Sunday, February 8, 2009

Beirut (w/ Kaki King) @ BAM (02/07/09) UPDATE: Video below

Last night was unseasonably warm for February in Brooklyn, which made the trip to BAM for an epic and thoroughly unique concert even more enjoyable (G train trips can be trying). My roommate was a bit late, so we missed the beginning of Kaki King, but did catch her trying to pull out her "rock moves" (a strong kick outward while playing 11-3, which she later said sucked because she hit her volume knob on her guitar and sent the whole thing out of tune). No matters, it was the engrossing melodies and vibe she exuded that made me love her performance last night. Honestly, next to Annie Clark, I've never seen a girl play the guitar like Kaki King can. Her personality and small figure reminded me instantly of Juno, but the way her fingers pluck and glide across the body of a guitar literally left me speechless and to wonder what kind of trance she must get into to play like that. Also, her drummer was AMAZING. My roommate is currently learning the drums, and she laughed out loud as how intimidating seeing something like that was for her. For the last song, Kaki King laid on her back and stared at the beautifully ornate ceiling of the BAM orchestra house while she took strong advantage of her acoustic (oh, yeah, and she told us a story halfway through of a man who died on safari because a zebra mistook him for a female zebra and...well...he died from anal trauma. Kaki King wasn't sure if she could say anal in an opera house, but did it anyway). As a Brooklynite, she looked thoroughly in love with last night's performance.
And then, Beirut came on.

Everyone was on the edge of their seats as the pared down, 5 man band took the stage, and we all collectively waited for Zac to say his first words, words that in the end created a panic.

"We tried this last night," Zac said, "And it worked pretty well, so...stand up! Come forward."

After a moments hesitation ("Is he serious?"), the entire opera house's main floor went CRAZY! People rushed from their seats into the aisles and down to the front of the stage to try and stake out a prime spot. Luckily, our seats were close enough that getting to the stage was easy (we were about 5 feet from Zac and less than a foot from the right side of the stage). There were some hugely tall guys in front of us, which sucked (though I can't get too mad because my brother is 6 foot 5, and I always try to sympathize with a strong love of music and absurd height). But really, who cared about all of it? We were 5 feet from BEIRUT! And the concert was just lovely, I must say. Those brass instruments are so INTENSE when you're right next to them! And everyone was swaying and dancing together as the songs built in crescendo and Zac danced around on stage with his ukulele or horn (or really, just by himself). He kept joking around with the audience and explained to us that he didn't know if this whole, "Bring the audience to the front of the stage," thing was kosher in an opera house, but that he loved people standing close because the stage felt lonely without them. He also struggled with a knot on his ukulele for a bit, and said he didn't trust volunteers after a million people offered to help.

After about 7 songs, the gang brought out the Vassar Orkestra to help with the rest of the set, and that just sent the whole performance over the top. There was a girl in front of me freaking out because she knew about half of the people in the orchestra, and kept trying to distract them while they played.

They ended with a 3 song encore (including Sunday Smile :) ) and Zac took someone's feathered headband from the audience and using it as a blindfold for their last song before thanking us for a wonderful night, leaving the collective brass-pop-rock-loving population of the 5-boroughs to fan out into the brisk streets of Brooklyn, and stand in awe for a few minutes before going about our business. One thing can surely be said about last night: everyone left with a truly unique musical experience under our belts, and a lovely memory of an intimate show with Beirut in a grand opera house.

UPDATE: Here's a video from youtube of the performance from the upper balcony. It makes me that much more grateful that I was one of those small heads so close to the stage!

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