Friday, November 04, 2005

The Go! Team | Paradise Rock Club | 11/1/05

Before I rip The Go! Team for having a shitty live show, let me point out that I love Thunder, Lightning, Strike. In fact, barring any revelations over the next two months, it'll probably be my album of the year. I got it back around the beginning of the year and have been consistently spinning it ever since. That's why I was willing to drive down to Boston to see them at the Paradise Rock Club last Tuesday night.

After work, I headed down to Beantown to meet-up with my brother-in-law, John. It's a 2 hr. 45 min. drive but, in general, it's an easy drive in good weather because it's basically two interstates the whole way there. Straight shot and no traffic. So, after hanging out with him and his wife for a while, we walked over to the show.

We got to the Paradise about half-way through The Grates set. I had never heard them before, but I had read some good things on other blogs about them; which just goes to show that you can't trust everything you read on the internet. The Grates were more grating than great (I'm sure they've heard that one a million times, so let's just say they sucked). The Grates is a trio comprising a drummer, a guitarist and a female lead singer. My two problems with them was the singer's voice which can best be described as "amateur bar band shrieking" and the guitarist. If your band comprises just you and a drummer, you better play that guitar like you friggin' own it. He basically just sat back and played without an ounce of energy which left the lead singer's voice to dominate the sound. The best thing I can say about them is that they finished on time.

I had never been to the Paradise before so it gave me a chance to check it out. Nice space. Wider than it is deeper with a balcony wrapping itself around three sides of the stage. Plus, the stage was nice and high so you could get a good view from a lot of different places. My brother-in-law had caught the Sun Volt/Fruit Bats show the prior week and raved about the sound. So, I was starting to get excited to see the gang from London/Brighton.

While we were waiting for the show to start, John and I noticed a guy hanging out to the left of the stage with a console of electronics. The sound board was up in the balcony, so we weren't sure what this guy's job was. We figured he was just a roadie but when The Go! Team hit the stage, he didn't leave. In fact he worked throughout the entire show spinning his dials and switches.

The first thing that gave me the impression that the show wasn't what I was expecting was when the lead singer, Ninja, hit the stage. She came charging out looking and acting like an aerobics instructor on speed. Plus, I knew they had added a singer but I didn't know they had added lyrics to a lot of the songs to give her something to do.

If you aren't familiar with The Go! Team and their story, it basically goes like this: Ian Parton created the songs that are on Thunder, Lightning, Strike on his own in his apartment using clips from various obscure albums. He'd take the piano from this song and the guitar from that song and the trumpet from another song, etc. and put them together to create new tunes. So, there wasn't a band of musicians developing these songs and the tunes were largely instrumentals. There are some vocals but they tend to be in the background, indecypherable and act more like another instrument than a classic lyric. That's one of the things that makes Thunder, Lightning, Strike such an interesting album. It doesn't sound like anything else. However, someone had the bad idea that a live band needs a lead singer and he/she has to sing. So, they added Ninja and gave her a bunch of lyrics to sing.

The other thing that is annoying about Ninja is the way she talks to the crowd. She's sounds more like a late-night infomercial host than the front person of a band. She would say stuff like "Everybody yell 'GO TEAM'!" or she would have to tell you what album each song was off of so you could go out and buy it. "This is a song called "We Listen Everyday" off of the Junior Kickstart album!" There was zero couth to her. She actually detracted from the show for me.

Now, back to the guy with the gizmos along the side of the stage. I circled him in the top picture above. The other thing that disappointed me about the show was the number of samples mixed into the show. The most obvious was the horns. There are a lot of songs on Thunder, Lightning, Strike that include trumpets or bass sax. So, rather than hire someone to play those parts live, they hired the ponytailed guy in the tight black t-shirt to mix them into the sound. The biggest problem with this is that it doesn't allow for any improvisation by the band. They have to hit their parts perfectly to keep up with the clip of the horns. I can listen to the labum at home. In concert, I want to hear a live version of the tunes. Whether it's a radically different take on the song or just minor changes, it's one of the things that makes concerts so exciting. By using didgital horm clips throughout the songs, they killed any chance for that live excitement.

