New Pornographers at Warsaw
Tuesday Feb. 19
saw Bonnie "Prince" Billy play at Warsaw (at the
Polish National Home) a few months back and adhered to the
old rule, if you don't have something nice to say don't
say anything at all. Or is it don't shit where you
eat. You see, though I loved the atmosphere of the Polish
National Homethe ballroom/pierogi counter/bar setting
is undeniably fun I must confess that the sound was
so bad at the venue I could hardly hear Mr. Oldham when
he took to the stage. It was fuzzy, unmixed, and terribly
distant-sounding. I ended up leaving the show before it
was over in frustration. I figured I would wait and give
the venue another chance at a later date. They were new
at this and would surely get it together eventually.
I started off the night with a Hevelius. The Polish
beer selection is a nice break from the usual Bud/Heineken/Guiness
bottle selections found at most venues. Plus the bartender
was a past-middle-aged sex kitten dressed in a tight velvet
jump suit. I opted to skip the pierogis, though they looked
yummy. I had already eaten.
I decided to try again last Tuesday and am happy to say
that all problems are solved. The sound was great and the
performance by The New Pornographers was among the best
shows I've seen in quite some time. The triple bill of Matt
Pond PA (we missed them completely), The Frames (Irish cheese-rock),
and The New Pornographers (I'm getting to them) managed
to pack the house with a crowd that was eager, bouncy, and
clearly elated to see the newest hit indie band from Vancouver.
Their debut record Mass Romantic was on almost everyone's
best-of list last year.
Making my way back into the ballroom side of the club, I caught
the tail end of the Frames' set. Maybe it was the violin player
that tainted my experience (I always expect to hear "Carry
On My Wayward Son" when I see a violinist in a rock setting)
but they were utterly undynamic and boring. Their ballads
sounded like the kind of crap you hear during a cutesy falling-in-love
montage sequence in a bad teenage movie. Luckily, their set
was brief. Very brief.
Surprisingly soon after The Frames left the stage, the New
Pornographers appeared. They had me in stitches by playing
the opening to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and then
stopping abruptly mid riff. Lead singer Dan Bejar stated with
a smirk "now that's a horrible way to start a show."
Much to the excitement of the bouncing crowd, the band opened
with a favorite off the new record titled "The Slow Descent
into Alcoholism." They sounded tight and played the number
to perfection. Dan Bejar had a nerdy-turned-cute presence
on the mike and had just the right chemistry with back-up
vocalist Neko Case. She said at one point that she had the
flu, but no one would have noticed. On the songs where she
took the lead vocal, she sounded strong and confident.
Refreshingly the band wasn't afraid to engage in some banter
with the crowd. Case stated how impressed she was with the
Polish National Home and joked about feeling like she was
at a high school dance. And about 40 minutes into the show
Bejar even invited crowd members to come onto stage and dance.
Now this admittedly sounded like a horrible idea. I have been
at enough shows spoiled by drunken fools trying to steal the
spotlight for 5 minutes of fame, but the volunteers were well-behaved,
funny, and added to the momentum of the show. By the end,
the stage was filled with dancers that were as fun to watch
as the band was to hear. A cover of "Cruel to Be Kind"
as one of the encore numbers sent the audience through the
roof and was another highlight to the amazingly fun hour and
fifteen minute set.
Everyone left happy and smiling, exactly as they should have
after hearing a great pop rock show.