That’s a mighty big violin you’ve got there.

Wow. I thought I was going to get home a lot sooner than this, so I will make this quick. Our friends The Hard To Get set out on the West Coast leg of their tour this weekend. I was listening to both of their EPs today, and, in case you were wondering, I still like them as much as I did the first time, maybe more. I’ll post the dates below. Make sure you get out and support them, because they are way cooler than anyone else you know and I will accept no excuses less urgent than weddings, funerals, and severe medical emergencies (and no, you can meet your new nephew tomorrow). And check out their tour blog, because it can be pretty doon hilarious (and there is a video of Tim and Melissa singing Sleater-Kinney songs in the car).

Speaking of concerts, I went to one last night. Camera Obscura. And though I was surrounded by so many trendy, skinny, beautiful indie kids that I found myself wishing I had the will power to be anorexic (no, I am not kidding; yes, it did freak me out.), it really was a great show. (Have I mentioned that I love Scottish people, especially Glaswegians?) And while I agree with Paste that “French Navy” is definitely one of the 10 best songs of the year so far, I am not going to talk about them. Besides, you probably already know who they are. You may not, however, have heard of Anni Rossi who is opening for them. Consequently, you probably have no idea how amazing she is, so let me tell you. She is amazing. Anni Rossi is Anni Rossi and a viola. A viola! You don’t see a lot of violas outside of symphony halls, and for good reason. They have something of a reputation for being–how shall I put it–boring.

Anni Rossi‘s viola is not boring.

Think of Anni as something of an Andrew Bird figure, with (you guessed it) a viola and no loop pedal. And this was the amazing thing to me. The way she uses her instrument more than makes up for what could easily come across as a detrimentally thin texture. Yes, the rich color of the viola’s tone (reaching into a lower register than the ubiquitous indie violin) helps a great deal, but it is her use of varied bowing techniques (e.g. col legno, sautillé, and jeté, if you care about such things and also lots of pizzicato, if that counts as bowing [if you have no idea what I am talking about, read this]) that is most effective in enriching her sound. Also, there is the occasional use of scordatura (awesome!), at least I think that was intentional and not just an unfortunate side effect of the high humidity. Also, I absolutely love her voice. Think of something like Bjork’s phrasing and idiosyncrasies with the color of a Vanessa Carlton and all the charm of a cross between Jena Malone and Regina Spektor. (There is probably a simpler and more accurate way to describe it, but I am at a loss). Anyway, check out the video for “Wheelpusher” below, and catch her in concert. I think she is playing a few dates with Micachu later this summer after she finished up with Camera Obscura.

I’ve got some bad news and some good news

Some sad news from Los Campesinos! It was announced today that Aleks will be leaving the band at the end of the summer. They will be releasing one last album with her as a member and playing several shows in the States before she returns to her studies full time. But, no worries, Los Campesinos! have every intention of carrying on as a band. And we wish them both all the best. You can read the band’s announcement here and Aleks’s own here.

Good news, now. As Kristin mentioned in her last post, I did indeed go to a show last night and I did arrive a couple of hours early so I could talk to someone for a bit before the show. (If you’ve been keeping up with us on Facebook, you already know what I am getting at.) That’s because the Decemberists were in Columbus last night. No, I did not spend the evening hanging out with Colin Meloy. Even better. I spent about an hour talking with Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond. Once I’ve had a chance to transcribe it, maybe I’ll let you read a bit.

On to the show. Blind Pilot is opening on this tour, and it pains me to say this because I like their music, but it was one of the more profoundly boring performances I have ever seen (this is includes a number of my own performances, which I would prefer to pretend never happened, thank you so much for bringing it up…). But let’s not dwell on the negative. The show that followed more than made up for a lackluster opening (as well as about half a dozen others).

I am now of the mind that the Decemberists may well be the most polished band I have ever seen. The first of their two sets was material from Hazards of Love, more specifically all of it. For their first hour on stage, the band played their new album in its entirety, complete with guest appearances (including Shara Worden). The staging was imposing, the transitions were seamless, and their performance engaging. But I was reminded of something last night, namely what an electrifying performer Shara Worden is. As part of an evening that featured one of the most impressive performances I have seen recently, the special guest blew the main attraction clean out of the water. It will be difficult waiting for my next opportunity to see My Brightest Diamond (still the best show I have ever, ever witnessed). It has been far too long.

Until then, here is a video of Shara in performance with the Decemberists. The sound quality is crap, I know, and it can be difficult to hear over all of those screaming indie kids, but you will have to make due. Watch some MBD videos to see Shara at her best.

Andrew Bird in concert – NPR All Songs Considered

Andrew Bird played the first of two sold out shows at the Chicago Civic Opera House last night. The single greatest musical experience of my life took place in that building and I would love to be there tonight to add another to my list. But I won’t be. I will have to settle for this live set from the NPR All Songs Considered archive.

I first encountered Andrew Bird on the cover of Time Out Chicago (I love that magazine!) about two years ago, on the heels of his Armchair Apocrypha. He was selling out large venues then, too. The difference is that now they sell his music at Starbucks (a rant on this topic is forthcoming). This is unfortunate because it means his indie reputation is about to be shattered. Andrew Bird the status symbol will be no more and all that will be left is the music (which, let’s face it, is pretty much the least important aspect of the image we are trying to cultivate out here in the blogosphere).

We, of course, will continue to support him (he has long been a favorite of ours): neither of us has to worry about his or her reputation (Kristin’s is pretty much set now and I never had much of a future to begin with). Still, so long as I have your attention, I urge you to head over to npr.org and listen to this live set because it is brilliant, because he whistles better than you can read, and before it defines you as a soul-less trend-chaser incapable of independent thought like I am.

**NOTE** Tragically, near the end of last night’s show, Bird’s trademark violin slipped from his hands, fell to the floor, and, apparently, cracked in two. We will, no doubt, all mourn with him.