Hipster Love Heaven

Iron & Wine with Blitzen Trapper at Terminal 5 – November 17th, 2008

So if there was even one girl for every guy at the Hold Steady/Drive By Truckers show last week, last night’s Iron and Wine show was just about even.  It was a perfect ration of hipster boys to hipster girls.  I also made the observation that hipsters must be shorter than the general population since, with the exception of a bean pole or two I had excellent site lines of Sam Beam and his band.

I was planning on calling this blog post “My Endless Numbered Night” after Beam’s 2004 release, but as I noted in the blog post that I sent from my miracle phone, it was a really solid performance. Despite having all of his albums, I had not realized how much of Beam’s material seems to really be in the true folk revival tradition and not some newfangled teched up reinterpretation.

I didn’t keep a set list but a couple of observations:

  • Beam noted that he had been haunted by the history of Town Hall when he last played NYC.  “You know, Mingus . . . and there I was with my three chords”  and he mimicked three chords.  However, Beam can play guitar.  His finger picking was excellent and steady.  As I noted earlier to a friend, he had a tight band and they seemed to be following him closely and not (as I’ve seen on occasion) because he was not steady, but specifically because he was and he was leading.
  • The band, when they came out for the longer part of the set had a reasonable (as in not soft) volume, yet Beam’s crooning always rested nicely on top without any fiddling of the levels it seemed.  They were also real strong.  I wasn’t into some of the extended jams they went into during some of the songs but that doesn’t mean they weren’t good.  They were.  The drum kit and bass were particularly in sync, setting a strong rhythm under Beam.
  • It seemed as though, once beam opened his mouth to sing for the first time, all the girls in the audience collective titled their heads, went doe-eyed, and exhaled with a collective “Ah.” 
  • Iron & Wine recordings seem like they would do well with a slight background hiss, a la the Mountain Goats (but without the clicks) and this makes me wonder if the hiss in the background during the entire show was intentional.  Listening back on some Iron & Wine while writing this makes doesn’t help.  Most of the production seems pretty pristine, though “Each Coming Night” definitely has the hiss.
  • “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” was a real highlight of the show.  Beautifully done with a female accompanist.  
  • Beam did a one-song encore consisting of “The Trapeze Artist” which appeared on the Topher Grace/Dennis Quaid blockbuster In Good Company.  After all the “I love you Sam Beam” shouts were done this song created an incredible mood — much more profound than the sappiness created by the studio version.  It was a real tribute to the power that Beam was able to hold over the audience.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard such a large audience be so quiet for so long, with the possible exception of when I saw Springsteen do “When the Saints Go Marching In” during his warm-up shows for the Seeger Sessions Tour at the Asbury Park Civic center, and maybe without this exception.
  • Oh, the opener, Blitzen Trapper was pretty good.  I’d see them on their own for a small ticket price at Mercury Lounge or the Bowery Ballroom.  
  • I met a reviewer from jambase.com at the show. I’ll link to his review here if I can find it once it’s posted.

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