Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Great Northern Under the Stars

On Wednesday, August 19, 2009, I decided to spend my birthday alone, and just wandered over to Pershing Square to see the band I've probably known the longest during this music odyssey I'm on. Great Northern were playing a free show for "Spaceland Under The Stars" in the square and I was anxious to see them repair the damage done by their last show.

I saw them at the Bootleg Theatre on a bill with Xu Xu Fang a couple of weeks ago, and for whatever reason, the sound was so distorted their vocals were buried in a mush of noise. Xu Xu Fang had survived, but Great Northern suffered so, I had to leave.

Believing the show began at seven, I went right from work and as I walked up out of the subway, I could hear the strains of "Story" and I figured they had just begun. Entering Pershing Square, I realized this was just their sound check. There were only a few people milling about, and the audience area wasn't even open yet. So I sat around, gazed up at the beautiful buildings lit by 'magic hour' sunlight, and wished I got downtown more often.

Soon enough, I met up with Rebecca Balin and some friends, so we passed the time talking music and movies until the band came on around nine. Apparently there was supposed to have been an opening band, but when Great Northern took the stage, Rachel Stolte apologized for the first band not appearing. I didn't mind because what I wanted for my birthday was a Great Northern fix. And they delivered.
(photo by Miny Moe)

I knew the sound mix would be good, from the sound check earlier. Perhaps I was too close to Rachel's guitar speaker, for it was a little overwhelming at times, but, overall the sound was fine. I was particularly pleased that Solon Bixler's vocals were miked at a level close to Rachel's so the weaving in and out of their voices was clear and concise. Nice job, and very important for this band's overall impression.

Featuring mostly selections from their superb last CD, Remind Me Where The Light Is, they also played a new song, which I considered a highlight of the set. The band is tight and focused and has that full, rich Great Northern sound, which is impressive for only four players. Had a chance to chat briefly with Solon afterwards, before they drove off to Phoenix for a short Southwestern tour. They'll be back in town briefly after that, before going off to the Pacific Northwest. This band never stops.

It was a most enjoyable, low-key birthday. Just the way I like it.


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