This past Saturday night could only be described as a perfect summer storm of good music and good times in the Crescent City. Satchmo Summerfest kicked off at the Old U.S. Mint about noontime and kept up the funky beats until it was time to throw on your Sunday’s best blanc for White Linen Night over on Julia St. If you were like me you spent the evening wandering, wine in hand, pretending to know something about art. Bonne temps so far, but I had an important date to keep at the House of Blues. Saturday night meant it was time to see the Dirty Projectors, swinging lo’ as we could go.
It had been a long time since I’d seen these Brooklyn-based titans of indie, since that cramped, sweaty affair at Chelsea’s in Baton Rouge in summer of ’09. Back then they were fresh off the release of their breakout album, Bitte Orca, and basking in the glow of very well-deserved critical acclaim, at the peak of their mellifluous powers. That steamy July night was my first and only sweet taste of the Dirty Projectors live, so needless to say, I was very excited to see them again after a three-year interval.
The show opened with the triumphant return of a perennial area favorite, Wye Oak. Albeit the show’s opening act, this dynamic duo from Baltimore has amassed quite a NOLA-following in their own right, playing and opening shows around town over the past couple years with a variety of big name bands. The powerful combo of Andy Stack on drums/keyboard and Jenn Wasner on guitar bathed the early show crowd in gritty folk rock goodness, hypnotizing all eager civilians happy to be included in Wasner’s dreamily melodic musings. Safe to say, Wye Oak has a hard-earned Nola pedigree of shows to be proud of.
By the time Dirty Projectors took the stage, we were all restlessly anticipating a rare chance to hear their awesome new studio effort, Swing Lo Magellan, live, up-close and personal, as the music gods intended. The set started off strong with a rowdy rendition of the album title track to be followed predictably by a slew of other songs off their July release – including ‘About to Die,” a new personal favorite. Then things really got hot down on the floor as the band struck up fan-fav “Cannibal Resource,” carrying with it a rush of nostalgia. Two more big songs – “The Socialites” and “Gun Has No Trigger” – quickly followed suit, bombarding us with palpable enthusiasm for all things David Longstreth and Amber Coffman. I’m just glad I was not steering a ship during Coffman’s beautiful vocal showcase on “The Socialites,” or I would have crashed it into whatever rocky shore she possessed. Onward the end…
The exuberant crowd was enthralled as they wound their way through the twisting melodies and tumbling lyrics that never ceased to permeate the packed room. The regular set ran through both new and old, including the lovely ditty “Beautiful Mother,” the darkly enthralling “Just From Chrevon,” and the ever-enjoyable romp that is “Useful Chamber.” After a short intermission, Dirty Projectors ran back out to wild applause and ran through a three-song encore that included more new songs with lush dance anthem “Stillness is the Move.” Oh and yes, David, I can “Dance For You.”
Again, I cannot help but be surprised by the depth of creativity and intensity that Dirty Projectors bring to their albums and live performances. By now it is self-evident that Longstreth is a lyrical genius, and it is visibly manifest that all the Dirty Projectors pour their hearts and souls into crafting carefully novel melodies that infuse their music with vibrancy. I realize that many consider Longstreth’s occasionally discordant voice to be one of the “weaknesses” that may prohibit the Dirty Projectors from being accessible to the uninitiated. However, I do not think it is inappropriate to quote David Byrne in the face of such criticisms, “The better a singer’s voice, the harder it is to believe what they’re saying.” I find Longstreth’s vocals clear and resonate, particular when paired with the honeyed vocals of bandmates, Coffman, Dekle, and Bell. They stand apart and yet work together, starkly apparent, like when something strikingly elegant is scribbled ironically on the side of a bus bench. But I digress…
Written by Michael Wren.
Enjoy the photo gallery!