The Brothers Comatose are playing their CD release show this Saturday, May 19, at the Great American Music Hall, and boy, do they want you to be there.
For every 50 tickets sold pre-sale to the show, band members are taking off an article of clothing and posting the photos on their site. Think of it as a type of strip poker, with convenience fees. So far, they’re up to 203 tickets, which means the photos are still pretty PG-rated.
Does any wealthy benefactor want to buy all the remaining tickets so we can finally see Gio Benedetti buck naked? (Dear Warren Buffett, buy tickets here.)
Here’s hoping the 2010 NorBay winners are successful in their campaign, and below, see the video for “The Scout,” a song about staying young, from the BroCo’s new album, Respect the Van. (Considering our recent question about why there aren’t very many bike songs in the world, we should note it contains the line “We’ll ride our bikes all over this town / There ain’t no freedom like two wheels on the ground.” Sweet!)
Jaga Jazzist is huge in Norway, where, one could argue, it’s easier to stick out than in America. Every album the schizophrenic nine-piece instrumental ensemble makes cracks the nationwide top ten, and they play to thousands of people in Oslo and, indeed, all over Europe. They are a case study in Scandinavian bipolarity—for every Europop sensation like Robyn, there’s an equal and opposite act of deep artistry and complexity like Jaga Jazzist.
But Jaga Jazzist are not as well-known in the States. On Wednesday night, at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, they played to roughly 350 people. The venue even had to close the balcony so the floor would seem full.
To fans of the band, this is a tragedy. Within two minutes of the group’s members taking the very, very cluttered stage, it was vividly apparent that something incredibly special was happening, and far too many people were missing it in favor of America’s Next Top Model. Along with vibes, guitar, electric bass, tuba, trumpet, trombone, upright bass, Korg synthesizer, flute, bass clarinet, triangle, tambourine and other instruments I’m sure I’m forgetting, the band was anchored (and constantly uprooted, then anchored again) by the miraculous drumming of Martin Horntveth, whose dynamic replication of laptop programming on a live drum kit would have any other drummer in tears.
In the past, I’ve been fooled by Horntveth’s drumming. I initially thought the band’s wonderful 2003 album The Stix, for example, was the product of electronics instead of a live band. The nearly two-hour set skewed heavy on the band’s latest, One-Armed Bandit, which is probably the most organic and “live-band” sounding record in their canon—it’s more King Crimson and Frank Zappa than Aphex Twin. But the record does not do it justice. Seeing these songs live, with complex melodies, jagged time signatures, and variegated arrangements—it’s a head-spinning experience like no other.
Jaga Jazzist are playing a few more dates in America, and to those in New York and Chicago: Get thyself to see them, pronto. They’ve gotta be losing so much money on this tour, with a huge bus and a trailer to carry all the members and their equipment. It’s been seven years since they came here; who knows when they’ll return.
When I think of Godspeed You Black Emperor, I think of that old saying: “Jesus, please save us from your followers.” There’s simply far too many copycat bands in GYBE’s wake. I won’t name names, but you know the ones. “Cinematic, apocalyptic instrumental indie-chamber-rock.” All borne from what Godspeed pioneered, and all owing a great debt to the Montreal collective.
Case in point: We got to the show, and the opening band sounded exactly like Godspeed You Black Emperor, only a little more drenched in distortion. My friend sent me a mocking text: “Sic’est Godspeed cover band EVER!” I invoked Lil’ Wayne lyrics back to dis them. So not wanting to saturate our ears with mimicry before the real thing, we left and got some pizza down the block. We talked about all the bands in the last ten years who copy GYBE, and the mystique of GYBE and how it contributes to their impact—neither of us had ever seen pictures of the band, or watched videos online. And how weird it was that they’d pick a band that sounded exactly like them as an opener.
We came back and the opening band was still playing. But they sounded better. They sounded really tight, and really pro. They actually sounded a lot like Godspeed You Black Emperor. My friend looked up some pictures of the opening band on his phone. They didn’t look like the people on stage at all.
And then it hit us.
The band on stage was Godspeed You Black Emperor all along.
We. Felt. So. Stupid. Admittedly, this is an embarrassing story to tell. But it perfectly underscores just how far-reaching the band’s influence is, that we—fans of the band!—would mistake them for one of their many wannabes; or how much of a struggle it must be for Godspeed, when premiering new material, to not sound like a caricature of themselves. We’d never seen pictures of them. How could we know?
