Live: Dean Wareham Plays Galaxie 500 + Crystal Stilts

21 Aug

Dean Wareham plays Galaxie 500 songs (backed by the Dean & Britta band)

At the 140-year-old Trocadero Theatre in Phila., PA, where minstrel, vaudeville and burlesque shows once did the trick, Dean Wareham played Galaxie 500 songs. Just after 10 p.m., Wareham, the 47-year-old dreampop hero, walked on stage with his beer, his bass-playing wife Britta and the rest of the band. With no preamble, Wareham and co. rode right on in to “Flowers,” the first track off of their 1988 debut Today.

Wareham’s voice is as haunting and inviting as it was over 20 years ago, and his guitar work alone is worth the price of admission. One of the benefits of seeing Wareham up close is getting a look at his expressive non-expression, where the muscles in his face are relieved of duty, eyelids refusing to come down, as he loses himself in each song. All the while cranking out gorgeous solos.

Wareham told a story about dropping acid a while back with friends, taking their socks and shoes off to dip their feet in the water. “I thought my toes were talking to me,” Wareham said in deadpan. And Wareham begat “Decomposing Trees.”

“Blue Thunder” is the classic car song. Wareham explained that he named his old blue ride after the feature film of the same name, starring Malcolm McDowell and Roy Scheider. Britta chimed in saying she had a green one, to which Wareham replied, “Green Thunder doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it?”

If you are a fan of Galaxie 500, Luna or Dean & Britta, this is a must-see show.

Setlist from 8/20/10 @ The Trocadero

Crystal Stilts

Crystal Stilts opened for Dean Wareham with a perfect 30-minute set of their layered pop sound. Crystal Stilts get misbranded often as a lo-fi outfit because of their jangle. Seeing Wavves and Beach Fossils, despite some similar influences, is a completely different experience than seeing Crystal Stilts. Frontman Brad Hargett sounds exactly like Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. The critics who note their New Zealand (The Clean, The Saints, Wareham, The Bats and especially The Chills) influence got it right. The funny think about the NZ influence, known as the Dunedin Sound, is its roots in early garage and punk pioneers Velvet Underground and The Stooges while incorporating the perfect pop craft of The Beatles. Like those bands before them, The Stilts have no tricks. They just have the equation down pat: write great pop songs and know how to make it dirty.

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