Live Picks: 08.02.2012 – 08.08.2012
08.03: Mahayla + Fake Natives + ArchAnimals – The Circle Bar (cancelled)
08.03: JAG – Howlin’ Wolf Den
My first live Dirty Projectors experience came in the summer of 2009 on a farm in Manchester, Tennessee. After hearing their collaboration with one of my personal heroes David Byrne on the Red Hot compilation Dark Was The Night, I waited with anticipation for the release of their breakthrough Bitte Orca (repeated listening of which entreated me to move backwards through their catalog and check out the insanely charming Rise Above, an album of Black Flag songs DP founder David Longstreth re-imagined from memory, and The Getty Address, a gloriously bizarre indie-rock opera about Don Henley). Their performance at 2009′s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival – appearing on “That Stage” as part of a day of programming curated by the aforementioned Byrne – was a perfectly timed knock-out that did much to validate their status of one of the most buzzed about American indie bands of that particular moment.
On recorded material, Longstreth’s warbly croon and haunting interplay with vocalist Amber Coffman are set against the intricate timing shifts of his nimble compositions. The pair are pushed along by deft instrumental execution of the delicately quirky arrangements that have as much in common with early-era Talking Heads as they do with late-era Talk Talk. Patterns vanish just as quickly as they appear, harmonies rise up not just to blunt the songs’ sharp angles but also to create some of their own, and in live setting, the band is even more difficult to pin down: They reproduce their canon in a manner far too evocative to simply be considered “faithful” but also far too precise to run towards the visceral wholesale re-interpretation at the opposite end of the spectrum. Combined with Longsreth’s innate songwriting prolificity, this unique dominion over the stage has allowed them to reign as critically-acclaimed indie-darlings for much longer than most bands on which that dubious title has been bestowed.
Joining them on a tour in support of their new album Swing Lo Magellan are Wye Oak, a band last seen in New Orleans about a year ago when an interesting scheduling quirk gave local audiences two chances to see the surgical Baltimore, MD noise-folk duo in less than 2 weeks time. As soon as their short supporting gig for Austin’s Okkervil River was over – a slot that brought them through town in the middle of September – guitarist/singer Jenn Wasner and multi-instrumentalist Andy Stack were back on the road to help another Austin band, symphonic post-rock instrumentalists Explosions In The Sky, kick off a road-trip that began on the very same Tipitina’s stage the two of them eviscerated 12 days prior. Maybe that is why their second visit felt like an exalted victory lap: Wasner’s dreamy vocals floated above Stack’s expressive drumming, keyboarding and auxiliary percussion-ing in the hypnotizing respites between a series of crushing guitar freakouts that ripped through the enveloping sonic tapestry (Or maybe it’s just the fact that in the context of Explosions in the Sky’s canon, everything feels like a victory lap).
Thus, Saturday night’s unofficial White Linen Night after party is one of the rare House of Blues events that is truly worth the generally-bemoaned premium heaped upon national tours that stop at Live Nation’s local outpost instead of the myriad independent venue options in the city. Dirty Projectors and Wye Oak have spent the last few years making some of the most exciting music around, and very few bands treat their material with such brilliant care in a live setting.
Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks