Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bazan - A Night of Beard Rock

Last night, I had the chance to see David Bazan perform in Philadelphia at the First Unitarian Church. In many ways, Bazan (and his former band, Pedro the Lion) is the voice of a niche demographic of people mostly comprised of disillusioned twenty-somethings who have been disheartened with the state of life.

His albums are deeply personal accounts of questioning relationships, oneself, God, and culture. Lyrics are often beautifully cut and dry. And depressing. Yet I think they earn him credibility for the rare moments of hopefulness.

I had a chance to see Bazan perform during my Taylor career. He slowly strummed his electric guitar in the student union in front of an audience (including myself) that wasn't familiar with his music. I later discovered a few of his albums and became deeply appreciative of him. My former experience seeing him live and his penchant for house shows had me expecting a quiet evening of listening to his thoughts.
While sticking in a few other favorites in between the A and B side of the album, on this tour, Bazan has been playing through Pedro the Lion's album, Control. The album very much focuses on infidelity within a marriage. While it doesn't shy away from the carnal, it opens with a simple internal account of describing himself at the beginning of a relationship, saying "I need you," yet also wanting to keep his options open. It's heartbreaking.

Knowing the content of the album and based off my former experience seeing Bazan live, I was expecting a relaxed show. I was off-base.

The venue, appropriately enough, was in a church basement in downtown Philly. It was kind of the anti-house-show. It was dingy and quickly became sauna hot. But it was also kind of perfect for a good beard-rock show. At one point, Bazan jumped and did the leg split thing.

In between songs, Bazan has a routine of asking the crowd, "Are there any questions at this point?" The crowd, who proved their fan-dom by knowing just about every lyric, missed their chance to really engage with him. We did learn that Bazan has a thing for mashed potatoes and Gillian Welch's voice though. But unfortunately, no substantive questions were posed and thus, not many responses worth expounding upon.

Otherwise, the show was incredible. While the bassist fixed a guitar string, Bazan performed Wolves at the Door with just his guitar and voice, reminding me of how unique and incredible of a voice he has. Much of the rest of the show was spent rocking out through Control. What was lost in slowly pondering his lyrics during his slower shows was more than made up for by the raw emotion and energy put into performing an album that he described as the "only Pedro album he doesn't hate." He and his three piece band were tight and put on a show worth checking out.


Siberian said...

I just saw him the other night on this tour. I have been intimate with the album Control ever since high school so it was a dream come true. And when he asked for questions from the crowed over 50% of them were really substantial. Questions like "What has the emotional journey been like touring this album again?" opened up so pretty deep insight into what the songs mean to Bazan. It was a great experience.

Also, there were definitely a lot of people at the TU show who were mega Bazan fans. He definitely wasn't playing to a virgin audience.

But yeah man, I totally agree that it was an incredible show. How did you like Stagnant Pools? One of Bloomington, Indiana's finest acts right now :)

Josiah Hatfield said...

@Siberian Good to hear that his whole tour wasn't filled with fluff questions. I should have come prepared with a list of questions to shout over others'.

My apologies on the the virgin audience bit. I projected my experience on a lot of others.

Stagnant Pools was alright. I liked their sound, generally, but it felt pretty static in that most songs were pretty repetitious. You follow them much?