field report no.110219

LOCATION: Thomas Wolfe Auditorium AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan in Asheville

OBSERVATIONS:
Going to see Bob Dylan in 2018, you ought to have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for. Such a concert-goer is likely well-versed in his catalog—certainly the classics and probably some of the newer, late renaissance work as well—and his live performances have been consistent for years now. I knew I was going to see a pale shadow of what I was too young to ever see, but it was my first and possibly last chance to see the one and only Bob Dylan.

Nowadays, his voice is a more of a husky rasp, halfways to between the Dylan of the 80s and Tom Waits. He still wields immense interpretative power. Having released no new original material in years, and coming off . a complete lyrics book and the Nobel Prize, he seemed more willing to engage with his storied past than I expected—but it was still strictly on his own terms. Even songs burned into my memory didn’t register as familiar until a few lines in—classics were reimagined with entirely new melodies or phrasing.

The only real drawback is his backing band. I guess they’re reliable, but in the blandest way possible. It felt like watching a legend sit in with the 90s-era Saturday Night Live band.

NOTES: Bob Dylan and band
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.102719

LOCATION: Grey Eagle, AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Deafheaven

OBSERVATIONS:
Interesting crowd. Deafheaven are walking a razor thin line, trying to expand the audience of a very niche genre. Their debut managed to cross over without putting off the core fans, cross-pollinating black metal’s relentless scree with the delirious wall of melodic noise generated by shoegaze. Deafheaven’s newest album, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, ups the dynamics, punctuating the shroud of guitar with piano led interludes worthy of gothic drama.

Live, there’s something inherently performative inherent in such extreme music, and you must sell it to the audience. When Deafheaven pulls it off, they approach transcendence, their maelstrom sweeping you along. The points where I couldn’t manage a suspension of disbelief, I’d laugh to myself, thinking, “they’re the INXS of black metal”.

Openers, Diiv, were a much-lauded band who disappeared for long enough, they’re having trouble restarting the hype machine. What I saw this night was a band moving from their dream pop influences to embracing a strong Television vibe—which is an admirable choice—but troublesome, as Television are a pervasive influence of modern indie-rock. I need to hear it on record though, as live, the sound was too muddy, not nearly distinct enough in its pointillism.

NOTES: Deafheaven; Diiv
PRSENT: AMS; Jim K.

field report no.102219

LOCATION: the Orange Peel, AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Thee Oh Sees

OBSERVATIONS:
Thee Oh Sees reputation for blistering lives shows precedes them. It’s easy to see why the 2-drummer line-up has endured: the show’s temperature raises significantly whenever they drop in, even when they’re just in lock step with each other. Oh Sees are prolific and reliable band—churning out at least one record a year, since 2006. Within that steady stream. Evolution occurs slowly, making each album on their arc feel a little bit too much like their last (but not so much like the one two before it). Of late, Thee Oh Sees have backed off the throttle, and opened their psychedelic surge to some more progressive elements. Live, that meant they had 3 long ,jammy stretches, but really only enough solo content for just one.

Opening for Oh Sees was Escape-ism, a band true to leader, Ian Svenonious’ ridiculous but not unserious form. It’s the latest stop on his now almost 30 year career of confounding confrontation. The set was a little ragged, as he and his compatriot overstretched themselves, multitasking—but their show might come together over time (if he even wants it to).

NOTES: Thee Oh Sees; Escape-ism
PRESENT: AMS; Jay

field report no.101619

LOCATION: Revolve AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Thalia Zedek / Chris Brokaw

OBSERVATIONS:
I have a soft spot for the indie rock survivors. Coming of age in the grunge era, I witnessed the post-Nirvana feeding frenzy: bands that would never reach more than cult status, snatched up by labels with outsize expectations of their sales potential. There’s no shortage of bands who were grist for that particular mill. Some of them came out the other end, and thankfully, soldier on to this day. Theirs is a will create one ought to respect.

Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw led the harrowing indie rock band, Come: a slowburn indie-punk outfit originating out of the Boston scene. Thalia’s career reaches all the way back to the early 70s, with Dangerous Birds, Uzi, then Live Skull. I’ve followed Zedek ever since hearing Come. Her low, raspy voice is perfectly pitched for excoriating tales that would give bluesman pause. Hers is the voice of hard-won experience.

Come did a short reunion tour a few years back, (that I caught in Brooklyn), but this intimate show in a local art gallery brought the two back together (again). They each did a solo set—flipping a coin to see who would go first—then ended the night with a handful of Come songs. They may have been through the grinder, but I hope they’re proud there’s still an eager audience for songs they wrote over 20 years ago.

Now I just hope Zedek’s new band, E, perhaps adds Asheville to their potential tour schedule, too.

NOTES: Thalia Zedek; Chris Brokaw
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.100419

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Kuzu

OBSERVATIONS:
Dave Rempis is a latter-day free jazz ambassador. A prodigious collaborator, he’s one of the only members of his storied Chicago jazz scene who still regularly tours the country (as if he were some kind of indie-rock band). Which is how Kuzu came to be, the trio of Rempis with the Asheville duo of guitarist Tashi Dorji and Taylor Damon. I’ve seen Dorji often: Asheville has a very small scene. If you’re going to any advanced jazz show, it’s a good bet Dorji’s is a part of one of the warm-up acts.

The Kuzu combination brings more out of Dorji—he’s seems more giving. It’s possible Rempis raises the game or at least provides a fresh sparring partner. Live, Dorji was even more nuanced than on record. Perhaps without Rempis amplified, Dorji dialed it back giving everyone more room to hear. Damon was also impressive—placing bells on his drum heads he evoked gamelan in one sequence, (and still managing to hit some of the drum head as well). Each of the players was pliable and intuitively responsive this night.

NOTES: Kuzu (Dave Rempis, Tashi Dorji, Tyler Damon); Bruce Lamont; Kevin Hufnagel
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.091618

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Actual Cloud Formations

OBSERVATIONS:
I stumbled upon Shane Parish as the opening act for one of the first shows I attended in Asheville. I’ve since found out he’s something of a hometown hero (not mentioning he has a number of records on John Zorn’s Tzadik label). He plays around town often enough, it’s downright negligent of me to have not seen him since. (In my defense, I’ve twice had tickets to see his avant rock band, Ahleuchatistas, but life got in the way.) It finally came together, though, for this show: a record-release show (of sorts) for his new ambient guitar solo tape.

Parish actually opened the show up, solo, playing material from the new tape. Cellist Emmalee Hunnicutt played the middle set, solo. The night ended with Actual Cloud Formations, a sort of improvised folk trio featuring Parish and Hunnicutt alongside Ahleuchatistas, Ryan Oslance, on drums.

After the show I went straight to Cloud Formations bandcamp page to pick up their album. Listening back to it, I’d say they’ve improved by leaps and bounds. The album features Sally Anne Morgan on violin instead of Hunnicutt, and perhaps that’s a switch that has made a substantial impact. It could be Hunnicutt is a better fit, or perhaps the cello doesn’t compete with the guitar as much, tonally. The improvisations this night seemed much more focused—amorphous still, but with a sort of thrust of purpose and logical through-line.

NOTES: Actual Cloud Formations; Emmalee Hunnicutt; Shane Parish
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.090618

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Mark Hosler

OBSERVATIONS:
I have to admit, I haven’t heard that much Negativland. While they are an institution, a foundational plunderphonics group—like most people, I became most aware of them while they were waist-deep in a legal tussle with a certain band that rhymes with ‘you, too.’ By the time they extricated themselves from said kerfuffle, I guess my own interests had moved on. In truth, the early 90s—as I just starting to travel the outer limits of electronics with Zoviet*France and John Oswald—would have been the perfect timing. But, like ships in the night, as they say.

