Off Campus

Concert Review

* – Wish I didn’t go at all / wouldn’t see again
** – Would see again if it were convenient/would recommend
*** – Would definitely see again

Aug 17 – Crystal Castles, Rusko, Destructo, Sinden @ House of Blues – 2.5
I would have loved to give this concert the highest of ratings because the artists put on a great show and the crowd was one of the most fun and enthusiastic I’ve ever been a part of.  Everything I seek in a concert experience: sweat, glitter and bruises, everyone left looking like a slightly more battered version of Ke$ha. However, by some mysterious means, the venue managed to flub the schedule for the show such that the headliner’s set was cut short and the crowd was left hanging. Another disappointment brought to you by the House of Blue Balls.

Oct 1 – Ra Ra Riot @ Royale – 1
Touring to promote their sophomore album, The Orchard, Ra Ra Riot is still attempting to reach indie star status of their Ivy League buddies, Vampire Weekend. From my observation, they still have a long way to go. Ra Ra Riot is a mediocre studio band, but when it comes to live performances, they’re rather underwhelming. Lead vocalist Wes Miles is a pretty face, but doesn’t have enough energy to command the attention of the audience. I wasn’t too fond of the venue either. Problems with the mics were frequent and the stage lights were distracting. I hate to say it, but you’re better off YouTube-ing the band than paying for a live show.

Oct 5 – Chapterhouse, Ulrich Schnauss, 28 Degrees Taurus @ Middle East Downstairs – 3
Ulrich Schnauss’s set was a perfect blend of danceable energy and repetition: you could zone out and become completely absorbed in the music without falling asleep, and the entire set flowed smoothly, with no jarring interruptions, but plenty of variation and buildup. Chapterhouse’s set was marked by the kind of intense reverberation that you can only experience live, and even as a fan of their recordings, I found the live experience much more fulfilling.

Oct 10 – Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu @ Paramount – 2
How can you go wrong with a cute, energetic frontwoman like Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki? While there was a slight mismatch between the Paramount and Deerhoof — having seen them at the Middle East, something was missing at a seated venue like Paramount, there are some holes that can only be filled by dancing — they still put on the enjoyable show I’ve come to expect. Xiu Xiu was just what I expected: interesting, a bit abrasive, and better suited to the seated venue.

Oct 15 – Avi Buffalo @ Middle East Upstairs – 2
Avi Buffalo reminds me of the band that you went to see in high school: lead singer has awkward facial hair and squeaky voice, the drummer is way more bad ass than you’ll ever be, and the rest of the band is just happy to be there. Lead singer Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg just turned 20 and he and the band have already performed at SXSW and opened for Modest Mouse. They put on a good show, basically going through their entire debut album. One caveat: if you can’t get over Zahner-Isenberg’s high pitched crooning, put this one on the back burner.

Oct 16 – Deerhunter, Real Estate, Casino Versus Japan @ Royale – 3
I couldn’t make it to this show in time to catch most of the openers’ sets, but what I heard of Real Estate basically sounded like every other “indie” band in existence and was unmemorable. Deerhunter’s much-less-bland set mostly focused on newer material from Halcyon Digest (2010) and Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. (2008). I definitely appreciate Deerhunter more after seeing them live: the multidimensional shoegaze-y elements of their music were really highlighted in their live show, and Bradford Cox’s between-song banter certainly didn’t hurt. I’d recommend seeing them live even if you aren’t that into their recorded material.

Oct 21 – Rusko @ Royale – 3
Another Rusko show, another sweatfest. Rusko’s classification as “brostep” meant that the crowd was an odd clusterfuck of baseball caps, buzz cuts, ironic facial hair, skinny jeans, and misused sunglasses (you’re inside a dark concert venue, dude). This was one of the most enjoyable concert experiences I’ve ever had, and I’d definitely go out of my way to see Rusko again, even if I’m in it more for the experience than for the sake of musical pretension.

Nov 4 – Matt & Kim @ House of Blues – 3
I wasn’t even a fan of Matt & Kim when I went to this show, but I was when I left. It says a lot about a band if they can convert you in a 1 hour set. This duo plays off each other so well that it’s hard not to get into the music. They tell funny stories and are really great at engaging the audience. They can start an excellent dance party for all those interested. Go see them live. And prepare to sweat.

Nov 7 – The Weepies @ Royale – 2
The Weepies have a song for every major emotion in the human spectrum, but with their artful, folksy ballads, they have love down pat. Deb and Steve Tannen are the married folk duo from California who are an absolute joy to watch on stage. When they performed, their quirky stories and quiet humility made me want to know them personally. Concerts are usually a push-and-shove kind of deal, but the Weepies were so chill that the audience was able to just mellow out and enjoy themselves.

Nov 9 – The Morning Benders @ Paradise Rock Club – 1
After seeing The Morning Benders live at Chicago’s Lollapalooza this summer, I was excited to see them again at the ‘Dise. Unfortunately, they weren’t as good as I remembered. There’s something about the Morning Bender’s performances that kind of irk me. They try to rock out, but at heart they’re a studio-friendly band that sounds best when you’re eating cereal on a sunny morning. The acoustics at the ‘Dise were a also little disappointing. The vocals were drowned out by the guitars and lead singer Chris Chu came across as trying too hard.

Nov 11 – Sufjan Stevens @ Orpheum Theatre – 3
From my observation, there have been two artists who have received a lifetime of publicity over the past few months: Kanye West and Sufjan Stevens. These two artists couldn’t be more different and one of them (Sufjan) played two sold out shows in Boston this fall. Despite all the hype, by both alternative and popular press, Sufjan managed to shatter everyone’s expectations. He played an eclectic set of songs off his new album The Age of Adz but still peppered his performance with a couple of fan favorites (“Chicago, “John Wayne Gacy Jr.,” etc.). There were dancers, ribbons, balloons, and a slideshow involved. Did I mention he was dressed like Ke$ha? Doesn’t get better than that, folks.

Nov 20 – EOTO @ Paradise – 2.5
EOTO is essentially a dubstep jam band, whose live show uses no pre-recorded loops. While this show was not nearly as wild as Rusko in terms of pure escapist experience, the crowd was still enthusiastic and they were definitely worth experiencing, if only because their gig is so different from acts that might otherwise produce a similar sound.

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