A. Ben Folds
So I spent last Tuesday taking the Metro from work over to the Wolf Trap National Park Theater to watch Rufus Wainwright, Guster and Ben Folds on tour together. I haven't been on speed before, but I suspect that the heart-pounding-in-your-throat-walking-on-the-moon-and-look-ma-no-hands feeling that I had for three hours that night was pretty close.
I didn't get a chance to jot down each artists' set list (although I'm sure you can find it online), but the show really played to the strengths of each set. It seemed that all three were truly fans of each others' music. Each artist showed up for the others' set and they effectively utilized the awesome outdoor acoustics that the venue provides. All in all, 6 men made enough noise to fill a national park for 4 hours. Not a bad average at all.
If you have the opportunity, try to catch these three together. Rufus' voice was absolutely beautiful and lush, and despite being a one man guy for his set, he utilized his full range and played off microphone effects and feedback to give everything the substance a band would have provided. Also, anytime you bring your mom out to be your accompanist you're going to have a positive response. Also, dressing as a cowboy and telling a (largely) conservative audience that you represented the cowboy foreign policy antics of our current president takes some guts. I believe my favorite line of the evening was, "Isn't it a beautiful evening? Man, it's so beautiful out here. And, it's just a shame, it's just too bad that George Bush is going to fuck this country up when it's so beautiful out today." Rock on Rufus.
Guster were high energy, switched up their set list so they played the gamut (from older, more bongo based tunes to their newer, more electric sounds), ran around and of course provided us with the obligatory (and yet always fun) Thundergod solo. This is my second Guster show in the last two years, and they do a wonderful job of keeping the energy level up. Granted, I also really like their music, but I think all in all they're able to vary things enough that it's not a stale experience. While I understand that that's an incredibly low threshold (stale/unstale), Guster are music to get high to, in the manner of OAR, (a little faster than Ben Harper/Jack Johnson and a different feel), so the standard wuss-rock scale cannot apply. It's whether or not enough fun stuff is going on musically and visually to keep you awake and seated when you have the munchies and want a nap.
But of course, the cherry on this musical sundae's top was Ben Folds. There are never enough words to describe him, his style, or the amount of fun you can have when he plays. From jumping around to engaging the audience with choral arrangements to getting old southern gentlemen out of their seats shakin' that thang, Ben knows how to keep his audience on their toes. And, beautifully enough, Guster came out for "Rock This Bitch" in which Ben played drums, Adam from Guster played piano (and maybe broke the chair), Ryan (guster) stuck to keyboards and Brian (guster) stuck to his drum kit. When Ben Folds blows by your town, don't miss him.
About a month ago, I saw the Get Up Kids, Thrice and Dashboard Confessional at SJ State's event center. Let me just say, when the median audience age is 15 the violence exacted by sexually repressed, testosterone powered young men and women is painful and severe. Let's just also say I wasn't anywhere near the pit and my entire body is still covered in bruises, 5 weeks later.
But on a positive and not as self-absorbed note, I came away from this show a Thrice fan. Let me state for the record, I have not been and never was a Thrice fan. While all my more emo and tortured pseudo-punk friends have raved about Thrice, they just didn't do it for me. However, I am a convert -- consider me born emo again. Seeing these boys live was mind blowing. They really rocked the show, and they sounded so much better than their studio work that not only did I find myself bopping to the beat, I wanted to buy all their albums and maybe foster one of their illegitimate children. The Get Up Kids, as always, were a great popping show. Meanwhile Dashboard (aka Chris Carraba, backed up by lackluster and background hanging band), as always, stands there and looks cute. It's his gimmick. Except his set list was older than my grandfather (a really sweet old guy, really) and altogether unremarkable/unexciting. Please, at least play something interesting and new, and no, I don't mean your single for Spider Man 2.
Also, if you are short on things to read or listen to, I recommend picking up The Believer Magazine's Music Edition (currently out at Moe's, Cody's, and online) and also, I would like to draw your emo attention to Angela Darling, who follow in the production shoes of Conor Oberst while striking a sound somewhere between Elliot Smith and everyobscureindierockbandyoucanthinkof.
Camille 5:51 PM