Last Night: the Widowers, Bad Weather California and the Dirty Projectors @ hi-dive

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The Widowers, Bad Weather California, The Dirty Projectors September 4, 2007 hi-dive Better than: Two out of three isn’t bad, right?

It’s fun to have your expectations shredded, so I have to thank the Widowers for the fun. They were surprisingly accessible for a band made up mostly of members of experimental freak-out rockers Constellations, a band I really like. I expected something similar, maybe weirder, from Widowers, but I got something else entirely: smooth, moody pop sounds, atmospheric and melodic. The songs were call-the-CDC catchy, the sound was accomplished and familiar in the right ways while injecting twists and turns in perfect places to surprise and delight. Taking some of the best moments of pop history, spicing things up with some krautrocking grooves and chaotic, noisy guitar breakdowns and filtering the resulting mix through some hip, indie sensibilities marks the Widowers as a band to remember. I just hope they don’t get so popular that Constellations implode…

Bad Weather California followed, showing off a new, full-band incarnation. They weren’t super tight – at one point the pedal steel player had to ask what key the chorus of a song was in – but it really didn’t matter. Band leader Chris Adolf was captivating on stage, exuding charisma as he belted out songs about death and life (mostly death) in a voice that should be a bit grating but instead is utterly captivating. There’s an indefinable, inexpressible IT that the best performers have, and Adolf has it, without question. The new lineup obviously has a solid chemistry that is just starting to gel and when it clicks for real, watch out. Bad Weather California might well take over this town.

The Dirty Projectors sported a classic rock lineup (two guitars, bass and drums) that played anything but classic rock. The music was weird, with lots of two- and three-part harmonies, non-verbal vocalizations, intricate guitar interplay, intense stop-start dynamics and furious, complex, balls-out drumming. It could be called jazzy math rock with an art school twist. It was impressive, intriguing and intense, but somehow, just not very appealing. The music seemed a bit too clever for its own good. It was crammed too full of ideas, reaching too hard for a unique sound with just too much brains and not enough heart. I simply never connected with it, despite feeling it had a lot going for it.

-- Cory Casciato

Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I really like quirky, weird stuff, so I was kind of surprised that Dirty Projectors didn’t do it for me. Random Detail: I met another guy named Cory after the show and he was upset to meet me – he doesn’t like sharing his name. By the Way: I know two minutes of research on MySpace would have shown me I was wrong in making assumptions about the Widowers, but hey, I like surprises.

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