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September 25, 2008 11:24 AM

As promised, here's Jason Blair's Q&A with Tift Merritt.

A lot has been written about your voice. When were you first aware of your own voice?
The first time I remember being aware of my own voice was when I had my first apartment. I would sing all the time and play music in the middle of the night and my neighbors would bang on the wall, telling me to be quiet. And I thought, I didn’t realize I was singing that loud…

I tend to think of myself as an okay musician and a pretty good singer, but mostly it’s about [writing] the song. There’s a good discipline that comes with that: I don’t feel like I’m any sort of virtuoso. I don’t like to do acrobatics or anything fancy. I like it keep it pure and plain to serve the song. I like the kind of training and attention that makes me pay to my voice, rather than trying to get away with all sorts of fancy stuff that I probably couldn’t do anyway.

Read the rest of the interview here.

When we last saw you (during the 2005 Tambourine tour), you seemed happy, even asking the crowd to recommend a yoga center.
I did hot yoga! It kicked my ass. It was awesome.

Soon after that, you felt the need to make a break. You moved to Paris. What prompted that?
What happened was really an accident. I’ve always been a Francophile, and I love the French language. It’s so musical. I’d studied French and been to Paris, briefly, a long time ago. I’d finished my touring of Tambourine in Europe and I thought, “How indicative is it of my life that I would come to Europe and not see anything? This record is done. I don’t have to be anywhere. I’m a grown woman. I’m going to take myself to France.”

At that time I was living on the coast of North Carolina. My best friend lived next door, and I had this piano there. I kind of wanted to go home to see my piano, because when you’re on tour you don’t always have a piano close at hand. At least, the kind of touring I do. I thought if I could find an apartment with a piano in it, then I wouldn’t be lacking for anything. I Googled “Paris apartment piano.” I was drinking some wine at the time. I was laughing, but sure enough I found a whole bunch of apartments. So I rented one.

I open the door and there’s this lovely journalist who says, “I’m going to be back next week. Let’s go have beers!” I guess it was just a handful of days into the trip that I knew I wasn’t going to leave on the plane I had booked. I called home and I said, “This is where I’m supposed to be right now.” It was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

The essay you’ve written for Another Country is disarmingly personal. It hints at – but doesn’t really reveal – what might have made moving to Paris so important. Do you talk much about that period?
I would say the major symptom was fatigue from touring, the impact that touring had on my life. It wasn’t just that my laundry was dirty. It was that I was always…I had never quite toured that way. As well as Tambourine did, it wasn’t a commercial success. I hadn’t seen my friends. I didn’t really know what home was anymore. A lot of subtle things were out of focus. It added up to a really big loneliness.

Tambourine felt like a move away from alt-country towards an edgier sound, one blending rock and blues and soul. Then Tambourine won a Grammy for Country Album of the Year, and the country community reeled you in. Is Another Country a response to that?
I’m sure it was. There’s no way that it wasn’t. But it’s such a personal record that would never belittle it by saying it’s about the music industry. It’s about the feelings that I went through in that period of time where you realize that this is your life, and what you thought it would be like and the realities of it — whether you’re the postman or you live in an Econoline van — you have to reconcile those things.

Lyrically, Another Country is deeply personal. It’s also arguably your best writing to date. Were you consciously trying to write with feeling and intimacy?
It was a really unselfconscious record. I didn’t really understand what I was doing. I was really just writing for myself, so it’s so nice that it did take this step forward. I wasn’t doing anything but writing for myself. There was no audience involved. I was going through something, and trying to figure it out for myself.

I was just in France and having this really creative time. I wasn’t like, “Oh, it’s time to write a record.” It was absolutely guile-less. I wasn’t sure what came next. I tried to make room for not knowing what came next.

Do you feel like you’ve evolved as a writer?
I’m always so scared to say things like that because you can take a step backward as much as you can take a step forward. I think what I would say is that I had this amazing experience as a writer, and having that experience changed my point of view in terms of how I think I should be looking at things.

You host a monthly radio program called "The Spark," so I’m very aware I’m interviewing an interviewer.
Oh no! I’m not a journalist! (Lauging.) My brother was a journalist, and he and I had some pretty strict conversations about how I’m not a journalist. I’m not pretending to be a journalist. I’m just a student of students.

