The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Beards, Sportcoats and Glasses: Serena Maneesh; Jose Gonzalez; Tapes N' Tapes

In case you're wondering why the name of my concert reviews section no longer contains the word cardigan, I've inserted the word sport coat instead, having declared that in 2006, the sport coat over a t-shirt and jeans is the one uniform that scenesters and hipsters alike can agree on. The only way to really tell the difference these days is by glasses and a beard, which no scenester would dare sport, lest be be unable to get into the Lobby.

So in addition to having been fighting off scourges of opossums infesting these parts, I've been taking in some of these indie rock shows, doing my best to be a caricture of a hipster. Seriously, I need to take up smoking and bitching about "the man" way more. Fuck, I'm 2/3rds the way there, not having a 9-5 and living in Los Feliz and going to Spaceland every five minutes.

This was the scene Sunday night around 11:00 when fellow blogger/self-proclaimed other "assimilated negro"/indie rock enthusiast/future NBA powerplayer Nathaniel Jones and I rolled up to Spaceland to catch the set of Norweigian band, Serena Maneesh. Now, I hadn't heard a damned thing about this band other than reading an 8.6 review on Pitchfork, and figured that for $10 I certainly wasn't going to be doing anything better on a Sunday night. I was right.

To truly picture the scene of what going to see Serena Maneesh was like, picture yourself in Oslo, Norway in the year 2050. You really like Norweigian jam band music but don't know where to go to find it, suddenly you stumble into a smoke-filled Euro-trash bar to discover the greatest band in the Oslo of 2050: Serena Maneesh.

The lead singer, a whirling dervish, writhing onstage while playing furious dissonant licks on his guitar, head wrapped in a Jimi Hendrix like doo-rag, flailing non-stop, dropping his knees to the wooden stage, snapping his head back in intense concentration. Occasionally, forgetting where he was, what city, what time, what planet to unleash some furious guttural primal chords out of some sort of heavy Norweigian nightmare.

The bassist, at least 6'2, blonde, a dead-ringer for Nico in her prime, dancing rhythmic on-stage non-stop. This was a tough situation for me, as I whisper multiple times to Nate: "So is that a chick or a dude, because either she's really hot or I seriously have issues." Luckily, I emerge intact when she is revealed to in fact be a woman, which was what I had been leaning towards for most of the show. Not that she was particularly mannish or anything but when you're 6'2 and a woman people are going to ask questions. Then again she was from Norway. Isn't every woman in Norway above 6-foot?

The other lead guitarist spends most of the show in his own world, churning out his own blend of sharp blurring noise, while to his right, a tamborinist/flute player/other relatively attractive woman in the band wails non-stop and dances maniacally.

In the far corner of the stage stands a violinist, at attention, who is furiously concentrating on his playing that somehow blends in seamlessly to the collage of white noise that the band unleashes.

And the music somehow blends into the hot sweaty midnight Sunday night club, powerful waves of sound undulating evenly, all five members of the band, throwing sound together to create an even yet riotous orgy of noise. Think My Bloody Valentine goes Scandinavia. To be quite honest, the sound was so thick I couldn't even make out any of the lyrics as Nate and I were unsure whether he was singing in Norweigian or in English, but it didn't matter, the violent beauty of the music hung heavy over the scene, and by the end of the show when the lead singer/guitarist and the other guitarist unleashed a deafening and ferocious 10-minute squall of feedback and distortion after the other members had left the stage, followed by their impromptu decision to trash the stage, well color me fucking impressed.

Prior to this show, I'd grown worried that my taste in music was a tad too conventional and maybe I wasn't avant-garde enough to appreciate the live shows of freaks like Animal Collective. Serena Maneesh proved this theory wrong. They were weird as fuck and all sorts of awesome. Check out some of their tracks here (I particularly recommend the bottom three tracks). I like these songs but I'm going to pull out the old cliche and just come out and say that listening to it on your computer is definitely not the same as seeing this band live. So go see them the next time they're in town. In the words of Dell Preston speaking of Ozzy Osbourne in Wayne's World 2: "They Put on a Great Show."

Passion of the Weiss Rating: 8.75 crucifixes out of 10

It was apparently Scandinavian import week here in Hipster-ville 90027, as Swedish by way of Argentina singer Jose Gonzalez rolled into town. But if there is any Scandinavian musician more different from Serena Maneesh as Jose Gonzalez you'd be hard pressed to find him.

An acoustic and wildly talented classical guitarist who us apparently huge in Sweden (then again so was Ace of Base), Gonzalez is mellow. And when I mean mellow, I mean like if I had decided to take a nap ion the middle of his set, I probably wouldn't have had much difficulty. I mean like, the bartender couldn't make shaken drinks during the set because the rattle of ice cubes was disturbing the performance.

This is no knock on Gonzalez in the least, as me along with the rest of the crowd at the Jensen Rec Center in Echo Park this Tuesday night paid close rapture to Gonzalez, sitting and singing softly on his six-string guitar. The thing about going to a Jose Gonzalez show is that it needs to fill a specific mood. For instance, you and your boys aren't about to get drunk and rowdy and want to see a Jose Gonzalez show. Not quite. It's more the type of show you bring your girlfriend to and in the process win major bonus points.