I’ve also moved on from New York City (to remote North Carolina) and I don’t get nearly as many opportunities to catch gonzo live sets—especially an artist like Mark Hossler, who, through Negativland, has a 40+ year history in the avant garde.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out it wasn’t just sampledelica—which can be fun but also always strikes me with a whiff of ironic distance or heavy-handed politics (or both). Most of his sounds were far more purely electronic-generated tones + effects and filters. If their origins lay in sampling, they’d been scrubbed clean. Hosler’s rig of devices was interesting, shimmed so his boards were tilted slightly towards the audience, giving us a window into how he was creating what we heard.

NOTES: Mark Hosler; Toybox; Okapi
PRESENT: AMS; Lily M.; Jackson A.

field report no.082518

LOCATION: the Grey Eagle AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Matthew Sweet

OBSERVATIONS:
Seeing Matthew Sweet in 2018 is an exercise in meta-nostalgia, which isn’t lost on Sweet himself. His entire aesthetic is rooted in nostalgia, evoking a shiny power pop, cherry picking from his 60s and 70s heroes. Sweet even kept himself busy the last while doing a series of decade-themed covers-records with Susanna Hoffs.

This show was also an exercise in his own history: Matthew Sweet hasn’t been a dominant force in music since 1994, at least. His moment came and went, somewhere just above one-hit-wonder. While he soldiers on, he also knows why his audience is there. The set was dominated by his first few albums, including every single from his breakout album Girlfriend.

I don’t say any of this as if I’m above it. I was a rabid fan of his early work—even caught him in Portland, 1994. Although I continue to collect (and listen to) his music, none of his new material has managed to grab me the way it used to. I cheered along when he rolled out cuts like Evangeline. How much of that is down to nostalgia, though? The only thing separating some of the hits, sonically from the smattering of new material he played was a lived-in, comforting familiarity.

I will say this, though, that crystal clear voice of his seems deathless.

NOTES: Matthew Sweet; Hard Rocket
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.052118

LOCATION: the Grey Eagle AVL.NC
SUBJECT: the Sea and Cake

OBSERVATIONS:
I was caught off guard, way back when, by the Sea and Cake’s debut album. Amidst the aftermath of grunge and the rise of electronica, they sounded like nothing else. Nearly 25 years later, they’re still really only comparable to themselves. Their sound hasn’t so much changed as evolved. You wouldn’t mistake their new album, Any Day, for that self-titled debut, but neither would there be any doubt it was the same band.

Likewise, the Sea and Cake are not a normal live band. They have virtually no sing-along choruses. As such, the band is pestered with requests to play their cover of Bowie’s Sound + Vision all (and probably every) night. What originally set them apart from their grungier peers was the sheer softness of their sound. Their melodies are not buoying as much as fulfilling. Their sound floods the room as a slowly rising tide that seeps in from every corner. The Sea and Cake play music of spaces for living, and for this one night they turned the Grey Eagle into their lounge.

It seemed strange they did an encore. Not that the crowd didn’t demand one, but the entire performance seems so counter to such rote expectations…

NOTES: the Sea and Cake; James Elkington
PRESENT: AMS: Angela F.

field report no.050818

LOCATION: Thomas Wolfe Auditorium AVL.NC
SUBJECT: David Byrne

OBSERVATIONS:
David Byrne’s music has been a life-long companion, for me, but it’s been at least fifteen years since I’ve seen him live. Don’t ask me how I lived in NYC for so long and never managed to see him there (though I was lucky enough to enjoy his installation, Playing the Building). What I mean to say is I’m biased, at best. With that caveat , I’ve been describing seeing him this time around as life affirming. Not only was the show engaging—built around positive (but not passive) songs—it was future-facing visually ambitious. It’s rare to see an artist of such stature still striving.

Of course, David Byrne is not an artist given to nostalgia. The set list featured a smattering of Talking Heads songs (and not always the ones you’d expect). If you came looking for a greatest hits set (as so many of his peers are content to do), you’d leave disappointed.

They played (almost) the entirety of Byrne’s new album, American Utopia—which didn’t leave much time for the rest of his varied solo catalog. It provides an interesting view on what he considers canon, though: Like Humans Do and Lazy made the cut. Of the Talking Heads songs aired (especially The Great Curve and I Zimbra), were torn into with glee by the rhythm-heavy ensemble.

