June 25 Feist/Grizzly Bear

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Thursday, July 26, 2007
Here's how this has been going for the past week: sit down to finally write up the Feist/Grizzly Bear concert that I went to A MONTH AGO only to hop out of my chair like there are bees in my pants and dash off to do any number of other things that are suddenly not just important but crucial! You know, stuff like cleaning out the trunk of my car, deadheading roses, re-folding pillowcases. I have no idea why this is giving me so much grief. It was fun! I had a great time! The FLOOR BOUNCED! what's not to love? Intrigue, boozy berlin wall, deliberate provocation from the stage, bouncing floor, bubbles, disco ball, sparkles, jostles jokes anticipation. Bouncing bumping vertigo. teenage masseurs. merry chatter. the guy standing Right In Front of me that I kept accidentally poking in the ass with my pen until I realized that IT WAS NO ACCIDENT. ("see, I've got this evil hand...") triple epiphany, henceforth the tripiphany. songs of regret but no shame. lonely longing lipstick slapstick old theater jazz hands. it's a french horn AND I'm happy to see you. grizzly bear underwear. cobra charmer hard worker from the boston brooklyn beach boy band. sparkle sharpie shimmer punchout knockout topdown plumkit drumkit plumdrum sending me that gonzo vibe. play keys piano red please. sharpie finger arm shoulder circle circle circle shoulder arm finger. special broken boyfriend scene guest. loop pedal tweety birds. underwater shimmer stage lights let's put on a show. (mirror mirror honey bees flying across the air to build a new chamber in the heart)

Let me start again. When last we left this story, I was having another Crazy Day and debating the relative wardrobe merits of hair shirt, lead dress or maybe a straight jacket. I am happy to say the evening improved dramatically (I found something else to wear).

The Venue: The Crystal Ballroom. this old building was rescued from a wrecking ball some time in the 90's, and is constructed not of bricks and mortar, but of awesome. I'd never seen a show there before this one (I know!), but fell instantly in love with its old theater/ ballroom atmosphere. The Crystal is charming but shabby around the edges, which, if you ask me, worked perfectly with the handmade aesthetic of the show. The wooden floor is very bouncy, very bass-conducting, kinda vertigo inducing and VERY FUN. It's a holdover from the venue's former life as a ballroom dancing studio -- there's a layer of ball bearings under the wood. The motto was/ is "dance on air," and it's quite apt. The Ballroom is on the third floor of the building and has a wall of floor to ceiling windows covered with velvet curtains, which were drawn, because Portland in June doesn't get dark until after 10 pm. The unique properties of this room were commented on by both bands -- the dark haired Grizzly Bear said that this was the first time they'd played "the room with the bouncy floor" in Portland, and then asked about the Berlin Wall in the middle of the room. "I've never seen anything like that before." The stage was in the corner, but there was a 4 foot wide empty diagonal gash through the middle of the room, reaching from the stairs to the far side of the stage. It turns out that this was the divider between the All Ages section and the part where you can drink -- just wide enough that unless you had freakishly long ape arms, there was no buying beer and passing it to your underage friend standing on the other side. Feist commented as well, saying that she liked that they had been playing a lot of old theaters, and that this room had been "built for fun, so let's travel down the road of fun together, Portland." The road of fun should be on every map.

The Atmosphere: Giddy. I blame/thank the high percentage of high school kids in our section. I believe I witnessed at least 200 myspace self-portraits taken directly in front of me. GIDDY! The show was SOLD OUT, which added another shot of fizzy euphoria to the proceedings. (Let's not discount the bouncy floor. I think it makes anything automatically 30% more fun. The road of fun has a little leap in its lope.) This was a standing show; it said so on the ticket, it said so on the website. There were only a few seats available and those were in the balcony. Actually, I lie! There were some benches around the side of the room but it was so packed I can't imagine sitting on one of them. I've come to embrace standing at rock shows whenever possible. It keeps me more engaged with the performance and I feel like I'm participating in a way that I don't if I'm sitting down. Live music is give and take! (standard caveats for theaters where this isn't possible, etc.etc.) We were standing about 20 feet from the stage on the all ages side. (Feist also asked what was going on with the weird river of empty through the packed crowd. "So, it's All Ages up here, Alcoholics back there... and who's up there?" pointing to the balcony. Some all-ages wit helpfully provided "old people!" which was funny because it was TRUE, although I'm sure I was older than many of them, so those must have been some lazy old people!)

The Opening Act: Grizzly Bear. I have never understood the habit of routinely skipping the opening act and just showing up for the headliner. Unless there's assigned seating it's hard to get to where you can see -- aside from that, what if you miss something wonderful!? Lots of people do it, obviously, but... I guess I'm too greedy. I want it all! I was only vaguely aware of Grizzly Bear and didn't know what to expect, but that's half the fun. Actual grizzly bears? Amazing? Terrible? Indifferent? As it turns out, they were LOVELY and (I know I've said this a lot lately, but it's true) just what I needed to hear right when I needed to hear it. Beautiful dreamy harmonies pulled the plug on whatever was holding in the remnants of my bad mood and drained it all away. It was an actual physical sensation, carried from their hands and mouths and brains through the speakers through the ball bearings in the floor and the molecules in the air to right to my very own skeleton. I didn't write down their set list because I'm not familiar enough with their music, but I know they played Lullabye ( chin up cheer up chin up cheer up), Easier (lord knows it happens all the time) and Knife. (rock star fashion notes: most of the band were working a 60s California Let's Play Electric Guitar Barefoot In the Sand look, except for the main guy who was rocking the Heap of Laundry/ I Live in a Van look. He made it work, somehow.)

