October 27th, 2009
There’s a transformation that occurs between studio and stage for pretty much every band. Of course, there are those that replicate their studio sessions on stage very well, and vice versa. On the flip side, there are also many bands who have trouble replicating their live sound on record, and vice versa. Some bands simply don’t give a rat’s ass. Le Loup seems to fall into one of the two latter categories, and I’m pretty sure it’s a case of having a difficult time translating what’s a very lovely and spacious record in Family to a small venue like Chop Suey.
Last week, I had some nice things to say about Le Loup‘s sophomore record; today I have some not so nice things to say about their recent performance. Family is a record crafted and built with significant beauty and space between its separate parts, floating, lilting, pounding and finally coalescing into a very enjoyable sum. Unfortunately, the album didn’t translate well to the stage. Not from my vantage point, anyway. From the first song, “Saddle Mountain”, through the next several including “Beach Town”, some older ones, “Grow”, and “Family”, each instrument was muddled and the spirit was drowned in a mess of a mix. There seemed to be too many (guitar) samples for a band with five guys, and Sam Simkoff’s vocals were utterly lost. They never quite hit the sweet spot until the set ending triage of “Forgive Me”, “Sherpa”, and “A Celebration”, which was fun and clearly indicative of their potential.
The set from Nurses was a bit different. I’ve listened to their latest Apple’s Acre a handful of times, but had never seen them live. Color me impressed. The transients who now call Portland home run a three-man operation of soulful psych-pop and jittery freak folk. Extra points for ample RATATAT-esque robotic jungle flourishes. Aaron Chapman provides the majority of the Gibb-style vocals while strumming a beat up old guitar. John Bowers sported a hippie headband and bounced between an old Rhodes electric piano and a card table full of noise-making gear. James Mitchell minded his own drum business off to the side. There were no obvious deviations from the recorded versions of their songs, letting their bubbly, off-kilter melodies shine through. The eclectic crowd bobbed and waved along with the music, especially the fun and wandering “Man At Arms” and the old-timey jazz serenade of “Lita”. Check ‘em out.