Spaceland, December 11, 2007
By Jonah Flicker
The most revealing moment of the man formerly known as Pedro the Lion’s intimate set at Spaceland came just before the end. During one of David Bazan’s question and answer periods, a longtime staple of his live show, someone requested that he play “Selling Advertising,” a song off his recent Fewer Moving Parts EP. He proceeded to calmly explain to the crowd that the song is meant to be a “fuck you” to Pitchfork’s editor-in-chief, Ryan Schreiber. Being a former Pitchfork contributor myself, I was tickled to hear him reveal the specific target of this scathing song. The moment was pure Bazan, and one of the many reasons why he’s maintained such a loyal following, from his many Pedro albums for Jade Tree to his current solo stint with Barsuk.
The beardos and indie-rock wallflowers in the audience nodded along attentively to every mournful power chord, every recounting of drinking to forget pain, and every moment of self doubt regarding his Christian faith. The latter is a key component of Bazan’s oeuvre (and one that he’s taken a drubbing for over the years), as is his slightly gravelly and powerfully emotive voice. His charmingly semi-nervous stage presence sprang up in between songs. But during his soaring indie anthems, comprised of peaks and valleys of emotion and dynamics, Bazan, armed only with an electric guitar and teeny-tiny tube amp, filled the room with quiet confidence. This was one of those rare occasions where a musician who you’re used to seeing with a full band goes it alone and you don’t miss drums and bass for a second.
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In between Pedro the Lion songs like “Options” and brand-new tunes that will hopefully appear on his forthcoming album, Bazan took the time to answer questions about his favorite veggies (asparagus and spinach) and whether he plays Guitar Hero (he has too much shit to do to be bothered), as well as attempting to mediate between the striking writers and network executives. Well, on this last point, he actually threatened to kick the balls of any exec in the crowd. There didn’t seem to be much of a chance of that happening. But Bazan’s candid remarks and painfully intimate narratives, buttressed by his tuneful voice and ridiculous knack for melody, are what make his music so endearing.