music mondays: thao and neko

I need another weekday that starts with M.

Okay, maybe I just need better time management. Sorry I kind of suck at actually doing this on the designated day. On Mondays, I go straight from work to volunteer teaching ESL (because I am incredibly altruistic by nature, high-five!) and now that it’s dark out by the time I get home, I mostly just want to eat a block of cheese and watch the most recent episode of Bones on some sketchy Euro website. I promise to do better.

Anyway, this week’s Music Monday (Wednesday) is brought to you by GIRL POWER. On Saturday, I saw Neko Case at the Newport with opener Thao and The Get Down Stay Down. I got to see Thao earlier in the year at Summerfest, and was really excited to see she was coming back with Neko. I have to say, I liked her set at Summerfest better, but it really had to do with the venue and the crowd. Summerfest was outside with a bunch of people who had been day-drinking, and even though they didn’t know the songs, they were still fun. Saturday’s crowd was essentially all Neko fans who were like, “Ugh, we’re just here for Neko, someone quiet this girl down. I wish I was the moon, etc.” But, Thao rocks out no matter what, and it’s awesome. She plays guitar, banjo, AND the lap steel, for which I am always a sucker.


ICYMI, her single this summer was We the Common (For Valerie Bolden), and not only is it a fun song, it’s actually about something real. In interviews, Thao has explained that the song was inspired by Valerie Bolden, a woman serving a life sentence in California. Thao spent time volunteering with a women’s prison and became an advocate for the rights of prisoners. It’s a great song, but my favorite track from We the Common is City. She’s so good at mixing the hard and soft.

She also has a letter at the beginning of the most recent McSweeney’s Quarterly (about an uncomfortable trip to the doctor), so that adds to her likability.

Alright, I’ll talk about Neko now. Overall, I like her new album, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. (Sidebar, if you think that’s a long album name, go have a chat with Fiona.) In interviews for the album, Neko has spoken a lot about how she’d been depressed after the deaths of her parents and grandmother. I appreciate how literal she got (there’s a track called “Where Did I Leave That Fire”) but it’s not just an album of downer songs.

So I didn’t really know what to expect from her live show, and had to transition myself a bit after rocking with Thao. Plus, during her first song, she told someone to put their phone away.

Later, she kinda apologized and backpedaled a bit, but still didn’t want anyone snapping pics. She gave some explanation about camera phones having lasers that focus on her face, causing her to lose her place and forget lyrics. Look, I’ve taken enough selfies to call bullshit on that. Just say it’s annoying to have people constantly taking pictures, please just put your phones away. I think it’s annoying too. And while I wanted to snap a pic (the backdrop was pretty snazzy), I just didn’t. NBD.

Back to the music. She played a good mix of new and old songs. She and Kelly Hogan had some fun banter. I was really hoping she would play Nearly Midnight, Honolulu, which is this incredibly haunting yet beautiful song. I didn’t expect them to play it, since it’s just a cappella, but I hoped.

I was really impressed by how relaxed she seemed while her voice boomed in this sublime way. She killed with Night Still Comes, which is another favorite of mine from the new album.

No shots of Neko to share, but the grey streak in the front of her crazy red hair left me thinking of Bonnie Raitt, and how Neko would crush I Can’t Make You Love Me.


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