Atoms For Peace – Boston, April 8, 2010

About a month ago (yes, that was ages ago, my ‘Writing‘ post below explains the problem), on April 8, I saw Atoms for Peace, who played live at the Wang Theatre in Boston. When tickets went on sale back in March it was -of course- a mad dash to get them. The CitiCenter website crashed in a minute, which I thought was a sign of a sold out show. I tweeted my frustration and, oh, new technology how much I love thee, the good man of Bradley’s Almanac offered the twitterverse a link that actually worked, thus making me $62.50 dollars lighter, yet happy that I would get to see Thom Yorke live.

The ticket pick-up system for the show was an interesting one: in order to crush scalpers, which in itself is a pretty good idea, they allowed the purchase of only two tickets per customer, and the only ticket-pick-up method was from the box office on the night of the show by showing the purchaser’s ID. A 3,600-person capacity sold-out venue made this effort sounding little crazy. I showed up 15 minutes before start time, and the lines for pick-up were quite long, spilling into Tremont Street. There were multiple lines and the pick-up was done by alphabetical order based on last name. They had these signs A-C D-F etc etc. Theater personnel kept coming around reminding people that the lines were by last name. My line of course was the longest, but I didn’t really mind missing five minutes of the Flying Lotus performance.

Waiting in line, solo, my eye caught a blonde, slightly skanky woman standing by the entrance door, she wasn’t in any line really. The look of the woman might be familiar: a once-upon-a-time rock chick, mid to late 40s, leather jacket, botoxed face. After a couple of minutes I had noticed her, a man in his 60s came out of the theater , and told her: “So I guess you have to wait in line to get the tickets, the tickets are by last name”. Sugardaddy? Who knows, who cares. She looked at the long lines and pouted, the pout of a person who feels entitled. Our line A-C was the slowest moving. At some point a guy with an extremely loud voice came out and shouted “All people with a last name beginning w/ C, you can go to this window”, a line he kept repeating it. A couple of minutes later the blonde skank appeared to my left on the C line. Mind you that the whole time a guy kept repeating “this line f for C pick up only.” So all of a sudden she looks at him and goes “What? This is for C only?” “Yes” says the guy. She looks at our long A-B line and goes “Now I have to go all the way at the back of the line and wait again?” “Yes” says the guy. She exhales frustrated and comes to me and asks “Can I just sneak in here?” and points in front of me. Please note the absence of a “please”. “I don’t think so,” I say firmly, but politely. She looks around to the other people in my line, nobody responds to her, so she turns to me and says “Wow, you’re so fucking …. cool” and starts walking to the end of the line. I mean, sure, lady, I’m cool. But it’s not a matter of being cool. It’s a matter of you feeling fucking entitled, that you can just cut in front of me for no good reason. No, you can’t. You’re so fucking dumb that you can’t even wait in the right line, and then you expect me to do something about it? Uh, no. You look perfectly fine, go back and wait again.

Anyway, I finally made it in the theater, what a magnificent place Wang is. Opulent, all golden trims, murals, chandeliers. Took some photos and then headed to my seat at mezzanine center, row D. Great seat and luckily no tall person with gigantic head in front of me, and the blond skank nowhere to be seen. Flying Lotus was spinning some great, danceable tunes, people looked happy. I had forgotten how big the Wang is, and it was already 3/4 full. He played a tune with a sample from “Avril 14th“, one of my favourite Aphex Twin melodies. The crowd dig him and he looked pretty happy himself, thanking the crowd as he left the stage.

Now, I’m pretty much certain that Radiohead is my favourite band. Although their last albums “In Rainbows” and “Hail to the Thief” have been slightly disappointing for me, I found Thom Yorke’s solo effort “The Eraser” a very good one. I like the electronica trip and Atoms for Peace was going to play his solo stuff plus some new material. Win, no?

When Atoms for Peace showed up on stage all 3,600 people went crazy. When they started playing you could feel the vibe of a huge party where everybody’s having fun and looks happy. They mainly played songs from Eraser plus some new material they are working on. Glad they played “Harrowdown Hill” one of my favourite songs from Eraser. The band was tight and solid. As you probably know Atoms for Peace is a supergroup: Thom Yorke, Flea (yes, that Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Nigel Godrich (Radiohead producer), Joey Waronker (who has played with bands like R.E.M. & Smashing Pumpkins), and Mauro Refosco (has played with Davd Byrne & Forro in the Dark). What is great about these people is that they are multi-instrumentalists and very good at whatever instrument they play. What’s even better is that they are having fun playing together as it was evident from that night. Say what you will about Flea, his bass lines were dope. He did these awesome jam-offs with Thom, it looked and sounded way better than it sounds. Waronker and Refosco were very creative on the percussions, the sound was full and forceful. All of them were dancing, they looked so very happy.  And they weren’t the only ones being happy and dancing. I’m pretty sure I had a grin on my face all night long. And 3,500 people dancing non-stop, that’s pretty awesome. At some point I paused dancing to get my camera out, and holly shit, the mezzanine was vibrating like it was going to fall down in the orchestra. Honestly, I got a little bit worried, I turned to the guy on my left, and asked him if that was OK, he said don’t worry the balcony at the Orpheum is way worse. Great, thanks. I resumed my dancing, it made me feel better. They also played one of Radiohead’s songs dearest to my heart ‘Like Spinning Plates’. Actually it was more Thom on piano. What a lovely song…

The only slightly off-putting moment of the show was when Thom started talking about politics. He said something like “your political system is fucked up” and then mentioned that the British political system is fucked up too. Well, he might be right, but you can’t really explain this in three sentences. I’m pretty sure he has a valid reason for saying this, but three free-standing sentences without context sound like teenage aphorisms. It might have been better if he said something like ‘hey, people I wrote an essay about how fucked up our political system is, it’s on my website, check it out. ‘

Oh, anyway, I forgave Thom right away and went back to enjoying the music and the dancing, and left with a smile on my face and melodies and rhythms mashups in my head. Bliss.

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