Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Lost Adventuers of Vexx

Long story short, I spent the weekend up in San Francisco, once again planning to see more of the city and more of the city’s inhabitants than I could ever have time for. The purpose of the trip was for Aly to cover a small chunk of Noise Pop, and though I can wield a pocket notepad and ballpoint just as easily as she can, I was essentially the Robin to her Batman, the tonic to her gin, just along for the ride and providing the occasional comment to supply a bit more comedy to the weekend’s proceedings. Regardless, I’ve got something to say.

On Tilly and the Wall:

After having failed to catch The Band That Dares To Tap Dance at Coachella last year, I’ve wanted to make up for it somewhere, somehow. And given that a band this below-mainstream-cool will probably never stop in Santa Barbara, seeing Tilly and the Wall perform at the Rickshaw Stop practically made the whole weekend. They rocked, of course, and I couldn’t take my eyes of the two-non-tap dancing female members: Neely Jenkins and Kianna Alarid. Jenkins, with Marcia Brady hair framing a face that tends to lack expression while she’s performing, looks initially like the mean, popular girl from high school who you always wished would grow up to be a truck stop waitress — only Jenkins actually seems rather nice when she smiles and has made the notable achievement of fronting a band that manages the difficult task of exuding coolness and fun simultaneously. And then Alarid looks like a punked-out, tattoo-sleeved Veronica Mars — a visual feat that manages to square perfection. Perhaps the greatest conclusion that I made from finally seeing this band do its thing on stage, however, is that the whole of it — Jenkins, Alarid, the tap-dancing wonder that is Jamie Pressnall, funky boy guitarist Derek Pressnall, the comparatively reserved keyboardist Nick White — come off a lot like a twelve-year-old girl’s fantasy of what a rock band would be like. Think about it: “Um, and then my band would be me and my best friend, and we’d be blonde and totally pretty, but in different ways, and then we’d have this one cool party guy who wears crazy shirts, and then we’d have this other guy who’s quiet but totally cute, and then my friend who tap dances would totally be in it too, doing something. Oh, and we’d play rock songs that are totally like ‘Ahh!’ but then we’d also sing, like, these Spanish-style songs where we’d spin and clap like the lady at Casa Bonita on Cinco de Mayo, and then sometimes we’d have slow songs where we sit down and sing about love. And maybe political things.” And yet in spite of that accurate description, the band still works. I can’t explain it, but I love it.

On She and Him:

Immediately following Tilly and the Wall, I was fortunate enough to see She and Him at the Great American Music Hall, in what a few people have told me was their first big public appearance. And while others seemed to have issues with the fact that this purported team-up between rocker M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel was too heavy on the Zooey Deschanel and too light on the M. Ward to the point that it seemed as though M. might have only lent his name to the project to grant it undue publicity, I disagree. Sure, it does seem strange that She and Him wouldn’t make better use of an immense talent like Ward, but if you consider that he already has his own successful career and that this project was never conceived to be a out-and-out two-person collaboration — despite what the band name might imply — then it could be understandable that Ward would want Deschanel to take the spotlight. And she did, despite what I interpreted as new-on-stage jitters. (Others viewed it as a total lack of stage presence. Either way, this stiffness is surprising, considering that Deschanel is an actress, but I’m betting that this will improve with subsequent performances.) Now, before I talk about my personal experience with the show, I should note that I’m nether a foaming M. Ward fan — I think he’s great, but haven’t heard his entire body of work — nor a devotee of Deschanel — I liked her in Almost Famous, was rather meh with her in Elf. Nonetheless, I was rather struck with the experience of hearing this band do its thing. Minus the star wattage of its two leads, She and Him is basically just a band that does good country — the kind of music from before the genre went into the shitter and became the stuff that gets played on modern country western stations today. And I like this kind of music. And I’ve never really heard it performed live. It sounds strange, but I feel like my posture may have come into play in this. Picture this, if you will: a packed Great American Music Hall, with me in the absolute far left-back corner of the assemblage of people who came to listen. My feet hurt, from having hiked throughout the city that day and from having stood all through the Tilly and the Wall show, so I inched toward a pillar and eventually ended up leaning on it, with my cheek resting against the surface. In that position, with a straight line of sight on Deschanel with her big county hair, I now realize that I had adopted the very posture of a lovestruck teenager watching some idol in a bygone era with total adoration in his eyes. I was moved, whether as a result of the way I was standing or what I was hearing or some combination of the two. And I, at least, enjoyed myself.

2 comments:

  1. Talk about reception theory....

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  2. Anonymous2:27 PM

    Dude the legend of zelda maze thing has a green nazi sybol and thats offensive i meen look at it i never seen that game i just looked at your pic and saw it at first glance

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