Tag Archives: Bonnaroo

“Monsters” of Folk at The Greek

October 18, 2009
The Greek Theater, LA

Monsters. What do you think of when you hear the word “monsters”? Now imagine you hear the words “monsters of folk”. . . Do you hear it as “Monsters!! (arrrgggggrrrrr) of folk!!!”?? Or do you read it to mean that they’re so folk – the extreme folk – monsters? Did you expect really loud, monstrous rockin’ folk songs? Or did you expect quiet, extreme-folk, folk songs?

Monsters of Folk

Monsters of Folk

Well let’s just say, with Monsters of Folk, you get it all. Their set tonight was quite diverse. Quiet. Loud. Sit. Stand. Sit. Sit. Stand. It was like church. And everyone knew when to sit and when to stand. In fact, Jim James thanked the audience for being respectful and remarked, “Sometimes it’s hard with a folk show. The audience never really knows what to do. Some songs are loud. Some songs are soft. But you guys – you know exactly what to do.”

That said, there were one or two occasions when a couple people in the audience would cheer off-cue (usually prematurely) and others in  the audience would shush them.  It was a bit comical (not the fact that people cheered “early,” but the fact that other people actually shushed them).

The lights corresponded perfectly with the sentiment of the music.  At times, the lighting gave off a monochromatic look. It almost felt as though you were watching a black and white TV, with a few sepia tones thrown in to keep things interesting.  Other times, the lights changed fluidly from bright solid color to bright color solid color, in time with the music.  On occasion the lights would flash rapidly with the beat of the drum.  The lights really helped set the tone.  If you were confused about whether a song was a “sit” song or a “stand” song, you could just look to the lights for guidance.

This was a "stand" song

This was a "stand" song

You all know how I feel about Conor Oberst (if you don’t, you can read up about it here).  Well, tonight reminded me why I love him so much.

And you don’t know how I feel about Yim Yames (Jim James), but it began when My Morning Jacket made it rain at Bonnaroo in 2004.  It was further  confirmed during a conversation with MMJ backstage at Austin City Limits later that year.  It was topped off with a lengthy discussion about one-off bugs — bugs that have sex once and then die (are killed) -  i.e. praying mantis, black widows, etc.  I think highly, fondly, and – I say this with affection – strangely, of Yim Yames.

Then there’s M. Ward. Check.  And Mike Mogis.  I wasn’t consciously aware of Mogus, although he’s produced and engineered several albums I own.

Tonight’s show took place at The Greek, a theater I love.  It’s so beautiful up there and the sound is great.  They really should allow cameras so people can see what they’re missing.

The first half of the show was pretty mellow. Even the more rockin’ songs were somewhat low-key.  The audience was very quiet and respectful – it was a civilized, adult show.

Monsters of Folk

There's no right way or wrong way - You just have to live

Then something happened. . .  they turned the sound on.  Or at least it felt like they turned the sound on. The show took a turn and became loud, rebellious, fun, rock (relatively speaking, of course.  It was no Tool).  The audience was on their feet, cheering, the remainder of the night.

They played some Bright Eyes songs, some My Morning Jacket songs, some of the guys’ solo material, and some stuff off the new Monsters of Folk album.  One thing I noticed during the first set is that many of Oberst’s songs are sweet, catchy tunes about dark subjects.

I’ve been sleeping so strange at night
Side effects they don’t advertise
I’ve been sleeping so strange
With a head full of pesticide

On the contrary, many of James’ songs are sad-sounding, happy songs. “Wonderful. . . beautiful. . . love. . . blah blah blah.”  But they sound like songs of grief.

That’s kind of how the show was – you never knew what to expect.  And just when you thought you did know what was coming next, you’d realize you didn’t really know a thing.

Check them out if you have the opportunity.

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The 2nd Biggest Surprise: Metric and Phoenix at The Greek

I don’t remember what the 1st biggest surprise was, but I do remember the original title of this post: To Anyone Who Dreamed To Have a Life Without a Boss. . .

