Show Review: Os Mutantes, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Teen Inc. and Diva at The Regency Ballroom, 11/30/2010

by Gordon Elgart on December 1, 2010

With these guys on stage, where were the San Francisco hippies?

At the Regency Ballroom on Tuesday night was one of the unsatisfyingly satisfying shows I’ve been to in a long time. There were some great music, some pretty decent music, some bad music, and a whole lot of empty room. This all combined to make for a fun night, but in the end a fairly poor showcase for the bands on the bill. I wish a better future for all of them, but this one was odd.

It started as I got frisked, TSA style on my way inside. I had no bag to search, so surely I must be hiding something in my pockets, which I was required to empty. Oops, left my Burt’s Bees in there. “What’s that,” the security guard gruffly demanded to know. “Umm … chapstick, sorry.” This horrible error of mine led to the hood of my Cardboard Tube Samurai hoodie being frisked, for that’s where I must be hiding the drugs. Really? Is this any way to treat your customers?

Diva was on first, and she’s a tall girl with a white frilly dress and goat horns. She sang and played bass over a backing track, and never quite matched the track’s tempo. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, and I felt like I was inside The Wicker Man, and part of some sort of odd mind control experiment. Somewhere, The Equalizer is sweating while Britt Ekland dances.

“This is where I had my junior prom,” a friend of mine said before we went down to the basement lounge, which is a sparsely furnished area with food and a bar. When I went upstairs to check out Teen Inc, my friends stayed downstairs to eat. I came back down a few minutes later, and said that I don’t know what to say about this band, other than that it’s more awful than I could possibly have conceived a band to be. Like bad jam band mixed with bad pop, it’s a misappropriation of the lessons of Tears For Fears’ “The Badman’s Song.” Put away the black puffy jackets and weird guitars and write some songs, please.

I’m going to bring it back around to that whole junior prom thing for a second, because this venue, when empty, has the feel of an abandoned high school gym. The sound booms around to the empty back of the room, and the whole place is devoid of energy. Add to this the giant stage, and it can dwarf some bands. When it’s crowded, it works; when it’s not, it is a major failure.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti deserved better because their set suffered from the surroundings more than anyone else’s. Ariel Pink writes bedroom funk with shades of Beck, Devo, Sparks, Prince and other one-word musical icons. His current band is spot on, and what he lacks in vocal power, he makes up for in the way he throws himself into his performance. Tonight, he was dressed like Kurt Cobain in 1991, and  I wondered out loud if he was in a Dave Pirner phase. About four times, he dove into the crowd, hoping to be carried around, but there simply wasn’t enough of a crush up front to support this behavior, and I feared for his life as I spilled my drink on to the floor.

While we tried to get something like dancing going, I noticed the person next to me was also taking notes. “Nightmares paired with wine and steak,” he was writing, and I realized that our reviews were going to be very different from each others. Mine is not going to talk about “enslaved voices,” except in reference to his notes.

Finally, after those of us who stayed upstairs grabbed our uninspired friends from downstairs, where they had retreated for another drink, and we went upstairs to join the 150-odd people who had stuck around to watch Brazilian rock legends Os Mutantes, who are, simply, awesome.

“I thought you didn’t like prog rock,” I asked our managing editor, Dakin, “but you love this band. And this is so prog rock!” And it is, as they jump from insane full-band harmonies to crazy guitar solos to 15-minute song suites, we threw down our jackets and started to dance.

Though the aroma proved that someone had managed to sneak some weed into the hall (their hoodie didn’t get frisked I guess), I was surprised by the utter lack of hippies at this show. We’ve got a 60s band, dressed in garb much like seen in the picture above, playing and singing well past midnight, and not a single twirler. I was disappointed.

So in the end, we have a couple of strong headliners playing the wrong venue to a smaller-than-deserved crowd. Would that they had played separate shows, for less money, in smaller venues, to only rabid fans. Now that would have been two amazingly fun nights. Instead, we got this entertaining, but ultimately forgettable show.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Joel December 2, 2010 at 12:54 am

I challenge anyone to rebut without using pejoratives directed toward the writer. I hope the bands’ respective managements read this, so they can learn something about what to do next time. And yeah, the Regency is only exciting with “Sands” in front of it.

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Dorgon December 2, 2010 at 2:06 am

I guess not.

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Ben Brown December 2, 2010 at 2:02 am

Your an artless idiot who knows nothing about music.

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Dorgon December 2, 2010 at 2:07 am

“Your an artless idiot”? Don’t you mean “you’re an artless idiot”?

Can’t you do better than that? It’s clear that I know plenty about music. Do you have any specific criticism for me?

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Karaemurphy December 2, 2010 at 5:46 am

Hey Ben,

Read this and learn:

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling

Hopefully you know the difference between their, there, and they’re.

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Dorgon December 2, 2010 at 2:06 am

“Your an artless idiot”? Don’t you mean “you’re an artless idiot”?

Can’t you do better than that? It’s clear that I know plenty about music. Do you have any specific criticism for me?

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David Price December 2, 2010 at 9:15 am

What? A challenge to argue with Gordon about music? I might actually read this article just to do so!

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Xcxcgeorges December 2, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Hey never read this blog before! But its absolutely retarded and cant be saved by your knowledge of the word “their” or “there… because this is that bad and lacks any form of musical understanding. That is why the writer results in bringing up “lack of hippies” and “the smell of pot” or all the other pointless anecdotes, because he doesn’t really understand music and doesn’t want to address it. Instead he is addressing the word “their”.

