Margaret Glaspy at Swedish American Hall – September 29, 2018

Welcome to another episode of Girlbandgeek blog in which I attempt to review a show which I saw over a month ago. But I really want to review it, because I have many feels about this show.

Not the same show, but similar!

On this night I had some misadventures involving a random guy I met near the club. I was feeling expansive, and he was friendly, so I offered him my extra ticket. I was thinking about previous shows where I had tried to sell an extra ticket unsuccessfully, and I was thinking why not do a nice gesture since this fellow apparently had nothing better to do. Well, turned out to be a mistake, but not ultimately a calamitous one. He actually got himself kicked out of the club before the show started, after he got up on the stage and started mumbling something he said was a prayer. Anyway, I swear I’m going to stop being so friendly to random guys I meet. It seems like usually a scam, or somebody who is very unlikely to share your worldview on almost anything.

The opening act was Jenny O, about whom I know nothing. I was glad the show was starting, and grateful for the darkness, the sounds, and the fact that my tedious companion David had been booted from the club.

I was initially pretty into Jenny. The edible I popped earlier had kicked in and I was pretty high. It was just Jenny solo but her guitar sounded nice and full. The Swedish American hall is a fairly spartan venue, with polished wood floors and white walls, but it’s small, and the acoustics are decent. Her voice is reedy, soulful and possesses a timbre which seems to shift from song to song. Lots of echo in the voice. Jenny has a soulful quality, and reminds me a little of Kristin Hersh. The crowd is a little small but appreciative. However, about four songs in to her set and Jenny is starting to grate on me. This night is cursed. My new neighbors are talking through the show. Jenny is maybe a little simplistic for my taste. Ultimately, the sound was kind of muddy. She is talking to us, but I can’t make it out. She’s talented, and has a vulnerable quality, which made me root for her. It was good, but not great.

Gentle readers, nothing prepared me for Margaret Glaspy’s performance. In all the songs I’ve listened to, and videos I’ve watched, Margaret and her guitar seem inseparable. She’s a true guitar goddess, from a bluegrass family, she started on fiddle or banjo as a girl, maybe, and has been performing since she was a child. Anyway, her guitar playing is just so gutsy and inventive, I was anticipating an evening of getting blown away by her fretboard mastery. But Glaspy had something completely different in mind, which in a way was even more amazing because she pulled off a show that was 90% about her singing, and consisted mostly of covers (most of which I didn’t even know). She did not even pick up her guitar until about song 11, and then only played about 4 songs on it.

She came out in a black sheer cocktail dress that was kind of sparkly. There was one accompanist, Tyler Chester, who played keyboards, bass, and some kind of possibly electronic percussion.

Although I was really looking forward to listen to her rip out a bunch of songs on the six string, this show really worked for me, and boosted my estimation of Glaspy’s talent. It’s like ‘you already know I’m an amazing guitar player and songwriter, but tonight I’m going to just sing you a bunch of covers and blow you away with just my voice and emotional range.’ And I was blown away.

She opened with Anthony from Emotions and Math – just vocals and keyboards and brilliant. This was one of only 4 of her own compositions, by my counting. A few songs in she laughed and says something about the show being ‘kind of a juke box’. I have done my best at identifying the songs, but they were mostly new to me, so it’s hit or miss. Some of the instrumentation was down-right electronic, and vaguely Björk-like. There are some drum machines, and her voice is processed electronically on some numbers. As I said, she doesn’t pull out her guitar until song 11. Her signature songs like Emotions & Math and Love Like This turn out to be equally great without her bluesy riffs, only her voice and Chester’s keyboards to carry them. The last song of the set is Neil Young’s Harvest Moon and it’s fucking brilliant.

Set List
  • Anthony
  • Hope She’ll be Happier (Bill Withers Cover)
  • Love Like This
  • Mythological Beauty (Big Thief Cover)
  • Lost Until I’m Found (Perry Nunn Cover)
  • Version of Me (Kimbra Cover)
  • I’m Glad You’re Mine (Al Green Cover)
  • Emotions and Math
  • ? (Lauryn Hill Cover)
  • ? (Sarah Siskind Cover)
  • All I Wanna Do Is Fall In Love (? possibly Robyn Hitchcock cover)
  • something about “Angry Again”
  • Somebody to Anybody
  • I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover)
  • Harvest Moon (Neil Young cover)
  • [encore]
  • another cover, possibly Greg Flannery

That was definitely a show for the ages. The video above is not from that show, but it has the same feel (and same outfit). Enjoy!

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Snail Mail at Starline Social Club – June 27, 2018

Snail Mail at Starline Social Club

Snail Mail at Starline Social Club

The Rock and Roll show is sacred space. All is sacred.

I apologize, dear readers, for the large gaps in my scintillating concert reviews, as well as my inability to get my thoughts down on paper while the memory of the show is still fresh. Nevertheless, I am committed to writing a review of every show I attend. Perhaps it can be made a kind of virtue, I mean, I remember concerts that I saw years and decades ago – not in detail to be sure – but I remember the impact the performance had on me.

I was really excited about seeing Snail Mail, to be sure. I feel a little sheepish about jumping on the bandwagon of the NYT and everybody gushing over this HS senior with her wise-beyond-her-years persona and her virtuoso guitar-playing. But holy fuck Lindsey Jordan is super talented and intelligent, and who doesn’t want to see this prodigy in the early phase of what will hopefully be a long and fruitful career?

First band was Club Night from Oakland. They were a noisy prog rock outfit. Their music was intense and at times unsettling, but I thought they were talented and played with conviction. My notes ‘intense … King Crimson-esque … tapping … many notes.’ The lead guitar player was quite talented, and although they weren’t exactly my cup of tea I appreciated them.

