Tag Archives: Barboza

LIVE: Torres, Barboza, Seattle, WA

By Gabriel Mathews

I’ll say this up front — The thing that excited me most when I heard Torres was coming out with a new album was the list of her collaborators. Sprinter features Rob Ellis and Ian Olliver of the PJ Harvey trio on drums/production and bass, respectively, and Portishead’s Adrian Utley on guitar. While McKenzie Scott’s debut as Torres featured a few near-perfect songs, it also tended to blur together and featured some really ham-fisted lyrics. My hope was that this band of luminaries (which, by the way, how the hell did a twenty-two year-old with a single self-released album to her name get these guys on board?) would help elevate her music to the rocking levels their names connote. I had heard they were touring with her, and was incredibly excited to see what this band could do together.

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LIVE: Viet Cong, Barboza, Seattle, WA

By Gabriel Mathews

First, a brief message for Barboza: Please respect your patrons and be consistent about advertising when your shows start. Last time I came to a show at Barboza, I missed the first band cause you advertised the door time rather than the show time. This time I arrived an hour early, cause the show time was an hour and a half after the listed door time. Figure your shit out, dudes.

Anyway, so. New York’s What Moon Things took the stage in the brown shotgun room called Barboza and it became clear that this was a band who requested to be backlit. Once they started playing, it became clear that this is the kind of band you’d expect to request to be backlit. At no point could I see the members of WMT’s faces, mostly because my eyes were getting bombarded by harsh white LEDs. The next thing to become clear is that this is a band that really wants to sound like the Cure, and generally succeeds at it. I can’t say I really detected any other musical reference points – frontman Jake Harms is a vocal doppelgänger for a young Robert Smith, and the band’s minor-key, mid-tempo churn never once moved out of the general tone of “goth.”  That’s not a bad thing—goth is a pretty cool sound, ultimately, and it looks and sounds good on What Moon Things. Drummer John Morisi stole the show for most of the set with his measured, intricate beats and spot on harmonizing. Would I seek out What Moon Things again? Probably not. But I enjoyed their set pretty well.

Viet Cong’s set was defined by one thing, and I’m not talking about the recent dust-up over their “offensive” name. Somewhere along this tour, drummer Mike Wallace broke his left hand. Viet Cong’s recent self-titled debut is not exactly light on the drums, so after seeing him walking around with a cast I was a little concerned as to how this would play out for the band. It seemed that there were only so many songs they could successfully pull off with a one handed drummer, who admirably Def Lepparded his way through five songs, which worked well enough for the set to be pretty enjoyable. The first three songs of the evening were off the “cassette” EP, with which I’m not familiar, and which definitely felt less well-thought-out than album highlights such as “March Of Progress.” But then the awesomely intricate rhythms of “Bunker Buster” came through and I started getting excited. Seeing Viet Cong live makes evident the degree to which rhythm is a central component in their musical thinking—I guess that’s what happens when you have a bassist for a frontman. The guitars (one of which, played by Scott Munro, being a twelve-string, which helps explain why I’ve always found Viet Cong’s sound to be especially tinny and chiming) slash in and out of time with each other, making even a relatively basic 6/8 time signature feel discombobulated and out of whack. “Continental Shelf” whipped out the good ol’ “Be My Baby” beat only to drop it for a double-time verse. The set’s high-point came at the end, as the band brought Morisi and his snare drum back out to fill out the 11-minute album closer “Death.” Morisi’s enthusiastic flailing became the focal point of the first half of the song for me, and certainly did a lot to make up for Wallace’s handicap. The song’s vicious snare rolls and eventual massive, 5-minute crushing lurch section became hypnotic to such a degree that I couldn’t quite believe it would ever end. In a good way. Eventually, of course, it did, as the racing final section of the song closed out the band’s set.

While I certainly wish Viet Cong had given us a little bit more—there was hardly time for them (or me) to get into their groove before they finished—I totally understand what they were working with, and the fact that they soldiered on to the degree they did was impressive and respectable. Here’s to hoping I get a chance to see them play a full-length set sometime.

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TWO STATES: Pissed Jeans, Seattle (Barboza) and Portland (Doug Fir)

By Gabriel Mathews (Seattle) and Hollister Dixon (Portland)

Seattle, WA – Barboza, November 1st

Early shows are weird. Especially early punk shows. Neither you nor anyone around you has time to get sufficiently drunk for a show that starts at 7:45 sharp. My Concert-Going Companion and I missed openers Vexx entirely because we were trying to navigate heinous Capitol Hill parking. I was relieved, though, that we made it just in time for Stickers to take the stage.