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Katlynreeves December 2, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Hey, never read this blog before but it’s really a lot of dressed up garbage. Gordon obviously lacks any musical understanding, and that is why he fails to actually talk about music in this piece. Instead he complains and tell anecdotes about the “lack of hippies”, “pot smells”, and spilling his drink. Its totally irrelevant. Are you guys really arguing about the word “there” and “their” instead of the pile shit this review reads as?

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Gordon Elgart December 2, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Hi Katlynreeeves!

Thanks for finding our blog. Os Mutantes themselves linked to this review, so it must have been ok with them. I’m sorry you found it to be a pile of shit.

As for “talking about music,” any writer who feels like they can do a better job of explaining music than can be done by simply playing someone an album is deluding themselves, and writing about “pairing wine with steak” in their reviews. Our job on this blog is to talk about things like the crowd, the energy in the room, and other things that might tell the reader what it was actually like to be there.

Anyone who’s been to a show at The Regency is well aware of the TSA-style security which includes their militant anti-marijuana stance. It’s one reason why the hippies don’t go there. And this is no small thing, for in San Francisco, if you have the hippie audience, you have a huge audience. I’m actively disappointed that they didn’t show up, because they would have enjoyed it, and the bands deserved to have a large, appreciative crowd.

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Katlynreeves December 2, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Oh come on, don’t make excuses for your lack of understanding of music. Obviously music can speak for itself but a critic with some form of journalistic integrity or musical appreciation can bring something to the table. Shed some kind of context or deeper issues and present it. For example why is Ariel Pink bigger than he has ever been now after releasing an album which is almost completely comprised of songs from previous albums and covers of other songs? Why do people get it now and didnt get it five or eight years ago? I guess thats not even important but this blog entry you posted really lacks any deep interest in music. This is basically what I got from your piece “I got to the show. Walked around. Saw one band, didnt really like it. Spilled my drink. Smelled some pot. Saw another band.” Its totally bogus. How are you an official voice when it comes to music? Like when someone like Greil Marcus or Lester Bangs reviewed shows back in the day, they could connect music to what was going on culturally and articulate it- in the big picture. Instead your talking about pro-hippying and anti-jam bands and pot smells. I know this is a bullshit blog, but come on don’t defend your position. Its one thing to be admit that this is just some bullshit entry that you were paid nothing to write, but don’t take that to heart and defend it. That’s the worse thing you can do!

Anonymous December 3, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Very funny review! I feel like I was there. As for the unexpected troll chorus, haters gonna hate. I haven’t seen such vitriol since I spoke ill of The Wallflowers! What a colossal asshole this Katlynreeves thing is! As a general rule, anyone who invokes the name “Lester Bangs” in the comments section of a music blog—let alone anyone who implies knowledge of how Lester Bangs would have written about music had he existed today—should have their computer taken away from them.

A note to anyone who doesn’t write concert reviews: they’re not especially rewarding to write (or even read) if you only focus on the music. Concerts are concerts. People show up. Other people play music. Then everyone leaves. And it’s difficult to write about music without sounding like an asshole (which is obviously of no concern to Katlynreeves). I find it’s better for everyone involved to focus on the overall experience of attending a concert. Otherwise you’re just writing an album review. Yay Gordon! Way to do it right!

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Anonymous December 3, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Very funny review! I feel like I was there. As for the unexpected troll chorus, haters gonna hate. I haven’t seen such vitriol since I spoke ill of The Wallflowers! What a colossal asshole this Katlynreeves thing is! As a general rule, anyone who invokes the name “Lester Bangs” in the comments section of a music blog—let alone anyone who implies knowledge of how Lester Bangs would have written about music had he existed today—should have their computer taken away from them.

A note to anyone who doesn’t write concert reviews: they’re not especially rewarding to write (or even read) if you only focus on the music. Concerts are concerts. People show up. Other people play music. Then everyone leaves. And it’s difficult to write about music without sounding like an asshole (which is obviously of no concern to Katlynreeves). I find it’s better for everyone involved to focus on the overall experience of attending a concert. Otherwise you’re just writing an album review. Yay Gordon! Way to do it right!

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Benefrank6 December 7, 2010 at 6:25 pm

I guess spending a few minutes looking at a band is good enough to form an opinion and write a critique. At least restaurant reviewers eat at the restaurant a few times and know about who’s cooking the food. Seeing 3,000 bands may have been a little too much. It’s like eating 3,000 snack foods and making you an expert on food.

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Johnathan2 February 2, 2011 at 9:16 am

your retarted. teen inc. are crazy good live. saw them at the la show of this tour and they were far better than ariel or os, they know what they are getting into, you just don’t get it, your still waving your indie flag

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Gordon Elgart December 2, 2010 at 10:23 pm

I’ve seen about 3,000 bands play live during my lifetime, which is probably too many for someone who doesn’t appreciate music, but there you go.Sometimes they inspire me to tears and beautiful words flow out of me. Other times they don’t.Sometimes their music connects me to what’s going on culturally. Other times it doesn’t.Rather than continuing to insult me and coming across like a bitter troll, why not educate me so I can get better? How does Ariel Pink’s music connect to what’s going on culturally? I obviously missed it, and I’m not above learning it for myself.

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