Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist: 5/18/12
About a week ago, I was fortunate enough to attend one of the most aesthetically and musically captivating shows I have ever experienced. The show featured two headliners, tUnE–yArDs and St. Vincent, with a local band called Kapowski opening.
After a decent but somewhat monotonous set from Kapowski, tUnE–yArDs, consisting of Merrill Garbus on vocals, percussion, and ukulele, a bass player, and two saxes, seized the spotlight. Their set began in good taste with an amazing solo vocal intro from Merrill. She used her unusual and raspy voice in all sorts of weird ways, jumping between octaves and coming down only to blurt out a great and unexpected melody that shook the attentive audience. After a few minutes of an ear opening vocal experience, the rest of the band took the stage and played a rockin’ set. The face–paint–clad singer multi–tracked a deep, dead–headed barrel drum, a snare, and a crash. The woman could have been her own band, but what added even more to the erratic musical montage was the killer back–up band and the sporadic bang of pot lids and kitchen utensils. It has to be said: the sound coming from that girl’s ukulele is CRAZY. She can get such a grinding voice out of such an innocent looking instrument with just a little duct taped pick–up.
As for St. Vincent, I’m never disappointed. Annie Clark has the guitar skills of a God; she can shred all night long and in my book would crush Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards any day. With her sweet yet icy–cold voice flowing through the distorted guitar lines, St. Vincent juxtaposes the two instruments incredibly well. Opening her set with the great track, “Marrow,” from her album Actor, Annie emerged from the smoky backdrop of the stage in black leather shorts, standing domineeringly behind her 1967 Harmony Bobcat shred machine. You could barely make out the silhouettes of the three backing her up.
Annie’s red lips stood out dramatically against her pale skin and crazy mess of curls as she belted lyrics emanating a vibe of Joan Didion–esque 60’s housewives on quaaludes. The set was well–chosen, featuring songs from both of her albums, Actor and Strange Mercy, along with a cover of the Pop Group’s “She’s Beyond Good And Evil” which transformed Annie’s voice into a screaming punk version of Karen O., tweaking the original to make it a St. Vincent special. She closed out her set with a new song I’d never heard called “Krokodil,” which featured the minimoog player on a grinding guitar line and a Sex Pistols–esque drum line. Clark, standing with her legs apart and head swaying, jumped down in front of the stage, her fans hoisting her up until she was belting from the footholds of her fans’ hands. Next came a twirling leap, the sea of hands aiming back towards me. Her fans’ loyalty was also evident in the shuffle to hold up the writhing creature, not letting her touch the ground, sticky with beer.
When the song finished, Annie was hoisted back onto the stage. To the beat of an encore chant, St. Vincent marched back on stage to say a final farewell to Oakland. This was truly a great show that I will never forget. Big thanks to tUnE–yArDs and St. Vincent for planting great experiences and even better music in my life.