Saturday, June 20, 2009

Grizzly Bear Plays Dallas

Monday night I went to see Grizzly Bear in concert. I am a relatively new GB fan. The first time I heard of them was as the opener for one leg of the Radiohead tour last year. I actually was interested in seeing them because I figure if the Radiohead guys like them there must be something good there, but despite going to 5 Radiohead shows I didn’t go to any of the shows opened by GB. Anyway, when I heard that they had a new album coming out I thought it would be a good time to check them out. So I bought the new album, Veckatimest, and the more I listened to it the more I liked it.

The show ended up being a sellout, so I wanted to get there early enough to hopefully be able to be up front. I got there about 50 minutes before the doors opened, and there were already maybe about 30 people in line. The line quickly grew behind me, and soon it was out of sight around the corner of the building. The next day I found out that the band delayed their start from 10:15 to 10:30 because there were still people trying to get in at 10:15 (doors opened at 8!). Side rant: The Granada’s policy of doing all-will-call tickets is dumb & slow. Do they do it to save money on printing tickets? It seems like they would make more money through alcohol sales by having more people inside sooner.

I was able to get a spot up front on the left side of the stage, which suited me fine. The opening band was Here We Go Magic. I thought they were pretty good. They played for about 50 minutes. In between sets they lower a big curtain to shield the stage. I could see underneath it if I ducked a little due to the curvature of the stage. I was surprised to see the band members set up a lot of their own equipment. Usually techs & roadies do most of that stuff.

By the time GB took the stage, the place was pretty packed, but there was actually a good bit of room in the area I was in. I wasn’t being smooshed at all. I was right in front of bassist Chris Taylor, which actually was great because he’s doing so much stuff that it’s fascinating to watch. Besides playing bass he played flute, clarinet, a radio, and did all kinds of stuff with effects pedals. He’s pretty much the Jonny Greenwood of Grizzly Bear. And the vocal stuff that he did on “Knife” was amazing.

I had read a couple of reviews of recent shows, and it looked like the setlists were not changing from stop to stop. So when they opened with “Southern Point” it was exactly what I expected. Here is something I didn’t quite expect - the band was able to translate their lush sound incredibly well into the live environment. Add the fact that I actually prefer the lack of choral accompaniment on the handful of songs that have them on the CD, and I was a very happy camper with the sound. I think I’m going to stop being surprised that bands can pull off complicated stuff live, because if RH and GB can do it, anyone should be able to.

This really was a great concert experience. To hear these songs performed live in such an accomplished manner was a transcendent experience for me. Judging from the enthusiasm of the crowd and the band’s response to it, I don’t think I was the only one who felt that way. “Knife” was a definite highlight, as was “Two Weeks”. When Dan Rossen started playing his Wurlitzer part on “Two Weeks” before the rest of the band was ready, the crowd went crazy. “Ready, Able” and “Foreground” were also great to hear. Unfortunately I didn’t get to hear my favorite Veckatimest song, “About Face”, but you can’t have everything. The harmonies that you hear on the record were present and accounted for. The Grizzly Bear sound is heavy on atmospherics and evoking moods, and for me this effect was intensified greatly in the live setting. For me, what this show lacked in spontaneity was more than made up for in the way it created a mood.

The band really did seem pleased and even to an extent surprised at the reception they received from the crowd. We even got an after-the-fact Twitter shoutout. It was very warm inside the theater, and I think everyone was sweating eventually. The band was positively drenched. Maybe this shared suffering encouraged increased bonding?

I suspect that mostly due to the fact that I knew from the reviews that the show would only be about an hour and 15 minutes long I really didn’t feel disappointed in the length of the show. Also, the heat (seriously Granada, ask House of Blues how to do air conditioning!) and the fact that tickets were only $17.50 including service charge probably contributed to this feeling. So yes, by some standards it was a short show, but I didn’t feel ripped off at all.

I do know that unless I get hit by a bus, I will be there the next time Grizzly Bear comes through town. If you’re inclined to like their music, I highly recommend checking them out live.

Southern Point
Little Brother
Fine For Now
Two Weeks
Ready, Able
I Live With You
While You Wait For The Others
On A Neck, On A Spit

Fix It

Luke Temple of HWGM

Here We Go Magic

Chris Taylor

Edward Droste & Dan Rossen

This is the first band I've seen rocking the Autoharp in concert.

This setlist was written by Chris Taylor

I found some videos on YouTube. The sound quality is great (for live Youtube videos)!



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