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February 7, 2005

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Saturday night's Low & Pedro the Lion show at the Somerville Theatre was just what I needed after a relatively long personal live-music drought. There's always that dry spell in December & January, with both touring bands & show-going students on holiday break, so with the blizzard blowing a couple shows I'd planned on (and with me skipping last Thursday's Arcade Fire show), it had been too damn long since I'd been out.

This was probably the 4th or 5th time I've seen Pedro, and while their latest disc is maybe my least favorite of the four full-lengthers (but hey, still good), this was by far the best I've ever seen 'em play. The rhythm section that David Bazan has pulled together was so right on, Frank Lenz the perfect fit on drums (as he was with Starflyer 59), and Ken Maiuri playing bass and adding ace backing vocals. TW Walsh filled it all out beautifully with second guitar, the occasional keyboard line, and a little shaker-action. It all just worked for me.

The live versions of the recent stuff made me appreciate the album much more, they skipped the clunkers, and even the older stuff had well-chosen minor tweakings that fit in really well. Throw in a Neil Young cover (with Low's Alan Sparhawk guesting on tasteful guitar-wankery), and I got the full-on live-music head-buzz. After some recently faded enthusiasm, I am wholly back in the PTL booster club.

The setlist, and a few downloadable songs from the night...
Pedro the Lion
Live at the Somerville Theater, Somerville, MA
February 5th, 2005

1. Penetration / Never Leave a Job Half Done
2. Magazine
3. Foregone Conclusions / I Do
4. Keep Swinging
5. Start Without Me
6. Bands With Managers
7. Transcontinental
8. I Am Always The One Who Calls
9. Simple Economics / When They Really Get To Know You They Will Run
10. Revolution Blues (Neil Young cover with Alan Sparhawk)
11. A Mind of Her Own

I'm loving the new Low album, and as much as I was glad to see them again, there was a little something missing. Maybe it's this new-Low, the occasionally-louder, more dynamic Low experience that threw things off... of the many times I've seen them, they've never failed to take me to another place, to transport me somewhere I wouldn't mind living full-time, lulling me into some kind of half-asleep-but-totally-not-bored trance. I missed that Saturday night, although older songs like 'Shame' and 'Violence' nearly got me there. I suppose I have to separate those previous experiences, leave them behind, and just judge the new material, the new live Low, on it's own.

That said, they sounded great, Alan's guitar-work has come a long way, or maybe the rockier songs allow him to show off a bit more... thinking back, though, it was I Remember, one of the quietest songs, where I really noticed. It's not just Def Leppard he's getting his tricks from.

Their setlist, with some more songs for ya, including a new one with my guess at the title...
Live at the Somerville Theater, Somerville, MA
February 5th, 2005

1. Death of a Salesman
2. Monkey
3. California
4. (That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace
5. Shame
6. Everybody's Song
7. Silver Rider
8. Walk Into the Sea
9. Dragonfly (new)
10. Laser Beam
11. Pissing
12. I Remember
13. Broadway (So Many People)
14. When I Go Deaf
15. Sunflower
16. Violence
17. Cue The Strings
One thing about the Low recordings... their huge swings in volume definitely presented a challenge for my sensitive little Archos, so some of the quiet moments are a little hissy, punctuated by the occasional cough (and by the clutz in front of me who dropped her cell phone three times during the set). I swear, at one point you can actually hear the kid next to me and his nasal breathing. I really wanted to hand that guy a kleenex. Yuck.

And another thing... both bands gave the crowd ample opportunity to speak up between a few songs, and this was decidedly not a good thing. Interactivity can be fun and all, but it's been a long time since I've heard such inanity from an audience, whether invited or not. Dunno if it was the whole Saturday-night thing, maybe a bit too much of the alky-hall, or if they were just naturally retarded, but yeesh. Why don'tcha just yell out "Hey, guess what everyone, I'm an idiot!". Lucky for you, I edited most of that out. We're all better off.

Other Low & Pedro related bits...

PTL was still selling their 2004 Tour EP at their merch table, and it's well worth the measly five bucks. It's a six-song live-in-studio affair, three of their songs and three covers: A Randy Newman song, a Cat Power song, and my fave, a cover of Radiohead's Let Down. If you can't grab the EP at a show, you can order it here.

If you can't wait to hear that Radiohead cover, you can check it out over at Pure Volume, who are hosting a whole bunch of Pedro tracks, including an entire live set recorded last year in Omaha.

While it's not necessarily news to many, Suicide Squeeze Records has officially announced the signing of David Bazan, TW Walsh, & drummer Frank Lenz's new non-Pedro (and more-electronicy) project, Headphones. Their debut self-titled full-length will be out in May, and they'll appearing at this year's SXSW festival (do let me know how they are, Frank).

The long-standing, and always-complete Low site at is undergoing it's first facelift in years. Lots of content is forthcoming, but for now you can check out a super-cute little video of Alan & Mimi's daughter Hollis Mae, alternately holding a sharpie and a cookie, and signing copies of the new album at a Duluth record store.

If you catch any of this tour's remaining dates, while you're at the merch table you'd be wise to pick up the first release on Low bassist Zak Sally's new comics publishing imprint, La Mano. It's a collection of John Porcellino's King-Cat comics & stories called 'Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man', and it includes work from the late eighties up through stuff he finished up just last year. Read it yesterday, and it's worth ordering if you can't pick it up yourself. Here's hoping that Mr. Sally puts out some of his own stuff (including his two Recidivist mini-comics) somewhere down the road.

Bradley's Almanac

Brad Searles