On "The Spark" you interview novelists and poets and photographers. What inspired you to do that?
It’s funny because it started in Paris. I was crossing paths very quickly with a lot of interesting people, but there wasn’t much time to get to know them, and I certainly wasn’t going to be so presumptuous as to corner them with questions about their life. I was in a museum and I turned a corner and I found myself in front of this painting that just pummeled me. It was a Cy Twombly painting called Achilles Mourns the Death of Patrolcus. It’s this very essential, primitive abstract. It’s the essence of emotion. You would never know it was a Trojan War scene at all.

Cy Twombly lives in Italy. He’s obsessed with Greek and Roman history but his work is very abstract and minimalist. I don’t why, but this painting killed me. And I was like, “That’s what I’m trying to do.” I became kind of obsessed with this guy [Twombly], and I kept trying to find things out about him, but I couldn’t find very much. I couldn’t find what his favorite food was. I couldn’t find out how his wife got the paint out of his shirt, or what time of day he liked to work. I wanted some kind of human connection.
I thought, This is so weird. This man is not just genius sprung forth from the earth. He’s a human being and he’s had ups and downs in his life. A young painter needs to be able to find something human about this man. And I thought, “I want to ask him to coffee.” And somebody said to me, “Well Tift, why don’t you do it?” Then I realized I didn’t just want to ask him to coffee; I wanted to ask him to coffee, record the conversation, ask him all the hard questions about how he lived his life, and refer back to the answers later.

And thus "The Spark" was born. (Laughing.) I’m fascinated by the process of being an artist throughout a lifetime. It’s not about a record cycle. It’s not about one movie, and one movie being successful. It’s something a lot deeper and farther away from the spotlight. I don’t know that there are enough people, for me, talking about that. So I want to go and learn for myself. Maybe I can help some other young artist along the way.

You have a college degree from a highly regarded school (UNC – Chapel Hill). What were you like in college?
I actually have Biology with lab to complete before that degree! In college, I was myself but more extreme. I lived all by myself on a farm with my dog and a piano. I met Zeke (drummer) when I was in college. We started our band and started sending out our 7-inch to anybody who would book us a gig. “Artist or die.” That was that first moment when every single band in America had a CD, and we were like, “Yeah, we’re going to make a 7-inch.” We’re going to be the only band in America that doesn’t have a CD.

Where did the name Tift come from?
It’s a family name. You know, in the South we name each other after each other for centuries. Actually, all the other Tifts are men. It’s my middle name. It’s everyone’s middle name.

Could you tell us an influence, musically or otherwise, that we might be surprised to know about?
Eudora Welty is a huge influence. Her sentences are so amazing. Writing is so much of an influence on me. I think about writing a song with economy of words — rhythm and melody are no small things — but that’s how I think about it.

And Robert Frank’s photograps, those photographs that tell a story in one punch. It’s endless but it’s so simple. I love to look at photography when I’m writing.

On "The Spark," you spoke with Nick Hornby about the “mental energy” it takes to read even positive reviews. Do you read your own reviews?
(Mock frustration.) I’m so bored by myself! I don’t want to know anything else about myself. I think it’s so horrible to see your life story in three to four sentences when you’re 33 years old. You shouldn’t do it. I’m still creating myself. There’s no bio summary to be read. You need more freedom than that.

I don’t like that boxed in feeling, so I guess my current policy is to be an okay businesswoman — don’t be an ostrich with your head in the sand — but [with] a healthy ignorance to your own biography.

What’s your favorite cocktail?
I do like a mojito. If a have two martinis, I pass out. I get really fun, then I’m angry, then I fall asleep!

You’re from North Carolina by way of Texas, but you recently moved to New York (Fall 2007). What are your impressions of New York?
I love New York City. I love that it’s where all the artists are. I don’t feel weird there. It’s such a relief.

What are you listening to right now?
I love the Fleet Foxes. I just think they’re brilliant. I saw them live and they were mind-blowingly good. They’re so fun and composed at the same time. It’s pastoral and modern at the same time. It’s just neat that it isn’t about the front man. I love that there’s a thing going on right now where you get a lot of people together and it’s not about the front man. There’s hope for us yet.

