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Mount Eerie with Jason Anderson, Thanksgiving and Feu Therese - First Unitarian Church (Philadelphia) - Tuesday, May 2, 2006

10 May 2006

What’s the point of writing a concert review? Is it to write an historical account, for posterity? To taunt readers with the magical night that they didn’t experience? Or is it to encourage readers in other states and countries to go see the bands that you just saw, when they come to their town?

It’s all of these I suppose, though sometimes it seems like a fruitless exercise, because that night has happened. It’s over, done. It’ll never happen in the same way again. Those people will never all be in that same place together again. The particular feeling of that night can not be reproduced.

Of course, for some bands, the audience and the venue don’t seem to matter much. I’m thinking of the biggest names in the ‘business,’ going from stadium to stadium playing the same set, with the same songs and the same between-song banter, for the same amount of time. Those aren’t the shows I go to, though. I don’t have $100 to spend willy-nilly. I’d rather pay $5 or $10 and go see something special, something I’ll remember forever.

Making every night special seems to be the motivating force behind JASON ANDERSON’s career as a traveling musician. Or, to be more exact, he tries to make every one in the audience realize how vital each night (and minute of life) is, by playing his songs with absolute enthusiasm and energy and by setting up a dynamic where everyone feels a part of the show.

On this night that meant that after two sets by other bands, he began his set nowhere near the stage. Instead he was standing on a chair on the floor in the middle of this church basement/live-music venue, singing without a microphone, encircled by people. Some of the audience stood on stage, to see better, for there he was on the floor, upsetting the usual hierarchy.

And as always he absolutely sang his heart out: coming down off the chair and kicking it to the side, giving high-energy performances of his superb songs, singing directly in people’s faces, enthusiastically encouraging us all to sing along to the songs we knew and the ones we didn’t, drawing us into the show and making everyone feel like they were experiencing something that would never happen quite in the same way again.

And of course that’s true and not true; like any performer he has his own habits and routines—but what’s more important is how fun and moving, memorable and exciting every one of his performances is. His set on this night made me not want to write a word about it, because words always fail. [Remind me: why I am doing this music journalism thing? –ed.] But at the same time I absolutely want to spread the word (especially because he’s playing in Philly again on May 17, at World Cafe Live), because I sincerely think that everyone needs to see him play live—their lives would be better for it.

The rest of the performances on this night took place in a more traditional set-up (performer on stage, audience on floor listening), but each in its own way felt special as well.

I guess that the audience came expecting a gentle performance, as everyone was politely sitting crossed-legs on the floor when the evening began with the Montreal-based band FEU THERESE, but their explosive sort of post-punk soon had people up on their feet. Both experimental and rhythmic enough to incite dancing, this Constellation Records band, which includes former members of FLY PAN AM, has a varied sound that’s exciting in its scope and spark.

THANKSGIVING came next, with ADRIAN ORANGE’s nakedly emotional songs given a power-trio rock backbone with help from Jason Anderson on bass and MOUNT EERIE’s PHIL ELVRUM on drums. They pounded their way through Orange’s heartfelt, very enjoyable songs, giving some of them an extra sense of strength. Orange, too, tried to break the performer/listener barrier down a bit, by letting audience members sit on stage and by speaking very casually to the audience, humbly thanking us and encouraging us to sing along.

After Jason Anderson’s set, the night was brought to a close with Mount Eerie set which also made use of this power trio approach, this time with Elvrum on guitar and Orange on drums. They played an assortment of songs from the ever-growing discography of Mount Eerie/THE MICROPHONES, shining a light on Elvrum’s odd, unique, often elusive approach to the pop song while also rocking some of them up quite a bit.

All in all, it was a wonderful night. It’s gone, but good memories remain.