Last Thursday we began a concert binge that would last until the earliest hours of Tuesday morning. The look for the occasion was mostly unwashed hair and the occasional sunglasses at night; days were caffeine fueled. The switch that turned Thom from 30 to 31 was flipped while we were sitting outside of Anvil watching The Joy Formidable show break down.
Youth Lagoon played The Loft while a Juicy J. character played Palladium. (For non-Dallasians, The Loft is the upstairs, smaller, debateably cooler venue on the second floor of Palladium.) From the balcony pre-show, we made a game of predicting which show a group of people would walk into. It wasn’t much of a challenge. (The Observer blogs said that the Juicy J. crowd was more sharply dressed – I’m not defending grandma hipster, but I think to call costume hip hop an improvement is misreporting.)
The crowd for Youth Lagoon was heavily skewed towards the under 21 set. As old motherfuckers, it didn’t occur to us that we like music that kids like, but apparently, occasionally, we do. I don’t know how the whippersnappers liked the openers, but we took to the balcony for most of it. I cannot recall the name of the first opener, but I don’t remember the last time I so immediately disliked a band. I’ve really got nothing to bash them with though, as it was simply a stylistic dislike. Majical Clouds didn’t grab me either; I wasn’t motivated to move out of the glow of the green lights of the Bank of America until Youth Lagoon went on.
The Loft was packed when Youth Lagoon went on. We found a spot off to the side near the stair railing. The show was, pleasantly, exactly what you expect a show to be. The performance had appropriate emotion and animation and the sound was remarkably true to the record. It was the sort of show where you stand next to the masses but dance by yourself.
Friday night I almost skipped out on No Joy due to Meeka having an 8:30 am vet appointment the next day. But I decided to go anyway, and we made the drive out to Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton. Denton isn’t a place I’m wildly attracted to, due to its college flavor constantly tempting me to stand on porches shaking a cane and yelling at kids.. but Dan’s Silver Leaf is the best venue I’ve encountered there. Jameson was $4.50.
The first opener was a local band, H.I. Jr. They were better than expected, with the best part being the bordering on honky tonk style of the keyboard player. The headliner was actually Clinic, but we only stayed for a couple of their songs – a concession in part to early mornings, but I also find Clinic a bit novel to be enjoyable in large doses.
If Youth Lagoon filled expectations exactly, No Joy was exactly not what I expected, but better for it. From the record, I expected No Joy to be very laid back, and fairly melodic. I expected them to wear little dresses and sway a little while they played. As it was, they played like a rock band. The sound was much more aggressive than the record but in a way that made me wonder how I’d missed that element in the recording. The guitar player and bass player both flipped their long hair, late ’90s style and played with strands falling into their strings. In short, No Joy was the band that I wanted to be in when I was 15.. the kind of band that I’d always hoped existed so I could be a fan of it but never quite found.
We picked up Ghost Blonde on vinyl after their set; the guitar player who dominated their stage presence ran the merch booth herself.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Saturday we saw BRMC at House of Blues for the second time. The last time we saw them, I was still working as a model, and I’d skipped out of a runway show as early as possible to catch the show – only to find the car has a flat. We called a cab, only to find that knowing what intersection we were standing on wasn’t good enough; we had to walk until we found an address on a building. After the cabbie proceeded to take his time getting there, and then proceeded to not know how to find House of Blues, we walked in sure we’d missed most of it. In actuality, we were right on time. The show was amazing.
I mention the previous show only to illustrate the kind of expectations I had going in, and the level of fear I had that it wouldn’t live up to the last time. It. Lived. Up.
The thing about Black Rebel is that nearly every song they play, your stream of consciousness reads something like “Oh fuck yeah, this song!” When they followed Beat the Devil’s Tattoo with Whatever Happened to My Rock n Roll, I was thinking that anyone who sets out to play a show should ask themselves “W.W.B.R.M.C.D.?” Yes, I sound like a fanboy. I don’t have a problem with that. B.R.M.C. are basically cool incarnate.
