Tag Archives: Live

Live Review: Jeff Mangum at Wortham Center

22 Jan

When you hear Jeff Mangum’s name, it’s hard to think of him as anything other than the “reclusive” persona writers have pegged him as. The truth is, I’ve seen Mangum first hand, and he’s nothing of the sort.

Last night, Mangum brought his highly exclusive, extremely anticipated tour to Houston’s Wortham Center in Downtown, and the place was sold out. It might go down as one of the most surreal, genuinely touching concerts I’ve experienced as of yet.

The crowd, which ranged from pre-teen to retired, dressed in their best “going out” clothes. There were no torn jeans, the tights weren’t ripped, and majority of the 21+ crowd was drinking wine or a cocktail versus beer. While it sounds like a strange way to gauge things, the same people sitting around me are the same ones that show up for $2 Lone Star nights and end up swinging their gorilla-sized hands in the air during a free show put on by the same production company, Pegstar. It was pretty nice to see everyone well-behaved at a venue that usually hosts events from orchestras and opera singers. Hell, one of the chandeliers probably costs more than my car.

The show started promptly at 8 p.m. when Tall Firs politely took the stage. The duo sat near one another in the middle of the stage, sharing a Fender Super Reverb and knocking out eight songs from their self-titled debut, 2008’s Too Old To Die Young and 2012’s Out of It and Into It.

In between tracks such as “Hairdo” and “So Messed Up,” band-mates David Mies and Aaron Mullan trade out guitars to get the right sound on each song while partaking in humorous banter. But among stories of stoned kids in OKC and prostitutes in St. Louis, Mies got the last laugh when he and Mullan snubbed Pitchfork’s Aaron Leitko for ripping apart Mies’ version of “I Couldn’t Say it to Your Face” by Arthur Russell.

Tall Firs have the airy, atmospheric chops of Explosions In The Sky, with more of a knack to sound like Sonic Youth or Pavement. Vocally, the two sound like they mastered the whiskey and cigarette routine while extensively studying every album in their personal collection. When stripped down, their songs left the crowd silent and transfixed in the dark of the room.

Following a brief intermission, Mangum took the stage wearing a flannel shirt, jeans and a hat while the house lights stayed on halfway – most likely at his request. But though he looked a bit more gray and grizzly when compared to the photos taken of him playing to Occupy Wall Street protestors a year ago, Mangum still looks relatively youthful.

As he sat in his chair aside four acoustic guitars, he dived straight into “Oh Comely,” sounding just as crisp and sincere as the recorded version we’ve all heard hundreds of times. After a long applause, Mangum prodded the audience to sing along with him to “The King Of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1” and “The King Of Carrot Flowers Pts. 2 & 3,” which were played continuously.

Jeff Mangum at Wortham Center last night. Photo by Ed Abello (@sensitive_b)

Though backing instruments such as horns and accordions weren’t part of the set, Mangum’s voice left nothing to be desired. Instead, the crowd acted as an a cappella version of the track, singing back trumpet sections as the hall echoed with the intensity of the experience. And while Houston crowds are notorious for misbehaving, there were only a few that were unable to keep their composure or follow the rules. Some were seen running around the room back and fourth with friends they’d spotted, others forgot to take the flash off of their camera and could be seen by everyone going against his “no photography” rule.

Even so, Mangum took song requests with stride – either accepting them or politely explaining that he was without the proper pedal – and he even laughed at a man who shouted out “Keep Austin Weird!” after divulging that his family was from Texas. He could even be seen talking to people at the front of the house, and often asked the crowd the keep singing along with him or move forward if they felt the desire.

Throughout the hour-long set, Mangum pulled songs off both albums – On Avery Island and In An Aeroplane Over The Sea – and also found time to cover Roky Erikson’s “I Love The Living You.” Often times he stopped to use throat spray and guzzle down a bottle of water that required two hands. But aside from what looked like a minor cold, Mangum was in high spirits, often responding to a rogue “thank you!” or “I love you!”

“No, thank you,” Mangum mused as he placed his hand over his chest before diving into “Song About Sex.” “Thank you from the depths of my soul. I never expected this, I didn’t even think anyone would ever pay attention to me.”

At the end of his set, Mangum smiled and waved with sincerity as the crowd erupted in applause and gave him a standing ovation. And whether planned or not, Mangum came out one last time to finish the night with “Two Headed Boy Pt. 2.” That, of course, got another standing ovation.

And just like that, Jeff Mangum disappeared behind the curtains and the dream came to and end.

Set List
Oh Comely
King Of Carrot Flowers, Parts 1-3
Holland, 1945
Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone
Engine
Two Headed Boy, Part 1
I Love The Living You (Roky Erickson cover)
Song Against Sex
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Naomi
Ghost
Two Headed Boy, Part 2

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Paying attention: Not just for the classroom

16 Oct

Today I got on Twitter, as I do every day from my phone, to check up on news, daily quips and to update the world on my own livelihood. But unlike every other day, I saw a tweet from TheBestManager that spoke to some issues I’ve personally been focusing on in the past year or two.

