Sunday, February 17, 2008

“Ok, we’re going to freak out now, but don’t worry.”

Last night marked the end of my blitzkrieg on the Austin nightlife. No more interesting weekend activities on the horizon, but I do know the Dirtbombs are coming to town at some point.

Anyways, the final event on my social calendar was a fitting climax. I went to see Liars at Mohawk. It’s fitting considering I love these guys more than Super Furry Animals and Crispin Hellion Glover. I’ve been wanting to see them live pretty much since picking up their debut album back in 2001, but haven’t gotten the chance. They rarely tour, and the only time I can remember having the chance was last year when they came through Austin opening for Interpol. I wasn’t about to pay $40 to see them, and then have to sit through Interpol. But this time around, it was $10, they were headlining, and No Age was opening (check out their website for pictures from Austin!). Much better situation.

Some quick notes about the venue. Mohawk is a two-story bar that has an enormous outdoor stage. The stage is on the ground floor, and there is ground level floor space for the audience. There are also two more tiers for the audience, making a three level outdoor venue. Pretty cool place. Unfortunately, on the night of the show, it was 40 degrees, it had rained all day, and the outdoors was just generally unpleasant. Since the stage is outdoors, and it had been raining, the stage and ground level was covered in tents. This basically meant that you couldn’t see anything from the upper levels, meaning everyone in the venue had to be crammed down on the ground level. So everything is wet, cold, crowded, and even on the ground floor the tents obscured your view. Less than ideal, but oh well. Better than canceling the show, that’s for sure.

First, let’s start with No Age. I’m vaguely familiar with their music. My brother, Brad, likes them, and made me a copy of their album Weirdo Zippers, but I haven’t really given it a whole lot of attention. Listened to it enough to know what they sound like, but not enough to know their songs very well. They’re a duo (drummer/vocalist and guitarist) that plays noisy, artsy, punk-ish kind of stuff. The show was good. They basically stood on stage and played their instruments, nothing too crazy. Sounded good. Pretty much it boiled down to a good show, but not knowing their music very well kind of rendered me indifferent.

Now on to the main event, Liars. For those who aren’t familiar with Liars’ music, they are a trio (foursome for the concert) who make music that is so varied they are nigh-impossible to describe. From album to album, their sound changes drastically and unpredictably. Their first album, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, was filled with jittery, confrontational, quasi-experimental dance-punk. Their second album, They Were Wrong, so We Drowned, is a dense, sprawling concept album about witches that was steeped in arrhythmic, difficult layers of noise, tape-loops, drumbeats, and just general grating unpleasantness (this is my favorite album– I seem to remember thinking the first time I listened to it, “oh my god, my brain is melting out of my ears…”). The follow-up to the unfairly reviled They Were Wrong was the critically acclaimed Drum’s Not Dead. It is a delicate, atmospheric, beautiful, and tribal album. Their fourth, and newest, album is the self-titled Liars, which marked a move away from the sprawling, experimental concept albums of They Were Wrong and Drum. Liars is a muscular, varied rock album that reigns in their seemingly uncontrollable weirdness into more traditional rock structures. There are mind-melting, Stooges-esque primal rock, fuzzy shoegazer/Jesus and Mary Chain pop, and even at least one faux-80s mid-tempo dance/funk song (mixed in with the usual unpredictable craziness, of course). They are probably the most unpredictable, exciting modern band around.

The set list for the show was a mix of They Were Wrong, Drum, and Liars. They didn’t play anything off of They Threw Us All in a Trench, and as Craig (a pleasant dude I met in line for the bathroom) pointed out, they 86-ed two of the original four members (Liars was originally a four-piece outfit, but after their debut album, the drummer and bass player left, and a new drummer was brought in, making them a trio) between their first and second albums. Craig thought they didn’t play any of those songs because the new drummer couldn’t handle it, but I prefer to think they don’t play them by choice. But whatever. Most noteworthy about the set, though, was that there was no “There’s always room on the broom” which is odd. Basically, I dig everything these guys have ever recorded; so set list selections aren’t really an issue.

In terms of what songs were best live, pretty much my opinions of their albums dictated which songs I liked best. Stuff off of They Were Wrong were best, followed by songs from Drum, and finally the new Liars stuff. Which is not to say any of it was even close to bad, just all relative levels of kick-ass. Notably, though, their live rendition of “The Otherside of Mt. Heart Attack” was spine-tinglingly awe-inspiring.

The performance was captivating. Angus Andrews makes for a charismatic and amazing front man (even with his recent back troubles); spazzing out, waving his arms around in an almost shamanistic manner; howling, screaming, and crooning his way through their set. Their “encore” was great mostly because Angus just got on the mic and said, “This is the part where we would go and sit in a little room for a few minutes then come back out. If it’s ok with you, I think we’ll just stay here.” Personally, I think encores are stupid and annoying. I don’t want to have to stand there for 10 minutes just to hear another two songs, so it was nice that they forego that bit of tomfoolery.

Overall, great show. The experience in its totality was a little rough, given the aforementioned weather/crowd problems. But I guess you can’t always have your cake and eat it, too.

Once again, Pitchfork has provided pictures of their show (again, not from this show specifically, but from the same tour).

On a side note, I noticed another developing stupid hipster trend. Ugly-ass camo tights. An unfortunately large number of female concertgoers were wearing tights that had camo patterns on them that basically made it look like they had some kind of gross, splotchy skin disease all over their legs. I guess it fits in with the whole looking-disgusting-and-having-poor-personal-hygiene-is-hot aesthetic.

Oh, and one more thing. When I got home from the concert, I went to go to the bathroom, only to discover a giant-ass spider in my toilet. INSIDE MY TOILET!!! Ewww….

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