Tag Archives: Musings

Best Coast & Wavves at the Bluebird February 27th 2016

Let’s get this out of the way: this is going to be a terrible concert review. If you want a track-by-track accounting of the Best Coast/Wavves show I attended on Saturday February 27, 2016 you should look elsewhere. The show was probably very good and not the massive existential crisis I am about to make it out to be. Both bands are great and combining them in one show really is a fantastic sensory experience. While the two bands couldn’t be further apart in terms of style and fan appeal, seeing them back-to-back was an incredible experience. I’d seen Best Coast twice and Wavves once by themselves, but seeing them together was something else entirely. I liken it to mixing peanut butter and chocolate, the mixing of two different, complementary, flavors that combine to make something even tastier.

2016-02-28 00.40.22-1

This is face of a man who is scared shitless (and full of Miller Lite).

This concert was important for me historically because it was the last concert I will attend as a childless man. My wife and I are expecting our first child in mid-April and the specter of parenthood which has been hanging over me is reaching its cold, icy fingers of responsibility around my throat. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be happier and am genuinely excited to be a father, I can tell that I am at the end of an epoch. I’m now very much sensitive to the passage of time and my mortality. Which brings me to the Best Coast/Wavves concert. The tour was billed as “Summer Is Forever II” which played on the fact that both bands are from California and sing a lot about summer and the beach. Bethany Cosentino, whose songs are usually very introspective and melancholy despite having a veneer of sunshine, fronts Best Coast. While Nathan Williams leads Wavves, a pop-(stoner)punk outfit who are increasingly reveal themselves to be more introspective and insecure with each subsequent album. The romance between Cosentino and Williams has been widely reported, and though they’re probably only friends now, the tour definitely played up there past.

This show had plenty of yings and yangs, but let me fixate on the ones that really mattered. For one thing, the very notion of “Summer Is Forever II” is both appealing and stomach churning. I walked into the Blue Bird Theater about 30 minutes before the start of the show, the crowd slowly filling with fans sporting the telltale black “X” of the under 21. I found a spot in the middle of the venue, confident that nobody would really get near me until the sold-out crowd showed up later in the set. I was right. For the most part I was invisible. Not yet old enough to be the “old guy” at the rock show, I was old enough to be be apart from the majority of the crowd. Ying: young fans Yang: old ass blogger.

2016-02-28 00.39.54-1

Sipping a Miller Lite from a plastic cup, I stared at the open band Cherry Glazerr and pondered the “Summer Is Forever II” banner at the back of the stage. I’m going to skip over the part where this tour is a sequel to a 2011 Best Coast/Wavves tour, and instead focus on the fact that a sequel can only happen if the first one ends. That would seem to suggest, to me at least, that summer isn’t forever. Best Coast took the stage and after a few songs Bethany remarked that she was sad that the tour was ending in a week. Already the magic was broken: all of this was going to come to and end…and soon. I’d seen Best Coast in September, at the same venue, and I thought that this Saturday performance was better than the one I’d seen on a weeknight.  The songs sounded better and the crowd was really digging the music. The songs that play sad and a bit navel-gazey at home in my earbuds felt more upbeat and playful live. There was really only one song I wanted to hear, “In My Eyes” with its sing-songy chorus and when it was played in the middle of the set I felt satisfied. Ying: A young lead singer. Yang: She was wearing an old Sublime t-shirt.

Wavves are by no means a “hard” band, but they’re certainly rougher than Best Coast. And it’s not just a boy/girl thing either; their approaches are completely different.  That’s part of the mystique surrounding their sometimes coupling: he’s so coarse and unrefined and she’s so sensitive. The two had a real Beauty and the Beast thing going on, the kind of thing Hollywood couldn’t invent on its best day. While I think Wavves make the better music, I haven’t been following their music as closely as Best Coast. Mostly because Wavves second-to-last album was a dense collaboration with Cloud Nothings title NO LIFE FOR ME. They actually played a song off this record that sounded pretty good live, which makes me think that I’m probably wrong about not liking it so much and need to give it a re-listen. Wavves started out as a kind of neo-stoner rock surf outfit that’s slowly mutated into a neo-Grunge band in the vein of Nirvana. I can’t blame them for aping Kurt and Company, who were acting indifferent and complicated back when Wavves were just an itch in their daddies shorts.