Did I see you on David Letterman recently, backing up Emmylou Harris?
You did! I love her so much. Not only is she an amazing musician, she’s the nicest person you can find. She was really sweet. At Letterman, she told everybody including David Letterman, “This is Tift and she’s going to be here next week and you better be nice to her.” It was just so sweet. I never would have imagined that.

September 17, 2008 04:56 PM

... if I could figure out how to type out the melody of "The Final Countdown," I would. But I can't, so I'll spare you. ANYWAY, you have approximately seven hours left in which to vote for the Best of Eugene. And we want your ballots. Yes, yours — and yours, and yours, and that guy over there's.

Remember, kids, if you don't vote, you don't get to complain about the direction our country's heading. Er, I mean, the businesses which take home the magical sparkly winners' certificates.

(Also remember that if you vote 18,746 times in a row, I will very possibly think unfriendly thoughts at you forever, or at least until next year.)

Your Resident Bitchy Ballot Mistress

September 17, 2008 12:34 PM

John McCain said the mistake in Vietnam was that the U.S. didn't go all out, invading and bombing north Vietnam. Historians say that could have lead to massive casualties and war with China's huge army.

A fellow Vietnam POW said McCain's an unstable hot head:

McCain has also said (joked?) he wants to bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran:

McCain's VP choice Sarah Palin, an old heartbeat from the Presidency, implied the U.S. should go to war with Russia over tiny South Ossetia:

All of this has lead many to fear a McCain/Palin armageddon. But so far Obama has shied away from calls for tough ads on the issue. Here's the famous one that worked for Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War:

September 12, 2008 11:41 PM

Photo by Todd Cooper

Whoever booked 31Knots to play the EC, I owe you a beer. Seriously. I'll pay up and everything. Because that was awesome. Tons of songs from Talk Like Blood, the singer layering a different outfit over the one he was initially wearing to play the last three songs, their total indifference to the spotty crowd (which grew as the show went on), the way that for once the parts being played electronically didn't seem like a cop-out (maybe because everyone in the band was so good on their own) ... yeah. I've been waiting for three or four years to see them, and it all lived up to my internal hype. And was fantastically entertaining, too.

If you weren't there, you missed out. Even though yes, as some folks were yelling, they did need to turn up the bass. And that's not a complaint I make often.

September 11, 2008 04:42 PM

I think I have a crush on Craig Ferguson now.

(For what he says, folks. Though that accent sure doesn't hurt...)

September 9, 2008 01:54 PM

Goodness. First it's the Oregon Book Awards, then it's the Booker Prize. Shortlists for both arrived today; in the words of Bookslut, "Tonight, fans of world literature symbolically lock Salman Rushdie back in a closet and inwardly dread the prospect of working through 5,000 pages of something called 'The Northern Clemency'."

Booker Shortlist
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger
Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture
Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies
Linda Grant, The Clothes on Their Backs
Philip Hensher, The Northern Clemency
Steve Toltz, A Fraction of the Whole

Oregon Book Awards Finalists make for a long list; see the whole thing here. But special congrats to the locals: Ehud Havazelet (Corvallis), a fiction finalist for Bearing the Body; Lauren Kessler, a creative nonfiction finalist for Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's; and Cynthia Rylant, a double finalist in children's literature for Alligator Boy and Puppies and Piggies.

September 8, 2008 09:03 PM

Blogging as it goes. I'll try to turn this into something a bit more coherent in the morning!

Last season, I loved this show. This season, 24 minutes into the premiere, I'm not impressed. It's trying too hard to be exciting; it's gone the predicable place already; it's become less plausible than ever before. Two humans aren't going to escape a Terminator. Not without help. I'm already frustrated. And trying to write without spoilers, since I can't remember how to do a jump at the moment.

Also, it's remarkably unclear as to whether or not Shirley Manson's character is meant to have her Scottish accent or not. One second she does, the next it's gone, and regardless, she's a bit stiff. I hope she warms up to it. A nice appearance by Max Perlich — toward whom Buffy fans feel a bit of fondness for his role as Whistler on Angel — seems surprisingly brief, but maybe he'll be back.

