Muy Tropical: Gilberto Gil & Devendra Banhart @ The Bowl

July 3, 2008

Sunday’s show at the bowl was billed as a trans-generation, trans-genre, trans-national event and they weren’t lying. The night was chalk full of “trans.” First of all, it felt trans-locational. The Hollywood Bowl has a way of feeling like classy restaurant, a city park, and, during Gilberto Gil’s set anyways, a cruise liner.

The show opened with a special, one time only, incarnation of The Album Leaf who were joined by Mike Heron of the Scottish psychedelic band The Incredible String Band and his daughter Georgia Seddon. The Album Leaf set the tone with a couple of songs that had dramatic strings and keys moving slowly above a stuttery drum and bass clicks that would have been at home in a postal service song. The Album Leaf’s sound has evolved since the last album I’d heard from them, 2001’s Someday I’ll Be On Time and the contrast between the electronic elements and the organic sounds of the guitars and violins was much more fully realized. However, the addition of lyrics wasn’t necessarily as progressive and for the most part stayed within classic confines such as “I want you here, you are here/I don’t want to see you leave.” At a certain point the music should be able to convey such broad emotional strokes without explicit statement. Mike Heron came out on stage to take the songmatter a little farther out from the literal. The band’s Incredible String Band covers were livelier but Heron’s voice didn’t hold up as well under the stress. He did much better when he followed the Album Leaf’s somber instrumentation with his own moody Scott-tinged delivery. While The Album Leaf may have advanced since the last time I heard them they haven’t yet completely overcome their tendency to be a little boring, Devendra Banhart and Gilberto Gil seemed to be on a mission to spread as much energy into the Los Angeles night sky as humanly possible.

Although Devendra Banhart was listed first on the advertisements for this show, he came out next. I suppose it would look a bit presumptuous to take the headlining slot over someone who has been an icon for at least forty years. That is one of my favorite things about Banhart, he is the opposite of presumption and conceit. I have liked Banhart ever since I got my hands on Nino Rojo when it came out but I have become veritably ga-ga over the man within the last week since I saw him perform with Megapuss. He is absolutely delightful to watch. The nation’s, nay, the world’s youth is lucky that Banhart is not inclined to be a cult leader because business would undoubtedly be good. We would all find ourselves to be long hair children. Banhart opened with “Little Yellow Spider,” which was a great choice because it allowed him to show off how good he is at manipulating his voice. Banhart is exceptionally good at infusing a natural energy that emulates the environments that he describes. His voice fluttered and chirped over bubbling brook guitars. He fluctuates the tones so that the sound jumps out at you in a way that can best be described like wearing 3-D glasses for your ears.

Banhart embraced the theme of the night and played some of his non English songs in addition to addressing the crowd in English and Spanish. As always Banhart took the time to joke with his band and there was a moment when Banhart and Noah Georgeson seemed oblivious to the crowd as they joked back and forth away from their mics balled up in laughter. Save for that one instance of exclusivity, Banhart treated the entire audience like one big Noah Georgeson; leaning in towards the microphone as though he was telling us a hilarious secret through giddy lips. If I were forced to describe the entire evening with one song it would be Banhart’s finale, “Carmencita”, which melded a South American vibe with 60’s psychedelic echoes and a folk perspective. I couldn’t think of a better transition to Gil’s set.

I knew Gilberto Gil was an iconic figure in world music before attending this concert but that’s about all I knew. I expected to see a spirited older man walk out on stage and play some groovy classic bossa nova. It turns out though that Gil has been a constant innovator during his whole career and has continued to modernize his music ever since he developed the Tropicalism style that resulted in his imprisonment and decade long exile. Gil’s band had more technical equipment on stage then both opening acts combined and the music they produced was far from conservative. Between songs Gil gave the audience brief history lessons and described the influences that had come together to produce the different styles he was playing. What all of his songs had in common was an invigorating pace. Gil, 66, hopped, danced and ran across that stage like a teenager and his energy got a huge response from the crowd, at points it felt as though the entire bowl was on its feet and people were running and dancing up and down the aisles. Banhart joined Gil for the epic jam under the craziest lighting I have ever seen at a concert. Banhart lent some vocals to the song but seemed content to spend most of his time dancing about excitedly next to his idol. The evening ended as the two singers bounced offstage arm in arm.