2016-02-28 00.25.01-1 (1)

The crowd got rowdy during the Wavves set and the house started throwing kids out for stage diving. I immediately noticed a member of the Wavves staff whose job it was to monitor the goofballs clambering onto the stage. The first few meekly jumping off as soon as they got on stage and them more brazenly trying to shuck and jive on stage or take a quick selfie with the band. The dude working for Wavves either pushed them back into the crowd or carted them off stage and out the emergency exit. The soon-to-be father part of me couldn’t help but worry about the bigger dudes when they leapt into the crowd, sometimes headfirst. The section where I was standing wasn’t moshing, but the first few rows were really…enthusiastic. I was glad to be standing apart from the fray, mostly because I no longer want a lot of sweaty contact with co-eds.

Wavves played the song I most wanted to hear, “Demon To Lean On” from their second album AFRAID OF HEIGHTS, though it sounds like it could have come from mid-1990’s Seattle. They played “Heavy Metal Detox” which is the only song I remember from their most recent album V. Other highlights from the show include “Nine is God” which is on the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack and  “Green Eyes” off their second album KING OF THE BEACH. Both of those songs made me remember why I love Wavves so much. Ying: They don’t give a fuck. Yang: They give so many fucks.

After a fairly long set of stage-diving, sweaty choruses, and inflatable alien dolls; Wavves bid us goodnight and walked off the stage. Then the house lights came up and it was clear that the show was over without an encore. A younger me would have felt cheated and would have complained, but I’m old and so I was grateful I was getting to go home. And just like that, I shuffled out into the cold and waited for my Uber to come so I could go home. That was it. That was my last rock show as just “Jason” before becoming “Dad.” Anticlimactic? Hell yes. Just like how summer isn’t forever, everything has a season. And those seasons all end, without exception. I remember going to shows in 2003 with one, two, sometimes three encores. I remember leaving with ears that would ring for a day or two after the show. I’ve caught guitar picks and pieces of drum kits. I’ve been pushed in a crowd and pushed back. I once saw a domestic dispute at a Tina Turner concert, how’s that for seeing everything? It feels like the show is over and everybody has to go home, but really it’s just me that has to go.

I have tickets to see The Flaming Lips in May, which I’m super-stoked about, but it feels like this is the end. This “Summer Is Forever II” show couldn’t have been a better ending for me. I love how superficial and finite it felt. Both bands perpetuate a kind of youthful exuberance that appeals to the aging hipster in me. Part of me likes to think that when I’m home doing dad-things they’ll be out there somewhere rocking…like the Dude in the Big Lebowski taking it easy for the rest of us. But the truth is, both of these bands are getting older. Nathan got a haircut since the last time I saw him in 2011. The long-haired rocker has become the sensibly coiffed crooner. Everything keeps moving forward and everything comes to an end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

El Monstero & The Tribute-Band Phenomenon

Last night I saw the most amazing rock show I’ve ever seen.  Local Pink Floyd tribute band/St. Louis heroes El Monstero didn’t just put on a concert, it was a full-on spectacle.  The music of Pink Floyd was faithfully performed with not only a band, but with classy female back-up singers, sax players, a children’s choir (you know what song that was for), and a bitchin’ laser show.  There were costume changes, towers of multi-colored flames, confetti cannons, and an honest-to-God 70’s mirror ball.  They also landed a helicopter for the opening of “Another Brick In The Wall.”

The alternate name for El Monstero should be “Pigs N’ Hammers.”

