More music reporting from the depths of a generous and beautiful summer…
It had been a while since either of us had seen The Flaming Lips, but with a friend in from out of town and the universe full of strange and confused energies, we figured it was a good time to check in with one of the most consistently cool bands on the planet. The Lips have yet to disappoint either of us and Monday’s show at Central Park’s Summerstage was no exception. After all emerging from a giant, glowing vagina the Lips ripped through an epic set, hitting lots of favorite touchstones but focusing mainly on their newest album “Embryonic,” which by the way is fucking stellar and should be listened to by all of you. “Embryonic” is by far the most angular and abstract Lips album in a long time and watching them play it’s songs live only adds to the song’s intensity. All the loved Lips shtick remained intact with unparalleled projections, inflatable costumes, tons of confetti and of course the crowd surfing bubble all making welcomed appearances. Wayne talked more during this show than he has in shows I’ve seen in the past and it did pull down the energy a bit here and there but Wayne always knows the right things to say somehow. Being in Central Park with him and his band on one of the most beautiful nights of summer so far with some of our favorite people in the universe, geeking out on how much love was all around us was just about all that we could ask for in terms of a memorable evening. Singing “Do You Realize?” at the top of our lungs at the end of the night with our faces full of S&S cheesecake was even more than we could ask for. Sometimes the universe is such a simple, beautiful place.
The following night we took in the Beach House/The National show at Prospect Park which was part of their own summer music festival “Celebrate Brooklyn“. Again we were blessed with beautiful weather and this time we were able to get much closer to the stage than the night before.
Beach House dressed the stage up with some shinny, spinning geometric shapes which spun as they played and the reflected lights bounced off all the hundreds of smiling faces. We’ve seen Beach House live probably more than any other band over the years since minorprogression has been going and I think it’s fairly safe to say that they may be our favorite band making music right now. Every time they play we are impressed by the depth of their sound and the ever growing confidence of their playing and live arrangements. Victoria in particular looked like a different person at the Prospect Park show, seeming thinner and much more like a rock star than at any previous performance we had seen her in. This is not to say that she’s lost her charming way with banter but just to say that her image is in a state of transformation. The drums and bass sounded heavy enough to cary us away and each song in the set brought us closer and closer to a swooning nirvana. “Teen Dream” which is their newest album is still at least my favorite album of they year and if you don’t own it and listen to it regularly you probably aren’t reading this. I catch them again in California in September with “The Very Best” and “Vampire Weekend” at The Hollywood Bowl and I’m sure you’ll all be hearing about that from me then. In the meantime as I’ve said so many times it’s almost embarrassing, see them play, listen to their music and fall in love with them playing in the background of your lives. They deserve all of your attention.
The National are kind of a hard band for me to talk about. I’ve been a casual fan of theirs since “Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers” dropped almost seven years ago. I remember driving down the 405 thinking there was nothing sadder or more heartbroken to be blasting from my gold Saturn’s stereo system and I enjoyed singing along like a drunk angry Leonard Cohen to Matt Berninger’s distinctive songs before I was really in a place to appreciate them as the strange honest gems that they are. All these years later I understand The National better as a band but still have a hard time being outrightly in love with them. They are literate, talented , sharp dressers and professional musicians in every sense of the word and while they never really seem off the cuff, they take their job so seriously and craft their songs so meticulously it is hard not to at least admire them. In the American indie rock world there is not another band out there that takes themselves as seriously and I both admire and find frustration in this for the obvious reasons.
The National live and The National on record are two very different bands. This is something that every casual fan should note. If you have any interest in them whatsoever, I highly suggest you taking the time to see them play because really this is where they make the most sense to me. On record, although everything sounds beautiful and in its right place there is a sense of immediacy that seems to often be lacking, however when you see them play immediate is most likely the first word that will come to your head. Every song, be it ballad or rocker comes to you at about 150 miles an hour. The volume and intensity is turned up as high as it can go and they keep it that way through the entire set. The crowd was so invested in what was going on that I was a little taken aback. It is clear after just two songs that this was the band in their element. There were many dramatic musical gestures and the lights heightened the theatricality of the experience to an extreme level but for some reason we bought it all. There is no one doing things exactly like The National are right now and if you claim to be a fan of American indie rock you should probably check out these guys soon because they are unquestionably at the top of their game.
Summer is already more than half way over guys. The sun is pulling things from our brains that we never thought even existed there. We have spent hours in strange rooms with our arms outstretched to the air conditioner as if it was to be our salvation and we have undoubtably consumed more beer and booze than we had initially anticipated. I ask all of you to enjoy this last month and a half or so of summer to the fullest of your capability. The leaves will be changing before you know it and we will all be confronted with a return to reality. I wish all of you the best of the best this upcoming August. Stay sane, dance hard and come down gracefully. Hopefully we will all see you there on the other side.