Posted by: Cory | April 1, 2008

Review: Thao Nguyen & Why? @ Southgate House – 3/29

Thao & Yoni and their respective bands came to the Southgate House on March 29th to close out the March performance schedule for me. Xiu Xiu was there too, but I didn’t stick around for that set. I saw Thao outside before the show began waiting in line right behind me to get in. I was sure it was her, but didn’t say anything because why would an incredibly famous and talented musician such as Thao not push past us. I guess later she wondered the same thing and eventually did, but in the nicest of ways. She wasn’t all nice though…she’s a bad girl too.  During the performance, she told us a little story about eating across the street at Newport on the Levee.  They’d ordered some brown rice, but got white rice, so they scooped some of the white rice out and sent it back.  Apparently the management saw it and came back and took the white rice away from them.  Pretty pathetic move for rice that was going to be thrown away anyway.  When Thao and the others left they took the letters off the Southgate sign out front so that the management wouldn’t know who it was.  A little paranoid I think, but funny nevertheless. I can comfortably say that Thao was the most beautiful musician I’ve ever seen. I’d venture to say the coolest too, as she was just hanging out at the merch stand waiting for the set to begin talking to people. About an hour after they had told me the set would start, Thao pulled her cowboy boots on stage and tore my heart out.

Her stage presence was beautiful as well, as she danced around the stage, swinging her hair side to side. She’d mentioned she had played at Southgate a few years earlier, but that she had done the upstairs set. The upstairs gig is more bar room entertainer where the occupants are generally more interested in the basketball game going on that whoever is performing, so envisioning her there sort of broke my heart. Honestly though, I feel this show was only a slight improvement because nobody seemed to know who she was. I heard a few people refer to her as Theo and even Teo, and nobody was dancing or singing. That said, nobody was really talking either because whether she was known or not, she put on an increidble set that anyone could enjoy. I was disappointed the set was as short as it was, but considering she was the first of 3 for the night, I should feel lucky I got 9 songs out of her, I guess. I had put Thao as my number 1 album for January atop a pretty strong list of other candidates, but seeing her perform live was so much better.

Despite being told by Southgate’s people that Xiu Xiu would be second, Why? got on stage next. After I first heard that Why? was going to come to the Southgate House I had a dream that I was seeing them perform. Rarely do I remember my dreams, so I’m going to share this one. I was sitting with my girlfriend and roommate in the sort of football bleachers you find at your average county high school football field, however the stands were under a sort of awning and looked more like how county fairs used to be set up when I was a kid. In front of us was a large wooden boat that had seen better days…having significant damage and missing about 10% of the wood that it takes to make the vessel. Inside the boat were Yoni, Josiah & crew singing “Yo Yo Bye Bye”, obscured by the boat, with only occassional glimpses of face and afro visible. Myself and 3 teenage girls over my left shoulder about 2 rows back were the only ones singing and enjoying the show…and for us it was life-altering. One of them even began to cry.

At Southgate, my dream wasn’t too far off. There was no boat, no bleachers, no crying…but myself and three teenagers were the only ones singing and dancing. And it wasn’t far off of a religious experience as they played a near perfect set. Everything I could have wanted to hear, with only a few minor and disposable exceptions, I heard (including Yo Yo Bye Bye). I think a very broad taste in music is required to enjoy Why? as it spans so many genres as to defy them all. It’s hip hop, it’s trip hop, it’s indie pop, it’s indie rock, it’s poetry, it’s experimental, it’s avante garde…it’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard, and I’m so happy that Alopecia is giving them the street cred they should have gotten with Sanddollars or Elephant Eyelash. Interestingly enough, it was their first single, The Hollows, from the new album that garnered so much attention. Surprising because lines like “In Berlin I saw two men f*ck in the dark corner of a basketball court, just the slight jingle of pocket change pulsing” isn’t exactly the type of line that typically makes people want to hear more, as uncomfortable a lyric as it is. In fact, the new album has several uncomfortable lines, including “I’ll suck the marrow out, and rape your hollow bones Yoni“. Don’t get too turned away though, as some hallmark cards get thrown in as well, such as “Even though I haven’t seen you in years, yours is a funeral I’d fly to from anywhere“. That last one just resonates with me. I think about all the friends that I don’t see anymore…and wonder what they’re lives are like.  Then there are those that I can see only every few years and pick up right where we left off.

The guys were all pretty personable on stage.  They let a story get out about Josiah having a text stalker & was worried she might be in the crowd.  Some girl had gotten his mobile number and sending him loads of creepy texts.  Apparently it had been a story amongst them all for some time & Josiah seemed a little shy on telling the story.  Perhaps the best part of it all might have been the little tidbit Yoni left us with…they’ll be back in September!

For the setlist & photos,

Thao Nguyen with the Get Down Stay Down
Popular Girls
Big Kid Table
We Brave Be Stings and All
Bag of Hammers
Feet Asleep
Fear and Convenience

The Hoofs
Song of the Sad Assassin
Crushed Bones
Yo Yo Bye Bye
Rubber Traits
The Hollows
National Anthem Interlude
Fatalist Palmistry
Gemini (Birthday Song)
A Sky for Shoeing Horses Under
500 Fingernails
The Vowels Pt. 2
Good Friday
These Few Presidents

Thao Nguyen with the Get Down Stay Down





  1. The whole show was amazing. But you couldn’t even stay for Xiu Xiu…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: