The End of the Night.

27 09 2013

Despite my unwavering love and adoration for Nika Roza Danilova (better known as Zola Jesus), February 18th, 2012 went down in history as one of the most miserable and aurally offensive concert experiences in recent memory. Zola would take to the stage at New York City’s Webster Hall in support of her latest album, Conatus. Unfortunately, any enjoyment to be gleaned from the majestic vocals of Zola Jesus was soured after having our eardrums viciously assaulted by opening band, Liturgy. How on earth a “Brooklyn-based, death metal” band was supposed to compliment the ambient, ethereal wave of Zola Jesus’ operatic voice is beyond me.

One concert-goer even took to the music blog, Brooklyn Vegan, to accurately describe the experience as thus: “Liturgy was one of the worst acts I’ve ever had the horrible displeasure of seeing. Samples of garbage trucks backing up and the same guitar riff over and over. Utter crap. Zola was awesome.”

Flash-forward to September 13th, 2013. Versions, Zola Jesus’ fourth LP, has been in record stores for almost three months and her tour with composer J.G. Thirlwell (a.k.a. Foetus) and a string quartet was just beginning. That night’s stop was the Foundation Theater at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). We really had no idea how majestic of an evening was in store for us. The agonizing, auditory pain experienced at Webster Hall at the hands of Liturgy would all but be forgotten.

9753060063_cbff17c007_zIt shouldn’t have come as a surprise, really. When you mix a string quartet with a talent like Zola Jesus, the end result would be nothing short of brilliance.

We arrived at the gallery early enough to guarantee front row seats for the show. The theater, with its pristine hardwood floors and floor length windows, was incredibly intimate despite the beautiful view out onto the Boston Harbor.

Zola, looking like a living Grecian statue, delivered a performance that would leave the crowd in awe. “Run Me Out” would see the petite singer travel up through the seated audience, vocals building into a powerful crescendo. Will would later joke that I appeared about ready to tackle her in a swooning frenzy when she came within arm’s length of where we sat.

As someone who has been to more live shows than I can recall, I can safely say that, at this point, it really takes something special to make a show memorable for years to come. Zola Jesus’ performance at the ICA was not just a concert but a living piece of art, thus making the venue a perfectly appropriate setting.

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Pictures or it Didn’t Happen.

19 11 2012

Before introducing the first of three opening acts, Amanda Palmer would promise the crowd the best show of the tour. This was the final performance of the Theatre Is Evil tour and it was fitting that this would be my first experience seeing Ms. Palmer live. An experience that would be filled with smashed guitars, crowd surfing, tearful ballads, and smeared eye makeup.

In a bout of rare fortune, all three of Amanda’s opening acts were quite fantastic. You can’t go wrong when one group is an spandex-clad hybrid of Le Tigre, Scissor Sisters, and the cast of a Female Trouble-era John Waters film while another consists of a duo of saxophone players whose claim to fame is covering 80s tracks like “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Take on Me.”

Amanda and her Grand Theft Orchestra took the stage almost immediately after the third opener finished. They would start off with “Smile (Pictures or it Didn’t Happen)” and immediately segue into “Do It With a Rockstar.”  Amanda and her guitarist jumped into the crowd to ride the wave of fans. A guitar neck was smashed into a pedal board. The microphone stand was thrown across the stage and a drum stick hurled into the crowd. Two songs into the set and the stage already looked like the aftermath of an encore. Apparently this was not the symptom of Ms. Palmer and co. collectively blowing their loads too early but moreso a mere warming up of the crowd.

One of the more moving parts of the evening was the performance of “The Bed Song” which Amanda dedicated to her husband Neil Gaiman, who was present that evening, stating her wishes that their relationship never, ever mirror the lyrics of the song. Standing at her keyboard, tear-streaked and emotionally vulnerable, she would move most of her more dedicated fans to sobs.

The entire evening was the perfect mix of rockstar schenanigans, nostalgic antics (a cover of “Careless Whisper” by Wham!, complete with dueling saxophones, was quite the showstopper), and raw emotion. It would be a blatant lie to say this wasn’t one of the best shows I’ve seen in 2012 (note: I’ve seen a lot).

Amanda Palmer is a performer and an artist… of the highest caliber.





Saturday Night Nostalgia.

