Monday, May 19, 2008

In which michael5000 attends three concerts

Three concerts in three days! A regular triathlon it was, back in those heady days as the M5K Decathlon was getting underway.

The Rock Music

The first was Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy at the Wonder Ballroom. I went to the Wonder with slight trepidition after the incident of the week earlier, and particularly after the not entirely cheerful letter I had sent to the management afterward. I half expected some sort of chilly "discussion" to break out after my ticket was scanned, but of course nothing of the sort happened. It turned out to be a fun night with a good vibe. Maybe I can fall back in love with the Wonder Ballroom.

I would expect that most people who can stomach the dry, stuffy, silly tone of this here blog would enjoy Colin Meloy -- dry, stuffy, silly -- in concert. He's very droll. We were treated to a wide range of Decemberists favorites, some pre-Decemberists stuff, and a suite of five songs he hopes will be on the next Decemberists album (to be recorded this summer) "if they make the cut" with his bandmates. These were a highly proggy cycle of songs "that draw from folk tale tropes," as Meloy noted, then winced at having said such a thing in front of an audience. It sounds pretty dreadful, yes, I concur, but they managed to pull it off brilliantly on The Crane Wife, and these new songs had a lot of promise too.

The opening act was Laura Gibson, a waifish singer-songwriter who, amazingly, turns out to have grown up one little, tiny town over from little, tiny HomeTown5000. She served up a quiet music, short on groove but long on wistful sincerity; I was initially skeptical but was a fan by the end of the set. You can listen to her NPR "Desk Concert" here.

Take Home Lesson: michael & Mrs.5000s' love affair with The Decemberists isn't going away anytime soon.

The Classical Music

Over the next two days, I saw two local orchestra concerts. The Willamette Falls Symphony is an amateur group out of Oregon City, where they were playing in what seemed to be a church gymanasium, but I later figured out was actually the sanctuary. Now, I like going to amateur classical performances. The performances and sound are nowhere near as polished as in a professional band -- no one has any illusions about this, I think -- but too, I think we lose something important when we are only willing to listen to music performed at the highest standard of perfection. Listening to a symphony of real people with real jobs is enriching for you and for them both, and is probably an experience more akin to what classical music was like back in the day, what with the fussy children, doors opening and closing, and all. And, of course it's dirt cheap ($10). The WFS acquited themselves well in a program of American music. The standout was a bustling, gritty reading of Gershwin's "An American in Paris," a piece I've always found a bit of a snooze in the past but which really sprang to life in this performance.

[Jean Sibelius: friggin' awesome -->]

The Portland Columbia Symphony, a pro-am group, turns out to sound a hell of a lot more "pro" than "am." They had borrowed the new concertmaster from the Beaver State's main band, the Oregon Symphony, as the soloist in the Sibelius violin concerto, and ohmygod, it was freaking sublime, people! They've got terrific sound and terrific balance, nipping at the OSO's heels in some departments. And, whereas it takes about 50 bucks to get close enough to the OSO to make out individual human beings, for 25 bucks we were six rows back from the PCS in a small venue, with all of that warm, rich sound washing right over us. They did Brahms after the break, and I usually find Brahms kind of stodgy, but in this performance (the First Symphony) he rocked my socks off. I'm thinking season tickets, next year.

Take Home Lesson: Support your second- and third-string local bands! It's good for them, it's good for you.


The Calico Cat said...

Would love to, but that would involve leaving the house... Apparently I don't do that very much - such a shame living so close to FREE museums...

McGuff said...

Good advice indeed. Reminds me of Opera in the Heights in Houston - half low level / early career pros, half (or more) amateurs.

Introduced to it by a manager who worked for me a few years ago who made it into the chorus, where he over enunciated, over gestured and looked for all the world to be an......amateur opera singer.

But they put on many notable, enjoyable performances, and with the low ticket prices have brought my kids a few times.

Great notes - thanks.