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Archive for the ‘Union Transfer’ Category

[ATTENDED: January 12, 2023] They Might Be Giants [rescheduled from March 13, 2020, September 8, 2020, April 15, 2021, March 22, 2022 and June 16, 2022]

After five failed attempts, They Might Be Giants FINALLY got to play Union Transfer.

It was only mildly anti-climactic that they played Union Transfer the night before with a show that was billed as an entirely different show but which, when setlists were compared, turned out to be almost exactly the same.

January 11 (left): note the similarly-named show title which implied something different.  From the venue:

We assume that means songs from their latest album, ‘Book’ and some ‘Flood’ “faves”, and a bunch of horns on stage. How many horns? We can’t say for sure…Maybe 5, maybe 100!?

It felt a little cheaty that this day-ahead show got the same (more or less) show as us.  But hey, who cares, at least we didn’t splurge for the second day.  Because I’d have been a little cheesed to get the same show two nights in a row, no matter how good it was.  And it was really good!

So I saw They Might Be Giants about twenty-five years ago in Boston.  I don’t remember a lot from the show, but it was the Factory Showroom tour and they played a lot of my favorite songs as well.

I haven’t seen them live since then, even though I know they put on a good show.  I’m not sure why it neve happened.  Possibly because when I try to see them a pandemic occurs.

We arrived a little later than intended, had to stand on a huge line (there was no opening act), although everyone at a TMBG show is friendly, and then wound up on the side lower balcony in Union Transfer–where I’ve never stood before.  It was actually kind of nice-we were above most of the heads and still felt a part of the mass of people.

The band also was giving out “paper crowns” that said THEY on them.  John F:  “Be sure to grab one so you can sell it later.”

The Johns came out at 8 as promised and jumped right into “Letterbox” from Flood.  But it’s not the first song from Flood.  So clearly, they weren’t going to play the album in order.  They never said they were going to, just that they were going to play the whole album.  Aha! (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 14, 2022] Lemonheads

Back in 2018, I saw Evan Dando play a solo set in Jersey City.  It was him with an acoustic guitar and he played over forty songs.

It was a shambolic affair, but fun.  I didn’t really feel compelled to see him again, but I thought it would be fun to see him with a band.  And when he announced this 30th Anniversary of It’s a Shame About Ray, my favorite album of theirs, I grabbed a ticket.

Juliana Hatfield finished and didn’t really need to clear her gear (as we’ll see).  And yet for some reason, it took Evan and the other two guys almost 45 minutes to come out on stage.  

This wasn’t an auspicious sign.  I was actually 40% surprised the show hadn’t been cancelled outright.  But it sounds like Evan Dando has gotten his shit (somewhat) together, so maybe this is a new lease on life for him.  

Eventually the band came out on stage.  Bassist Farley Glavin and drummer Lee Falco came out first.  Then Evan came out on stage, grabbed an acoustic guitar and they launched right into “Into Your Arms.”  This is one of my favorite songs of the 90s–so sweet and delightful.  I had literally no idea that it was a cover until I was reading someone else’s review of this tour (it was written by Australian duo Love Positions (Robyn St. Clare (who wrote the song) and Nic Dalton).  It sounded like he hadn’t really warmed up yet and this was his way of easing into the show.  He didn’t hit any of the higher notes.  But he still wounded quite good. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 14, 2022] Juliana Hatfield

I was a big fan of Juliana Hatfield back in the 90s.  I thought she was the bomb.  And I was really excited to see her play live when she opened for the B-52s at Boston College back in 1993.  I actually hated the B-52s (they were so overplayed at my college in 1991 that I never wanted to hear “Love Shack” again in my life) so I left before they came on.

And then, some time around 2000 I lost track of her.  I was always happy to hear she was putting out new music, but I didn’t give it much of a listen.  However, her 2018 album that is all covers of Olivia Newton John songs is pretty sweet.

