this must be the place....goin strong , yeah baby!!!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti review / Mohawk 9/8/12 (first show of tour)

hey these guys are a cool band.

Last time i saw them at fun fun fun fest 2 years ago at Waterloo Park. it sort of felt like they were getting close to peaking at that show, and I wonder if they have already. That show was right after Before Today, and i watched it from the side of the stage next to a beautiful dancer who was travelling with them. Flash forward to now: some of the new material is really strong, but i would consider it impressive if the next set is better than the current new set. They played for probably an hour and a half, and I thought the selections were interesting--a fair amount of the older songs they played were some of the more esoteric selections. It was their first show of tour, and there was a new drummer, who should get more comfortable a few shows in. The bassist was able to provide small jolts of energy here or there, but if they weren't naturally syncing in the pocket it seemed like the attitude was "hey im not the one messing up" which works if you're Prince, but hey I think it will be a moot point soon so why get into it. I do think the drummer played well and doesn't really deserve to be ragged on. I know theyve been doing it this way forever, but I think having Ariel not play an instrument at all is a little strange, while the 2 other guys are both playing keys and guitar. Like musically in the live setting he has no ability to lead, because he is just doing vocals (but it was the same arrangement they had during the FFFfest show which was awesome, so its not to say one way or another, really.)

Musically, the MVP of the band right now is Kenny Gilmore, who was playing stage left. He kept a wide douchebag smile on almost the whole show, almost punchdrunk. Especially at moments where maybe the beat was getting missed or something this really helped maintain the vibe, and it was a sweet pro move. I think he is probably one of those dudes where something burns deep inside of him, like he is a crazy person, and he would sooner walk on coals than face the prospect of being embarrassed on-stage because you thought your band was awesome but then it turned out you suck because I donno you got a big head about what you were doing? Dang, talk about a worst nightmare, now you gotta do a whole tour. Basically if you were a sailor in a hurricane, he would be your fellow sailor keeping your ass alive cause this is what you are and what you are doing and were not gonna die on my watch damnit, and hes bailing out water looking like a madman. It was some real lead from the front musicianship. Especially early on he had a few mondo guitar riffs one right after another and to me the vibe was "hey guys remember me im Kenny, this is what I do, im a crazy motherfucker," while some of the other musicianship was maybe a little more jittery to start. It kinda helped the show settle in. It was funny later in the show, the soundman (Their soundman, not the mohawk guy) was like rocking out enjoying the show forgetting he was at work, and Kenny tried to get his vocals turned up (turned on actually) and the soundman was missing his signals and just rocking out, and you could see Kenny get like red and he looked really pissed off in his eyes to me, but he just zoned into that super douchebag smile and i think it got him thru the moment. fuckin funny tho. I had snuck into the green room before the show just to be a fly on the wall and I heard the soundguy say ...he was talking about the list and he said something like "oh they are all very important people, like tour managers and bass players," which i thought was just well played musician humor and quite funny. Im always a fan of hubris in a comedic setting. I had some nice smack for him later, which I kept inside cause I just was gonna try and have a nice show without causing any altercations (a novel concept i know), but I did want to tell him "hey nice medallion, are you from Baltimore?" harhar. i think he would have taken it the wrong way ;p.

The other keyboard and guitar player, I thought he was quite good. His role in the band is sort of as a glue guy. He is responsible for executing the meat of the most douchy overblown sounding riffs, or just play the chords with the autowah on it. Always good to have a guy on the team who will do the dirty work. Still, there was one song later in the set where I saw him doing some straight rocking out and it seemed like "finally, that guy gets a break." I dont know, I imagine he would prefer to be doing some more different kinds of things. He had some cool parts where he was playing 2 keyboards at once, I dont see why he cant play cool lines like Steven Drozd for example. There was at least 1 song where I doubt it was his idea to be playing auto-wah keyboard chords underneath whatever is going on, just because he had already done that on x number of songs and it seemed like maybe this was one where it just didn't work as well, and it sounded a little stale. Hopefully after they gel a little they will let him let loose a little, and he can find little spots to mix it up. There was also one song I think they need to drop from the set because it has the same rhythm on the hook as one of the older songs (which they had already played earlier in the set, i dont know which one exactly, sorry), and the basic idea of the new song is really just the trademark rhythmic pushes, so when its the same exact way its kinda noticeable. Dang, sorry you guys cant just do that anymore, consider yourself a victim of your own success.

As far as certain songs that stood out, I was pretty wasted but I'll give it a shot. There was an older one that sounds like L'Estate but isnt, I thought that was really good. The bass playing, same as the drums, wasnt really in the pocket at this show, first show of tour and all, but I think some of his best bass lines are the kinda moderately slinky walking bass type stuff. There was one song with a cool bass line, really cool changes, but some of the getting around the neck seemed a little, not necessarily forced but it seemed like the primary trick to get that texture, rather than following a melody or something, and getting that effect naturally just cause thats how the melody of the bass line is. Maybe I just need to listen to it more. Some of the older material sounded really good "Bright Lit Blue Skies" and "Flying Circles" came off pretty well, and seemed like especially later in tour they will open up pretty easily. "Hardcore Pops are Fun" I dont think was really the selection I would make off of House Arrest at all. Oh yeah the opener where he goes "My Name is Ariel and I'm a Nympho" it was right out of the gate, but I feel like they should save this one to be a peak of the set, it was maybe their strongest new song I felt, and it seems like the one to go nuts on. Im just a rock and roller from Beverly Hills. That song is sick. It gives Ariel a chance to get more involved. Honestly, I think he should, I dont know how he doesnt get bored doing a tour and not playing an instrument, he should just get a keyboard set up so he could play it whenever he wanted, and then they could have some 5-piece vibes as well as 4-piece vibes (musically speaking.) Just throw another pitch in the arsenal. Whenever I was watching him I felt like he was doing a good job of being a frontman, just looking weird and trying to zone out on it, but looking back on it I am surprised to think of how little I actually spent during the show looking at him---I was mainly watching the instrumentalists. He did have some cool whipcrack sound tongue clicks on a weird beat on one song that reminded me what i liked about his early stuff, but as far as musical moments actually finding their way into the set it seemed few and far in between. But settling in goes for singers too, once the band is settled in maybe it will be easier for him to go nuts in a way when hes singing, and that will pull some more balance back to him.

I think if you divided the show in half where the first half of the show was up until Ariel announced "5 more minutes," the first half was stronger. I never got bored during the second half of the show, partly just cause I think the music is really interesting in general, but it was lacking in standout moments after that point, and I think it would be cool to fire a couple more Aces from the back catalogue.

Anyways it was a good show from an interesting band. Definitely a first show of tour, I hope one of our many festivals can get them back to Austin on shortish order and I can get a chance to see them still on this basic set but once everything kinda settles in. It kind of makes me uneasy to think of Austin as a place where you would start a big tour for promotional reasons for "an indie band", but I think in 2012 that is how it is now. I do think that this band would benefit from not taking anything for granted as far as maintaining a sense of urgency and still needing to hold pushing it forward musically as the reason d'etre and also just jumping in the water as far as having the lifeblood be musical contributions from all 5 guys, because all those guys can play at such a high level I think it would ultimately be limiting if anyone's parts are really being dictated. Gotta get that full band unity-trust-hippie-shit going on. As far as they have come, at this point with all the ladies lining up and fuckin mexican food and fruit platters, probably complacency would be their worst enemy, but here's to shaking/brushing that off, and it was great for me just on a raw level to be so excited about a show for once and they pretty much delivered so word to that.

Read More......