Vampire Times X

This afternoon I went to the Spin party to see X. The band played all of the hits, from 'Los Angeles' to 'We're Desperate'. John Doe, always the storyteller, told the audience that 'Nausea' was how we'd feel after the amount of beer we'd all been drinking and that 'Motel Room In My Bed' is where we'd be when we woke up feeling sick. (For the record, I was drinking ice tea, which is how I understood what he was saying).

Before X were Vampire Weekend, who I saw yesterday at The Parish. It's a shame so many people left after Vampire Weekend and missed X's show. VF are a fun band to watch, but I find their live performance (and songs) overly considered and, frankly, lacking much soul or passion. I could listen to their record over and over, dance to it, enjoy it, but it will never move me. But I suppose music, like other forms of art, serves different purposes. If Vampire Weekend are a summer beach read, then good for them for delivering the warm weather a few months early.

I also caught Times New Viking, one of the bands I'd been hoping to see at SXSW. Their albums are lo-fi with the treble turned up to 10. Live, they have a heavier guitar sound, which I prefer to the thinner tones. There is always an element of surprise when you first see a live band, your expectations bump up against realities, and you have more senses with which to marry the musical experience. What I first noticed about Times New Viking was that their drummer is the main singer and front-person. With maybe the exception of Levon Helm in the Band (sorry Genesis and Eagles), I always find that when drummers sing lead, the energy of the band is tilted in a strange and disorienting direction. But Times New Viking's music is so forward moving and fast, I didn't care about how off-center or imbalanced the stage set-up seemed. In fact, it forced the keyboardist/singer and guitarist to turn inwards, which only intensified the dynamic. Plus, all their songs are around two minutes. In some ways, I wish every band at SXSW had only 20 minutes to play. That's two songs by the incredible My Morning Jacket and ten songs by the sonic blink that is Times New Viking.

(If you haven't already, check out the live taping NPR did of My Morning Jacket. That is one amazing live band—lot's of jamming and eight new songs.)



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I have similar views on Vampire Weekend's is a pleasant album that leaves me feeling a little vacant somehow. They're not a band that I'll be listening to 10 years from now.

X, on the other hand--now there's a band that will blow anyone out of the water! I'm looking forward to seeing them play St. Louis Monday night.

Thanks for the SXSW updates Blogstein!

Sent by Vortex | 9:45 PM | 3-14-2008

have you ever seen japanther?

Sent by ld | 11:08 PM | 3-14-2008

I once saw the Buzzcocks open up for Pearl Jam, and they played about 45 songs in 45 mins (so it seemed)

I also once saw a lil band called The Ponys open up for a lil band from Portland that our fearless Blogger might have heard of (Yes yes, Sleater-Kinney) anyway, it was in Madison Wisconsin, the stage was rater small / tight, so the Ponys drummer was rather up and center staged... not much room to walk in front of him... and i was first row... I felt it rather hard to watch the other band members that night, as the drummer was just, RIGHT THERE... (course, later that night, a certain lead guitarist for that other band Sleater-Kinney nearly kicked my head off as well...)

I will say though... when seeing a band live for the first time, especially bands you dont even know... so ones you might stumble upon at a festival, or an opening act that you have not heard of, that first performance can really be something...

Years back, first time I ever got a chance to see the White Stripes live... Stripes, great show... great crowd... but still, some 5 years later almost, me and my friend STILL talk about the weirdness that was the opening band...

Whirlwind Heat...
all the songs having colors for names... a bass guitar, drums, and, some sort of pyschodelic space instrument the lead singer would uummm well he pushed buttons and stuff? i dont know if he actually "plays" anything??? I still dont even know how to explain it hahaha... I do like the songs Pink and Purple though?

One last question for our fearless Blogger...
If you were to get up on stage with Corin and Janet, and told "20 mins"
would you play 10+ of your shorter "Dig Me Out" type songs? or would it be "Lets Call It Love / Entertain" for the full 20?

Sent by Kramer | 1:08 AM | 3-15-2008

My Morning Jacket makes me proud to be from Kentucky. They are really one the best live bands I've ever seen. If you get a chance you should check out another great live, Louisville, KY band: Wax Fang. Although I think they may have already played both their shows.

Sent by Jaime | 2:16 AM | 3-15-2008

X is one of those bands that always manages to impress me. Exene was one of my early idols, and John Doe has done some great solo work in the last few years.

I'll be seeing them at the Crystal in a few weeks, can't wait.

Sent by setya | 3:04 AM | 3-15-2008

Los Angeles' finest.

I have nothing but love for X. I was fortunate enough to witness their enthralling performance in Dallas last Thursday (preceded by a gutsy and heavily improvised set by the Skybombers).

Exene, John, Billy and D.J.'s longevity is what legends are made of.

Sent by Velour | 6:49 AM | 3-15-2008

I'm seeing X in May and I can't wait. "Los Angeles" is one of the best punk records ever made, in my opinion.

Sent by Karissa | 10:18 AM | 3-15-2008

Interesting comment about singer/drummers. But that dynamic works for No Age, who are currently playing at SXSW. Their new record comes out in a month or so, and they are without question a great band. For proof, check out Track 1 from this live performance, sounds like Husker Du circa 1985...

Sent by Rick | 3:33 PM | 3-15-2008

Singing drummers...
I remember Eddie Vedder once explained his indifference to hip-hop by saying that he just loves watching the struggle on someone's face while they try to sing and play guitar at the same time.