Every member of the band was in constant motion—made possible by a multi-piece, marching band-style percussion section. The stage was unadorned except for a tall, chainmail border curtain. Visually, it played with light cast on it. More practically, it allowed the band members to pass through it at any given point. Thoroughly choreographed, the staging (mostly) avoided feeling like interpretive dance, and never gave the impression of simply miming to pre-recorded tracks (it’s been pointed out in interviews that every sound is generated on stage).

While David Byrne doesn’t tour as often as he used to (and who could blame him), he never fails to present his work beautifully and thoughtfully. I left believing I’d seen, not a show, but an honest aesthetic presentation of artist in the present moment.

NOTES: David Byrne; Benjamin Clementine
PRESENT: AMS; Angela F.

field report no.042818

LOCATION: the Grey Eagle AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Superchunk

OBSERVATIONS:
Superchunk know what they are doing. They’ve run the club gauntlet since before grunge was even a thing. They know there’s a handful songs that people absolutely expect to hear (Slack Motherfucker, Driveway to Driveway…) but between those and whatever their latest LP is, they pepper in some unexpected tidbits from their now-rather-large catalog. They dusted off Song for Marion Brown, which made me go back to reappraise Indoor Living, which I admit I rarely ever put on. I was also glad at least a couple of songs from recent albums, I Hate Music and Majesty Shredding stayed in rotation. Too often, a long-running band’s newest material can have a short shelf life, lasting only as long as the next tour, never to be played again. Superchunk make a strong case for the enduring quality in their later work.

NOTES: Superchunk; Rock-a-Teens
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.041518

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Screaming Females

OBSERVATIONS:
There's something Insanely gratifying about Screaming Females. Sure, they're as reliable a live band as I've seen—always on point—but something more. Punk has been with us for well nigh 50 years. The template can start to seem very stale and predictable. Every now and again, though, a band comes along that manages to not reinvent the genre, but reinvigorate it. Screaming Females so wholly embody the racket they make, it comes alive. They've got solid songwriting, chops, and a distinctive voice—all it takes to stand out from the collective weight of history, but what makes them vital is how it always feels that they throw themselves in, bodily to what they are doing. Seen live, the energy you feel from the band is palpably mirrored in the crowd. It’s nearly impossible not to get swept up in it.

NOTES: Screaming Females; Thou; Hirs; Teenage Halloween
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.041418

LOCATION: Thomas Wolfe Auditorium AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Asheville Symphony Orchestra, Jayce Ogren conducting

OBSERVATIONS:
In April, we returned to hear our local symphony orchestra with the promise of some slightly more modern fare. This time around, in our orchestra's version of American Idol—wherein each contestant for the conductor / musical director slot had a public performance over the course of the season—we saw it helmed by the very young-looking, but no less accomplished, Jayce Ogren. The theme of his program was patriotism—but not of the bombastic De Sousa variety.

The first piece was John Adams' The Chairman Dances. It was a lovely piece, even if it belied its theatrical origins. It was written—but not included—to be in the opera Nixon in China. It often featured the shifting patterns of audio moiré that define much of late-20th century minimalism but would change gears, jarringly at times (probably to match action in some scene). The second piece was also from the last century, Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain. At heart, it's a piano conerto, and Joyce Yang impressed as the virtuosic lead. Despite her melodramatic flair, my attention drifted. I just didn't find the work captivating, musically. The evening closed with Sibelius' Symphony no.2. I didn't know the work well, but it seemed well executed: crisp and well defined across the spectrum. 

While the patriotic theme did not veer to the martial or nationalistic, each piece had a lively pulse. Ogren focused on the way traditional and folk musics of a place can bleed into its orchestral work, helping the composer target and express specific emotional cues with their home audience.

