david bazan [2009]

The Independent
San Francisco, CA
1 October 2009

It’s a situation I’ve thankfully rarely found myself in: going to a show of an artist I’ve loved for years, just after he’s released an album I’m really not that into.

But there I was, Thursday night at The Independent, sitting comfortably stage left with all sorts of mixed feelings. (Sitting comfortably, it should be noted, thanks to my friend’s sweet-talking of John Krasinski, the merch guy, to move some bins from the end of the bench).

I’ve seen Bazan perform quite a few times, from the Pedro days, opening for The New Year to one of his first solo shows at the Wall of Sound Festival in Fort Worth, Texas.

Stewing in trepidation, unable to just enjoy whatever was to come. Helplessly succumbing to my musical neurosis. Hey, but at least I was comfy. The first song couldn’t have come sooner.

So wouldn’t you know it – the very first song, “Hard To Be”, is one of the few I really like from the new album. With its bookend of intense crescendoing electricity, it’s a great addition to Bazan’s already substantial canon of quietly powerful pieces. The full band (including all three members of openers Say Hi) certainly added some strength to what’s normally a significantly smaller group (if not solo).

For the most part, I was, as expected, looking to get through the new material as quickly as possible, to leave plenty of time for the “good stuff”. As it turned out, he peppered the set with two or three Pedro songs, like the powerfully driving “Magazine”, and its relentless, pulsing rhythm and tension-producing keyboard line. This was appreciated.

“Hard To Be” wasn’t the only enjoyable selection from the new album, thankfully. “Curse Your Branches”, which had also been available online since its recording at a 2007 North Carolina show, was enjoyable as usual. They played a much slower version, which robbed it of some of its intensity, but it was still solid.

Unfortunately, getting through the new album didn’t work out so much, as the set was pretty much the new album. On top of that, there wasn’t even an encore nod to Pedro fans, as is the usual. That’s because there was no encore whatsoever, despite the majority of the crowd sticking around through raised house lights and music, clapping in what turned out to be vain.

Now, I’m perfectly fine with the seemingly growing trend of no encore-performances – encores are a fairly silly artifice, when you get right down to it. However, in this case, it was a sad and frustrating ending to the night, given Bazan’s words just before his last song of the night, when he cut himself off after beginning a thought with a wave of his hand and muttered “well, you’ll see”. Perhaps it was more fitting to end in this way, with the audience craving, if not more, than simply, resolution.