Belle & Sebastian
Sun, July 30, 2017
Doors: 4:30 pm / Show: 6:00 pm
Merriweather Post Pavilion
$45.00 - $55.00
This event is all ages
Please note- there is an 8 ticket limit per household, customer, credit card number, phone number or email address. Patrons who exceed the ticket limit will have their order cancelled automatically and without notice.
Attention: Parking at Merriweather for 2017 has Changed! All ticketholders NEED to pre-select parking (or decline parking) once tickets have been purchased. Once you’ve completed your ticket transaction, you’ll receive a confirmation email with link to select your parking. Please do so in advance so you have a parking lot assignment and ticket when you arrive for the show.
Note to ridesharers, walkers, bussers, carpoolers and cyclists: If you have made other transportation arrangements, there is no need to select parking.http://www.merriweathermusic.com/event/1433669/
Part of their appeal is that Belle and Sebastian have always given the impression of being completely unaware that they are even famous. Emerging in the late nineties, they appeared to be both press and camera-shy, but also entirely self-contained; they seemed to have a secret, something built around books and films, and yet were happy to share the love, stopping just short of writing individual songs for their fans. And their fans, naturally, became obsessive, formed their own bands, started their own loosely affiliated clubs, radio shows and websites. A secret gang – who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?
But then again if you’re a band who works with Trevor Horn, Carey Mulligan and Norah Jones, you’re probably not content to lurk in the tiny shadow offered by a seven-inch single on Postcard. And if you end up on the soundtrack to Adam Curtis’s The Power Of Nightmares, or Todd Solondz’s Storytelling, as well as Juno, then there’s going to be more than a little grit and grain to your music than adjectives like “shy” and “fragile” might suggest.
They have worked with outside producers ever since Trevor Horn helmed Dear Catastrophe Waitress in 2003, plumping up their sound, pumping it full of light and air, and getting ‘Step Into My Office Baby’ unlikely but welcome repeated plays from Ken Bruce on BBC Radio 2. This suggested a sharp step away from the tape-swapping, pen pal world they had been thought to inhabit (of course they never had, not really). Tony Hoffer (Beck, Air, Phoenix) was hired for The Life Pursuit (2006) and Write About Love (2010). The latest album was recorded in Atlanta with Ben Allen (Deerhunter, Washed Out, CeeLo Green and Animal Collective) who convinced them to leave things more open-ended, less thoroughly thought-out in advance, leaving the producer and the musicians more space to be spontaneous. The result is playful, super-melodic, with lyrical nods to both their past and an optimistic future, and joyful jumps into new musical territories.
Belle & Sebastian have stood as something different right from the beginning. Let’s have a quick poke around the previous eighteen years. Debut album Tigermilk (1996) was the product of a Stow College music business class that drummer Richard Colburn was taking; just 1,000 vinyl copies were pressed. In spite of huge major label interest (immortalised on the track Seymour Stein on their third album, The Boy With The Arab Strap) they initially signed to the tiny Jeepster label, then later to Rough Trade and now have their first worldwide deal with Matador Records. The key to their appeal was a sense of community. Their self-curated Bowlie festival would evolve into All Tomorrow’s Parties; they became central to a nascent message board culture, and a US loop of labels and fanzines (even writing a song about one, Chickfactor) that adored their music, their stance, and their imagery.
In Britain they famously upset the applecart in 1999 by winning the “Best Newcomers” BRIT award through the votes of their fans, faced accusations of vote rigging, and in the process have got the backs of the tabloids up (sample Daily Record headline: “Belle Boy’s At It Again”). So, clearly, they’ve been doing something right.
– Bob Stanley, October 2014
The ten songs on Hot Thoughts run the gamut from the kaleidoscopic opening title track (as tone-setting as say, “Dirty Mind” for the album it commences) through the gargantuan stomp of “Do I Have To Talk You Into It” and ubiquitous wiry hooks of “Can I Sit Next To You" to the bittersweetness of “I Ain’t The One” and the deadpan swing of “Tear It Down” — less the telling of an apocalyptic vision and more what Daniel describes as a song about “empathy for strangers.”
Ample recognition should be tossed in the direction of Dave Fridmann, whose wizard-level ingenuity has brought a diabolical sheen to the band’s swagger (there may be many great ways to occupy one’s time in Cassadaga, New York, but we do know that holing up at Fridmann’s studio to make a masterpiece is one of them).
Without question, the prior works of Daniel, drummer Jim Eno, bassist Rob Pope and no-longer-a-secret weapon Alex Fischel have scaled some lofty heights (from 1996 debut LP Telephono, 1998’s A Series Of Sneaks, 2001’s Girls Can Tell, 2002’s Kill The Moonlight, 2005’s recently reissued in deluxe 10th anniversary grandeur Gimme Fiction, through the trifecta of U.S. Top 10 albums that was Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007), Transference (2010) and They Want My Soul (2014), you’re talking about a winning streak that’s nothing short of Mayweather-esque), but Hot Thoughts is a daring, futuristic chapter in the Spoon story. Daniel’s spot in the pantheon of rock's genius songwriters was established long ago—but with the crackling, incandescent, multi-dimensional backdrop conjured on Hot Thoughts, the lines between accessible and experimental become non-factors for once and all. It’s pop as high art, delivered with total confidence and focus.
