Live Review: Rodrigo y Gabriela with Xavier Rudd @ Marymoor Park 8/13

It’s remarkable how a live concert experience can be influenced by additional factors other than the music. And I’m not talking about drugs or alcohol. You could see the same band play the same set list on consecutive nights, but based on changes in venue, atmosphere, crowd energy, etc., have a completely different interpretation. Seeing a band headline The Gorge in summer does not equal seeing them play the Tractor on a rainy Wednesday (no offense to the Tractor Tavern, one of the best Seattle venues).

Recently I had a unique experience where the character of a show changed drastically in a span of about 5 seconds, and what might have been an enjoyable-yet-otherwise-unexceptional concert turned into a night of unforgettable entertainment and an extraordinary performance. Xavier Rudd and Rodrigo y Gabriela had been on my calendar for months, and it was great when my brothers and a few friends decided to jump on board at the last minute. A few words about Marymoor Park: The Gorge it is not (although the line of traffic waiting to exit at W Lake Sammamish Pkwy is reminiscent of those last few miles after exiting I-90). However, as far as outdoor venues in the Seattle vicinity go, Marymoor is not half bad at all. The grass is green and soft, with small knolls providing a good vantage point for the show and plenty of room to lounge. The tree-lined stage makes for a secluded and pleasant atmosphere for the 5,000 or so people attending.

Due to a minor delay at the raised Montlake Bridge and the aforementioned concert traffic we arrived slightly behind schedule, with just enough time to down a Rainier or two in the parking lot before heading towards the thumping bass inside the concert grounds. As we crossed the fields to the venue, I could hear Xavier Rudd starting “Messages,” a beautiful song from his 2005 release, Food In The Belly, about keeping the Earth clean and saving nature from destruction and greed. It’s one of my favorites, and epitomizes Rudd: a shaggy-haired, spiritually enlightened Aussie who plays his socially conscious music barefoot on stage. The song displays his diverse talents on the guitar, in this case employing a slide on his Weissenborn lap steel. The lawn was so packed there wasn’t enough room to put down even so much as a beach towel, which was fine by me because there was no way I’d be able to sit down for this show like everyone else seemed content to do. We headed straight for the small party of 30 or so hardcore fans dancing in front of the sound booth, just behind 50 rows of reserved seating.

This incarnation of Xavier Rudd, originally a solo act, featured him playing with bassist Tio Moloantoa and percussionist Andile Nqubezelo. Otherwise known as Inzintaba, the addition of the two musicians invigorates Rudd’s music with an energy that I hadn’t heard at previous shows. This was particularly notable on the popular song “To Let,” from his 2002 debut studio release of the same name. With distorted acoustic guitar and smile-inducing jams on one of his massive didgeridoos (a classic staple of his live show), Xavier Rudd and Inzintaba had all of us in front of the sound booth rocking out, and even convinced a few mild-mannered patrons in the reserved section to rise from their seats.

Speaking of rocking out and effect laden acoustic guitars...

Rodrigo y Gabriela have been around for quite a while now (as has Xavier Rudd), but I have been dying to see them live ever since someone sent me a YouTube video in 2006. I don’t just mean to say they have been around for a few years, but have been around the world and back. They met shredding in metal bands in Mexico City, then journeyed to Ireland (of all places), and not long after playing the pubs in Dublin they were rocking European festivals and getting face time on Letterman. It’s amazing to think about all the sound that comes from just two artists on stage with nylon-stringed classical acoustic guitars. Somehow they are able to make you feel like a large hand drum orchestra is backing them up in the wings.

Of course they played excellent standards like “Diablo Rojo” and “Juan Loco,” with Gabriela furiously beating out snare drum rhythms and backing chords while Rodrigo absolutely shredded the upper half of the fret board. Gabriela thanked us all for coming in her best English, and Rodrigo explained about their metal and hard rock influences before launching into “Orion,” their epic Metallica cover. The music was impressive, but I had two regrets: 1) I was too far away to catch a glimpse of the intricate guitar work, and 2) the crowd (and event organizers) were under the impression that this was a relaxed and civil affair, insisting on remaining in their seats and clapping politely at the end of songs. I wanted to tell them somehow that this was not a classical performance, that Rodrigo y Gabriela are, by their own admission, a rock band and the show should be treated as such.

Someone else delivered the message for me, and this is the moment I alluded to earlier where the entire dynamic of the show changed completely. As night fell, a group of kids in the “dancing section” decided the time was right to rush the stage. About seven people broke through into the reserved section and ran down the aisle to jump around at the artists’ feet. Once it became apparent that security was not situated properly to rebuff them, others became emboldened and followed suit. Before anyone knew what had happened I found myself elbows on the stage with hundreds of eager people pushing into my back, and to my own immense elation (and to the delightful surprise of the musicians) the show had turned into a standing-room only, raucous event. Security made one meek, half-assed attempt to request that people return to their seats but it wasn’t happening. Not a bad way to kick off their US tour Seattle!