When drummers sing, though, it becomes, at least visually, an element of their precision, just some other rhythmic thing that they're doing. To an audience member it creates a cognitive disconnect because the drummer is trying to be both the dispassionate Timekeeper and the emotionally invested Communicator. Plus they have to turn their head to the side to reach their microphone so they're not even facing the audience.

Grant Hart could kind of pull it off because he looked so disheveled anyway that it often seemed he was barely hanging on to sanity, so the audience could become invested in that struggle that Eddie Vedder was talking about.

And Regine from Arcade Fire can do it because she's not primarily a drummer and so the performance is rough and unpolished and more emotional than precise.

Sent by Liam | 4:26 PM | 3-15-2008

There's a band in the UK called 'Stuffy and the Fuses' where the drummer (Stuffy) is the lead vocal. They set up onstage with him at the front and the rest of the band behind.

Sent by Tim | 4:45 PM | 3-15-2008

I've only listened to the Vampire Weekend album once, but I'm noticing a trend in indie rock. Vampire Weekend have a great sound, but they don't do anything with it. This is something I've noticed recently with hyped up indie bands. Band of Horses is high on this list, particularly the first track on that album. "I could sleep/When I was alone/Is there a ghost in my house?" I love that lyric. It's like a haiku. And they build and build that song to what should be a crescendo, but then it just ends. They're on the verge of something amazing and they just stop. They never recover from it. The Vampire Weekend record strikes me the same way. There's a great sound, and with an extra push they could have something remarkable, but they don't push it. They should, but they don't. They leave it the way it is, and they leave me wishing for something greater. It's so easy to satisfy yourself with a B+ when with a little extra effort you could have your A. I'm really getting a short fuse with albums like that. It's as if the indie scene is becoming complacent, like they're afraid of being bold. I hate it when music plays it safe. I think I might have absorbed too much indie rock for my own good and I'm seeing how similar everything is. I need to know what sets your music apart from the rest of the pack. Why should I spend fourteen, sixteen, eighteen dollars for your album? Why should I drive 200 miles to DC to see your band play in a small club? From now on, I'm giving no more free rides. I either like it or I don't. I find myself saying no to far more bands than I say yes.

What do you think of the Sonics leaving Seattle for Oklahoma City? Personally, I'm rather irate.

Sent by Nick L. | 5:31 PM | 3-15-2008

I'd never heard of Vampire Weekend until you wrote about them. Then I illegally downloaded a song by them (Come get me RIAA). I thought the song was pretty terrific, so I ordered the album (Take a lesson RIAA). It's a nice little record, I have no regrets, but I can't imagine ever needing to have a second Vampire Weekend album. The idea that folks would prefer them to X just boggles my mind, but, hey, I'm old, and am boggled often.

Did X play "See How We Are" by any chance? It's probably my favorite of their songs. I guess some people think it's overly earnest, but it's more relevant than ever and is incredibly awesome.

Sent by piggy | 3:57 AM | 3-16-2008

I like Grand Ole Party but some ppl think the chick sounds annoying. But I seem to think she looks koo playing the drums & sounding like Karen O. I dig it.

Sent by Marissa Dailey | 4:54 AM | 3-16-2008

Your post reminded to listen to X again. It's been too long! But, alas, someone I know must have my copy of Los Angeles, or maybe my alphabetizing is off amongst the Xs. Why am I writing writing like a dramatic Romantic poet? I know not.

Anyway, yeah, recently, very few new bands have really grabbed me, and so I've been turning to older stuff for a few months. Music (and, well, basically everything these days) is just so *marketed,* so much of it has sort of this calculated gloss over it. What I've heard of Vampire Weekend is just fine, but why not take it a step further to the brilliant goofiness of Dirty Projectors, just for an example? Some of the DPs stuff can be a bit much (I think I've made it through "The Glad Fact" only once), but like Nick L. said, I admire any artist who is willing take risks, even if the results are a bit uneven.

I think when it comes to the arts, Americans generally like things to be very safe and familiar; "I don't have to want to think about it" seems to be a refrain running through everything. And I understand that to some extent; it is exhausting to work 8 hours a day, make dinner, pay the bills, etc., the routine becomes tiring and certainly leaves little energy left to, say, sit through the first disc of Einstein on the Beach. But it's so worth it in the end! I'd rather be exhausted and elated by something beautiful and compelling, rather the exhausted and safe.

Well, I'm rambling, my apologies. Last question: was the iced tea sweetened or unsweetened? For this reason alone, I can't wait until I'm back in the South this summer.

Sent by Michael | 1:12 PM | 3-16-2008

That Times New Viking album is about the prettiest ugly thing I've heard all year. I've been dying to see them live ever since; so thanks for a little insight about how it translates in person. If only they'd make it to the west coast ...

Sent by josh | 10:01 PM | 3-16-2008

Yep. "See How We Are." Love that song. Doe evolving into a more anthemic writer at that point. Love me some "Wrecking Ball" Knitters as well.

Sent by james richards | 10:19 AM | 3-17-2008

I saw X at the HOB in Dallas, the night before their two shows at SXSW - WOW. They haven t changed a bit, the sound, the singing, Billy Zoom's lead guitar... X was tight tight tight. My 20 yr old daughter is the one who told me about the show, the night before. I am so glad I went. Blue Spark. Los Angeles. I think they had (real fun in the new world) playing Los Angeles, cause John Doe introduced the song and spent a little time talking about it...

Sent by Big B | 8:36 PM | 3-20-2008

People left after Vampire Weekend and missed X? I would much rather come late and see X over Vampire Weekend anyday!

Sent by Jess H | 12:49 PM | 3-26-2008