Thursday, January 20, 2011

Back to work; Dean & Britta recap

Last week I took a stay-cation from work, with high hopes of cleaning up the home office, organizing everything in here, including the pile of CDs and getting stuff ready to auction, as well as cleaning up the rest of the house. And I expected to keep up that good run of blog entries I had in the final days of 2010 and the beginning of this month.
So here it is, four days into the week after the stay-cation, and only now am I getting around to an entry to follow the Burt entry below. Eh, what are you gonna do? The weather outside is awful (which cancelled Love Letters practice tonight) and the kid is fast asleep in the next room, so it's time to get back on track.

Last week Dean & Britta played at the Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland, drawing on Dean Wareham's Galaxie 500 catalog. They played a similar set in town last fall at a benefit for Hopital Albert Schweitzer, but last week's show was more publicized and is part of a tour.
The incredible thing about the set was the manner in which the group really recreated the Galaxie 500 sound in all its subtleties. Obviously Wareham is going to be able to recreate the way he played those songs (and he sang in the falsetto perfectly), but Jason Lawrence replicated Damon Krukowski's drum style in both the accents and the way he hit his kit. Britta Phillips stuck closely to the upper register of her bass, much like Naomi Yang did, and when she slid down to the lower frets during the climax of "Flowers," it felt like pure sonic bliss. I also scribbled the words "BLISS OUT" on my note pad during a later song, which I think was "Summertime," based on an equally scribbled, half-remembered song lyric. I know the song was in A.
That last statement is significant because after awhile, it felt like every song was in D, or built around D and one other chord. Of course, the initial appeal of Galaxie 500 came from the fact that all their songs were pretty similar and it didn't matter. Without the Kramer's sea-of-echo production, maybe some of that appeal was lost on me, 20 years down the road. Not that it ruined the night, though. Far from it. The only thing that detracted from the evening was the way I nodded off several times during the set, despite having had my usual p.m. cups of coffee and not having worked that day. Maybe the band was just lulling me to sleep.
For Ralph Carney's tenor sax line in "Decomposing Trees," guitarist Matt Sumrow pulled out a melodica and blew the line, giving it a reggae dub atmosphere that made up for the fact that the song seemed a little too uptempo, compared to the original. (And the purist in me missed the bells that are heard at the beginning and end of the song.) Sumrow's presence was great because it kept the rhythm guitar sound chiming when Wareham took a solo. He is a really understated soloist, with the way he uses space, melody and effects pedals, and during "When Will You Come Home," he manipulated his amp by the way he stood in front of it. It was fun.
For encores, they dug into their 13 Most Beautiful set and Britta sang Dylan's "I'll Keep it with Mine." True to my prediction, they followed that with New Order's "Ceremony," which always has some extra life in it.
Meeting of Important People, a fine local trio, opened the show although it took some adjustment time for me to get into the band. For some reason, they played stripped down, with their drummer only playing tambourine and harmonizing, with bass and acoustic guitar as the only other instruments in the songs. They had me by the end of the set, making me realize I've got to hear more of them. (They were giving away free CDs and I snagged one.)

No comments: