Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sound of My Voice

I had intended for this to be my SXSW/Andrew Bird post, and I guess in a way it will be, but all that music got my wheels to turning…

Andrew Bird was magnificent.  He was everything I had hoped for, and that encore (3 part harmony on some old hymns made me teary eyed in the best possible way).  Andrew is a classically trained violinist and has said in interviews that he was a classical music kid, he never really got pop music, citing the beatles White Album as the closest he got to pop as a kid.  His classical education really shines in his live shows.  Bird’s use of layering and looping should build up into a cacophony of sound but somehow it all works, each piece fitting like a harmonic puzzle, giving way to a huge rapturous sound that doesn’t seem like it could come from the mere 4 people on stage.  I also realized how much Andrew’s voice likens to his instrument.  The attack and decay of his voice mimicking the violin, the slight vibrato, the quick words matching his nimble plucking.  Did one inform the other or is this a conscious effort?  Either way it was beautiful and intricate, a ridiculous tapestry of music being woven right in front of us.  How could you ask for more?

SXSW is always a bit of a gamble, especially when you’ll only be there for a day.  You scour the lineup and try to plan the best possible day of music and hope and pray that you’ll get in and that you won’t be missing something even better down the road.  Kelley and I didn’t actually make up our mind on who to see until the day of (actually we were still questioning ourselves about 20 minutes before we needed to be there).  We finally decided to go to Antone’s to see Glen Hansard (of the Swell Season and the Frames) and Lost in the Trees (whose new album I am listening to as I write this and it is insanely beautiful!).  Both of whom are on my list of shows for the year!  There were 6 bands in total playing the showcase and each of them was actually pretty good (with the exception of Cold Specks who were better than pretty good.  They were awe-inspiring and so unique.).  I’d been keeping track of the sxsw happenings and everyone had raved about the shows Glen had done so far so our anticipation was building for this show and he did NOT disappoint.  Glen is not classically trained.  Glen busked on the streets of Ireland and hardly became famous overnight (though it may appear so).  The set started with Leave from the once soundtrack and then Low Rising (my favorite from the swell season album).  Clarence Clemons’ nephew Jake came out to lend his saxophone skills to Low Rising and pretty much every song that followed.  The crowd ate it up and Glen continued to dish it out and not hold back.  There’s something in his style that is so guttural, he is not reserved, the music is like an animal burrowing inside of him and he’s working it back out.  After the first two songs Hansard only did covers the first of which was Bruce Springsteen’s Drive All Night which turned into a massive sing-a-long leading Hansard to say he didn’t ever want to stop (I took a video of the song lasting 5 minutes and put it down because I wanted to really wanted to experience it and it probably had another 5 minutes to go).  He then went on to another cover saying “I know I’m supposed to be here promoting myself and stuff but I just can’t.” He played a tune that he used to play when he busked that he likes to play to remind himself of how far he’s come.  He ended the night with an old Irish funeral song that he dedicated to his dad.  Hansard’s Irish brogue shining through this simple a capella song that ended up as another massive sing-a-long.

Both these artists had me teary eyed and took my breath away despite their huge differences.  It got me thinking, about individuality, about how important it is to stay true to yourself and your voice.  If Glen had tried to be more like Andrew, reserved and classical, he wouldn’t have the same impact, and if Andrew had tried to be more guttural and instinctive like Glen it would be inauthentic.

I’ve always been good at mimicking, impressions and accents come easy.  But finding your own voice can be more difficult.  I remember in my voice lessons my teacher saying “No, Nikki Nicole, sing it in your voice.”  (I hated that nickname) But she didn’t want me pretending to be Adele or Lissie or whoever we were singing that week, she wanted me to be me.  She would ask me “What does Nicole sound like?”  I found that to be a much more difficult lesson to learn, especially in a world of copy cats, look a-likes, and sound a-likes.  It’s hard to step out and find your own voice.  So that’s my goal right now, to find my own voice, in singing, in writing, in life.  To not follow or mimic, to be authentically me.

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Thom Yorke Dance Academy or My Night With Radiohead

RADIOHEAD

Seeing as I’m a bit of an obsessive nerd, I was preparing for Radiohead’s Dallas show by following all of their previous dates.  Looking up setlists to compare and contrast each date.  I even made a spotify playlist of all the songs they’d played recently (like i said… obsessive nerd).