Back in the 1970’s, this level of excess was commonplace, but not so in today’s cash-strapped times.  Oh sure, you can see U2 put on a rock-spectacle, but they are one of the few bands big enough to pull-off (and afford) such dizzying overindulgent rock theatre.  I think gimmicks are stupid as a rule, but if you’ve got the music down, a little spectacle can push the amazing into the awesome (as in actually inspiring awe).

El Monstero is not a good Pink Floyd tribute band, they’re an exceptional one.  I don’t know if they sounded like Floyd sounded live, I am too young to know, what I can tell you is that El Monstero perfectly replicates the way the albums of Pink Floyd sound, in every single detail.  That by itself is no small feat, and worthy of much praise.  The band’s been around for over a decade here in St. Louis, slowly building a rabid fan-base.  Apparently the band started out in the (sadly gone) Mississippi Nights night club, playing for a few hundred people.  Last night, the band upped their game playing for a few thousand.  Rather than just “merely” replicating the sound of Pink Floyd, the band replicated the theatrical nature of the band, and their famous 70’s tours (like the one they did in support of THE WALL).  Equal parts rock show, opera, circus, and LSD trip, the concert at Riverport (aka The Verizon Wireless Amphitheater) blew just about every other tribute band I’ve seen out of the water.

Tribute bands are a funny thing.  On one hand, you have grown men dressing up like 20-something-Liverpudlians, singing “She Loves You” while praying their wigs don’t fall off.  At the other end of the spectrum, you have serious musicians studying, mastering, and performing classic rock–basically treating Pink Floyd like it’s Beethoven.  And why shouldn’t Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin be treated like Beethoven or Bach?  Why do some fans cringe at the mere mention of the term “tribute band”? Rock ‘n roll has always been about celebrity, but I think it was MTV that cemented the notion that anyone playing the songs of Pink Floyd that isn’t Pink Floyd are only imitators.  I find this funny, because when the St. Louis Symphony plays the music of Beethoven no one considers that to be “low rent” or “low brow.”  Or ridiculous.  A symphony isn’t imitating Beethoven; they’re just playing his music.

Part of the issue is the fact that, as I’ve said, rock music is just as much about personalities/celebrities as it is about music.  That’s petty and sad, but unfortunately the truth.  Another part of the issue, though, are how these tribute bands focus on the wrong elements of their act–I think it’s better for a band to replicate the sound of Led Zeppelin than to necessarily look like Led Zeppelin.  Many of the Beatles tribute bands that I’ve seen over the years fall into this trap, sacrificing quality of sound for quality of visual presentation. El Monstero, for example, don’t go out of their way to “become” Roger Waters or David Gilmour. They don’t mess with fake mustaches or wigs; instead they’re about recreating sounds.

*Sigh*

The spectacle I witnessed last night, while not a direct copy of a classic Pink Floyd concert, captured the essence of the band’s giant circus-like tours.  Rather than being actors sticking to a script, a great tribute band will use creative license to replicate the music.  I know that seems pretty obvious, but I’ve seen Beatles tribute bands that tell actual jokes John Lennon said at early Beatles concerts.  I’ve seen jittery “actors” playing Paul McCartney do mannerisms that Paul did on film, often doing these McCartney-isms 50 times during a performance because it was something that Paul actually did (even though there’s no way he was that fidgety).

One thing that takes the so-called “cheese factor” off of El Monstero is that the band doesn’t stumble onto the stage, with fake British accents, and pretend that they’re actually Pink Floyd.  Instead El Monstero is just a band that just happens to play Pink Floyd tunes.  As time marches on, and we lose more classic rock bands (and the people who’ve seen them in concert), I think the demand for professional tribute bands will greatly increase.  I also think the “stink” of being a tribute band will also lessen.  It may take a very, very long time…but if we don’t blow up the Earth with nuclear war, I can foresee a time when elegant men and women will go to their local Opera Houses to see professional musicians perform the works of Lennon and McCartney sans-stigma, like they were going to see a classical music concert.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements