Spoon dishes out enegery, music First Avenue

By Tatiana Craine

I walked into a virtually empty First Avenue last Thursday night, and the blackness of the area closed in around me. The space seemed abnormally small with only a few concert-goers milling around the stage. Alternating skateboarding and surfing videos played, ex-skateboarder Stacey Peralta’s face smeared across the screen covering the main stage. Somehow, things didn’t seem right.My unease settled deep within the pit of my stomach for the next hour, but soon the floor swarmed with hipster couples and wannabe-collegiates. I wandered into the midst of the crowd while The Ponys took their time getting to the stage to open for Spoon.

The Ponys’ frontman, Jered Gummere, greeted the audience, “We haven’t partied since Chicago!” Seemingly not noticing the crowd’s lack of enthusiasm, The Ponys plunged into their grating music and did not emerge until the end of their set. A wall between the crowd and the band formed. As they played, I felt like I was watching a garage-band practice as the musicians head-banged and stumbled around stage. The Ponys relied greatly upon a heavy bass beat from their drummer and bassist, which was offset by ear-piercing guitar solos by Gummere. At one point, I looked over my shoulder to see two stony-faced girls covering their ears. The Ponys joined the ranks of the poor opening bands who cool down the crowd, rather than warm it up.

With The Ponys’ exit, the anticipation the crowd previously lacked began to rise. Scarf-clad people slyly made their way to the front of the crowd. Obnoxious camera-toting fans peeked behind the screen trying to get the attention of the set-up crew. The air became thicker and thicker with the expectant breath of hundreds of devotees while fog crept into the audience.

Smoke oozed from behind the colossal screen and permeated the crowd, darkening the atmosphere but heightening the sense of excitement. The screen rose as more smoke poured out while the band members jogged on from stage left. I was almost disappointed with their stage presence. I thought they would immediately own the stage, but they entered First Ave with a modesty that The Ponys didn’t possess. While The Ponys seemed overly concerned with their image, Spoon gave off an unpretentious vibe.

Spoon frontman Britt Daniel strummed the opening chord on his guitar, dusted in purple lighting. Any misgivings I originally had about the floor space and the concert-goers were squashed as I glanced around. The tightly packed crowd gazed up at Daniel and the gang, enthralled and singing faithfully along.

In the weeks before the concert, I had heard from numerous friends and acquaintances that Spoon always puts on a good show. Thursday night was definitely no exception. It was apparent that Spoon cared about more than just their musical performance. The concert quickly became a full sensory experience-the bump of a neighbor’s shoulder while jumping in time to the beat of the drums; the lyrics floating on mellow sound waves, wry and quirky yet energetic; the scent of someone with a spritz-too-much of some unnameable cologne wafting around; the inhalation of air thick with fog and the taste of the band; the dancing lights that proved to be a hypnotic distraction. . .

Spoon’s set was balanced with a lot of new songs off their July 2007 release, “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga,” as well as a smattering of Spoon classics. Crowd favorite “Don’t Make Me a Target” had an extended solo by Daniel, who, true to rock star form, got on his knees and jammed. Another hit, “The Ghost of You Lingers,” featured Eric Harvey on keyboard.

Quite apparent throughout the night was Spoon’s appreciation of their fans. During a song-break, a fan boldly screamed, “I Turn My Camera On!” Daniel gave a cheeky reply. “I think we may know that one.” Fans were rewarded a few songs later when the band played the request. Other efforts to get the band’s attention were recognized with coy smiles and friendly laughter. Daniel strove to make the concert personal for everyone in the room, looking his audience in the eyes and breaching the audience-stage wall. (Yours truly received two glances that will be treasured forever.)

The night definitely ended on a better note than it began, and a crowd that was starving for first-rate music left Spoon-fed and satisfied.