Monday, April 14, 2008

From Totally Blown Speakers

Last night, Thers and I trekked out to see The New Pornographers at the State Theater in Ithaca, New York. It was the youngest show we'd been to in ages--Ithaca's obviously a massive college town (the population triples during the semester), and it seemed that this show was primarily marketed to college students. So we were, by a significant margin, older than most (not all) the people there. (When did it get to be a thing to bring your kids to shows? We saw a fair few tweens--I dunno, I sort of want to not be with my kids when I go out, but maybe that's just me.) But I definitely felt my inner codger working, mostly because these kids were so still and respectful--but it was a rock show, you know? It was in a theater, but then so were FoW and Squeeze when we went to see them last year, and the audience for that show had a ton more energy.

Not that this audience didn't give plenty of feedback. Early on, the band insisted that all comments from the audience include the word "totally," a goofy request which was largely observed. Neko was clearly struggling with a bear of a cold which kneecapped her ability to rock us back with her characteristic blast, but her sense of humor was just fine, thank you. The last time we saw them, all the female vocals were handled by Kathryn Calder, who has a lovely voice, but seemed a bit intimidated by the boys. Neko has no such qualms, and even seems to encourage Kathryn to tease right back. The audience ate it up, guffawing at Newman and Case's cracks, even at one point inappropriately, causing Newman to chide them ("Do I have to tell you how to react?") Case's good-humored attempt at "These Are the Fables" didn't completely work, but when she reached for notes that weren't quite in her infected throat, the audience responded with a roar of support. She thanked us for making her feel like Evel Knievel attempting a jump. Calder seemed willing to cover for Neko--after all, she's been covering for her not being there at all--but with Neko there and not wholly functional, it was a little weird. There seemed to be moments when neither one knew who was taking the line, others where they both did, drowning Newman right out. As Thers noted, however, the confusion is understandable: "covering for Neko" is probably not generally an issue.

Given the circumstances, the band's energy was terrific (only Dan Bejar was missing), but the sound--oh, man. There's a special circle of hell for bad sound guys, and this guy will be right in the middle of it, with a constant low hum and feedback, and clearly with no idea when and how to adjust the volume or different parts of the songs. (Hint: Twin Cinema has a guitar solo, so Todd's guitar should probably get a boost just there. Kthnxbai.) It made me rethink my generally tepid response to he Robitussiny stylings of the openers, Okkervil River--maybe all that feedback wasn't quite intentional, and besides, their drummer was adorable.

But my love for The New Pornographers continues unabated. It was a great show, and I wanted to bring Neko home and give her some soup.

Set List: My Rights Vs. Yours, Stacked Crooked, All the Old Showstoppers, These Are the Fables, Use It, All the Things that Go to Make Heaven and Earth, The Laws Have Changed, Challengers, Testament to Youth in Verse, Twin Cinema, It's Only Divine Right, Mutiny I Promise You, Mass Romantic, Adventures in Solitude, Sing Me Spanish Techno, The Bleeding Heart Show. Encore: Don't Bring Me Down, My Slow Descent into Alcoholism.


SteveNS said...

Sounds awesome! It's all the non-polished, unplanned stuff that makes live shows so fun.

steve simels said...

I think we can all agree that "My Slow Descent into Alcoholism" is the greatest song title of all time.

Cleveland Bob said...


I have to concur with your assessment of the average concert crowd of that particular demographic.

When we saw the Decemebrists a couple of years ago was when it first struck me and since then, shows of Spoon, New Pornographers, Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse and We Are Scientists have yielded the same emotionless crowd of youngsters. I don't get them.

Of course this weekend I went to see the Spencer Davis Group with Joey Molland from Badfinger as the warm-up and saw a slightly different lot. Joey rocked.

The crowd was a little livelier, but relied primarily on shaking their canes and walkers as a show of support.

In truth, I think Spencer Davis may actually have been wearing nurse's shoes...

steve simels said...

It made me rethink my generally tepid response to the Robitussiny stylings of the openers

The Robitussiny stylings...


Have I mentioned I love you?

SteveNS said...

I would razor out my own kidney for a New Pornographers album of ELO covers.

Or better yet, AC Newman co-writing new stuff with Jeff Lynne.... ooh, brain 'splodey.

Zap Rowsdower said...

I would razor out my own kidney for a New Pornographers album of ELO covers.

IIRC, there is a cover of "Don't Bring Me Down" on an iTunes-exclusive album from an Apple in-store they did in SoHo.

But when I saw them back in October, the set list was almost the same as this one. Glad you guys could get a night off and enjoy some NPs!

TMink said...

"There's a special circle of hell for bad sound guys"

Amen sister. And it is sadly well populated.


RockSteadyVybes said...

Loved reading that! thanks for the scoop..had some friends go, and I wish i had gone! i'll catch them eventually

Ian said...

Really accurate description of the show. I live near Ithaca so I've seen a lot of shows at the State. Sometimes (New Pornographers) I'm a huge fan of the artist. Other times (Los Lobos) I'm a much more casual fan. I have to say that the Ithaca live music fans, regardless of age, are very subdued. And the sound at the State is consistently crappy.