Oh, political commercials: "And that's wrong." Speaking of Buffy, all I can think of is Faith in the mirror in "Who Are You?", saying, "Because it's wrong."

And I just keep telling the TV how stupid it is. The kid can't get a chip out of a Terminator's head when it's life or death, but he can hotwire a car in even less time? And yet then he dawdles when faced with the most predicable tactic?

I fail to understand these Levi's ads about unbuttoned jeans. I think it's a scam, a weird experiment on the susceptibilities of the youth of America. There's no other explanation for it. Or for Body of Lies, for that matter. How very tedious it looks.

... and just like that, the show redeems itself. Thank you, Brian Austin Green! (Words I never thought I would say.) However, the kid's total freakout - not that we know exactly what it's over - is a bit much; if they made him a bit more of a believable teenager last season, I'd buy both of his decisions in the second act a bit more thoroughly. They're piling on the push-pull between Sarah and Cameron, and the unlikely affinity John has for machines - but at the same time they're forgetting to give us enough Sarah in the show named for her. Being saved again by her ex-fiancé? The dynamic between her and the other Reese? Setting things up as they are is giving too much weight to the sulky teen, frankly.

... or not. Moments like the scene between Cameron and Sarah in the chapel are what powers the show, what gives it its exceptional heart; moments like the (not surprising, but still enjoyable) appearance of Manson in the bathroom are when it plays for the action fan's heart. The balance is totally vital, obviously.

I'd give this a B-, overall. The first half was tedious, standard action that never truly put any of the principals in danger; the second the character-driven interactions that raise the show above average. And did I mention the tiny, fraught encounter between Ellison and Cromartie? Beautiful. More of that, please. More that looks as good as the preview.

September 8, 2008 05:40 PM

And now it's Monday. Isn't it? I feel a little discombobulated. I'm pretty sure it's Monday, and I'm tired, and I keep babbling incoherently to anyone who'll listen about how much fun MFNW was. Seriously. Babble, babble, ramble, meander.

And the best part of MFNW? Les Savy Fav. Saturday night begins like the other two nights: At the Wonder Ballroom, where there is a giant freaking line that reaches all the way down Russell. I cross my fingers that the magic bulldozer passes will work as I walk up to a friendly-faced fellow who asks, "Did you have a question?" "No," I say, "I have this." I hold up the pass and he waves us in. Awesome. Even the bar line isn't as long as it has been. Not that I'm going to sit in the bar for LSF, but I've got to get through Ratatat first. Ratatat has one song I like; all their other songs sound like variations on it to me. Naturally, they play this one song last, after battering the Wonder with truly epic amounts of bass. My cell screen vibrates. The window behind me knocks in its frame. We bitch about the bass for most of the set.

And then I bid adieu for the moment to my starving boyfriend and begin swimming upstream against the tide of sweaty, exhausted-looking Ratatat fans. It's delightfully easy to get right up front, which is where you must be for Les Savy Fav. It is the vantage point from which to properly appreciate the mad genius of singer Tim Harrington, who comes out with tissue paper wrapped around one arm and a towel around his neck. He's got a weird little hat on and is explaining that he got in a car wreck. They don't have their flutist or bongos. He says. It's all very funny. And then the music starts, and Harrington is flailing and leaping into the crowd and spitting water into fans' mouths (ew!) and generally being the most entertaining performer you could hope to see. At some point, a ladder appears, and he hands it to the crowd, gesturing for them to put it on the floor. But they don't. They don't want to. And so he crowd-ladder-surfs to the lighting rig a few feet back, where he grabs a light and twists it to point downwards. Back onstage, he says, "That light was really bugging me."

That light now creates a little spotlight into which he wanders, later. They play all the right songs, except "Wake Up" and "Dishonest Don Pt. II," and I pogo and dance as best I can while pushing moshers out of my way. Dudes, c'mon now. You DANCE to this music. Seriously. Really. I've seen entire floors dancing. It's rock you dance to. It's not an oxymoron. But this weekend, Portland has two modes: standing stock still and flipping the fuck out in a dude-heavy frenzy. Two kids, one with braces, decide this is the time to take up crowd-surfing. I am not amused, but I just get out of their way.

