Monday, July 17, 2006

Danielson, Vetiver, Neil Hamburger at the Satellite Ballroon, Charlottesville, VA 7/14

From Danielson's latest album, the phrase “step on your trumpet” means to offend some. People, please don’t step on Daniel Smith’s trumpet.

I got to the show for the last fifteen minutes of Neil Hamburger’s act – which was about fourteen minutes too early. Hamburger is a sort of masochists’ comic, spewing out a string of jokes written by twelve year old boys. I honestly can’t imagine a less complimentary opening act for Danielson. The comb over hair and Vegas affectations aren’t so bad; it’s just the material that’s abysmal. If you like gross middle school humor (or like remembering it), Hamburger should be your cup of tea. Personally, I recommend a pass.

I had decided to check this show out so I could catch both Vetiver and Danielson. Vetiver took the stage with six members –two guitars, bass and drums along with a cellist and violinist. When they sounded like a folk band (mostly on the songs from their first album), I liked them fine. On other cuts, Vetiver branches into a more Southern vibe, sounding more like The Band. They don’t quite swing enough to pull off that vibe. However, they put on a decent set for an opener.

Daniel Smith’s latest musical incarnation – Danielson – came on stage in blue uniforms with hearts sewn on the sleeves Conveniently for your correspondent, the members had their names sewn on their shirts – Evan was on keyboard and vocals, Jebediah on bass, David and Andrew on drums and Megan on glockenspiel, marimba and vocals. Each of the singers had a music stand with a binder and a light attached to it. Danielson kicked off with the lead track on Ships, but then played a mix of songs though focusing mostly on Ships. The live band doesn’t quite match the density of the album, but they make up for it in energy. The keyboardist Evan in particular played with the most gusto, hammering on his Hammond and singing wide-eyed into his mic. Aside from their energy, the group provided a tight backdrop for Daniel’s barking falsetto. Daniel tried to lead the small audience in clapping and snapping along, but the lack of air conditioning sapped most of the energy from the crowd. Nonetheless, the band came out for an encore with the same energy and enthusiasm as the main set.

What baffled me were the antics of a couple of drunks. The first guy was mid-twentish and wearing in a blazer (in July, go figure). He walked up to the stage telling Daniel to step on his trumpet then muttered some gibberish with the words “improvise” and “Anthony Braxton” in them. Trying to listen in, I’m thinking “What is this? Some guy trying to hold an academic debate?” Anyways, I’ve met Anthony Braxton and I don’t think he’d encourage folks to tread on brass instruments. The other was a drunk who just couldn’t contain his enthusiasm, hollering out boisterously after each song. I can’t fathom what makes someone decide to tie one on and get rowdy at a Danielson show. Shotgun a few beers and go to a metal show? Absolutely. Guzzle too much merlot and go see Danielson? I guess that’s what passes for fun in a college town in summer. However, Danielson’s summer tour should offer plenty of fun; I may even try to catch them in Falls Church in a week.