Stephin Merritt

Two nights of intimacy and storytelling with the man who plays a hundred instruments

Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields

Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields

The Magnetic Fields are an extremely strange phenomenon: a group that is wildly talented, successful, and fiercely loved by their fans, despite staying relatively far from the radio-friendly limelight. The songwriting of creative leader Stephin Merritt evokes memories of both Sondheim-esque theatrical compositions and shimmering 80s pop ballads; his lyrics range from whimsically poetic to wickedly tongue-in-cheek; and most of their records are complete conceptual pieces, collected in the space of an entire singular work. Despite his dozens of works ranging on anything from 69 songs about love to country-style tunes about the open road, Merritt has seldom penned works that speak specifically about his own life, which is where his new record 50 Song Memoir comes in. Comprised of one song for each of the years in his own life, starting in 1965 and ending in 2015 (when the recording for the album began), the work takes up five discs and two and a half hours of playing time — making it the perfect piece to play across the span of two nights.

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Tonight at Brick & Mortar!

Tonight at Brick & Mortar!

Because nobody WANTS to be a responsible adult…

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Welcome back!

Welcome back!

Two years ago, New England musical mastermind Stephin Merritt graced us with two Magnetic Fields shows during the Bay Area’s 18th annual Noise Pop Festival. Spinning Platters was on hand for both performances, and two years later, Merritt and his quintet have returned, with a new opus in tow, to the Fox Theater in Oakland for a new round of orchestral whimsy and symphonic folk-pop playfulness. As the musical tide has turned for the mood and feel of the band’s newest release, Love At The Bottom Of The Sea, so too, apparently, has their attitude to live performances. Rather than occupy the resonant wooden floors and still-somewhat-fresh carpet of the theater with chairs for a quiet, introspective performance, the audience was given free reign in a regular general-admission get-as-close-as-you-like setting. There was a loud and upbeat performer opening the show. The band even responded to whoops, cheers, and catcalls. What a change is here! For even the most stoic Magnetic Fields fan, however, the change of mood was a rather uplifting one, and a general camaraderie was established between both the boisterous and the simply bemused for this acoustic exploration of the band’s charming new work.

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Oh Captain Nemo, you know how to bring the crazy!

Although I knew nothing about the silent film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I had high expectations for this evening, all of which were piled on Stephin Merritt’s shoulders.  His amazing ability to craft the perfect quirky pop song seemed well suited to the project: creating a live score to a silent film.  This is a mainstay of the San Francisco International Film Festival, after last year’s The Lost World with Dengue Fever, and I’m very happy it is.  It is a great opportunity for a songwriter/composer to showcase his song-craft and experiment, but composing almost 2 hours of music that will enhance someone else’s work? It’s a tall order for even the most talented and interesting songwriter. [read the whole post]

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The Magnetic Fields, unadorned.

“You’re REAL handsome.” This is what the toothless bum, who was propositioning me for a 3-way said, as I made my way to the Herbst Theater for The Magnetic Fields. I was running a real tight schedule and unfortunately I had no time for a toothless-three-way, I had a show to get to.

The Magnetic Fields were first introduced to be in the form of 69 Love Songs. I was amazed that I’d never heard of the band and even felt a little embarrassed. Since then the Merritt-led band have been gracing my iPod playlists, adding some unique perspectives on love and sound. They’re the type of band that most of your friends don’t know about and you feel real proud when you’re the one to pop their Fields cherry. [read the whole post]

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This one man will begin a great week of music

It’s here! Noise Pop 2010 starts today with two excellent shows, and your first opportunity to show-hop. Start at Bender’s Bar for the happy  hour with Har Mar Superstar, and then cross the bridge (or better yet, take BART) to the Fox Oakland to see Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band. Many of your favorite Spinning Platters writers will be there. But then what? You’ve got a whole week of shows, and you’re not sure what to see?

How did we decide? It was simple. If one of our writers requested to cover a show, we’ve included it. Where is our staff hoping to see all of you? Read on to find out. [read the whole post]

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Album Review: The Magnetic Fields – Realism

January 29, 2010

From the opening notes of The Magnetic Fields’ new record Realism you feel at home.  There’s the familiar jangly acoustic instruments and Stephin Merritt’s low drone of a voice mixing with Claudia Gonson’s sweeter one.  The lyrics are clever and the longest song comes in at 3:26.  This isn’t the strange distorted Magnetic Fields of […]

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