They would have been better off hiring a horn player or a DJ who would share the stage with them to mix and scratch the sounds into their live show. It would have made for a much more daring and exciting live show than what we saw.

John even questioned whether Ian Parton was actually playing his harmonica or not. John, who graduated from the New England College of Music said that playing a harmonica live is tough and particularly tough when you are also playing guitar and running around on stage. His point is that your first breath through the harmonica tends to be off-key and at the wrong volume. Then you quickly adjust for those following breaths. However, he noticed that Parton's harmonica playing was pitch-perfect from his first blow. Knowing that they were already mixing in other instruments, is it really a big leap to be mixing in the harmonica bits as well?

The one last thing that was disappointing about the show was the new tunes. There were about three of them and they didn't hold up very well at all in comparison to the stuff Parton created in his apartment. In fact, the song when Chi came out from behind the drums to sing while someone played piano and the others rested was downright laughable. If they had presented it as a joke, that would be one thing but they didn't.

There were a few tunes when Ninja wasn't singing and there weren't any horns which sounded great. It was only for about 3-4 songs but it proved my point to myself about how much cooler the show would have been without Ninja and or the samples.

I should also note that I think my opinion was in the severe minority. The place was packed and most people were dancing and going nuts through out the show. In fact a few people ever climbed up on the instrument/gear cases and started dancing. So, it may have been a combination of my jaded nature (although I tend to cut bands a lot of slack live) and high expectations. I'm still a big fan of the album but I don't need to ever see them live again.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Brian. Just wanted to say I've killed about an hour on your blog and enjoyed it very much. Kinda scary how much we have in common. I just moved over here to Danville VT from Essex. I was faculty advisor at WRUV for a long time and am a hard-core soccer fanatic. What the hell, we were at some of the same Pavement shows in '97. So if anyone's going to enjoy your blog it's me. And I did. Hope to meet you at a show sometime. Wish I'd run across it earlier because this is the first I've heard of the free Mtn Goats show. But I doubt I could have gotten a babysitter anyway, so whatever. Keep up the good work and good luck at 7Days.

Paul Searls

yankunian said...

Saw the team last year in Manchester and was equally disappointed - and how annoying is that cheerleader routine? It just made me surly.

Nico said...

I hate it when a band sucks live. HATE it. Fortunately I've been choosing well and haven't seen a stinker since last fall.

Bob F. said...

Wish you'd seen them on Kimmel last week...my wife's exact words were "woah! they blow live!".

But you are right, that's an incredible album.

Flatlander said...

Paul,

Thanks for the kind comments. It's great to have a sympatico in the Green Mountains. There aren't too many indie rock/soccer fans (although there are a few) so it's good to hear from you.

I know Danville is a good 40 min drive from Montpelier, but a few of us get together for US National Team matches. If you ever want some folks to watch a game with let me know.

I don't know if we are getting together for the Scotland friendly since it'll be on a Saturday morning, but I'll let you know. You can reach me at jamkids@gmail.com.

Which Pavement shows did you see?

Flatlander said...

yankunian, I agree. Ninja is really distracting. Sufjan Stevens cheerleader routine was basically a joke or performance art. Ninja deal seemed as if she really thought that was what people wanted to hear.

Are you going to either the Black Keys or I&W|Calexico shows in Montreal over the next month?

Flatlander said...

Bob, did they suck on Kimmel for the same reasons I saw or did they suck differently that night?

If you wife sees anymore bands and think they suck, please let me know before the band rolls through New England.

Bob F. said...

Well, to be honest, she thinks most bands I like suck, but they were pretty bad on TV...mostly because of Ninja's concentration on jumping around rather than singing at or near the mic, the 2nd singer not really being in sync with Ninja, and the rest of the band looking ridiculous "playing" as all matters of horns and drums that were not on stage were being heard loud and clear.