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Category Archives: Music

Side note:

I had wanted to go see Death Cab For Cutie at the legendary Fillmore West in San Francisco tonight, but when I went to go purchase tickets to my dismay and disbelief the tickets (for floor seats) is $115.  General Admission is $125.  For Death Cab For Cutie.  They have a couple good songs, and granted, it’s sort of last minute, but I would only pay $125 to see someone really great and/or legendary.  I didn’t even see Paul McCartney when he came to Sacramento a few years ago when he was charging $250 per ticket, and he’s A FREAKING BEATLE.  Take a note, Death Cab For Cutie (or the band’s promoters, or the Fillmore, or whoever is in charge of ticket prices I’m not sure), I’m not going to pay that much to see you, ever, and I like your music.  Instead, tonight I’ll be doing my laundry.  My towels needed washing anyway.

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Looking back on my concert experience this past week, I got to thinking about how good Phantom Planet was when they opened for PATD. I’ve noticed, in my large (and sometimes sordid) history with going to rock concerts, that at times the opening bands are as enjoyable, if not more so, than the headliner themselves.

The most blatant example of this in my past has been a couple of years ago at the Vegoose Festival in Las Vegas, NV, when I saw a little band called The Killers open up for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I by FAR enjoyed The Killers more than Tom Petty, and it wasn’t just because Brendon Flowers, the lead singer of The Killers, was wearing an enchanting mix of strange little black tie and bright blue blazer (though it didn’t hurt).

Live photo shot by yours truly of Brendon Flowers

No joke, this was actually the outfit he wore during the concert. I shot this myself. Awesome.

I went to go see Matt Costa perform at a really awesome SF venue called Slim’s last month (http://www.slims-sf.com/). The opening act for Matt was a band I had never heard of called Delta Spirit. I was dubious at first because of the name of the band (it sounds kind of like a hippie-dippy band that should be performing at a coffee shop or a sit-in somewhere, right?), but they rocked it. Sort of Bob Dylan-meets-Nirvana, complete with a lead singer wearing that headgear-looking apparatus that lets you play the harmonica without having to use your hands (you know what I’m talking about. What is that thing called? Does it even have a name? It always looks sort of uncomfortable and sado-masochistic to me). They had a really raw, painful sound that lent itself well to the folk music they played.

A band called The Honorary Title opened up for Mae at Slim’s last Tuesday. I had already known who The Honorary Title was and loved their music (I highly recommend the album Scream and Light Up the Sky, especially the tracks “Apologize”, “Thin Layer”, “Stuck at Sea”, and “Far More”), and so went to this concert actually only to see the opening act.

Maybe the appeal in the opening act is that they always seem to put themselves out there fully, like they have nothing to lose. And maybe they don’t. They’re usually still trying to prove themselves at the opening act point, and feel like they have to go all out to get noticed. Maybe it’s the feeling like you’re discovering something new and unknown, something secret that no one else knows about, someone just about to make it big and you’re catching them on their upward trajectory. That’s how I felt when I saw the Killers. And when I started wearing Levi’s Capital-E Jeans before the big green-conscious trend caught on (it’s true–i swear).

Or maybe it’s that sometimes that the headlining band is sometimes too complacent in their position as the most successful act on the ticket. While this definitely wasn’t true with Panic, it was definitely the case with Tom Petty. Someone as old-hat as Mr Petty sometimes seem to be going through the motions instead of actually trying with their whole heart to put on a good show. Yes, Tom is a wee bit past the age of spry youth, but if the Rolling Stones still can rock it, why can’t he?

For now I will stick with buying my Delta Spirit and Honorary TItle records and see them whenever they come to town. If that means I have to see some lame headliner in the process, so be it.

Last night I went to the opening night of the Honda Civic Tour a.k.a. Panic at the Disco Tour (don’t you love corporate sponsorship of EVERYTHING now?) It was a great lineup, with Phantom Planet, The Hush Sound, and Motion City Soundtrack opening up for panic. The concert was held at the Warfield in San Francisco, a nice little venue with lots of downtown charm, if you know what I mean. After meandering my way past the homeless contingent’s shopping carts and seedy strip clubs lining Market street, I made my way into the theater.

The Warfield is a San Francisco institution. The theater seats a lot of people, but the balcony and ground floor allows for a close view of the bands from every seat in the joint. Basically there is no bad seat in the Warfield. The concertgoers were mostly teenagers and people in their early twenties. Being in my mid-twenties, I was one of the older people there which was fun for me (can you detect sarcasm in written word?). The young people all seemed to agree on a uniform of choice–skin-tight jeans with sneakers and a hoodie. There were variations on this theme, but the main idea was the same. I loved that I was wearing green jeans at least, to stand out a little.

