Saturday, April 30, 2011

Railroad Revival Tour & the Hipster Hootenanny Convention Pt 2/2

Beautiful Melodies telling you Terrible Things Vol. II

So where did we leave off? Oh yes, Marley was dead, as dead as a doorknob. Wait, let's start again, Railroad Revival Tour...I figure about this point, if you started reading Part 1 of this as soon as I posted it, you should be finishing up reading it just So without further interruption, I bring you to the final two acts (the first of which, Old Crow Medicine Show, was covered in part I) of the Railroad Revival Tour's stop in San Pedro. I might of, kinda, spoiled the rest already having said Old Crow stole the show, but whatever, read on, friends...

Band Two - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros: What will this almost infamous Edward Sharpe band bring to the table I wonder? My mind quickly fades into a blur of “WTF’s?” when he arrives on stage and the band almost mumbles it’s way through “Up from Below,” never finding it’s groove as lead singer Alex Ebert continually stops the jamming in between verses to ramble his way through a story of learning he would one day die when he was "only" five years old. Wow, congratulations, you're officially human. Just when the band seems to find a groove, Ebert stops to ramble some more, waving his arms around like a deranged lunatic on the run from a rehab clinic. He seems high as a kite in Mary Poppins, yet at one point exclaims “You don’t need to be drunk or high to have fun!” Apparantly he says this, but doesn’t believe it. Maybe he'd be a better at politics than being a frontman...

It seems Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros have basically been playing the same ten songs for the past two years, not exactly the most prolific group in rock n roll. This, despite the fact they pretend to sort of “come up on a whim” what song to play next live on stage, well, it’s not exactly like they’re digging into much of a back catalogue. When the White Stripes decided to tour without setlists (which they did for ever show past 2001 or so) and randomly segued into another song, or Jack ran over to yell out what song to play next, it felt real, and it added to the almost train running of the track (pun fully intended, friends) but never coming off the rail feel. When, after putting up with my constant shouting of "Chicken Scratch!" after every song, Jimmy Vaughan (at the Rhythm Room in summer 2010) turned to his band and said "I guess we should do 'Scatchin'", you know it was unrehearsed and off the cuff. Here it just feels fake and forced because of the fact that when it comes down to it, they only have that many songs, you’re going to hear the same ones every night, maybe just in different order. That being said the fans really loved this guy and got into his music. This, despite the fact that he constantly rambled into stories in between verses, belittled the crowd and consistently found time to yell into the microphone at his sound guy (in between songs, during songs, it didn’t matter) to fix the feedback, fix his monitor mix, fix his hair, whatever. His cult following of hipster yuppies from the mystical land of Doucheganistan ate up every word he spit out including such tunes as “Desert Song,” “40 Day Dream,” “Carry On,” and “Om Nashi Me.”

From what I understand his performance in Tempe was better, less rambling and more concentrated energy, which both can be infectious for the crowd as well as not be such a detraction from the all-together "family of musicians" style playing these dozen or so folks try to be. To be honest, while I appreciated the variations and different aspects unique to each band, Edward Sharpe really felt out of place with the two other groups. The Avett Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, David Rawlings, there are a number of other groups that would have been better suited for that second spot.

Highlight of the Night & Final Score: The highlight was when Alex jokingly asked if there were any kids in the audience, he laughed and said “of course not.” Then suddenly just a few people in front of us a father raises his 11 or so year old daughter in the air. Ebert becomes shocked, and for a second his arrogance fades: “Do you want to come sing a song with us?” He brings her up on stage and she sings “Janglin’” with them…I mean sings. Every word, she knew it. Wonderful moment.

For his energy he puts out there, these guys certainly get an A+. The actual show? 2.5/5

As roadies prepared for the next set, one of the many cops patrolling on segway’s suddenly decided to plow through the crowd, I have no idea if he had a reason or was just being a jerk, for this, I’ll assume the latter…

Band Three - Mumford & Sons: Ah, the band all the hipsters came to see. They opened up with “Sigh No More,” appropriate with how the song starts slow and builds to a strong climax (mind out of the gutter, kids, we're talking songwriting 101). That type of style is typical for many of their songs, utilizing acts of the song almost like acts in a movie, slow burn, kicking it up into another cyclinder, slowing back down to fade it out into nothing. Also, themes of love, especially loss and faith gained and faith lost are the most typical ones their songs tackle, and they utilize them as themes all men must come to face. Their setlist was mainly derived of the songs on their debut LP “Sigh No More,” however they did bring out three new songs, the highlight possibly being “Lovers Eyes.” Unlike Edward Sharpe, Mumford showed they’re capable of filling up an hours time based on not only a number of songs, not endless jamming and psych spreads across just a handful, but also that they’re already churning out new numbers shows they don’t plan on living on “Little Lion Man’s” success (once again, success despite it's use of the F-Bomn - in a non-derogitorry manner) forever. Speaking of that tune, it was fun to hear live (listen to a recording below), and while it’s enjoyable to sing along, with so many deciding to do so, it did take away from the band’s performance.

Speaking of that, the biggest problem with Mumford at this point live is they sound so much like their CD…luckily it’s a great CD. This is understood being they’re a young band and have limited touring together. Hopefully as they play and write more they will let loose more on stage, letting a song taking a new direction, or Lord forbid, maybe even changing up arrangements occasionally. So while I say part of their live act was disappointing, it’s only due to them following up an act (Old Crow, not Edward Sharpe) that can and is willing to go in a number of different directions and truly let different players loose at times on stage. Another reason while Mumford, despite their massive uprising of success the past 9 or 10 months, shouldn’t have been the closing band.

Finally for an encore of sorts, Old Crow Medicine Show & Edward Sharpe (and all 37 of it’s respective members) join the stage for a raucous hootenanny of Woody Guthrie’s “This Train is Bound for Glory.” HIGHLIGHT of the night, friends, highlight of the night…

Highlight of the Night & Final Score: “This Train is Bound for Glory” is obvious, and their brief dry British humor coming through in between songs was great. For instance one member saying we’re all welcome to climb aboard the train to join the next show, then another member chiming (after massive cheers for this) with: “It’s a joke, you f**ckin’ morons.” (Say that in an British accent, it’s funny, in American? Makes you sound like a jerk). Also, a couple songs in, a fat lady grabs her husband and starts to lead him out of the venue: “Mumford & Dads? What the f**k is this s**t?” My guess? She wasn't impressed.

I’d really like to seem them live again in a couple years, when they’ve matured as a live act. For now it’s a solid 3.5/5

So overall, the Railroad Revival Tour was quite a different experience, and one I don’t think I’ll be forgetting soon. Despite one of the worst crowd experiences ever, the concert itself was surely one of the most unique to hit the road in sometime. If you were lucky enough to catch one of the six shows, well, lucky you. If not, well, you missed out. As the train pulls out, Hawk naps...

Tuneful of Sugar: For those who find pics and reviews to not be enough…

Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man Railroad Revival Tour San Pedro by Hudson-Hawk This Train is Bound for Glory Old Crow (Guthrie) Mumford Railroad Revival San Pedro by Hudson-Hawk

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