Mon Sep 21 13:17:21 1998
Drove to Portland to see Elliott Smith and Quasi on Friday night. Despite the rain, road construction, having absolutely NO money, and nearly getting pulled over for speeding while listening to Public Enemy, I had a wonderful time.
Quasi was *spot on* - perhaps the tightest I've ever seen 'em. Did a few new songs, with Elliott on bass, and everyone in the audience was gettin' down. Guess there's nothing like a hometown crowd. I honestly think that Quasi is one of my favorite bands right now, if not one of the best bands around PERIOD - their music excites me in a way that few other bands can do. Once I heard their music described as "upbeat music for cynical people," and it's true. Can't get enough of 'em.
As for Elliott, well...he RAWKED. Literally - no acoustic guitars for this boy, no sir. Sam and Janet backed him on songs from "XO" and "Either/Or" (apparently he's refusing to play any earlier songs, saying he's sick of 'em), and while the full band effect didn't work for *every* song, overall it was great. And, having to stand up to play the electric guitar forced Elliott to actually *look* at the crowd, something he doesn't usually do. Hehehehehe. Highlights included "Say Yes," "Division Day" (*thee* coolest Elliott song EVER?), "Bled White," "Question Mark," and the encore, a George Harrison cover. Whew.
Birddog opened, and I have to say that I dug them more this time than the last time I saw them. Their style's not for everyone - orchestral alt-country, for lack of a better way to describe it. (Sorry, G. Fling, but yer college buddy didn't make an appearance this time.) I felt bad for them, though - towards the end of their set, some alarm system started going off at the club, adding a techno element to their tunes. Doh.
Saw Giant Bug Villager Stan McMahon at the show (of course, Portland fish know that man is EVERYWHERE), and I hung out with the infamous Janice, the Marilyn Manson-lovin' grrl of one Mr. Dennis O'Drane, who totally fucking rocks.
Got back to Seattle at exactly 4 am, utterly exhausted but comforted by the knowledge that in exactly 8 days I'll be able to actually see shows in my own hometown.
Mon Sep 21 13:17:47 1998
I saw the sept 18 (friday) elliott show at la luna. below is a brief review and set list.
The first opener, birddog, has tremendous potential to become the next...one hit wonder. The reason I say that is because their first song was very catchy, with an intriguing melody and several great hooks, but the remainder of the set was drawn out, and drearily lacked direction. Appropriately, the drummer's face conveyed immense boredom, as though he were falling asleep in class, and the bassist kept rolling his eyes. Into their homogenous works, birddog incorporated a cellist, but unlike built to spill, they failed to strike an original chord in their use of said instrument.
now, friday was my first quasi show, as well as my first elliott show. i had tix to last may's la luna show, but the fates had apparently decreed that i miss the show, because my ride backed out =:(
being my first quasi show, i had nary a clue as to what i should expect. To my surprise and satisfaction, they were not poster children for the indie punk scene, as i had imagined and assumed they would be. Rather, quasi consists of a very solid girl-drummer/backing singer named janet, and an extremely talented roxi-chord maestro/mad scientist named sam. Thoroughly impressed with their set, i will purchase one of their albums sometime this week (any suggestions?) from salem's ranch records.
In addition to their impressive musical talent, quasi's lyrical ability struck me. but im moving on because i want to discuss elliott now.
one of pink floyd's strongest aspects was their ability to recreate, in a live setting, the sonic ambience and qualtiy that they achieved in the studio. the same can be said for elliott. with quasi's talented personnel backing mr. smith, he was able to reach and exceed the energy he creates on xo, and the impeccable sonic quality of all his albums.
quasi's sam and janet certainly had their work cut out for them; after playing a Full and highly energetic, driven set, they paused briefly and launched headlong into another lengthy set, this time backing elliott. sam was on bass, janet on drums. With this support, elliott succeeded in reproducing the very full sounds of xo. granted, at times i felt the lack of depth created by the piano and strings, but that space was effectively filled by elliott's gifted guitar abilities and quasi's able backing.
unlike the last la luna show, he didn't say much. nay, he opened his mouth only to sing, almost exclusively. Regardless, there was a lot of positive energy to the set, and the crowd was both involved and receptive.
