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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Four Shows in Four Days - Part 1

Posted by Andrew R Tonry on Wed, May 27, 2009 at 4:31 PM

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Those little plastic letters on the calendar board set this thing in motion—Four Shows in Four Days at the Roseland. It seemed worthwhile as the acts all share a particular distinction: each, at one time or another, has led the charge of their particular genre.

As much as the little plastic letters, I suppose you could say Sasquatch is responsible too. Indeed Portland benefits immensely via proximity, as most all bands headed to the Gorge (except the festival headliners, horrible without exception) schedule a show here on their way in or out. It's a beautiful thing really, as we get the bands in relatively-intimate spaces by comparison.

I suppose now is as good a time as any to launch off on my long-time Sasquatch tirade. I will avoid the obvious however, as countless others have noted the glaring lack of in/out access, overpriced beer and food, insane heat, surprise rainstorms/hail, and in particular, this year's Moody address to the jock/fratboy presence. Instead I'll offer a simple solution to most all these problems:

Start later. End later.

If Sasquatch began in the evening, a few hours after the Gorge's most heatstroke-inducing, high-noon sun had passed, it'd be almost all gravy (sans the jocks). First solve simply being comfort—no fighting sun burns and dehydration in a place with suspiciously little shade. No more getting drunk in the afternoon, running out of cash (or the booze you taped to your inner thigh), and sobering up before the good part of the show really starts. No clothes problems.

Instead spend the afternoon staying cool and comfortable in your campground. Maybe actually have the chance to go down to the water? (Seriously, how many of you actually have ever been to the water while attending a show at the Gorge? It's almost as if the scheduling methodically keeps us away from it...) We see the water, and feel like we're a part of the thing, but each of the two times I went to Sasquatch I never took a dip. Neither has anyone I know.

And wouldn't that make the whole thing more awesome? Swimming and BBQ'ing with friends BEFORE going to the show? Plus you'd have a good opportunity to get roundly liquored up. At the same, too, I figure is the band.

My vision is that of old festivals in the 70's, where some performer like Jimi Hendrix waited till 3AM to take the stage with a head-full of acid. Let the excitement build into surreal delirium (not to mention let's be a little more flexible with the set times—I'd take a few less bands to get this done).

But so much for all that woozy out-door romanticism—I'm headed for the middle Chinatown's dingy remains at the Roseland, a land of metal-detectors, pat-downs, and lines.

Keep going, for Mos Def, TV On The Radio, more

DAY 1 - MOS DEF

Crushing start to the Four Shows/Four Days concept as Show Number One is canceled. For reasons I'm yet unsure of, four shows sounded like an adventure while three now looks like just a pain in the ass. I originally figured to be burned out, sick and tired of the Roseland around day two. This way I'd have to suffer on and break through. Now it's just a lot more going downtown than I'd prefer—redundant rather than epic.

I'd was later told that Mos Def got "stuck in Hawaii." As ideal as the new found Portland sun has been—and certainly it is just that—the comparative situation stinks.

Mos' schedule was apparently so tight that when his flight was slightly delayed he would've arrived at the venue around 11:00PM Friday, the day of the show. Roseland has a curfew imposed by the city, supposedly "more strict for hip hop shows" (we'll have to do some more earnest research on this in the future, but I will say it made me feel a little better about Roseland's early show policy, which I have always had a bone to pick with, and something we'll address in the one moment).

It's a shame Mos had to cancel, because as I've been told, his last show in Portland was a disaster—it took place inside a incredibly listless Roseland during last-summers 100-degree heatwave. The New York rapper-actor apparently spent much of the time in-between songs complaining obnoxiously about the lack of AC. This would've been an ideal chance to wiggle back inside the good-graces of Portland fans.

It's just as well, I suppose. I had my sister's law school graduation to attend early the next morning.

DAY 2 - TV ON THE RADIO

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Jesus, the lines—bad omens continuing. I fought through them best I could, knowing that these shows begin unfairly early. After spending too much time in the pat down line, waiting for even the most minuscule crevices in my backpack to be picked at and then again in the ticket line I ran up the stairs, my foot first touching the floor of the Roseland ballroom at precisely 9:40PM, only to find the Dirty Projectors had already finished. In fact, TV On The Radio's equipment was already set up.

For days I knew this would happen. Just like when the opening show was canceled I asked myself: should I still go through with this? Reluctantly I arrived at yes, each time with less conviction. Other than Animal Collective, the Dirty Projectors were the band I was most interested of this little stretch (and for that matter, the distant past and foreseeable future). Had they a headlining slot the Dirty Projectors may have topped the list. (Anyway, despite profound disappointment, no reason to talk about things I missed, suffice to say a good number of those entering the room as and after I did shared the sentiment aloud.)

In front a of sold out crowd and a home-made patchwork tapestry TV On The Radio began their set in a more pensive manor, forgoing an explosion for a warm, reserved whirring to life. They did so, perhaps in hopes of creating an ever expanding, epic climb of a set—which I've seen them do to perfection before. But they also started slow simply because they can.

It wasn't long, though, till the sweat was dripping of Tunde Adebimpe in mid bounce, as the six-piece—complete with near-full-time saxophonist—began pumping thick heavy, full-spectrum soundscapes over syncopated dance beats. The Brooklynites buzzed through "Staring At The Sun," a hit they've played more times these last few years than they'd like to admit, though here TVOTR didn't seem as burned out on it as in times past. And while "Sun's" hook is relentlessly catchy, "I Was A Lover" remains the bands all-around creative, compositional apex, but did not make Saturday's set.

The most compelling moment of the evening came in the re-working of "Dirtywhirl," which saw the first-half of an otherwise pounding track turn minimal and hazy-cool as the drumming was replaced by a beat-box loop and augmented by clarinet. The rest of the set split evenly between the darker, vicious and more profound "Return to Cookie Mountain" and the slightly brighter "Dear Science,."

(TV On The Radio has said the "Cookie Mountain" writing/recording process that produced such a phenomenal album was incredibly trying. They acknowledged in an interview that they could not/would not get that deep in "Dear Science,.")

These days, almost without exception, encores have become a given. I don't know if this is good or bad, but I do know when a sound man switches guitars, tunes them, and brings out new instruments while the crowd is clamoring for an encore there isn't much suspense in it.

Here the roadies brought an extra drum, some shakers, tambourines and other loose percussion out for members of the Dirty Projectors to join TV On The Radio in a big pot-luck jam to finish the night (Dave Longstreth did not join in).

With a baseball cap pulled snugly low, shielding his face from view, TV On The Radio's keyboard/bassist Gerard Smith remained hidden in the shadows toward the back of the stage, tucked into the nook of his keyboard-cave. Smith is tasked with creating an ample chunk of TV On The Radio's dense neutron cloud and does an impressively solid, thankless, lunch-pail type job.

Throughout the first three-quarters of the otherwise energetic performance, falsetto-specialist Kyp Malone looked like he'd rather be anywhere than here. His body spoke of boredom as his glances neared complete disdain for both the music and audience. For reasons I cannot explain, Malone often appears this way and is fortunate to have Adebimpe's courteous, contagious, continuous and orgiastic joy as counterbalance. But by the night's end, Malone had finally loosened up, bobbing up and down, showing and sharing the vibe that this was not a bad place to be after all.

But in the end, Smith perhaps better characterized the night's performance—it was indeed workman-like. A beautiful blueprint long-separated from the days of it's tense creative process, now constructed with ease by a group of talented yeoman.

(Tomorrow's edition features more pictures, so seriously blown out video footage, and a surprise performance not on the orginal docket. Well, two actually.)

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