The Constellation Room
Growing up in the wake of 1990's emo, the first bands I really got into were all under the umbrella of the sub-genre. Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance were my go to bands in middle school. I had no knowledge of some of the better bands that I could have been listening to that were under the emo classification–bands like Braid, Mineral, and Sunny Day Real Estate.
As I got older I grew to resent the Warped-tour emo bands, and it seemed like emo was the most negative term someone could have invented to label a band. However more recently I've fallen back into the “genre” that is emo, but now listening to some of the better acts. Some of the bands I've gotten into were Cap n' Jazz and American Football. All of these bands have one thing in common: Mike Kinsella. Like all great emo acts from the time period, these bands broke up before reaching any major popularity. Kinsella though still tours with his new project Owen–an emo influenced, one-man acoustic act that sticks to his personal guitar style of open tunings and strange time signatures.
After the entire introduction into how I found Owen and defending emo, I have to say that Owen is a completely different project. Hearing people request American Football's song “Never Meant” was a little annoying. Owen has played it and of course I wanted to hear it, but it did feel a little disrespectful to his current project. Besides this one distraction, it seems everyone was at the show to see Kinsella's project Owen, not American Football covers. There was a lot of singing along going on, and I found that really cool.
As a part of being on tour with Owen, the opener Laura Stevenson went acoustic as well. She usually plays with a full band and has done heavy touring with folk-punk legends Andrew Jackson Jihad. Her set was fantastic. Her beautifully sung vocals were perfectly mixed with a very soft guitar playing and although I've never really listened to her band until this show, I fell in love with her songs.Stevenson really brought an emotional attachment the crowd could feel with every song.
This show was one of the most intimate and interactive shows I've ever gone to. When Laura Stevenson was onstage, her banter mostly had to do with her talking about depression and she unveiled a few personal details about what she does in her free time. Mike Kinsella pushed the crowd to be a part of his banter asking, “What do you guys want to talk about tonight?” When one audience member asked what his rap name would be he replied “Killer Mike.” Fitting, considering the real Killer Mike was rapping right next door at the Observatory–a confusing combination of artists on the same night, but most Observatory audiences are used to strange pairings like that by now.
Throughout the set you could hear the 808's and feel the bass coming from the next room. At times it would come in mid-song and everyone in the room would have no choice but to laugh. Although it was annoying and semi-comical it really didn't distract too much from the show.
You could hear Kinsella's foot lightly taping the beat on the floorboards during his set. The intimacy and softness of the concert could be felt just that one gesture. At certain points it felt as if Kinsella was playing songs in your living room. The amplification of both the vocals and guitar was soft enough that you could hear the guitar and vocals acoustic qualities along with the mix.
Halfway throughout his set, a crowd member asked Kinsella what Smiths covers he knows. He ended up playing a really rough version of "Cemetery Gates” for the crowd. As a Smiths fan I was really excited to hear it.
Even though Owen put on an amazing performance, the opener Laura Stevenson completely stole the show. Both acts put on an extremely emotional and intimate atmosphere that I've never felt in the Constellation room of the Observatory.
Overheard: "I think in love with her [Laura Stevenson]”
The Crowd: Not a single Hot Topic emo kid in the building. A few people who accidentally bought tickets for the wrong show or walked into the wrong room; this was the wrong “Killer Mike.”
Random Notebook Dump: Even though he messed up the Smiths song pretty bad, It was probably better than Morrissey's version at the Staples Center.