Actor out of Work

St. Vincent
with
Wildbirds & Peacedrums
Thursday, February 25, 2010

First Unitarian Church
2125 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia

I just wanted to write a quick note about a rock show I went to see last week.

Long gone are the days of crowded venues, getting to second base with complete strangers, a mosh pit boiling just feet away from you. We’re not kids anymore and the music scene, while thriving in Philly (per usual) is a chore to experience live. You can only drink in certain places, smoke in certain places, stand in certain places. I’m still stuck in the nineties (and the seventies) and have yet to have the desire to see any new bands until now.

The Hipster scene is rife with music nerds that are half connoisseur, half poseur, all vying for the opportunity to dole out a bunch of “really cool bands” they’ve heard that you’ve probably never heard of. They all seem to have obscure names, perhaps established during a whiskey fueled rehearsal in some dingy basement in Fishtown. I can’t speak much for these bands, I know there are some good ones out there, and a few that I wonder if they’re still around. I have no excuse really to never go to the Khyber or Tritone or where ever the cool kids go, but it’s such a chore these days because it is so hard to not be disappointed when rock is so dead. It’s just not what it used to be.

That’s why we have friends to rely on these days. Most times I end up hearing about a newer band from a friend or someone that is in the band. I’ve lucked out because most of them have been pretty awesome. I’m pretty picky when it comes to music even though I will listen to virtually anything.

One of my well-versed friends had told me about St. Vincent a while back after someone she knew (who was in a band) would be opening for the band. She went to see them live and couldn’t stop talking about it. She sent me their video and I was particularly impressed.

St. Vincent is frontwomaned by Annie Clark who held tenure with The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, the latter I’m familiar with thanks to a hipster who got a hold of my Mac one day and put a few tunes from them on it to pique my interest. The band is somewhat of an anomaly. There is this beautiful amorphous nature among its members that doesn’t allow the band to be pigeonholed. Several of Annie’s band mates are multi-instrumentalists, that to me makes for a very engaging experience. Her vocals are concisely brilliant with a quirky darkness to them. There is pure rock coming from her guitars, but the sweetness in the melodies produced calm the punch of the edgy beats. I thoroughly enjoyed the music not only in the way it was presented, but I’m a lyrics man and the writing was amazing.

St. Vincent is one of those bands that sends electricity through the audience because what they are doing is so fresh and different but not just for the sake of being different. When there is that uncanny air in the room and you know that this is a big shift in the way music can be viewed, it is hard not to take note.

The opening band, Wildbirds & Peacedrums also gave us a pioneer-esque effort with its two piece, male/female percussion overload. The male drummer was by far one of the best drummers I’ve seen live in a long time, I’m glad to see more drummers becoming front men in bands (take another dynamic duo, the local band Pattern is Movement). I was taken aback by his skill and precision and performance quality. While I was intrigued by his cohort who provided the vocals and a considerable effort in playing the kettle drums, her singing was borderline indecipherable but in the end I got it. She was using her voice more as an instrument than a vehicle with which to express herself. I was entertained, but still, I hate when I can’t understand what someone is saying.

All in all, it was a great show. The Hipsters pray to the G-d of rock and roll at that old, dingy, awesome Unitarian Church. I hope this isn’t a trend but the beginning of a new era in music where the emo boys go cry to their moms and the best drummers in the biz (and the women they adore) come to the forefront to kick some ass.

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