The first band that played, Phantom Planet. was the best opening act of the three, in my opinion. This band, for those of you who are unawares, is responsible for that hopelessly catchy tune “California” that is (was) featured in the opening credits of the television show “The O.C.” I don’t even watch the show, but I think the song is good. Their other songs were good as well, my favorite being “Big Brat.” Because there were so many opening acts, each one only played about 5 or 6 songs max. The Hush Sound was unremarkable, but I found their dueling male-female singers unusual in a good way, and any band that features the piano as one of it’s main instruments can’t be all bad in my opinion. Motion City Soundtrack was pretty good, but the lead singer’s hair and the outrageous keyboard player’s antics distracted me from any real enjoyment of the music itself.

First of all, I have to mention that there was a really annoying activity that was going on in between acts. A screen was in the background on stage and would show various music videos (OK, something to pass the time), Honda Civic commercials (disgusting corporate whoring) and the worst of all, the displaying of people’s texts. This is how it worked: The screen would have a scroll going constantly on the bottom saying to text messages to a certain number, and they would be displayed on the bottom of this big screen for all to see. There were a lot of “Show sum luv to the 916” and “Casie and Jodie ❤ Panic”, as well as a lot of “Brendon is hott” (Brendon is Panic’s lead singer) and “Scream if you luv panic”. In fact, there were WAY too many of the “Scream if you…”‘s. And after each one, the mindless teens in the audience would squeal with delight, happy to be a part of something, ANYTHING, no matter how futile and inane. There was “Scream if you luv Miley Cyrus”, “Scream if you luv Harry Potter”, “Scream if you luv Hush Sound”. My personal favorite was “Scream if you are sick of people screaming.” I think I actually might have screamed for that one.

Then the main event: Panic at the Disco. The stage was set up like Indian hookah den-meets-Alice in Wonderland acid trip. There were three small oriental rugs on the stage, with a mic stand covered in flowers in front of each. The back featured a drum set on a flowered riser and the other equipment, like keyboards and sound equipment, was set up on a riser that looked like a giant storybook that read “Panic at the Disco” on the spine. The screen in the back featured various backdrops that changed during the songs. Most were trippy flowered scenes and other psychedelic imagery, which totally fits with Panic’s new Beatles-esque image. The band themselves were dressed in button-down shirts, jeans, Beatle-boots, and vests. A change a pace from their Edwardian-Gothic vibe from the last tour (not a smidgen of eyeliner in sight).

Overall I loved the concert. The band played a great mix of both their last album and the newest one. They sounded good live, but the new material was played MUCH better than the old. I think the new material lends itself better to being played live than the older stuff, which had a lot more studio effects and techno beats. The new stuff is just plain good old-fashioned music, which I LOVED. No gimmicks, tricks, stage performances, nothing. Panic just focused on their musicality which was brilliant. My favorites were their renditions of “That Green Gentleman”, “Northern Downpour”, and a fantastic solo effort by Brendon of “I Have Friends in Holy Spaces.” They seemed to breeze through their older material, in fact they seemed to almost hesitant to play their biggest and most overplayed hit from the last album “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” But they really seemed to relish playing the new stuff, which makes sense because the new material is just plain good fun music, and not angst-driven techno-punk (although that was pretty brilliant music too).

The concert was so great, I had always loved Panic but had never seen them live. Aside from the annoying text messaging fiasco and the man who smelled like an ashtray sitting next to me, the experience was pretty much perfect.

And my ears are still ringing.

As someone who has never come face-to-face (or in my case, face-to-face-to-face-to-face-to-face) with one of their favorite bands, I had a milestone in my life occur this past Wednesday.

Here’s the scene:  I was in the food court of my local shopping mall, having lunch after my morning class and getting ready to do some shopping to look for a birthday present for my brother.  I had a very excellent breakfast burrito (breakfast is good ANY time of day if you ask me, it shouldn’t just be relegated to the AM hours), and was getting ready to leave the food court in search of my yet-to-be-determined gift.  As I’m walking out I see a group of guys walking towards me.  Automatically I knew it was the members of one of my favorite bands, Panic at the Disco.

After recovering from my brief aneurism, it takes me a minute for my brain to start working again.  I knew they were in town to play a couple of dates at The Warfield Thursday and Friday night, the Thursday date being the one I had tickets to.  As they are casually walking by me, I try to make eye contact with the lead singer, but I try not to be creepy at the same time.  No bite.  So then I have an inner debate:  “Do I go up to them and say something?  Or is that too weird?  They’re in a food court for Godsake.  They probably just want to be left alone to eat.  And why the hell are they in a food court in a local mall?  Aren’t they famous?  Shouldn’t they be able to call up room service and get whatever they want, like bowls of M&M’s with all the green ones picked out?  Ok, ok, stop thinking of all these inane questions, they’re about to leave.  What to do?”

