I went to a show, and it rocked.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgRsYkKb1eI]

<—- I love the National.

I rarely go to see live music.

I have some pretty good reasons: Seeing big-name artists in huge venues costs too much, and except for the cheap thrill of mob-mentality singalongs, those shows are only slightly more intimate than watching the same show on HBO, or DVD. Slightly. I prefer to go to small shows in clubs or, at worst, Broadway-sized theaters. These shows are, well, intimate, because when the band gets really crazy, I see see the sweat flying, and if the lead singer wants to talk to the crowd, I could theoretically and talk back and be heard, and if the sound guy does something weird, I can see the lead guitarist make an facial expression that says, “Dude, what the fuck?” So, you’d think that I’d go see some small shows.

Here are my bad reasons: I forget. Or I don’t know they’re happening because San Diego’s local media is either right-wing, really right-wing, half-baked, or just bad, so I tend not to read any of it. Or I flake. Or I flat-out refuse to pay Ticketmaster charges that amount of an additional 50 to 90% of the ticket price, so I have to go to the actual venue’s box office to buy the ticket, and they tend to be 20 to 30 minutes away, so I don’t make the effort until it’s too late, so the show sells out and I end up along watching “Law & Order” reruns and drinking martinis.

Despite all of this, I somehow managed to go see the National at the House of Blues on Wednesday night. Luckily for me, they’re just obscure enough not to sell out, so the “I’ll go downtown to buy a ticket tomorrow” mantra that I’ve been muttering for two months didn’t come back to haunt me. The tickets were $18 and the Ticketmaster charges were an additional $16. Nice. My friends Jason and Lance, who I went with, do not have the same sort of righteous indignation about that sort of stuff that I do, so they’d had tickets forever. They’re indie-rock-snob buddies. Though Jason always says, “I am NOT an indie-rock-snob. But Lance is.” I rely on them (and EW music reviews) for music suggestions. With no bars in San Diego with a good, curated jukebox (unlike in New York, where the Phoenix and Nowhere’s CD selections totally informed my music downloads) and with the alternative rock stations only playing, really, what’s on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart (Buck Cherry — really?), I have to get Jason and Lance’s suggestions. I’d read Lance’s bible, Pitchfork, too, but their RSS feed blows, and I don’t read anything unless it works seemlessly on Bloglines. So there.

So: The National. Wow.

I’ve been describing them as the bastard child of REM and Pulp, which may or may not be accurate, but I think it’s fair. (AMG has them listed as “sadcore.” Ha!) Matt Berninger’s voice reminds me a lot of Jarvis Cocker’s, and the band’s lyrics are political and poetic and a bit opaque like REM’s, and the tunes are melodious and rhythmic and rockin’ like both. I’m sure some indie-rock-snobs will beg to differ, but I think the fact that the National is playing a triple bill with REM and Modest Mouse says a lot. Or not. Whatever.

Anyway, they rawked. Matt Berninger is a tall, gangly spastic weirdo, and when he gets into a song, it’s been gotten (to paraphrase Jamie Pressley). The rest of the band does a pretty standard indie rock thing — messy hair, moderately excited performance — but the producer of their amazing latest album “Boxer,” Padma Newsome, was also on stage, and he was awesome, jumping from piano to violin to flute to synth, often in the middle of a song. And he played the violin like Slash plays the guitar. Though his press photos make him look a little like Glen Hansard, on Wednesday, he looked a lot like Krist Novoselic, crossed with Weird Al.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SofnZ1oKqk]

The band basically played the majority of the songs on “Boxer” and their previous album “Alligator,” and it made me very happy. And it made the 542 hipsters (87.2% of San Diego’s hipster population) in attendance pretty cheery, too. One of the encores was “Mr. November,” which I had thrillingly rediscovered that morning (leading me to a Twitter post that said “Ted used to be carried on the arms of cheerleaders”). And it was out. of. control. I found a startlingly similar version of YouTube. Enjoy.

Honestly, when I first heard the song, I thought it was political, being about November and not fucking us over. And then I read the lyrics, and I’m just mystified:

This is nothing like it was in my room
In my best clothes
Trying to think of you
This is nothing like it was in my room
In my best clothes

The English are waiting
And I don’t know what to do
In my best clothes
This is when I need you

The English are waiting
And I don’t know what to do
In my best clothes

I’m the new blue blood, I’m the great white hope
I’m the new blue blood

I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November
I’m Mr. November, I won’t fuck us over
[repeat]

I wish that I believed in fate
I wish I didn’t sleep so late
I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders
[repeat]

I’m the new blue blood, I’m the great white hope
I’m the new blue blood

I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November
I’m Mr. November, I won’t fuck us over
[repeat]

I wish that I believed in fate
I wish I didn’t sleep so late
I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders
[repeat]

I’m the new blue blood, I’m the great white hope
I’m the new blue blood
I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November
I’m Mr. November, I won’t fuck us over

May 30, 2008
||

Related Posts

1 comment

I love The National too! Sadly, they’ve never come to Guadalajara. Have you heard their new “The Virginia EP”? You should.

How’s everything going up there, by the way? Tomorrow I’m going to see Sigur Rós in concert… I can’t believe they’re coming to GDL.

Well, hope you’re doing well. Write me (in spanish, please. lol)

Leave a reply