February 5, 2010
Natural History Museum
Los Angeles, CA
I can’t wait to see what people write about this show! Last night Yeasayer played among the dinosaurs, bison, and moose at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. This was the second show of the First Fridays event series in 2010.
I’ve lived in Los Angeles since 1991 and had never even considered going to the Natural History Museum (not sure I knew it existed) until the First Fridays series in 2009. During a memorable Friday night in Los Angeles, in 2009, dancing among the elephants, while Z-Trip crushed the turntables, the Natural History Museum became one of my favorite music venues in Los Angeles. Imagine seeing an amazing band perform in a hall, surrounded by life-sized animals.
It might not work for every band, but if you’re Yeasayer, you’re stoked to be playing in the North American Mammals Hall of the Natural History Museum. Having spent an hour or so exploring the museum, listening to the sounds of birds, watching paleontologists restore dinosaur bones, marveling at stones and gems from around the world, walking through jungles trying to identify camouflaged animals, the next logical step was to enter the North American Mammals Hall and see Yeasayer.
It felt as if we’d found some hidden jungle path and discovered a tribal ritual of music and dance. The birds could be heard in Yeasayer’s whistles. The light could be heard reflecting off the gems as Yeasayer tapped the high notes on the keyboard. And you could definitely feel the thump of dinosaurs moving around you as Yeasayer struck the deep bass lines.
Other bands have tried to do this. I’ve seen ’em. But Yeasayer does it funkier. Yeasayer does it sexier. Yeasayer is having more fun. They do it so well, it almost feels forbidden. It would be a disservice to try to describe what goes down at Yeasayer’s live show – you’ve just got to experience it.
I left the show feeling like I got away with something. I left the show feeling like I had become part of something that is about to explode.
Yeasayer left the show with these words: “Thank you to all the animals!”
Prior to kicking off their U.S. tour Jack’s Mannequin decided to do a warm-up set at The Viper Room. The impromptu show was booked Monday night, announced just before noon on Tuesday, and sold out shortly thereafter.
I like Jack’s Mannequin. Andrew McMahon, Jonathan Sullivan, Jay McMillan, and Bobby Anderson all played and sounded great, despite numerous technical difficulties. “Good thing we got this shit out of the way,” McMahon exclaimed while Anderson fumbled with a faulty guitar cable.
They played a long set consisting of songs that most everyone knew the words to. The crowd sang along at the top of their lungs to tunes including “Crashin’,” “Resolution,” “Bruised,” and “Spinning.”
I found myself getting lost in the music and the band’s animated performance. The mix was right, the sound was great. . . Things were almost too perfect. “I hope they’re not a Christian band,” I thought to myself. Seconds later, as Jack’s Mannequin transitioned from “Spinning” to “The Lights and The Buzz,” McMahon remarked, “This is a Christmas song, but it’s about some fucked up shit!” Phew.
(Not that there’s anything wrong with Christian bands. . .)
I’ve been following Naomi’s career and watching her perform since 2006, but I’ve missed a few shows recently and I won’t do that again. During last night’s performance at The Viper Room, Naomi performed some of my old favorites including “Say It’s Possible” and “Vicodin Song,” along with several new songs which have already become favorites.
“You For Me” and “Nobody Knows You Anymore” are songs about love, loneliness, and being okay with it all. Naomi’s voice is beautiful as ever, but what I love most about Naomi and her music is that she’s real. Yes, she’ll sing about pills, strippers, and infidelity; and she’ll sing about them with a smile (likely because they’re in the past).
I often see (and choose not to write about) some pretty, off-the-shelf, perfect-package bands – the ones record labels love. They look the part, they have catchy tunes, they sing about things they’ve seen on the news but haven’t experienced, and their lyrics are accessible enough that they don’t require any thought or reflection on the part of the listener.
Terra Naomi: okay with it all
Terra Naomi is the complete opposite of this and therefore represents everything I love. She’s honest and real, never compromising her integrity or music for the sake of a cute pop song. Her songs are fantastic, but you’ll likely not hear them on The Hills, so be sure to see Terra Naomi when you have the opportunity.
If you missed last night’s show at The Viper Room, you can catch Terra at Hotel Cafe tonight at 8:00 pm.
“I’m no longer who I was, no longer who I thought I was. . . ” Joseph Arthur sang during a stellar performance of his song, “You Are Free” at The Troubadour. Well, I’ve been seeing Arthur perform live for the past 11 years and I don’t know who he thinks he is, but I think he is still one of the best songwriters around.
The first time I saw Joseph Arthur play he was opening for David Gray at The Palace (now The Avalon) in Hollywood. He performed solo and I watched in amazement as Arthur used numerous pedals to create and loop sounds, building momentum and evolving into extraordinary songs.
Joe and his pedals
It was the first time I had experienced an audience uproar for an opening act to do an encore performance (this was before Queens of The Stone Age opened for Nine Inch Nails). The crowd went insane when Arthur finished his short 30-minute set and were absolutely devastated when he didn’t return for an encore. After David Gray’s set, people were still talking about Joseph Arthur.
Flash forward to January 23, 2010: At this point Arthur can build a song by looping various beats and sounds, as he creates them, effortlessly. Once he lays down the tracks, he can paint while singing.
Joseph Arthur live painting
I’ve seen some live painting during concerts in my time, but usually the painter is another artist, not the performing musician. In Joseph Arthur’s case, he performs while simultaneously painting on several massive canvases. Arthur wasn’t just painting on stage because he could. After the show, Arthur sold his paintings, with 100% of the proceeds donated directly to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
It wasn’t just Arthur, a bunch of pedals, and a paintbrush on stage. Ben Harper sat among Arthur’s very talented band, playing lap steel guitar. Harper accompanied Arthur on vocals during one of his more recognized songs, “In The Sun.” Harper also lent vocals to one of my favorite Joseph Arthur songs, “Ashes Everywhere.” In addition to Ben
Harper, Arthur was joined by band mates Jessy Green, Sibyl Buck, and Kraig Jarret.
Joe sings to the painting
As Arthur played, he’d often look back at the paintings as if he was singing a line specifically to them. “Your holiness is gone. . .” he sang back to a painting, possibly a self-portrait, during “September Baby.” Then Arthur would turn to the audience and sing, “Sometimes love will make you sad until you know where you belong.” And then back to the painting, “You’ll dream of what you never had. . . ”
Arthur played for nearly 3 hours, performing songs including “Honey and The Moon,” “Crying Like A Man,” “Slide Away,” and “Birthday Card.” Several years ago Arthur would play these similarly long sets at Largo, as if he wanted to make up for the lack of an encore during the David Gray show, or just wanted to ensure the audience was satiated. Nobody left early during those intimate shows and such was the case during Arthur’s set at The Troubadour. Although in this case, prior to his second encore, Arthur remarked, “That would be it (the end of the show), but I’ve got to finish these paintings.”
After the show, Arthur made his way to the front room where he signed autographs and took photos with every fan. He continued painting between photos and autographs, sometimes with frustration, other times with ease. Arthur also sold live bootlegs of that night’s show immediately following the set – something he began doing several years ago and that I was pleased to see him continuing to do.
After all these years, thankfully, Joseph Arthur is still who I thought he was.
In the spirit of the event, Web In Front has also listed several places you can donate money to provide further relief to Haiti. Radiohead’s benefit concert in Los Angeles on January 24th raised $572,754 for Oxfam’s Haiti Relief Fund.