(photo credit: Mathew Imaging)

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Megapuss and Lauren Dukoff @ the Hammer

June 21, 2008

conservative dress

When I arrived at the Hammer at 8:30 Wednesday night I thought I’d be lucky to catch the opener but when I got out to the atrium all I saw were people milling about enjoying the nice L.A. weather. It felt more like a summer patio party than anything else. Which must have been all part of Megapuss’ ingenious plan. Megapuss spent the hour between the eight o clock start time and their set mingling with the crowd in full costume and ready to go so by the time they did leave whatever discussions they were having to walk the couple of feet to the stage I felt like I was hanging out and watching a friend’s show. Which, while not absolutely essential to the Megapuss experience, is incalculably important. So where was the opener? Whether or not this social hour signifies a different conception of a show’s beginning on Megapuss’ part or is just a result of the mechanics of a show at the hammer, this hour was effectively the opening act. I would like to think though, that Megapuss had a certain feeling they wanted to create. There just has to be some sort of preface to seeing five grown men wearing skirts made of inflatable penises over tights, safari gear, and a vest of a wookie-wildebeest hybrid creature. In this case there were two. The second was their formal introduction in which the crowd was informed that every song we’d be hearing had been written in under ten minutes. By my calculations, on the conservative side, Banhart should be releasing an album every week.

Because from what I could tell Megapuss is pretty much the people that bring us Devendra Banhart records. Megapuss has so far been billed as a Devendra Banhart/Greg Rogove joke project. But Rogove, who drums for Priestbird, is a member of Banhart’s band as are Noah Georgeson, who played a comically skinny red bass, and the drummer who I was unable to positively I.D. (later found out it was Fabrizio Moretti from the strokes) Aziz Ansari of Human Giant also appeared as a special guest. The thing is, for the amount of time that probably went into these songs they were really good. And in terms of the fun factor of the whole project, it was through the roof. That’s why I could almost believe the quote that naturalismo posted on his blog where Banhart says “to our surprise and shock, we started writing songs, and we’ve written eight songs that I’m really proud of and excited about. We’re gonna record a real record.” These guys probably play together enough that they could make songs in their sleep and the breezy folky sound that they have really suits that type of spontaneity. Even when the drummer took over the mic and forgot the words he was able to just ad lib some with with a bubbly beat and tie it all together with a “Shabop Shalom” before the “what it is” refrain without losing anything at all from the song. Every mistake was met with boyish grins from the rest of the band that added to the feeling that I was watching a group of children that had somehow landed in men’s bodies perform their ideal comedy album. Devendra’s “dick skirt” pretty much set the tone of the set. He stopped the first song in protest of his picture being on the projector because it was “just too creepy.” Throughout the starts and stops the band promised to keep playing a Tears For Fear cover until their demands were met. It was really quite charming and I discovered that Banhart has pretty good comedic timing. I should also mention that at this time Rogove was playing what looked to be a bow and arrow. The instrumentation was pretty standard for the most part though with the exception of “Surfin” which had a guest harpist and where Georgeson took a break from his bass duties to blow a mean conch shell. If I do say so “Surfin” is one of the finest re-creations of the feeling one gets floating on surf. And seeing Georgeson hold that conch up with pride was one of my favorite moments of the show. The top one would have to be when Georegeson’s bass got caught on Banhart’s skirt and he had to hold up on a song saying “wait, my bass is caught on your dick-skirt.” That’s just something I could never imagine hearing. Male genitalia seems to be Megapuss’s bread and butter. They were everywhere. On their persons, in their songs, animated onto the projector slides. At one point a very happy, and very naked, Banhart and Rogrove were animated to look like they were jumping on an off camera trampoline slowly coming into frame to reveal some prosthetic dongs. That’s not to say there weren’t some really touching moments. “Chicken Tits” was a great song to “hold your special someone” to and had an old doo-wop feel to it; quite soulful.

I realize this rambling but I’ve tried to write a review three different times and I just don’t think there’s any other way it could be. I think Megapuss would be pleased by that. Banhart said “we wrote alot of songs, these were the worst. Which is kind of the point of this band.” You try translating that type of show into a blog post. Here’s the setlist:

To the Love

Adam and Steve

Lavender Blimp

Duck People Duck Man

Mister Meat

Crop Circle Jerk 94

Chicken Tits

Surfin

Hollywood

Hamman

I’ll leave you with my favorite Human Giant video

*edit* many thanks to naturalismo I caught a couple of pretty big mistakes on here thanks to reading his entry.


StereoCache Launch!

June 19, 2008

Stereo Cache is officially a go. This is my first foray into blogging and I’m sure that over time through trial and error my approach to this blog and the topics covered will become more refined as I get a better sense of what I want this blog to be and perhaps (with some luck) what you would like it to be. StereoCache as I have it currently envisioned will be primarily about music but may expand to include any type of media that catches my fancy or that I think is exceptionally interesting. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to categorize posts, I’m still getting a feel for all of the tools available on this site. You’ll probably be seeing quite a few live reviews in the immediate future. I just started writing live reviews for another site but there isn’t really any way for me to receive feedback on them and I’d appreciate any comments you could give me.

Expect by the end of the week

This is going to be a busy week for me

Thanks for stopping by. If you’ve seen this then my cache is now our cache.

not the newest by any means but I thought it was appropriate. Oh that Jemina Pearl.