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Luna w/ Palomar (Sunday, November 14th, 2004, Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis)

Luna - Photo by Brian Marx (click for full size)

By Jason Koffman

I hadn't been to the Fine Line since the Pixies played there in April and I was curious to see what was left of it. Of course it's looking great and I was happy to find that there were no tables on the floor, just some along the edges of the balcony upstairs. When Luna played the Fine Line back in 1996, the Fine Line had tables set up from the back all the way up to the stage, cabaret style. It was a great idea, until the band began playing. Then the crowd was forced to weave in and out of the tables or be backed up against the bar. Bathroom goers had to navigate to the back of the venue like a pinball hitting bumpers. Unnecessary squabbles ensued amongst concert goers as the seated folks bitched at those standing between them and the band.

Thankfully somebody came to their senses and chucked the tables for Sunday’s Luna show. Of course I wasn't complaining at the 1996 show at all. That was my first flirtation with my wife-to-be, whose leg I met under one of those pesky Fine Line tables way in the back of the club. While liner notes have become rather blog-like these days, typos and all, when thinking of Luna I often remember some of the erotica in their poetic 2001 "Live" CD notes:

"The first time I kissed the woman who I am now dating there was a Luna album playing. Thought the woman in question is as special as one could possibly hope a woman could be, I should tell you, in the interest of all honesty, that this is not a unique occurrence. I speak to you as someone who has taken Luna albums entirely too seriously, and in doing so, there has been kissing. It seemed only natural. It seemed what the music wanted."--Joe Levy

Purrrr. But back to the show. Luna’s NYC neighbors, Palomar, opened the evening to a maybe one-third full house. Up at the front there was an (in)visible chasm between the stage and the crowd that you often find for opening bands. Literally the moment the band left the stage the crowd flooded forward in unison as if it was a planned movement. I’d never seen Palomar before, but they looked and sounded cute. Somewhat monotonous three girl vocal harmonizing, Rickenbacker guitar, tasty drumming. If Throwing Muses only played Tanya Donelly’s songs they would probably sound like Palomar. On one song the drummer repeatedly squeezed a squeak toy for the rhythm. Oh for cute.

Earlier in the day Palomar played an in-store performance at Aardvark Records in northeast Minneapolis ( Yes, there’s a cool independent music store right in central NE. Check it out. During their set there the drummer noticed an 11 year-old girl in the audience bobbing her head and air-drumming, so he invited her to play drums on a song. Go Kelsey! Now that’s cute.
The place looked about two-thirds full on the floor when Luna hit the stage about 10pm and was very cozy and comfortable. Fantastic sound mix that was never too loud, but loud enough when it should be. Being up close to the stage this time I was now able to determine who played lead guitar on what (see set list below). Dean Wareham is looking more and more like Tom Verlaine; vein-poppingly tight and gaunt. Fortunately he can sound like him too, with a warmly picked guitar solo on “Tiger Lily”, one of my favorites. After the first few songs he stuck to his Gibson Les Paul for the rest of the night. I also loved the long jams on “Black Postcards” and the chug-chug-chug of “23 Minutes In Brussels”. Sean Eden pushed all the right pedals.

Britta Phillips was pretty quiet and distant the whole show, but added harmony to several songs in the last third of the set. Dean recalled playing the Fine Line back in 1996 when they were recording “Pup Tent” at Pachyderm in Cannon Falls, MN and playing ping-pong ’til 4am. Tonight they were staying out near the MOA due to the Vikings/Packers game. Dean’s hair pointed in so many different directions that I was beginning to suspect it was a wig. Some fans in Chicago had told him he had bedhead.

As you may have already heard, the new album, “Rendezvous”, and tour are Luna’s swan song. Even though I preach the gospel of Luna, in the 7 albums and many singles and EPs from last 12 years I can’t say that I’ve seen much of an artistic arc in their work. You could listen to any Luna release and not know if it’s their first or their last. Their music is pretty timeless, borrowing all the best music elements and humor of VU, Jonathan Richman, Dean Martin, Television, and building upon them. Rock solid rock.

Maybe this could explain why their last show here felt like their first. These aren’t fighting words. It just didn’t feel like anything had changed, which is good and (possibly) bad. Just as on “Live”, they played songs from all of their albums, again repeating the Galaxy 500 chestnut “Tugboat”. While my pants size has certainly arced over the years, Britta and Dean still wear the skinniest jeans in all the land. They can really shine when covering others’ songs as well and I would have liked to hear one, even if they stuck to the usuals: Serge Gainsbourg‘s “Bonnie & Clyde”, Beat Happening‘s “Indian Summer”, Harry Nilsson via Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” (complete with kazoo chorus). Sometimes you can’t have it all though. If Dean & Britta’s “L’Avventura” is any evidence, we have not seen the last of these guys.

Luna’s Set list at the Fine Line 11/14/04

Cindy Tastes Of Barbeque
1995 [Sean lead]
Malibu Lovenest [Dean lead]
California (All The Way)
Pup Tent [Sean lead]
Broken Chair [Sean sings]
Tiger Lily [Dean lead]
Going Home [Sean->Dean lead]
Astronaut [Sean lead]
Sideshow By The Seashore [Sean lead]
Moon Palace
Black Postcards [Sean & Dean lead]
1st encore:
Tugboat [Dean lead]
23 Minutes In Brussels [Sean & Dean lead]
2nd encore:
Friendly Advice [Dean lead]

Related links:

New LUNA German-only 7” single:

Excellent and complete guide to Galaxie 500/Luna: