Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Great Northern


After yawning, I slowly raised the beer to my lips. “Why do I do this?” I asked myself. A Weather, the slow-paced, simple, yet weirdly enticing local band have cleared the Mississippi Studios stage and Rachel Stolte and Solon Bixler and company from LA band, Great Northern, began arranging their equipment onto the stage. What a change from when I first saw them at the Crystal Ballroom on November 10th of 2007. That much bigger venue was nearly sold out. They had a stage crew to set up their gear and someone to tune their instruments during their set. A set made up of the sweeping epic burners and ballads from their beautiful and stunning debut album, Trading Twilight for Daylight. At the time, they were getting some radio airplay with “Home” the weakest song on the album, which seemed to draw out an enthusiastic crowd. Great Northern took a risky angle and played the slowest and quietest songs from the album to open the set that night, but it paid off in spades. It was one of the most intense and captivating shows I have ever seen. The songs were much bigger and better live than on record and the set-list continued to build and build flawlessly, never allowing attention to wane. It was also one of the few shows I’ve gone to alone. I remember inviting a handful of friends who had never heard the new group, nor seemed interested in finding out about them. I had also hoped to take along a certain someone at that time, but that never panned out either. So, there I stood alone, amongst hundreds upon hundreds of people.

Some things don’t change. Here I was again, alone, about to watch the same band (with a different rhythm section) perform. The usual invitations to come along were extended and even a hopeful, but important invite to my favorite pharmacy gal. She didn’t show, or she showed early and bailed, because I didn’t arrive until late (I know, I know, but it eases the sting a bit) after witnessing a depressing Timbers loss at PGE Park earlier that evening. While watching A Weather close up their set, I considered dumping the scene myself. I was extremely tired from working way too many hours and from the aforementioned game. Then, I remembered that set from two years prior and how magical it was. Then again, the band had changed (gone was their smoking hot bassist!) and the big crowd and the buzz of anticipation in the air. Instead, the tiny and not even half-full Mississippi Studios was hushed with conversation between the several handsome couples spread out sparsely across the main floor and up above in the balcony. I started to hum the opening song from their new-ish sophomore release, Remind Me Where the Light Is, to try and keep my mind on target.

The random play of songs finally cut off and the band that had never been behind the curtain was ready to entertain us. A few strikes of the guitar strings and a bit of feedback blared out as Rachel said hello to us and announced their presence. That first song was the one I was just humming, “Story,” and the words came to my lips like they’d always been there:

“Tell you a secret
Tell you a story
About someone inside
Pass it around
Get you some glory
And don’t forget to tack on a lie”

I started to cross the floor toward the stage. The music was all that mattered now and the more upbeat and streamlined sound on their second offering was just what I needed. I wasn’t sure how this show would go, but they would not disappoint. Instead of the larger than life moments of the prior show, they made this one intimate, yet no less intense. Where before the atmospheric songs from album one seamlessly segued into one another, this one had them bantering directly with the few of us in the audience, while they prepped for the next tune. Rachel took the opportunity of the setting to wander out onto the floor – off the stage – and sing to her audience directly. Eventually, she and Solon wandered over to the side wall of the room away from the front to play an unreleased ballad on a piano pushed into the corner and out of the way. This was special. The entire set was new material from the last show. I am biased when I say this, because I love their two albums, but they are a must see! I have seen hundreds and hundreds of bands over the last 25 years, and am fairly jaded when it comes to the concert conceits and traditions. It is always refreshing to be surprised and amazed and to go home energized, instead of worn down. By the time I drove home, I had forgotten that I had been there alone.

Who wants to join me for the shows this Thursday and Friday and next Monday?

No comments:

Post a Comment