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Indie / Folk / Pop based in San Francisco, California
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down
@ Magnet Club 21.1.10
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down play an incredibly upbeat take on the complexities of life and love. The generally serious and contemplative lyrics provided by Thao Nguyen are complimented by the hyperactive and cheery rhythmic pulse of Willis Thompson (drums/percussion) and Adam Thompson (bass). While the music is both entertaining and interesting to listen to in album form, it also translates incredibly well to the live stage. Thao and the GDSD approach the stage with a clear attitude to have fun and make sure that the audience is always on the same page.
In between the flow of words and melodies on the guitar, Thao frolicked around on stage, dancing to the unstoppable stream of liveliness created by the music. Bathed in the red spotlight, her sultry lyrics, unique voice, and charming stage presence focused all attention on her. Not allowing the vivacity of the evening to drop in between songs, she chatted about watching shows about Komodo dragon mating behavior and their previous tour experiences in Berlin. While Thao controlled most of the concentration of the audience the Thompsons added their own energy and character, partially concealed by the shadows of the stage.
The creative and animated spirit that apparently went into writing the music remained in the live setting as well. In several of the songs the group broke slightly from their original recorded structures and integrated minor jams into the show. During this time Thao and Adam would move closer to Willis on drums, focusing on each other and where the music would move next. It was in these moments that they visually came together as a band and the movement of the songs soared.
Pulling the energy and zest from the musicians, in front of the stage the audience danced and enthusiastically clapped along with the songs whenever an opportunity was presented. As the crowd moved away from the stage at the end of the set, the thrill of the upbeat music lingered in the air, the ironic product of juxtapositioned frustrated love and indie pop.
Written and photographed by Brit-Maren Schjeide
Thao with The Get Down Stay Down
know better learn faster
photos by Shervin Lainez
album photo by Cascade Wilhelm
“The album is named ‘Know Better Learn Faster’ because you can’t,” explains Thao. “By the time you realize you should, it’s too late. And I enjoy the predicament and the totally devastating, unfunny humor of that.”
Thao and the ever-versatile Get Down Stay Down (Adam Thompson on bass, keys and additional guitar, and Willis Thompson on drums and percussion) return with the follow up to their critically lauded and riotously applauded previous album, “We Brave Bee Stings and All”, the breakout success and best-selling record of 2008 for Kill Rock Stars. With super-producer and friend Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Bill Frisell, Spoon) again at the helm, Know Better Learn Faster perfectly captures the band as their more mature, tastefully raucous, tastefully subdued and musically adventurous selves. Honed, trimmed and tightened over the last year and a half of constant touring, the now-trio delivers Thao’s cleverly crafted and emotionally evocative songs with vibrant, innovative instrumentation, incredible energy and a still-acutely-solid sense of what sounds good. The new batch of songs spans all genres and influences, all the while staying faithful to their distinct style, sharp wit, and the infectious and enamoring exuberance of their renowned live shows.
But the band can be serious too. Know Better Learn Faster is in many ways a boisterous, frenzied, and resigned break-up record, and with that territory comes a few songs wherein Thao does not employ her trademark method of juxtaposing brighter melodies with melancholic content. “A few of these are just straightforwardly sad. Sometimes there’s not much room to mince words and music when you feel like shit,” she says.
The diverse and wide-ranging songwriting only helps to showcase the trio’s formidable musicianship: all members have stepped up and expanded their repertoires to fill out the trio’s sound. To further help the cause, the band was thrilled and humbled to enlist album guests Andrew Bird, Eric Earley of Blitzen Trapper, Laura Veirs, Horse Feathers, Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists, and close friend and new 4AD artist Tune-Yards.
Know Better Learn Faster is a deeply felt, honestly rendered audit of the end of one or any number of relationships. Thao says: “We are thankful for the opportunity to have explored and then purged all crippling tensions and anxiety inherent in such dramas and hope you enjoy the scrappy by-product.”
01. The Clap
Download Thao with The Get Down Stay Down mp3 Albums and Titles.