NOTES: John Adams, the Chairman Dances;  Manuel de Falla, Nights in the Gardens of Spain (Joyce Yang, piano); Jean Sibelius, Symphony No. 2
PRESENT: AMS; Angela F.

field report no.041018

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Circuit des Yeux

OBSERVATIONS:
A trusted friend inveighed upon me to give Circuit des Yeux a listen, and seeing they were coming through town shortly, I opted to have my first experience be a live one. My report back to her was summed up as, "if Angels of Light had been Jarboe’s post-Swans project instead of Gira’s." Hayley Fohr's low contralto, laden with vibrato serves as the a centerpiece of an acoustic din that slowly coalesces, martially about her.

It was one those rare nights where it was worth arriving early. Every band on the ticket was worth the time and travel. The Nathan Bowles Trio was better than the first time I'd seen him, working a much more hypnotic folk motorik. The use of banjo and upright bass, oddly, made think of the politically separation of pitches in the Minutemen (of all things). Marisa Anderson understands how to use the electric aspect of her guitar. Her set was in the same no-mans-land between American Primitive folk picking and Morricone spaghetti western soundtrack that I'd file Earth under.

NOTES: Circuit des Yeux; Yeux; Marisa Anderson: Nathan Bowles Trio
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.0323-2518

LOCATION: various sites, Knoxville TN
SUBJECT: Big Ears Festival

OBSERVATIONS:
Last year, I only dipped my toe in, testing the waters of the Big Ears Festival. Going for one day, I crammed in as much as possible and left overwhelmed. I was all in this year (though, circumstances necessitated I skip the opening night, Thursday). Arriving for the opening bell on Friday, I dove in, catching 10 performances in the first day alone. By the time I left, early Sunday evening, the final tally was up to 23. I set off for the long drive home, exhausted (in the best possible way).

Without trying to detail every experience, what follows are some of the highlights, as I saw them.

There was no better way to start than catching Roscoe Mitchell's Trio Five. Mitchell's presence and performance served testament to the advanced programming at Big Ears—their ability to attract artists of stature. The Art Ensemble of Chicago founder has remained, since the mid-60s a restless artist. These Trios, the first of which are documented on the ECM album, Bells for the South Side, are mature, searching works. The group was well-versed, each member, though some at least 2 generations Mitchell's junior, were patient and knew when to sit back or lean in. Roscoe's extended solos were searing—especially on soprano saxophone—filled with intervalic leaps and exploding, multi-phonic extended techniques.

Quite unintentionally, I ended up organizing my experience each day into loose groupings. Friday contained, by far, the most jazz-oriented of shows. Throughout the rest of the day, I saw the ebullient Cyro Baptista, Rocket Science (featuring Evan Parker and Peter Evans), as well as Jenny Scheinmann's Mayhem & Mischief (featuring Nels Cline). There was a powerhouse solo performance by Milford Graves—who's experiencing a coronation into elder statesman status of late. Luckily, The Thing's excoriating set made up for a rather staid and mildly disappointing turn by Medeski Martin & Wood.

Even still, I mixed it up, catching Ikue Mori,  and ending the night with a sublime presentation by Wolfgang Voigt as Gas—previewing his new work, Rausch. Along the way I caught an Arto Lindsay set that was by far the best I have seen. His band—lead by the stalwart bassist, Melvin Gibbs— featured two drummers this go 'round, giving his samba inflected art rock witha . powerful, polyrhythmic punch.

Saturday ended up leaning more towards electronica acts. I started the day with an early morning performance by Kid Koala. I didn't know at the time how lucky I was to get in to this show. Over the course of the weekend, Kid Koala would lead a series of interactive performances based on his album Satellite: Music to Draw to, that ended up the biggest draw of the Fest—consistently at capacity, turning people away. In the small Square Room venue, each table was set up with custom mini-turntables along with a collection of color-coded 45s. During the performance, a light on the turntable would give you hued cues as to which record to put on, and a conductor would guide the audience to raise the volume, add effects or scratch.

While Kid Koala's music is not stylistically advanced, he excels at making live experiences that leave you feeling as if you've witnessed—even participated—in something truly special.

I went on from there to see a hypnotic all-oboe chamber piece composed by Michael Gordon, in an Art Museum and Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble in a cathedral. Yuka Honda gave a rare solo performance and Laurel Halo drove her set well past its scheduled end-time, supported by experimental percussionist, Eli Keszler.

I ended the night at the Mill & the Mine, catching Four Tet with Kelly Lee Owens warming up. Four Tet has been on a years-long hot streak that's cemented him as one of the pivotal electricians of the early 21st century. He moves with dynamics in opposition to themselves. It has all the structure and release of classic techno but maintains the loose-limbed unpredictability of improvised music.

Kelly Lee Owens was a shocker, though. Her self-titled debut from last year (which I loved) was no preparation for her live set. Bits and pieces from the album showed up, but only as markers in her continuous slow build to a jaw-dropping display of hard acid house. If any one other than Four Tet was on after her, I would have called it a night then and there.

Sunday was like any Sunday after you've partied for two days in a row. I was weary and a bit hungover, musically. I caught what I could, Tyshawn Sorey's music is impressive and luminous. I'd be lying if I said I've found a way to fully connect with it, but I am no less than impressed by it.

I went on to see a set by the rock band Suuns, which I found a bit of a let-down. I'd say they reminded me of Joy Division, but really it's more like reminding me of Interpol reminding me of Joy Division. It never really lifted off—I eventually found a chair in a corner and dozed off a bit. Later I caught pianist Jason Moran with Ron Miles and Mary Halvorson. While Ron Miles has the longest resume of all three, it's Halvorson who has the buzz. I'd seen her play dozens of times while I lived in New York, so it was a treat to see her on stage again.  

Despite my somewhat disengaged state, the improvised set on Sunday afternoon by Keiran Hebden (aka Four Tet) and Mats Gustafsson (of the Thing) was possibly the best of the entire weekend. Their musical spheres have little to do with each other—yet you could hear each one reaching to the other to find a common ground, in the moment. This was not their first meeting, but like their album with the sadly departed drummer, Steve Reid, I hope this set sees the light of day on record, as it was fucking stellar.

With one more show tucked in—a performance of Steve Reich's newer work, Quartet as performed by Nief-Norf—I was back on the road to North Carolina, overwhelmed (again). Already, I'm pleased to see the Big Ears 2019 lineup taking sahpe, as for the foreseeable future, I plan on making the Big Ears Festival an annual trek.

NOTES: Roscoe Mitchell; Cyro Baptista's Vira Locos; Ikue Mori; Rocket Science; Milford Graves; Arto Lindsay; Jenny Sheinman's Mischief & Mayhem; Medeski Martin & Wood; The Thing; Gas; Kid Koala; Rushes Ensemble performing Michael Gordon; Evan Parker Electro-acoustic Ensemble; Yuka Honda; Sonus Ensemble; Laurel Halo featuring Eli Keszler; Kelly Lee Owens; Four Tet; Tyshawn Sorey; Suuns; Kieren Hebden & Mats Gustafsson; Bangs; Nief Norf performing Steve Reich
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.030718

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Shopping

OBSERVATIONS:
There's an art to making something like a simple rock trio come off as more than just some over-loud pop. There's a performative aspect that, overplayed, will seem just a campy gimmick. Shopping hits the sweet spot. They seem genuinely elated to be on stage, winning and cheering the crowd. Their live dynamic, trading lines in call-and-response, has echoes of the Beastie Boys interplay, hidden in a spiky wrapper of Gang of Four. After the bevy of post-punk-aping bands of the mid 2000s, Shopping's influences may feel familiar, but they have the wherewithal to keep the ball moving forward.

Their frontwoman, Rachel Aggs, is a powerhouse, also leading Trash Kit and Sacred Paws (and previously of Golden Grrrls), and each is a reliable go-to for me. 

