Yesterday was a good day. I took the train into Chicago yesterday to meet Joe Thorn. We ate some lunch (I had Chinese, he had Japanese) and then walked around for a few hours to take some photos of the city. We saw two of the worlds most huge and incredible eyebrows, two of the worlds smallest dogs, and a disturbing photo of two sumo wrestlers. I can't show you any of those photos. But I can show you a few others at the bottom of the post.
Mid-afternoon we hopped in Joe's van for a short trip up to Irving Park road toward the concert venue for Beirut/Colleen/Alaska in Winter. Soon after parking at Portage Theater we were able to meet Zach Condon, the front man and brain behind Beirut (see their MySpace to hear all new songs from The Flying Club Cup). Joe took the photo of me and Zach, obviously. It was a treat to meet him and talk briefly about the Take Away Shows of Beirut, which you absolutely must check out if you haven't already. Condon looked tired, road worn. I believe they had to cancel some dates last year because of his exhaustion, so I hope he finds the time to get some rest.
Then we walked up Milwaukee Avenue looking for things to photograph. There wasn't much that caught our eye. We ate at Hops and Barley and then made our way back to the theater for the concert.
Alaska in Winter opened, which was a dude alone on stage (Brandon Bethancourt) singing to what I would call mellow Balkan electronica, I guess. We really enjoyed it. I bought the album: "Dance Party in the Balkans." Worth looking into. Just trust me.
Colleen played next, which was a girl alone on stage with a few different instruments playing minimalist folk (no singing). Very much enjoyed Colleen. I think this music is so intense it really demands full focus, so don't expect to find good lyric-less reading music here. Please go to Colleen's MySpace, stop doing whatever else you are doing, and listen to "I'll Read You A Story." It was easily the best song, the most dramatic song, the most gorgeous song, the most haunting song, she played. The rest were good too, but this one was amazing.
After a 4 song set (these were longer songs) from Colleen, Beirut took the stage. The crowd was filtering in over the first hour and a half and opening acts. But as Beirut started you could see the theater was packed. They opened with Nantes, a personal favorite, which you can see videos for here or here. They played at least the first five tracks of The Gulag Orkestar (maybe more), mostly songs from The Flying Club Cup, a couple from the Lon Gisland EP, and one really intense French song that was an admitted indulgence for Condon (and well worth the time). By the way, Joe took this photo (he had permission from the venue).
The music was played with energy and passion by the eight musicians that filled the stage. Three were mostly on strings (upright bass, violin, mandolin/guitar/ukulele), Condon was on the mic and played a horn, two others had horns (one a trumpet and the other swiched between several things including a baritone sax), and one dude was on the drums and another on the accordion. The band members often switched instruments. I think six of them at one time or another played a ukulele or mandolin. Solid musicians.
I can't recommend Beirut enough. I think it's one of the most brilliant bands of our time. Please give them a listen. Grab this six song live set Beirut did for KEXP Live Performances podcast on Tunes. It was recorded on Monday in Chicago.
The crowd, by the way, not only filled the seats (well over 1,000) and the front of the venue, but packed out the front so that people were packing the aisles when the front ran out of space. It's interesting to note that this is European, Balkan style music and it seemed the whole crowd was well under 30 (except for a couple of handsome pastors who are in their mid-30s). Great to see Beirut have this sort of following.
Here are some photos from yesterday, and for Photo Phriday...