This past Wednesday, I once again ventured to The Pearl Street Night Club in Amherst, MA (my second visit in as many weeks) to see Architecture in Helsinki with The Blow and FDR. This show was in the “clubroom” (a.k.a. downstairs), which is significantly smaller then the Ballroom/upstairs and is more what I expect from a small rockclub – and by that I mean there are two columns in the middle of the room, partially obstructing the view of the stage from nearly all points at the back half of the room. The staff remained friendly, save for the bartender who sacrificed niceties in favor of the single-minded pursuit of serving drinks as quickly and efficiently as possible, and who can fault him for that?
First up was FDR, a man in a black suit, black shirt and black tie. Accomponied by only an iBook, he sang and played guitar and occasional precussion. My recollection was that his sound was pretty indie, but the heavy beats that he played over gave him a air of electronic or R&B. It took me a few songs to get into him, and just as quickly as I did, he was off the stage. Unfortunately, he didn’t plug a website, and his name is eclipsed by more well-known FDRs in google, so I don’t have any yummy linkage for him.
The second act was The Blow, consisting of Khaela Maricich and Jona Bechtolt (although Jona wasn’t present that night). I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of The Blow before I saw that they were opening of AIH, but I did try to do a little research on them before the show and I absolutely fell in love after listening to Come On Petunia at The Blow’s MySpace page. Khaela was alone on stage with but a microphone (her ibook was off stage) and I’m not sure I can even describe the joy I experienced watching her sing and dance. I would be at the front of the line if Kheala were offering dance lessons. After her set I picked up her soon-to-be-released-but-available-for-purchase-now album Paper Television and got her to sign it for me. As a side note, until Paper Televison is released on the 24th of October, you can download all of The Blow’s album Poor Aim: Love Songs over at krecs.com.
At last the headliners, Architecture In Helsinki, took the stage. I was somewhat apprehensive because (in my mind anyway) The Blow is a tough act to follow. The warned us that they would be playing alot of songs off their upcoming album, and indeed they did, but they still managed to play almost all my favorite songs: It’5, Wishbone, Do the Whirlwind, The Owls Go, and Nevereverdid – Kindling being the only song that I left wishing I had heard. They had some technical difficulties; a keyboard fell over – I couldn’t tell if the stand broke or what – and about halfway through the show their monitors went out, depriving us of an encore at the end. The downtime was filled with improptu standup comedy from the audience members. The most interesting thing about the show was the swirling maelstrom that the band members formed as they rotated around the stage taking turns at the various intruments. I think I saw at least 3 different people play the drums and they have microphones at every station but they’re not just for backup singing.
Bottom lines: AIH puts on a great show, and I won’t hesitate to buy tickets to their show next time. The Blow: if they play anywhere in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut or Rhode Island, I will surely be there. Pearl Street Nightclub: Still one of the nicer little rock venues I’ve been to.
Friday night I drove down to Northampton, MA to see Mason Jennings play at the Pearl Street Night Club. I hadn’t seen Mason perform since the summer of 2002 as best as I can recall, and to be honest I hadn’t been keeping up with his new releases. When I saw him then it was him with his guitar and a mic, and some sort of bass acomponyment (I’m tempted to say it was a cello). Apparently these days he tours with a keyboard player, a drummer and a bass player. I don’t want to say it was bad. It wasn’t. It was very good, it just wasn’t lone folk hero that I started listening to 5 years ago and not what I was expecting to see. I found myself questioning several times, “Who does this guy think he is, John Mayer?”
The opening act, Jennifer O’Connor, was fab-u-lous. She has a clean, folk rock sound that I found refreshing. Her performance was right on. The harder rocking songs rocked my socks and the ballads moved me. My only criticism would be that she doesn’t act like the rockstar she is between songs. Maybe it’s a folk artist thing that they’re meek and quiet between songs. I bought one of her albums, Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars and got it signed. I would have bought both the albums she had that night if I had the cash on me… A couple $4.50 bottles of Magic Hat puts an extreme dent into one’s merch money. Anyway, I got home after midnight and had to listen to the entire album before going to sleep.
Overall, I give Jennifer O’Conner a 4.5 out of 5 and Mason Jennings a 2.75 out of 5. I’m sure he worried about ostracizing his fan base when he added the rest of the band. I’m just one of those fans who was a little ostracized, albeit belated, since I hadn’t picked up any of his new stuff in quite some time.