Bright Eyes at Hard Rock and Catching up is hard to do

I was thoroughly unexcited about going to see Bright Eyes at Hard Rock Live, but consoled myself with the knowledge that The Faint would deliver a typically electrifying set, so I begrudgingly bid adieu to my family to drag my ass out to a rock show when I would rather have been at home. Of course, I got there just as The Faint finished up.

Oh well.

Having been routinely underwhelmed by Bright Eyes in the past, I steeled myself for an hour of boredom, but was quite pleased by the performance the group put on. Yeah, when I say "group," I do mean "group." Sure, Conor Oberst and his twitchy, discomfiting stage presence was the focal point, but he actually blended in well with the 10-PIECE BAND on stage with him. Electric cello, violin, two drummers, three keyboardists (one of whom whipped out a trumpet), two guitarists and a bassist. At least I think that's what the count was. They kept switching instruments, but I know for sure that for quite a few of the songs, there were 10 people on stage. And that meant a crashing ocean of sound, full of discordant explosions and off-the-rails melodies … it was damned good and it wasn't all about ConorConorConor. The audience was surprisingly passive, especially on more popular numbers (i.e., the ones I recognized as Bright Eyes songs), but I guess it's not indie-cool to get whipped up into a frenzy by someone as self-effacing (cough, cough) as ConorConorConor.

Speaking of the crowd: Hats off to Michael McRaney and Gerard Mitchell at Foundation Presents and the fine folks at the Hard Rock for selling out the 3,000-seat venue for the June 2 show. A bigger round of applause, however, for the 3,000 music fans who showed up to hear music that hadn't been spoon-fed to them by Clear Channel and Sony. Yes, there's a good deal of hype around Bright Eyes, but really, here's a band that deserves a little hyperbolic attention and has worked for it. I was told that this Orlando date (which, I'll say again, was sold out) was totally in line with "bigger markets" as far as ticket sales go. So maybe Orlando's not just cooler than we think, maybe Orlando's cooler than some other, more established "music towns" ... OK, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.


Allow me to share some recent releases that haven't made it into print elsewhere in this paper, but are still worthwhile.

Einsturzende Neubauten: 1/2 Mensch DVD (Cherry Red/Some Bizarre/MVD) – Neubauten in 5.1 surround is about 3.1 more than most folks can handle, especially when there are brain-jarring visuals involved. This is prime-era trash-can-bashing industrial noise (from 1986), and all of these "videos" were conceived to accompany tracks from the never-gonna-leave-my-collection Halber Mensch album. BANGBANGBANG in the front. SMASHDRILLSQUEAL in the back. RUMBLERUMBLERUMBLE on the floor. Oh, I'm in heaven, I tell ya. Don't close your eyes, though; you'll only get dizzy.

Mercan Dede: Su (La Escondida) – Dede is a Turkish Sufi, but this album is quite unlike the Dervish sounds you're now thinking about. As modern in texture (much of it is electronics-based and atmospheric) as it is pan-ethnic (musicians from throughout Asia make appearances), it's a thoroughly daring and provocative album that's quite listenable as well.

Various Artists: Tease! The Beat of Burlesque (Verve) – With "lounge music" and "swing music" having been completely drained of joy due to overdiligent revivalists, it looks like – thanks to the likes of SuicideGirls' traveling burlesque shows – vintage striptease music is next up. Which, just like in the initial stages of the lounge and swing revivals, is perfectly fine. At its best, this music is raw, funky and unabashedly simplistic, and this 14-track compilation has some fine genre highlights ("Harlem Nocturne," "The Nervous Beat," "Slow Walk" and, duh, "The Stripper"). Enjoy this now, for when Brian Setzer gets hold of it, it's all over.

Weezer: Make Believe (Geffen) – Worst Weezer album ever, right? Wrong. Everyone's totally frothing mad because it's "lazy" or "scolding" or "Joan Jett" and I can't figure out the anger. Sure, "Beverly Hills" is the weakest, most uninspired song any band has ever recorded in the history of time, but tell me you're not singing it right now. I don't know what people expected, but I got a Weezer record with handclaps and choruses and ironic guitar lines, and I love it.

Hieroglyphics: Full Circle Tour DVD/CD (Hiero Imperium) – Pardon my lingo, but Orlando's in the house on the video portion of this set. The DVD is a great collection of live performances from last year's tour, including some hot footage from the show at The Social. Little Brother, Del, Souls of Mischief ... the gang's all here. The audio CD is great but the added visual elements on the DVD make it the best part of the package.

Boris: Akuma No Uta (Southern Lord) – This record starts out with characteristic S/Lord sludge on "Intro," but Boris is less interested in bumming you out than they are in kicking your ass. This Japanese trio is a power trio, a la Blue Cheer ... if Blue Cheer did meth, used broken glass for guitar picks and only used broken speakers to play through. I love it.