Tortoise at the Tralf, May 29, 2009


31 mai 2009, 14h12m

Fri 29 May – Tortoise
Wow. That's all I've got to say. Seriously, though, it was a great show. I had a good view of the stage, just slightly stage left, close to the soundboard. Upon first arriving, the Tralf seemed rather empty, at least compared to the Explosions in the Sky show. There was no line at the door and it was easy to find a good seat. The crowd did trickle in, though, and by show time, the room was sufficiently filled.

Lazlo Hollyfeld, the local boys, brought some appreciation from the audience. I've no idea how many songs they played, since many of them just blended together, but they played for 45-60 minutes. Most of the music was fairly grooving, upbeat stuff, although I was kind of surprised to see them all stick to one instrument each. I thought they were more variable. I liked their performance well enough, though it wasn't really stunning. Before their last song, the bassist, who seemed to be the band's spokesman, explained that they had been together for nine years and, whenever anyone asked them about the lack of a vocalist, they put on a Tortoise record, then said what an honor it was to share the stage with them.

I expected a longer wait between the two bands, but within fifteen minutes, Tortoise came out to tune their instruments and then were back on stage to start playing in about ten more. Here's my recollection of the setlist, although after seeing the video on Artvoice, I know it's out of order. Any help, please?

High Class Slim Came Floatin' In
Prepare Your Coffin
The Fall Of Seven Diamonds Plus One
Swung From the Gutters (fake)>Dan Bitney freestyle>Swung From the Gutters (full)
The Lithium Stiffs>Crest
Charteroak Foundation
In Sarah, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Women and Men
Salt the Skies

The one-two opening of "Slim" and "Coffin" was perhaps a bit predictable, but great nonetheless, especially for getting the crowd going. With the transition from "Unknown" into "Dot/Eyes," it seemed clear that a majority of the crowd knew the band's back catalog and sent up a cheer nearly every time they recognized a song. "Minors" was a bit down tempo, fit well with the rest of band's songs and led nicely into "Eros" which really whipped the audience into a dancing frenzy (at least in as much as people will dance to Tortoise).

Apparently, I've just found out that "The Fall Of Seven Diamonds Plus One" was played between "Eros" and "Seneca," and I forgot about it. Oops. "Seneca," like "Eros," received a great response, showing that the Standards material was well-liked. Most of the crowd seemed to really get into clapping along with the band at the song's end, which I think went a long way towards them loosening up as the set progressed. "Gigantes" was my favorite of the new tunes brought out. It was very pretty and uplifting with some great distorted marimba lines and the sky blue projection fit in extremely well with the mood. Just before they played, John Herndon announced that they were trying out some of the new material, so it may be a bit sloppy, but that certainly didn't appear to be the case.

The band then launched into "Swung From the Gutters," getting maybe one bar in before everything dropped away except the drums. Then Dan Bitney engaged in a bit of awkward, cheesy freestyling, calling out his bandmates' names and duties. Then "Swung From the Gutters" began in earnest, once again earning the band a hefty amount of applause both at the beginning and end of the song. "The Lithium Stiffs" flowed into "Crest," as was to be expected, riding momentum off the previous song. "Charteroak Foundation" followed, rounding out the main set nicely, but not going over quite as well as the more recognized material.

After a short encore break, the band came back on stage and Herndon announced that they were going to play "at least one more song." Turned out to be four, but I don't think anyone complained. The encore started with "Yinxianghechengqi" which, with its two bassists creating an awesome low end, shook the venue and revved everyone up for even more. "In Sarah, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven..." again wowed the audience, only to further be impressed by a stunning performance of "Monica." It seemed like the show would end on this rather high note, but once again, Herndon grabbed the mic and made as though to introduce the next song before trailing off and letting it speak for itself. Closing with "Salt the Skies" solidified the performance as one made of awesome and the entire crowd seemed to agree, launching into a raucous ovation when the first notes sounded.

Overall, an amazing show, that, in my opinion blew last year's Explosions in the Sky concert out of the water. The only things that would have made it even better were if the band managed to slip "I Set My Face to the Hillside" in to the list and if there wasn't an annoyingly-voiced girl shouting through two or three songs on my right side part way through. Oh, and kind of surprised there wasn't a merch table. It would have been cool to snag a shirt and I was hoping the new album might be available. Oh, well.

The Beacons of Ancestorship tour is off to a great start.


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