Sweaty, sweaty, sweaty. Someone gives Harrington a fork and he combs all available hair (on his own body) with it. At one point, he yelps, "What's the difference between me and a pit bull?" The crowd responds, "Lipstick!" Harrington says, "I have human intelligence!" and tears into the next song to a weaker barrage of cheers than I expect.

For the encore, he comes out in orange thigh-high tube socks, red underwear and a hoodie, which he quickly removes as sexily as possible. The crowd is more frenzied than ever. By the time the set is done — the almost perfect set, all that booty-shaking total guitar-rock beautiful contradiction stuff tied for the best thing I've heard in ages — we're all damp and breathing like we ran here from the Crystal Ballroom. I stumble out the door and down the block and pull myself onto a stool at the BBQ pit where my boyfriend has ridden this one out, and proclaim it the best show ever, and by the way I could really use some water. The bartender overhears, obliges, and we chat for two seconds about the Les Savy Fav show being the show he most wanted to see during the festival. "I'm sorry," I say. He shrugs. "I'll get over it."

I dunno, man. That was pretty unmissable. Next time!

We opt for a quieter stop next: Horse Feathers at Holocene. I love Horse Feathers, I love Holocene, I love my delicious cocktail; I'm clearly having a Musicfest Moment. Horse Feathers are delicate and beautiful and heartbreaking and sometimes, in the instrumental-only moments, put me in mind of music that'd be used on Deadwood. I dream idly of being able to play the violin. The girl in Horse Feathers has the prettiest voice and is wearing huaraches. The singer is in the Sam Beam vein - not just that he sings gorgeous acoustic songs, but that he's a blond, bearded fellow. This is about the extent of my capability for thought at this point. This, and that I need to get my hands on the newer Horse Feathers record.

I want to see Panther, and the Shaky Hands, but I've spent a lot of time at Holocene already. We drive back to the west side, translate weird visitor parking signs so we can figure out where it's safe to leave the car overnight, and proclaim ourselves foot-bound for the rest of the night. On a whim, we trek down to Fez for Blind Pilot and have to pull magic-pass rank to get in, which is good for the band — the existence of the line of fans, I mean — and makes me feel like a dick yet again. But there's no beer on tap, the room is weird and the band is still soundchecking long after they should have gone on (this is extra weird, as everything else has, delightfully, been incredibly well-timed). We stay long enough to hear "Two Towns From Me," which is so catchy (and fantastically embellished by the handful of extra musicians onstage tonight) it spends the next 36 hours running around my head, alternating with Oxford Collapse's unexpectedly beautiful, oddly sad "A Wedding." It's a slightly unnerving pair of songs to have stuck in one's head that long.

From Fez, we head up Burnside to the Towne Lounge for Eskimo and Sons, having heard enough good things over the last few days about this about-to-go-on-hiatus band that we can't miss out. And it's fantastic. It's sing-along central with the Old Believers; it's packed; I can't even see who's doing what and I don't care. We perch on the back of a banquette and I love everything about the show, including the clubby feel. I don't know the songs, and for once it doesn't matter. They all sound familiar; they all sound perfect.

And that's it. We walk out of the Towne Lounge and down 23rd to the New Old Lompoc, where we discover too late that late-night snacks translate to a $4 Reser burrito (or fair approximation) served on a lettuce leaf. Thankfully, it comes with a side of salsa for drowning the thing in. We never leave beers unfinished, but tonight, we make an exception. Oh, the tiredness. But it's all worth it. Musicfest NW has proved to be fantastic - though I do have to wonder if it's as much fun for the non-press-pass holding folks. We would have spent a lot more time in lines were it not for that (so thanks, MFNW Powers That Be!). On the other hand, there was almost always another show I would have been happy to be seeing; the list of shows I wish I'd squeezed in includes Hot Water Music, Centro-Matic (my most sadly missed band!), Nada Surf, Menomena and Helio Sequence (though I can see both of those bands this weekend at the Eugene Celebration, so all's well there), Chris Robley and the Fear of Heights, Norfolk and Western and more I've blocked out so I won't regret not having seen them. It's a lot of a good thing, MFNW. It's so much of a good thing that I have, for the first time in months, this giddy-happy feeling about new music and seeing bands and all that good stuff it's sometimes easy to get jaded about. So thanks, you guys. I'm already excited about next year. Especially if The Thermals play. I'm just sayin'.

