By Aurora Wetherill of LightsOn w/ Aurora, Thursdays at 10pm.
Last Thursday, 11/20/14, a darling friend of mine took me to see the New Pornographers in Philadelphia at Union Transfer, a show at the end of their “Brill Bruisers” tour. It was fantastic. Herein lies the account of my experience.
First off, I’ve got a bone to pick with Philadelphia. I’m from Philly, and I love the place dearly, but god these people do not understand concert conduct. At a Philadelphia show, you either encounter a bunch of drunk under 21 year-olds being generally raucous and disrespectful, or you end up with a bunch of sullen hipsters who refuse to demonstrate their joy. There is almost no crowd action in Philly and it’s been like this my whole concert-going career. I went with an older friend and he says it wasn’t always like this. My friend, half way through the show, said to me “jesus christ, Aurora these people should be jumping up and down in unison, this place should reek of sweat and everyone should be so excited to be here. This show is amazing, what is wrong with these people?!” You can never tell if a Philly crowd is into the show until you hear their applause. I think they liked the show. They definitely should have liked the show. But we’ll never know. Moving on.
So the intro band was great. They were The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and they kicked ass. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have accompanied the New Pornographers on their tour, and have received acclaim from such outlets as Pitchfork and the New York Times. They were so energetic, utilizing the male high tenor vocals I miss from the “scene” era of my teenage years, the gorgeous harmonies that only a pitch perfect mixed gender vocal duo can deliver, and a unique and vivacious indie-pop style all their own. (By the way, I should mention that I deplore the label “indie.” Does that simply refer to independent labels? Is it a genre of music that all shares a common theme or style? No, it’s neither of those, damn it. Fun’s music is definitively indie, but they’re popular and currently signed to Fueled By Ramen, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group, a decidedly major label. What I’m saying is that indie is a meaningless term and we should stop using it.) They were loud, talented, and adorable; I felt like I could have gone to school with them. The highlight of their set was their penultimate song, Eurydice (link here.) I’ll be interviewing them soon so, stay tuned, folks.
I guess I’ll finally talk about the New Pornographers. That sounded morose; I do not feel morose about this band. They are amazing. (The photograph at the top is the only one I could snap of the NPs before the bouncer shut me down; “no photos allowed” meant a much more engaging experience, on the whole, anyway.) The New Pornographers are a Canadian band hailing from British Columbia, formed in 1999, and interestingly they are one of our featured artists this semester! If you know anything about this band, you know that it’s full of amazing, talented performers and songwriters, all driven to create great albums; you probably also know that their individual careers have on many occasions absconded with them. This show, however, included all of the the elusive contributors, including Neko Case, Carl Newman, and Dan Bejar, who have rarely performed all together since 2005. It was so exciting! They also played 26 songs. 21 of the songs were their regular set, and then they did a three song encore, and then they did a two song encore. The played for two hours! That is insane. The really neat thing about the New Pornographers’ music is that every song features one or two heavily repeated lines, allowing even new listeners to sing along with pride. There were plenty of Neko songs, Carl songs, and Dan songs, and we even got a song by their lovely keyboardist Kathryn Calder, who is, as it turns out, Carl Newman’s niece. Their show was marked by the constant flow of performers onto and off of the stage. Newman stayed on pretty much the whole time, but Neko Case and Dan Bejar ran on and off, to either recover or drink beer. About half way through the show, Bejar brought Newman a beer, and Newman took the opportunity to mention something along the lines of: “ah yes, Canadians are weird, but we are American…yes we are American.” They are silly. Musical highlights from the show were the introductory song, the titular “Brill Bruisers,” and also off their new album, “Marching Orders.” Their two encores were also brilliant, although I found the length of the whole show rather exhausting. But that’s probably because I was the only person dancing. After the second encore, the ever-bizarre Neko Case left us with this: “take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.” Thanks, Neko.