The New Pornographers with The Frames
Friday, Feb. 15
Go! Room 4, Carrboro
While a few stragglers inquired about extra tickets outside Go! Room 4 last Friday night, Irish transplants The Frames charmed the sold-out audience inside (a large portion of which had arrived to catch their set). Between the band's strong performance and frontman Glen Hansard's brogue-enhanced between-song ramblings on topics such as the simple joys of a cup of tea, it hardly seems worth mentioning that Hansard appeared in the film The Commitments. The quintet alternately churned out delicate, brooding folk-rock and intricate, full-tilt freakouts, utilizing a quiet-loud dynamic (reminiscent of The Pixies) to considerable effect on the haunting "Santa Maria." Colm MacConlomaire's violin playing contributed significantly to the band's elaborate textures. During the between-band break, you could overhear men and women alike gushing over New Pornographer Neko Case, who also boasts a thriving career as an alt-country diva. On The Pornographers' first number, "The Slow Decent into Alcoholism," singer/sleigh-bell player Case overpowered frontman Carl Newman; her powerful upper-register vocals cut through the mix in a way that, at times, became almost too much as Newman's mid- and lower-register vocals weren't cutting through with the force of his falsetto.
Despite the slight shortcomings of the vocal mix, the Canadian sextet rocked the audience with remarkable efficiency, drawing largely from their debut Mass Romantic, a high-energy blast of saccharine melodies that stick in your mind like a Tootsie Roll does your teeth.
With the departure of singer-songwriter Dan Bejar, who amicably left the group to do his own band, Destroyer, drummer Kurt Dahle sang all Bejar's leads throughout the show. Having seen Destroyer on the same stage recently, the absence of Bejar's distinctly piercing vocals seemed unfortunate, though this sentiment wasn't shared by all.
Case jokingly introduced "Calf and Cow"--described by Newman as "Soft Machine meets The Cars head on, with T. Rex watching on the sidelines while everybody listens to The White Stripes"--as a song by opening band The Frames. But when they ripped into their quasi-anthem "Mass Romantic," the crowd nodded and bobbed and jiggled and generally grooved en masse (as much as contemporary indie-rock-pop standards permit), for the first time all night.
The New Pornographers followed "Mass Romantic" with a new song ostensibly titled "Yellow Butterfly," followed by "Execution Day" from their debut. They played four new songs in all (including "We Came to Rock You, So We Hope You Don't Mind if We Do"), though the crowd responded with the most enthusiasm to the familiar material, particularly Case's irresistible "Letter from an Occupant."
Rather than exit the stage and wade through the crowd, only to return for an encore, the group bantered about how they might achieve the same effect without doing so--Blaine Thurier even ducked under his keyboard--then they kicked off an encore that included "Centre for Holy Wars" and a cover of The Shocking Blue's '60s classic, "Send Me a Postcard."
By 12:30 a.m., the remaining crowd either ogled Case or made their way to the merchandise window set up upstairs behind the soundboard; mostly, it seemed, to buy Frames records, though certainly to browse the New Pornographers' T-shirts, like the orange number that posed the question, "Just Because You Ball Somebody Once, Does That Mean You've Got to Ball Them Forever?"
--Nathan Brown KRS-One with Sankofa
Friday, Feb. 15
Cat's Cradle, Carrboro
Last Friday in Carrboro, the Triangle had a chance to witness the most dynamic individual in the hip-hop nation. The Blastmaster, KRS-One, invaded the Cat's Cradle and represented hip hop in its truest form. KRS-One, born Lawrence Krsna Parker (he goes by Kris), helped pioneer the "new school of hip hop" (from '86 to '90). With a career spanning 15 years and 10 albums, his latest release, Spiritual Minded, debuted in stores last month.And when KRS hit the stage, there was no doubt that a hip-hop crowd was in the house. As excitement radiated through the room, the music began and Kris posed the question, "Who Am I?" He began reciting the lyrics to "The MC," the perfect show starter, because KRS embodies what a true emcee is. His impeccable skill was evident as he performed classics like "Dope Beat," "You Must Learn" and "Black Cop."
What makes KRS so extraordinary is his ability to teach while he entertains, integrating his political and spiritual beliefs into the performance without compromising the show's integrity. He even made reference to his transformation from Criminal Minded to Spiritual Minded (the titles of his first and latest albums), to illustrate that a person could change many times in their lifetime, saying, "I know some of you are out there thuggin', but at some point you have to grow up!" In perhaps his most interesting gesture, he stopped the show for 10 minutes to "celebrate the women of the world." Giving all respect to his mother for starting him on the path to understanding, he questioned why God was always referred to as male and urged every man in the house to give praise to women, the cornerstones of civilization. He issued a plea for women to realize their greatness and be proud of it.
KRS continued ripping off classic after classic, and even had a break dance intermission by his dancers, the Breeze Team. The show was a true celebration of hip hop: a blueprint of how the genre should be performed. It never dragged and every word was crystal clear. He even gave props to the soundman, something you don't usually hear at hip-hop shows. KRS is on a level that most hip-hop artists will never reach. By stripping himself of any potential ego trips, KRS elevates the music and culture.
It was a rare hip-hop show in this day and age--truly entertaining, yet meaningful. KRS-One shaped hip hop in '86; his influence continues now through his Web site, the Temple of Hip Hop (www.temple ofhiphop.org).
--James E. Heyward