So I decide to talk to them.  I mean, how often do you get to meet one of your favorite bands like this, in such a casual, random setting?  I figured it had to be fate.  And they didn’t really have a lot of security or people around them, so I didn’t run the risk of being tackled by an over-zealous bodyguard.  I slowly make my approach, as they (the guitarist, Ryan Ross, the drummer, Spencer Smith, and the bassist, John Walker.  The lead singer, Brendon Urie, went to get food somewhere else) are paying for their food at one of the booths.

“Hi, I realize this is an intrusion, but I just wanted to say that I really love your band.  I love the new album, it’s actually the ringtone on my phone right now.  I’m going to go see your concert tomorrow, but I just wanted to say hi.  I’ll let you guys eat now.  Bye.”

And that was it.  That was all I said.  I was really nervous and talking quickly, so it probably came out like, “HiIrealizethisisanintrusionbutIjustwantedtosaythatIreallyloveyourband, Ilovethenewalbumit’sactuallytheringtoneonmyphonerightnow, I’mgoingtogoseeyourconcerttomorrowbutIjustwantedtosayhiI’llletyouguyseatnowbye.”

And the whole time I was spouting words like a defective faucet, Ryan Ross was looking at me with an amused half-smile on his face.  He nodded a few times and said, “Wow, that’s really nice.”  Overall he seemed genuinely pleased that I liked their band, and he didn’t seem creeped out at all that I was talking to him.  Spencer and John were busy paying for their food while this occured, so I don’t think they heard the whole exchange.

After I walked away, I was really proud of myself.  I’ve seemed to have overcome my shy and introverted ways of my youth, I thought.  Not only can I voluntarily talk to famous people (idols of mine nonetheless), I can do so without seeming like a total idiot.  I thought (I HOPE) I came off as pretty cool and respectful of their privacy, while at the same time saying how much I like their music.  I managed to seem pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, actually.  No screaming, psycho, stalker fan here.

And then I proceeded to walk around the mall and downtown San Francisco the rest of the day, trying desperately to spot them so I could talk to them again.  

Small victories.

panic.jpgprettyodddddd.jpgSo the new Panic at the Disco album “Pretty. Odd” came out yesterday, and as I was sitting on the bus with my headphones in digesting the Smörgåsbord of sounds, I realized I was right all along. As I stated in my previous post (see Sgt. Pepper or Sgt. Panic?), I thought the new video for “Nine in the Afternoon” was full of Beatles references. Well, evidently, so is the new album. A lot of the songs sounded like they were straight off of Rubber Soul or Revolver. Even the intro to the album, “We’re So Starving,” was a lot like the Beatles intro to Sgt. Pepper. The review of “Pretty. Odd” by USA Today was titled “The Beatles Take on Disco Style”, and according to that cultural database known as Wikipedia, the album was actually recorded at Abbey Road Studio in London. Weird. Beatles redux or not, the whole album is pretty awesome. I highly recommend downloading it. Some of my faves include the soft ballad “Northern Downpour,” and the bouncy cutely-named country song “Folkin’ Around.” Download, listen, enjoy. sgt_pepper.jpg

OK, as an introduction to this blog, one thing you need to know about me…I’m obsessed with music. Everything that has to do with music. John Lennon’s acid-drenched imagery, Janis Joplin’s crazy hippie garb and lonely-girl mystique, Bowie’s great eyeliner, Dylan’s epic poetry. My current obsession (and by current I mean since their first and only album came out two years ago) is the band Panic! At the Disco. Their second album called Pretty. Odd. comes out later this month (March 25th to be exact–mark your calendars!) and they have already released a music video for the first single from that album, Nine in the Afternoon. For those you don’t want to buy it on iTunes, you can check it out on YouTube. The video blew me away. It was like the band took a page from the Sgt. Pepper playbook. Honestly, watch the video and if you have any knowledge of Beatles music and history at all, you’ll know what I mean. The marching band, the mustaches, the shaggy mop-top hair. Ok, so the long underwear isn’t as charming as the psychedelic marching band outfits the Beatles wore, but you get my point. Even the scene in the beginning where Panic! is being chased by the screaming girls is like straight out of A Hard Day’s Night. It’s worth downloading just to see the crazy imagery. Not quite as good as their video for I Write Sins Not Tragedies, but then again I am a sucker for creepy carnival videos featuring circus freaks. But that’s just me….PS: Brendon, you’re so gorgeous it doesn’t really matter, but you need to cut the hair a little. Just a suggestion.