Build-Your-Own-Festival: Cate Le Bon at Middle East Upstairs & Mother Falcon at Great Scott
What happens when two bands you can’t miss are both playing the same night? Well, if the set-time stars align in just the right way, you may be able to turn an ordinary concert experience into a Build-Your-Own-Festival, which is precisely what I did this weekend with the sultry Cate Le Bon playing an early show at the Middle East Upstairs, and the dynamic gaggle that is Mother Falcon headlining a late show at Great Scott.
Totally obsessed with the 70s stylings of Cate Le Bon, Mug Museum easily soared to the top of my “Best Albums of 2013” list. Considering some of my all-time favorite albums include Velvet Underground & Nico’s Andy Warhol album, Television’s Marquee Moon, and Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon, I instantly fell in love with the Welsh Cate Le Bon, who combines proto-punk guitar riffs a la Television, lustfully serene vocals with slightly accented over-pronunciation akin to Nico, and the folk poetry and range of Joni Mitchell all into one brilliant aural alloy. Le Bon and band channeled a professionally vintage performance with precision, restraint, and clarity on the Middle East stage, and the brief emergence of a wooden recorder didn’t hurt the old-timey feel of the set, either. Subtle with movement and sound, it was fun to see the band’s more modern sense of humor in their parodied physical setlist [see below], since otherwise I might have wondered if I’d just unearthed the perfect time-capsule hologram of a 40 year-old show. Onstage, her guitarist/synth player was rocking a 70s mop with a once-fashionable shawl draped over his keyboard, and while her bassist and drummer looked a little more of the present, Le Bon appeared other-worldly with her Karen O-style bob, sharp cheekbones, and long, shapeless silver lamé dress. This outfit could only work for someone with her handsome elegance – in a packed, overly-dim room, Le Bon was a beacon of light donning Statue-of-Liberty chić.
In the same way that no matter what college class you take your professor will inevitably find some way to work in Immanuel Kant, so too might themes arise from two totally separate concerts happening on opposite sides of the river. I just wasn’t expecting it to be The New Colossus.
If Cate Le Bon was the Statue of Liberty, Mother Falcon most certainly represented the huddled masses. With the promise of seeing over a dozen musicians on a stage smaller than a dorm room, I chased from Cambridge to Boston so as not to miss this indie rock orchestral fraternity. Indeed, with a current line-up of fourteen musicians (some of whom rotated instruments) packed into 3 rows onstage, between them they covered synth, accordion, bass, upright bass, drums, pedal steel, cello, tambourine, maraca, violin, bassoon, trumpet, sax, clarinet, mandolin, and guitar. With such a young group (at least one member had under-21 X’s on his hands), I couldn’t help but be impressed not only by the sophistication of their song craftsmanship with so many moving parts, but also by the camaraderie and lack of ego amongst a rather bizarre amalgamation of band-geeks, stoners, and campy early-20s personalities. Indeed, one of the fellows on strings shared that they travel in two vans, and that they’ve developed different reputations – the Red Van as the This American Life/Elliott Smith crowd, and the Silver Van as the group who listens to System of a Down and Alicia Keys. The variance in attitude seems to work for the young Texans, as they’re able to combine elements of rock & soul, whispers & shouts, and levity & gravity as they crawl over each other other on stage, their firm kinship evident as they swapped breaths in the spotlight.
I was tickled when Cate Le Bon played “Falcon Eyed,” an inadvertent foreshadowing of the rest of my Falcon-related evening, and the limited stage banter that Le Bon mustered involved going back and forth with the audience over her happiness to be in Boston. And Cambridge. And Cambridge. And Boston. Perhaps not unlike New York City and Brooklyn, the Charles serves as our “air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,” and in turn, we show-goers embody the wretched refuse of its teeming shore. So long as the golden door keeps leading to such incredible musical forays, regardless of the side of the river, we tempest-tost wretches need be exiles no more.
Cate Le Bon:
Are You With Me Now?
I Can’t Help You
Eyes So Bright
The Man I Wanted
What Is Worse
Fold the Cloth
Unknown (billed as Tea, Ram Is, Ooh)
Paranoid Android (Radiohead cover)
Her Radiant Limb
When It Was Good