Category Archives: Concerts

Think About The Future

It’s dreadful how I’ve neglected my blogs this week. What can I say? I’ve been looking to the future, little earbuds. I’m hopeful that this year my future will include a return trip in May to Leipzig, Germany, for Wave Gotik Treffen, the world’s largest “dark” music gathering. The two that I’ve attended thus far have been amazing, a real feast for the senses. Though I look forward to seeing friends from around the globe as well as viewing lots of incredible outfits, the music is, at its core, what this gathering is all about.

I love getting to indulge my appetite for industrial, ebm, new wave, death rock, and classic goth all in one weekend, but the bands that I get the most excited about are usually somewhere in the ethereal/neoclassical/medieval realm. Not to say that I necessarily love Ataraxia more than Alien Sex Fiend, but living as I do in a decidedly rural section of the American South, the chances of me getting to see my favourite neofolk acts is slim to none. I was able to see Alien Sex Fiend play a club in London several years ago, but until I went to WGT 19, I didn’t even realize that Ataraxia were still together, let alone touring. That’s one of the great things about WGT, in my opinion: you not only get exposed to tons of new and fabulous bands, but you also rediscover some that you used to love a lifetime ago.

The band selection has yet to be posted on the main WGT site (which is the norm this early in the game) but Last.fm once again seems to have the hook-up. I’m excited at the prospect of getting to see Qntal, Steven Severin, and Funker Vogt live, but I’ve also been checking out bands that are new to me, such as this one, Irfan.

I definitely hear Dead Can Dance in there (who are supposed to go on tour this year, squee!) but it’s also a bit more Middle Eastern and earthy. Overall, not too shabby. I’ll probably end up buying at least one album by this group, and should the gods smile favorably upon me, I hope to see them perform live at WGT this year. I can already smell music festival season in the air. With any luck, I’ll get to hear some in person, too.

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Concert Review: Pixies

At long last, little earbuds, I write up my review of seeing the Pixies last month at the Tennessee Theatre. It was my second time seeing them live, and I must admit, it was a slight letdown.

When I saw the Pixies for the very first time at a music festival in Atlanta in 2005, it was amazing. Mind-blowing, even. One of the best concerts of my life. My friend and I went running to the “alternative” stage, having just caught the opening of Tom Petty at the “main” stage. (I love them both, but Pixies almost always wins out in my book, so we compromised by watching Tom do one song, then ran like our butts were on fire to make it back for the Pixies.) It began raining and I heard the opening strains of “Debaser” as we flung our bodies down the asphalt hill. Once at the stage the adrenaline never stopped. The Pixies sounded as fresh and incredible live as on any of their albums. Hearing so many beloved songs performed live was incredible. I thrashed and danced around so hard that I lost my star necklace. Basically, it was AWESOME. I knew that it would be hard to top that performance. But this was a smaller venue, and I procured kick-ass seats! And the Pixies were performing Doolittle in its entirety, one of my fav albums of all time! How could it be anything other than stupendous?

To begin with, the band just seemed kind of… tired. They’re now on the second year of their Doolittle Lost Cities tour (playing towns they’d never played before), and while I appreciate finally getting to see one of my favourite bands play so close to home, I was also hoping for more energy. Back in 2005 they were freshly reunited and not hemmed in by a set playlist. There was fire in them and in the air that night. Not so last November. At first ten minutes of avant guard footage that resembled German horror pornography was projected on a screen behind an empty stage. I get it, you’re post-punk and weird and cool, can we get on with the show now? After making the audience endure that, I figured it would all be worth it to hear the blazing opening strings of “Debaser” live once more. This was not to be the case. Once the strange film faded out, the band nonchalantly shuffled out onto the stage and picked up their instruments. “Hey, we’re gonna play a B-side now,” said Kim Deal. None of the three guys even looked at the audience. Then the Pixies proceeded to play four B-sides I’d never heard before.

"I like the pretty lights..."

My own energy was flagging by this point. I wanted to hear “Debaser,” damn it, not these watery renditions of songs that even the band seemed to hate listening to as they played. But at least Kim interacted with the audience. David Lovering made a few comments before “La La Love You,” but otherwise the guys couldn’t give a f**k. I get it, y’all are super hip and all, but I paid a truckload of money for my tickets, could you maybe acknowledge the audience just a teensy bit once in a while? Otherwise I might just as well have stayed home and played your albums really loudly. But Kim Deal was awesome. Loved her, loved her grey sweatshirt, loved her straggly hair, loved her whole onstage persona. As my older sister said, guys in alterna rock don’t have to dress up, why should she? And I agree.

The one, the only, Kim Deal. Always the best part of any Pixies concert.

