Mission Creek Festival Goodness, Pt. II

WARPAINT w/ Alex Body, Annalibera: 4/1/2014 @ Gabe’s (Iowa City, IA)
Laurie Anderson’s presentation ran long (I think it ended around 9:15).  I quickly exited the Englert Theatre to head one block over to Gabe’s.  There was a line outside.  Were these last-minute ticket-buyers?  No, this was just the line to get in, tickets or no tickets.

Around 9:30, I entered the venue and made my way upstairs, just missing Des Moines group Annalibera’s set.  Oh well, maybe it was for the best.

In my late teens – early twenties (late ’90s – early “oughts”), I went to at least two shows at Gabe’s: One was for The Melvins, and the other was for J. Mascis & The Fog.  They were two of the loudest indoor shows I’ve ever been to.  I remember the room sound being extremely bass-heavy to the point where it would bury other frequencies and you could physically feel the frequencies in your gut.  Fifteen years later, I’m afraid to report the sound of the P.A. system and room hasn’t changed much.  It looked like the walls contained some sound-dampening panels, so I’m not sure if that’s been added since my last visit or not.

The sound issues, in my opinion, didn’t help the set for the next musician, Alex Body (from Iowa City).  It seemed like every other song was drowned out by the venue-emphasized low tones found in the programmed synth bass and drum parts.  I imagine fans of loud bass systems for vehicles would love coming to shows here, but it’s just not my thing.

Alex definitely has a great skill with creating collages of electronic sounds.  Of the songs I could hear, I found the arrangements and sounds interesting.  His overall song structure also featured more than one section, which qualifies his music as being more complex than The Helio Sequence.

As for stage presence, Alex’s show comes off more like karaoke performances (singing along with prerecorded accompaniment) than they are live performances, as only a small amount of buttons, keys or dials seemed to be adjusted through each song.  I wonder how much more exciting his set could be if he incorporated more live, hands-on music making by both himself and others to play the same music and get the crowd more interested in what’s being heard.

Warpaint (Los Angeles, CA) was the headlining group.  Most of their songs seemed to follow a formula: I get the impression the tunes are written with the bass and drums first to create a hook, while all the other stuff (guitar, vocals, keyboard) takes a secondary role.  A lot of their songs just looped the same hook for three minutes or more.  That’s not a completely bad thing if you’re looking for a night of groove-driven pop music.

The rhythm section was pretty solid all night, but I was too far away to really see what all was going on (in addition to a large crowd, there was a fog machine obscuring some of the view).  It sounded like there were some prerecorded or electronic-enhanced drum beats complementing the live drums, and I think there was a guy with electronic stuff hidden away on one side of the stage, so maybe he was the source.

I don’t really know the group’s songs, but I had previously heard “Undertow” and enjoyed their live performance of the song.  It reminds me of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” in that, at it’s core, the song is only two chords (okay, there’s a switch to a third chord occasionally for “Undertow”), but they use so enough variations in the arrangement to keep it interesting.

Some in the crowd wanted an encore, and the band obliged.  It was past my bedtime, however, so I called it a night.

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