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Reluctant rockstar rolls into Legends

Matthew Solarski | Monday, November 17, 2003

With his characteristic mumble and an understated intensity, Seattle rocker Pedro the Lion captivated the eager masses at Legends this past Thursday. For many fans of quality music, this marked the most highly anticipated area concert event of the semester. Folks began lining up in the cold well before the posted start time of 9 p.m.

As the hour approached, a queue formed in front of Legends, snaking its way down the outside ramp into the packed parking lot.

Pedro the Lion, actually comprised of singer/guitarist/songwriter David Bazan and a revolving cast of musician-characters, took the stage shortly after 10 p.m., accompanied only by fellow Northwest songwriter TW Walsh on drums.

The two rollicked through a most diverse set of about 16 songs, ranging from mellow, down-tempo musings on failed relationships to urgent, scathing numbers invoking politics and morality, and delving into all depths of the rather extensive Pedro catalogue.

Highlights included set-closer “Rapture,” a fan-favorite about adultery, “Big Trucks,” a playful take on road-rage and the generation gap, and “Never Leave A Job Half Done,” with its dark themes and explosive finale.

Bazan and Walsh filled out the set with about six brand new songs, set to appear on a forthcoming Pedro the Lion EP and possibly the new full-length, due out sometime in mid-to-late 2004.

If his latest material is any indication, Pedro may be heading in a new direction with shorter songs and more personalized themes, all the while taking his musical stylings back to their roots: the mid-tempo, plaintive melodies of his 1998 debut It’s Hard To Find A Friend.

Perhaps the most endearing aspect of Thursday night’s performance were the question-and-answer sessions, a staple of Pedro the Lion live shows. At various intervals in the set, Bazan addressed the audience, inquiring as to whether anyone had anything to ask the mumbling troubadour.

Queries rang out, as varied as “What authors do you read?” Bazan said that he read politics and conservative writers “because I don’t understand conservatism very much.”

Another question was “Can you please play such-and-such song?” and Bazan politely explained he was unable to do so with the limited instrumentation. Also asked was “Do you like bacon?” of which Bazan replied yes, he does. At one point a fan even asked if he may have his photograph taken with the performer. Ever obliging, Pedro invited the young man onstage and the two braced for the camera’s flash. Bazan answers each and every question posed to him, no matter how mundane, with utter and almost sheepish earnestness that, in practice, is somehow hilarious.

Bazan closed out the show with a two-song encore sans drummer Walsh, comprised of one new song and the slow-burning, semi-political anthem “Backwoods Nation.” The latter perhaps best exemplifies just what makes Pedro the Lion such a uniquely affecting outfit. Bazan plays the song as unassumingly as anything else, but those paying attention to the lyrics quickly learn that Pedro has an intense, serious message to deliver. “Ain’t it a shame / when due process / gets in the way / of swift justice?” quips Bazan detachedly – yet the ironic sentiment burns in the minds of spectators long after the curtain has fallen.

Long-time fans rejoiced upon hearing of Pedro’s visit to campus. The event even prompted some to create T-shirts declaring, “Pedro Rocks,” and “Notre Dame [Hearts] Pedro,” which they proudly donned Thursday evening.

Fans and converts alike also swamped the merchandise table after the show, clamoring for that one EP to complete their Pedro collection or excitedly making their introductory Pedro purchase.

The general vibe of the show was one of sheer and sincere enjoyment on the part of both performer and audience.

Opening band, Clark, a wildly popular local band, drew scores of devout fans out to the club early and played an inspired set. Rumors circulated in the weeks prior to the show that this would be Clark’s final performance.

While the fate of the band is unconfirmed, it should be noted that Clark has already played several “final” shows, so fans need not lose heart just yet.

Clark is comprised of bassist/vocalist Pat Bayliss, guitarist/vocalist Mike Beaton, and drummer/vocalist Ryan Partridge. Those who came to the first set were treated to what may well have been the first violent drum-thrashing ever at Legends, as Partridge tore his kit apart following the performance. If this does prove to be the trio’s last act, no one can claim the boys didn’t out with a proverbial bang.

Thursday’s Pedro the Lion gig marks the third and final show of the semester in WVFI’s Legends concert series. Previous shows featuring lovelorn balladeer Owen with The Rutabega and singer-songwriter sensations Erin McKeown and Sarah Slean drew sizable crowds.

Pedro the Lion, however, proved to be the series’ most successful act, enticing well over 400 eager fans and soon-to-be-fans to brave the chilly night and trek over to Legends, nearly filling the club to capacity.

Music cognoscenti take note: WVFI plans to hit you with three more red-hot concert events in the coming semester.

Contact Matthew Solarski at [email protected]