FINALLY they launched into “Debaser” and the rest of Doolittle. They still seemed a bit lacking in the energy department, and this continued until they completed Doolittle and its subsequent singles. The music sounded good, they were just lacking in stage presence as a whole. Their show seemed to rely mostly on the huge screen behind them and the pre-filmed visuals they projected onto it. Then there were funky lights sometimes, and other times they performed half of their songs in the dark! If I wanted to watch weird videos set to Pixies songs, I’d just watch YouTube. I was there and I wanted to see their faces, not some art school project.

"Hey, who is that up on that darkened stage?" "Dunno. The Smiths, maybe?"

The crowd was an odd mix of people. There were old hippies who seemed intent on drinking and smoking pot (the latter of which is the dumbest idea ever in a theatre as small as the Tennessee, because you willbe caught), then there were the “free spirits” who insisted on belly dancing in the aisles and knocking into anyone and everyone in their vicinity, and finally there was the ever-present contingent of fist-pumping frat guys. I was pretty surprised to see the latter, but I guess in a town as football-heavy as Knoxville, if someone’s serving beer, frat guys will appear. I couldn’t help but giggle at one couple, though: a girl was pogoing and throwing the devil horns and rocking out, and her fratty-looking guy friend sat by gloomily playing on his phone the whole time.

Joey Santiago does some fancy guitar work as Black Francis smiles creepily. If he ever smiled like that at me, I'd just turn around and run.

Still, all of that aside, the Pixies are still the Pixies, even on an off day. It was great to see so many songs that I’ve loved for years performed live. I was completely stoked and revved up for “I Bleed” until a group of people with the opening band stood in the aisle directly in front of me and my sisters, blocking our view. However, I literally screamed so loud that they moved. (I don’t relish it, but I can be obnoxious if the occasion arises.) Once the band was through with Doolittle they played a couple more singles, including one that I didn’t know but was kind of cool because the lights were dimmed and the entire theatre was filled to the brim with fog. Then they played the slowed-down Pump Up The Volume version of “Wave of Mutilation,” which was a nice bonus, then they were done with all things Doolittle, and the band seemed as though they were shrugging off a heavy burden and breathing in huge gulps of fresh air. They launched into a buoyant version of “Caribou,” which was so cool to hear live, followed by the classic “Where Is My Mind?” during which the stage set-up actually enhanced the song with the swirling universe of stars in the darkened auditorium. They ended the show with “Gigantic,” which is as great a closing number as anything.

Not a scene from a horror movie, just a really cool concert moment.

Overall, I’m glad that I went to the concert. I could never have forgiven myself if the Pixies played my hometown and I didn’t go. And yet, I saw The Psychedelic Furs and Dolly Parton earlier this year, and both put on far better shows, in my opinion. Dolly did the incredible and seemingly impossible feat of filling the biggest stadium in Knoxville with sound and energy, so much so that it brought me to tears. She made it feel cozy and intimate as well as rollicking and welcome all at once. Dolly Parton is a phenomenal performer, and if you ever have the chance, definitely see her live! Equally as impressive were The Pychedelic Furs, at the other end of the spectrum, playing one of (if not the) smallest theatre venues in Knoxville. The show wasn’t even sold out, but the Furs made the entire place light up as they filled the room with vivacity and sexiness. Granted, Richard Butler is way sexier than Black Francis in his demeanor alone. (I always got the distinct impression that Black Francis is something of a dick.) However, the Furs were also on a single album tour, playing all of Talk Talk Talkplus their greatest hits, and they were amazing. Even the songs that I wasn’t familiar with sucked me right in. I don’t know if it’s because the Pixies have been on tour for so long or if the cold of Knoxville just took it out of them, but I was hoping for a bit more from one of my favourite bands of all time. Maybe they just need to break up for another decade, then reunite again. If that were to happen, I would recommend seeing the Pixies as soon as they got back together, before the weight of their own greatness drags them down once more.

"With your feet on the air and your head on the ground, try this trick and spin it, yeah!"

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Concert Review: Dolly Parton

There are a handful of artists who are very dear to me because I grew up listening their music. John Denver and Fleetwood Mac will always be held high in my heart because I was raised on their songs. But Dolly Parton might be the highest of them all, not only because of her music, but because she’s practically local. When she talks about East Tennessee summers and hanging with kinfolk and Sundays at church I’m right there with her, because even though we were born in different generations, some things remain the same in specific areas of the map. Whenever I’m abroad and I need to hear a bit of home, I listen to Dolly and she brings me straight back to the hills of East Tennessee.

I’d seen the wondrous Ms. Parton perform a couple of songs at Dollywood, but until last Sunday evening I’d never had the pleasure of a full concert by the lady of the hour. Considering that it’s been twenty-five years since she last performed in Knoxville, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one anxious to see her show! I was pleased to discover that she is every bit as magical, endearing, and uproariously hilarious live as she comes across in interviews and on film. The giant curtains covering the huge stage added to the sense of anticipation, and when Dolly finally emerged I got both tears in my eyes and tingles down to my toes. I tried to take a few pictures to share here, but the angle of my seat combined with the spotlight made it impossible to capture any decent image, so I put my camera away and simply enjoyed the concert as it was, making my memories the old-fashioned way.

