigh Bells at Coachella warned me that that show was seriously marred by an overactive soundsystem that all but drowned out Krauss' vocals, but not this time: Rocking her apparently-signature cutoffs-and-white-sneakers combo, Krauss rocketed more than capably through an earsplitting-in-a-good-way, short-but-sweet set that contained pretty much the entirety of 2010's Treats, as well as much of Reign of Terror, released a couple weeks ago. They ended on the explosive "Infinity Guitars," all ragged guitars and singsong vocals; afterwards, as the lights went up and audience filed out, sweaty and satisfied, it seemed like all anyone was talking about was how much they loved Alexis Krauss.
You never saw a guy in Dockers move like this. Pleated Dockers. Frontman Samuel T. Herring bounded and pogoed across the stage like a gymnast. He bent at the knees and the waist and pointed at audience members and looked them straight in the eye and generally danced like a man overcome throughout Future Islands' sold-out set of baroque, romantic new-wave dance-pop Tuesday night at Bottom of the Hill. It was a sight to see.
Anticipation was in the air as we awaited Adele's long return to the Bay Area last night at Berkeley's Greek theater. That's no understatement. We'd already withstood venue changes, tour cancellations, a late start, an (admittedly powerful) opening act, and a drawn-out, dramatic entrance. And fortunately, Adele was worth the wait. She showed up and showed out.
A rap career seems like an odd move for a classically-trained pianist, but Kev Choice has figured out how to make it work—often in startling ways. His latest release is a spin on "Arietta" (Opus 12-1), a classical piece by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. Choice delivers a rap serenade to a fictional love interest, while playing Grieg's piece—the original, not a chopped-up sample— on acoustic piano. Equal parts classical and hip-hop, it's completely unorthodox with respect to both genres. And yet it's a bold move on Choice's part. He's obviously got chops.
So. You may have heard that there's a big music festival in San Francisco this weekend? And as usual, the Express is sending our crack team of critics and photogs to cover all the musical fun in the
sunfog. Check back with Ear Bud through the weekend and on Monday for show reviews, pictures, tips, musings and more, and scoot on over to our brand new, Outside Lands-specific Twitter account, @EBXOSL, for all kinds of adventures in microbloggery.
Okay, here's the problem with the San Francisco regional air guitar competition: It's actually split into two separate contests, one on Friday and one on Saturday, each with its own winner. That's policy, that's tradition, it's not clear who made it that way, but that's the way it is, and pretty much everyone accepts it. But this year it skewed the results. There was a giant talent gap between the Friday show, which was pretty underwhelming, and the Saturday show, which — according to everyone present — was totally freakin' amazing. Even retired champ and Friday night judge Hot Lixx Hulahan noticed it.
So, Lady Gaga? You may have heard of her. She played some songs at the Oracle last night. It was pretty chill.
PSYCH! It was fucking bananas. We're talking at least eight costume changes; fire, sparklers, smoke, and countless other pyrotechnics (literal and figurative); a small army of muscular, appropriately freaky-looking backup dancers — and an audience of 15,000 or so little monsters hanging on to every moment. It was, in other words, more or less exactly what you'd expect from a Gaga show.