New Pornographers & Okkervil River @ 9:30 Club, DC [4/14/08]
This is normally the place where I would post a short review of last night's New Pornographers and Okkervil River show at the 9:30 Club here in DC. I'd also normally post a few pictures of varying quality.
Sadly, though, the most I can really say about last night's show is that it looked like it was pretty good. And folks who stood upstairs told me it was pretty good.
I, however, stood on the floor about 5 feet back from the stage near Blaine -- and I couldn't hear anything.
Well, "anything" is a bit much. I couldn't hear anything coming out of the PA. So I heard guitars. I heard bass. I heard the drums. But I could barely hear Carl's vocals, Katherine's vocals, or keyboards of any kind. It was a bit like listening to stereo headphones where one side isn't working. And it wasn't much better during Okkervil River's opening set, though admittedly they seem to be experimenting with a slightly different live sound with Charles Bissell in the band (almost a quasi-solo sound with Will's voice and acoustic high in the mix, and the rest of the band very low-key in the background).
I've heard from a ton of artists that they love playing the 9:30 Club. They're treated like kings by the 9:30 folks. That's awesome. And I can speak from experience that the staff inside the 9:30 are about as friendly and accommodating as any club I've ever been to.
But, after living here for 8 months and seeing a large number of shows at the 9:30, I can say in all seriousness that the audience experience at the 9:30 Club is terrible. I've mentioned before that the club often seems like it's way oversold, and you can barely find a place in the entire club to stand, let alone actually see the stage. And when you actually get there early, as I did last night, and get near the stage, you can't hear anything (I had an identical experience with the Spoon show last fall).
I'm not an expert on club design, but why can't they position at least one PA towards the center of the floor? I've been to many, many rock clubs in the U.S. and abroad and have never had an experience where I couldn't hear half of what was being played standing 5 feet from the stage.
Anyway, as I said, it sure looked like the bands were giving it their all. I love both of them and I'll see them again. But just not from the floor at the 9:30 Club.
Postscript: I left two things out. First, there was a strict "no photography" rule in effect last night, so that's why there are no photos. Second, there's a lot of hubbub around the net about the fact that Neko Case bailed out on last night's set due to illness. Big deal. The band tours without her all the time, and they're great with or without her. Kathryn may not be Neko, but she's a hell of a singer. Just wish I could have heard her better.