I’ve never parked so far away for a Sokol show — a block north of Bam’s near the church, maybe a 1/4 mile from the venue. What’s the deal? I’ve always parked closer, even for sold-out shows. I don’t know if last night’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs Yeahs show was a sell out or not, but I’ve never seen it so packed in the auditorium before. I got there at 10, just in time for the Yeahs’ set. On the back of the stage hung a huge Show Your Bones scrim, red and black like a giant flag representing the United States of Yeahs. With no fanfare at all, on walked the band, including a fourth guy who played acoustic guitar, keyboards and, on one song, bass! So here were the Yeahs with added fire power, and despite that, they sounded less epic than they did when I saw them as a trio two years ago, back when the show was literally a showcase for Nick Zinner’s blowtorch guitarwork. Maybe it was the fact that I was sandwiched in the very back of the hall, but Zinner’s guitar sounded buried in the mix, tucked away somewhere beneath Karen O’s vocals and the rest of the cacophony. Overall, a lackluster show. I blame their new record, which is less inventive and interesting than Fever to Tell (or maybe I’m just getting too familiar with the formula). With Nick in the background, O’s theatrical prancing took center stage. Dressed in a red-and-black jumper and wearing one glittering glove on her right hand, she looked and sounded like a cross between a bobbed Chrissie Hynde and a modern-day Wicked Witch of the West. I never heard her once address the audience, instead blowing through the set of new songs non-stop. The crowd didn’t seem to care, though. They were too busy doing a modified pogo and flashing devil horns. After 45 minutes, I figured I’d seen enough and high-tailed it down to the Underground. I’m told that shortly after I left the band kicked off a three-song encore that included the night’s best performance.
Meanwhile, downstairs, a hip-hop show was in high gear. Here’s where anyone with even a surface knowledge of the genre can click away to some other blog or news as you’ll find nothing valuable in my comments (just make sure you come back in a sec and read about Once a Pawn, below). I don’t know the name of the crew on stage who were opening for Murs, but they weren’t bad. They featured three MCs and a turntable guy who pumped out dense but rather minimal beats beneath their rapping. Before their last number, they passed on a story about running into Conor Oberst at a party in Atlanta. “And like all emo parties, there was only one hot girl there,” the MC said. Just as he was about to swoop down on his prey, Oberst walked up to her and leaned against the wall, blocking his approach. He shoots, he scores! “It was tight,” added another MC, while the lone white MC said, “We still like his music.” Murs joined them for their last song, and it was like turning on switch to a power grid. Night and day. The first crew walked off and Murs stayed up there and tore into his set. Compared to the last crew, he was magnetic, pouncing on an audience that looked 10 times as punk as the crowd that was standing around listening to the Yeahs above them.
End of review. Intro to this week’s feature: Without a band story assignment, Reader editor Andy Norman called me last week and asked if I could do a little sumpthin’ on Once a Pawn, whom I’d never heard of. I’m glad he did. I listened to the Lincoln trio’s tunes on Myspace and made some calls. Read the results here and check them out at Scenefest this weekend. The fourth annual event seems a bit throttled back from years past, but is still an impressive showcase of Lincoln talent, all at Duffy’s this time.
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