Monday, March 1, 2010

TVD's Bubblegum | St. Vincent at the 9:30 (2/24)

Bubblegum is the musical taste of Amanda Pittman. It encompasses all things catchy, that is, the stuff that sticks. Whether it's happy, sad, melodramatic, especially melodramatic, and has a catchy tune, it will be featured here.

Wednesday night, St. Vincent stopped at the 9:30 Club as part of her latest U.S. tour. Opening for her were Swedish experimental pop group Wildbirds and Peacedrums. The duo is vocalist Mariam Wallentin and instrumentalist Andreas Werlin. Werlin creates the cohesive sound that could be called a melody while Wallentin warbles and scats into the mic. Their sound is heavily influenced by jazz, and Werlin’s range is that of a swing-time lounge singer. Most of their sound is created with drums and samples. Their drum solos and duets were intimate and engaging, and seemed welcomed by the audience. As pop is moving into big, overproduced sets, they manage to keep it minimal and still entertaining, if not impossible to understand.

St. Vincent took the stage right on time, 9:30 pm. Front-woman, Annie Clark, was petite and commanding on stage in a tight burgundy mini-dress with sleeves that could have encased her whole body. They opened with ‘The Strangers’ to a very patient and focused audience. As she sang “save me from what I want” she began to go into her familiar trance.

Before breaking into a well anticipated ‘Actor’ she thanked the crowd and later expressed, “I love being in D.C. The last time I was here I went to the Walter Reed Museum…” she paused and asked the lighting engineer to not turn the lights on the crowd as it makes her nervous, but she was kidding, sort of, “…don’t go to it, it’s gross, or do, if you like that. It’s gnarly.” Someone behind me whispered that her voice was soothing. It is, and welcoming. She had a way of making each person feel as though she was speaking directly to them.

She broke into one of her signature solos – always surprising, as she doesn’t look like the person most people would associate with playing the guitar as well as she does, a man. More surprising is how well she combines the hard-edged rock of the seventies with her soft femininity without alienating those with different expectations.

For a second time during her set she filled the room with friendly banter. 'The tour started in British Columbia, it’s great for brunch. We did something this tour that we’ve never had to do on tour before. We had to cancel our Columbus, Ohio show. I don’t know if I can legally talk about this. They didn’t have a PA system…' She went on to explain that the “venue” didn’t really have a dressing room, but they did have a bondage chair, chains, a riding crop, and pictures of women in, umm…unusual positions covering their walls. She followed with a solo cover of Jackson Browne's 'These Days’ – to which she momentarily forgot the lyrics, but managed with a wry smile before continuing.

During ‘Black Rainbow’ she seemed to be keeping a secret, and those singing along were in on it. The lighting became more psychedelic and continued throughout crowd-favorite ‘Marrow.’ She ended the set with a voracious ‘The Party’ and a humble thanks to Wildbirds and Peacedrums and the audience, only to appear a few minutes later with an encore of ‘Your Lips are Red’ a surprise choice for closing the evening.

Afterward, she signed merchandise on the balcony to a few dozen eager fans. Just as she appeared on stage, she was sweet and humble, and completely real.

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