Friday, December 05, 2008

October round-up, part 2: Silver Mt. Zion, Animal Collective, Larkin Grimm

As if Kontraste hadn't offered enough good moments to fill up a decent Viennese concert month, the Arena's main hall provided room for a particularly pleasant one-two punch at the month's very heart: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band once again graced Vienna, quite obviously a fandom stronghold for the group, with its presence, just one day before a 'New Weird America' line-up dream come true -- Animal Collective touring with Axolotl -- played the same venue.

Even though it was rather excellent, the Silver Mt. Zion concert arrived a few years late for me -- which is, quite obviously, not the band's fault. 'This Is Our Punk-Rock', Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing, was a disturbing but strangely empowering soundtrack to 2003 and those confusing days of the Iraq War('s beginning) and, on a personal level, my own Zivildienst. They somehow lost me a bit with Horses In The Sky, which sounded strangely 'dry' and never appealed all that much to me beyond the powerful waltz of 'God Bless Our Dead Marines'. While 'preparing' for this particular concert by listening to some of their releases for the first time in ages, I ended up warming up to it a bit -- and who knows, my appreciation for it might not yet be at its peak. Regardless, I had yet to hear (and still haven't heard, but that may change) 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons, their acclaimed new album, two songs from which made an appearance here, rocking powerfully in what seemed to be typical recent Silver Mt. Zion manner. 'God Bless Our Dead Marines' and two new songs, among them the (sometimes) almost Spiritualized-like space gospel country-ish 'There Is A Light', fit in neatly, but a personal highlight arrived in the first encore, an (unsurprisingly) expansive version of 'Microphones In The Trees' from 2004's uncharacteristic but always intriguing Pretty Little Lightning Paw EP. Similarly, the second encore offered a bit of a flashback in the concert's 'oldest' song, 'Take These Hands And Throw Them In The River', which felt more (punk-) rock-ish than its seven years old studio version, nicely showing the band's evolution towards a heavier, more electric (and electrically charged) sound.

Things felt quite different regarding the next evening's Animal Collective concert: in terms of my own personal interest in the band's music, the concert could have hardly arrived at a better point, even though it was to be my fourth time seeing this band in 15 months. This May's London concert had been the most impressive one of theirs I had seen so far, musically, and increased my interest in the kaleidoscopic and strangely rave-like new songs they played on their recent tours (most of which will end up on January's Merriweather Post Pavillion album on Domino). While they had already sounded excellent at last year's immensely enjoyable Vienna concert and even at that fall's Dublin one, which had only felt like half a gig (Avey Tare, while on stage, suffered from flu, resulting in his vocal contributions being reduced to some groaning here and there -- we received a short Panda Bear solo set in exchange though), they sounded particularly catchy, addictive and complete at that London show; nicely enough, new songs I hadn't heard before ('No More Runnin', which I still think of as their Neil Young and Crazy Horse song, and the delirious 'Lion In A Coma') were among the concert's highlights. I'm not exactly a big bootleg listener and thus still wasn't particularly familiar with the new material, but it really grabbed me at that show. That the surprising appearance of a hazy but heavy reworked version of 'Grass' at the set's very end 'blew my mind' certainly helped.

The Vienna concert thus felt like a great way to see them one last time before they'll change their setlist to include new new songs, something the band likes to do before/around the time of the release of whatever their 'new' album is at that time. While some surprises would have been nice, the setlist, which was quite similar to the London one (no 'Grass' this time, unfortunately), was satisfying and did a good job at structuring this concise and truly fun concert -- the addictive 'Summertime Clothes' and 'Brother Sport' once again proved to be potential highlights from next year's release roster, 'Chocolate Girl' -- slowed down and rearranged almost to unrecognisability -- was less jaunty but more haunting than its studio version and 'Peacebone', fittingly augmented by a rainbow colour lightshow, made me dance like it always does which, of course, is a good thing. It's just a bit of a shame that Strawberry Jam's heart of darkness and sleeper masterpiece '#1' wasn't played here unlike at various other shows that were part of the band's tour of Eastern Europe. Axolotl's support set was a good one too, although there were moments when some of the beats used seemed a bit too straight-forward -- not much to complain about though, all power to all you violin droners! But more about that in the next round-up post.

October 23rd brought about my first visit to the peachy (and packed) Verein 08 venue, featuring a show by Larkin Grimm whom I had last seen leading an audience parade from venue to venue at the end of her Terrastock Six set two and a half years ago. Her set, featuring an additional guitarist, was as intimate and charming as one could expect considering the performer/venue combination -- I guess one could use the term 'campfire atmosphere' though but that might miss the point, i.e. Verein 08's living room vibe. An excellent evening, and I'd love to see someone book a Fonal Records-related band (how about Hertta Lussu Ässä?) because they'd fit right in.

No comments: