November 3rd, 2008

recovering ground

Saturday night during DJ Spooky's set, he dropped "Message in a Bottle" by the Police into the mix. He only played it through the first two verses and choruses and then extended the bridge as an outro, leaving out the final hopeful verse. It kind of broke my heart a little. However, it made me realize that I need to get in touch with my roots again, feel the ground beneath me. The Police is the very first band I fell in love with, just as I was becoming a teenager, and their music meant a lot to me all through high school, in the way that my slightly-younger friends fell for The Smiths. 

Back when Message In A Box: The Complete Recordings by The Police came out, I created cassette versions of the original albums from the CD set so that I could listen in my car or on my Walkman at work. I carefully chose which of their singles and b-sides to fill in the extra space on each cassette, and how to order them, either before or after the album itself. That gave me five albums plus an extra mix with the live tracks and leftover singles and b-sides, all on three cassettes. It was a labor of love, and I made sure to always have those cassettes available in the car or my carrying case. 

For years now my music collection has been growing, and since getting my iPod and then iTunes being released, I've shifted away from listening to whole albums to leaving my whole collection on shuffle song mode to take advantage of the variety. In the past few years I've added enough new music that I've been focusing on listening just to that in order to make it familiar. However, today (meaning Sunday) I re-created those custom Police album mixes as playlists in my iTunes library. I've been listening to each one straight through and singing along, and it's made me feel really good, and grounded or centered if you prefer. 

My high school 20th reunion is coming up in just under four weeks, the day after Thanksgiving. I've been looking forward to it for months, surprisingly eager to reconnect and catch up with old friends, a lot of which has been happening already on Facebook. A quick check on the definition of synchronicity suggests that it is particularly apt that this weekend I should've been reminded so strongly of my love for the Police and my need to get back to my roots and be grounded. I think I'm going to be listening to the music of The Police a lot over the next month.

October 2008 concert 2: Asobi Seksu at Nectar Lounge

Last Monday I went to Nectar Lounge to see Asobi Seksu. Because I was babysitting earlier in the evening, I only made it in time to see their headlining set and missed the opening bands; that was unfortunate as the first was Blue Light Curtain, who I'd enjoyed at the Freezepop show in August and wanted to see again.

Asobi Seksu are officially the duo of Yuki Chikudate on vocals and keyboards and James Hanna on guitars and backing vocals, "plus some friends who help us out" according to their MySpace page; their website lists the current friends as William Pavone on bass and Larry Gorman on drums. I fell in love with the band the last time I saw them, in November 2006, and was happy to see they were returning to Seattle. This time however the show had one simple problem: volume. I started out standing on the floor pretty close to the stage, but I immediately discovered that the guitar feedback howling out of the under-stage speakers completely overwhelmed everything else. I could only barely even tell that Chikudate was singing at all despite her wide-open mouth, and the bass and even drums weren't much more audible. I withstood the onslaught for the first three songs, including their single "New Years", which were played without pause. Finally I'd had enough and decided to try moving to the balcony. I discovered that simply moving to the side of the stage improved the sound levels notably but I headed on upstairs where, standing over the sound booth, the balance was indeed better but the set was still too loud; even with earplugs, I'd just have lost the vocals entirely without notably affecting the volume. I believe this is the first show I've been to at Nectar where the levels were such a problem—certainly it's the first time I've been forced upstairs to enjoy the show—and I'm not sure whether the club or the band are more to blame. Despite all that, once I went upstairs I found the music enjoyable again. They played a few new songs from their next album due out in February, including their just-released single "Me and Mary" which sounded pretty good. My favorite song by them, "Strawberries", also sounded good, which I'd worried about after "New Years" was all but washed out. They closed with "Red Sea", ending with Chikudate whaling on the drums over a guitar feedback loop while the others left the stage, until finally Chikudate left just an empty stage and a feedback loop loud enough that no one bothered to applaud until it ended. It was a good set and I'm glad I was able to catch it, but I hope next time the sound levels are a little more moderate.

Coming up, a review of Saturday's show also at Nectar Lounge featuring DJ Spooky. Also coming up: Halou at Nectar Lounge, Sunday Nov 9; My Brightest Diamond at the Triple Door, Wednesday Nov 19; Yeasayer at Neumos, Thursday Nov 20; and Minus the Bear with Annuals at the Showbox (at the Market), Saturday Nov 22.