She had toured Philly back in 2015 and I considered going because it was the Juliana Hatfield Three playing again (I should have gone!).  She also played in 2019, but I wasn’t quite as sure about that one for some reason.  But here she was opening for The Lemonheads!

A few minutes after On Being an Angel cleared their stuff, Juliana came out.  It was just her and her guitar plugged into a tiny amp.  The volume was perfect  She sounded great as she started singing a song I knew immediately.. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 14, 2022] On Being an Angel

On Being an Angel are a four-piece from Austin.  Given that they were opening for Lemonheads and Juliana Hatfield, I was expecting a sound that fit in with them.

They were actually a bit heavier and a bit more fuzzy than I would have expected.  And I loved their sound instantly. 

And then singer Paige stepped up to the mic and…we couldn’t hear her at all.  Was it Union Transfer’s fault?  That seemed unlikely.  We were very close to the stage and that can certainly impact how you hear a band, but it seemed like the lead guitar (from Nick) was just cranked up super loud and drowned out everything else.

The guy next to me even typed out on his phone (fix the vocal levels) but no one reacted to that.

Then I saw this comment in a 2019 review of them in Austin: “[On Being an Angel] tore apart the crowd’s broken chatter with a roaring wall of sound. Rumbling electric fuzz nearly drowned out Paige Applin’s faint vocals as the slowcore quartet played.”  The rest of the band sounded great–a big grungy sound that I was really excited to hear on record, too.

But when I listened to the (first) record, the sound was really different–far more mellow, far less noise.  The opener, “Eyes Shut” has a fantastic 90s alt rock sound with a catchy lead guitar riff.  But on record, it’s a quiet folk song with no riff at all.

The newer record (on being a tape vol. 2) has a much heavier sound.–much more satisfying.  Paige’s vocals are also forward in the mix.  (more…)

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[DID NOT ATTEND: November 5, 2022] Superorganism/Blood Culture

I had seen Superorganism four years ago.  They were buzzing around with a couple of left field hits and at the time I thought they could be the next big thing or an internet meme.  Well, they drifted away.  But came back somewhat surprisingly at the end of last year.

Although I hadn’t heard they even released an album when this show was announced.

I’d had a good time at the last show so I grabbed a ticket.  Evidently the show did not sell well as Union Transfer sent out this:

You are invited to bring a friend for FREE! No catches or hidden fees etc. Just roll up to the show with your ticket(s) and let the door people and ticket scanners know you are bringing your friend as a free plus one / guest. They’ll hand over a complimentary ticket for your friend to use on the spot and that’s it. Free show!

It had been a long week and the kids were both going to a homecoming dance, so we decided to stay home (even though I would have brought her for free).

The opening band Blood Cultures has a fascinating gimmick

Blood Cultures is an experimental indie pop group from New Jersey. First known as a single person and now recognized as a collective (a quartet as of 2019), the band’s members remain anonymous, their faces obscured by black hoods in all photos. As they have explained, their anonymity is crucial to their ethos and aims “to keep the relationship between the listener and the music as pure as possible”. Hailed as some of the most exciting music coming out of New York by NME in 2018, Blood Cultures’ genre-bending sound is often characterized as psychedelic pop, electropop, and chillwave. Blood Cultures released their first album, Happy Birthday, in 2017. The band released its second album, Oh Uncertainty! A Universe Despairs, in September 2019. Their third record, LUNO, was released on May 28, 2021.

They sound pretty interesting and I would have definitely enjoyed checking them out.  I’m also really surprised I hadn’t heard of them before.

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[ATTENDED: October 18, 2022] The Black Angels

The Black Angels are a psychedelic band from Austin, Texas.

I’ve known about them for about ten years.  Their music sounds pretty similar from album to album–fuzzy guitars, catchy riffs and Alex Maas’ recognizable haunting voice.

