Saturday, February 19, 2011

Moving Mountains at Peabody's Pirate's Cove (and prior adventures) (and NEW Weaver at the Loom!)

Moving Mountains, who played in Cleveland on Thursday, are a band I'd been hoping to see live for a long time.

Well, I should clarify that. I'd seen them twice before. But I never felt like I really saw them play a proper set until now. Both of the previous times were, shall we say, interesting experiences. The first, in fact, was quite an adventure.

On July 4, 2009, Moving Mountains (whose music I'd describe as heavy post-rock with emo vocals) played a show in Youngstown, Ohio. Being a pretty big fan of the band, and never having had the chance to see them before, I decided to make the hour-plus drive down to Youngstown for the concert. I had seen on the venue's MySpace page that the show, which featured three bands in total with Moving Mountains headlining, was supposed to be at noon. This seemed a little odd, but since it was the 4th of July holiday, I accepted it. So I drove to Youngstown and arrived in the early afternoon. When I got to the address, it looked like a somewhat run-down house. I approached the building, and when I saw someone, said I was there for the concert.

I was very early, as it turned out. The show time had been moved to 4. So I had several hours of free time to kill in Youngstown, a city I'd never been in before.

Youngstown is honestly a pretty depressing place, and this is coming from someone who loves Cleveland. I managed to make a good time of it, though, having lunch at a local restaurant and then going for a nice long walk in Mill Creek Metro Park. When I made my way back to the venue, there was still a good amount of time to wait before the music actually started, which turned out to be closer to 6, as I recall. The show was an outdoor concert - the house itself was in the process of being converted into a concert venue. So imagine seeing a concert in someone's yard; that's basically what this was. The members of the three bands and a handful of concertgoers hung out in the yard, eating hot dogs. I watched the members of Moving Mountains (conveniently four in number) play cornhole.

When it came time for Moving Mountains to play their set, just before they started, the lead singer went off to a Port-a-John. He returned to the makeshift stage to announce that he had gotten sick. So the set was off to an interesting start. Moving Mountains gave a great performance full of energy, but only played for about half an hour. And not surprisingly, given the venue, the sound was lacking. It felt odd to have driven so far for that, but I did enjoy myself.

The second time I saw Moving Mountains was far more disappointing. They played at the Beachland Ballroom, the first of four bands in a show headlined by Say Anything, who were also supported by Eisley and Moneen. Honestly, I was only going to the show to see Moving Mountains, and my interest level dropped with each subsequent band on the bill. I felt a little odd paying as much as I did just so I could see the first band in a four band lineup, but I really wanted to see them in a proper venue after the Youngstown adventure.

The show was scheduled to start at 8. I arrived at 7:50 to find a long line outside the building. I had not expected this at all - the doors were at 7; why was there a line now? The problem apparently stemmed from the fact that this was a show with a very young audience compared to most shows I go to. The line moved dreadfully slowly, at times seeming not to move at all. When I finally got in, it was 8:10, and I had missed half of Moving Mountains' set. Yes, they only got to play for twenty minutes, and I missed half of it. I was quite angry at the time, but it was my fault.

So when they announced they would be playing a headlining show in Cleveland, I was pretty pumped. Amazingly, the same thing nearly happened to me as at the Beachland. The show was scheduled to have doors at 7, and according to Peabody's website shows generally start an hour after doors. There was one opening band. I arrived at 8:25, thinking I might catch the end of the openers' set. Instead, I found Moving Mountains already getting ready to play. They started just ten minutes after I arrived.

I had never been to Peabody's before. The Pirate's Cove, the smaller of two venues in the building, is actually a surprisingly cool place to see a concert. It's a small room, but with a nice, elevated, well-lit stage, and a good sound system. There's even a balcony. I wished I had brought my camera, but that's okay.

Finally, more than a year and a half after that July 4th adventure, I was getting to see Moving Mountains play a proper set. They did not disappoint. Each time I've seen them, they've brought tremendous energy to their performances, moving around a lot on stage and really getting into the music. This was easily the best performance from them I'd seen. They did not let up the intensity through a 50 minute set, mixing up new songs with tracks from their previous releases Pneuma and Foreword. I have to say, the new stuff really sounds great. It tends toward the heavier side of their sound, from what they played, at least. In general I don't listen to much music where the vocals contain screaming, but with this band, it really works for me. I can't wait for the new album, which should come out next month.

As I write this, I'm listening to another band that fans of Moving Mountains would be well advised to check out. That band is Weaver at the Loom. They, like Moving Mountains, could be described as post-rock with emo vocals, although they have a more atmospheric, mellow sound and no screaming. Both bands are masters at creating really epic, emotional songs. And lo and behold, I've just learned that Weaver at the Loom have released new music for the first time in years! This is something I'd feared would never happen. They've only previously released a five-song EP in 2007, and I've been returning to those five songs again and again. "You can't evade them" and "Without fear of their return" in particular give me chills. Apparently the band is now just one guy, but he's the one who's been the creative force behind the project the whole way. There are two new songs out new; I'm listening for the first time and I like what I hear!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Who the hell is Arcade Fire?

Arcade Fire winning Album of the Year at the Grammys has been an unexpected source of amazing entertainment.

I've always thought the Grammys were a joke that were more about popularity than quality of music. I'm not some total elitist who thinks popular music is inherently bad, I just think that the correlation between quality and popularity is fairly weak, at best. On the night of the Grammys, Cara and I watched a little of the show while eating dinner, then decided to watch a movie. The only thing still coming up that I was interested in was Arcade Fire, and I certainly didn't expect them to win.

(The movie was Winter's Bone, which Cara had had recommended to her by some friends, but unfortunately we both found it terribly boring.)

After the movie, we went back on the Internet and saw, to our great surprise, Arcade Fire had won Album of the Year! The best part of this was how shocking it was to everyone. The video is great, because you can hear the confusion in Barbara Streisand's voice when she announces the winner, and then see how completely dumbfounded with shock and giddiness the band members are. The first words out of Win Butler's mouth in the acceptance speech are, "What the hell?"

I loved seeing the disdainful reactions of some people on the Internet like "Who the hell is Arcade Fire?" and "I've never heard of them!" It seems so funny coming from my perspective where, among my favorite bands, Arcade Fire is easily one of the most popular. Plus, a band that played a sold out Madison Square Garden can't really be called obscure.

The whole thing is both awesome and hilarious. The Grammy for Album of the Year went to the album that was, in fact, my favorite album of the year? I looked up a complete list of Grammy winners and the only other time that's ever been true was when Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band won.

It will be interesting to see whether this has any broader effects on popular music. I could envision the airwaves being filled with crappy Arcade Fire knockoffs, but somehow I don't think that's likely to happen. It would be nice, though, if this did help bring more attention to all the great music coming out of Canada these days. (Especially if Woodpigeon could gain enough popularity in the States that they would tour here!) Something about the Great White North really seems to inspire musical artistry - or at least music that appeals to my personal tastes! I just checked my stats for the last year, and a remarkable six of the top eleven artists are from Canada (along with three U.S. and two U.K. artists). For a nation of thirty million odd people, that's certainly more than would ever happen by chance.

As I think about it more, my worldview as a whole is more in line with a typical Canadian than a typical American point of view, and I wonder if there's any connection. Obviously, my taste in music and my opinions on any other subject all arise from the same brain. I wouldn't be surprised if there is some sort of relationship there -both involving the internal processes of my brain and how those processes have been shaped by my life experiences. It's really quite interesting to ponder.

Oh, by the way, I'm a neurobiologist, and clearly a huge nerd!