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LIVE: Operators, Barboza, Seattle, WA

By Gabriel Mathews

Barboza, the newish downstairs room at the Neumos complex, was air-conditioned to hell when I arrived for one of the first few shows ever by Dan Boeckner’s new band Operators.

The chill didn’t seem to have much of an effect on openers Noddy, whose name I misheard as “Frottage.” Frottage would have actually been a better name for these guys, whose dirty dance beats fit very well, for better or for worse, with their degenerate lyrics. Every single song, as far as I could tell, was about meaningless sex and seduction, like a disturbingly less funny Lovage. The one thing that struck me as moderately innovative here was the inclusion of a trumpeter, but she certainly didn’t redeem the rest of Noddy’s set.

Thank god, then, for Operators. Dan Boeckner has been putting out fantastic music for fifteen-ish years now, and between his bands Atlas Strategic, Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, Divine Fits, and now Operators, probably has a larger percentage of “Best Records of the New Millennium” under his belt than just about anyone else. As a high-schooler, I initially found Wolf Parade co-leader Spencer Krug’s songs on their debut Apologies To The Queen Mary (which was most people’s introduction to both Boeckner and Krug) to be more interesting, with their twisting melodies and weird keyboard skronk. But as Wolf Parade’s output over their next two records got increasingly marred by Krug’s overelaborate composition and jammy tendencies, Boeckner continued churning out priceless, hooky rock songs about alienation and the dangers of modern love.

Handsome Furs, his band with his now ex-wife Alexei Perry was significantly more consistent, and arguably better, than Wolf Parade, putting out three albums of politically charged, electric, sinewy rock ’n roll that evolved from the dank lethargy of Plague Park through the Soviet-styled riffage of Face Control and on to the triumphantly synth-laden Sound Kapital before their divorce and dissolution.

Boeckner then went on to co-helm Divine Fits with Spoon’s Britt Daniel to excellent effect. Where Daniel’s contributions to the project were pretty great, they mostly felt like Spoon cast-offs. Boeckner’s songs, on the other hand, retained the urgency he’s put into everything he’s ever done, and bolstered Daniel’s lighter material.

Point being, this man is a fucking wizard, and my expectations for Operators, who have been shrouded in secrecy since Boeckner announced their existence in May, were very high. And they were 110% met.

Rounded out by Divine Fits/New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown and the enigmatic keyboardist who goes simply by Devojka, Operators sound a lot like Boeckner’s work on Sound Kapital, but with a real live drummer this time around. This is crucial not because it adds an extra oomph and blood-filled component to their largely electronic sound, but because Sam Brown is a fucking god. Divine Fits doesn’t generally let him go nuts, but the builds and drops of Operators’ music, which often rivaled both LCD Soundsystem and the likes of Skrillex, allowed him to show how seriously he combines both muscle and precision into an athletic drumming style that elevates this band beyond most other electronic acts around.

The emacieted Boeckner was in fine form, gesticulating, spazzing out, and singing at the top of his lungs in his nasally rasp. His performance felt distinctly heartfelt and passionate, demonstrating the degree to which he cares about this project. Between Brown’s locomotive skill, Boeckner’s thrashing, and Devojka’s intense stomp as she manipulated a table of electronics, my eyes couldn’t decide where to look. This is a band of three incredibly magnetic performers.

Ultimately, of course, it’s Boeckner’s show, and part of what made this set such a great experience was how sincerely grateful and straight up stoked he was to have drawn such a crowd. The first words out of his mouth after opener “Ancient” were “Holy shit!” and his expression of disbelief at his fans’ adulation continued throughout the set. “Frankly, I didn’t expect nearly this many people show up,” he confessed. At one point he said, “This is like when you’re a teenager, and you’ve been writing songs in your rooms and you invite your friends in, like, hey guys, I wrote some songs. It’s very intimate for me. And I feel good about it.” He seemed consistently thrilled to have such an enthused audience for these songs, which he’s clearly poured his heart into.

And we were enthused for a reason. While only one Operators song (the excellent “True”) has been released thus far, not knowing the songs wasn’t a problem simply because they were so damn good. Each one had its own distinctive feel, and everything felt more organic than one might expect from a synth-based act. I kept wondering if they were going to pad out their set with older songs from the Boeckner songbook, but Operators have a significant body of excellent work all their own, and I can’t wait to hear these tracks on record, when EP1 is released this fall.

For the encore, Devojka informed us that at their previous show, which was at Pickathon, the crowd had gotten on stage, Brown had been tickled and “someone even grabbed Dan’s wang.” She encouraged us to try to top that, and I felt compelled for the first time ever to actually get on stage and dance. Bravo, Operators.

Dan Boeckner, you are a North American treasure. Keep it up.

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