I had mixed feelings, heading into the Rose Quarter yesterday night. I didn’t really know if the venue had decent sound (My only other experience there was for Yo Gabba Gabba! Live), I wasn’t sure if our tickets were any good, and honestly, I was not confident that The Postal Service would put on a good show. I saw some videos before hand, of their performances ten years ago, and they were lacking at best. I don’t really blame anyone involved in the band because there music does not seem suited for live performance. The abundance of programming and sampling is something that does not normally compute well to a live stage, unless you are looking to watch a guy stare at his laptop for two hours. I decided to go into it with no expectations. That way, anything would (hopefully) be a pleasant surprise. Before I get into whether or not The Postal Service managed to make their chill indietronic love songs work on the stage, I have to address the opening act: Big Freedia.
That is Big Freedia. Big Freedia is a rap artist (who happens to be gay) from New Orleans and is at the forefront of the Bounce rap movement or, at least that is what her website states. To clarify, Big Freedia is a gay man who performs as a female persona. I did not know any of this going into the show. I knew, about 30 seconds before I walked into the stadium, that someone with a shirt that said “BIG FREE DIA” was going to be the opener. We sat down as this “BIG FREE DIA” was starting what I thought was HIS first song. There was a single rapper on stage with a dj behind him, and three booty-licious ladies standing on stage as well. Throughout the entire first song (and the rest of the show for that matter) these ladies did nothing but “twerk”. As the second song started, I was deeply confused. In that current circumstance, this was a bad, repetitive and super misogynistic rapper. My friends with smart phones that were not dead started to look up details on this horrible first act. This is when I started to get confused. We found out that Big Freedia is a gay man who plays music as a woman, but doesn’t really dress in drag. We found out that this music is meant to be repetitive and has but one purpose, to get that AZZ on the floor. Now, let me say this: One youtube video is entertaining, in a car accident/bad movie sort of way. I can laugh at how bad it is. But, when forced to sit through 11 songs, with the same beats, the same words, and the same asinine vocal sampling, you start to genuinely wonder why this is the opening act for a Postal Service Show. Even as I am now more educated on the roots and purpose of this artist and musical style, I am still unable to figure out why people would think of this as anything other than a one time, laugh at the ridiculousness of it and be done sort of thing. At the absolute best, its basic novelty. I can not wrap my head around this music. I try, really hard to at least understand why music I personally don’t enjoy exists. Even if it’s not my cup of tea, I want to get why other people like it. Big Freedia stumps me. The lyrics are horribly sexist and at times very rapey: “I got that gin in my system, somebody gon be my victim!”. That is one of the longest lines in the entire Big Freedia catalog. Most of the time its one word on hyper roll repeat, the worst of which being a song where it seems like the only lyrics are “pop that” and then “pussy” about a thousand times over. It just strikes me as odd that someone doing a weird type of drag show would be performing a style of rap that intensifies all of the worst social qualities of rap. For the best of my knowledge, it does not seem sardonic or satirical. I just don’t get it. The music isn’t interesting, the beats are identical between songs, and the vocal sampling is overdone and annoying. Not only does Big Freedia suck, but her live show sucks worse. It gets an extra badge of suck for being the opening act for a band like The Postal Service.
The Postal Service, on the other hand, was a very different story. Their show was very polished, from the music to the light show and everything in between. Their stage setup was incredible. Each person had a station with some acoustic and natural instruments and some triggers. There were these pillars of lights that would flash all sorts of cool patterns and videos, instead of traditional screens. They then had lights that shown through the gaps between the pillars. The whole experience looked great, and each unique light show fit the tone and feel of the individual songs. The addition of the two female singers/musicians added some nice texture with vibraphone, Rhodes pianos and more. Ben Gibbard spent much of the night behind an electric guitar, but every once in a while would jump behind a drum set on the other side of the stage. At first I felt like this was arbitrary and gimmicky, but after a few songs, it started to seem more purposeful and needed. It gave the songs that needed it the most some added energy. The weirdest thing about Bens show was his stage presence when he was not holding an instrument. He is not used to being just a singer, and never seemed to know what to do with his body. Jimmy Tamborello kept the beats going, and added some surprising and welcomed melodica and vocoder to the mix. It was way more than two guys and a laptop. The show was an experience. It had some sound issues, and some of the songs did not work out as well as others, but all in all it was a great show, which far surpassed my expectations. Their new songs stood out from the classic songs and had much more influence from EDM, but having a 10 year break will explain that. They played all of the fan favorites, and even a cover or two, even though I did not know what songs they were covering. My personal favorite moment was their last song, “Brand New Colony” which ended the night in a wonderful, upbeat, and energetic way. I do wish I had seen them in a festival setting, as opposed to a partially filled auditorium, just because I feel like the show would have gone from better than expected to great with the addition of a great audience that was dancing along.