Bradley's Almanac

The Magnetic Fields in Boston (aka Stephin Merritt vs. Will Sheff)

Posted on February 13, 2010 at 12:45 am | No Comments

The second show of The Magnetic Fields‘ two-night stand at Boston’s Wilbur Theatre was full of memorable moments, and for anyone who’s seen them before, you know I’m not just talking about the music. The back-and-forth between Stephin Merritt and bandmate/manager/longtime friend Claudia Gonson ranges anywhere from awkwardly amusing to flat-out funny, and we had a whole bunch of that between the 30-or-so songs they treated us to on Thursday night.

From Claudia’s opinion on the Who playing the Superbowl (“It must have been a recession special. Aren’t those guys like 70 or something?“) to discussion of their intermission ritual (tea-warming and coke-snorting?), to the best place to avoid vampires (gay bars, because there are so many mirrors), the unplanned asides can bring as many laughs as the dry wit in Merritt’s lyrics.

But one diatribe in particular struck me, mostly because I’m an Okkervil River fan. Here’s what Mr. Merritt had to say before the band kicked into “We Are Having A Hootenanny”, off their just-released “Realism”

Stephin Merritt: So I was just buying this hat, in a clothing store – as you can tell, not a wrinkle on it – and they were playing an album by a band called Aqua-something River?

Claudia Gonson: Okkervil River.

SM: … Okkervil River. And their instrumentation was shockingly similar to not only the Magnetic Fields new album, but… this show. And I have been telling interviewers how proud we were that nobody has ever had this lineup or anything like it, for two months or something like that, six or seven times a day. Oh yes, who has ever used the 8-string ukulele, acoustic guitar, cello, pianette, and auto-harp together?… Well, they [Okkervil River] have, I think it’s auto-harp, cello, pianette, acoustic guitar, 8-string ukulele, and… mandolin, or something like that.

CG: The moral of the story is… don’t buy hats.

SM: Yes, don’t buy hats, before you play a show.

CG: Don’t do anything before you play a show. Including eat gigantic Chinese food.

SM: Yes, that either. But also, they had quite good lyrics.

CG: What?

SM: They had quite good lyrics. Which was a problem for me.

(audience laughs)

SM: I’m used to saying “I’m not just the best lyricist in the English language, I’m the only lyricist in the English language”.

(more laughter)

SM: But now there’s competition on both fronts. I think they have industrial spies they’ve sent out…

(he looks suspiciously towards auto-harpist/vocalist Shirley Simms to his right)

SM: … and it might be Shirley.

(and Shirley stares slyly back)

Gotta wonder if Okkervil River’s Will Sheff had a serious case of burning ear on Thursday night as he received that fairly impressive long-distance compliment.

Also pointedly amusing, after the band descended into a downward spiral of banter during the encore, was this quick one…

CG: We’re playing to 2300 people in a couple of days (ed: tonight at Brookyn’s BAM), and we’re going to get our act together. Be professional. We’re going to dress up and shut up.

SM: Maybe it’s better if you all pretend we ended after the second set. If there are any bloggers out there… (pauses)

CG: Please forget the last 10 minutes or so.

SM (continuing): …get a life.



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  • About the ‘Nac

    This is Bradley's Almanac. I'm your host, Brad. Barely holding it together since February 2000.

    "I love this song. It's so true. I wish this song was a whole day long. Man, I would have the best day that day."
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  • Boston-Area Action

    Saturday, December 16th
    Bent Shapes (farewell show),
    Laika's Orbit, & Beware the
    Dangers of a Ghost Scorpion
    @ Great Scott

    Monday, December 18th
    Big Brave
    Child Bite
    @ Great Scott

    Thursday, December 21st
    @ Sonia

    Friday, December 22nd
    Love Love & Friends Xmas Show!
    with special guests Rick Berlin,
    Field Day, Bob Kendall,
    Anna Rae/Hemway, & Martha Marin
    @ the Midway Cafe