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The tweet, shared by Sargent House – a record label for bands such as Fang Island and Tera Melos – touches on quite a few sore subjects in the music industry.

Where do I start? There’s the obvious one – talking and taking pictures during a concert, ensuring that everyone around you is distracted from the performance. Then there are the less obvious ones – never listening to albums in full, skipping through well-written articles to get to links and videos of performances, and my favorite, the decline of magazine sales.

The truth is that the addiction to electronics and quick results has created such a big disconnect that there’s no rug large enough to sweep it under. In an age where you can do almost anything from your phone, people have forgotten how to be interesting without one.

Are we really having trouble retaining all of the information thrown at us, or have we just stopped paying attention? Do we really need to take pictures to remember a concert or prove that we were there, or have we stopped placing importance on how great the band was in exchange for likes on Instagram?

The truth is that I’m not immune to wanting to share my experiences with the world, but I’ve learned to set limits for myself. I’m writing this blog in hopes that a few of you will realize it, too. And really, it’s not hard to make the change.

Instead of snapping pictures throughout the concert, take a few during the first song. After that, stop trying too hard to get the perfect picture and focus on what you paid money for. Instead of talking to your friends in the back of the venue, actually listen to the opening acts. You’ll probably like them, and it’s a great way to find new music. When you get on the internet, don’t just start link-jumping. Read it, comment and share it with people if you like it.

To me, it’s all about making an effort to respect those around you. The music industry is a community, and you have a hell of a lot more power as a fan than you think.

Most importantly, try to minimize your dependence on technology – even if it’s only for a few hours during a concert. Or a movie. Or dinner with friends and family.

Live Review: Pains of Being Pure at Heart, 4/8 @ Fitzgerald’s

9 Apr

Source Unknown

With their second full-length album, Belong, released on March 29th, Pains of Being Pure at Heart have embarked on a full-US tour.

After much anticipation, and a canceled session at Cactus Records, Pains finally stopped by Houston for the first time on Friday to play on the same bill as Warpaint, who headlined the upstairs room while Pains topped the bill below.

The Watermarks opened for Pains, bringing energy to those who came early enough to catch them. The Houston-based band (who are giving their music away for free) have an electronic, pop-grunge sound. It’s hard to explain, but when hearing them live, you can hear remnants of The Smashing Pumpkins and Pixies, as well as bands like R.E.M. The band is set to play Free Press Summer Fest this June.

Twin Shadow, who is on tour and scheduled to open for Pains, had to cancel due to an illness.

At around 10:30, Pains finally took the stage. What first struck me is that the band had always performed as a quartet until this point. The group, which comprised of lead vocalist/guitarist, Kip Berman, keyboardist/vocalist, Peggy Wang, as well as drummer Kurt Feldman and bassist Alex Naidus, was quaint and minimal. However, Friday night they had Christopher Hochheim playing guitar.

I’m not sure if Hochheim, pictured above – far right, is a permanent fixture, but I will say that his additional guitar playing added to the aesthetic of the band more than took away from it.

In the crowded room, the sound came off of the stage in waves and proved to be more of an experience than I anticipated. The band was every bit as charming on stage as they are on record. Wang flirted innocently, peeking from behind her long hair with a smile that seemed to sum up the vibe of the band — blissfully shocked. Although I couldn’t hear the entirety of what he was saying, Berman spoke briefly between songs to mention their excitement to be there and how thankful they were that Houston came out for the show.

The band, who hail from New York City, brought an old-school feel to Fitz – a venue that has been around for more than 30 years. With walls that have heard their fair share of nu wave acts, Pains seemed as if they were paying homage to the history of the venue. Their flawless approach to the aging and increasingly hard-to-get-right genre made it all the more enjoyable. It was as if I were being time warped back to 1985, when hair was big and bands like The Talking Heads were dominating the airwaves.

For those who have yet to hear their latest album, it’s safe to say that the follow-up holds much more than a candle to their debut. As I said on Twitter, Belongs sounds more like The Cure and less like The Smiths. They’ve gone from a softer, more ethereal-sounding nu wave act to on that is teetering on the edge of the NYC punk-rock edge. The guitars are harder, but they’ve managed to keep their dreamy appeal and still manage to stay in tune with the band that so many have come to enjoy while taking great strides as musicians.

Perhaps I am a bit of a romantic, but being raised on Brat Pack flicks and my Dad’s flawless taste in music spoiled me to the point that I realized halfway through their set that Pains would be an excellent band to see on a first date. Without missing a beat, the band kept in tune with one another throughout the entire set, and it’s safe to say that they have an impeccable live show.

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