10 04 2012

This past weekend was spent in with my family in Boston. In between playground visits, comic book signings, a visit to Harvard, and an Easter Egg hunt, Will and I managed to catch up with some of our childhood friends on Saturday night.

Chris Parker and co.

"She's got the baby-sitting blues..."

Chris Parker and Ryan Lynch were the first to arrive. It had been a long time since Chris and I were in touch and the last I heard, she was attending the University of Chicago and she and Ryan were still together and very much in love. Who wouldn’t fall very much in love with Ryan? He’s charming, sensitive, and warm-hearted. Alterior motives aside, it takes a special kind of guy to drive from the city to the suburbs just to return a rollerskate to a child that he barely knows. It turns out that Chris received her MEd and shares a loft with Ryan in Chicago’s North Side neighborhood. We had to chuckle at the notion of her going into the education field considering her infamous baby-sitting-gig-gone-awry.

Ryan excused himself to take a call from their dog-sitter (he and Chris have two Welsh corgis named Thor and Handsome John) just as Sara Anderson arrived looking like she fell out of the pages of an Urban Outfitters catalog. She had certainly grown up from being the little girl with the Asgardian helmet and Gizmo backpack. To our delight, we learned that she had continued to pursue her passion for drawing and eventually pencilled her own independent graphic novel based on the Chris’ pseudo-botched night in charge. She met her girlfriend, Darcy, at Chicago Comic-Con and the two of them are the proprietors of The Enchantress’ Lair, a comic book shop/cafe/performance space. A launch party was hosted at the store for the release of Sara’s graphic novel which may or may not have included an impromptu performance of “The Baby-sitting Blues” when Chris arrived to offer her congratulations.

Before the three of them left for the evening, I had to ask Chris about her old best friend from high school. It turns out Brenda finally managed to successfully run away from home and was last seen operating a hot dog food truck in Manhattan. In case you were wondering, she doesn’t accept checks.

The next guests at our little reunion were Jake Ryan and Samantha Baker-Ryan. To my surprise, they went against the stereotype of high school romances not lasting. After conversing for a while, we learned that Jake was a corporate attorney working at his father’s firm and Samantha was a stay-at-home mother to their four children. They were still close friends with “Farmer” Ted. In fact, he was their weekend baby-sitter. Thankfully, Ted has the entertainment factor built directly into his geek gene and the children adore him. Jake and Samantha were truly living a blissful, upper middle-class, suburban life… complete with a two-car garage and white picket fence.

Close your eyes.

"Close your eyes..."

Like most high school friends/acquaintances, the couple lost touch with Caroline Mulford after graduation. Jake jokingly commented that she was lucky that the Sinead O’Connor/buzzed head look came into style not long after the unfortunate pruning of her hair to free her from a door jam. Apparently, when you’re intoxicated, simple actions like opening a door are completely lost on oneself.

While Samantha regaled Will with the list of men that her sister Ginny had since married and divorced since leaving the “oily variety bohunk”, I took a quick call from Mercedes Lane. She had the night off from dancing at The Shanty (a club in Los Angeles that is as glamorous as the name insinuates). “It seems like all your old friends are coming out of the woodwork tonight,” she said after I mentioned who had stopped by that evening.

Mercedes Lane

Mercedes Lane

She and Les Anderson stopped seeing each other not long after they started. In the end, they really didn’t have much in common other than a love for mega-hold hair care products. When she said that, I could practically see her sitting in her small L.A. studio apartment, hair teased, frayed denim skirt on, and rocking a faded Guns N’ Roses tour t-shirt. For Mercedes Lane, the 80s never died. How could it with a name like Mercedes Lane and a career at a strip club called The Shanty?

It really was a fantastic Saturday night. These were the childhood friends that kept me company when I was sick, entertained my friends and I at slumber parties, and taught us that your bangs can never be too high nor your jeans too pinned. They were the friends that remind you of a time when the most stressful decisions in life revolved around which folders to keep in your Trapper Keeper.

Tangerine

Tangerine... flashy and trashy

I’ve already begun digging through my old contacts from way back when to see who I should reconnect with next. I’ll have to let Will know about the rumors buzzing around the fashion circuit that Tangerine is looking to reignite her “flashy and trashy” apparel line. Something tells me that Dodger and his pals won’t be her sweat shop workers this time around.