Chad VanGaalen @ The Rio Theatre -- 10/15/09

As much as I love places like the Commodore or the Biltmore, I kind of wish all shows from now on were at The Rio Theatre. It is a movie theatre, so not only does it have fantastic sound, but the seats are incredibly comfortable. Maybe it's not "cool" to be sitting for a show, but I'm sick of dealing with the people and crowds at the front of the stage, or the sometimes poor view from the seated areas/tables. Even at the venues which are normally seated, they either have hard, uncomfortable chairs or no leg room. Or both.
Giant, comfy chairs to recline and relax in. That is what I wish for. In venues and in life, really... But I digress!

First up, going on somewhat early (they had a screening of Where The Wild Things Are that night, so the show had a curfew of 11) was Castlemusic. Jennifer Castle came out alone and lured the crowd in with her fantastic voice and gentle, lilting music. Some of the songs may have been a little same-y, but she was still pretty amazing, and her voice had a softness to it that you couldn't help be drawn in by. One of the songs started with just her singing, with no musical accompaniment, and... wow. Just wow. I would really like to see her live again, especially in a more intimate venue.

Soon after, Chad VanGaalen himself was up, with a band of three others, which included Julie Fader of Great Lake Swimmers on keys. It was kind of an interesting set, in that VanGaalen seemed to be a more talkative than he normally is, and a little more loose between songs. At one point someone shouted something out which he thought was "Fraggle Rock" and he started talking about that, Henson, The Muppets, then somehow got to Videodrome and how Deborah Harry's nude scene was ruined by Cronenberg's weirdness.... And not only that, but he was wearing a black, dreadlocked wig, which he partially explained as being a vestige of a really weird victoria show the night before. Pictures of it can be found over here, on Guttersnipe. It was pretty awesome.
And musically, the show was pretty damn good. The set featured a lot of new songs, which he even apologized for -- "Sorry for playing so many new songs, but the old songs are.... old." -- but as far as I'm concerned, new songs are always welcome. He mostly just stuck to his guitar, not really busting out any of the crazy instruments, so some of the songs sounded a little more stripped down than on the album. Nothing was really lost in the translation to the stage, though; everything still sounded great. Although, this may be why he didn't play some of his more layered songs, which was my one complaint: that he didn't do either Bare Feet on Wet Grip Tape or TMNT Masks, but a lot of the other songs made up for it. ESPECIALLY what ended up being, without a doubt, the highlight of the show. A few songs in, VanGaalen called off stage to his friend, whose birthday it was, and asked for a request. His friend, probably being a smartass, called for Technotronic's Pump Up The Jam. So what happened? VanGaalen sang it. The first couple verses only, and just with a simple drum beat... but even still, it was a pretty epic sight. Cover song of the year right there.

At one point, midway through the set, he kind of apologized for having a weird energy... not really being flat, but having a "medium energy" to the show... but even Chad VanGaalen playing a little off was better than a lot of other artists I've seen. It was a great and fun show, in an awesome venue.