Show Review: Desaparecidos with The Velvet Teen at Bottom of the Hill, 8/28/12

by Marie Carney on August 29, 2012


Waiting in line for the doors to open at Bottom of the Hill last night I knew it would be a nostalgic evening.  Ten years ago I came to the same place, early and excited, to find a printed paper sign saying that Desaparacidos would not be performing, that instead Conor Oberst would be performing a solo acoustic show.  That show was great, though it was hindered by the fact that Conor Oberst had played the same show as Bright Eyes earlier that year at Great American Music Hall and that anyone going to see Desaparecidos at Bottom of the Hill should have been expecting a night of feverish music and aggression not intense sadness and introspection. As I walked inside I just hoped my dreams of ten years ago would not be destroyed.

 The Velvet Teen were the perfect band to open the show, not just musically, but nostalgically too.  In 2002 when Desaparecidos last existed, The Velvet Teen were regulars at Bottom of the Hill, opening for different acts at least once a week.  I know, cause I was there almost every time. They were always a great band, but now they have a more mature power behind them that is really spellbinding.  They are back to being a threesome – Guitar/keyboards, Bass and Drums, and they still have one of the thickest sounds out there.  They played all new material, announcing that they would be recording a new album soon.  The only track I recognized was the opening song “No Star” which is in the same vein as all the newer material they played.

Judah Nagler of The Velvet Teen

It made sense for The Velvet Teen to hit us with the new stuff and hit us hard.  I mean, they were the opening band of a sold out show, you’re not there to please your fans, you’re there to get new ones excited, so you might as well get them excited for how you sound now.  From the crowds reaction of cheering and intense clapping between songs, the ploy worked.  This was not the polite cheer a boring opener gets, it was powerful appreciation for a band that really knows how to get a crowd excited.

And excited the crowd was when Desaparacidos came out.  One favorable thing I’ll say for the fixed window at the back of the stage is that you can see the band start walking down from the backstage area above the courtyard in back.  Anytime someone would walk down the stairs the tension would increase so that when, finally, the whole band came down together, the cheering and jumping was in full swing by the time they got on stage.

As soon as the first notes of “Greater Omaha” started, the crowd at the front of the stage started surging.  At first I couldn’t tell if it was just everyone trying to get as close to Conor Oberst as possible (he stands far stage right FYI) or just the intensity of the song.  Sadly, my old bones decided to step back a bit so I was on the edge of a swirling mass of former emo kids, who, I have to say, do not know how to mosh.  But they were happy and swirling and crowd surfing, which made for a good time. It was probably the most friendly aggressive crowd I’ve been in, which made the whole evening just that much more fun.


Desaparecidos just tore through their set, fierce and aggressive, feeding off the swirling and screaming crowd.  The band was excellent together, not one person standing out (okay, Conor Oberst stands out, but mostly in that way true frontmen always stand out). They played all of their 2002 release Read Music/Speak Spanish as well as the two new songs released earlier this month, “Backsell” and “MariKKKopa”.  We also got the third live performance of a new song “Anonymous” which was just as strong as the rest of the material. The audience approved of everything, the only time their energy seemed to wain was during a cover of The Clash’s “Spanish Bombs”  during the encore which was odd to me, I was pretty excited and the cover was good.

 The only slight disappointment was the lack of talk from the stage.  Being an election year and all I expected a little more political talk from Oberst, but it was all about the music.  There was one comment made about the Republican Convention being awful, but how really the Democrats were awful too, which prompted an audience member to yell out “What happened to your stance on Obama?” to which Oberst responded “Four years.” Guess that explains why he doesn’t have much to say about this year’s election.

From start to finish this show was intense and roiling with energy, which is exactly what I wanted to happen.  I hope their next three shows, another tonight at the Regency in San Francisco, then two in Los Angeles are just as fun.  And mostly I hope the band stays together this time.  They have a lot to give.

The Velvet Teen Set List:

Desaparecidos Set List:

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