September 7, 2008 10:30 PM

So I got a little behind. Forgive me. Let me shift into present tense so I can pretend I'm not writing two days late.

Friday! Friday is a day for sleeping in and enduring unsuccessful shopping trips. However, it's also a day for lucking out, and for arriving at venues in time to walk right in (for the most part). I turn up at the Wonder Ballroom at about 5:15 for Britt Daniel's 5:30 set and there isn't even a slip of a line. However, there is — in what becomes the theme for the evening, and for the Wonder — a line for the bar. A line in which I stand, briefly, before Daniel goes on and I realize it was a stupid idea anyway.

I have a confession: I only really love one Spoon album. Just Girls Can Tell. And thus, once Daniel closes the goosebump-raising "Me and the Bean" I think I'd be happy to leave were I not holding out hope that he might also play "Anything You Want." He does play another Girls song, and some other songs I recognize, as well as one song on the bass and several with the nearly ubiquitous Janet Weiss, who plays with everyone and is so awesome her frequent appearances are never less than delightful.

Daniel is charming and sort of adorable in his tousled-bedhead way; he says he's been living in Portland for three years and it's still magical. I'm pretty sure he actually says "magical." It's sweet. The short is set and also sweet, and involves a song for which Daniel has to stop his drum machine, practice the chords and start again. I don't know why I find musician fuckups so charming.

Outside, I find Chuck and his friend, grumpy about the no-magical-press-pass access at the Wonder. The line for Built to Spill is long, and I don't envy those who get in the realization that they most likely won't be able to get a beer. BtS is beer music. I'm leaving 'cause I've got to get dinner, but also because I'm still bitter that they're playing Perfect From Now On rather than the clearly superior Keep It Like a Secret. I was in denial about this for so long that I convinced myself it was the latter album. Whoops.

After dinner, we head to the Towne Lounge for the Old Believers, whom I wrote about in July when they played Cozmic Pizza. That night, we missed most of the band's set because they went on long before we'd expected them to; tonight, we catch most of it, and it's fantastic and nostalgic and lovely and graceful as expected. There are other folks onstage with the core Believer duo; later I found out these other folks were Eskimo and Sons, but that's a post for Saturday's eventual blog. There is a sizable Willamette Week contingent at the Old Believers show, which leads me to some internal speculation about music for alt-weekly staffers that goes absolutely nowhere. Also, the Towne Lounge sells 24-ounce cans of Pabst. I should be immune to this sort of gimmick now, but despite my dislike for the gut-twisting cheap brew, I consider it. Briefly. The bar is a little bit dinky and a little bit dingy in just the right way and I think I would like to see more bands in its dark environs, often.

As the Old Believers come to a hand-clapping, crowd-pleasing end, we split for the Roseland and arrive just in time to get in another bar line. We stay in this one, though; I text with Chuck about Portland's best bands and the fact that the Crystal Ballroom, where he's seeing the over-hyped Vampire Weekend, has an actual press space. Crazy. Jaguar Love takes the stage and I immediately have a shit-eating grin on my face, because I love these guys. I love their batshit craziness, stupid white pants and singer Johnny Whitney's tendency to scream EVERYTHING at incomprehensible levels. (Check out WWeek's Musicfest diaries for an accurate and entertaining take on the band.) I love that they make catchy music that veers from almost power ballads to almost-Michael Jackson pop, but coat it all in a layer of noise and ridiculousness. I love that some of them used to be in two other awesome bands.

