Monday, September 20, 2010

Grizzly Bear and Phoenix at the Hollywood Bowl

ON Saturday night I was lucky enough to catch these two bands at the Bowl. Both exceeded my expectations.

Grizzly Bear, a Brooklyn group with a bearded-hipster following and a knack for Pet Sounds derived vocal harmonies, has long been an enigma to me: I got their debut LP before it came out, and it literally destroyed my wife's car stereo even before we could hear it. But some of my most dedicated music friends kept urging me to check them out.

When they played Disney Hall a few years back, I was all set to go, but our babysitter fell through and we missed the show. I picked up their latest LP, which came out last year, and have found some of the harmonies interesting, but there's something sterile about it.

But those vocal tapestries, outdoors at the Bowl on a cool late-summer evening, had far more emotional directness, without losing their mystery. And the guitars and other instruments were edgier, dirtier, than on the overly smooth Veckatimest LP. Grizz is not just neo-psych with a Radiohead swoon, but something fresh and weird.

Phoenix is everyone's favorite French band since Air. They've got a knack for catchy melodies, slinky, funk-inspired basslines, and really cool haircuts. I expected a high-energy performance and they pumped it up a bit higher without losing their shy charisma. Members of the group came into the crowd a couple times -- once about 10 feet from where I was sitting -- and somehow it didnt feel cheesy.

As with many bands, especially from other countries, the group was quite clear about how excited they were to be playing the legendary Hollywood Bowl.

Parking was the worst ever -- especially getting out -- but my wife and I were reminded that the Bowl is one of LA's greatest institutions.

Let me update this blog to the recent Echoplex show by one of our favorite bands, the folky British group The Clientele. I've seen them twice and admired the perfectly crafted, delicate Arthur Lee-meets-Nick Drake songs, but this show brought the Television-inspired, high-on-the-neck guitar playing to the fore. This was folk rock without the delicacy, played by a kickass live band. They're touring on a fine EP called Minotaur: I hope it's not the last time we see them.

At right: The gentlemen of Grizzly Bear


Pete Bilderback said...

I picked up Grizzly Bear's album Veckatimest on the recommendation of a friend whose taste I usually trust (not you Scott, although I also usually trust your recommendations). To me it sounded like prog-rock in the very bad sense of that term (the kind of thing punk was a reaction against). I tried to stay open-minded and listened a few times, but I could never get through the whole album.

I guess I just don't understand the hip youth of today. I'd probably rather listen to Katy Perry or Lady Antebellum.

Scott Timberg said...

Yes the latest Grizz pushed some bad prog buttons for me as well... Tho as I said, live it was more raw and somehow worked.