The New Pornographers at The Fox (Oakland), 18 July 2010

Disappointed and annoyed.

First of all, I didn’t book my ticket early enough, so I was stuck up on the balcony. The Fox theatre has a fabulously sumptuous interior, but the balcony seats are crappy nevertheless: cramped, uncomfortable, cold, and far too far away from the stage.

Secondly, the ticket said 19:30 (7:30PM, actually, because we’re in the US), but the New Pornographers weren’t on stage until 21:45 because of the two support acts. Imaad Wasif was on first, and produced an amiable blend of stoner prog rock with alt-country elements, but I was feeling impatient by the time the Dodos came on, and just plain bored after two hours of music I didn’t come to see. The Dodos’ intensely drum and percussion-based music is something I would lap up under other circumstances; but as a second support act I would gladly have paid a higher ticket price to have them removed from the bill.

The worst thing, though, was the sound, which is the worst I have ever experienced at a gig. It was muddy and indistinct, and it sounded like they were playing at the bottom of a well. Which was actually the case up on the balcony, I suppose. The only thing I could hear clearly were Kurt Dahle’s drums. I literally could not make out most of the words they were singing. I don’t know if this was an artifact of the New Pornographer’s sound setup, or because of the acoustics at the Fox, but it was an enormous let-down. I love their crisp melodies and bright voices, but I just couldn’t hear them. When they started playing “Sweet Talk” — one of my favourite songs of theirs, and impossible not to include in the set, given the byzantine d├ęcor — I almost wanted to cry at not being able to hear the layered vocals.

Finally, I’m annoyed at myself for not doing anything about this. Throughout the concert, I noticed people getting up from their seats on the balcony, and walking out. I suspect that these folk knew better, and were heading downstairs for the general access floor area, no matter what their tickets said. I’m annoyed that I just sat there and didn’t even try to blag my way past the ushers. What’s the worst that could have happened? That they said no and sent me back to my seat? What’s the best that could have happened? I might actually have enjoyed seeing one of my favourite bands.

Note to self: don’t put up with shitty seats. Note to everyone else: avoid the balcony at the Fox.

Set list:

  1. Sing Me Spanish Techno (TC)
  2. Up In The Dark (T)
  3. Myriad Harbour (C)
  4. Crash Years (T)
  5. The Laws Have Changed (EV)
  6. Jackie, Dressed In Cobras (TC)
  7. Adventures In Solitude (C)
  8. Twin Cinemas (TC)
  9. Jackie (MR)
  10. All The Old Showstoppers (C)
  11. Go Places (C)
  12. Moves (T)
  13. Your Hands (Together) (T)
  14. My Shepherd (T)
  15. Use It (TC)
  16. Silver Jenny Dollar (T)
  17. Mass Romantic (MR)
  18. The Bleeding Heart Show (TC)

Encore:

  1. Challengers (C)
  2. The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism (MR)
  3. Testament To Youth In Verse (EV)

MR = Mass Romantic, EV = Electric Version, TC = Twin Cinema, C = Challengers, T = Together