The Between Sets Wait: Long. I normally enjoy watching the switch between bands but it took forever this night. It was probably 40 minutes between the end of Grizzly Bear and Feist taking the stage. There was bouncing on the floor, there were random bouts of applause (like that ever works), there was an annoying DJ from the sponsoring radio station, more clapping, waiting, crowd chatter getting louder louder louder. The kids in front of us all sat on the floor in little phone-lit puddles of texting teenage exhaustion, which meant people would come crushing forward from the back thinking they had happened upon a miraculous empty space near the stage that we were saving just for them, only to have to retreat in defeat. This long pause allowed me to notice that someone had decorated the instruments with words made from tape and alphabet stickers. I knew we were getting closer to showtime when one of the microphone guys put a sparkly sequined microphone cozy on the center stand. Other important elements: the disco ball in front and the vertically hanging christmas lights behind the stage.(not the little twinkly kind, but old-school C-9 ones.)

The Headliner: Feist. This show was so different than what I was expecting, but different in all the ways I want a live show to be different from an album. It was less sedate than I anticipated. It was LIVE; every flash of light from the disco ball and the spangled microphone cozy (later arm-band) delivered crackly zaps of electricity to the receptive crowd, even as she sang her sad and lonely songs. At one point she said something along the lines of "I like that you're standing out there, shuffling from foot to foot. It keeps things moving." Feist has a mischievous presence. When she spoke to the audience it was usually in the form of a sly aside, like if we didn't get the joke now, we would later. She may occasionally lie (how many cities thought Kevin Drew was just for them?) but she always tells the truth. She was at the Crystal to have fun and make a little trouble, which was fine by me! (I admire her for unapologetically doing her own thing -- she's tough, smart, feminine, sexy as hell -- but it all seems to be on her terms.) Speaking of doing her own thing.. you can just barely see it in the photo above, but she had a line (sharpie, I presume) going from one finger all the way up her arm, across her shoulder, turned into three circles across her chest (two with swirls drawn in, one with an x) and then continued down the other arm. If you can't decide what necklace to wear, draw one yourself!

She came onstage and immediately launched into Honey Honey. This made me happy not only because it is one of my favorite songs on the album, but because it triggered the full lo-tech loveliness of blue lights on the disco ball! (I realize that the lighting was designed by professionals and not by scrappy orphans putting on a show in the barn in order to save the orphanage, but I did like how it was simple but not boring.) This handcrafted element seems to crop up a lot in her work. The seams show a little bit, which only makes it more interesting -- they are making something up there on stage. Her band was excellent. Between their multi-instrumental ways and various looping pedals, the sound was very full and fresh. Highlights for me were probably Honey Honey, My Moon My Man (sung in a sort of funky-robot style), I Feel It All, Lover's Spit, Mushaboom, 1234 (!!!), Sealion (she really played the hell out of this one), and Let It Die. Since that's just about every song on the list, I would qualify the whole show as a big hit with me. If the joyful bouncing mass of humanity surrounding me was any indication, I'm not the only one who felt that way.

The Set List: (approximately)
Honey Honey -- (honey honey up in the trees/ fields of flowers deep in his dreams)
When I Was a Young Girl -- (My poor head is aching my sad heart is breaking)
So Sorry -- (we're slaves to our impulses)
My Moon My Man --(heart on my sleeve/ not where it should be)
The Park -- (who can be sure of anything through/ the distance that keeps you/ from knowing the truth)
Limit To Your Love -- (dedicated to the mustang convertible) (I'm piecing it together/ there's something out of place)
I Feel It All -- (put your weight against the door/ kick drum on the basement floor/ stranded in a fog of words/ loved him like a winter bird)
Open Window (Sarah Harmer cover)
Lover's Spit -- (with Kevin Drew) (swallowing words)
Gatekeeper -- (gatekeeper you held your breath/ made the summer go on and on)
Deep in My Memory (??)
The Water-- ( the telegraph cables hum/ and few can decipher who the message is from)
Mushaboom -- (it may be years until the day/ my dreams will match up with my pay)
1234 -- (ohhhhh you're changing your heart/ you know who you are)

Intution -- (and it's impossible to tell/ how important someone was)
Sealion (sea lion woman dressed in green/silver lining and golden seams)
Let It Die (the tragedy starts from the very first spark/ losing your mind for the sake of your heart)

It was such a good show! I don't know what else to say except that I went in one way and came out another -- that kind of transformation is always a mystery to me, but such a gift.

Cool John Mavroudis poster for the shows at the Fillmore (the night after our show) from Zenpop.com
b/w Feist triptych picture from Compassionate Eye on flickr.
5 comments on "June 25 Feist/Grizzly Bear"
  1. What's so wonderful, lovely and amazing about your commentary is that it allows me to tell people that I also was at this show since I now feel like I was. I am just sorry that I was not actually there as it was most definitely a major blast, bomb diggity.

  2. ha ha! you're sweet! (I apologize for how freaking LONG it is -- I tried to make it shorter, I swear. Finally I just gave up.)

    It WAS a major blast, bomb diggity, though.

  3. It was not that long considering it covers several hours, right?
    I love the Crystal! It is fun good times for sure.

  4. Noooooooooo! Not shorter! I want more. Lots more, when you get to Feist. Since I was not there, I am greedy!

    Love the "cobra charmer" riff rife with sound, repetition,images.

  5. hee hee. Thanks you guys!


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