Sunday, September 09, 2007
Hideout Block Party 2007
A few thoughts on this year's Hideout Block Party:
There was a lot I missed this weekend, for a number of reasons, which is both kind of a bummer and kind of a great thing about the overwhelming casualness that the Hideout engenders in a person.
It's a super-huge pain in the ass for me to get to the Hideout without a car, but, that being said, it's always kind of great to be down there in such a grittily urban area of the city, with the warehouses and whatnot. It makes me love Chicago in a different way.
Another thing that makes me love Chicago: all our fucking kick-ass local bands. Scotland Yard Gospel Choir! The Changes! The 1900s! Had I but world enough and time, I would become a psycho groupie stalker for them all, for it is such a gift to have such awesome music being made right in one's own backyard.
Speaking of groupies, Cynthia Plaster Caster was on hand to introduce the 1900s' set with great giggliness and affection. It was adorable. Also, of course she loves the 1900s; as CJN put it, "they're like to Fleetwood Mac what the Muppet Babies are to the Muppets."
This is the second time I've seen Bloc Party as headliners in a festival setting, and this is the second time they've completely blown me away live. I'm still trying to reconcile the thing in me that fights against their albums so hard (as I've said before, it took me forever to warm up to Silent Alarm and I'm still struggling to get into A Weekend in the City lo these many months after its release this year) with the borderline transcendent experiences I've had seeing them in concert. I'm beginning to formulate a lame and half-assed theory that there's something kind of insular and locked off in their albums, that they're all about Kele's self-loathing and self-righteousness, which makes them kind of inwardly focused and impenetrable. But then live on stage, the band is nothing so much as a grandly florid, outwardly blooming flower. They just give, give, give to the audience, without any gimmicks or affectations of cultivated "showmanship" or whatever. I think they said this is their seventh (seventh!) American tour, and yet they really retain an exuberance in performance that makes them come off as the happiest kids in school who are just totally geeked to have an audience to play for. And, it bears repeating: the melodies, my God, the melodies. I nearly got choked up a couple times; they're that stunningly beautiful. And speaking of beautiful: Kele Okereke for indie rock pin-up boy of the year! Sososo cute.
I'm seriously fucking pissed off at the CTA (not you, Dr. Andrews) for making me so late on Saturday that I missed Art Brut's set. Grr.
The Frames were all Irish delightful, as one would expect them to be. Hansard's just got that thing in his voice, where it shreds a little bit when he's really going for the note, that's totally appealing. (After their set, I heard some girl behind me in the beer line saying that she never thought she'd hear another vocalist who affects her the same way that Kurt Cobain did, and I can kind of see her point.) He's also quite the raconteur, as one would expect him to be. A lot of his introductions to the songs, mostly about all-consuming young love and its attendant silly extremes of behavior and emotion, were more interesting than the songs (or at least the lyrics) themselves. In contrast to Bloc Party, they did go a bit gimmicky with their set (getting the audience to sing along multiple times, bringing two girls up on stage to sing the harmony part from "Falling Slowly," and closing out with a cover of "Where Is My Mind" complete with The Blue Ribbon Glee Club doing the "OOH-OOH!" bit), but I guess that's appropriate for a band like that playing a biggish festival show like that. I did think it was extremely classy, though, that they didn't mention the movie at all. Just came out and played the gig like a regular band, with no "you may recognize me from..." self-promotion.
Andrew Bird was, naturally, fantastic. I don't quite know what was going on with his unfortunate all-denim ensemble, but I ended up listening to most of the show with my eyes closed anyway, so it hardly mattered. He played a great mix of stuff from The Mysterious Production of Eggs and Armchair Apocrypha; there was a particularly inspired segue from a truncated version of his Dr. Stringz ditty into the full-frontal attack of "Fake Palindromes." The band was tight, tight, tight; Martin Dosh was doing some shit on the drums (I'm thinking here particularly of "Dark Matter," not to mention, of course, his Radiohead-esque composition "Simple X") that's just so gorgeous and musical and exciting and smart, and noticeably so, without being too in-your-face about it. It's always great to hear Bird and his band play, especially after releasing one of my favorite albums of 2007.