I Wasn’t really sure what to expect in a live show from them–I assumed some psychedelia.  So I was a little surprised at how stripped down their stage was.  There was a five panel screen and some vertical lights between them.  The l ights shone all different colors and patterns and set the tone of the stage.  The overhead lights were mostly there to add mood.

In other words, I could barely see anyone.  Which was kind of cool.  It created a dark ambiance and meant you focused more on the music than the band members.  The only person I could see with any real clarity was drummer Stephanie Bailey, who pounded the hell out of the drums.  The other three guys, Christian Bland, Jake Garcia and Ramiro Verdooren all played guitar or bass or keyboards.  There was so much switching around of instruments–even though both Bland and Garcia play left handed guitars!

I stood in front of Bland and it was really fun watching him solo and riff and make some really interesting sounds out of his pedals and amps.  He had a bicycle bell on his mic stand (the roadie rang he bell while setting it up), but he never used it in the set. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 18, 2022] The Vacant Lots

The Vacant Lots are two guys from Brooklyn.  And wow are they loud.

The two guys are Jared Artaud who played guitar and sang and Brian MacFadyen who did pretty much everything else.  MacFayden stood at a keyboard rig and played keys and drum loops (I’m not exactly sure what was looped, as some of the songs were repetitive, but it was clear he was trigger some drum sounds live.  He also played a cymbal, which was a nice live touch and meant that he was never not busy.

The music was essentially electro, but Artaud’s live guitar added a layer of “live-ness” that elevated the whole affair.  As did Artaud’s whole vibe.  He had on big black boots, a fringed jacket and sunglasses.  He stood there playing Jesus and Mary Chain kind of drone guitar and it worked a treat. He also walked around a bit and added some feedback, really cementing the live feel.

But it was MacFayden’s rig that was so loud.  The drums were maxed out and echoing and I had earplugs in from the get go.

I slightly preferred the songs that MacFayden sang, but they weren’t radically different from each other.  I don’t think I’d listen to them as a studio band, but live they were pretty great.

 

  1. Departure (single)
  2. Never Satisfied ψ
  3. Consolation Prize ©
  4. Thank You ©
  5. Fracture
  6. 6 AM ψ
  7. Mad Mary Jones ψ

© Closure (2022)
⇔ Interzone (2020)
ψ Departure (2014)

 

 

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[ATTENDED: October 6, 2022] Cate Le Bon

Cate Le Bon has been on the top of my “bands to see list” for a few years now.  I have tried to see her a bunch of times to no avail.  In 2019, I sold Phish tickets so that I could see her at Boot & Saddle, but i was too burnt out to go.  Then in 2020, she was supposed to play with Kurt Vile, but that got cancelled twice.  She was scheduled to play Philly for a benefit show, but I didn’t want to see her in that kind of setting.  So, although I guess it has not been that long that I’ve wanted to see her, but prior to 2019, the last time she’d played Philly was 2017, and I feel like I found out about her right around that time. 

Whatever the case, I’d heard her shows were amazing and was really looking forward to it.

I went into the show not knowing her music all that well.  I knew a few albums and had listened to Pompeii (the new album which I knew she was touring), but I expected to be blown away by the performance.

And I wasn’t.

The whole show was fine.  The band (Euan Hinshelwood on sax, keyboards and guitar; Toko Yasuda on bass; Dylan Hadley on drums; and Alex Morrison on keyboards and guitar) were all very good.  There was a little too much sax for my liking, although I did enjoy the way Hinshelwood distorted the sound so it sounded like a guitar at times.  Toko Yasuda on bass was the highlight for me.  Her bass sounded great–ever fluid, deep and rumbly and just a nice low comforting presence amid all the rest of the higher notes.

I enjoyed the stage set up with Cate on a slightly raised platform off to the side (although I had adjusted myself to perfectly see the center microphone and there was a larger guy now blocking my view of Cate).  She mostly played a day-glo orange guitar shape as a sort of pentagon.

