Friday, September 21, 2012

Dr. Dog, Delta Spirit, and Kishi Bashi Play Central Park Autumnstage

My work computer's clock is four minutes slow.  I adjust it to the actual time occasionally, but somehow each day when I return to the office, it has reset itself to four minutes ago.  I think it's a conspiracy and my employer is stealing my life away, four minutes at a time.  To counterbalance, I come in late.  Yesterday, it did more than just thieve four minutes; it almost made me late to the Dr. Dog and Delta Spirit show at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park.  You see, Google Maps reads the computer time to make its subway recommendations, and when it told me I could take the B at 5:16, 5:16 had already passed.  I realized this when I was on the platform, terrifyingly watching D train after D train pull through the station.  When the B finally dropped me off at 72nd with fewer than ten minutes before 6pm, I drew upon my former life as a cross-country runner and sprinted across the park.  I got to Rumsey with a few minutes to spare, and took a spot in the center.
Why the big rush?  Kishi Bashi was opening, and this marked my third time seeing him this year.  He walked onstage impeccably dressed in a suit exactly at 6, accompanied on banjo by Mike Savino of Tall Tall Trees, as he was at Joe's Pub two months prior.  They began, as the album does, with an instrumental intro that found its way into "Pathos, Pathos."  Although he impressed them with his beatboxing skills on the "Atticus" that followed, the bearded fans of Dr. Dog and Delta Spirit were not the ideal crowd for a Kishi Bashi performance.  Whereas normally the audience would be raptly listening to each layer as it was created, twisted, and turned, mouths agape in awe, this crowd came to see the headliner, so talking came out of their mouths in between puffs of tobacco smoke.  The hoedown section of "Bright Whites" won their attention back, just in time for Kishi Bashi to dismiss Savino for some solo tunes.  "I'm just gonna do a few more songs and then an incredible concert will ensue.  I'm just as excited as you," K gushed.  Now that he had everyone's eyes and ears, he delivered a dramatic "It All Began with a Burst" and finished up with an extended "Manchester."

Desperately trying to shed their folk-rock label, Delta Spirit unveiled a new sound when they released their polarizing eponymous album back in March.  Longtime fans said they'd sold out.  Newcomers loved it.  I listened to the album for the first time the morning prior to the show, and while the last song lulled me to sleep, I enjoyed the record.  There's nothing on it as beautiful as "Devil Knows You're Dead," but I really dig the chugging drums and guitar licks of "Tear It Up."  "Get your jock jam on!" Matt Vasquez shouted as the beat started.  When I originally saw Vasquez as part of Middle Brother, his raucous onstage antics, long hair, and shitty beard reminded me of Andrew WK.  A shave and a haircut later, I'm happy to report that he doesn't store that energy in his hair.  He was just as wild, making eye contact with individual crowdmembers and mugging at them with raised eyebrows while singing.  And he has a terrific voice.  He screeches and growls his lyrics so effortlessly that it seems like anyone could do it, but they can't.  It's almost uncanny because it doesn't feel like he has to build up any emotion to take him to that timbre.  He really wanted the audience to clap to the songs, and "People C'mon" was the singalong clapalong he was thirsting for.  "We're playing in New York in November, folks!" he announced (11/27 @ Irving Plaza, tickets go onsale next Friday) before closer "California."
The sun dropped to the west and a giant flag dropped behind the stage, signaling that it was almost time for the headliner.  When the opening chords of "Shadow People" were met with cheers, it was immediately clear I was in a crowd of Dr. Dog-lovers.  I'd seen them twice before and enjoyed it, but aside from their earlier albums, I felt like their studio work didn't come close to capturing the sound of their live show.  That is, until they put out Be the Void this February.  Minus the stupid lyrics of the overlong "Warrior Man," the LP succeeds in accurately presenting their ramshackle instrumentation, golden harmonies, and bass-forward grooves.  That groove is the secret weapon of Dr. Dog, and it likely comes from having bassist Toby Leaman split lead vocal duties with guitarist Scott McMicken.  Put a bass player in the driver's seat and you're gonna go on one hell of a trip.  The Pennsylvanians didn't talk much between songs, or even leave space between songs, best exemplified during the mid-set sequence of the harmony-laden "Do the Trick" to a fiery "Beach" to a heartfelt "Way the Lazy Do" to a rollicking "Vampire."  They followed that with a "Heavy Light" that went into jam territory, and I didn't think it could get much better than that...

They finally took a break to mention how great it's been to have watched Delta Spirit perform and grow over the six years they've been touring together.  And then, sure enough, things got better.  On Tuesday I got to see Band of Horses play one of my favorite songs ever, so imagine my delight when they launched into Architecture in Helsinki's "Heart It Races."  (The Dr. Dog version is another all-time fave.)  A joyous "Lonesome" with keyboardist Zach Miller on slide guitar ended the set, the audience shouting out the "hey"s.

Returning to the stage for the encore was a pared down band of drummer Eric Slick, Miller, and McMicken on an acoustic guitar emblazoned with fluorescent orange tape and the words "Strum Machine."  They eased into oldie "County Line" from Toothbrush, and the remaining members appeared and joined in.  When the band charged into "Worst Trip," Matt Vasquez stormed the stage with a shaker, climbing on top of Leaman's shoulders for the song's ending.  "Oh No" brought everything to a close with a clamorous singalong.  "We'll be at the White Castle tonight," offered Leaman before leaving the stage.  If you were looking to buy Easy Beat on vinyl, I got the last copy.

KISHI BASHI – 09.20.12 – RUMSEY PLAYFIELD (37 minutes)

Intro > Pathos, Pathos / Atticus, In the Desert / Evalyn, Summer Has Arrived / Bright Whites / It All Began with a Burst / Manchester

DELTA SPIRIT – 09.20.12 – RUMSEY PLAYFIELD (54 minutes)

Strange Vine / White Table / Tear It Up / Idaho / Parade > Empty House / Time Bomb / Bushwick Blues / People C’mon / Money Saves / Children > California

DR. DOG – 09.20.12 – RUMSEY PLAYFIELD (1 hour, 34 minutes)

Shadow People / Stranger / That Old Black Hole / The Ark > The Rabbit, the Bat, & the Reindeer / These Days / Do the Trick > The Beach > The Way the Lazy Do > Vampire / Heavy Light / Hang On / I Only Wear Blue / Heart It Races > Jackie Wants a Black Eye > Shame, Shame / The Old Days / Lonesome

County Line > Worst Trip > Oh No

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