23 August 2006

Bishop Allen @ Middle East (Up)

Full disclosure: I have a considerable, and possibly unfair, affection for Bishop Allen; a dear friend introduced me to Charm School, which came out while I lived abroad; I listened to it in the m├ętro on the way to the pool most mornings, in my tank suit and baggy Homestar hoodie. I found and still find their mix of utter dorkiness, diffident charm, and Modest-Mousey bombast to be addictively . . . well, addictive. I definitely show symptoms of the fankid syndrome with them. Full disclosure, like I said.

Even with that, though, it was a good show last night. The MidEast Up was full (granted it's not the biggest venue in the world, or even the biggest small venue in Boston); interestingly, the crowd seemed less ferociously hip than the crowd at Jens Lekman's show around the corner not too long ago. Younger, more simply dressed, a little more awkward.

They started out playing so softly that it seemed they were going to make the live mistake of gentling everything, in reaction to the other live mistake (Indiscriminate Rock Out With Your Cock Out). Thank goodness they made neither mistake--they started gently and built from there. They played less from Charm School than I'd expected--just Empire City, and possibly one other; I'm sure they're tired of those songs, but inevitably Empire City went over like a house on fire. The Monitor (from the March EP) and Flight 180 (from the April EP) were the best tracks of the evening; Flight 180 was a favorite of mine from beforehand--who can resist that opening?--but I'd neglected The Monitor until now. They did play a couple that I didn't know--one called Rain, and one possibly called Conversation. I fervently hope that Rain is on the August EP.

Their sound was well done, and they played well onstage: none of the muffing and fumbling that often happens in live shows, and thanks to the presence of a couple of multi-instrumentalist friends handling the saxophone, xylophone, oboe, drums, and other various bits, the instrumental funkiness of the studio recordings was maintained. Speaking of studio! One of the many reasons Bishop Allen is so brilliantly cool is that they're making a go of truly independent distribution; they have an EP-a-month project this year, and you can buy them all straight from the band here. They are all top-notch, $4 for the digital-download version and slightly more for a beautifully packaged hardcopy. Go buy all of them and dance around ridiculously like I do.

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