"I set out to make a record that's diferent than any I've made before,” he explains. "I wanted to make an album musically crafed like a Wrecking Crew session, where you have to be good. There's less wordplay and more intention to process some brutal times that I went through. What happens when real ordeals befall someone who has always been happy writing from their imagination and the distance of the third person? Who has time for poetics while grappling with birth and death? What's the role of sincerity for a songwriter who doesn't really go in for the confessional thing? This is what I struggled with for this record. I suppose the title could be poking fun at my own foray into the confessional realm."
Are You Serious is the second record Bird has made with producer Tony Berg, following 2005’s breakthroughThe Mysterious Production of Eggs. "Tony and I spent months preparing for Sound City," says Bird, referring to the legendary Los Angeles studio where Nirvana recorded Nevermind and Neil Young made Afer The Gold Rush. "We went through every part of every song, every note, scrutinizing the voicing of the chords, fnding melodically interesting ways to move from one chord to the next. I decided to work with a producer because I wanted the recording process to be more rigorous. Novelists have editors and playwrights workshop their drama. Tony really played that role for me on this album.”
An up-tempo blitz addressing personal chemistry as a rearrangement of
molecules, “Roma Fade” may be the album's centerpiece. Its sense of longing
– "from the tips of your fngers, every strand of hair...you may not know me but you feel my stare" – is based in part on how Bird met his wife, or rather, the times he saw her before they met. “It always seemed to be at a party, from ffeen or twenty feet away,” he explains. “‘Roma Fade’ and ‘Truth Lies Low’ present both sides of the phenomenon of observing and being observed. Desire draws a fne line between what's romantic and what's creepy."
The album’s surprise revelation is "Lef Handed Kisses," a duet with the singular Fiona Apple. With Bird playing the skeptic and Apple the romantic, the stop-start ballad portrays two lovers who are philosophically opposed but inevitably drawn together. It feels like it could be a lost Johnny Cash/June Carter classic.
"The song began as an internal dialogue," Bird says. "At frst it was just my voice. Then this other voice came creeping in and I thought 'this should be a duet if I can fnd the right person.' I needed to fnd someone really indicting. And Fiona does the pissed of thing really well! She was totally committed. The session was a long whiskey-fueled night. We were unhinged, for sure. All worth it, of course... I can't write simple love songs. People are complex. My inclination was to write a song about why I can't write a simple love song."
"My favorite songs I write are the ones that change and adapt according to my mood," says Bird. Album- opener "Capsized" is a prime example, having been in his live repertoire for close to a decade under various titles and guises. In the album's recorded incarnation, "Capsized" is a propulsive gem evoking both the chamber-soul of Bill Withers and the backbeat of The Meters. Bird's vocals are driven onward by drummer Ted Poor and bassist Alan Hampton. The musically expansive nature of Are You Serious is due in part to ace ensemble players like Poor and Hampton, and the guitar playing of Blake Mills. "Blake raises the bar and gets where I'm coming from like few musicians I've met. He's as restless as I am and gets the odd accents and microtonal stuf that's outside western music.”
The album closer "Valleys of the Young" encapsulates the album’s themes. This is what Andrew means of when he uses the word “brutal.” “For years now, the code I've been trying to crack is how to translate plain- spoken real life into song and have it meet my melodic, syntactic standards. There are no riddles here. No encryption. I've lef the valley of the young, the small-seeming dramas, the brunch and misery, for a far more perilous place where your heart breaks from cradle to grave. The musical setting for this had to ensure that both young and old listeners can relate. Tony kept making us look at photos of the dust bowl storms raging across the prairie, the ones that made Woody Guthrie sing ‘So long it’s been good to know ya.’”
Jettisoning established methods begets reinvention. This is part of the great success of Are You Serious. See how it plays out in person on Bird's 17-date Spring 2016 tour, kicking of March 30 at The Ryman in Nashville. "I never walk onstage knowing what I'm doing," says the artist. "It's a shrug-of-the-shoulders approach and people like it, it seems human to them. I began playing with the idea of reinvention, so that onstage a wild untamed thing can happen. I wanted to make a record that lets me subvert or expand my on- stage personality."A personality now ready to answer the question, Are You Serious.
Mary found Laura Harris (The Aquarium, Benjy Ferree) and they hit it off immediately. Laura is a monster on drums: intuitive, solid, and just a bit rough around the edges. The pair played together for a couple of months in a tiny carpet-lined practice space shared with half a dozen hardcore bands and what appeared to be the better part of a B.C. Rich Mockingbird.
In walked Betsy Wright from the wilds of Virginia. She and Mary have similar tendencies, both defaulting to denim and The Voidoids. Betsy is a performer and an ace piano player, and before long, she was slinging a cherry SG as the third member of Ex Hex.
The group played a handful of shows and a couple of months later, in the spring of 2014, headed into the studio. Working furiously, they recorded over the span of two weeks in North Carolina with Mitch Easter (Let’s Active) and in the basement of Mary’s home with frequent collaborator Jonah Takagi. Bobby Harlow (The Go, Conspiracy of Owls) was tapped to mix because of his unique take on making rock records.
What results is Ex Hex Rips, twelve songs about underdogs, guys stealing your wallet, schoolyard brawls, and getting bent. The record happens pretty quickly, so don’t blink.
Merriweather Post Pavilion
10475 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, Maryland, 21044