Pedro The Lion
January 24, 2005
BY JASON SONGE
When singer/songwriter Ray LaMontagne delivered an emotional, teary-eyed performance of his sad songs at The Austin City Limits Festival, a man in the crowd yelled, "Ray, are you happy?" The underlying assumption was that since Ray was laying it all out to see, he couldn't be happy. Ray responded by saying that he WAS happy living in Maine with his girlfriend.
At the Pedro The Lion concert Monday night at Twiropa, a girl asked the same question of lead singer David Bazan. Bazan sings sad songs too. What did the girl want to hear--that he was unhappy? Would she have gotten some kind of sick satisfaction out of it, like not being able to look away when passing a car crash? Bazan explained he was happy, that he and his wife had just had their first child. This drew applause from the audience. Some people like sad music more than happy music. Consequently, there are some people, like Bazan, who enjoy singing sad songs more than happy ones. This doesn't deserve a judgment of character.
Bazan's world-weary vocals, which included screaming, dominated Pedro The Lion's music. Their sparse sound was filled in by the vocals and the guitars. Pedro The Lion's guitar sound was jangly like Pavement but sad because of the music's mainly moderate pace.
Pedro The Lion was formed in 1998 by Bazan, who has written all five of their albums. He hires a band for tours.
When Pedro The Lion delved into upbeat rockers, they were full of intertwining harmonies between the guitar, bass, and vocals. These songs recalled Sebadoh. Other pieces were slow and melancholic.
While some bands turn up the volume and hit a vocal ceiling for contrast, Pedro The Lion intentionally sputtered when they went for it. This complemented the band's underachieving character.
For a Monday night, Pedro The Lion managed to draw a large audience, and everyone tried to get as close to the stage as possible. A bunch of them watched from either side. During a break in the music, Bazan took questions from the audience and answered them in a soft-spoken manner.
Because of Bazan's storytelling ability, I think Pedro The Lion is a better album band than a live band. The group was tight, but the music was deceptively simple, so I wasn't enraptured by it. Still, I left the concert HAPPY.