Sunday, June 12, 2005

Someone (Jon Landau?) said that seeing Bruce Springsteen in the early '70s was like hearing music for the first time again. That's what listening to Todd Edwards is like for me. I'm playing disc two of Pure Garage Presents Four to the Floor (Warner ESP, 2003) right now, the one he mixed (DJ EZ did the first disc), and it's just kicking my ass all over the room. Which, in this case, is the bedroom of a suite in downtown Portland, OR--I'm here for the weekend, leave early AM tomorrow to get back to Seattle so I can go to work by noon or so. The cut-and-snip aesthetic is in full effect, of course--of the disc's 21 component parts, Edwards produced or remixed 17 of them, so it functions more or less as a third Full On--but it's not simply because it's unusual, it's because it's bursting with live, so vital and effervescent and frisky, this is what I want out of music all the time in whatever form. The 2003 remix of "Never Far From You" sounds way more Cuisinarted than the original, shuffling but not Schaffel-y, and more swirlingly psychedelic, but somehow not disorienting, partly because it's led by the beat and partly because Edwards isn't trying to be alienating. He wants to communicate, not obfuscate.

I came down here for the U.S.E. + Hold Steady show at Berbati's Pan, around the corner from where I'm staying. I saw them Thursday night in Seattle at the Crocodile Cafe, and it was terrific, but I had my reservations. The Hold Steady seemed exhausted and overworked, the tempos were sluggish, Craig Finn's voice was parched, and they missed a couple of marks. But the weight of it was remarkable--playing slower, they sounded heavier than usual, and the house was packed. Unfortunately, the Croc's sound isn't very good and the crowd was full of folks who were there to check out the new phenomenon rather than rock out and/or party down. That was especially true after the Hold Steady finished; half the crowd left before U.S.E., the headliners, went on. I joked at the time that the leavers had to get up early the next morning for their ass-clenching lessons, but that's somewhat unfair to the people who were into it and having a good time. Nevertheless, the Berbati's show on Friday killed the Thursday one; they were simultaneously looser and tighter, with the tempos up and the room full of love and camaraderie. People yelled along w/the lyrics, danced, went crazy; very little of the reserve that typified the Seattle crowd. The same went with U.S.E., with the caveat that the Seattle crowd were getting plenty loose to them, if not as much so as at the Vera Project show I saw in April or any number of other times I've seen them in our shared hometown. But the Berbati's crowd was rabid--screaming along, hopping around like wind-up bunnies, complete idiotic grins on their (our) faces. I've never seen U.S.E. dragged out for an encore before--they usually leave the audience spent, and they might as well have this time too, but it wasn't enough. What's even better is that it wasn't that big a crowd, maybe 100 people total by the time the set ended. They were louder and more demonstrative than any I've seen that band with, or most bands with. That, too, is what doing what I do is for.

Just bought two grocery bags' worth of books at Powell's and Reading Frenzy and Countermedia. I can't wait to dive into them all (and in fact will begin after posting this), but the one that really made me drool was one I didn't buy: Peter Shapiro's new Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco, a copy of which is already on its way. Can. Not. WAIT.