So The Tallest Man on Earth isn’t super tall.

How many times a day do you think he hears that? But it’s cool…some jokes are overused because they’re funny every time (this actually might NOT be one of those times, but I’m going to stick with it).

I spend last evening at UCSD’s The Loft, checking out The Tallest Man on Earth. I showed up a little late in hopes that I might miss some of the opener—some band called Nurses who I hadn’t heard of—but I managed to time it just wrong, and found my spot right as the lights went down for Nurses.

Pause for a moment here to comment on the venue. I haven’t ever been to The Loft, and most definitely would never have been to The Loft, had it not been for an exceptionally kind UCSD lab assistant who found me wandering around the poorly lit campus and showed me where to go. Dear UCSD: Please expend some of your newly increased student fees on ANY semblance of signage. Love, someone who gets lost in her own neighborhood. So I did eventually get there, and was surprised. It SEEMS like a cool venue—a beer and wine bar, a boothy-couchy seating area, a few tall tables, a good sized standing area and a short stage—but it’s tricky. If you sit at all, you can’t see anything. People talking at the bar may as well be talking on stage—the sound really carries. The stage is just short enough that it’s REAL hard to see the performers if there are tall people up front (and somehow, there ALWAYS are). And it’s on a UC campus, so many of the attendees were college students. At one point, I was behind two sets of college dates, the girls of which clearly knew the music, and the boys of which were talking about the only other concerts they’d to—Kenny Chesney and Jimmy Buffett. Awesome (not at all awesome).

So all of that to say that if you ever make it to The Loft (not a given, because you might end up in the Biology department, or some forest, like I did), be ready for a younger crowd, and be there earlier if you care to see.

But back to what actually matters. So Nurses came out onto stage, and to be honest, I didn’t even bother standing up. It took me about forty seconds into their first song to stand and move up. I don’t even know how to aptly describe them in relation to other music—they’re sort of like a sadder, more serious Vampire Weekend. The lead singer has a similar “I’m young and love life and music and drinking and don’t have a lot to worry about” tone, and made good use of the harpsichord setting on the keyboards…maybe that’s why I thought of Vampire Weekend. But really—take note of these guys—they blew me away! For three people (one of whom was just on percussion), they have a really full, polished sound that will make you stop to listen. And they had these moments of harmonic brilliance that makes me wonder if they’re related. Side note—I just tried to Google them to see if they actually are related, and I got about two million website about nurses…the life saving kind. Different. Anyway. They’re probably not related (but the two front guys do have equally impressive beards), but their tones blend so well—you’ll be impressed. Go buy their album immediately. I was sad to see their set end, and already sent them a pseudo-creepy fan email.

I’m having a hard time figuring out how to write the rest of this, because The Tallest Man’s set evoked two completely opposite reactions that I don’t think I can weave appropriately here. Ok…I’ve decided—first, the music, second, everything else.

So The Tallest Man was all I hoped he’d be. The set list was impressive—a great blend of stuff from the new album (The Wild Hunt—a HUGE winner) and old favorites. His voice is so weirdly harshly-gruff-Bob-Dylan-but-more-accurate that you can’t help but pay complete attention to whatever he’s doing. It was only him on his several guitars, but from time to time, I had to jump up (damn tall guys) to be sure he didn’t have six arms, because I swear there were three separate guitar lines going at once. And he performs like his album—mellow, but still intense, and just overall good. His sad songs were somehow much sadder in person, his mad songs were much madder and his happy songs (…well…he doesn’t really have HAPPY songs, but you know what I mean) were energy-inspiring. There was something about seeing him actually say the words that he wrote that made them mean something more, and that’s saying a lot coming from me, a music-first-lyrics-second-or-maybe-third person. And at one point, I think he played Sade. The music part of the show left me energetic, happy and totally content.

The REST of the show left me drained, annoyed and way over everything.

Something was up with the sound. So I know the sound guy always gets crap, but really, the feedback was almost unbearable at times. The Tallest Man handled it like a champ, though, and played through it as though he didn’t notice it most of the time, while making his own adjustments on stage. But the WORST part was the audience. I left feeling like I needed to apologize to him for all of the following people:

-The Clapper. Not only did this guy clap through EVERY SONG, he often clapped off beat (so maybe not OFF beat, but on the one/three, which is just as bad), which was so unbelievably annoying that I almost cried blood, AND he continued to clap even when The Tallest Man came over to him during a song and said “Hey, this is actually a pretty sad song…” Liking the music so much that you want to clap: okay. Being the only one clapping in the entire venue: nokay. Continuing to clap when the band actually asks you to stop: NOkay.

-The Talkers. There were many. I don’t care if this is a date, or if this is your first concert, or fill in the blank. When the band has to say “This is a quiet one…so you all have to be quiet to hear it…” stop talking. Seriously.

-The Skinny Jeans. Just kidding…that would mean I hated everyone there.

-The Only Girl In The World Who Knows How To Appreciate Music. This girl started off the show sitting on the end of the stage and sit-dancing (to The Tallest Man on Earth…???), which evoked more than one awkward side glance from The Tallest Man as he performed, and at one point, was texting so obviously that he just walked over to her on the stage and just stared at her. She then came back to her friend, who was happily enjoying the show from the crowd, and proceeded to pull and push her (physically), and verbally cajole her by saying “It’s not the same here [three people back, mind you]…you can’t really appreciate it until you’re up there!” until she also went up to the stage to sit, displacing other people the whole way. Then at one point, she actually stood up on the stage and danced. At this point, The Tallest Man said “Sit down…this is really more of a sit down song.” Awkward. Go experience your first beer somewhere else, girl.

-The Awkward Fill-The-Silence Talker. So The Tallest Man wasn’t super talkative. Turns out, this is his show, so he can say or not say whatever he wants, right? Not okay, apparently, for this one guy. Every time The Tallest Man was trading guitars or tuning or taking a moment to adjust, this guy yelled out things like “Hey how are you?,” or “Yeah, play this song!,” or my personal favorite, “What’s better, San Diego or Switzerland?” At that point, The Tallest Man, who had just ignored him at this point, looked up and said “You know, I don’t really think about those things when I’m tuning.” At least this guy took the hint…that was his last comment.

So overall: Nurses was a complete success. Go tell all your friends about them, and pretend like you discovered them if you want, because your music cred will skyrocket. The Loft is a weird venue, and I may never go there again. I forget, sometimes, that an audience can ALMOST make or break an entire show, but…The Tallest Man on Earth is unbelievably talented, and I loved to see that his personality totally matches his voice—a little gruff, a little cantankerous, a lot of depth. I’ll remember him WAY more than the annoying people in skinny jeans.


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