Luckily, we only missed a couple songs on our pizza jaunt, and the rest of the two-hour set was incredible.
It was very, very quiet between songs. So much that we could hear the film projector loud and clear, whirring along in the balcony. And the film projections themselves: Train tracks. Stock tickers. Bulbous illustrations. Burning buildings. Signs reading “The End is at Hand” and “Preemptive War is Terrorism.” These things make me feel better in believing in Godspeed’s music, much like the diagram on Yanqui U.X.O. outlining connections between corporations, record companies and the military-industrial complex. At the merch table, they sold anarchist literature. They also sold shirts that didn’t have “Godspeed You Black Emperor” printed on them at all, but rather a series of phrases, including “God’s Pee.” A sense of humor, these ones.
They ended the set with an unreal version of “Blaise Bailey Finnegan III,” from Slow Riot for a Zero Canada, which concerns a man in court, arguing about a speeding ticket. Ironically, while driving home, my mind abuzz from the excitement of finally seeing Godspeed You Black Emperor after missing them 10 years ago, and still confused from mistaking them for an opening band, my foot got a little heavy. The red lights appeared in my rear view mirror at about 1am. I looked at my speedometer—80mph. Whoops. No talking my way out of that one.
It’s too bad that you didn’t come down to the Crooked Fingers show. I didn’t like their new album at first, either, but it started sinking in these last few days. The big question is: why did we convince ourselves that they’d only play a bunch of new songs? The show was amazing, and they played stuff from every album.
Eric Bachmann came out, strapped on his nylon-string and played “You Must Build a Fire,” from Dignity and Shame—a beautiful start. The band picked up their instruments for a completely reworked rock version of “Bad Man Coming,” from Red Devil Dawn, then “Crowned in Chrome” from the first record, then fucking “Islero,” and then “Man of War” from To the Races!
I’ve got this thing sometimes where if I know that a friend of mine would have really, really loved a show, I try to downplay how wonderful it was, you know, “Aw, you didn’t miss much.” But I can’t lie, man. Crooked Fingers last night was something very moving and special.
I know that you’re a big Red Devil Dawn fan—me too—and part of what’s great about that album is that it’s so serious; it’s a real deep meditation on love and redemption. That’s the way it hits me, at least, and it coulda just been the time frame that it came out and what was going on in my life and all—Perfecting Loneliness and Tallahassee were both around the same time—but anyway, Crooked Fingers weren’t all super-serious onstage, and it was cool.
Eric Bachmann announced that he’d hit a deer in the van last night, and everyone at the Great American Music Hall sighed this big “awwwwww” of sorrow, which made him laugh. “Yeah,” he said, “this is San Francisco. I’m from North Carolina. We’re like, jaded.” (Or maybe he said, “Didja eat it?’” It was hard to tell.)
They had this really cool girl, Miranda Brown, in high-rise jeans and brown leather boots playing bass and singing; there was this other girl Elin Palmer who I think’s been in the band a long time playing violin and singing, too, and occasionally, for songs like “Sleep All Summer” (which was fucking AMAZING) they’d stand like angels with their hands behind their backs, cooing wordless backup vocals while Bachmann was all, “Why won’t you fall back in love with me?”
The high-rise jeans girl sang this funny tune between songs about cocks and balls being strung across the ocean, which I guess was her response to the front wheels falling off of their tour van or something, it was pretty funny.
All in all, they only played five songs from their new album, which come on, it’s not that bad. Please listen to it some more. Oh, and the Great American was only half-full, which was sad, in a way. At one point, I stood at the back, during “New Drink for the Old Drunk,” looking at the sparse crowd, thinking, “Can this be for real? Like, am I wrong, or is this one of the world’s greatest songwriters and performers here right now and, like, only 150 or so people are here?”
It coulda been that it was a Tuesday night, maybe, or I wonder if it has anything to do with Crooked Fingers currently not having a label that could give them some good tour support. It’s interesting and all that they did their own record, but c’mon. Merge! Why would you leave that?!
Oh, shit, I almost forgot, they did three Archers of Loaf songs. “White Trash Heroes,” which was really great, and “Harnessed in Slums,” fuckin’ a, and believe it or not, “Web in Front.” Dude! They closed the night with “Little Bird,” and it was so sweet and awesome.
I hate to rub it in, but you really missed out. Maybe you could drive to Los Angeles to see ‘em tonight, it’d totally be worth the eight-hour drive.
Anyway, see you around. Interpol still blows.