A “Trip Round the World”: Revisiting one of My Favorite Shows of Summer ’11, The Elected in SF
If you were not lucky enough to catch the Elected this summer on their North American tour, I would like to help you live (or relive if you did catch them on this tour) vicariously through my looking back on one of the best shows I attended this summer.
For those who have never heard of the Elected, you may recognize them by the lead singer and songwriter Blake Sennett, formerly of Rilo Kiley (and of the TV show Buffy). Sadly, the same day that I saw them in San Francisco at the Bottom of the Hill, Spinner Magazine online published a provocative break up announcement by Sennett, confirming fans fears that the beloved L.A.-based Rilo Kiley is over forever. Thankfully, in addition to Sennett’s comment at the San Francisco show that “Some s—t was taken out of context”, later that week Spinner published a follow up article, in which Sennett confirmed about former bandmate and ex-girlfriend Jenny Lewis:” ‘She’s my buddy. She’s a good person, a good friend. She’s my homie.’ He added, ‘Look, all bands have s—. Ours was no different. That’s all I was saying. The rest has been completely editorial. Most of the interview was in reference to me leaving music in general and my reasoning for doing so. Not Rilo Kiley specifically. This interview was supposed to be about the new Elected album I just released, and somehow became the official announcement of Rilo Kiley’s end. Perhaps I chose poorly in using the three inflammatory words all these blogs seem to like so much. So for that I’m sorry. As far as the band being over? We are. Rilo Kiley is officially broken up. It’s sad but it happens.’ ” So, scandal aside, seeing The Elected is definitely a joy to those Rilo Kiley fans who were not able to catch the band in concert before they parted ways. Jenny Lewis has released two solo albums since, as well as an album with boyfriend Jonathan Rice as the duo Jenny and Johnny.
The Elected is an alternative rock band, but their have a pop sound that makes their sound appeal to wider audiences–it was a perfect album to be released at the beginning of summer, as its breezy sounds carried you across the hot summer months. Sennett is superb at writing pop hooks, and the choruses of their songs will stick in your head and keep you singing. Although some may miss the bite that Lewis provided in some of Rilo Kiley’s more rocking songs, Sennett is not all soft in any sense– he actually perfects the art of appealing music matched with deeper lyrics that sneak up on you. His songs are unabashedly romantic, especially the opener “Born to Love You”. After all, the album’s name says it all: Bury Me in My Rings. But do not get too comfortable with Sennett the romantic– next thing you know he is cooing to listeners about lovers who “Go For the Throat”:
“You think you’re so cool,
You think you’re so fine
You think you’re so hot,
You got the go for the throat eyes
You got your trouble,
All of the hard times,
No one could touch you in your prime
Cooked up some big dreams,
Escaped the small life
You hear the kids screaming every night.
Now you’re doing all right,
And you just left the rest behind.
So you did what you knew,
A show of what you’ve been through…
And now the bodies
Are piled so high
You couldn’t hide them if you tried
And I wish I was you,
I wish I had what you do,
Cause I’d be so cool
I’d be so fine….
And if the gravity, should ever bring you down
And if we ever meet, right back on the ground…”
Many listeners think this song must be about Lewis, as a response to the Jenny and Johnny song “Pet Snakes”, which is suspected to be about Sennett. As interesting as it is to get caught up in the gossip and music nerd trivia, the point is, this is good song-writing, and fantastic music. The inclusion of instruments such as steel drum and horn helps create their summer sound, and also makes the music feel cinematic at times. Sennett is a traditional showman, and the creative and fun songs that fill his newest album are amazing to see live. He even treated the audience to the Rilo Kiley classic “Ripchord”, which is reportedly about the passing of beloved alternative rock artist Elliot Smith, who was a friend of the band. Musician Morgan Nagler of the L.A.-based band Whispertown opened for this show, along with many other stops on the West Coast leg of their tour. Nagler is always incredibly enjoyable and emotional to see perform live, and it was special to see her join Sennett onstage for many Elected songs as well. Lewis and Nagler are best friends, and the musicians are central to the alternative rock scene in Los Angeles. For those who will be on the West Coast in the next couple weeks, check out the Elected’s website for a listing of house shows they will be playing in San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Cruz and Fullerton.