What struck me most was elliott's delivery. All of the songs were stonger, and many of them seemed sped up. the hushed chill of speed trials was translated into a firmer, more positive tone. the accoustic resonance of between the bars became more affirmative, even a bit rushed. having always thought of elliott as a solo artist, i found it strange that he played all but three songs with quasi behind him. whether it has benefitted his music or not, elliott is certainly enjoying himself. He smiled a lot, even laughed at times, and when he finally ventured to say something to us, he managed to elicit some laughter. No small task, since his set was fairly heavy, and since the crowd was a focused and serious one.
I forgot to mention that elliott supported quasi's last four songs by playing bass for them, prior to playing his own set.
Elliott wore a grey wool hat for the duration of the show, and continued to wear it afterward. This is noteworthy because it got damn hot in there. and while mr. smith wasnt doing cartwheels on stage (a la bjork) i assume he was roasting, because doug martsch (built to spill) did quite a bit of sweating on the same stage the following night (tangential).
Elliott's set impressed me. As always his voice both haunted and lulled me. The musicianship of all three players satisfied me. And it was refreshing to hear sam and janet (both of whom are vocally quite gifted) provide some incredible harmonies, filling in for elliot while he looked after the melody department. Weighing in at 18 songs, the set was satisfyingly long, but never tedious. Throughout, the set had an incredible forward momentum, and was very driven and powerful. jesus, for ten bucks i'd have been happy if he'd played four songs, told a joke, and juggled apples.
I met elliott after the show. With a pass I obtained from a friend of elliott's father, i walked backstage, tried a couple of doors, and briefly crossed paths with him and quasi's sam. Oddly, Sam was upbeat and energetic, while elliott seemed on the verge of sleep. strange, only because sam played for nearly twice as long as elliott did. (sentence fragment) elliott seemed down-to-earth, quietly happy, and, as i mentioned, very very very tired. I felt intrusive, so i introduced myself and demurred for only a brief five minutes. not surprisingly, the right side of my brain failed me and i conjured nary a decent question, for such a prolific and gifted man. instead, i just informed him that he was talented, and that his set was "good". that was actually the word i used. i asked him about a couple of songs i didnt recognize. apparently they are new, and will be part of his next album, which comes out tomorrow. the album will be entitled, "To Alejandro" in keeping with his letter motif, and the two new songs will be entitled, "Alejandro ballet #1" and Alejandro ballet #2". they will appear in reverse order on the album.
actually he just said that they were new. he also said that he enjoyed playing with quasi, and that he "just happened into [the music industry/behemoth thing]." the latter response was his answer to the question, "when you first started out, did you send tapes around to record companies, or...?" apparently he sort of, happened into it. other than that, not much was said. i also chatted briefly with sam. he told me that his keyboard-looking thing is called a roxy-chord. Oh, i said.
Ya, i'm not much of an interviewer. anyway, great fucking show, as was built to spill the next night. if anyone is unsure about or unfamiliar with quasi, cast aside your doubt; they are a brilliant and innovative duo. here is elliot's set list:
1. Instrumental 2. Pix of me 3. Bottle Up and Explode 4. XO 5. Sweet Adeleine 6. Bled White 7. Alameda 8. Ballad of Big Nothing 9. Independence Day 10. Speed Trials 11. Division Day 12. New Song: lyrics:"Got a foot in the door... The enemy is revenge Don't confuse me with him..." 13. A Question Mark 14. New Song (not quite intelligible lyrics) 15. Between the Bars 16. Baby Britain 17. Say Yes 18. George Harrison cover: "Give me love. Give me love. Give me peace on earth." Enough of this. enjoy my recap of the show and enjoy life ~~@lejandro~