Monday, July 10, 2006
The band known as Beirut arrived in the Boston area during what can best be described as a perfect storm of blog-fueled buzz. The May release of their debut disc, 'Gulag Orkestar', on Ba Da Bing; the music bloggers who gave it an early blessing; the certain taste-dictating website who backed them up; and Beirut's close ties with NMH & aH&aH guy Jeremy Barnes, who mans the accordian on tour; all these factors combined to sell out their recent show at Brooklyn's Northsix, and they've already sold out an upcoming Bowery Ballroom date.
None of this could have been expected when Boston-area booking maven Stacie Slotnick and her Critique of Pure Reason set up the June 24th show at the tiny Lily Pad in Cambridge, MA. A small art-space, it formerly held the Zeitgeist Gallery, and the closer that Saturday night approached, the more the buzz (and potential crowd size) built. Stacie smartly added a second show, leaving the band alone on the bill and allowing them two quick sets back to back. Her best laid plans still shut out dozens of hopeful attendees on that sweltering Saturday night... I'd never seen such a line anywhere in Inman Square, down the block and around the corner into the residential neighborhood behind the main drag (fortunately the unlucky latecomers could take comfort in some scoops of Christina's ice cream).
The show had other strikes lined up against it besides the small size of the space: The PA system was on the fritz, so there was a major delay in the start time of the first set; the improvised vocal setup (through a keyboard speaker) caused some occasional feedback, and left singer Zach Condon's excellent voice moderately muffled; the lack of even a slight stage lift meant that many in the crowd could barely see the band, myself included. And I'm not so short. I found myself raising my camera, snapping a shot, then bringing it back down to look at the lcd screen in order to find out what the band looked like.
And yet, despite those many obstacles, it was a great night. It all came down to the songs and their delivery. I bought 'Gulag Orkestar' after hearing the first couple net-shared songs, including 'Postcards from Italy'. Liked the disc enough at first, but found myself losing interest about halfway through. Not enough variation in the gypsy-flavored orkestrations, lots of songs and sounds blending together. But I'd heard such good things about their shows, and of newer material that was a cut above, so I took a chance (and what a chance it was... I sadly missed Asobi Seksu across the river the same night). Glad I did, though, as the new songs were far more memorable, the album material much improved in a live setting. The natural sound of the eight-piece band didn't need amplification in the tiny room, and I almost wish the vocals didn't either... but better to hear Condon's voice a little muddy than not at all.
Here's Beirut's first set of the night, in its entirety...
Live at The Lily Pad
Saturday, June 24th, 2006
01. The Gulag Orkestar
02. Zebra Safari / Jersey Shore
03. Mandaccordion / Monster Island (aka Brandenburg)
04. Postcards From Italy
05. Mt. Wroclai
10. After The Curtain
11. Closing Song
12. Siki Siki Baba
As mentioned, a few of the songs above were written since the recording of Beirut's debut disc, and as I read elsewhere, the song 'Ederlizi' is actually a Goran Bregovic song from the movie 'Dom Za Vesanje (Time of the Gypsies)'. Set-closer 'Siki Siki Baba' is a cover as well, originally by Kocani Orkestar.
Some Beirut-related links...
Beirut returns to the Boston area on Saturday, August 26th at the much-roomier Middle East Downstairs (wisely upgraded from PA's Lounge). Tickets go on sale this Thursday, July 13th at the Middle East box office, or if you must, through Ticket$^%&$.
the fine print: If anyone has an issue with this live set being made available, just say the word (email link on left). Recorded with a Sony ECM-719 mic and a Sony MZ-RH10 minidisc, converted to .wav and then edited to 192kbps mp3s. Mp3s are made available for a limited time, and are not reposted once removed.
On deck: Stand-out Boston live sets from the Futureheads and Camera Obscura. Well worth a little waiting.
live in cambridge, ma
on november 14th, 2008
previously: joy formidable - boston 2011
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