April 27th, 2006

April concerts: Rose Melberg at Velouria, Ladytron at Neumos

As I said last month, I planned on going to see Ladytron this month but hadn't checked for other shows. Well, a couple weeks ago during Audioasis on KEXP, the Three Imaginary Girls talked about a show they were sponsoring, the CD release for Rose Melberg. Rose used to be the lead singer for the band Go Sailor, so I was excited to check out her new solo work, and made plans to attend that show too.

Rose Melberg's show was on Sunday, at Velouria Boutique in Ballard. It was an odd place for a show, but in addition to her music Rose also makes handcrafted items such as bags, and I believe that had something to do with the choice of venue. Opening for Rose was Calvin Johnson, who delivered a set of songs mostly about love, some moody and some witty. He has a deep voice that reminded me a lot of Stephen Merritt of the Magnetic Fields, and he also has a dry and quirky wit.

After a short break, Rose came out and did a set of sweet indie-pop songs. Her earlier band Go Sailor played jangly acoustic guitar-and-drums low-fi indie pop, something like The Housemartins in a way; as a solo artist, then, Rose's sound would be more like The Beautiful South: lusher, smoother, more sophisticated, though apparently without the deep cynicism of the 'South. She had some guests to help her out on some songs, including violinist Saundrah Humphrey from Seattle band Math and Physics Club (who seem to play a lot of shows around town, and now that I know they have a violinist, I need to check them out), and vocalist Jen Sbragia, her former partner in the duo The Softies. It was lovely music on a lovely sunny afternoon, and I'm glad I caught the show.

The link I posted for Rose is her page on her record label, Double Agent Records; she also has a MySpace page where you can listen to some samples of her music.

Yesterday was the Ladytron show at Neumos. Their opening act was a duo called The Presets, playing old-school New Wave and early techno on keyboards and drums. I came in late and only heard their last three or four songs; they sounded straight out of 1981, although unlike the Bobcats at last month's second show, they were enjoyable rather than grating on my nerves. I won't be seeking out their records, but I'd be happy to see them again.

The Presets seemed to be a good warm-up, but I still wasn't prepared for Ladytron. Normally a quartet, they had two extra backing musicians for the tour, resulting in a lineup of four keyboardists, including the two female vocalists, plus a bassist and a drummer. Naturally that makes for a heavy synthpop sound, but I was still surprised by how dark and moody much of their music is. I haven't actually listened that many times straight through their latest album, Witching Hour, so I'm still mostly familiar with the singles off that album and one or two of their earlier ones, and I thought of them as pretty straightforward dance synthpop. However, they really fall into the "darkwave" subgenre and at times sounded downright goth, reminding me of Siouxsie and the Banshees. The moody red lighting, black outfits, and strange video loops certainly helped convey that impression. I really enjoyed the show, even more than I'd expected, and I'm eager to check out their earlier CDs.

I may yet catch one more show this month. I ran into the members of Beehive at the Ladytron show, and they're playing twice this weekend. Saturday they're at the Paradox in Ballard, but I already have plans for Saturday night. Friday night though, they're playing the Mirage Lounge in Fremont, which is walking distance from home, and they go on at 10. Next month, I'm really looking forward to seeing Goldfrapp at the Showbox, I've heard they do a really intense show.