Monday, November 06, 2006

An Evening with Xiu Xiu

John the Irishman and I went to Disjecta last night to check out San Francisco's Xiu Xiu (say "shoe shoe"). I've been hearing a lot about these guys from a cat I work with named Zack, who ultimately convinced me to check them out. Neither John nor I had been to Disjecta before, so it was a bit of an adventure for the both of us. Disjecta is basically an arts organization/gallery space which arose from the ashes of the pretentiously-named Portland Center for the Advancement of Culture, best known for a huge project from a few years back called the Modern Zoo, which some of you here in Portland may remember. It's a pretty rough space, in an old warehouse right next to the Burnside Bridge. While Disjecta specializes in the visual arts, they occasionally host bands upstairs (the Shins have played there), which I imagine helps to pay the rent.

We arrived in time to see the third band of the night, Brooklyn's Dirty Projectors. The DPs are basically a six-piece experimental rock outfit with some occasional electronic experimentation. The singer had a sort of Davendra Banhart-ish freak-folk delivery, and the two gals to either side of him offered some very interesting back up vocals. They at times delved into dischordant nonsense, but it was clearly well rehearsed dischordant nonsense. John got fed up with it pretty quickly and wandered off to chat up a girl who'd caught his eye, but I was kind of digging what they were doing, so I hung around for the rest of their set, and was pleasantly surprised to run into an old co-worker from OHSU, Dave Neevel, who plays bass for Fells Acres (shameless name check, Sorry; what's even more shameless is that to this day I still haven't seen his band).

After the DPs were finished, Xiu Xiu's drummer took the stage and played both his drum kit, and a vibraphone, for about 15 minutes. Then we had to endure nearly a half hour of irritating sound-check type stuff, before Xiu Xiu finally went on. A more professional venue might have worked all of this out in advance, but as I said, Disjecta's not a music venue primarily, and they're apparently still new at the whole sound thing. It was worth the wait, however. Xiu Xiu immediately launched into a very compelling set of indie/emo/art rock, with bits of modern classical and post rock thrown in. Xiu Xiu are a sort of musical collective, and they have, at times, had as many as seven members, at other times only two. On this night there were three of them, Jamie Stewart, the only constant member and main creative force, his cousin Caralee McElroy, and drummer/vibraphonist Ches Smith. Jamie covered vocals and guitar, along with various percussion, Caralee played keys and Ches held down the drums, in a very aggressive fashion (nearly knocking over his cymbal stands on a number of occasions), along with the aforementioned vibraphone (which he never came close to knocking over; vibraphones have a fair amount of bulk to them). Our friend Jon the Architect showed up in time to catch their last song. Luckily, he managed to talk his way in without paying the cover charge ("My friends are in there, and I'm their ride!" A skillful liar, that Jon! And a fine architect as well).

Interestingly, I never did run into Zack at the show.


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