Thursday, June 30, 2011

Owl City at the Fillmore

So my twelve year old Beauteous Maximus and I went to see Owl City last night at the Fillmore in Downtown Detroit. This was after a day spent together at the Get Motivated seminar in the Palace (where the Detroit Pistons play) with some other leaders from my church. We saw Bill Cosby. It was cool.

But Owl City was cooler. Unwed Sailor and Mat Kearney opened, US was interesting. Mat Kearney was superb. I have to look into his music a little more. But the sound was great at the Fillmore, except for the sound guy pushing the db’s on occasion to the point of distorting some of the speakers, and some poor mixing here and there as well. And the house music between sets was some of the worst ever played and completely out of place at the show. Still, the Fillmore was good. It was once the State Theater, and before that it was the Palms Theater. It’s one of those movie palaces born in the early 1900's that’s now used for concerts. I saw Travis there a while back and some other artists over the years.

Owl City is very sweet, bright music. It’s not for people who like to be depressed. And some would consider it a kind of bubble gum music, which it is, except that the lyrics are much more interesting and complex than typical bubble gum pop stuff. Adam Young is a bit of a poet in that he likes the sounds of words and the individual images that words can bring to mind. That’s what he plays with, and he has a pretty good sense of humor about the whole thing. He writes songs about anything and everything from getting pepper sprayed in a parking lot by an paranoid but beautiful girl to expressions about God and faith to songs filled with simple imagery of summer or outer space or you name it.

Owl City is an interesting case, music wise, in the sense of what works live and what goes on in the studio. Owl City is actually an individual named Adam Young who does musical “projects.” Owl City is one of those projects, which happened to take off and sell millions of recordings. So there ya go. But in the studio, which is in his parents house, or was, or still is, I’m not sure – in the studio Owl City is pretty much an electonica “band.” Almost everything is done with keys and sequencers and vocoders and software. And that accounts for the techno quality of the music, which is very polished and fun to listen to, especially with headphones.

But live it’s a whole different ball game. He certainly has a lot of keyboards on the stage, and almost every musician on the stage plays one from time to time. But Adam himself mostly plays guitars and a few leads on a keyboard. He has a live drummer who is pretty intense, but more importantly is spot on tempo and beat wise, and he carries a lot of energy onto the stage. There are also a couple of string players who are excellent, a talented main keyboardist/vocalist/female singer, and another guy who does all kinds of things, guitar, keys, acoustic drums, electronic drums, and he occasionally sports a Darth Vader mask.

The thing is, the live band is very good. They aren’t the tightest band in the world, but his vocals are better than one might expect given all the treatment they get in the studio. He’s a very good singer with a sweet, high range, who is obviously good natured and a bit of a nerd. He seems to be having the time of his life, which is always fun to witness. Some day I’ll tell you about when I first saw Bruce Hornsby. Similar kind of thing. But, anyway, the live band was pretty good and they sort of did “versions” of what is on the studio recordings. Some of the loops and key parts were obviously still there, but a lot of the rest was filled in with the live instruments and it gave the whole things a much more organic feel. I really enjoyed it, but you had to adjust a bit to the fact that it was quite different than the recordings. And it left me wondering what his philosophy about live versus studio are.

The twelve year old and the dad had a blast. We ate at a BBQ joint. We talked about stuff and we rocked with Owl City, even though she is a bit more reserved than I am. Go figure. I faithfully embarrassed her in front of the whole place.

Not really. The truth is she loves me. And I love her.

Peace to you.
© LW Publishing 2011


  1. I do not care for Owl City, but Matt Kearney is good. Also, I saw Travis with you at the Filmore(which I think was still the State at the time)

  2. Yes you did. Wasn't that a great show, my friend? I can understand why some people don't care for Owl City. But it's better than you might think. Especially with the humor. I have to look more into Mat Kearney. He was really powerful in concert.

  3. Mat Kearney is definitely one of my favorites. At first I didn't care for him that much, but then when I listened deeper, I fell in love with it.

  4. It's amazing how many people are out there doing good work, and you just don't know about it.


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