Moonface with Sinaii | La Big Vic The Luminary Center for the Arts June 24, 2012
The last time Spencer Krug came to St. Louis, he had one musician in tow and they played some songs from the then-recently-released Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped. And here is your inevitable retread of his career to this point:
He was in a band (Wolf Parade) that was at one point capable of selling out 1,000-plus capacity clubs, and a couple more that could get close at the 400 range. But being King of Indie Mountain never seemed like much of a priority for Krug, and he has taken an obscure little path that led him to record an album called Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped under a fresh moniker (Moonface). There were maybe a dozen people at the Firebird for that last St. Louis show, true believers only. And less than a year later, he returns, this time to the Luminary Center for the Arts, playing expansive, hulking songs with Finnish post-rock band Siinai and one time Wolf Parade bassist Dante DeCaro. Don't look back.
La Big Vic takes the stage. Already there are at least twice as many people as there were last year. This band is from Brooklyn and comprises, not incidentally: 1) Peter Pearson, former member of the Pink Floyd live sound team 2) Toshio Masuda, Japanese immigrant who produced pop and commercial music in his home country and 3) Emilie Friedlander, former editor of Pitchfork's Altered Zones. Her vocals are bolder live, but the whole thing still has what we'll generously call a meditative feel. Friedlander attributes some nasty static to their recent drive through Texas. "I think my pickup melted," she says. In the back you could buy last year's Actually and this year's Dub the World! Actually Remixed. Pitchfork says the dub version is one tenth of a point better than the original, if you are looking for a way to decide.
Crowd Update: There is now a respectable cluster gathering near the stage. Fifty or sixty, I'd say. Krug and the five very European looking members of Siinai get right into extended jams on one or two chords. The album they recorded together, Heartbreaking Bravery, is a listening experience like running on a hamster wheel that slowly gets bigger. Sometimes it's exhausting, but all that space allows from some spectacular payoffs.
They start with "Shitty City." A few rows in the front are sitting, which is great. This is music to zone out to. The repetition becomes like waves and Krug's unmistakable warble comes through a clarion call. If the audience is all parked on the ground, the chances that the critical quiet moments will be shattered is much lower. Too bad we'll all end up standing three songs in.
This is an odd bunch, on stage. The members of Siinai are all effortlessly nailing every nuance and shift, their heads hung forward or rolled back; Krug is an strange ringleader. This is melodramatic music, long raw choruses with vulnerable lyrics. And when the songs end, he is wry and terse and affable. "I'm going to shake this until I can't anymore," he says, shaking a tambourine. Maybe ten seconds later he put it down. "You guys. Shhhhh." But he's smiling. I don't know if he wants people to stop talking (a few are, but it's not too bad) or if he's making a joke about self-serious musicians or his own self-serious music. At the show's peak, Siinai is demonstrating the power of synchronized chord mashing and Krug picks up a worn copy of Hamlet, from which he reads an unintelligible passage. Actual whoops and hollers from the crowd. In general these people are eager to express their appreciation. It's impossible to anticipate the endings of these songs (surely this fade is it, only then there's four more just like it), and the applause comes at just about every static moment.
"Thanks for putting up with us," says Krug before the last song.
"Thanks for putting up with us!" yells a woman in the crowd.
"It's a mutual putting-up-with," says Krug. "Like a mediocre marriage." He smiles and clarifies that it's been a great evening, thank you all for coming, etc. Then it's time for one last long goodbye. Thanks for the memories.
Bias: My notebook might as well have a heart doodle with KM and SK in it.
Setlist Shitty City Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips Quickfire, I Tried Heartbreaking Bravery I'm Not the Phoenix Yet Faraway Lightning Fast Peter Headed for the Door Yesterday's Fire Lay Your Cheek on Down