NOTES: Shopping; French Vanilla; Konvoi
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.022318

LOCATION: the Grey Eagle AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Jonathan Richman

OBSERVATIONS:
Jonathan Richman is a bundle of contradictions. He exudes a studied naiveté. His songs appear simple but his performances are filled with subtle dynamics. He plays the everyman while singing in no less than four languages. His music is humorous, filled with grinning turns of phrase or out-and-out punchlines, but he never seems less than sincere. In fact, many of his goofy tunes are, by turns, heartwarming and heartbreaking.

Richman's music endures by virtue of its humanity. In person, he's human-scale—no a larger than life icon on stage. While he possesses charisma and force-of-personality to spare, the show itself feels intimate. For one night only, Richman is your own private Cyrano, serenading you with sonnets galore. I've seen him billed as opening for large scale acts, like Wilco, and I have to wonder how his show translates to such a vast crowd—but I shouldn't underestimate Jonathan, he's more cunning than he lets on.

NOTES: Jonathan Richman, featuring Tommy Larkins on drums; Ané Diaz
PRESENT: AMS; Angela F.

field report no.021518

LOCATION: Thomas Wolfe Center AVL.NC
SUBJECT: St. Vincent

OBSERVATIONS:
Instant gratification is rarely the sign of a great artist. Annie Clark's albums as St. Vincent often land with an initial, vague sense of disappointment. That feeling, more honestly expressed, is a sense of loss for the most-recent version of St. Vincent, who I'd  started to love, but, with the arrival of this latest missive, is no more. With time, I found myself awestruck by Masseduction—it just took me a while.

Much of Masseduction deals with ideas of product and manipulation (in various forms). Even the title suggests pop's purpose: tapping people's collective neural pathways, evoking lust and desire to make sales. Her live show foregrounded this by filling the stage with Clark, alone, in an outfit somewhere between dominatrix and superhero. Sexuality, as a performance and product.

While I was apprehensive seeing her perform solo, with pre-recorded backing tracks, this show made those concerns obsolete. Her staging and presentation were impeccable and engaging. St. Vincent's presence was outsized and her performance leaned heavily on her powerful voice and an under-appreciated ability to absolutely shred on guitar.

NOTES: St. Vincent; Tuck & Patti
PRESENT: AMS; Angela F; Grant B; Michael J

field report no.012118

LOCATION: the Orange Peel AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Neko Case

Neko Case at the Orange Peel

OBSERVATIONS:
No writeup of Neko Case fails to mention that voice. It has a presence almost outside herself. A clear, forceful tone: sans vibrato and with only a hint of country twang (not enough to seem put on). Her voice is even more arresting live. It's worth pointing out, though, all her vocal prowess would be wasted if not married to such striking, individualistic songs. There are no shortage of good and powerful vocalists, but few of them possess Case's creative streak.

Neko's development is chartable, since her first couple of albums were mere covers affairs, which in retrospect seem more like clearing her throat than announcing her intent. By the time she released Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, she was a different beast, easily fitting in with then-label-mates Nick Cave or Tom Waits. This songwriting is the heft behind her voice.

Case announced at some point, that this was the deep-album cut tour. In the midst of recording a new LP, this pass through was about performing songs that were rarely aired, live. Luckily, this ended up including many of my personal favorites. 

NOTES: Neko Case; Mt. Joy
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.111717

LOCATION: the Orange Peel AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Slowdive

OBSERVATIONS:
Arriving at the show late from another event down the road, I knew I'd probably missed the opening act—Soccer Mommy—and Slowdive would have just taken the stage. I questioned that assumption when I heard the throbbing pulse coming from inside. While Slowdive has evolved through many sounds—from twee dream-pop to spacious ambient rock—rhythm was never their calling card. They punched up the rhythm on everything from their new, self-titled reunion album (arguably, their heaviest) to Souvlaki classics. I wonder what they sounded like to see back in their early-90s hey-day. Did they provide such a tight, cathartic performance? Or, was it more of the amorphous ambience that I expected? Is this is a trick they've learned in the intervening years, now they're play to be bigger crowds than back then? Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised.

NOTES: Slowdive; Soccer Mommy
PRESENT: AMS