TV on the Radio/Arctic Monkeys/Panda Bear/Warpaint/Smith Westerns 09/25/11
Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
A few months ago my wife called and informed me she had purchased tickets for some hipster-fest at the Hollywood Bowl. As she read the initial lineup, I was forced to swallow down my own vomit. Really, you want me to sit through TV on the Radio, Smith Westerns and someone with Panda in the name who doesn’t play for the San Francisco Giants? To make things worse, I would be surrounded by a bunch of stupid drunk white people with unfortunate upper lip hair and jeggings instead of enjoying week three of NFL action. Then I went on Phish tour and my attitude towards this mini-festival changed faster than you could say Coming At You Like A Ghetto Blaster. In fact dare I say walking into the venue I was as excited for a show as I have been in years.
I wish I could say these Chicago indie rockers brought the roof down, but we all know that would not only be dishonest; it would be in poor taste. Taking the stage at 6pm, the best part of this up and coming bands set was the fact they only played for 15 minutes. Their blend of indie rock meets 1960’s California surf pop was unoriginal and downright dreadful. When you add the fact that they were lost in the empty cavernous venue and drowned out by the sounds of wine corks popping and heated debates over Middle East politics it was the logical time to say hello to friends in other sections and empty the bladder.
You could imagine my shock when I was walking out of the bathroom at 6:20pm and Warpaint was already onstage opening with the song that shares the name of their band. I went running back to my seat as this was the only band that didn’t make me want to vomit when I heard the initial lineup. Where Smith Westerns got lost in the venue, a full year of touring helped the ladies of Warpaint rise to the occasion as their sound filled the hillside venue. Add the fact the hometown crowd was going crazy for songs like “Bees” and “Undertow” and one had to ponder why they were playing before Panda Bear. The four piece closed their oh to brief four song set with a massive run on “Elephants.” The band stretched the number past the ten minute mark and featured a nice jam that would have made Phish proud with its peaks and valleys both in sound and volume. With a huge buzz and touring behind last years The Fool now complete, it seems rather clear that the groups third studio release will blast Warpaint right into the mainstream.
Noah Benjamin Lennox (aka Panda Bear) once told Má Fama radio “I get impatient writing songs, I can’t spend more than a couple of hours before I get frustrated. So I got to kind of spit it out real fast. My favorite songs are the ones where I worked really really fast on, when it comes all out in like two hours or something.” Having sat through 40 minutes of Panda Bear (ok, fine I did make one quick trip to the bathroom) I can tell you this is very true. It would be very easy for me to bash the “experimental” artist (who was joined by Sonic Boom’s Peter Kember) onslaught of noise. Instead I will just say this. Some of the noises created by Panda Bear were pretty damn cool, some of the noises not so much. Check out the clip below (pay close attention as I managed to choke on a chunk of sandwich at one point) and judge for yourself.
I swear to God, I really want to like the Arctic Monkeys. I enjoy the songs “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor” and “Fake Tales of San Francisco” from their debut album. I actually purchased their third album Humbug based off the fact that Josh Homme produced it. Yet no matter how hard I try, I become bored after about 30 minutes of Monkey onslaught. Having enjoyed what I was able to hear at Outside Lands earlier this year, I was heading in with an open mind in hopes that this would be the moment where the band would finally win me over. However that was not the case.
Don’t get me wrong, the band sounded tight playing a mix of songs from their four disc catalogue. New numbers like “Brick By Brick” and “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” sounded great as did classics like “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor” and “Crying Lightning.” Some may tell you that Arctic Monkeys stole the show, and judging by the reaction of many in the crowd they may very well be correct. Personally I was bored by the 45 minute mark of the 70 minute set. I give the indie garage band credit for taking a basic sound and adding layers of quirky de-tuned melodies over it. It’s great for a bit, but the simplicity is just not enough to keep me entertained. I still want to like them though, maybe one day that will be the case.
TV On The Radio
We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. TV on the Radio has taught me that you should not judge an indie band from Brooklyn based on the massive amounts of fellatio from critics and hipsters. Fact is I ignored this band for years because they couldn’t be as great as everyone claimed. Then on the evening of August 6th 2011 I stood 15 feet away from my favorite band Phish whose cover of “Golden Age” was one of the highlights of two nights at The Gorge. I quickly realized that the despite the massive chemistry experiment going on within my body that this was a bad ass mamba jamb of a jam and that perhaps the earlier mentioned fellatio for TV on the Radio was well deserved. I came home, began checking out various TV on the Radio tracks and over the course of six weeks became the bands biggest fan.
The group hit the stage at 9pm and opened their brief co-headline set with “Young Liars.” The energy from the band was at 11, which was a shame as the crowds energy was about a 3. That didn’t stop the six men on stage from giving it their all while blessing us with a set heavy on material from their recently released record Nine Types Of Light. “Second Song”, “Will Do” and “New Cannonball Blues” all sounded amazing under the historic band shell. Speaking of the band shell, having watched Phish light guru Chris Kuroda have a blast with the white walls earlier this summer, it was interesting that TV on the Radio lighting director first used the band shell backdrop to its fullest during “Golden Age.”
It wasn’t just new material that rocked the final non-lease event of 2011 at the Hollywood Bowl. Had it not been for box mates who were rude and angry the entire night, my ass would have been up and dancing for songs like “Dancing Choose” and the eventual set closing “Wolf Like Me.” Punk, dance, world music and funk are just a few of the sounds that encompass the unique sounds of TV On The Radio. While the music truly moved me in more ways than one, it was the message front man Babatunde Omoroga “Tunde” Adebimpe shared during the song “Repetition” As if he was preaching from the pulpit; he stressed the importance of blocking out the darkness that can consume us with light. An important message that sometimes we all need a reminder of, Lord knows I sure did.
Leaving the Bowl on the bus back to Santa Monica, the proper words to describe TV on the Radio live simply were not there. I need to see this band again in a smaller venue with a crowd who truly appreciate what they are capable of bringing to the stage. A truly amazing way to close out what ended up being a rather solid night from some of the brightest rock and roll bands of the last five years.