Next up were folk rockers Bonny Doon. (The members have not actually been to Bonny Doon, which is near where I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains.) The members got ready to play their set – drums, and two guitar players. A short blond woman stepped onto the stage and grinned at the audience – the bass player. I thought to myself ‘she looks a lot like Lindsey Jordan’ but I thought it was just a coincidence. However, it became obvious after the fact that Lindsey Jordan was in fact filling in on bass and backup vox with Bonny Doon, which was cool. Everybody had French braids (except the drummer), which was also cool.

Alex and I both like Bonny Doon’s set. They had a kind of country rock, Americana sound – a sort of comfortable, breezy and strummy feel that was easy to relate to. They had a warm stage presence and it was a totally enjoyable set.

And then it was time for Snail Mail. I had been looking forward to this show for a long time, and Snail Mail did not disappoint. Lindsey returned to the stage having traded in the bass in for her usual Jaguar (?) 6-string. She had a confident and kind of brash presence – I guess she must be used to performing for people who are older than her. There was a noisy intro which segued into Heat Wave off her new album Lush and the set was underway.

I guess people have been talking about her singing, and for good reason. I mean, Lindsey’s guitar-playing is kind of the gateway drug with Snail Mail, but Lindsey writes great songs, and she sings them with 110% conviction. There a very raw quality in her voice, like it’s beaming right from her soul. And you can understanding every fucking word which is bonus. 

The only qualm I have about Snail Mail is that they don’t really seem like a band. Lindsey is very clear that Snail Mail is her project. The other musicians seem very much the side men. Although they were all excellent musicians the drummer is the only one that seems to have any chemistry with Jordan. I guess maybe that’s just what works best for her, but I fantasize about a future version where Lindsey finds true collaborators.

But what the fuck, Jordan is on fire and it’s a joy to watch her perform! I love her guitar playing – there’s a really assertive quality about – jangly, ringing, and totally inventive. The songs are interesting, too. There were barn burners like Pristine and Static buzz, along with hauntingly pretty numbers like Let’s Find an Out. Before the encore she played two solo numbers that were super pretty.
Anyway, the set list I captured was:

  • Intro
  • Heat Wave
  • Dirt
  • Slug
  • “I’m not yours” “wasted”
  • Thinning
  • Let’s Find an Out
  • Full Control
  • Pristine
  • idk “someone like you”
  • Anytime (solo)
  • Cover song from Juno (solo)
  • Static Buzz [encore] 
Club Night at Starline Social Club

Club Night at Starline Social Club

Bonny Doon at Starline Social Club

Bonny Doon at Starline Social Club

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Speedy Ortiz at the Starline Social Club – June 9, 2018

Here is my review of a show I saw back in June. First band is Winter, led by bubbly Brazilian American Samira Winter. She is wearing a sparkly clingy top, a tie dye skirt and is playing a paisley strat. I really liked this band – they had a great psychedelic, shoegaze kind of sound. The songs were good, and had some landscape to them, as our old friend Michael Leary used to say. They are having a good time, and I would be happy to see this band again anytime. I sprang for their cassette Ethereality which I have been enjoying.

YouTube in its wisdom has decided I should be interested in Anna Burch, who is second on the bill. Her new video keeps popping up in my suggestions. I did watch the video for Tea Soaked Letter, which I thought was nicely produced, but kind of basic really. On stage Anna and band are all kind of awkward in a sweet way. My favorite song is Asking 4 a Friend, which she said was a song about “dating your drug dealer.” It’s a little grittier and more “Detroit” than some of the prettier stuff. They are having a good time. The bass player is a doll and has a big smile on her face for the entire show.

The club, which is not very big is not sold out for Speedy Ortiz, but it’s pretty darned full. They are playing Stereolab in between sets, which makes me happy. This was my fifth Speedy Ortiz show, which is a lot for me.

When people ask me about Speedy Ortiz – in my imaginary life where people talk to me about bands I like – I hear myself telling people that Speedy Ortiz are really really good, but I tend to prefer bands that are more emotionally raw. And I guess in a way it’s true my jam is bands that are a little more “unhinged” like Skating Polly or Joanna Gruesome. But having said that about Speedy’s comparative restraint, I have come to appreciate that the feelings informing Sadie’s compositions are quite powerful indeed. I think it may have taken me all these years of listening to their music to fully appreciate that. Anyway, I just want to say that there are strong emotions in Speedy Ortiz’ music, even if there are no visible scars.

Of the five Speedy Ortiz performances I have seen so far this was the overall best and most rocking one I’ve attended. Sadie’s clear voice had a little edge of hoarseness, which lent some additional grit. Backing vocals by bassist Audrey Zee Whitesides and drummer Mike Falcone were also excellent. I am a huge fan of Falcone’s drumming and the distracted professorial energy he brings. The band is really in sync and playing well together. Many of the songs are full-on raging, from opener Buck Me Off, Plough off of Major Arcana, and Ginger from Foil Deer, among others.

The set ended with crowd-pleasers Tiger Tank and No Below. Apparently No Below was featured in a video game. Sadie was sure half the audience was here for that song, but we were all clueless. She said “we’re not going to come back for an encore, so this is it” and launched into one I didn’t recognize, but it was great and had something to do with ‘too many boyfriends.’ Later I searched the lyrics and realized it was Taylor Swift from way back in 2012 (see video above!). Here’s the whole set list, as best as I could make it out:

1. Buck Me Off
2. Lean In When I Suffer
3. Lucky 88
4. Raising the Skate
5. Can I kiss You
6. Plough
7. Villain
8. The Graduates
9. Ginger
10. Drk Wrld
11. I’m Blessed
12. Moving In
13. Tiger Tank
14. No Below
15. Taylor Swift

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