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March 24, 2008 | by  | in Music |
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Iron and Wine… and the suffocation of San Francisco Bathhouse

Fuck John Lennon, Sam Beam is bigger than the bible. In fact he even looks more like Jesus than the man himself. If you weren’t there you missed quite possibly the best gig that the San Fran has seen. If you were, kudos to you.

It was an absolute treat; from the opening acoustic numbers through to the über tight jams of the band to a wonderful rendition of “Naked as We Came” for the encore. His band were equally as impressive, the percussion section deserving of a special mention as is Beam’s sister, Sarah, who provided us with lush harmonies and the odd bit of violin. They had a great style too, kind of looked like they’d just finished fixing your computer before jumping on stage to jam a tune or two.

Beam didn’t speak much but when he did he was funny, slyly informing us we “were all right” after a solid four minutes of applause pre-encore. Everything about this gig was good and this review is swiftly heading towards a rant, but is this case it was highly deserved. It was just so satisfying, like when you get up in the morning after a heavy night out. Your throats parched, your tongue feels like sandpaper but, lo and behold, you’ve got some pulpy orange juice in the fridge. That’s satisfying. So were Beam and Iron and Wine.

On the suffocation of San Francisco Bathhouse

by Tristan Egarr
Sam Beam’s seductive, astonishing voice is one of the most impressive instruments in the music world today. The San Francisco Bathhouse should be an ideal host for this magnificent instrument. It has the most interesting name of all the hip Wellington music joints (despite what those who bemoan it’s loss of former moniker Indigo will tell you), it has a great booths and bar layout, a sweet deck for smoking – and they’ve poached Sean from Flying Burrito Brothers to run their bar, making astonishing cocktails (I regard this man as more an artist than a barman).

Unfortunately, San Fran’s virtues have attracted us like flies to the bug-zapper. It’s very success resulted in an overcrowded, uncomfortable atmosphere at Iron and Wine’s sold out gig. The strength of the music was that in its better moments it took us well and truly from where we were to bask in its sweetness. But in the more mediocre extended jams (which his band never really mastered, especially when compared to Little Bushman’s gig the same weekend), the oppressiveness of having to stand wedged into a tight space – not to mention having to move every time someone squeezed past – added a touch of unease to the room. And just like at Explosions in the Sky’s San Fran gig a month earlier, someone fainted on the dancefloor under the press and lack of air.

Musically, Sam Beam’s presence on this Wellington stage rates as one of the best performances I’ve seen, but the proprietors of the venue need to think long and hard about how they present the high-calibre music they attract. Given that Iron and Wine’s gig sold out weeks in advance, they can’t exactly restrict the number of tickets they sell. Either their bar can expand with its success and devour its neighbouring buildings (yusss) or it can attempt to stay as it is and allow itself to be destroyed by its own popularity (nooo). Perhaps the most telling point I can note is that I felt more relaxed among Little Bushman’s seated, suit-wearing middle-aged Arts Fest audience than among Iron and Wine’s tragic-hipster twentysomething crowd (where I presumed I would more belong), simply because of the lack of space. Or perhaps because I secretly want to be fat, forty and endowed with a stock portfolio…

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  1. Tom Cruise says:

    Good point. I was close to the front and it recently its seemed a little scary with the numbers of pople filling the venue. Also, San Fran seems to have developed a stranglehold on internationals that are either too small/wouldn’t suit venues like the TSB Arena, Town hall etc (though these aren’t great places to see shows either). We need to develop more quality venues.

  2. Wow, Iron and Wine play Wellington and the music doesn’t even warrant a mention. Pretty fucking pathetic review.

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