And…I’m Deaf: Another Live Music Installment: UMO/Foxygen/Wampire
I arrived late, and only caught the last two songs of Wampire’s set. I’m immediate sorry I missed all of it, but getting to H Street is a near impossible task (read: at least $15 by cab or an hour by bus from the “west” “side” of the city) so to hell with it. Here’s their bandcamp. They sounded great and looked like a good young band, so have at it.
Let’s just get to the point. Foxgen is a great band. Sometimes their songs fall apart, but we forgive them because they put them back together. Jonathan Rado and Sam France – the two brainchilds – have extremely great chemistry on stage. They are like brothers: funny, sarcastic and making on the spot inside jokes with everyone in the room. Jonathan shouted out to his girlfriend listening at home, as he then told us that the show was being broadcast over the Internet. Sam then made some comments about not understanding the Internet and then started to drift off into complaining about mouses. He, at one point, also shouted out to his family and his Aunt Susan, who was in the crowd. (I’m assuming the older grey haired woman who was with Susan and promptly left when the band started was also a family member, but we’ll never know.)
Foxygen played a mix of things off of their two releases – 2012’s Take The Kids Off Broadway and this year’s smash We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. Even though they are thought of and billed as a duo (who shared the same guitar and keyboard/synth) they were joined by a full band on stage: drums, bass and a girl on back up vocals and tambourine. While Rado at one point – jokingly and adorably – admitted to his shyness, Sam France was alive. France bobbed around on stage like a muppet and he screamed like Mick Jagger – he even has lips like Mick’s. But maybe I’m just making the comparison because he was wearing patterned leggings, what looked like a tight glossy shirt, eyeliner, lots of heavy beads and his hair was aflutter – everywhere. They certainly fill the singer-guitarist, frontman-mystique trend: France jumped down into the audience at once point and mugged at the audience like a mad man while Rado shredded guitar behind his Neil Young tee shirt. Sometimes France’s yelling and scream-shouts sounded like Ariel Pink’s vocal hiccups, but better: planned and less just for the hell of it and more part of the song. A few times people were yelling out “Shuggie” to request, at one point by an unseen 7 year old. The band themselves were like a family and they treated the audience as their guests.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra was billed to come on at 10:10 but arrived on stage fifteen minutes late due to technical difficulties. But they made up for it by being the tightest band I’ve ever seen at the Rock and Roll Hotel. Usually, shows there can get messy. It’s a much smaller venue – when it’s sold out, you’re usually stomach to back with strangers, an uncomfortable feeling at any state of mind. I’ve seen a lot of great shows at The Hotel and some of my most favorite bands ever (shout out to WU LYF who I’ve seen there twice, may you RIP and one day reunite for a follow up record.) But there was something about the way UMO played together that was just perfect.
Ruban Nielson is from New Zealand and can play jazz, jam and rock guitar. He is one of the best live guitarists I’ve seen in a long long time. He can really hold his own: shredding, soloing, basically carrying the entire set with note by note solos. His counterpart on drums Riley Geare is phenomenal even if it’s just to keep a simple beat or providing us with drum machine sounding fills – but better. Jake Portrait on bass guitar is the rest of the rhythm section, who actually played on the opposite side of the stage than Geare. They’re noted as a New Zealand/Portland, OR band – so I think that’s where their dreamy landscapes and anthropomorphic animals that fill their lyrics (“I wish I could swim and sleep like a shark does” and “I’m a smiling alligator”…etc.) They seem to be in between homes, all the time, explaining the vibe of the band.
But, UMO play like professionals. While I was mainly excited for them to feature their new record, II, they played almost the entirety of their debut self titled. (All except MY favorite, “Nerve Damage!”) From the new record they hit “Swim And Sleep (Like A Shark)”, “So Good At Being In Trouble”, “From The Sun” and maybe one more. No one seemed to mind hearing the old record, as it was familiar to everyone. I was wondering why they didn’t play more of the new record they’re supporting (shout out to their sweet stage backdrop of the album photograph.) But then I thought maybe it was just a night by night feel. You never know.