Well I did get to see Yeasayer/MGMT last night at Slowdown after all. About an hour after I posted yesterday’s blog where I whined about the show selling out, I got an e-mail from Yeasayer’s publicist offering me a slot on the list (Yes, people really do read Lazy-i). Despite being sold out, they easily could have squeezed an additional 50 people into the bar. The limited numbers obviously have something to do with bullshit fire codes. Evidence of the slim crowd size: I’ve never gotten a beer faster at Slowdown than I did last night.
MGMT went on first. My caveat for this review — I knew next to nothing about either band on the bill, only that Yeasayer has an album near the top of the CMJ radio charts, right under Radiohead. That means they must be good, right? Well, of the two bands, I liked MGMT more, but probably because they were going for a ’70s-era prog/arena-rock sound. You could draw parallels to a lot of FM greats, from Queen to Frampton to Styx, but modernized with a touch of Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire. It’s no surprise that they’re on a major label — Sony/Columbia (which probably helped them get that gig on Letterman last month). A Sony rep actually was in the bar last night schmoozing. He told me to watch out for a song later in the set that will “have the girls dancing up front.”
Sure enough, two or three songs before the end, MGMT launched into a funky, grinding dance number that sounded like a cross between David Bowie and Parliament Funkadelic. Mr. Sony was right, they were grooving up by the stage, and rightfully so. The tune had a heavy, head-bobbing bass line that any college marching band brass section would be proud to blast at next year’s bowl game. The Sony guy confirmed that it was indeed the song for which he spoke. “That’s their big hit, or the song that should be a huge hit.” Believe me, it would be if the recording sounded like it did at Slowdown. I found the track, called “Electric Feel,” this morning on their website. That bass line was there, but its thundering storm-cloud weight had been lightened to one guy limply fingering a bass string. ’tis a shame.
Yeasayer came on at around 11 to throbbing tribal drums (some of which were sampled), Middle Eastern-sounding guitar (where’s the sitar?) and lush three-part harmonies. It was like listening to the second coming of Poco by way of Punjabi. Cool, stylized stuff, though it lacked any sort of central melody (or at least any that I remembered on my drive home). The frontman, who fiddled with a table full of effects gear/pedals, was a real crooner, and while the crowd wasn’t dancing, they were certainly bobbing their heads.
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Of course today and tonight is all about Barack Obama — his rally down at the Civic with Bright Eyes (doors at 3:30, Barack at 4:30) — followed by the Obama rally at Slowdown with Bright Eyes, M. Ward, Jim Ward and Secret Life of Sparrows. There already was around 50 people standing outside the Civic as I drove home for lunch. I’ll be one of them later this afternoon; I won’t, however, be at Slowdown tonight because I couldn’t score a ticket.
If politics ain’t your thing, Omaha’s most genuinely disturbed punk band, The Shanks, are opening for The Filthy Few along with Bloodcow at The Waiting Room tonight at 9. $7 will get you an evening of mayhem.
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