Thursday, June 9, 2011

Live Review: Earth/Ô Paon at Mayne Stage, June 8th, 2011

Last night was an interesting night. I battled traffic, long journeys through Chicago's northern suburbs (complete with a trip through Rogers Park, home of most of Chicago's Hasdic Jewish population - everyone was in a top hat and full suit), and miscommunication as to whether or not I was on the guest list (oops!), but I finally made it to a concert that I waited 6 years to attend. Yes, I was finally going to see the legendary Earth, Seattle's drone/doom progenitors, friends of Kurt Cobain, et cetera. Ô Paon, to whom I had finally given a listen, was to be the opener, which would make for an interesting pair.

I had never been to Mayne Stage and, though it is a little out of the way of any major highway, I was pleasantly surprised with its overall decor. Complete with tables, benches, mood lighting, and a stage with curtains to boot, Mayne Stage is one of the few "classy" venues in Chicago to host metal shows...well...Earth isn't so metal but you get the idea. Not to knock places like Reggie's, the Bottom Lounge, and all the other fine venues in Chicago; I still love you all and will regularly attend shows you host, but Mayne Stage's atmosphere and ambiance definitely fit a show more like this one.

To add to my misfortune, just as Geneviève Castrée, the sole member of Ô Paon graced the stage, my camera suddenly ran out of batteries, so, sorry, you won't see any pictures of mine in this post. Sorry.

Anyway, on to the show. After years of listening to Woelv (a music project of mine is actually somewhat of an anagram of Woelv - the more you know!), I had finally grabbed Ô Paon's latest offering "Courses," and was rather intrigued as to how she would translate this somber, folky music into a live setting, and I was pleasantly surprised. To the many who had never heard Ô Paon prior to the show, their audible whispers of confusion muddied the air as they realized that Ms. Castrée was the sole performer onstage. Ô Paon's quiet, pensive music is comprised solely of a guitar, a loop pedal, and Geneviève Castrée's beautiful, fragile-yet-resolute voice. After spending a few minutes building a quiet wall-of-guitar-and-voice texture, she would begin to sing beautiful, lyrical and mournful lines in her native Quebecois French that, while I myself do not speak French, resonated meaning somehow within me. I think, aside from how amazing the music was, the best part of Ô Paon's live act was Castrée's personality. I mean, she's a cute French-Canadian woman with a sense of humor, what's not to like? Memorable moments include her referring to a house centipede that had made its way onstage as her "spirit animal," gently almost-choreographing her songs (though she stood still), and becoming embarrassed upon the audience's uproarious applause towards the end of her set. Unexpectedly beautiful and entrancing, Castrée put on a wonderful and memorable set...enough to make me buy both her "Courses" LP and the "A)B)C)D)E)" 7".

I wish I could say I was as entranced with Earth as I was with Ô Paon. Now, don't get me wrong, I love everything Earth's done, the new album especially, but, something wasn't right with seeing it live. Earth's music, in my mind, is something you listen to when you want to get lost in something or when you need to think. Earth is good concentration music and doesn't necessarily translate well into a live setting. Dylan and crew are all fantastic musicians with a vast knowledge of silence and space, which is something I've appreciated for a long time (especially from them), but in a live setting I found it tedious. I've seen Sunn O))) live and was pretty interested, but I guess that's more of a textural thing, rather than Earth's chief concentration on single riffs for extended periods of time...which I guess I can't fully enjoy in a live setting. Maybe my...I don't want to call it "boredom"...can be attributed to standing up for the entire set; maybe I should have sat down and had a beer or something. Now, there were some things I did like, just to prove I'm not some sort of negative Nancy. Unlike most bands of Earth's style and caliber, Dylan actually took the time to announce each song in the setlist and introduce the band. A lot of bands seem to really forego the stage banter, which is a shame (and slightly egomaniacal), I mean, we know bands are people just like us, but some seem to be "too important" to talk to the audience. Speaking of stage banter, Dylan mentioned that this will be the last tour that they will be playing "Ouroboros is Broken," so, to those who are still on the fence and want to see this song, I'd say go for it. A new song, entitled "Multiplicity of Doors," off of the yet-to-be-released album Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light Part II, sounded promising, but I'll have to sit down with the recording to really let it sink in.

To set the record straight, I still love Earth's music, I just don't think I'll be seeing them again. Ô Paon, on the other hand, was a very pleasant surprise. So, though I found myself disappointed with Earth's live performance, I am still looking forward to Angels... Part II and anything Castrée might be releasing soon.


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