The bad thing about Jaguar Love is that most of Portland is standing still and staring blankly at the stage. I posit the theory that some of them are convinced this is a test of their TV on the Radio loyalties. Eventually, we make it upstairs and obtain beer from the fastest bartender on the planet. My friend Toby sends a text from Brooklyn that ends, "FUCK THIS SHIT I AM MOVING TO PORTLAND," which, well, hey, at the moment, I'm pretty in love with PDX myself, even if its denizens seem to dance even less than Eugeneans. As the show winds down, Whitney screams, "JAGUAR LOVE! JAGUAR LOVE! JAGUAR LOVE!" over and over again, and we can't contain the laughter. A bearded dude in a baseball hat one row up catches my boyfriend's eye and high-fives him. I wonder if he's laughing with the band, like me, or at them.

Musicfest runs like clockwork, so it's almost weird that TV on the Radio goes on a few minutes late. Downstairs, no one is dancing, which makes me cranky even though I'm sitting on my ass with a pint of porter. Eventually, I make my way back downstairs, stuff tissue in my ears, and slip through the crowd to near the front, where I find myself stuck behind a very tall blonde who keeps punching the air. I'm not sure this is the most ... understandable? response to TVOTR, but whatevs; at least she's into it.

Photo by Dominik Kolendo.

But it's not their best show, to be honest. It's the fourth or fifth time I've seen them, and something just seems a little less vibrant than usual — though at least part of that could be chalked up to the fact that the crowd is waiting for the band's new album rather than excited about hearing new songs they've come to love already. But singer Tunde Adebimpe (full disclosure: I knew Tunde in college) has enough personality to carry any TVOTR show through, and there's something sweetly (that word again!) appealing to his demeanor as he thanks the crowd; it's in such contrast to his constantly-in-motion, shimmying, magnificent and oratorial presence during the band's songs. If memory serves, the main part of the set ends without "Staring at the Sun," so of course they're going to do an encore. Of course. And it's — to borrow a word from Britt Daniel — damn near magical.

Everyone is going to Berbati's after this, so we decide to follow along just to see what all the fuss is about. When we get there, we finally get to use the magical part of the magic bulldozer passes and waltz right in, only to realize we don't want to be there. There's a stomping party vibe that doesn't sit right after the epic density of TVOTR. I stand in the bathroom line, sweating, and get a text from Chuck: "Donuts sound better than this band." Voodoo Doughnuts is down the block, and it's a tossup whether there's a longer line for sugar-coated treats or The Builders and the Butchers. We pass on both and call it a night. One more to go!

September 5, 2008 01:51 PM

Honestly? I didn't think my first night at MusicfestNW would involve staying out until after one in the morning, allowing my ears to be totally fucking battered, but lo, it did, and it was a little bit awesome. I did stay at Holocene all night, true, but I knew Calendar Editor Chuck Adams was out and about — I'm sure he'll check in later about Battles and M. Ward — and, well, see, it's more fun to have someone to talk shit with at shows, and the only other person I knew who'd be out last night was at Holocene. So at Holocene I stayed (after a brief and unsatisfying trip to the super-speshul VIP tent outside the Wonder Ballroom, where the cocktails, though they don't deserve the name, were all made with Vitamin Water. I ditched mine — nasty! — and grabbed two tiny bottles of the stuff for later. I'm a sucker).

The Holocene lineup looked like this:

8 pm: Silver Summit
9 pm: Oxford Collapse
10 pm: Bodies of Water
11 pm: Starfucker
Midnight: Deerhunter

Silver Summit kind of went in one ear and out the other. Pretty enough, but not enough to grab my attention; I bought an old-fashioned (they make really good ones at Holocene) and snagged a little table, and spent most of their set making doodles in my MFNW schedule.

I just saw Oxford Collapse at Holocene a few months ago (with my new favorite band, Frightened Rabbit), and while I tend to avoid writing much about them (the aforementioned Only Person I Knew at being in the band and all), this show, I've gotta say, was a notch or two up from the last. And that one was good, too; this one was just better, and not only because singer Mike Pace kept cracking the crowd up by commenting on the various perks of the festival's corporate sponsorship (something about how drinking from mini-keg shaped cans of Heineken makes you look like a giant). I'm sorry to say I don't have the band's new album yet, so I can't tell you what the name of that new song I really liked was, but so long as they play "Please Visit Your National Parks" and that one other song I don't know the name of, I'm happy.

