Nada Surf w/ An Horse 03/20/12
The Fonda Theatre – Hollywood, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
Before we begin this latest confession, a few shout outs are in order. Big thanks to the incredible Adrian Garro for inviting me out to the show. Truly one of the nicest people you will encounter here in Los Angeles thanks again for the hookup. Likewise, thanks to You Tell Concerts who held the contest for Nada Surf tickets that Adrian won. To check out Adrian’s review of the show (after you read ours of course) click here.
On a cool Tuesday evening in March it didn’t matter who was playing on stage, I was just excited to be once again walking into the venue once known as the Music Box. Back to being called The Fonda after being closed back in January, the venue is one of the best Los Angeles has to offer and I know I am not the only person in this city excited that it is open once again. Sure, some of the couches are still missing and the beer selection has gone from bad to worse, but the fact is music is once again blasting from the corner of El Centro and Hollywood Blvd as it should be.
The night got started just past 9pm with the Australian duo An Horse taking the stage. Before the curtain had been pulled back at the historic theatre, I was already bothered by the group. I realize that when it comes to grammar, I am far from perfect but for the love of God what kind of a name is An Horse? A dreadful name, that’s what kind of name it is. Regardless the group’s first song was pretty solid, it had a Death Cab For Cutie meets Tegan and Sara kind of vibe. Then the second song had the exact same feel. Before the third song, we all discovered that the front man (who even had the same stage presence and moves as Death Cab front man Ben Gibbard) was actually a woman. Thank God she mentioned not being able to sport a bikini with this chilly LA weather, because otherwise I would have assumed the entire night she was actually a he. As you probably guessed the third song sounded like the first two and by the time the fourth song began I was starting to lose focus on the band and was more interested in playing Words With Friends, Dice With Buddies and texting our good friend Jay Porks. I believe it was around the seventh of eight song that I finally that my attention was drawn back in even if it was for all the wrong reasons. Sadly in this day and age I didn’t recognize the “hit song” because of MTV or radio, I recognized it as a TV jingle As proof that marketing campaign worked, I couldn’t even tell you what product was being pushed. I wanted to like An Horse, but between the terrible name (which even the lead singer had a hard time pronouncing) and all their songs sounding the same I just couldn’t get into it. I will give them credit for using a guitar with an image of Owen Wilson from Shanghai Knights on it. That was rather random.
After enjoying great jams by Kasabian, Girls and M83 spun by the venues house DJ, Nada Surf hit the stage just past 10pm. Having just seen my first Nada Surf set earlier this year at Amoeba, I was excited to see what the boys could do with electric guitars. The group kicked the set off with the 1-2 punch of Clear Eye Clouded Mind and Waiting For Something from their incredible new record The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy. While some bands would let fans down with new material right out the gate, the loyal audience was eager to eat up anything and everything played by the East Coast rock and rollers.
By the time the third song Happy Kid was almost over, I realized something was not quite right with front man Matthew Caws but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Joking as he tuned (something the band does very well) Caws then confessed he feared that he was coming down with a cold. With a cup of Thera-flu mixed with Vitamin W (the W standing for Whiskey) Caws continued on with the set by asking the crowd to help him sing the high harmonies on Whose Authority. I have seen a lot of things over the years at shows. I have seen front men set themselves on fire, I have seen band members busted open by bottles, but never have I watched a front man come down with a cold on stage.
Despite feeling less than stellar Caws and the band continued on like pros. The bands sense of humor was as enjoyable as the music. I tend to no longer scream things at bands as it’s rather douchy, but with the band basically encouraging it I was happy when they answered my question as to what brand of whiskey they were drinking (it was Jameson for those keeping score at home). I know I was not alone when I chuckled after Caws shared that he had replaced his vitamin W with the real vitamin W as he chugged down a bottle of water. He of course joked that the original vitamin W was white wine before launching into a stellar version of Teenage Dreams. In fact, the one thing that really stood out on this particular evening was how great the new material sounded. My personal highlight on this Tuesday night was When I Was Young. I loved how the soft quiet song slowly built and the guitar solo from the newest Nada Surf member Doug Gillard was nothing short of phenomenal.
After performing a seventeen song main set that lasted nearly 90 minutes the band returned for an obligatory encore. Having read past setlists, I knew this was the moment when the band busted out all the big guns. As expected, the group kicked things off with Inside Of Love. Admitting its cheesy nature, the boys asked the audience to sway along in unison as they played the song. Knowing how jaded southern California crowds can be, I was shocked to see how many not only swayed along in time to the music, but sang along as well. Perhaps inspired by all the Peyton Manning mania that has gripped the nation the last week, Caws then called an audible that broke hearts from coast to coast. Instead of playing the bands biggest hit Popular, they busted out the soft number Blonde on Blonde. I am going to assume this has to do with Caws struggling to keep his voice at this point and thus all is forgiven. The band finally closed the night with the beautiful Always Love.
Despite fighting the common cold, Nada Surf North American tour kickoff exceeded my high expectations. This band has been fighting an uphill battle for nearly two decades, of course they were not going to give up because of a weak immune system. Now if only they had heard my request to pass the bottle of Jameson (which made its way onto the stage during the encore) to the folks in the front row. Oh well, there is always next time.