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Little Dragon, Elbo Room, San Francisco, 4/1/08.


Image swiped from Last.fm, in turn swiped from their CD.

For an hour last night at the Elbo Room, Little Dragon was the greatest band in the world.

Well, my new favorite band right now, at least. Their 2007 debut album on Peacefrog (it’s also available on iTunes, by the way) is just the right kind of sublime — an effortless downtempo RnB simmer, one of my favorites this year so far — and their absolutely tight playing last night, at their very first U.S. concert ever, confirmed this.

Little Dragon is a band, first of all, and this is even clearer in concert. (All those tricky drum fills are performed live.) But there’s no denying the fact that Yukimi Nagano’s voice — wonderfully wispy, soulfully expressive — is the real draw. She’s also totally riveting to watch on stage, especially when she seems to lose herself in the music, dancing and twisting just before she begins to sing.

They started the set off with “Twice”. The last three songs were “Constant Surprises” (right before the encore), “Wink”, and “Scribbled Paper” (about one of their favorite poets from Gothenburg).

“Test”, of course, was somewhere in there. So was a ridiculously funky “Recommendation” (prompting an echo of “Recommendation” from the crowd during the chorus, all embellished with fluty keyboards and major hi-hat action), a slinky “Forever” (that “ha ha ha ho ho” refrain towards the end was even better live), “Turn Left” (and yes, the crowd was singing along to the “pa pa ra ro pa ra pa” refrain at the end as well), “After the Rain” (is this song about Hurricane Katrina or something?), and a few songs (one called “Tendencies”, plus two new songs, “Roundabout” and “Looking Glass”) that I didn’t recognize.

Anyhow, as you folks can tell, I enjoyed the concert immensely. Only two U.S. dates left — Goleta tonight, Los Angeles on Friday — so catch ’em if they’re in your area! (Here’s a good idea of how they sound live — a concert recording at Cargo in London earlier this year.)

p.s. Eloise and I were dancing up front right next to the stage, even to the music played by the DJ in between sets. (Geraldine and Kennedy and Stephanie were somewhere in the middle.) At some point Eloise wonders out loud why there were only five other people dancing in the club. (Everyone else was doing the hipster nod, which Little Dragon parodies so wonderfully in the “Test” video.) “Probably because we’re from the East Bay,” I said. She turns around to ask the woman next to us where she was from. We were right.

p.s. 2. Sorry, Darren: I didn’t take any photos, though I was about three feet away from Yukimi’s toes.

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music

Best Concert Year Ever.

34. Shonen Knife, Slim’s, SF, 12/11/07.

Shonen Knife set list, Slim's, San Francisco, 12/11/07.

(Snagged by Laurel, since we were standing in front of the monitors.)

There used to be a time, back in those days when Kurt Cobain was still alive and saying things like “When I finally got to see them live, I was transformed into a hysterical nine-year-old girl at a Beatles concert,” Shonen Knife was being derided as part of some Hello Kitty Orientalist Conspiracy, only valued for being petite and cute and not having real musical chops and playing sub-Ramones songs. Well. That’s clearly because they’ve never seen Shonen Knife live.

Funny, too: I was properly introduced to Laurel about three years ago at a Shonen Knife concert, also at Slim’s, and we’ve been carrying halves of a BFF medallion ever since, ha ha. (Just be gentle when you pull out the feeding tube.)

And with that, my concert year comes to an end — 34 shows!!! — with some of the most memorable concerts I’ve ever been to, period. (And since this is an end-of-the-year thing, I’d like to say “thanks” to my 2007 concert buddies too: Laurel, Rinna, Eloise & Son & Weiss, Lan & Juan, Jens, Randall, Karen & Craig, Romeo, Roy, Talaya & Ben, Jeannie, & the other Eloise (who calls the other Eloise “the other Eloise” too). Here’s to 2008.)

Best Concert Year Ever highlights:

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music

Dengue Fever, The Independent, SF, 11/09/07.

1. In what is clearly my Best Concert Year Ever, I met Chhom Nimol, the lead singer of Dengue Fever (the coolest band in America, as I’ve written many times) this evening. I bought her a shot of Jagermeister, which she requested (“Medicine for singers,” she said).

(2. Imagine three exclamation points at the end of each sentence and you’ll have a good idea of how I’m feeling.)

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music

Boris / Damon & Naomi, The Independent, SF, 10/14/2007.

Last Sunday night’s show at the Independent was as pedigreed a concert as could be assembled on one stage in one evening: two-thirds of Galaxie 500 (one of my favorite bands ever), one-fifth of Ghost (yet another), one-sixth of Espers, one-half of nmperign, and all three of the mighty Boris. The “linchpin” for the concert, as Damon Krukowski put it, was none other than Michio Kurihara from Ghost, who was essentially playing that night for a couple of hours with both Damon and Naomi and Boris.

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music

Mandy Moore / Paula Cole, The Fillmore, SF, 8/22/2007.

It was Mandy Moore’s first concert ever in San Francisco — “at the Fillmore, can you believe it,” she asked. I think a smaller venue would have worked better. Some people on Last.fm commented with surprise about my going to a Mandy Moore concert. But friends know I have a soft spot for pop. And yes, J-Lu dragged me there, but I do like her latest album: Wild Hope, is a remarkably strong bid for singer-songwriter status; it’s a solid, if safe, collection of sober, mature folk-pop that gets better with each listen. It’s a far cry, in any case, from her old teenybopper days, which is something clearly reflected in the setlist. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. My only complaint: I honestly thought she was the headliner, but I was wrong (see more below).