Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Clap Your Hands Say Yeeeeeah!

When I made the sweet discovery that Architecture in Helsinki was opening for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in Boulder this last Saturday, I didn’t have to dwell too long on what would have to happen. I would drive up Saturday morning, allow the city to settle into my skin some, take in the show, then hop in the car and drive back in time for early morning church. Crazy? Certainly. But everyone needs a dose of crazy sometimes.

I took Emily because a) she’s one of the few who got excited when I told her who was playing rather than offering the other general reaction of “Who?” and b) she once drove from Kentucky to Utah in 23 hours or so, never stopping for sleep. I’d drive up, she’d drive back and all would be well in our music-ridden worlds.

The drive there brought two stops at two Little Americas on the way. I’m not generally one for stopping, well, ever, but the billboard – one of 487 off the side of the freeway – it was offering twisty cones for 50 cents. Couldn’t pass that up, even if it was 10:30 in the A.M. Previewed the new Peter & The Wolf album out early next month, where Red thanked both Em and myself in his liner notes (awesome). Learned my still-new-to-me car does 440 miles on a tank, even on cruise control. Many, many songs, some mixes, some welcome conversation and, in just six-and-a-half hours, we were there. Easy sleazy.

What followed was a unanimous decision to hit The Cheesecake Factory, then following it up with massages. While I can recommend the Thai lettuce wraps, the fish tacos and the Dulce de Leche cheesecake (seriously, is there anything bad on that book of a menu?), getting good and relaxed via deep tissue is prolly not the greatest decision when you have to drive back in the undercover of night. How relaxed do you really want to be, right? All the same, it felt very nice.

I liken Boulder to Seattle based wholly on the people I meet and see there. Nobody seems to be very angry about anything, most wandering round Pearl Street were either hippies in past lives or fully pursuing that walk of life presently and, topping it all off, friendliness overrules all. They’re the best version of a welcome handshake a tourist could want. I think I could easily blend into that environment. It’s on the short list of places I just might have to eke out a living in someday.

A few visits to Boulder Theatre to check the band’s guest list finally made for a discovery I had feared, as it’s happened to me time and again: my name wasn’t on the band’s guest list. Never trust a publicist entirely, no matter what they promise; this sort of thing happens all the time. Since I didn’t feel like shrugging my shoulders and heading back home (the concert was sold out, after all), Em and I headed in the direction of the fancy tour busses. According to the women not finding my name on any lists, they were likely hanging out there.

I knocked on the bus door, hoping for an answer. Luckily, I’d picked the right bus. And, just as lucky, AIH’s Cameron Bird (who I’d interviewed a number of weeks before for the City Weekly) was as affable in person as he’d been on the telephone. Gotta love Australians. He listened to my mini-tale of woe and promised to get it all sorted out. Part of me thought he might just be saying that to get rid of me – he was in the middle of putting his shoes on, after all. In minutes, however, their sound guy showed up at the box office and put us on their list. While I was a bit transfixed by the moustache he was rocking, he shot out, “Sorry, Damon Moody. Sorry ... Plus One,” before smirking as big as he could and disappearing back inside. While you want bands to be this cool all the time, they generally aren’t. Stars were smiling on us on a night that came with a big, round full moon.

The theater was something else. I know nothing of its history, but it was more than likely an old movie house at some point. It had balcony seating up top if you wanted to sit and standing room only down below. One half for the 21+ crowd, the other for the kiddies. Everything appeared to be bathed in red light. It’s really what every movie theater ought to be – there’s a whole nother life to be found that way. It was a capacity crowd of 1000, but it didn’t feel that way at all.

My thoughts of the evening? If you haven’t seen Architecture in Helsinki, you really ought to. I’d caught a bit of their performance at Sasquatch, but it was nothing like this. I’ve seen few bands in my day approach music with as much reckless abandon as the seven or eight or nine of them do. There were no put-on airs, no pretensions, nothing. On the other hand, you had a female singer who got so into her role as second-in-command that her shirt popped open twice (and was fixed twice – the second time with a sign on her front that read “Sorry!”). One sometimes-guitarist never made a facial expression, but his long dreds and long red beard sort of spoke for themselves. Everybody took turns playing everything from the drums to the triangle to the trombone. There was jumping up and down and screeching to match the playing. It was beautiful madness. It was energy personified.

But Cameron? The skinny frontman with the curious hat on? He was the one to watch. He gave himself to the cause, screaming falsettos and rocking a drum machine occasionally. He was walking in circles dancing when he didn’t have to play. And, when it came time to end their set (one that never got boring), there was a pang of sadness that it was ending. To describe them entirely and adequately is impossible. But the genre-defying group gave us something far more frenetic than it has ever recorded. To seal the deal, Cameron ran at his keyboard, taking it with him on his impromptu tumble into the audience. I was close enough to see his hands popping up out of the mass, banging on the keys, along with everyone in that general region. When he ambled back onstage, his chin was bloodied, but you’ve never seen a more satisfied look on anybody’s face.

There was no way CYHSY (it’s much easier that way) could top their performance. Absolutely no way. Still, it's hard to follow something like that. They sounded just as you’d expect they might. A lot like the album and no real surprises, though there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Em and I stayed long enough to take in all of our favorite songs, then fled into the night before it was over. We had to get back.

It was a mix of fog, a couple wrong turns and waking up to mumble out whatever my mouth wanted to say on the way back, but at least we didn’t die. I thought that we might at several points (everything feels more dangerous and sped-up from the passenger’s seat for some reason) and Em demanded I wake up and talk to her a few times, lest she accidentally join me in some shut-eye. But we made it back by about 9:30 in the morning, about an hour and some minutes more than we'd planned for. On a Rilo Kiley and Mates of State and Arcade Fire soundtrack even. I don’t know that I will attempt a trek like that one ever again. Still, both Fiona Apple and DeVotchKa will be playing the theater later in the month, along with “special guests”. I just have to wonder to myself – how special is special?


Obvious Expert said...

Cruise Control is amazing. My manual told me that it optimizes gas consumption.

k8 said...

i would never have pegged your for a Cheesecake Factory man but I guess you don't have one in Utah so...whatev.

AIH was one of my favorite shows ever-they just LOVE being up there don't they?

Dainon said...

Don't dis the Cheesecake. If it has to be my guilty lil pleasure, well, so be it. I will partake readily.

As for AIH, 'tis true. They don't even try hiding those mile wide smiles. And it makes everyone watching smile in return. Crafty, those Auzzies.

heather said...

I am so glad my state was good to you and thanks for an awesome review of a show I couldn't make it to. I'd love to meet you sometime, maybe next time (?) if you attempt another long-distance trek! :)