Radiohead is oftentimes like a piece of high art, in as much as people say they like it and appreciate it, but don’t always necessarily understand it/are sometimes put off by it.  Especially recently when they’ve become much more heavily beat influenced and pretty much bucked the verse chorus bridge chorus songwriting system.  I’ll admit that King of Limbs is beautiful but sometimes hard to connect to (although seeing many of its songs performed live may have changed that for me… funny how that happens).  You can’t go into their show expecting a slew of greatest hits, because if they’ve proven anything, it’s that they do whatever the hell they want.  That being said, you SHOULD go expecting to have your mind blown by their ridiculous talent and showmanship.

They opened the show with Bloom and two songs in I turned to Kelley (my previously mentioned partner in musical crimes) and said “I honestly don’t even care what they play tonight anymore!”  Everyone probably goes in with a mental list of songs they HOPE will be played… praying that Thom will have some saintly change of heart and say “you know what, let’s give ’em Exit Music (For a Film).”  But there we all were, two songs in and our lists were out the window… We understood that they knew best.  That being said they did indulge us in such widely loved songs as Karma Police, There There, Paranoid Android and my personal favorite, Everything in its right place, with a True Love Waits intro (I’ll admit I slugged Kelley in the arm when Thom, seated at his piano, started that refrain… it is my favorite Radiohead song).  A highlight of the set for me was Give up the ghost, leaving Thom and Johnny alone on the stage together.  Two guitars, one voice, looping over and over itself in a perfect harmony.

The light show/video screens were a great touch without going too far overboard.  I think the best theatrical attribute though, would have to be Thom’s dance moves.  After the Lotus Flower video and subsequent mash-ups (my favorite being with Kelis’ Milkshake) Thom’s dancing talent was definitely on display for the world to appreciate.  Silly and clumsy as it is, there is still so much rhythm to it… as if he’s been possessed by the song itself.  Whether I’ve taken that statement too far is neither here nor there (but in all honestly I probably have), what is important is the joy that Thom’s dancing brings to our lives collectively.  I know that personally, I greatly appreciate a man who will dance willy nilly (Thom and Sam Rockwell being two of my favorites).  Thom’s magnificent moves aside, you couldn’t help getting the impression by some of the other band members that this was all old hat to them, looking slightly bored throughout parts of the night.  That being said I wholeheartedly believe that they are some of the most talented musicians in the world.  All of them multi-instrumentalists and all of them coming together to make such a unique and awe-inspiring sound.  But take a cue from Thom boys, and smile every once in a while.

By the end of the night we had been treated to 2 hours of dancing (or what passes for dancing in such a tightly packed crowd), 2 hours of show that we will be reminiscing and reliving for a long time to come (yes I’ve already made a playlist of last night’s setlist), 2 hours of communion with one of the world’s most creative and genre defying bands.

SIDE NOTES:

Go see Other Lives!!  They are so talented and moody (all full harmonies and haunting melodies).  I’ve seen them three times now and they are definitely benefiting from their time opening for radiohead.

Why do couples make out at shows?!  If you’d wanted a quiet night of makin’ out with your boo, you could have stayed home and saved a lot of money.  Let’s refrain from making out in public (especially when you are in such close quarters with strangers).

Getting there early was a good idea, however, I am glad we got there at 2 and not 4 IN THE MORNING?!  Really, what’s the point in that!  Some overzealous fans even made up a mock list so that they could try to control when they got in the doors.  In actuality it seemed like they just wanted to brag about being 1st or 8th in line (#51 ya’ll). Once we got inside we found ourselves closer to the stage than many of the people who were there before us because general admission tickets are a crapshoot!  It all depends on fate (which line will be faster, which line ends up closer to the stage, which friend will make a B line for the stage, saving you a spot while you hobble down the stairs in your heels… thanks Kell).

Wearing heels was in fact, a good idea!!!  I wore some comfortable heels (shocking i know)!  I am a short person, I always have problems seeing the stage at shows.  I made the decision to wear heels to radiohead.  I will admit that my toes were numb by the final encore but being able to see the band was totally worth it (because I ended up behind the TALLEST RED NECK IN THE WORLD… literally he had a red neck).  Note to self though, throw some tom’s in your purse for before and after the show… ya live and ya learn folks.

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