Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Magnetic Fields

It's actually pretty surprising that I haven't posted any Magnetic Fields yet, considering they are probably my favoritest of bands. If you don't know them, I don't even know where to begin describing their brilliance, so I won't even try. You can gather more information on them via their website.

I will, however, recount the somewhat oddball way I came to discover them and enter the wonderful world of Stephin Merritt: It was the summer of 1997 and I was in NYC interning. I tagged along with a number of fellow interns to see Combustible Edison play. (Remember them?) There were two opening bands--the first consisted of 4, yes 4, theremin players, who made an unholy racket as a rhythym guitarist tried to provide some structure; the second was Future Bible Heroes, which is Merritt's synthpop side project/alter ego band. One song and I was hooked--I went to Kim's and bought their album the next day and the rest is history. What's funny is that I don't even think that Future Bible Heroes were touring, and a few years later when I saw the Magnetic Fields in DC, I asked their drummer Claudia Gonson, who was manning the merch table, when Future Bible Heroes would be playing again. Her typically laconic answer: "When we stop sucking."

Sadly I don't have any document of Future Bible Heroes's shows (though I'd especially love to hear a recording of their more recent--2002?--show at Mercury Lounge in NYC), but what I do have is this great recording from the first Merge Fest at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC in 1994. I kick myself continually that I lived in Chapel Hill at that time and didn't have the good sense to go to the Cradle that night and discover the band a few years earlier than I did. What was particularly great about them at this stage in this pre-69 Love Songs stage of their career was that while the albums were all really synthy and full of studio wizardry, they transcribed all the songs to a more classic indie-rock format when they played live. Also, Stephin Merritt generally sang all the songs, regardless of who sang them on the album (Susan Anway for the first couple records, and then a whole variety of people in the 6ths--another side project). All this made the concert experience very unique and special. Recently, with their latest album Distortion, they've moved back to this distinction between albums and concerts, but in a much more quiet, contemplative manner. Back in '94, they were all indie rock (or as you can hear Claudia pronounce in the recording, tacky indie rock).

Count on seeing more Magnetic Fields concerts and rarities as I fitfully progress with my posting. For now, enjoy this particular concert here.

The Magnetic Fields live at the Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, NC
Mergefest, July 29, 1994

1. When I'm Out of Town (3:26)
2. Either You Don't Love Me or I Don't Love You (2:14)
3. Born on a Train (3:48)
4. 100,000 Fireflies (3:36)
5. Strange Powers (2:55)
6. Lonely Highway (4:08)
7. Deep Sea Diving Suit (2:00)
8. Love Goes Home to Paris in the Spring (3:08)
9. Dream Hat (feat. Mac McCaughan) (2:53)
10. Candy (3:53)
11. San Diego Zoo (4:30)
12. Rot in the Sun (3:36)
13. Desert Island (3:53)
14. Summer Lies (3:47)
15. Young and Insane (1:58)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whoa, blast from the past! This is my favorite Magnetic Fields show ever. In the days before high speed internet file transfers, my friend Maggie copied this recording from her cassette to mine in her parents kitchen, while her pal Kristin dyed her hair maroon in the bathroom. We were all in high school...

mookieproof said...

haha I was at this show, but I don't, uh, remember it very clearly. Thanks!