Monday, May 03, 2010

Red Sparowes with Caspian, April 30 at The Biltmore

I hadn’t done much research beforehand, so when I visited the merch table and saw Caspian t-shirts bearing a mutated CBC logo, I assumed they were a Canadian band. Not so, as they announced their Massachusetts origins early in their set. They really threw themselves into it, and sounded great in the process — a five-piece instrumental blend of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine and whichever heavy post-rock act that’s caught your gaze. The only issue I had with their music was that it was almost constantly advancing towards or retreating from an apex point. Sure, dynamics are important, but I also like music that stays put and tells me what it’s about. Instead I’m standing there thinking, “Is this one done? No, it’s starting up again.” Overall, an excellent band, though, and their set’s all-percussion finale was a nice touch (and a nod to Neurosis?).

Kudos to Red Sparowes for not heading back south from Seattle whenever they come up the West Coast. This was the third time I’ve seen them. They always create a great atmosphere — the music and visuals make for a grand spectacle. The music’s standalone quality is impeccable as well. Three-guitar bands usually carry a passenger (hello, Iron Maiden), but Red Sparowes are actually able to orchestrate all 18 strings and create a huge sound that doesn’t rely on simply piling on and overwhelming with volume. Because of the Biltmore’s low ceiling, their projection was reduced to a horizontal sliver of light above the stage (how we miss you, Richard’s on Richards). Still, with the lower two-thirds of the visuals spilling over the band members’ and audience’s heads, a definite vibe was achieved. The band’s undergone some lineup changes since I last saw them, and their music has only gotten better. The pedal steel is a genius move, with those sliding guitar notes taking their sound into Pink Floyd Obscured by Clouds territory. Brilliant stuff, and my only regret was that I didn’t choose a vantage point with fewer distractions. Instead I stood behind a fanboy with an iPhone. Man, that’s a bad combination. I try to live in the moment, but it’s hard when someone’s scrolling through their music collection, looking up song titles to show to a friend. Neglecting one’s research before the gig is one thing, but doing research during the gig...well, that’s just bad form.

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