Photo by Shannon Lubetich.
Saturday November 19, 2011 1:30 AM
I just got back from one of the most amazing concerts of my life: Blind Pilot, with Point Juncture, WA, at the El Rey Theatre in LA on Friday, Nov. 19.
First up was �Point Juncture, WA from Portland, OR.� When asked after the show about the origin of their name, they said they were obsessed with the TV show �Twin Peaks,� and wanted to create their own imaginary town. This puzzled me, because I actually am from Washington, and was wondering where the heck Point Juncture was. Apparently, the band has had several people from Washington come up to them and claim they go to �Point Juncture� all the time� false. Not a real place.
The time from 8:45 to 9:30, however, was less about their name, and all about their music. When the curtain opened, I was initially impressed by the presence of a woman on the drums, though she turned out to be the lead singer. They even had a guy on a giant xylophone, more technically known as a �vibraphone.� The typical tight-shirted guitarist totally had a bromance with the keyboardist, who was rocking a baseball cap. The keyboardist also sang, but less than I would have preferred. His voice reminded me of Ben Gibbard�s, whereas the woman�s voice was only pretty when she was singing sweet songs. As soon as she tried to turn her voice harsh, or too loud, she lost its quality. The most touching moment came when all the band members sang the chorus of one of their songs together, smiling quietly and sweetly.
After a crowd squish and my most perfectly timed squirm through the crowd to the bathroom, Blind Pilot took the stage. Hailing from Portland, OR as well, they embrace their hippie roots with charm and plaid and facial hair. The only woman in the band admitted to the crowd that tonight was the �first time I�ve worn a onesie,� which she bought earlier that day in LA. She also revealed it to be her �first time wearing tights with shorts.� The band members were very amiable and chatty, engaging and seducing the crowd.
Blind Pilot�s first album �3 Rounds and a Sound� was released in July 2008, and they just recently released �We Are The Tide� in September; the new album is much more upbeat and rock than their first, which is more acoustic, slow, and soft. I had not listened to the new album, but only bits of songs, and declared to like the first one better (you know, being the hipster that I am). However, after that concert, I�m sold on �We Are The Tide.� I�m sold on anything that ever touches the hands of Blind Pilot. They flawlessly integrated old with new, slowing it down with old, crowd favorites and picking it back up again with newer songs. They had the most obscure instruments: a �bass� cello, which gets offended when called a cello, a monstrosity that I think was a classy, old-fashioned accordion (upon later research, I discovered it�s called a �harmonium,� and is essentially an accordion on its side), the same vibraphone as Point Juncture, WA, a mandolin, a banjo, and a weird cradle-guitar thing that I�ve never seen before in my life and never expect to see again. (Apparently, it�s called an, �Appalachian dulcimer.� Thank you Wikipedia.) Oh, and you know, there was a guitar and some drums�how pedestrian. The music wasn�t even intense, but Blind Pilot played with so much enthusiasm that the lead singer broke his G-string on �Go On, Say It.� My favorite musician, because I have to have one of those in each band, was the harmonium player. He looked like �pre-Parkinson�s� Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly in �Back to the Future.� It was precious. He was so excited about everything, jumping all around and smiling like a maniac. This energy was infectious, and the way Blind Pilot (as well as the first band) sincerely enjoyed playing together brought a love and warmth that the crowd adored. The most precious man in the crowd, kind of burly with a buzz cut, wearing a black jacket, shyly sang along to almost every song, as if he were embarrassed to admit he actually had feelings. But still, the energy got to him, and by the end he was swaying and singing along to the cover of a song about the South, later revealed to be �The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down� originally by The Band.
Someone in the crowd called for �3 Rounds and a Sound� to which the bassist responded, �Oh, we don�t do that one anymore.� The lead singer asked, �which one?� �3 rounds.� �Hah. � It became clear that they were attempting to hoodwink the crowd, as, at the end of the encore, they treated us to the most beautiful experience. The lead singer told the crowd they were going �unplugged,� so we would all need to be quiet and listen hard, and feel free to join in singing if we knew the words. But upon peering into the front of the crowd (I was in the 3rd row from the front), he asked, �Is there room for us down there?� To which the resounding response was �YES.� They then proceeding to move all six of their band members, and accompanying instruments (including a small drum) onto the floor in front of the stage. The audience scrunched back, and they motioned for those closest to sit down, which we did. One of the band members observed that it was �like dominoes.� Because this was such a novel experience, many audience members (including myself) were holding cameras to record/document the experience. However, the drummer made a camera hand motion to the lead singer, who then asked if everyone could put their cameras down and enjoy the moment together �and just have it be what it is right now,� with nothing but us and the music. Though kneel/squatting (knuatting, or squeeling) was incredibly uncomfortable, I quickly forgot my pain, numbed by the aesthetics of beautiful music�the long withheld and much loved �3 Rounds and a Sound.� The instruments echoed all the way to the back of El Rey, and met perfect, reverent silence. The crowd was asked to join in singing, and swelled to the chorus. It was magical. Not only is the song beautiful in and of itself, but being right there with the band, on their level, and contributing to the song equally with the same volume, made the experience unreal. I was almost moved to tears, and that doesn�t happen with me. Especially not at concerts.
The beauty continued, as I asked the security guard at the front of the curtain if there were any way to get a set list. He stuck his head backstage and asked for one. Once he had it in hand, he said, �Going once.. going twice� what will you offer me?� to the ever-increasing crowd. I responded feebly, �My love..?� And a guy said, �She did ask first,� so I received the set list. After my sister and I sat down because we felt like we couldn�t walk after kneel/squatting for such a long time, I spotted members of Point Juncture, WA. I commended them on their performance, and then, since they seemed so amicable, asked them to do a station ID for KSPC. They affirmed, and did so, several band members confusing the letters of KSPC. I was asked what they stood for, but couldn�t provide an answer (after all, I am just a babyDJ). So the keyboardist, in order not to confuse the �p� and the �c�, said �ok, Potato College, got it.� The guitarist asked if KSPC�s library had any of their music, to which I responded, �No, probably not�� and he offered to get me a CD. He snuck right in the merch booth and came out with a gorgeous and complicatedly packaged album. I then decided to further bother them by asking for autographs, but the lead singer was backstage because she had a cold. The keyboardist (a.k.a. Ben Gibbard Voice) then told me to wait three minutes and he�d go get her to sign it. He did. They were some of the nicest people I�ve met in a long time. Remember, at concerts, it never hurts to ask, because otherwise, you might miss amazing opportunities.
Members of Blind Pilot were then filtering out from backstage, but, for some reason, I wasn�t dedicated to waiting around to meet them. I think I didn�t want anything to taint my last, surreal experience of singing �3 Rounds and a Sound� with them. I do regret not purchasing a limited edition poster, and they had awesome sweatshirts, but I walked away with a donated CD, a free signed mini-poster, Blind Pilot�s new album, a set list, several station IDs (the majority of which have improperly ordered letters), and an experience that will last a lifetime in my memories. All future bands I see are going to have to work hard to top this one. If you have a chance to see Blind Pilot in concert, I guarantee you�ll encounter good vibes and leave with a sunny disposition.
Review by Shannon Lubetich.