Sammy the Seal

“Such fuckin’ sweethearts”

In vinyl on Sunday, 24 July, 2011 at 21:00

Entertaining, but strangely lonesome at times. That was my Saturday. Fun was had, to be sure, but I must admit, about halfway through, it got a little lonesome. I don’t mind crowds so much, so I think it must have been the solitude, which seems strange, as I’m quite used to going to shows alone. The Capitol Hill Block Party isn’t all that big– just four different stages– but, I’ve only been to one other music festival in my life, and I had company that time. I think I was also missing someone, so it was probably as much longing (oh Sam, you’re such a clingy sap) as much as it was being at a music festival, albeit a small one, by myself.

That being said, I did enjoy me some music. There were three acts of note for me: Lovers, Handsome Furs, TV on the Radio. There could have been more, but I did get there close to 5pm, four hours into the day. I’m not sure why I bother with set lists, jotting down titles or lyrics to songs to look up later, though I can be sort of a completist, so that must be why. Since I had no idea who they were, I can’t say too much about Lovers, especially since I only caught 15-20 of their 30-minute set. From what I can tell, much of it was from their album from last year, Dark Light. I don’t like to do comparisons, as I feel they’re unfair, but a couple of songs from the end, I thought the vocals became reminiscent of Tegan and Sara, which is not too surprising, given the similarity of subject matter. (The band name can help you in figure out what it often is, from the songs I heard, at least.) I’m not sure how I mean that, and I’m not sure why I even said it, though I should say that over time, I started to become impatient with the subject matter of T&S. From what I’ve heard, a story about two or three albums back involved someone from their label asking if they could throw in a few songs not about love. So there. Emotions are fine and all, but it can quickly become an exercise in solipsism (or worse, narcissism) if you’re not careful. Despite that criticism, I quite liked Carolyn Berk’s voice, and they did score instant “line of the day” honors, with the wonderfully desperate melodrama of “don’t you want my love, or do you know someone who does?” from the song “Don’t You Want It?” Kind of overwrought, but to the point that I almost felt like that lyric was winking, aware of the boundary it was flirting with.

It must be said that Handsome Furs are the main reason why I went to this thing in the first place. Checking for tour dates following the release of the new album last month, this is the only thing I could find nearby until autumn. Having just missed them when Face Control came out three years ago (a damn shame), I really had no choice, even if I prefer clubs to festival crowds. I have to say, I was a little disappointed, only in the sense that their set was but eight songs and forty minutes. Still a good time though. Very appreciative we were, as were Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry, the husband-wife team that comprise the group. Dan, clean-shaven and looking very young, seemed like a kid as well, as opposed to a tour veteran, graciously thanking us for being “such fuckin’ sweethearts”, to say nothing of wife Alexei smiling all the time and crossing her heart. She really is a big part of the show, having only seen videos of performances before. I hate to sound like a dork, but she was so cool! The leg antics might seem calculated sometimes, like where she hops on one leg, with the other stretched behind her and her hands still working the knobs, but damn it, it looks like she’s having so much fun! I’m also surprised her legs aren’t bigger and beefier, given all the stomping and hopping she does at her keyboards. They should have been busting out those odd tie-dye-ish leggings. The way they play to each other during breaks in the vocals, you can tell they’re absolutely in love, even when Dan spit either water or booze on her during one song. Sentimental, doe-eyed gazes are okay, if that’s what signifies love to you, but to me, the direct, shared enthusiasm and energy speaks far more more about their relationship. It wasn’t an apocalyptically great show (there are only two of them on stage, after all), but the way they were into each other and the crowd helped the show immeasurably (compare: the next band I saw after them, which shall remain nameless– no hate, I just don’t like being negative), which ends up underscoring my lament that the show was too short. And also, it was one of the earlier shows, though it would’ve been fun to end on them. Ah well, here’s hoping for a small headlining show in the future. The should’ve-been-longer set:

When I Get Back
All We Want, Baby, Is Everything
Memories of the Future
Bury Me Standing
What About Us?
Repatriated
Radio Kaliningrad
Serve the People

Being the far bigger band, it makes sense that TV on the Radio did close out the night. I must say up front, that I usually have to be in a mood to listen to their music. I know they’re critically acclaimed and sound like no one else and all that, but they’re not usually something I can just throw on and instantly enjoy. I don’t know, maybe if I were better acquainted with the music. That being said, their shows go a long way toward selling their music. Having gotten there too close to show time, and the fact that they were headlining (not just the day, but the festival altogether), I ended up a good 70-80 feet from the stage, and yet during their best numbers, the people way back with me and behind me, were moving around but good, which I have never seen in a crowd, let alone a crowd that size. So kudos to them. Special mention for “Staring at the Sun”, which, on record, contains almost no rhythm section, but was a turned into a rave-up that had everyone I could see bouncing, and “Blues From Down Here”, one of the late tracks on Return to Cookie Mountain that takes a backseat to the immaculate first half of the record, but was a very nice surprise to hear live. I haven’t heard much of the latest record, which comprised half of the sixteen-song set, but from what I heard, it, like most of their stuff, sounds way better live. Of the material I didn’t know, “Repetition” stood out, especially when compared to the recorded version which I just listened to. Indeed, the last eight was announced by Kyp Malone (I think– second lead vocalist, the one with the beard, right? ) as the point where the band would now try to keep the rest of the show danceable, as he remarked that, behind the scenes, event promoters qualify acts by how they anticipate the crowds to be, and he said they were in the “moderately danceable” category which sort of frightened him. Hence, his proclamation. Not my favorite band, but an impressive show. I didn’t know their following was so strong, I just figured it was a lot of hip and cool followers.

Halfway Home
Wrong Way
Caffeinated Consciousness
Blues From Down Here
Will Do
New Cannonball Blues
Young Liars
Keep Your Heart
Red Dress
DLZ
Staring at the Sun
Repetition
Wolf Like Me
Dancing Choose
Satellite [I think]
[I have no idea, it was likely off the new album]

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