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Splendid Isolation…

March 2, 2011

I have no excuses for my absence.  Let’s just go.

I’m back in the  Midwest.  The fates had a card game, and I came out broke and dusty.  But for whatever reason, here I am, and there is music to be heard.

Tonight at the Vogue in Broadripple Pete Yorn headlined, with guests Ben Kweller and The Wellspring.

First impressions?  I was less than impressed.

The Wellspring start off with your obvious makeup-a cute, long haired blonde on guitar, vocals and keyboard, the Ben Gibbard-esque lead vocals and acoustic, and the silent drummer with the ridiculous Seth Rogan fro. From there…

it stays basically just as predictable.

Don’t get me wrong. Cute front man and a wavy haired beauty on the keyboard can play well. But that’s about it.  There is no excitement, nothing that makes a crowd attending a concert that has nothing to do with you sit down and shut up. Some opening acts you know will be good; even with a female solo artist, her voice can pierce the crowd and demand your attention, placating the rising chatter in just two songs.  Sadly, this front woman does not have it.  Perhaps some distance between the vocal ranges would have helped-but unfortunately, the two leads were too similar for harmony to really play a stunning role. They took the stage and 30 minutes later the only excitement was that they were finished and you could possibly win a free flight for listening to them. (I get establishing your roots and starting from the floor up, but the shameless tour sponsor plugs were a little much.)

Which moved us right along to Ben Kweller.  As an Indiana non-native yet somehow frequent resident, I have heard mumblings of this artist often but have never pursued a listen.

And I wish that were still the case.

Now mind you, I went into this show completely open minded. Who doesn’t want to find a new act that they adore at a show?! But as Ben’s disjointed songs and inappropriately placed (i.e. enter sand man mid love song dedication?) guitar riffs flooded the room,  I found myself becoming more and more annoyed that I had to listen. A few times I thought there would be hope; some blue grassy, Dylan-esque tunes came across the set list which I thought could be redeeming.  But each time, they were ruined by nonsensical lyrics and absolutely no musical flow later on. It’s as if as soon as Kweller finds something rhythmic, he has to change it and morph it to something else.  Which is a delicate ordeal for the greatest musicians, who seem to have obviously a better understand of this subtle switch.  But not Kweller.  We hit on bluegrass, country and some sort of Ben Folds hybrid minus the mindblowing piano skills. (and I’m not even a Ben Folds fan.) You know it’s bad when even the people who came to see just you aren’t participating.  All in all it was an extremely disappointing performance that reinforces my belief that Hoosiers have terrible taste in music. (sorry.)

At this point in the evening, I needed anything to salvage this night of music mediocrity and disaster.  Up until now, I had been surrounded by squawking 40 somethings (and older) who were acting like frat boys on a Thursday night. I haven’t  this  many swinging Corona and Bud Light bottles, screeching women and douchebag men out on a weeknight since townie night at The Cactus. The feeling of, ” We are at a concert, let’s get fucked up on a Tuesday!!” pervaded the much older audience, and was a complex mixture of sad, pathetic, upsetting and annoying. Needless to say, it was not a good start to the night and was not making me happy to associate myself with other Pete Yorn fans.

Pete Yorn, however, absolutely redeemed the show.  While he did play a lot from his newest album, there were still some gems from musicforthemorningafter that made the set list.  Which is awesome, because nothing makes me more annoyed than an artist that takes advantage of your ticket price and time to solely demo the newest tracks live (I’m talking to you, Brand New.)

Future show reviews will obviously shine brighter than this one-I decided this show would be my return to the blog at about Pete Yorn’s second song, and my iphone isn’t really ideal for note taking.  And neither is drinking 6.50 Delerium’s (thanks to contributor Zach for getting me hooked on a beer that is an easy 10 bucks a bottle, therefore causing my crazed Beatles-fan frenzy when told they were only 6.50. I honestly thought of buying all six that were there before the girl with purple hair staring confused at my triumph could realize her obvious school girl error.)

I digress. The long and short of it was that Pete Yorn rocked.  The crowd stealer and pleaser was For Nancy, hands down, a song that got the original fans crazy but was still so rockin that the newer crowd got into it to (unlike his performance of Girl Like You, during which many of us were left scowling at the crowd members who quickly lost interest during the slow, crooning love song. Truly, one of the worst crowds I had ever encountered, and the median age was 32! I’ve seen better manners at metalcore shows.)

My only true let down of Yorn’s set was the ending. While the lighting worked well with the song(not programmed, but hand operated by the kid in the booth next to me, which was fairly cool), there was no “save the best for last ” element.  Yorn took a crowd totally amped up, dancing and singing his lyrics during For Nancy and then finished with two songs much of the crowd didn’t recognize. While it wasn’t a deal breaker, and it was still a stunning performance, it wasn’t quite the way I like to leave a show.

Yorn: A-

Kweller: D (find a sound a stick with it! Not having a sound or rhythm does not count as “your sound”!)

The Wellspring: C. Simply Average.

Up Next: Quite possibly James Taylor.

 

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