One of the interesting things about seeing B.R.M.C. is the way they switch instruments and roles. Who the lead singer, bass player, and guitar player are depends largely on the song. At this particular show, they played for over two hours.. and then followed up with an encore. Their desire to play was out lasting the desire of some of the fans to listen (although that’s a commentary on the stamina of fans, not the quality of show.) The Guy Who Is Having More Fun Than You, however, had stamina to hang over the balcony pumping his fist for the entire show, even after getting a talking to by security.
I did make one poor decision at this show; despite being thrilled to see more than one choice of girl shirt, I waited to buy til the end. By the time I was buying, there were no girl shirts.
Sunday I tricked Thom into coming to a surprise birthday dinner at Roma’s on Greenville early in the evening. I didn’t actually realize we were going for five shows in five days yet, but from there we headed down for Hello Lover’s last show of their tenure at Sundown at Granada. Sundown is one of the nicer of what I would call the “very small” venues – its the kind of place that is a venue sometimes, and a bar others.
I’ve seen Hello Lover play so many times now that I don’t feel entirely right writing about it; I feel I lost my unbiased perspective sometime between showing up too late to see them open for Riverboat Gamblers at Dada circa 2009 and knowing all the words to 507. But this particular show was one of the longest sets I’ve seen them play. It was also more sparkly than usual, due to singer Rob’s sequined cape. The number of spectators was nice, but I found some of the crowd a bit irksome – either talking loudly on the floor with their backs to the band or dancing in a way which isn’t so much dancing as making fun of dancing. But I suppose these are the dangers faced by bands in bars.
The Joy Formidable/Io Echo
The Joy Formidable and Io Echo took care of Monday’s entertainment, at Trees. Trees is one of my favorite Deep Ellum venues, when they are playing something I’m interested in. They alternate between entire upcoming show schedules lacking in taste level and “Whoa, THEY are playing at Trees?”
Watching Io Echo is like watching kids play, and I mean that in an absolutely complimentary way. Their sound conveys well but maybe a little more raw and ever so slightly less tight than the record. Watching them play is like discovering a high school band that happens to be really, really good. Their energy level is high but the show doesn’t feel practiced at all – it feels like they are still trying things as inspiration strikes and still enjoying the thrill of playing live shows. Maybe their acting is just that good and they’ve actually planned out every move, but they look like they are just dancing how they feel it.
The Joy Formidable checked off all the expectation boxes as well, (except for one which I will get to later) but I responded to it differently than I expected to. The one unexpected item – and I feel I’m just mentioning a detail that’s compulsory when discussing The Joy Formidable here – was Ritzy’s hair. I suspect that she’s growing it out, as the cut didn’t have the severity that I’d gotten used to seeing in concert videos. I had also broken one of my rules and had watched quite a bit of concert footage from them before hand, which I usually avoid. I was expecting unrelenting energy from them, and mostly her. But when I saw it.. maybe this is just because I knew it was coming.. I wasn’t as struck by it as I thought I should be. I actually found myself watching the bass player for most of the show. The music sounded very true. The energy was a constant assault. The set was as long as you’d expect, and the encore was obviously planned but good none the less. They seem really dedicated to the fan experience.
After the show I participated in some commercialism at the merch booth, picking up a poster, a Joy Formidable shirt for me (that I plan to wear in a way inspired by Io Echo), and an Io Echo shirt for Thom. Since Thom had the hummingbird from the Wolf’s Law special edition, we were able to go up to the meet and greet after the show. While the band was cool, I really doubt we’ll ever do a meet and greet again. I appreciate the amount of effort it takes for them to do it, but I just don’t think you can buy and sell a really cool experience meeting a band. I felt two parts pretentious and one part creepy waiting in line to make them make awkward conversation with us, but at least I don’t think we were as weird as the couple in front of us who insisted on each going in separately to meet the band.
Measures of success for the whole run: A five whiskey rating.