Apparently I was so excited in my last post about concerts that I forgot how to count. It wasn't seven amazing concerts, it was eight, and I can't possibly pick a favorite.
Tame Impala / Flaming Lips at Terminal 5, October 1
Two summers ago, my brother, best friend, and I saw an extraordinary Weezer / Flaming Lips double bill in Wantaug, where my brother officially became a Flaming Lips fan. So when I texted him this summer to ask if he wanted to catch Flaming Lips with Tame Impala, I got an immediate "YES" in reply.
Neither of us had heard of the opening act, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, and we were delighted to discover it was Sean Lennon's excellent band. In addition to rocking a Beetlejuice-Slash love child look, Charlotte Kemp Muhl rocked the hell out of their set. They established such an ace psychedelic rock tone for the night that I could even forgive Sean Lennon's tease when he said they were going to play a cover of an older musician he really admired and it turned out to be Syd Barrett's "Long Gone" (if you aren't playing John Lennon, Syd is an okay second choice).
I knew I liked Tame Impala enough to see them in concert, but I couldn't honestly say I knew more than "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" with any great familiarity. But holy hell, they were incredible. My brother and I both agreed they were one of the best live acts we've ever seen, and after every song, we kept looking at each other amazed, saying "WOW!" They walked a perfect line between 60s psychedelic nostalgia and something very new and current that I want to hear a lot more of.
On hindsight, and as blasphemous as I know it is to say, I think I may have even enjoyed their set more than the Flaming Lips.
I will admit that I got a little pissy with the amount of time it took to set up the stage after Tame Impala finished. Tame Impala had almost nothing on stage, working purely with projections and lights, and they brought the house down. I know the Flaming Lips are known for their exuberant, elaborate stage sets, but I got impatient and felt like the energy was evaporating the later it dragged on. I had made a big point of getting way up to the front (we were maybe 2 or 3 people back from the stage) but that meant we'd been standing for several hours by the time they finally started playing, and I found myself glancing at the clock on the side of the stage to determine when we'd have to leave so my brother could catch his train home.
But then Wayne Coyne came out and made magic.
Their set was heavy on atmospheric new material from The Terror, which was mesmerizing, but a little difficult to translate into concert. Wayne seemed frustrated with the energy and got almost bossy trying to rile the crowd up, which is usually so effortless for the Lips.
They were smart, though, and they knew when to blanket the crowd with confetti.
And gorgeous lights, solid performances, and a maximalist stage presence that more than compensated for eery, nearly infinitely sustained frequencies.
And more confetti.
I freaking love metallic confetti.
Junip at (le) poisson rouge, October 10
I've recently decided that le poisson rouge is probably my favorite concert venue in New York. There is always such a great energy there, and I always have a lovely time.
The opener was a fabulous acoustic group called Dawn of Midi. They were like a breath of fresh air, using real instruments to make gorgeous new sound.
Of course, you know my rule: if your band has a stand-up bassist, I already love you. So much the better if you're immensely talented.
I have had a musical crush on José González for the better part of a decade, so I was beside myself with excitement to finally see him live. Junip has quickly become one of my favorite bands right now, and I was so excited to stand like five feet away from them, watching them create astonishingly beautiful songs.
It was especially fascinating to watch how the lush, rich waves of sound they made - which I assumed were all done by producers - were actually created live (that video is about as close as I was standing too - it may even have been the guy right between me and the stage). I am in love with this blend of real instruments and light-handed, soulful electronic mixing on the spot, and I was delighted to find they were even better live than their albums. They've quickly become mainstays on my iPod, and if you are looking for a new blanket song, I highly recommend "Walking Lightly."
Frightened Rabbit at Webster Hall, October 25
I was so stoked for Frightened Rabbit that I got there absurdly early to stand right up front and had had quite a lot of whiskey by the time Augustines came on. Damn, what a powerful, energetic set.
There was a rawness and a genuine openness that made me just immediately adore them. I want nothing but good things for them.
I remember when I fell in love with Frightened Rabbit, back in 2009. Literally, the first song I heard, I thought, "Oh, this is my new favorite band." I spent a month in a drafty campsite outside of Pompeii listening to little else, solidifying my endless appreciation for Scott Hutchison's poetic songwriting and vulnerable, lovely emotional voice. The equally adorable and sexy Scottish accent doesn't hurt.
I had opera tickets the first chance I had to see them in New York, so I convinced a friend to go on a whirlwind day trip to Philadelphia to catch them in a church basement. They were amazing, and I knew I had not misplaced my "new favorite band" status, even if it meant disloyalty to Thom Yorke. The next time I saw them was at Terminal 5, which they described as the biggest US venue they'd ever played and "a real moment" for the band. This night at Webster Hall felt like seeing old friends, solid in who they are as a band, trying new things, and doing what they do so unbelievably well.
I was excited to be among so many other real fans, and there was a wonderful moment where Scott said he had his eye on the balcony, then climbed up for a gorgeous acoustic version of "Poke" that I will never forget.
I keep thinking back on September and October and thinking how spectacular it is to have seen basically all of my favorite living musicians perform live. I feel genuinely privileged to live in the cultural capital of the US (maybe the western world) and to have had the opportunity to see such mind-blowing, incredible shows.
October didn't end the spree of awesome concerts either, and I haven't even touched on the classical music performances. This autumn may be the one that solidifies music as the true love of my life.