Good Old War (12/3)

December 9, 2009

Thursday night was Good Old War’s first headlining show ever, at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. It was one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve been to in months. Every band that played was fantastic in their own way.

Gabriel the Marine played first, and I was most impressed with their electric violinist, whose form was impeccable. It was truly inspiring to watch him switch from mellifluous legato to crisp staccato in every song, and his style was very creative. Hezekiah Jones had a violinist as well, but her style was completely different, to fit their folky sound. Though she sounded good, something went wrong with her instrument in the middle of their third song, making her unable to play for a good amount of the rest of their set. Nevertheless, the band sounded awesome, and had an upright bassist, which I loved. Cast Spells was next – the solo project of Maps & Atlases’ Dave Davison, joined by Good Old War as his band. There was no denying their chemistry together on stage, and the songs sounded great. I was excited to hear “Letters,” a song off the new Good Old War/Cast Spells split EP.

Finally came Good Old War to the stage, with a new confidence I have never before seen in them. It was a good kind of confidence, the type that makes you smile when you see it, and think about how far a band has come since they first started.

1. Tell Me
2. Window
3. Just Another Day
4. I’m Not For You
5. Maybe Mine
6. We’ve Come A Long Way
7. Get No Time
8. Texas Blues
9. Breaking Down
10. Looking for Shelter
11. Get Some
12. Weak Man
13. Coney Island

It was the longest set I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing them play, and the best, too; especially on Dan’s part. You can always tell how good a guitarist is based on not only their familiarity with scales and theory, but also their ability to take that knowledge and turn it into something different and creative that puts an audience in awe. Dan Schwartz is without a doubt that kind of guitarist, and it’s always amazing to watch him switch from playing acoustic to electric in the middle of songs. At the same time, he’s also one of the most modest musicians I’ve ever talked to. There’s nothing more refreshing than someone so talented being as down to earth as that man is.

Good Old War’s vocal harmonies sounded better than ever, and they changed up a lot of songs off of Only Way to be Alone to make the set a little bit different from past ones. The three new songs that they played (Texas Blues, Breaking Down, and Get Some) showed off a new side of the band, and made me appreciate them even more. Smooth tempo transitions, unique guitar licks, and quite a few genres thrown together.

I couldn’t be more satisfied with the way these guys continue to write music that I could never find unappealing.


11/6 – Monsters of Folk

November 16, 2009

Last Friday, I attended what I do consider to be the best show I have been to thus far – Monsters of Folk at United Palace Theatre. It was a night of not only MOF songs, but those of My Morning Jacket, Bright Eyes, M. Ward, Conor Oberst, and Yim Yames. The set looks unbelievable written down, but that’s of course nothing compared to being there to witness it. The show seemed to get better and better with each song, anticipating what would come next, and being very pleasantly┬ásurprised many times.

Since I wasn’t writing down the set as it went on, this setlist will not be completely accurate, but definitely close to the actual one:
1. Say Please
2. The Right Place
3. Soul Singer In A Session Band (BRIGHT EYES)
4. Slow Down Jo
5. Lime Tree (BRIGHT EYES)
6. Man Named Truth
7. Bermuda Highway (MY MORNING JACKET)
9. Ahead of the Curve
11. Baby Boomer
12. Lullaby + Exile (M. WARD)
13. We Are Nowhere And It’s Now (BRIGHT EYES)
14. Lenders in the Temple (CONOR OBERST)
15. I Will Be There When You Die (MY MORNING JACKET)
16. Chinese Translation (M. WARD)
17. To Save Me (M. WARD)
18. Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)
19. Temazcal
20. Wonderful (The Way I Feel) (YIM YAMES)
21. One Life Away (M. WARD)
22. One Hundred Million Years (M. WARD)
24. Goodway
25. Kathy With A K’s Song (BRIGHT EYES)
26. Smokin’ From Shootin’ (MY MORNING JACKET)
27. The Sandman, The Brakeman, and Me
28. Hit the Switch (BRIGHT EYES)
29. Losin’ Yo Head
3o. Map of the World
31. At the Bottom of Everything (BRIGHT EYES)
32. Whole Lotta Losin’
33. Another Travelin’ Song (BRIGHT EYES)
34. His Master’s Voice

I was brought to tears multiple times throughout the show, particularly during Golden, my absolute favorite song at this point in my life, as well as Lime Tree, a Bright Eyes song that never fails to make me tear up – especially with Jim James complimenting Oberst’s voice with a harmony three octaves higher.

In fact, every time James opened his mouth, it was impossible to keep my jaw from dropping. He delivered some of the best vocals I have ever heard during “At Dawn,” holding out notes that many vocalists could never imagine of hitting. He also had a tremendous amount of passion in his voice during “Smokin’ Without Shootin’,” which got every MMJ fan in the venue going crazy. As the lights on stage moved in all directions, shining upon expressions in the audience, I had never seen more soulful singing along in such a diverse group of concert go-ers; lovers intertwined in slow dance, friends swaying with arms linked, adults undoubtedly reminiscing, college kids throwing fists in the air – some grinning, some screaming, some sobbing. It was a fantastic thing to watch; only truly great songs evoke such great emotion.

It was also an extremely emotional experience to finally be able to hear a good amount of Bright Eyes songs live. I’ve been listening for seven years, yet missed my opportunity to see Bright Eyes live so many times. This show gave me the second chance I had been wanting so badly to hear the songs that define my childhood. I was not at all disappointed, as many of my favorites were played – I only wish I could have heard them at a more intimate venue. The encore was spectacular, and allowed everyone to rush up to the stage and dance and sing along to At the Bottom of Everything and Another Travelin’ Song. Probably the most fun of the night, for me at least.

One of the most impressive MOF number was one of their singles – “Dear God.” The most remarkable part of its live rendition was the constant flashing of different colored lights throughout the entire song – bright purple, electric blue, vivid green, deep red. It was one of the only points during the show where the lights were impressive, which bothered me a little bit, because they could have made the mood of each song significantly easier to establish if the light show had been given more thought. Not that it mattered too much to me – it was better than ones I’ve seen at most shows. Every other MOF song played was great, but The Sandman, The Brakeman, and Me, and His Master’s Voice are two more that stand strong in my mind. The vocals were flawless and beautiful, just as I had expected they would be.

I was not completely familiar with much of M. Ward’s music, and was pleased to discover that it was incredibly easy to get into and appreciate. Staring intently at his fingers as he picked like a pro, I realized that it was some of the most impressive guitar playing I’ve ever seen live.

Conor Oberst’s lyrics and clearly evident song writing skills, the soaring vocals of Jim James, the guitar playing of M. Ward, Mike Mogis’s modest accompaniment of all three on multiple instruments, and most of all, their ability to combine several genres of many projects originally performed with completely different people, all on one stage in one set, made it a show to be remembered forever.