Thursday, September 30, 2010

LAST NIGHT: JARROD GORBEL, STEEL TRAIN, FUN.

So, as I mentioned, K and I went to a rockandroll show at Higher Ground last night. Since K has always been a rock-and-roller, he knows what's what and who's who when it comes to awesome bands and musicians who happen to meander through our little town (usually mid-week, since we're not cool enough to score hot ticket nights on the tour), and he was ├╝ber excited about this one.

First on the billet was Jarrod Gorbel (always introduced as the former frontman of The Honorary Title, gone solo). When K first heard that JG would be coming to town, he played a bunch of hilarious You Tube videos that Jarrod made (for what appears to be no apparent reason except perhaps as a promotional stunt). When we got to Higher Ground, Jarrod was already on stage, and I must say that I was far more impressed with his live performance than the recordings I had seen. One thing that I was especially not impressed with was the audience. Everyone was totally disrespectful, talking throughout the entire set. Loudly. It felt like we were at a frat party that Jarrod just happened to be performing at, and I think he was kind of bummed that nobody would just shut up and listen. Maybe I'm projecting here, because he was gracious with the audience and didn't express any irritation, but I was embarrassed for him. What's the point of going to a show if you're just going to talk to your friends the entire time?? I mean, I get that he was the opener (and acoustic) and most people were there to see a upbeat rock show... but still. Don't stand around trying to talk over the performer, it's just plain rude. Okay, rant over. Jarrod is a really great musician and I wish I could have enjoyed his set more (right, so maybe rant not quite over). On an almost entirely unrelated note, he was accompanied by a lovely violinist, who kind of made me wish I hadn't stopped playing. If I had known that playing the violin would eventually be cool/fun, I would have been a lot more dedicated to practicing and forcing myself through those boring orchestra camps.

Steel Train took the stage next, and they were awesome. I didn't really know what to expect, because they are a pretty standard pop/rock group and usually those can be hit or miss for me, but they were really ON last night (maybe because frontman Jack Antonoff [playing double-duty on tour with Fun.] had his entire extended family in the audience [so it seemed], or maybe just because the band has been together for a long time and have perfected their onstage chemistry). Jack's between-tunes banter had us laughing out loud, and you could tell that the guys were having a great time--really enjoying themselves and playing the music because they loved it. The set was lively, the songs were catchy, the band was charming--what more can you ask for on a Wednesday night?

Finally, after much ado, the headliner (Fun.) came out to face their anxious fans (and honestly, I was pretty surprised that everyone in the audience was so excited and seemed to know all of the song lyrics--I feel like I've never seen a show in Vermont where the band had an established fanbase!) I had mixed feelings about Fun. (and if, like me, you're not familiar with the band--the singer for Fun. was formerly the frontman for The Format), but before I get into what struck a sour note, I just want to say that they also put on a really great show. They had lots of energy, lots of enthusiasm, and lots of talent. I liked the horn. My first (minor) complaint was that the songs had no real structure--which I know is great and experimental or anything, but it seemed as if the song would end abruptly just as I was starting to get into it, and while that's not really a negative review because the songs themselves were good enough that I wanted them to keep going, it was kind of irksome. More importantly, I was put off by Nate Ruess' evident self-love. He spent as much time preening as he did screaming, and although I know that's what rockandrollers are all about, it was difficult for me to appreciate his music when I could tell that he was a person I wouldn't particularly like. Maybe that was a complete misjudgement, and if he's a delightful, selfless individual I will eat my words. But sometimes you can just tell about people, you know? It probably didn't help that all of his songs were about leaving women behind and drinking and smoking himself to sleep every night--they certainly painted a portrait of the sort of individual I intuited he was (not that there is anything wrong with that per se--I've certainly never been Miss Angelic Humble Pie, but rampant narcissism tends to vex me). But, you ask, what would a rock and roll band be without a mandiva at the microphone? Perhaps something a little more like Steel Train :)

After I leave a show like this I always wonder what my life would have been like if I had any sort of access to rock shows when I was growing up. I'm always inspired to write music and get back on the stage, and I usually leave a good show with fragments of song lyrics gestating in my mind with nowhere to go. If I had these sorts of influences in my life when I was younger, who knows? Maybe I'd be living the rock and roll dream by now!

All in all, it was a great lineup of fantastic musicians who put on a fun. show (I couldn't resist). Well played!

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