On Sunday night Feist performed at the Academy of Music. It was a respectable affair, one that cost $40-plus for a comfy, cushioned seat and a view of the expansive stage. The iPod queen herself was a lovely little dot of energy and guile amid the background shadow play, big band and heavy curtains.
The concert was infinitely enjoyable, but tame. We smiled to the music, and did that whole swaying shoulders, bouncing knees, tapping toes thing that looks real funny when you take into account the fact that our bums were plastered in place. We wanted to stand, we wanted to dance--at least some of us did (those of us under age 40, with noontime classes and afternoon barista shifts the next day rather than 8 a.m. meetings and arthritic knees). We were in the minority. Yet we sat, respectfully.
The restrained stateliness of the gilded, tiered auditorium demanded decorum from its audience. The ushers asked the few aisle dancers to clear the way (I'm sure they were "fire hazards"), and between songs, the hush alternated between comforting and eerie.
We were near-silent for "Mushaboom," "Brandy Alexander" and covers of stuff by fellow Canucks Kevin Drew and Sarah Harmer; we clapped politely for "1234" and "I Feel It All;" and we rose only for "Sea Lion Woman," which is impossible to resist, and the encore, because we were too lazy to lower our bodies after the standing ovation.
Feist commented repeatedly on the politeness of the audience and the sterile grandeur of the venue. She remembers playing at the Khyber and the North Star, she said. She told us to pretend we're at a sweaty bar, a shoulder-to-shoulder dive club. She closed the show with a remark along the lines of, "Next time, at a sweaty club!"
The girls-in-neon behind me complained that we weren't at such a venue, wiggling for breathing room and downing Citywides before and after the headlining set. The balding suit in front of me held his wife's hand and laughed, and when he ran into a fellow balding suit friend, he jested, "You hipster, you!" despite the fact that there's nothing remotely hipster about seeing an artist as popular as Feist on a Sunday night at the Academy of Music for upward of $50 a ticket.
Yet I, for one, was glad to see Feist play such a prim and proper venue, a place where fans of a wide range of ages and demographics can feel comfortable seeing their favorite artist come to life. I'm not saying she--or any musician for that matter--should play well-mannered concert halls for all tours, but once in a while--if you can swing a large, affluent audience--it's nice. A way to reach those folks who'd feel awkward cramped in the clammy basement of the First Unitarian Church, or whose joints are too weary to lean for two hours against the Johnny Brenda's back wall, or who'd never be able to find the Danger Danger Gallery (let alone hear of its existence).
Concerts are booked primarily at places that cater to young'uns for a reason. We're the ones with the time, energy and disposable income to fixate on the ever-rotating roster of the Next Big Thing. We're the ones who have the stamina to Sparks up and get hype for Crystal Castles at 1 a.m., when all the respectable people of the world are resting up for a big Sunday of home repairs and grocery shopping.
Most really good concerts and DJ events, I'd argue, occur at places I'd feel awkward bringing my mom to ("Welcome to Medusa, where the bathroom door isn't always attached to its frame!"). And most times, that's the way I like it. But sometimes it's nice when non-crappy artists play venues that make it easy for the minivan set to get cozy and support the music they too love.
And we're lucky Philly's got so many awesome, non-arena options for devoted fans who favor earlier set times, seated gigs and fellow patrons older than their offspring. The incomparable World Cafe Live provides the best of the adult alternative genre (get your Yael Naim tickets now); the Tower Theater makes each concert feel like an old-timey movie premiere (don't miss Flight of the Conchords on Monday); the Tin Angel's just like your coolest friend's living room (my recommendation: local singer/songwriter Birdie Busch next month); the Mann Center provided one of my favorite concert experiences ever (Neko Case in the rain); and the Kimmel Center's annual Summer Solstice event is always phenomenal (last year brought the Spinto Band and Enon to the main stage; this year, who knows?).
In other news ...
It's a good week for local musicians. Both Tickley Feather and Santogold released their full-length debuts. Can't stop listening to Santi's "L.E.S. Artistes" and Annie's "The Python" (still). Go and get. Bosom buddy flick Baby Mama performed unsurprisingly well at the box office. The Fey/Poehler interplay was hilarious, and the happiness-is-a-warm-baby storyline bothered me less than I thought it would, although I was insanely bothered by the film's lack of geographic accuracy. It's supposed to be set in Philly, but was filmed for the most part in Brooklyn, except for the usual B-roll, panorama stuff. At one point the ladies hop in a cab at the courthouse and supposedly head over to HUP in Uni City, but they're shown driving east toward, um, Camden? Also, much of the narrative focuses on some on-the-cusp neighborhood called "Southwest of Catharine Street," which would be Grad Hospital, right?, but looked more like Kensington. Hollywood would never diss New York with such a slip. Also irritating: CW's refusal to post Gossip Girl eps online for the remainder of the season, despite the fact that its audience is all young and cutting-edge and technologically hip. (Translation: We can't afford cable, but sure love our nighttime soap operas.) CW's excuse? Something about pulling the "epicenter" of the show to live broadcast television, aka where the advertising dollars are. It's like they're forcing us to turn to Chinese streaming video sites (Youku's a gift from me to you). And of course the world continues to reprimand Miley Cyrus for photos that I don't think are all that risque. Oh my God! A back! A bare back! A tastefully bare back! Quick, someone call the girl police and file a report!