Friday, September 29

Live: TV on the Radio 9/26/06

I arrived in Pomona an hour and a half early. Fuck. Los Angeles traffic can be unpredictable. Of course, part of it’s my fault—I chose to leave Santa Monica at four to be at the show at seven-thirty. But I mean, come on, it’s TV on the Radio. I couldn’t risk being there any less than an hour before the opening band came on.

I burned some time by grabbing a sandwich at Quizno’s (mmmm…toasty!) and decided to take a walking tour of the neighborhood surrounding the Glass House. I saw little of interest, which was not surprising, given my preconceived notions of Pomona. I did notice the Glass House Record Store, however, and so I decided to check it out.

Inside, I was delighted to find Kyp Malone, the backup singer and guitarist of TV on the Radio. He was chatting with a couple acquaintances and browsing through the records and so I began the fifteen-minute affair of working up the courage to talk to someone I practically worship. (For Tunde, it probably would have taken me around thirty minutes, and he probably would have left by the time I got up there nerve.)

It was an awkward encounter. I asked if he would sign my ticket, and he mumbled something along the lines of “yes”. As it turns out his signature was the word “Canejo” (I don’t know what it means) in bubble letters. I asked a couple ridiculous questions (why I get so star struck, I’ll never know) to which he muttered undecipherable answers before he told me, in a thick German accent, that I should go in the Glass House early to see the Ohsees. I assured him I would and thanked him for the autograph.

I got to thinking, and realized Kyp probably didn’t have a German accent. I was pretty sure he was American, and I recalled overhearing his voice in conversation with the other folks. It had sounded pretty normal to me. Later this was confirmed when he spoke during their set. He was just fucking with me, mumbling and speaking in a German accent just to dick around. I’m not sure what to think about that. It was funny, I guess—but mostly it was just kind of awkward.

Doors opened at seven-thirty. After a lot of waiting, the Ohsees came on at nine. They played a short but great set to an entirely unresponsive crowd. I am entirely unsure of how to describe their music, but I know I can confidently recommend it to you. Their set ended at nine-thirty five. TV on the Radio’s soundcheck began and ended fifteen minutes later. More waiting ensued. At ten-seventeen, the lights dim and our minds are blown.

Portrait of an artist:

Gerard Smith, one of the band’s most recent additions, hiding in the corner of the stage behind several levels of synthesizers and keyboards. He spends most of the time facing the drum kit, his back to the crowd, clearly trying to stay out of the spotlight and, most of the time, succeeding. Every now and then he’ll glance nervously at the crowd and quickly turn back around to focus on his bass playing.

Jaleel Bunton, his short dreads alive with whatever beat he happens to be channeling. Lanky and energetic, one would never guess he didn’t know how to play drums prior to joining TV on the Radio a year and a half ago. He remains inconspicuous, but solid and appreciated.

Dave Sitek, slightly unshaven with a small belly protruding from his tight t-shirt. A set of chimes (which, most of the time, are pretty arbitrary) hang from the end of his Fender Telecaster, which he, on occasion, beats with a tambourine. A massive pedalboard sits in front of his feet. Around his neck is a necklace with a large hummingbird pendant on the end, a perfect symbol due to how much his lighting-fast picking resembles those of a hummingbird’s wings. He assumes a position of endurance to help him play as fast as he needs, and spits profusely as his sings the words aloud to himself.

Kyp Malone, raining falsetto down upon the audience from behind his monumental beard. At least one of his strings is always broken. He remains calm and collected for most of the evening, though every now and then the music seems to consume him and send him into either a stiff-legged hopping frenzy or a quick shuffle of the feet. He solicits the crowd on several occasions for applause of the Ohsees. He speaks entirely free of a German accent.

Tunde Adebimpe, clearly the center of attention on stage, sweating from every pore on his body. One hand manhandles the microphone, the other waves wildly with the music’s momentum in a “stand up and testify” sort of way. He can’t decide whether to keep his glasses on his face or not. At the beginning and end of almost every song, he fiddles with his effected microphone. The more soul he puts into a note, the farther he bends backward, often to a point where it seemed he would inevitably fall over. He jumps all over the stage. He is larger than life. His energy is insatiable. He is the shepherd and we are his flock. He is the god of the carnival, hammering down on the button of the strong man attraction and sending the indicator speeding into the meter’s bulbous peak before breaking it all together and disappearing into the clouds while we, the children, watch in awe.

They began with “Wash the Day Away” and from then on received nothing but worship from the eager crowd. The sound was excellent, with the correctly mixed vocals and atmospheric guitars making all the difference. Songs from all over the TVOTR catalogue were played, including two from “Young Liars” EP. The band spiced up a couple of their songs—namely, “The Wrong Way” and “Satellite”—with a quicker tempo that had the whole audience jumping up and down in a frenzy. “Wolf Like Me” was, of course, a huge hit. The live versions of “I Was A Lover” and “Poppy” (which Kyp described as a “extremely idealistic love song”) both far exceeded the still-excellent quality of the originals, mostly due to Tunde and Kyp’s unrestrained vocals. “Young Liars” was also a rousing success, made curious by Tunde’s statement that the song was about someone who died and someone who was never born.

At one point, Tunde asked the audience to put their electronics away and proceeded to yell “Wet Zone!” while throwing the contents of his water bottle everywhere. When someone yelled for David Bowie to come out during the encore, he replied that Bowie was hiding in the shell of the bass drum, “armadillo style.” Otherwise, he generally didn’t seem to know what to do with such adoration, mumbling into the microphone through a huge, appreciative grin.

They never once slipped up, delivering song after song with an absurd amount of raw energy and artistic experience, aside from a little occasional chime abuse. When they closed the night with a dense, powerful version of “Staring at the Sun”, everyone present knew they had witnessed something special. Things so good should not exist on the world. It doesn’t seem possible. It was perfect. There are no words to describe it, hence the long-winded and awkward article that you’re reading now. But I will say that I have yet another thing to add to my long list of why TV on the Radio is one of the best bands in the world. I’m even going to go out on a limb and say that it was right up there with Man Man for the best live set I’ve ever seen. DO NOT MISS THEM IF THEY ARE WITHIN ONE HUNDRED MILES OF YOU.

I don’t remember the exact order, but here are the songs they played:

First Set: Satellite, Young Liars, The Wrong Way, Dreams, Poppy, I Was A Lover, Hours, Wolf Like Me, Let the Devil In, Dirty Whirl, Wash the Day Away
Encore: Province, Blues from Down Here, Staring at the Sun

TV on the Radio - Young Liars
TV on the Radio - Poppy
TV on the Radio - Dirty Whirl

- Dominick Duhamel -

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