Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dirty Projectors/Sea & Cake and King Sparrow--Live in Chicago

So, if you've been following my Twitter updates since the beginning of the month, you know that I've really fallen in love with the new Dirty Projectors album. Aside from the fact that it's just, y'know, good, I think part of the reason why it's hit me so hard is that it's poised right in the center of the Venn diagram where my garden-variety indie rock tastes meet my recent penchant for annoyingly spazzypants stuff meets my ever-present regard for highly trained/highly skilled musicianship. I find myself listening to it through to the end of "Fluorescent Half Dome," then immediately scrolling back up to "Cannibal Resource" to start the journey again. It's astonishingly good.

And yet, as the calendar was inching closer to their free show at the Pritzker Pavilion, I found my enthusiasm and anticipation constantly tempered by the memory of how lackluster I'd found their set at the Pitchfork Music Festival last year. Gorgeous to behold and impressive to contemplate, but nothing that moved me viscerally. Well, I don't know if it's a function of my liking Bitte Orca more than Rise Above or if another year of touring and a brand new set of songs has kicked their stage show to a new level or what, but, as I hash-tagged from my after-set Tweet: #mind=blown.

It goes without saying that these guys are brilliant musicians, but what I saw Monday night was, perhaps more importantly, a brilliant band. I had an unexpectedly good seat way down in front, rather than out on the lawn, so I was able to soak everything up with a minimum of distraction (which probably helped my feelings of goodwill). Their trademark technical virtuosity was definitely on full display, but they were also overflowing with all the expansiveness and vitality that I'd missed in them last year. Of course, the increased prominence of Angel Deradoorian and Amber Coffman helps this enormously, but Longstreth himself seems to be coming into his own in much the same way that Kevin Barnes was on those first tours behind Hissing Fauna; it's clear that he's finally, truly comfortable with his idiosyncrasies as a musician and performer, which has allowed him to relax into his talent much more fully, trusting that it's going to do the work for him rather than him having to do the work on behalf of his talent. There's just this abundance of warmth emanating from him now. It's beautiful.

They played through all the highest highs of Bitte Orca ("Useful Chamber," of course, along with my current personal fave "Temecula Sunrise," as well as "Remade Horizon" with its insanely intricate harmonies that got the place going bonkers early on in the set and "Stillness Is the Move," aka this summer's unbeatable jam) and a short suite from Rise Above. I think the song they closed out with may have been a cover, but I couldn't tell you of what.

[Apparently the band was in a nasty car accident on their way from Detroit to Toronto in the subsequent days, but Pitchfork reports that everybody's doing OK.]

Theirs was a ridiculously tough act to follow, and true to form, the Sea and Cake didn't really try. Which isn't to say S&C put on a bad show; not at all. It's just that they're such consummate professionals that it really doesn't seem like anything would phase them. The scenester audience started its mass exodus as soon as the DPs were off stage, which I found tacky but not unexpected, but, personally, I felt like it was such a treat to just get to kick back and let their sound wash over me on such a perfect summer night. (Also, J. Hop's term "buttery sambas" has been making me giggle nonstop for the past two days. It's the kind of rock crit description that CTLA and I probably would have made fun of a few years ago, but now I just kind of am delighted by how right on but simultaneously affectionate and silly it is.)

I'm currently having computer troubles, so I can't get my few photos off my camera and onto my at-home laptop for uploading to Flickr, so I'm going to post a link to awesome local photographer Robert Loerzel's photoset from the show instead. They're much better than my shots anyway.

Afterward, I hightailed it up to Schubas for a King Sparrow show that had some awesome hype machine muscle behind it: a write-up from Chicago's own DeRo a few days prior and some prime-time love from Metromix in that morning's Red Eye. There was an impressively sizable crowd in attendance (esp. for a 10 pm show on a Monday night), and the guys definitely delivered. Though "Sightseers" will probably never not be my favorite song, I kept hearing other little things that I'd forgotten how much I loved: that cascading instrumental bridge in "Forest," the bouncy little pre-verse turnarounds in "Bones and Skin," and of course the overall sexy ferocity of "All's Cinnamon." I also love how their general collaborative kickassery prevents me from isolating any one element of their sound to the exclusion of the others; they work as such a seamless unit that a gush that starts out about John's drumming inevitably starts to transform in my brain into a gush about Sean's bass lines, which always leads back around to Eric's guitar and vocals. In short, these guys are the real deal. The Monday night rock show, triumphant once again.


annie said...

it is a rare skill to be as articulate and expressive as you are about music. ask me how a show was and i'll say something along the lines of "awesome," "eh," or "it was great but [blank] was obnoxious." i love your concert write-ups and all the little things you pick up on and remember later.

Brendan McNamara said...

Going to see DP on Friday here in Seattle, one of my last live shows I will get to see here before I move to Alaska for a year of many things but probably not much live concert attending. (Last show will be Sonic Youth headlining the Cap Hill Block Party so going out with a bang!)