I'm not sure how -- or why -- anyone could go through summer in Seattle and not attend at least one of the concerts at the Mural Amphitheater. It's probably the best listening experience you're likely to have in this heat. After spending Friday listening to music outdoors and Saturday melting at the Crocodile, I'll happily take the crowds and the crying babies over close, sweaty indoor air. If you hit up next weekend's shows, though, be warned: the sound in the beer garden is not good, so if you want the best listening experience, you must abstain or chug between sets.
Dylan Long Magnolia Electric Company
Throw Me the Statue opened with a fine set comprised mostly of songs from their new record, though I still don't think it did the album, Creaturesque, the justice it deserved. It's a bright, pretty record that's shaping up to be one of my favorite albums to come out so far this year (you can pick it up in stores tomorrow), and while the band played the songs faithfully, TMTS' live show doesn't involve much more than that. Blitzen Trapper, on the other hand, somehow translates a lot better to these outdoor festivals. Maybe it's their earthy, yet psychedelic next-generation CSNY sound, or maybe I'm just an irredeemable hippie, but the band's big sound has a wide reach, even in an outdoor setting. Somehow, folk music just sounds better outside, and the same, unfortunately, cannot be said for TMTS' brand of reedy, brassy pop music -- not that I don't love reedy, brassy pop music with equal fervor, but the sound doesn't carry as far.
Saturday, I went to see one of my favorite bands, Magnolia Electric Company, at the Crocodile. I'd been looking forward to this show for months, and even though it was sweltering and there were maybe two fans in the entire place, I could not possibly have enjoyed myself more. In the interest of my own physical comfort, I chose to listen to the Donkeys, a respectable Americana outfit in their own right, from near the door. And I'm glad I did, because while I was out there, I ran into Magnolia Electric Company songwriter Jason Molina, who bummed me two smokes and showed me his pretty black rattlesnake skin boots.The band opened with "Little Sad Eyes," one of my favorite songs from his new album, Josephine (it just came out a couple weeks ago). As expected, that album dominated most of the set, but hearing it live was a completely different experience: louder, faster and decidedly more rock and roll. Jason Groth, a stellar guitarist for whom use of the term "shred" is totally deserved, carried the set, his blonde 'fro thrashing in time to unbelievably complex riffs. Even the handful of old songs they played got a new coat of paint, and the band's final number, a freaked-out rendition of "Farewell Transmission," sounded so different as to be almost unrecognizable at first. And while these types of live alterations do not always improve upon the original song, in this case, they felt like equally-valid variations on a sonic theme rather than an inferior clone of the real thing. My only complaint was that I couldn't hear Jason Molina's voice very well, but the snippets I could decipher sounded as sincere as his recordings do. And as I walked back through Belltown to my car, as I slipped unnoticed through throngs of empty people in pretty clothes, I couldn't help but feel sorry for them. They had no idea what they missed while they were drinking AMFs and dancing to some shitty Top 40 DJ -- and they probably never will.