To find out why that was the original title, click “play” and watch the video below.

Or, if you prefer to play a game to figure out why that was going to be the title of this post, don’t click “play.”  Instead:

Jump below the video.
Read the rest of this post.
Guess why that might have been the original title.
Then come back here.
Push play.
And see if you’re right.

Don’t worry, it’s not a hard quiz.  It’s been psychologically proven that people like to feel smart (not sure why we needed a study to prove that one).  So if I can make you feel smart while you’re reading this, then chances are you’ll keep coming back to read my blog.  That’s also why those quizzes that play in movie theaters before the feature film are so easy.

But anyway, METRIC! I’d seen this band before – back in the days of one-syllable-bands-that-begin-with “The”: The Hives, The Vines, The Strokes, etc.  I’m pretty sure I saw Metric open for at least one of these bands.  And I’m pretty sure I thought they were alright.  But, at The Greek Theater, Metric held their own, so much so I thought perhaps maybe they were headlining. (This thought was exacerbated by the fact that we arrived late, which is easy to do when a show starts before sunset).  Judging by the audience’s reaction, we weren’t the only ones who thoroughly enjoyed Metric.  Here’s a bit of their performance:

Now, about Phoenix. . .  First of all, every good-looking person in LA was at this show.

Phoenix live at The Greek

Phoenix live at The Greek

Secondly, I definitely wasn’t supposed to have a camera in there. So, as you can imagine, getting this video was a challenge.  Right – nobody would want a great video to get out.  There are some people (NIN), venues (Hollywood Bowl) and promoters who understand that getting media out there is a GOOD thing.  And then there are others that think, “OH NO! What if somebody sees it and decides they like this band and must see them when they come through town next?”  Or “What if somebody thinks ‘Wow, The Greek looks like a beautiful venue and the sound is great.  I should go there sometime. . .’ ” Or “What if a music supervisor sees it and decides she needs the music for this year’s blockbuster film?” It’s not like I’m making money off this.  You are.  It’s good for you.  I promise.

Bonnaroo Ferris Wheel and Arcade

Bonnaroo Ferris Wheel and Arcade

So, Phoenix. . .  I first stumbled upon them live at Bonnaroo earlier this year. I was backstage before the band went on and just before the singer arrived.  His plane had been delayed, causing him to arrive at the festival grounds just 20 minutes prior to going on stage.  Until that moment, it was questionable whether the band would miss their slot entirely. Instead, band members jumped up and down and squealed (like school girls, but not annoying) when they were reunited. What followed describes something I haven’t seen in music for a little while — a band that actually LOVES each other.  These guys were genuinely excited to see each other, took a deep interest in the well-being of the others and could not wait to get onstage.  Perhaps a lot of bands feel this way and are just too cool to express it, but Phoenix didn’t hold anything back.  Just prior to going on-stage they huddled:

“Let’s make this the best show we’ve ever played!” one member exclaimed.

“Let’s make these people go NUTS!” called out another.

“Let’s have fun!”

And on and on until everybody had expressed himself and the entrance music kicked in.

“That’s us!” they cheered, and they all went running for the stage.

I had a press pass, and was allowed a camera. . .  but I was so mesmerized that I forgot to use it.

That was Bonnaroo, but something tells me that pre-show huddle was not a first.  It felt like a ritual, and one that pretty much guarantees a good show.  Phoenix gets themselves so amped that they have no choice but to have a great show.  And their fans – well, they’re going to have fun, like it or not.  Phoenix’s performance at The Greek was as enjoyable as ever.  The band member’s love for each other reaffirmed and the fans having the time of their lives. Phoenix’s performance is light and fun, yet seriously good.  The Greek is the perfect venue for a show like this.  Outside, warm air, perfect sound, relaxed security.

Just kidding about that last part.  Don’t want anyone to get in trouble.

Anyway, see for yourself:


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