Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Camera Obscura

Yes, I've seen a real one, believe it or not (in San Francisco), but the optical device is not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about the band.

Camera Obscura is a five-piece band from Glasgow, and they play soaring pop songs that are both sturdy and frail. Until you hear them, it's impossible to understand that contradiction. Their lyrics are often deeply ironic as well, undercutting the seeming innocence of their vocals.

Every once in a while, a band really gets under my skin, and Camera Obscura has done that. They make, quite simply, beautiful music, and I write easily while I'm listening to them (which I'm doing right now).

Obligatory Myspace music page: Camera Obscura. "French Navy" is an excellent place to start.

I found out two weeks ago that this Scottish band was coming to Austin, of all places. On a Monday. At Antone's, a legendary blues club that has had uniformly terrible sound quality every time I've been there in the last five years.

Plus, and I've said this before, I like people, but not near me.

Combine all this and going to see them was, for me, a risk. It wasn't like they'd be coming back anytime soon, though--or ever--so I decided to go.

Here's the thing about me, and after so many years, it's undeniable: at a concert, I have power gravitational field that attracts assholes. If an asshole walks within ten feet of me, he's inexorably drawn into orbit, coming closer and closer.

At a concert, I am to assholes what Saturn is to moons.

Gloria has, in the past, refused to believe that I have this quality. Foolish girl, so lovely and so terribly naive. "I will unleash my awesome power this evening," I told her, and she laughed.


We reached Antone's over an hour before the band was supposed to begin playing, and took our place only fifteen feet from the stage. Antone's is a long shotgun shack, essentially, about three times as long as it is wide. For some inexplicable reason, though, they set the stage so that bands perform across the width of the club instead of the length. What that means is that the stage is about forty feet from the back wall, and the reason the sound is so shitty is that the sound just bounces back and forth. The accoustic sweet spot must be the size of a tennis ball.

As we wait in the blissfully uncrowded club, I look at Gloria and say "They're coming." She laughs.

By the time the band begins playing, the club is absolutely packed, and the three people directly in front of me are as follows:
1. Pogo Man. There are over three hundred people in this club, and there is ONE person who is pogo-ing up and down. He looks like a twenty-year old version of Niles in Frazier, he has enough energy to light up Pittsburgh, and he's in front of me. And he actually cut in front of us, saying "I'll be more out of your way if I'm up here."

2. Just to the right of Pogo Man is Sara The Sea Cow. Sara also cut in front of us, only she just used her elbows, which are lethal. Sara is tall, and large, and is punishing her hair in a macabre fashion that I am unable to explain. She is also terribly drunk, and as she dances she swings her elbows up high, establishing position in the post. She's Dikembe Mutumbo with boobs.

3. To the right of Sara The Sea Cow is Robert Pershing Wadlow, the world's tallest man. He is at least 6'10", which makes him the tallest man in the entire club. He is standing almost directly in front of me.

"Behold the awesome power of my asshole gravity," I said to Gloria, and she did not laugh.

Oh, and Antone's sound was worse than ever, damn it. Camera Obscura depends heavily on aural clarity to create their soaring sound, and since the mix was butchered, nothing sounded right, even though it was very cool to see them in person.

To stop this from happening again, I'm designing a new product--The Personal Concert Experience Box™. It's a sealed enclosure with a periscope, and I believe it has commercial potential.

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