It turns out I'm missing the likes of Fleet Foxes and Clem Snide here in London by mere weeks, but I did manage to score a resell ticket to Bat for Lashes tonight. I don't know too much about BfL except that I like the single "What's a Girl to Do," and the lead singer, Natasha Khan (pretty much the whole of Bat for Lashes), has a truly lovely voice.
Tonight Khan floated on stage with her cute little upturned nose, loads of silvery shimmery eyeshadow, black fingerless gloves, and a fluttery victorian-style tie-on collar made of tulle. At the beginning of the show most of her hair was tucked into the collar but by the end after rocking on a couple of numbers ("For this one, I want to see you dahncing," she directed us), most of it had gotten loose.
Her voice reminds me of bjork in strength and range, only less piercing (which to me is very good). The new album is a bit slow, but the mood of the show didn't demand much more than that. When she thanked everyone genuinely for cheering, the guy in front of me turned to the guy beside him and said, "she's so SWEET." And he's right. When the microphone gave her raging feedback, she apologized in the transition to the next song and said "I'm gonna make it all bettah." At which point she got out these wind-chimey things and sang what can be best descrbed as a gorgeous lullaby. It was a great show: Khan held to her reputation for the fantastical, while still giggling at the shouts from the audience. I really don't get to see women singers often enough.
Last night I went with my friends K and M to see the Magnetic Fields at the Overture Center in Madison, a lovely venue. click here for photos. We were only able to stay for the first set because K's lung decided to rebel against her, but the set was long and quite good. They played a mix of songs from the new album, Distortion (which I haven't yet listened to), and also from I and the soundtrack to Eben and Charlie, and of course a few from 69 Love Songs (including, hooray, "Papa was a rodeo").
Stephin Merritt was a complete grouchy pants, complaining repeatedly when people would clap, and referring to the audience as "they." (As in, to Claudia Gonson, "if you wouldn't pause, they wouldn't do that awkward clapping thing.") But Gonson made up for that unpleasantness (I know, I know, it's his thing) with her clever and charming chatter about kettle korn and drag queens bitching each other out (the subject matter of a song from Distortion). I have to say too I am a complete sucker for the cello, and last night was no exception: musically, the cello pulled everything together, even as it made Merritt's sourness rise and evaporate.
As was probably evident from my previous post, the Pitchfork music
festival was really, really great. So great that blogos is going to
give a few little awards. Feel free to add your own!
still rolling around in my head, four days later: Fleet Foxes
best food stand, hands down: Chicago Diner. Though this may not be
fair since I kept going back and therefore did not try the other
yummy-looking food. I mean: A music festival with thai noodles and
indian plates? Forget it. The vegan ice cream cones get second place,
and also the beer.
biggest surprise rockin' performance: the Dodo's (yes, that's how they punctuate it. those indie kids!)
best swag: saucony (I think) was distributing sweatbands that said "winner" or "loser." we got one of each. Practical!
most English professor friendly: Vampire Weekend. They sing about oxford commas and mansard roofs, for crying out loud.
Least thorough bag checker: ours, on Saturday. She was too busy
squawking about how tall my and John's kids are going to be that she
didn't even care that our water bottles were sealed.
Most thorough bag checker: ours, on Sunday. All those people who breezed by the
bag checkers with bongs and weed and whatnot have us decoys to thank.
Our guy unrolled each anorak and dug down in every pocket in my
backpack. And there are many.
Best recovery: Dodo's lead singer Meric Long, whose chair broke while
he was rocking out (see above, number 3), and who continued to sing
while laying on the floor until they brought him another chair.
Saturday at Pitchfork will be tough to beat, and it seemed to me like the day of the vocals. For us, it started with Fleet Foxes, whose super-cute lead singer
Robin Pecknold belted out folksy, choral-y tunes from a chair, all hunched over his guitar. His voice is pretty amazing. His "Winter Hymnal" really got the crowd's attention--a collective gasp preceded the applause. And by the time the band cleared out so that he could do "Oliver James" solo, even the chatty pot-smokers in front of us were utterly quiet.
Vampire Weekend was the perfect boppy happy-hour band, and they gave probably the crispest performance. Their lead, Ezra Koenig, also has some nice range, and they gave a fun great show, despite the mud-wrestling fest beside us that was getting as many cheers as they were.
The Hold Steady's Craig Finn lent some throat to it all, though as JM pointed out (and then I texted to E!), during that show all the dudes were nodding their heads to the beat, while all the women were texting or looking bored. C called them the "man band."
And as expected, Animal Collective was incredible. I always thought Panda Bear was doing all that yelping, but I learned last night that it was mostly the lead singer, Avey Tare. I know I've been going on about the awesome voices, but I don't mean to take away from the band effort. They are, after all, a collective. So here's a clip of an interlude from another show. It's a bit they also did last night.
Oh, and we decided that Vampire Weekend looks like our students, Animal Collective looks like our grad students, and Craig Finn looks like us.