Live Review: Low, Kid Dakota; The Show is the Rainbow tonight

Category: Blog — @ 3:25 pm March 19, 2005

Quite a different scene from the last Low show at Sokol Underground. For one thing, there were twice as many people there — around 240 — which is still somewhat disappointing, considering that Low is easily one of the most important bands currently on the road. Hell, they topped the CMJ charts for a month with their new album, and still most people around here never heard of them.

After a set by The Mariannes, which I missed due to the NCAAs, Kid Dakota took the stage as a two-piece — just frontman Darren Jackson dressed to the nines in a black suit on electric guitar and vocals, and an intense Christopher McGuire on drums who I’m told performs with John Vanderslice. The music was droning rock, a good fit as an opener for Low. Jackson’s voice is a facsimile of Thom Yorke’s without the high-end, agreeable if somewhat limited melodywise. As the set progressed, Zak from Low joined in, along with Alan Sparhawk. I liked it, though the songs didn’t sound like the stuff I’ve heard from the new Kid Dakota CD on the Chairckickers website. McGuire ended up being a real show-stealer. He was bundle of quirky mannerisms, changing his cymbals after every song and punctuating the set by raising his drumstick over his head then punching it through the snarehead, leaving it sticking straight out as he walked off.

Then came Low. Sparhawk was in a chatty mood, maybe he was nervous, though I doubt it. At one point he said, “I’m talking more than I’m singing tonight.” The set began with “Monkey,” off the new album, and from where I stood — off of stage right, just behind the stack — it sounded good. But Sparhawk was so disappointed that he wanted to play the song over. Apparently Mimi’s bass drum hadn’t properly mic-ed and couldn’t be heard in the audience. After the soundguy hooked it up, Sparhawk was ready hit it again, but Zak talked him out of it. They would up playing it again during the encore.

I expected the performance to be an all-out rock bonanza, seeing as The Great Destroyer has very few lows (so to speak), but was pleasantly surprised by the mix of slow/quiet older songs with new uptempo rockers. The crowd, bustling with local music notables, was adoring — one girl was draped over a monitor swooning the entire set, while another feverishly scribbled in a notebook — I found out later that she was actually drawing sketches of the band (which actually looked pretty cool). One guy standing by the stage had his head bowed throughout the slower songs, reverentially. And yes, there were a few chatterboxes jawing about amps and guitars off to the side, but hardly a distraction.

Maybe because this was the first show after a few weeks off, but there were a number of noticeable technical glitches, specifically with Sparhawk’s guitar rig. Pedals were missed at the worst moments (such as the explosion at the end of “When I Go Deaf”), and there were occasional dropouts. I could barely hear Mimi’s cymbals all night. Despite that, it was another very special Low show, highlighted a brief acoustic set toward the middle, where Zak put down the bass and pulled out an acoustic guitar. It ended with Sparhawk dedicating “Death of a Salesman” to his dad, who was in the audience. The hubby-and-wife team of Parker and Sparhawk continue to amaze me with their pitch-perfect, brokenhearted harmonies — the element that, for me, makes Low one of the most poignant and affecting band going these days. If you missed it, you missed a lot.

Tonight, of course, is The Show is the Rainbow CD release show at Sokol Underground with Jabid, Caught in the Fall, Milk and Shineyville. Five bands, though Darren Keen — the show behind The Show — tells me that Jabid only plays 11 minutes and Milk is a DVD puppet show. Watch out for flying blood.

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