I think what it comes down to is that I think that Cate is pretty weird.  And I expected this concert to be weird in a wonderful way.  And really, it was just fine.  The lighting was muted colors.  Her voice is soft and chill.  It was all very laid back and mellow.  And that is simply not what I thought we’d be getting.

Obviously, this is my fault for having the entirely wrong expectations.  Not to mention her newest album Pompeii is pretty different from her weirder earlier stuff–the stuff that I was more familiar with.

Sometimes, you need to see an artist right when you first wanted to.

SETLIST

  1. Miami
  2. French Boys
  3. Pompeii
  4. Daylight Matters
  5. Moderation
  6. Running Away
  7. Typical Love *
  8. Mother’s Mother’s Magazines
  9. Magnificent Gestures
  10. Rock Pool ®
  11. Sad Nudes
  12. Mug Museum ϖ
  13. The Light
  14. Home to You
  15. Remembering Me
    encore
  16. Harbour 
  17. Dirt on the Bed
* single (2022)
¶ Pompeii (2022)
√ Reward (2019)
® Rock Pool EP (2017)

ϖ Mug Museum (2013)

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[ATTENDED: October 6, 2022] A. Savage

A. Savage is the main voice behind Parquet Courts.  His deadpan deep voiced delivery is pretty recognizable.

As a solo artist, he plays slightly quirky folk songs.

I knew this show wasn’t going to sell out, so I didn’t buy tickets ahead of time.  I actually had tickets to see Turnstile this even in Asbury Park, but I didn’t feel like that kind of show.  So I blew that off and came to see Cate.

Traffic was a little heavy and I wound up arriving midway through A. Savage’s first or second song.

I had listened to his solo album earlier in the week and I knew pretty much what to expect.  And that’s what I got.  Enjoyable enough folkie kinds of songs.

He is a funny performer with good banter.  After the first song I saw he said something like By the way this is it–just me and the guitar–nothing else is going on.

I really like Parquet Courts for how weird they are.  But this show was not weird at all (except for some of his lyrics).  He is a great guitar player.  Nothing fancy, no solos that I recall, but very solid rhythm with the ability to make the songs feel really full even though it was just him.

I happened to not love his slow delivery, though, so the set was just okay for me.

  1. Unknown new song
  2. Buffalo Calf Road *
  3. Pulcinella (Parquet Courts cover)
  4. Wild, Wild, Wild Horses
  5. Winter in the South *
  6. Elvis in the Army
  7. Unknown (new song)
  8. Phantom Limbo *
  9. Minor Strummer
  10. Ladies from Houston *

* Thawing Dawn 

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[ATTENDED: September 4, 2022] Built to Spill

I know that a Built to Spill show is going to be great.  But sometimes the crowd makes it hard to enjoy.  I was fairly sure this show would be poorly attended, and yet there were a lot of (drunk) people who knew Built to Spill very well.  Are they more popular than I realize?

I had seen them just four months earlier, but the opportunity to see them again at the reasonably close SteelStacks in Bethlehem meant that I was going to see them again.  I enjoyed his new lineup.  This is the third, possibly fourth lineup I’ve seen play with Doug.  Melanie Radford is now on bass (she also plays in Blood Lemon) and Teresa Esguerra on drums.

I love that Esguerra was on the side of the stage facing the other two (that’s how his band was set up with the previous trio as well).  This allowed for Esguerra  and Radford to communicate with each other while Doug was jamming.  And they had outstanding chemistry.

I hadn’t really gotten to see Radford much during Blood Lemon, but she totally let loose with Built to Spill.  Her bass playing was great and her sound was outstanding.  She also seemed to create some of the second-guitar melodies (instead of the bass lines) to make the songs sound even fuller. And then she would jump back with her hair flying a smile on her face.

I had seen Esguerra with Prism Bitch, but she was even more impressive tackling songs that I knew.  She was fast and powerful and seemed to be the engine pushing the songs forward not just keeping pace with them. (more…)

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