Tag Archives: M. Ward

She & Him & Largo

March 15, 2010
Largo, LA

NO!

NO!

Ordinarily I’d be inclined to hate a venue like Largo – it’s full of rules and “no”s.  But Largo has been good to me for the past 13 years.  I’ve experienced some amazing shows at Largo including: Elliott Smith, Neil Finn, Fiona Apple, Ben Folds, Glen Phillips (Toad The Wet Sprocket), Aimee Mann, E (The Eels),  Robyn Hitchcock, Joseph Arthur, John Doe, Jon Brion, Grant Lee Phillips, Rufus Wainwright, Jack Black, and Tenacious D.  I’ve laughed my ass off at comedy shows featuring Greg Behrendt, Sarah Silverman, Doug Benson, The Naked Trucker, Jack Black, and Tenacious D.

Still NO!

Still NO!

As I sat in the audience having a thoroughly enjoyable night of music, I realized this was made possible precisely because of those fucking rules.  Largo puts music first.  It’s one of the few places where you can completely escape – even planes have WiFi now.  You have no choice but to become entirely immersed in music at Largo.  Well, your other choice would be to leave.  Largo puts the music before the customer.  It’s great for the Artists too because they get to focus on playing their shows.  The musicians aren’t stuck being “the assholes,” asking people to be quiet from stage, enduring the annoying ringing or feedback from cell phones in the monitors, nor averting their eyes from flashing bulbs.   The musicians play. The audience listens.  Largo takes care of the rest.  When it comes down to it, Largo is doing everybody a favor.  So if you think Flannagan’s an asshole, he’s not – he just likes music more than he likes you.

Fact: I’ve only received two criticisms since I started Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend.  The first was for not writing enough about M. Ward in my Monsters of Folk review.  The second was for not mentioning The Chapin Sisters in my review of Butch Walker’s most recent show in LA (the comment was posted on Facebook).  Well, guess what “MB” and Jeff – I wanted to give The Chapin Sisters and M. Ward their own review all along, and here it is:

First off, Largo is the perfect venue for a show like this.  The room invokes a classy, theatrical vibe.  The sound is great,  nobody is talking or clicking away on their cell phones, you don’t hear the noise of the bar or the spilling of drinks.  You can close your eyes and get lost in sound for a couple hours.  That said, you won’t find yourself closing your eyes at this show because there’s an element of artistry and performance conveyed visually, that you don’t want to miss.

The Chapin Sisters, accompanied at times by the Brothers Brothers, were great.  I actually felt like an adult at this show, like I was doing something civilized and sophisticated.  I don’t often like that feeling, but tonight it worked.  However, because The Chapin Sisters made me feel something I’m not used to feeling, I’m finding it difficult to articulate.  Go see them for yourself.  Close your eyes and let the harmonies drown out the voices in your head.   The Chapin Sisters are a perfect complement to She & Him.  Their music and performance evoke a different time and a foreign land. Vinyl seems the appropriate format for listening to this music.

She & Him, headed up by Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, blew me away.   At times, I was listening to a seemingly even-paced, “mellow” song, and then M. Ward kicked in with some absolutely insane guitar parts that bordered on psychedelic.   And who wears a fluffy, fuchsia dress on stage?!  Zooey Deschanel does.  That, marks my first-ever  remark about what an Artist wears on stage.  I despise those portions of reviews that talk about what the singer is wearing or the drummer’s new haircut.  Typically, that has nothing to do with the music!  Yet, in the case of She & Him, Deschanel’s dress, and certainly her high heels, were important to the show.  The tone of the show was reinforced by the dress and the heels that, at times, were too high for Deschanel to effectively play the Wurlitzer.

Speaking of the Wurlitzer – She & Him, well actually, “She,” knew exactly how and when to insert humor into the set.  It’s a good thing Deschanel broke things up with light-hearted and quirky banter.  Otherwise, we may all still be sitting there in a hypnotic state.  To pass the time while the band tuned their instruments, Deschanel remarked, “The Wurlitzer is smooth.  Some say it’s smoother than a piano.  . . It’s like a piano, but with fewer options. . . Less lows. . .  and highs.”  The description felt a bit like an analogy for life.  You can live a “piano life,” with all its highs and lows.  Or, you can live a “Wurlitzer life” which may be smoother, but has less options.

Among many highlights of the show was She & Him’s unplugged performance of “You Really Got A Hold On Me.”  You could forget to breathe during moments like those.  “Change Is Hard,” “Sentimental Heart,” and “Take It Back,” were also favorites.  The Chapin Sisters lent their vocals, shakers, and sleigh bells to the music as well.  At one point Deschanel asked The Chapins what they were discussing.  The Chapins then asked Deschanel her opinion about including sleigh bells in the next song.  “You can play whatever you want. Cuz that’s the kind of friend I am!” Deschanel said, exuding confidence and sarcasm.  After pausing for a moment, she added, “I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore!”  That statement scored her hundreds of points in my book.

Approximately two-thirds of the way through the show, Deschenal informed the audience she was done singing new material.  “No more new songs,” Deschenal said, probably expecting a sigh of relief.  Instead, the audience booed.  Deschenal responded, infusing her response with humor, “BUT. . .  old songs!!” she said with a smile.  “Yay!” the crowd responded in unison.

“You’re all so quiet,” M. Ward acknowledged between songs.  “Are you OK?” Yes, everyone was OK – they were just afraid to make a sound. Tonight marked the 1st show of She & Him’s 2010 world tour.  “It’s the first show of our world tour and we wanted to have it at Largo since it’s one of the best venues in the world!” Deschanel explained.  Even though it was too dark for the band to see the set list, and that as a fan, you’ll not find any of this on YouTube, it seemed both the Artist and Audience wouldn’t have done it any other way.  Largo wins again.

Abiding by the rules, these are the only photos I took:

The irony of the “Totally Nude Strippers” sign reflected in Largo’s mirrored sign.  There’s a lot that can be inferred…

Nude Strippers

The mirror of Largo

The rabbit hole is accessible via the woman’s bathroom:

Alice in Largoland

Alice in Largoland

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“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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