Ganked concert image from the web (please don't sue): Dolly proudly wears her "Big Orange."

Dolly emerged guns a blazin’ and opened with her newer classic “Better Get To Livin'” and melded that into “Walkin’ On Sunshine,” a song which I have always loathed until I heard it coming from Dolly’s lips. You have to hand it to Ms. Parton, she certainly knows her fans: while she performed several selections from both her new album, Better Day, as well as a set from her upcoming film Joyful Noise, she also included a heaping dose of the classics: “Jolene,” “My Tennessee Mountain Home,” “Coat Of Many Colors,” “Little Sparrow,” “Islands In The Stream,” and of course, “9 to 5.” Because Dolly has such a huge catalogue of hits she (very smartly) sang several medleys so that concert-goers got the most bang for their buck. Even though they weren’t performed in full, I was delighted to hear part of “Mule Skinner Blues” as well as one of my favourite covers of all time, Dolly’s version of Collective Soul’s “Shine.” The covers didn’t end there: Ms. Parton rocked the house on “Stairway To Heaven” and blasted us out of our seats with “River Deep, Mountain High.” As a further treat, toward the end of the show she came out and gave us a beautiful rendition of “I Will Always Love You” (which far outshines Whitney Houston’s bombastic cover, in this music lover’s opinion).

There was so much humor and warmth radiating from Dolly Parton last Sunday night that everyone was instantly drawn to her like moths to her shining flame. She not only sang but interacted with the audience, telling us stories about her upbringing, waving to the baby in the Dolly wig in the front row, and of course giving us a plethora of her beloved Dolly-isms. To top it off, the proceeds from her concert are going to the Imagination Library, a project that Dolly herself began many years ago which provides books to children in need all over the world. Overall it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to in my life, and I was so happy that I got to be there and share it with my mother, grandmother, and sisters. If she’s playing anywhere remotely near you, seeing her live is not to be missed. Dolly Parton truly is a marvel, and I hope that she continues to bring us all better days for many, many years to come.

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Concert Review: The Psychedelic Furs

Yesterday evening I got the chance to realize a dream of mine: I got to see one of my beloved 80s new wave bands live in concert. And what a concert it was!

I remember really enjoying “Pretty In Pink” the first time I heard it used in John Hughes’s film about teen heartache and hardships, then later on loving “Love My Way” after I heard it on the soundtrack to The Wedding Singer. But when I discovered “The Ghost In You” while out shopping one day, I knew that I needed to hear more from The Psychedelic Furs. And I was not disappointed to find such gems as “Heaven,” “Sometimes,” and “Until She Comes,” so when I heard that the Furs were playing at a tiny haunted theatre nearby, I knew that I had to be there.

My hovering view of the band from my balcony seat.

There wasn’t a lot of information beforehand, so I just showed up not really knowing what to expect. To my delight, the goateed roadie announced that there would be no opening band, and that the Furs would be performing their seminal album Talk Talk Talk in its entirety, taking a break, then “they’ll come back out and play the rest.” Sure enough, the brothers Butler & co. took to the stage like a hurricane and blasted into “Dumb Waiters,” followed immediately by “Pretty In Pink,” “I Wanna Sleep With You,” and the rest of Talk Talk Talk. Here, in a Hot Pink Headphones first, Miss Pink is sharing (gasp!) her own concert footage of the band performing the opening of “Pretty In Pink.” Unfortunately Miss Pink is in desperate need of a new camera (any secret admirers who wanna help out with that, feel free to drop me a line) but hopefully you get the idea.

The small venue wasn’t even filled to capacity, yet the Furs played every inch of that stage like it was Madison Square Garden. Tim Butler engaged with the audience, singing with them and even posing for pictures mid-song, and Richard Butler was surprisingly lithe and sexy as he channeled a bit of Bowie in hipster glasses. I was disappointed not to hear either of my two favourite Furs songs (“Sometimes” and “Until She Comes”) but seeing such an exuberant performance of hits such as “Love My Way,” “Sister Europe,” and “Heartbreak Beat” more than made up for that minor detail.

Richard Butler proves to the audience that new wave does a body good.

Having never seen The Psychedelic Furs in their heyday, I have nothing more than music videos to compare this performance to. However, I can say without any hesitation that the Furs are as good as they ever were, possibly even better than before. They performed their hits with so much joy and excitement that even the most stoic concert-goer was tapping toes and clapping along. If you get the chance, definitely go and see them. This is a band not to be missed live.

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