Wow, I loved Frances Cone! Wow, I hated Delta Rae!
I track Frances Cone on Songkick and so got an alert that she was performing in LA. Yahoo! After seeing their Tiny Desk video, Hiro and I are huge fans. I was surprised to see that they were the opening act. I'd never heard of "Delta Rae" but they must be amazing if they go after Frances Cone! I watched Delta Rae's "Bottom of the River" video and loved it. To be honest, I went in bracing myself for Frances Cone to be less than their videos -- it's never as good as the Tiny Desk concerts -- and ready to be pleasantly surprised by Delta Rae. I had it exactly backwards.
Frances Cone played something like the following.
I teared up in nearly every piece. I liked the extra-rubato feel of "Wide Awake" (slowing down in the chorus) and Christina's acapella "Easy Love". Her voice has this incredible rasp + control quality. My friend recently expressed a love for the way a voice can trail off delicately and I was thinking about that tonight. So beautiful! Christina sings without vibrato most of the time and then adds it for accent in the most satisfying way. And her delivery is so great. She's clearly feeling the music but she doesn't add dramatic gestures and sappy eyebrows. Like Tracy Chapman, the voice and the music are full of emotion but the delivery is understated. I also really liked the live version of the drums on one of the pieces -- I wish I could remember which -- where the drum fills felt like an updated version of the intro to Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing". Perhaps the difference is in the new-ish drummer, Garrett's (?), take on the parts, whereas I've mostly heard Alex Baron's drumming. It was all great!
Not to end on a negative note, but we couldn't watch Delta Rae. Look at this photo and imagine what the band sounds like. You nailed it. We stayed for the first four songs and then split. In all fairness, they're really good. The overall sound is really well balanced and the energy is amazing. But it feels like a PR person has tweaked the show. "We need a 'Delta Rae' backdrop and lots of flashing lights facing the audience..." "We'll put a soapbox at center stage for the guitar solo and for Liz to belt the high notes..." "Brittany, you need something to do when you're not singing, bang quarter notes on this drum..." "More emotion! Sing to the stars!!!" Ug. It felt so staged after Frances Cone. It's a bit depressing that my taste is so different than the audience's. They seemed to love the high energy and showmanship. Instead, I want to feel something original and unique. To me, Delta Rae shouted a promo video and Frances Cone played music.
Bootleg is an interesting venue, with about 100 seats and room for 150 more standing. Stage views aren't great unless you're right in front or up in the back seats, but the sound is better than in many clubs in LA. We stood right in the center where the sound was best and didn't mind the sometimes-occulted view. (Especially in Delta Rae with the blinder lights. Thank you 6-foot person in front of me!) Sound for Frances Cone was good, but a bit too loud. The speakers sounded harsh in the midrange at high levels. I enjoyed about half the pieces without earplugs and the others sounded better with them (Etymotic). The reverb on Christina's vocals was particularly nice.
The word "Leave" in "Leave Without You" was too loud on that particular PA. Andrew's guitar in that piece had the same harshness when loud, so perhaps it's something that can be solved with EQ/compressor, or maybe backing off the mic for that word would do the trick.
Anyway, Frances Cone was one of the best things I've seen in a long time and I'll remember this show as I compose.
notes for self
Instead of a backdrop with one's own bandname, how about a backdrop of other bands you love?
When you don't want to greet audience members after a show, remember how charming and natural Frances Cone members were.
Try to make my music as moving with so few parts. Strip away anything not adding meaning.