The venue I caught the show in was perfectly suited for the occasion . An actual rec center by day, Jensen (sub-let by the Echo at night) had clean white upholstered couches, warm and cozy brick walls and a roaring fire that all contributing to the mellow and pristine mood of the evening. It felt like you were in Greenwich Village or something circa 1962, that sort of laid back cool vibe.

As for Gonzalez, his technique on the guitar is incredible. I'm no expert on the instrument, but he appeared to be the most talented acoustic guitarist I've ever seen, creating a rolling, fluid and layered sound, singing in a hushed Nick Drake-esque tone. Again, this music is not utilitarian, but after getting harassed earlier that night by wildlife gone wild, the Jose Gonzalez show was outstanding. I recommend checking him out soon before he blows up with the Jack Johnson/sorority girl crowd who will undoubtedly love his "sensitive and touching melodies." At least, I hope that they get into him so at least they can have something decent in their album collection filed between Good Charlotte and Incubus. He's already got his songs playing on a television commercial, so it's only a matter of time before he gets big. Check him out here.

And did I mention the man did an outstanding cover of Joy Division's "Love will Tear us Apart." Well, he did, which I enjoyed because as a blogger I'm obligated to like Joy Division, or so I think. What can I say it's tough conforming to being a non-conformist, but I'm working on it.

Passion of Weiss Rating: 8.25 crucifixes out of 10

Pity being Tapes N' Tapes. You just played 16 shows in four days at South by Southwest last weekend. You've played one show each night since that festival ended and after your first song, the your drummers snare breaks. I would've wanted to kill someone, but Tapes N Tapes handled it well, telling jokes to the crowd while borrowing a new snare from also recommended opening band Cold War Kids.

Playing last night to a sell-out crowd at Spaceland in Silverlake, Tapes N' Tapes was no doubt riding the buzz of making Pitchfork's vaunted Best New Music list with an 8.3 review that it received just two weeks ago. (and by the way, 10 bucks to the guy who can get the bottom of the review and decipher what the fuck P-Fork's reviewer is talking about. Seriously, do they purposely look for reviewers with large vocabularies and coherence deficiencies, because if so sign me right the fuck up).

In some circles (read 10 people on the Internet) Tapes N' Tapes are the hottest new band out there, and while the praise can at times reek of hyperbole, the band are quite good. Sounding like Modest Mouse crossed with Pavement, Tapes N' Tapes played an abbreviated set of maybe 10 songs, and put their best effort into each one. Though I have to say, the guys looked understandably tired and I'm sure this wasn't their best performance. And considering they're on their 20th show in 8 days I'll surely cut them some slack.

And tired seems to be the operative word right now, because quite frankly I'm tired of writing right now and you're undoubtedly tired of reading. So I'll be brief. The Tapes N Tapes show was very good. Some of their songs song amazing live particularly, "Insistor," "Cowbell," and "Just Drums." Their album is also worth checking out so buy it. Listen to some stuff here.

Judging from the set that they played last night, Tapes 'N Tapes are an impressive band with a great deal of potential. Whether they will turn out great is anybody's guess, but I wouldn't put it past them. They have a warm and affable stage presence and they are all outstanding musicians, particularly their drummer who despite breaking his snare is quite spectacular. Tapes 'N Tapes are definitely recc'd.

Passion of the Weiss Rating: 8.3 crucifixes out 10 (because while P-Fork might be written by a bunch of over-literate Vassar grads, they did nail this rating perfectly)


At 1:03 AM, Anonymous i think music bloggers are way hot. like, totally. said...

Thanks for posting songs with your reviews. Now I can do a little new music reconnaissance on my own.

(Read: you can do music reconnaissance and I can smile and pretend to know what's going on, taking full credit for the very cutting-edge hipster-approved CD's that will undoubtedly find their way into my collection.)


At 7:58 AM, Blogger Ian said...

I've had just about enough of your Vassar-bashing!

Anyways, I'm a fan of all three of the bands in this review, but I agree on one point: the awful, awful P-fork reviews of these bands. I'm not willing to check through my archives, but I'm pretty sure that I call their Serena Maneesh review the worst of all time. Isn't the point of an album review to tell us what the thing sounds like?

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

It's true though, at this rate I'm just never gonna get into Vassar (tho oddly Vassar was actually th best school I got into for undergrad but my dad refused to let me go there because it was a woman's school. Good call on his part as it sort of is)
Seriously, I go read P-Fork's Serena Maneesh review and the whole fucking time its talking about shoegazer music. As though that meant anything. Why do critics insist upon making up useless labels. Serena Maneesh live did a lot of things for me but looking at my shoes, definitely was not one of them.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Ian said...

Two friends of mine went to Vassar, and they both said the legendary Spin article was mostly true. Said Spin article talked about how if you were a straight guy at Vassar, you pretty much pulled twice as much ass as you ever thought you wanted. Not that I can say whether that's a good thing or not.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

I think it is true. One of my best friends went there and seemed to do quite well. Though not to be insult him or anything because he's prolly reading this, but the fact remains I have yet to meet a hot Vassar woman. I dunno there's something about NE liberal arts schools that require 1400 minimum SAT scores that don't scream "hot chicks."


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