cool hand bak

Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

In Praise Of The Openers

For my first post back from three Sleater-Kinney concerts in three different cities I thought I would write a little about each opening band, starting with The Joggers. The Joggers are from Portland, Oregon, which might be why S-K decided to bring them along. They opened Friday night's show at the Nightlight Lounge in Bellingham, Washington. I had never seen or even heard them before, but I had heard quite a bit about their kooky four-part harmonies, crazy surf-rock and chaotic sets. True to form, The Joggers were all over the place, wild and messy and unique. Their lead-singer, Murphy Kasiewicz, sounds like he's just giving speeches while the band does their thing, which includes drummer Jake Morris going nuts, standing up after every song and drumming on his head and body and bassist Darrell Bourque traipsing the stage in Chuck Berryesque duck-walks. Throw in the fact that their guest guitarist looks exactly like a bird (!) and you've got a band that's just flat-out fun to watch. Here's a song from their 2003 debut and sole album to date, Solid Guild:

The Joggers - "Hot Autism"

Unfortunately, seeing as I haven't actually ever heard Solid Guild - this song was brought to you by the kind folks at Insound - I can't say how representative it is of the overall album, but I can say that on the strength of their show I'll be picking up Solid Guild and would recommend you do too. You can get it from their website, at their "Church of Merch". Of course, you could buy it from Amazon or Insound too but, as their website says, "it wouldn't be as cheap or as nice".

Viva Voce opened Saturday's show at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, B.C., my first show in Canada! In fact, Viva Voce were largely responsible for me even going to the Vancouver show: I already knew I was seeing Sleater-Kinney twice and normally would've skipped the drive, but I've been digging Viva Voce's 2004 album The Heat Can Melt Your Brain and really wanted to see them - what better opportunity than opening for one of my favorite bands!

Let me say a little about Viva. Viva Voce is comprised of Anita and Kevin Robinson. The majority of their press seems to center around the fact that they're a married couple making music, which admittedly is fucking awesome. I first got into them with 2003's Lovers, Lead The Way!, and while The Heat isn't quite as good as that album it's still pretty fantastic. A few of my fellow bloggers have already come forward with praise for the not-very-well-known duo, and I'm happy to join that group because, frankly, I was planning to write a whole post on Viva before this show came along.

Their show was wonderful, just as I expected. Anita looks a hell of a lot better than Pete Townshend when she brandishes her double-neck guitar. If it weren't for the jeans and cute T-shirt ("It's not whether you win or lose, it's what you do with your dancing shoes.") you'd swear she was a rock-goddess from days gone by, and she plays it as well as she looks it. Kevin is great on drums and kazoo, but their music is really more than the sum of its parts. They were just as much fun live as on record, so if you've heard The Heat you should check their website for tour dates and if you haven't heard it you should get on it. Here's a couple songs to get you started:

Viva Voce - "Alive With Pleasure"

Viva Voce - "High Highs"

As their website points out, these songs, as well as the rest of The Heat Can Melt Your Brain were self-produced and recorded by Viva Voce at home. Amazing, eh? God bless home recording!

Which brings me to Sunday night's show at Evergreen State College, where Sarah Dougher opened. Some of you may remember my post about Sarah a few months back, when she opened for Edith Frost in Seattle. Whereas that night she played mostly intense, somber folky fare, on Sunday she smiled a lot more and played some upbeat stuff, including a few "disco" numbers with the help of a laptop (for the first time, I might add). On top of that, she brought a friend wearing a horse mask on-stage to exercise to the laptop jams. All of which is to say that it was a very different experience than the last time I saw her, but definitely no less enjoyable. It was interesting seeing her play Evergreen because she used to teach Latin there. I wish I had access to some of the songs she played Sunday, not to mention pictures of her horse, but alas these songs from her 1999 solo debut Day One will have to do:

Sarah Dougher - "Moving"

Sarah Dougher - "A Girl In New Orleans"

Sarah Dougher - "Hold The Bar"

Head to Sarah's website for her upcoming tour dates and information on each of her albums.

Of course, Sleater-Kinney were outstanding at every show. Carrie was in a better mood than perhaps I've ever seen her at the Bellingham show, which meant more kicks and jumps and also a broken guitar string during "One More Hour". I wonder how Corin felt about that? I was upstairs for the Vancouver (or "the Couv", as Carrie calls it) show, which was unusual for me because I've been very near the front (if not in the front row) every other time I've seen them. The new vantage point was fun though, not least of all because it made it much, much easier to hear Corin and Carrie's vocals. Also got to hear "Sympathy" that night, which is always a treat as it's one of my favorite songs. I'd been looking forward to their Evergreen show because Carrie and Corin both were students there, and I believe that's where they first formed Sleater-Kinney. I was able to get into the sound-check too, which was major for a fan like me. During the show all three of the ladies seemed excited to be playing Evergreen. Corin said a lot more than I've ever heard her say before. She told a few stories, one about Nirvana playing in her dorm when she was a student and one about hauling her amps across campus on a skateboard when she was still in Heavens To Betsy. At one point Carrie mentioned that she felt like she was in Seminar and Corin said "I hear what you're saying", a great knock on seminar styled communication. Corin also commented that she felt like she was in one of those nightmares where you're back on stage at the school you attended surrounded by professors and classmates, and Carrie chimed in with "At least we're not naked!"

They didn't play any of the songs I was crossing my fingers for, but the new material is so strong that I didn't much notice. Seriously, The Woods is going to be one hell of an album.

So, that was pretty much the most awesomest weekend I could've imagined. I hope everyone reading this also had a great weekend; in fact, if you saw any good shows, let's hear about it in the comments section.

Click Here