The National has been around for more than a decade—a lifetime by indie buzzband standards—but it continues to put out solid records. The Brooklyn-based quintet’s latest, 2010′s High Violet, proves that the band is still relevant, and at the top of its game. The album features collaborations with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Sufjan Stevens; it’s a more polished, lavish rendition of The National’s particular brand of alt rock. Philadelphia is in for a special stop on the band’s fall tour: It will perform not one but two shows, both of which are with Yo La Tengo and Wye Oak. The National performs with Yo La Tengo and Wye Oak at 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 7th, and Thurday, September 8th, at the Academy Of Music; tickets to the all-ages shows are $39.50.
Yo La Tengo
Thursday night saw Hoboken heroes Yo La Tengo paying homage to one of America’s most-beloved game shows in syndicated history: the Merv Griffin Enterprises icon, Wheel Of Fortune. As the chintzy, brass-laden theme music blared, guitarist/vocalist Ira Kaplan chose a random member of the crowd to come on stage and, with one flick of the wrist, decide the musical fate of the entire audience. The concept was simple. The band would perform two sets for the night: the first, a selection of ultra-rarities determined by a makeshift Technicolor wheel rolled onto the forefront of the stage; the second, a more traditional grab-bag assortment spanning the band’s discography—no small feat for a three-piece that has produced over 20 releases since its formation back in 1984.
Kaplan, in pure Pat Sajak fashion, proceeded to give the unsuspecting crowd a quick run-down of the entertainment options for the evening. Among the possible outcomes were the following: “Sounds Of Science Pt. 1” (a collection the group put together to score an oceanographic documentary), “Dump” (a set composed of songs written by bassist James McNew’s solo project), “Songs That Begin With the Letter ‘S’” (self-explanatory), “Sounds Of Science Pt. 2″, “Sitcom Theatre” (to which Kaplan quipped, “Don’t ask”), and finally, “Condo F****s” (a set of covers the band recorded under said alias). The brave participant licked her lips, wiped the sweat from her brow, placed her hand upon the spindles of the wheel, and gave it a whirl as the onlookers looked on with hope.
A silence presided as the wheel clicked past “Sitcom Theatre” and “Songs That Begin With The Letter ‘S’” before finally resting—to the dismay of many—on “Sounds Of Science Pt. 2.” A collective groan went up from the masses; Kaplan admitted that, when they decided on the wheel concept, “One of the things [they] anticipated most was hearing the groans from the audience.” Undeterred, Kaplan and Co. obeyed the wheel’s prophecy, and launched into an instrumental set, conjuring up visions of wind-swept waves with their first number, and gradually progressing into more dissonant, Jaws-invoking feeding frenzies. Around the 20-minute mark, Kaplan grabbed his guitar and recaptured the audience’s attention with an ear-splitting wave of distortion, which signaled the highlight of the first set: a descent into slimy-sounding guitar effects, murky funk bass, and drummer/vocalist Georgia Hubley’s tom fills, culminating in a deafening wall of noise.
The second set (which felt almost like an apology of sorts) was by far the highlight, peppered with fan favorites from earlier years, such as “Autumn Sweater,” the heart-string-yanking, “Last Days Of Disco,” and the bass-line driven “Moby Octopad.” The band also paid tribute to Sun Ra before closing with a 20+ minute rendition of “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind”—during which, ever the showman, Kaplan proceeded to de-tune his guitar, swing it by its neck, and beat it into submission. The encore, summoned by poly-rhythmic-clapping, found McNew trying his hand at the Devo classic “Gates Of Steel,” and Hubley timidly intoning the final number, an acoustic rendition of “Tom Courtenay”—an apropos conclusion to an evening punctuated by chance and consequence. —James Porter
Yeah, we’re going to go ahead and toot our own horn: Tonight, WXPN Welcomes presents a trio of shows. At Johnny Brenda’s, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten—who recorded her first two albums right here in Philadelphia (as detailed in her recent Q&A with Philadelphia Weekly) headlines a three-act bill that also features local acoustic-guitar-slinging troubadour Timothy Showalter of Strand Of Oaks. (Go here for more Strand Of Oaks-related coverage, including Showalter’s recent Key Studio Session.) Meanwhile, Yo La Tengo performs over at The Trocadero; if you weren’t the lucky winner of our Yo La Tengo ticket giveaway earlier this week, you’ll be pleased to know that there are still a few tickets available for the show. Finally, Lyle Lovett performs with John Hiatt at Merriam Theater.
Sharon Van Etten performs with Julianna Barwick and Strand of Oaks at 9 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the 21+ show are $12. Yo La Tengo performs with William Tyler at 8 p.m. at The Trocadero; tickets to the all-ages show are $21. Lyle Lovett performs with John Hiatt at 8 p.m. at Merriam Theater; tickets are $45-$75.
This week, we’ve got a pair of tickets to give away for Yo La Tengo‘s performance at The Trocadero on Thursday, January 20th. For a chance to win the tickets, all you have to do is leave a comment below by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, January 19th. We’ll select the winners at random that evening and notify them via email; your tickets will be at the venue’s box office. (Just, you know, make sure to use a valid email address when posting your comment; we promise not to sell your contact info or sign you up for anything—we just want to be able to get in touch with you if you win.)
Exiles on South Street “Forty years ago, South Street was doomed, left for dead by city planners who had scheduled the street for demolition to make way for a proposed Crosstown Expressway that would connect I-95 to I-76. South Street then was nothing like South Street now — a funky post-hippie/post-punk/post-cool amalgam of shops, bars and fooderies, aka Philly’s Haight-Ashbury, a land-locked asphalt boardwalk where teenagers from across the tri-state area flock to see and be seen (and stage the occasional flash mob).” (Philadelphia City Paper)
Yo La Tengo announce crazy concept tour (playing The Troc) “Coming to a city near you (if you’re lucky) in January or February is a new kind of concert, one that is not decided by the musicians taking the stage, but rather by a large game-show-esque wheel. I’ll let Yo La Tengo describe it for you…” (The Swollen Fox)
Spectrum Memories W/Tommy Conwell & DJ Jazzy Jeff “Speaking of the Spectrum and the fact that in a few weeks from now it’ll be demolished and gone forever, except from our memories (and given how easily in our advancing age we forget shit that happened even just yesterday, that’s a bad, bad thing), we spoke a while back with some Philly artists about their memories of the Spectrum. Here’s what Tommy Conwell and DJ Jazzy Jeff had to tell us…” (Make Major Moves)
Krispy Kreme Returns to Philly, Opening a Store in Fox Chase on November 9 “Seven or eight years ago, there was quite a bit of fanfare when Krispy Kreme brought a handful of stores and their “Hot Doughnuts Now” signs to the Philadelphia area. I vividly remember those openings, primarily because I had a couple of friends who had recently gotten married and so made a pilgrimage to the new store in order to eat with abandon, because they no longer had to worry about fitting into their wedding dresses.” (Uwishunu)