July 3rd, 2009


Steampunk Arm and a Gun for a Tongue

Last night, Rachel (harriettheelf) and I went to a show at Cafe du Nord. I am not up for a full-scale narrative post, but I think it deserves a short write-up. And music downloads!

The opener was local boy Ryan Auffenberg, whom Rachel identified as "so San Francisco" because of his skinny build, sneakers, blue jeans, shirt with rolled-up sleeves, and general awkward mien. He was not bad, but he was not really my thing, since out of the influences CD Baby lists—Americana, jazz, blues, soul, and rock—I only like the last one. I really liked the bassist, though; he had such nimble fingers that his bassline was a song in itself. But he had a very unfortunate crotch patch on his pants. It was quite distracting.

The co-headliner was Emilie Simon. Now, I had gotten a couple Emilie Simon songs from audiography, and they were very tinkly and ethereal, cold (appropriate since the titles were "The Frozen World" and "To the Dancers on the Ice"). They hardly seemed like songs. So I didn't know how that would play live. As it turned out, those songs were both from the March of the Penguins soundtrack, which explained the coldness. Onstage, it was just Emilie Simon, a little LED light box that displayed geometric patterns to the beat, her keyboard, and her laptop. And even though it was just her, she commanded the small stage all by herself. To my surprise, the music she played was twenty times more upbeat than the two songs I knew, and I quite liked it! She said most of it was off her upcoming album.

Apparently she's been described as the French Björk, and I can see that. She has an unusual voice, but she's a great singer, and her music is a little out there, composed of a lot of electronic percussion and various sounds along with her keyboard. And she has a STEAMPUNK ARM. It was fascinating. On her left arm, she wore what looked like a falconer's gauntlet, a leather sleeve all up her arm. But it also had a couple knobs that she turned to create reverb and echo with her voice. But it also had a pocket watch dangling from behind her elbow, along with a random chain. Look at this crazy thing! It was without a doubt the most amazing accessory I'd ever seen someone wear onstage at a concert. (I hesitate to say the most amazing thing, period, because I've seen Of Montreal three times.)

It was her first time ever playing in San Francisco, and she gave us many a "Merci beaucoup" after our applause. She was totally adorable and precious; Rachel wanted to pinch her cheek. Rachel likened her to Regina Spektor, but I think she is crazy. Maybe. Her music was quite fun and dance-able, but she ended her encore with an awesome cover of "Come As You Are." It was so lovely and creepy. I found it more interesting than Tori Amos's cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"; it reminds me of Emm Gryner's awesome cover of "I'll Stick Around."

The woman we'd come to see, however, was Butterfly Boucher, although Rachel had to leave early since she'd been up for seventeen hours. Butterfly Boucher is Australian, adding some more international flavor to the night. Her debut album, Flutterby, has no bad songs and is fun and clever, but it had been years since that album had come out. Now, she was releasing Scary Fragile. Like Emilie Simon, she was alone on the stage. She had her guitar and a red pedal that functioned as her band. She apologized for being self-indulgent and playing mostly songs from the new album, but she said it was time for us to learn them anyway. On first listen, I didn't love the new songs as much as I loved the old songs, but a few did catch my ear, like "I Found Out" and "Gun for a Tongue." She sounded great and clearly enjoyed rocking out onstage. The only old songs she played were "I Can't Make Me," "Another White Dash" (of course), and, as an encore, "Life Is Short," which is one of my very favorites. It was more fun to sing along to the ones I knew.

Afterwards, I bought the CD and waited for Butterfly to come out so I could get it signed. I told her that I had seen her play at a Borders in Ann Arbor five years ago, and she commented on how long ago that was. She remembered playing a couple Borders back then. I said that I had asked for an autograph for my brother—who had introduced me to her—and she had drawn a picture of the concert with her on stage and a row of seats in the front with a little arrow pointing to where he should have been. It was the cutest autograph ever. She thanked me for coming out, and I said it was great to have another album. It had actually been done a while ago (like 2006), but she'd had trouble getting it released. Like most singer/songwriters, she's very personable and easy to talk to and appreciative of her fans. And she has an accent!