Friday, October 10, 2008

Live Shows: DeVotchKa

Back on September 16th, Matt and I went to a DeVotchKa concert at El Ray. (We always admonish ourselves for instinctively saying the El Ray. Duh, "el" MEANS "the"! But, hey, even their website is called "," so I guess we can't feel that bad.) We saw them for the first time back in August of '06 at the Troubadour, and they were amazing. The opening of the show is still seared into my brain as one of the best I've ever seen. I remember, all of a sudden, the spotlights opened up on the second-floor walkway on the side of the room, and there were Nick and Shawn standing on the railing, leaning out over the crowd, playing in perfect unison the opening notes of La Llorrona ("weeping woman" in Spanish) on their trumpets. Wow. Just. Wow. They came out with a new CD earlier this year, so we were really looking forward to seeing them again. (For those who may think they don't know DeVotchKa - they did the soundtrack to Little Miss Sunshine [a must-see movie].)

How to describe DeVotchKa? Hmm. Well, as Jeanie Schroder, who plays the tuba, bass, and sings vocals for the band, says, "It's an eclectic mix of a lot of different sounds. It's got mariachi, it's got polka, it's got tango, it's got rock and roll, it's got gypsy music, and it all kind of mixes together." Yes, it all kind of mixes together . . . and it's killer. LOVE IT. They're just so talented. And Jeanie's not the only one who plays multiple instruments (extremely well). There's Thomas Hagerman who plays the violin, accordion, and toy piano; Nick Urata who plays guitar, theramin, trumpet, and sings lead vocals; Shawn King who plays drums, trumpet, and accordion; and they also often employ back-up violinists who bring even more depth to the whole big sound they create. Something else amazing? Nick whistling live. He's pitch-perfect and never misses a note (check out "Til the End of Time"). Truly impressive.

Some other interesting trivia about DeVotchKa? They started out as a back-up band for burlesque shows. Uh-huh. No, seriously, they did. As a bit of a throw-back to those days, their recent tour includes a performance piece involving a scantily-clad woman and a long piece of hanging fabric, akin to something you might see at a Cirque du Soleil show. I'm not sure how it was incorporated at other venues, but it was part of the encore the night I saw them. I didn't catch a picture of it myself, but I found these (left and right here) online from a couple of other shows. On the one hand, I was pretty amazed at the woman's performance. On the other? I was thinking, "Mm, exactly what does a writhing, half-naked woman have to do with this song?" Kind of how I felt when U2 starting bringing that belly dancer on tour to dance during "Mysterious Ways," except I could at least see the song connection there. It's just . . . the whole thing is not that far removed from the go-go dancer, the girls dancing in cages. They're not part of the band; they're just there to act as some sort of hypersexualized eye candy. The whole objectification of women thing, it just never ceases to annoy me.

(Note: Because I'm such a superb typist, when I initially went to look up pictures of the U2 belly dancer, I typed "belly dander." . . . I do not want to know what that search might have unearthed.)

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