    Thursday, December 28th
    Cymbals Eat Guitars
    @ Great Scott

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    December 30th & 31st
    Deer Tick
    @ the Sinclair

    Sunday, December 31st
    Speedy Ortiz
    Wendy Eisenberg
    @ Great Scott

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    Fur Purse (LP Release Party!)
    with Whore Paint,
    Shepherdess, and Sister
    @ the Midway Cafe

    Wednesday, January 10th
    Craig Finn & the
    Uptown Controllers
    with John K. Samson
    @ City Winery Boston

    Friday, January 12th
    Passion Pit
    @ House of Blues

    Saturday, January 13th
    40 musicians form 8 new
    bands & perform that night
    @ the Sinclair

    Saturday, January 13th
    Lana Del Rey
    Jhene Aiko
    @ TD Garden

    Saturday, January 13th
    Horse Jumper of Love
    Mini Dresses
    Strange Passage
    @ Great Scott

    Saturday, January 13th
    Camper Van Beethoven
    @ the Middle East Downstairs

    Thursday, January 18th
    Family Planning
    Olivia Neutron-John
    @ Brighton Music Hall

    Sunday, January 21st
    @ the Royale

    Wednesday, January 24th
    Sleigh Bells
    @ the Paradise

    Wednesday, January 24th
    Mega Bog
    @ the Sinclair

    Friday, January 26th
    The Posies
    @ City Winery Boston

    Wednesday, January 31st
    Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
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    @ the Royale

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    @ City Winery Boston

    Friday, February 9th
    @ the Paradise

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    Weakened Friends
    @ Great Scott

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    Ian Hunter
    & the Rant Band
    @ City Winery Boston

    Friday, February 16th
    Steve Earle
    @ City Winery Boston

    Friday, February 16th
    Robert Plant
    @ the Orpheum

    Saturday, February 17th
    @ Brighton Music Hall

    Saturday, February 17th
    Noel Gallagher’s
    High Flying Birds
    @ the Boston Opera House

    Sunday, February 18th
    X Ambassadors
    Now, Now
    @ House of Blues

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    @ the Sinclair

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    @ Great Scott

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    @ Great Scott

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    Godspeed You! Black Emperor
    @ the Sinclair

    Thursday, March 8th
    @ the Royale

    Friday, March 9th
    Godspeed You! Black Emperor
    @ Sanders Theatre, Harvard

    Friday, March 9th
    @ the House of Blues

    Saturday, March 10th
    Nada Surf celebrating the 15th
    anniversary of their "Let Go" LP
    @ Brighton Music Hall

    Friday, March 23rd
    Glen Hansard
    @ House of Blues Boston

    Saturday, March 31st
    S. Carey
    @ Great Scott

    Tuesday, April 3rd
    Yo La Tengo
    @ the Paradise

    Saturday, April 7th
    @ the Sinclair

    Tuesday, April 10th
    Franz Ferdinand
    @ House of Blues Boston

    Tuesday, April 17th
    Chelsea Wolfe
    @ the Royale

    Friday, April 20th
    Buffalo Tom
    @ the Paradise

    Sunday, April 22nd
    The Darkness
    @ the Royale

    Friday, April 27th
    They Might Be Giants
    @ the House of Blues

    Saturday, April 28th
    Peter Hook & the Light
    performing both of the
    "Substance" collections by
    Joy Division & New Order
    @ the Paradise

    Saturday & Sunday
    April 28th & 29th
    Camp Cope
    @ the Sinclair

    Friday, May 18th
    The Fratellis
    @ the Paradise

    Saturday, June 2nd
    Japanese Breakfast
    @ the Sinclair

    Wednesday, June 11th
    Jimmy Eat World
    Alex Lahey
    @ House of Blues

    Tuesday, July 17th
    @ Xfinity Center

    July 21st & 22nd
    Foo Fighters
    @ Fenway Park

    Friday, August 10th
    Pedro the Lion
    @ Brighton Music Hall