As for Bodies of Water, the less said, the better. I'm not proud of my bitchy judgmental side, but frankly, the chances of me liking a band in which one of the members is wearing a full-body leotard are pretty small. They weren't terrible; they just weren't my thing. Plus, it was more fun to stand in the hallway, catching up with my friend and watching various people (from a guy with a book-related website to two busty blondes) come to talk to him about how much they liked Oxford Collapse's set. There was a fair amount of kicking each other every time a member of Sleater-Kinney walked by, also. (Two outta three, if you're curious.)

Eugene shout-out moment: Former Horsehead bartender Kris Clouse turned up. Hi, Kris!

Starfucker was cool, but seemed to go by awfully quickly. I felt like I never quite got a sense of what they were doing. In retrospect, this could have had something to do with my being chatty instead of paying attention. Sorry, fellas; I liked your band, I just need to go back and actually listen.

Deerhunter, on the other hand, provided one of those moments when you see a band and are half overwhelmed and half entranced, half thinking about how you want to listen to them again at a lower volume so you can think straight and half incapable of thought. In short, it was fucking loud. I'm listening to them via MySpace right now and it's not even beginning to approximate the sensation of leaning my head against the wall and feeling my brain rattle.

Photo by Jeff Walls. I should point out that he had a crazy flash; it was super-dark in there!

They're also quite funny, these folks, and watching various members of other bands stand to the side of the stage, engrossed, was an added level of entertainment. (Also entertaining: Holocene's hyperactive, totally funny soundwoman, whose energy levels I seriously envy.) There was a whole thing with the bassist being a shapeshifter, the possibiltiy of puking, a Q&A session somewhat inspired by/in rebuke to a Q&A Crispin Glover had about a movie he made ... yeah, it was complicated. And awesome. And loud. And shoegazery — a My Bloody Valentine comparison was made, but I think it involved extra decibels — and assaultive and kind of intense. I kept being reminded of seeing Mogwai; if you're not up for what you're in for, you aren't going to like it.

I liked it. I also liked stealing a seat in Holocene's weird little side-of-stage nook and finally getting off my feet for the first time in hours, and enjoying corporate-sponsor-provided beer while trying to have the kind of conversations you have when the band is so loud, you hurt your friends' ears trying to yell loudly enough that they can hear you.

I have high hopes for tonight: Britt Daniel! Jaguar Love! TV on the Radio! Fuck yeah! But first: shoe shopping and, er, failing to resist the urge to go buy Deerhunter and Oxford Collapse records. Yep.

August 30, 2008 11:58 PM

I started to write a post. It covered football, New Orleans and Minneapolis. It didn't cut it. So I'm just going to give you links.

• Massive police raids on suspected protesters in Minneapolis.

• Mandatory evacuations to begin Sunday morning in New Orleans.

I'm pretty sure you guys can point out the numerous things wrong with both these pictures without me. And you don't need my pithy comments on Mike Bellotti's crappy goatee — or on Sarah Palin's ability to say exactly the kinds of things that make me want to tear my hair out — either.

So I'll just keep reading.

August 27, 2008 04:26 PM

I have a tendency to avoid blogging things if I think everyone's already seen them. Sometimes I'm totally wrong, like with that damn fonts video I sent to Chuck a month or so ago. It was only kinda funny then, and now that it's making the rounds, it's getting annoying. But these two things are still cool! I swear!

1. Yeltsin video for "We Will Become a Factory"

2. The Daily Show demonstrates proper snarking techniques with a billboard near the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, welcoming RNC-goers:

Well played, Jon Stewart. Well played.

August 21, 2008 02:47 PM

I haven't been able to get this song out of my head for THREE DAYS. It's from Hamlet 2, which opens tomorrow and promises to be hilarious, at least for certain folks. (No one else in the theater for Tropic Thunder on Monday laughed during this preview, but then, a considerable portion of that audience though the very funniest thing in Tropic was Jack Black's elaborate description of the sex act he'd perform for the person who untied him from a tree, so ... take that for whatever you think it's worth.)

August 19, 2008 10:41 PM

... at least not if you watch this alternate ending. It's not perfect, but it's got balls. I like that.