Wednesday, February 27, 2008

bloodsucking ivy leaguers

I first heard about Vampire Weekend from Spin's issue with Foo on the cover (October

I loved their name, and I had never heard "prep rock" (even though they don't like the label), so I looked them up. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

Yes, I missed their SF show because I forgot my ID (g-ddamn bureaucracy.) but it's so nice to listen to them on a somewhat lazy Wednesday afternoon, after turning in a buttload of midterm papers. The weather is perfect for VW too, ideal Spring conditions, almost suspiciously so.

If you think you know what VW is about, and have labeled them as spoiled brats or over hyped or whatnot, you are truly missing out. Their record is eclectic, but not so much that you are shocked. There is a nice selection of different sounds here, from African sounds to classical violins and some damn good bass in M78.

I've attached I stand corrected, because it's not a song that people might expect from VW.


concert review: The Hives @ The Fillmore

"Do we need to take disciplinary action?" Howlin' Pelle Almqvist yelled at the crowd.

"You don't talk when I talk. You clap". he retorted at a fan yelling something nonsensical. Thus began one of the greatest live acts of today-with a false narcissism that the audience readily embraced.

The Hives graced San Francisco's Fillmore stage Wednesday night, paling all other forms of entertainment in comparison. A few months ago, they were simply the opening act for a much more commercialized Maroon 5 but it seems that The Hives have finally begun to receive the credit that they deserve.

After a too long sub par opening set by local act The Donnas, the suspense-filled instrumental A Stroll Through Hives Mansion was played. The crowd eagerly cheered for the band to come on stage, and they soon obliged. They ran out and started off with a high energy deliverance of You Got It All Wrong. The opening lyric summed up the vibe throughout the show: "You wanna dance, you really wanna let it go";. A couple of minutes in, it was evident that even the reluctant, shy members of the audience were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

The Hives provided an excellent medium for expressing this exhilaration through body shaking and head banging, and they were fully aware of this fact. Lead singer Pelle instructed the audience to "clap when the band stops playing", and yelled "stick your arms in the air, this is a stick up!"; The Hives delivered a strong musical set accompanied by a spectacle of high kicks and stage dives, with matching black and white school boy uniforms and consistently witty remarks.

The band mostly played off of their recently released Black and White Album, with a good amount of songs from their acclaimed Veni Vidi Vicious and a couple of tracks off of Tyrannosaurs Hives. The set plus encore included seventeen tracks, going a bit over an hour and a half. Almqvist introduced Main Offender by stating that it was about him in a partly humourous but profound tone. The most memorable songs of the night were Die All Right and Tick Tick Boom by sheer virtue of how much interaction there was with the audience. Well All Right exemplified a signature Hives characteristic: the eclectic song-within-a-song phenomenon that keeps things fresh rather than repeating the same old lines over and over again.

The song that yielded the highest energy from the audience was definitely the rendering of their widely known Hate To Say I Told You So; almost everyone sang along and there was an unofficial consensus to jump excitedly and dance like there was no tomorrow. Diabolic Scheme's slower tempo allowed the audience to catch their breath and snap a few pictures before the band delivered Won't Be Long, which Almqvist described as the anthem of people desperate to leave their small town. The Hives themselves hail from Fagersta, Sweden, a lesser known city in the vicinity of Stockholm.

"Some people think that I talk too much. But that's about the time that I feel I've talked too little". Pelle kept the audience entertained with his feigned egotism between every couple of songs. His vocals hit home hard, never overshadowed by the amplified music or the screaming fans. Never one for vocal lessons, Almqvist has been singing for fifteen years, since the band was formed in 1993.

Lead guitarist Nicholas Arson was phenomenal throughout the show, with both strong solos and mind blowing riffs, particularly during You Dress Up For Armageddon. Bassist Dr. Matt Destruction and guitarist Vigilante delivered excellent performances as well, although their showmanship was quite limited in the back corner of the stage. Drummer Chris Dangerous gave a solid backbone to the music and persevered though he was evidently exhausted. The dedication of the band to their music was exemplified after the show when they obliged every autograph request and posed for countless photos. They conversed with their fans so casually that it seemed that they were oblivious to the fact that they are globally acclaimed rock stars.

I asked Nicholas Arson if he had ever done theatre, eager to understand the source of his dramatic and highly amusing facial expressions. He replied concisely "No, I'm not the kind of person who thinks that just because I am a musician that I'd make a great actor". Even after millions of record sales and fans all over the world, The Hives are still unpretentious and unaffected by fame. Fortunately for us, they remain first and foremost a garage rock band, and are grounded in the spirit of creating good vibes through music rather than dwelling on glamour. The Hives are high up on the list of must see live acts, and their performance will unquestionably transcend you to rock n roll bliss.

- 22 February 2008

The Hives - Won't Be Long

concert review: Mika @ The Warfield

What constitutes an excellent concert? Superb vocals, crisp music? A good connection with the audience? A captivating spectacle that simultaneously satiates our desires for music and eccentric theatre? The Mika concert at The Warfield Theatre in San Francisco last night encompassed each of these things and then some; to top it all off Mika continued his habit of meeting fans after the show, signing autographs and sharing his warm smile with adoring fans. During the actual concert, he carried each note perfectly, delivering his signature falsettos flawlessly while also establishing himself as proficient with softer, more intimate vocals in songs such as "Any other world". He fluctuated between heartfelt ballads and catchy pop tunes, invoking a vast scope of emotions in the audience (which was evident from their reactions: dancing to swaying to dancing again etc.) The show itself was extraordinary by its own merit, from skits to Mika's signature ditsy dance moves, it was quite a visual feast. Artists like Mika are rare enough as it is, but his live performance seals the deal. Don't do yourself a disservice by dismissing Mika as just another flamboyant pop singer, because he transcends any stereotype or label that people may attribute to him; he is truly a gem who history will one day recognize as one of the greatest artists in contemporary music.

As for the opening band, The Midway State, the vocals were not memorable (or enjoyable really), the bass uninspired and the tempo way too slow. The singer sounded like a less irritating Fray, trying way too hard to sound pretty. The guitarist delivered a strong performance and the drummer evidently has talent but is not using his full potential. Listening to their EP, "Met a man on top of the hill", my dwindling faith in the band was given a tiny boost, the record is a bit more than decent. I sincerely hope that the singer stops trying to force his voice to do something he is obviously not suited for and the band as a whole kicks it up a notch; they have a lot of potential but nonetheless require a lot of refining before they can establish themselves as a band to be reckoned with.

- 13 February 2008

Mika- My Interpretation