David Bazan Band (with members of Jimmy Eat World) @ Rhythm Room|12/5/12
David Bazan's grandma spent the evening at the merch table. I'm not sure when exactly it struck me, the realization that Bazan's relentless honesty knows no bounds, and that the man's grandma must be used to it.
Maybe it was during his brief discourse on Keynesian economics. Or when he discussed Control, the 10-year-old Pedro the Lion record his band played in its entirety last night, as a piece of fiction as far as the "infidelity and murder goes," but sincere in its expression of dissatisfaction with America's cultural mindset post 9-11. Or maybe it was when he was discussing caprese salads, and how he's not "picky about tomatoes."
Indeed, it wasn't a line from Control that summed up the night, or Bazan's career as a songwriter in general. Though there are plenty of great ones on that record, it's a lyric from "People," from his 2009 full-length solo LP, Curse Your Branches, that makes Bazan's aims clear: "When you love the truth enough/you start to tell it all the time/and when it gets you into trouble/you discover you don't mind."
Control of course aims for that truth too, but it takes the Coen brothers route to get there, casting a widescreen lens on cheating husbands, loyal consumers, murdering wives, lying paramedics, and faithless priests. It's a knotty chunk of "emo" noir, bombastic like Bazan's noted inspiration, Weezer's Pinkerton, with moments of languid "slowcore" that defined his previous albums.
Bazan invited up Jim Adkins and Zach Lind of Jimmy Eat World to assist on some of the songs. Lind added shaking percussion to "Magazine," while Adkins sat in guitar and contributed the Rentals-esque synth squiggles to "Indian Summer" and church organ to "Priests and Paramedics."
The band's midset break from Control material was varied, drawing on Bazan's synth pop record as Headphones, selections from his Fewer Moving Parts EP (the surging power pop of "That's How I Remember" was a highlight of the evening), and songs from his solo LPs. The newest, Eating Paper from 2011's Strang Negotiations, stomped with swagger. It's one of a pair of songs on that album written by Jason Martin of Starflyer 59.
Martin's influence would return with "Second Best," the heaviest song of the night, with its fuzzy riffs indebted to Starflyer 59's Silver and Gold. But Bazan's throaty howl is all his own. He's always been a good singer, but his voice has aged incredibly well, and he brought an effortless swagger to the material.
"This is my hometown," Bazan said as the band wrapped up. He was born here, and his grandma was the evening's guest. She sat to the side as Bazan thanked the crowd, and led his bass and drums combo into "Rejoice."
It's closing lyric: "Everything is so meaningful/and most everything turns to shit/rejoice," might be the sort of thing you'd hold back from your grandma, or your mother, or your pastor. But Bazan shares, and he puts his questions and answers into the air, makes them public, and makes them art. The heavy thought lingered in the room before Bazan killed the amp, looked up from the crowd smiling and thanked them.
Last Night: David Bazan Band with members of Jimmy Eat World @ Rhythm Room The Crowd: Packed -- lots of members of the Phoenix music crowd, including members of Andrew Jackson Jihad, Captain Squeegee, Kris Roe of The Ataris, St. Ranger, and more. Overheard: The guy who kept shouting "Play 'Whole,'" and didn't let down after Bazan curtly replied "Nope." It Sort of Blows Me Away: The Bazan still does Q&As during the shows. That's really something.
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"Options" "Rapture" "Penetration" "Indian Summer" "Progress" "Gas and Matches" "Cold Beer and Cigarettes" "Foregone Conclusions" "People" "That's How I Remember" "Eating Paper" "Magazine" "Rehearsal" "Second Best" "Priests and Paramedics" "Rejoice"