February 20, 2012
Living Room Show
I had the pleasure of seeing David Bazan and his band at The Constellation Room in December of last year, and my subsequent gushing about how moving and intimate I'd found the show to be was met by a chorus of Bazan fans insisting I get my ass out to one of his incredible living room shows. Three months later, I had the good fortune of finding myself (and my ass) comfortably positioned on a couch in a living room with 20 or 30 other Bazan diehards to see the man do his thing.
They were right. It couldn't have been better.
Bazan showed up shortly after the 8 p.m. start time, took a couple of minutes to set up his burgundy Epiphone SG, a small cube amp, and a homemade lamp, and launched into "Wolves At The Door" (the first track of 2011's masterpiece, Strange Negotiations). He told us that ditching the acoustic guitar for the SG and an amp allowed him to play more confidently, and that confidence and comfort showed as made the most of the stripped down performance by taking liberties with phrasing and improvisation, which made the delivery of his thought-provoking and introspective lyrics seem even more impassioned than they had at The Constellation Room.
Bazan played for about 70 minutes (which flew by...I could have watched him for hours), the highlight of which was a gorgeous version of "Options" from Pedro The Lion's Control. I couldn't help but notice that there were several eyes welling up around me (because I wanted to make sure that I wasn't the only one getting weepy.) The man has a way with words, dynamics, and melody that moves people like few artists can.
Beyond his incredible songwriting, it's Bazan's candor that I found most impressive. Every three or four songs, he opened the room for questions, which he answered with a blend of honesty, humility, and dry wit that is a tough to find in musicians these days. It's an endearing quality that made the potential awkwardness of being huddled on the living room floor of a stranger's house amongst strangers feel like I was at a house party amongst friends.
The bottom line: If you're a Bazan fan, these living room shows are an absolute must-see. If you're not a Bazan fan yet, you should be. He's one of the most honest, soulful, and talented singer/songwriters our generation, and these living room shows are the perfect setting to experience that.
Critic's Bias: I've never heard a Bazan song that I didn't like. How's that for bias?
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The Crowd: Lots of couples, lots of beards, lots of flannels, lots of glasses, lots of craft beers, three visibly pregnant women and one five-year-old.
Overheard in the Crowd:
"I used one of your songs and submitted it as my own work for an assignment in a poetry class...and got an A."
"You should get a job selling advertising at Pitchfork." (After Bazan played "Selling Advertising" from Fewer Moving Parts.)
"Tell us the story of the lamp." (Regarding Bazan's homemade telescoping lamp that provides a consistent source of mood lighting for these living room shows.)
Random notebook dump: The show took place in a house across the street from where Thrice recorded both The Alchemy Index and Beggars.