The rest of the show was exactly what I’d been hoping for. Rodrigo y Gabriela, inspired by the sudden change of atmosphere, brought the fire until the end. Watching Rodrigo burn through solos made my forearms ache; Gabriela was jumping up and down smacking her guitar like it was a djembe, emitting ridiculous booming notes that sounded like she was working a kick drum pedal. When she became exhausted, she simply let out a cry of “Aiiiiiiiii!” (which the crowd enthusiastically echoed) and launched into another round of jumping and slapping her instrument. They took turns organizing crowd participation, directing sections of the audience to clap out different rhythms. Towards the end, they played crowd favorite “Tamacun,” which Rodrigo began by inciting the audience to echo his guitar with a call-and-response sing-along. He would play a few notes, and the crowd boisterously chanted the line back until the duo sped up into an epic performance of the song. It was a good representation of the show itself: starting out slow and ending with amazing energy, leaving everyone out of breath.

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4 Comments

  1. G-Ram
    Posted August 26, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Sounds good G Baby!

  2. Erin
    Posted August 28, 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Wow this is interesting. Shows how different each of our perspectives and experiences are. This guy cruised in late, pounded a couple beers in the parking lot and from his account he seemed to have disdain for those seated. Seated or not, other concert goers showed up on time instead of cruising in the middle of the opening band’s performance with beer breath. He followed, by his own description, ‘a group of kids’ who rushed the stage. Re-lived his youth and blocked the view of the people in the reserved seating. Ironically, he complained earlier that he was too far away to catch a glimpse of the intricate guitar work. Maybe some other concert goers wanted to see the intricate guitar work too and just maybe that is why they paid more for a ticket in the reserved seating area. I question if his choice to stake his claim and shake his ass in front of those concert goers made it a great atmosphere for anyone but himself. Maybe if he had showed up on time he could have staked out a place close enough to see the intricate guitar work and dance his ass off without rushing the stage, blocking the view of others. I think his complaint that the band is a rock band and should be treated as such is his failed attempt to justify acting out his fantasy to be 15 again at an actual Metallica concert. He complained that the crowd and the event organizers were under the impression that this was a relaxed and civil affair. He seems to forget that other’s impressions and rights to enjoy the concert their way is no more or more less important than his. My point to make to this guy is there is room for everyone to enjoy a concert in their own way if we are considerate of eachother and those differences . Don’t go to a concert with a designated mosh pit and ruin the moshers fun by insisting it is a seated only area. Don’t go to a concert with a designated seated only area and make it a mosh pit. All I am saying is people should check that situation out before buying tickets and if they choose to attend then respect the setup. Anyway, we got there early to find a nice spot, were on the grassy knoll (glad he was not), couldn’t see the intricate guitar work but could hear it just fine, shook our asses while seated so not blocking the enjoyment of those around us but I still got to shake it.
    I was nowhere near where this guy was or the stage area he and ‘a group of kids’ rushed and I had a great time!

  3. D
    Posted August 30, 2010 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    Erin, it’s a rock concert. Get over it.

    I guess an apology should be given to the concert-goers in the first 3 or 4 rows for some view-blocking, but other than that, the stage was high enough for anyone sitting down to see those rapid-fire fingers go to work. Only thing was, as soon as that crowd came down to the stage, everyone behind them stood up because they felt the energy too. They could have sat and still seen plenty, but every time I turned around to look at the crowd behind me, I saw smiling, clapping, and dancing. Not one arms-crossed, lips-pursed, head-shaking person to be seen, but that’s probably because you were out of my line of sight.

    “I question if his choice to stake his claim and shake his ass in front of those concert goers made it a great atmosphere for anyone but himself...” I seriously doubt this. I personally think this group made the concert a better experience. You would be a fool to say that you couldn’t feel and hear the difference in energy from R&G’s playing after the crowd formed. There were a few hundred of us at the foot of the stage - kids, middle-aged people, students, etc. No moshing, just encouraging yelps, clapping, and dancing. That is a scene any musician would love to see, and I would be shocked if R&G left Marymoor Park saying, “Wow, did you see those fans blocking the view of the people seated in the first few rows? We should do something about that next time.” I’m assuming it went something more like, “Wow! Those fans in Seattle really love our music. We are definitely coming back here every chance we get!” As a musician myself, I cannot tell you how much better it is to play for an audience of dancing, hollering fans than to play for a politely clapping seated audience. It makes you want to play better and harder, seeing as how the music you are playing is inspiring the audience to move, act, or show their appreciation for you in some form.

    But then again, you were back in the grass, sitting down, probably more focused on the “travesty” that was going on than the music being played. Sorry that you can no longer tap into your youthful side and enjoy a rock concert for what it is. Sorry that you couldn’t see the graceful fingerwork or the smiles on the musician’s faces while they played to the newly energized crowd. But thankfully, the author got some great pictures from his viewpoint that you should look at and then tell me that Rodrigo would be playing with that much soul and feeling as he would have been if everyone had stayed seated.

    To the author: Great article and review. I’m sure R&G had a blast playing the show and I’m glad that you could experience the same positive energy and good times that I had that night.

  4. Graham S
    Posted September 8, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Here here D.

    Erin, how do you shake your ‘asses’ while sitting?

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