Owen Pallett | 04/28/10

Image: OP_RP1

Avant road dog Owen Pallett continues his trek around the US and Canada in support of his brilliant album Heartland and the glowing reviews and aural evidence is beginning to pile up. NPR has just posted a top-notch recording of his set last week at New York's Webster Hall. You can listen to the show in it's entirety.

We're also pleased to annouce that Owen has added an in-store performance to his upcoming schedule. The in-store will take place at Fingerprints (4612 E. 2nd Street Long Beach, CA) on May 3rd at 7pm. The show is free, but RSVP is required. Call 562-433-4996 to RSVP.

Here are the remaining dates on Owen's tour:
04-29 Dallas, TX - Granada Theater
04-30 Austin, TX - The Mohawk
05-03 Long Beach, CA - Fingerprints
05-05 San Francisco, CA - The Independent
05-08 Seattle, WA - The Crocodile
05-09 Vancouver, British Columbia - The Vogue Theatre
05-10 Victoria, British Columbia - Alix Goolden Hall
05-11 Portland, OR - Aladdin Theater
05-13 Salt Lake City, UT - Kilby Court
05-14 Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge

Also, if you haven't done so, make sure to grab this free MP3 of Dan Deacon's remix of "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt".

Finally, Ryan Weaver with The Bostonist has this to say about Owen's recent show at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art:

Musician Owen Pallett (whom we interviewed about his latest work last week) won some major points with his audience last Tuesday at the Institute of Contemporary Art by dismissing the fact that Pitchfork recently gave his newest album, Heartland, an 8.6 rating.

“They called it a slam dunk,” teased Pallett's accompanist, Thomas Gill, grinning.

“Shut up!” said Pallett, then laughed and kept playing.

If you read our previous hilarious interview with the idiosyncratic violinist, this reaction wouldn't come as much of a surprise: Pallett is a funny guy. But it did seem to be a kind of watershed moment in Pallett's admirable performance, and perhaps a watershed moment in music, as well, if only for those who were in the room.

One might imagine that Pallett, a gay man who weaves Dungeons and Dragons references into his work, has had his fair share of scrapes—and has thusly come out the other end not giving a shit what anyone else thinks. He certainly looks it: on Tuesday, he wore a black Van Halen t-shirt, black jeans, and black shoes, appearing more like a computer programmer than a rock star. But that was, ironically, what made him so rock 'n roll.

For in an age when artists are thrown into the national spotlight for the approbation of the blogerati on the strength of one twee EP, before they've had a chance to prove their chops or take many hits to the chin, this not-giving-a-shit quality has given way to a kind of quiet calculation. One gets the sense, these days, that many bands are donning their flannel and scuffed sneakers the way politicians don flag pins before re-election: because it's expected, because it's easy.

Not Owen Pallett. All available evidence points to Pallett not giving a shit. And his fans love him for it.

Pallett's fans also clearly love him because he's a musical virtuoso, perhaps even a genius. His album, a postmodern concept piece about a fictional farmer that would feel like bad poetry in the hands of a lesser artist, comes off like a 21st century
Leaves of Grass or Tropic of Cancer: That is, something you pick up, attempt to understand, and fail to understand because the task is impossible—yet you leave the experience feeling invigorated, inspired, and a little more crazy and brave than you were before.

The audience at the ICA featured the usual proliferation of buffalo plaid and taciturn faces you'd expect to see at a Decemberists or Andrew Bird show, but a sense of tenderness in the room really set Pallett's show apart.

Perhaps it felt different because it's difficult to sit almost suspended over the ocean, as the sun's going down and bathing the room in poignant light, and beautiful strains of strings are raining down in sheets, enhanced by the ICA's excellent acoustics, and not feel transported.

Perhaps it was different because the openers, Snowblink, softened us up with a beautiful set that included a "really melancholy" cover of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" that blended Daniela Gesundheit's gorgeous looped vocals with a recording of Jackson's own voice.

Perhaps it was different because Pallett himself is so uninhibited a performer, shouting his arch lyrics into his violin's microphone and playing so furiously that his hands become a blur.

Or perhaps it was different because the kind of artistically-inclined people who might find themselves moved by one of the museum's modern art exhibits, and who willingly enter a scenario where they might be moved, are the kind of people who sought out this concert experience--looking to tap into the mysterious wellspring of free-flowing emotion from which Pallett draws his daring lyrics and ambitious full-orchestra compositions.

Probably it was all of those things.

Whatever it was, it worked for us. In the parlance of Jeff Bebe in Almost Famous, Pallett found that person in the audience who wasn't getting off, and made them get off. This is what musical virtuosos are meant to do. And sometimes it seems we have forgotten this as a culture.

Of course, we can all draw distinctions between easy music and difficult music. The former is recognizable enough for its pop structure and easily audible lyrics, which invariably include a punchline that ties everything together and comforts the listener with closure. Kelly Clarkson will not hook up. Garth Brooks will take two pina coladas, one for each hand. Simple. And then there's the other stuff, songs with rambling verses and ambivalent endings. Music like Wolf Parade or Animal Collective, songs where no one's sure if anyone gets the girl in the end, or if there is a girl, or exactly what an adobe slat is. Those of us that listen to this music on the regular tend to pat ourselves on the back for it and consider ourselves cultured.

But we sometimes forget that there are more than two kinds of music. There remains plenty of music beyond the horizon of everyday indie: music that has the power to remind us that listening to good music is not simply about making aesthetic choices we perceive as more selective. Good music is, in the end, about making us feel feelings—feelings that go far beyond simple admiration or boredom.

And so the power of the virtuoso is to help us to remember. Remember that musicians are not meant to simply to wow us with their antics, make us dance, or even make us look cool. That a concert is not simply a transaction where we pay money and wait to be impressed.

The virtuoso reminds us that, at its best, a concert is a demonstration of the full range of human potential, a chance for both composer and listener to tap into the higher registers of tone and emotion, places we don’t normally go in our buffalo plaid with our arms crossed. Places for complete confusion and utter tenderness.

And this is why Pallett may not be kidding when he acts like he doesn't care about Pitchfork. Because perhaps he realizes that their 0-10 scale is not the only way to measure the meaning of what he does, and because if he is going to care about anything at all (which is not guaranteed), he will care about what you think.

So now your job is to decide: if you didn't care about what Pitchfork thought of Owen Pallett, what would you think about him?

Scary, isn't it?