It’s been nearly 4 years since I last saw Man Man perform (Forecastle, June 2010) and seven years since the first time I had the pleasure of seeing them. Following that last time seeing them, Honus Honus commented in a mild-mannered fashion contrary how he liked my smile and would like to kidnap me in order to get my face on the side of milk cartons under the missing persons section. Fortunately for me that practice was stopped in the late ’80s.
On Saturday, in The Constellation Room at The Observatory, it was nice to see that the insanity never stopped. Following the arrival of Pow Pow, Brown Sugar & Shono all wearing matching backwards skeleton costumes (a departure from the tennis uniforms I’d seen a few years ago), Honus Honus arrived donning a sparkly robe in the style of a boxer or priest, back to the crowd, commanding the energy levels of the room rise to the animlaistic madness that was shortly to pursue and like a practicioner of black magic, his commands to rise had their intended effect. Launching into “End Boss” from last fall’s “On Oni Pond,” the frenzy began and left nothing wanting.
Honus Honus and Pow Pow both have such fantastic stage presence, particularly the former who reminds me of my two-year nephew at Halloween….trying on every costume and playing with every toy that he can find. That includes a space alien mask, a fur coat, a naval jacket, and of course the aforesaid skeleton costume and robe. Falling in dramatic exasperation a number times, Honus Honus and the whole band at large just seem to have so much fun performing; all actors playing the roles they’ve crated for themselves. And their fans love it…sporting warpaint, headbands, capes and a disproportionaltely high number of violations of the wearing-a-band-shirt-to-that-band’s-concert rule.
Opener Xenia Rubinos who had a very tribal, animalistic pop-singed set herself, joined for a number of songs in her own skeleton costume, dancing and acting a back-up singer to the madness happening on stage. Her drummer for the night joined briefly just long enough to stage dive.
With a 20 song set they spanned their entire discography in a strangely cohesive way considering the stylistic differences of the later two albums. While naturally the bulk of the set was dedicated to showcasing their latest, Rabbit Habbits also saw a lot of attention and the other three received at least 2 songs, largely all in their epic 7 song encore. Those in the crowd chanting “one more song” at the end of the first set had no idea what they were in store for. As the encore started with “Steak Knives” it became apparent to any Man Man fan that they couldn’t end on such a light note and that wild times were coming.
- End Boss
- Top Drawer
- Loot My Body
- Mr. Jung Stuffed
- Paul’s Grotesque
- Pink Wonton
- Head On
- King Shiv
- Piranhas Club
- Push the Eagle’s Stomach
- Doo Right
- Born Tight
- Steak Knives
- Life Fantastic
- El Azteca
- Engrish Bwudd
- Werewolf (On the Hood of Yer Heartbreak)
On Saturday night, The National played their first of two nights in the new hometown to frontman Matt Berninger; this time at LA’s historic Greek Theatre. The 6,000+ capacity was certainly a marked change of scenery from the 350 person Bell House in Brooklyn where I last caught them, just prior to the release of High Violet.
What anyone who has ever been to one their performances can attest, whether the stage is tiny or is amongst the biggest in the world, The National deliver one of the most memorable experiences imaginable. Reviews will abound with what songs they played, but I’d prefer this review to talk about the growth of a band and my experiences as a fan of that band hitting success in perfect stride. Having first caught them in Louisville, KY in 2007 (and being so enamored with the performance where my friends and I bought tickets to the following night’s performance in their former-former hometown of Cincinnati, OH) and seeing the blatant nervous ticks of a man not yet comfortable performing on a stage in front of a couple hundred people to seeing that same man, six years later, running through a sold-out crowd of 6,000 people sing-screaming all of the lyrics to their songs made me, as a fan, feel incredibly proud. There’s something about The National that creates a really deep connection with its fans which is why I think that they’ve had the success they’ve had. They’ve never had the regular radio-play outside of the KCRW/NPR/College Radio world. What they have, however, are heartfelt songs about realistic experiences that encourage fans to connect on a quasi-personal level. I hear “Apartment Story” and I picture my wife and I getting ready for hosting a dinner party. I hear “Conversation 16” and I think about loving her so much and feeling like I fail her. I hear “I Should Live in Salt” and I think about how mad she can make me. I hear “About Today” and I think about how scared I’d be to lose her. I hear “Abel” and I think of the inanity of some of my friends. I hear “Terrible Lie” and I ask myself where I’m heading. The National have written the soundtrack to our lives.
Perhaps I’m just self-centered. Hell, I am writing a concert review and somehow making it all about me. I feel like Matt could appreciate that. But the story that The National tells is a bit of the everyman story that all of its fan can empathize with and connect to. If you don’t believe me then you should have heard the chants of “Baby, We’ll Be Fine” or “I Was Afraid, I’d Eat Your Brains.” You can hear it the voices that it’s not just singing along with miscellaneous words. Everyone of the 6,000 in attendance singing along sang with true emotion. And yet the story isn’t confined to the lyrical content. The Dessner and Devendorf brothers create a mood and energy befitting and perfectly complementing the story.
If there’s one thing that The National does as good as write amazing songs, it’s put on an amazing performance. Totting around the ever present bottle of wine (which I’ve seen him share on stage with his mother, “Uncle Jack,” and thousands of adoring fans), both Matt and the Dessner brothers have learned to own the stage. A stage now outfitted with one of the most impressive and gorgeous light shows I’ve ever seen (a photographer’s dream). But, I suppose that’s what years of touring and becoming seasoned billboard-charting veterans will do. In the beginning it was largely Matt and occasional touring member Padma Newsome putting on the show, but it’s great to see that everyone is in on the show these days.
I had wondered in advance of the show whether the setlist would be “Trouble Will Find Me”-heavy, the recently released 6th Studio album. Having a catalog as deep as theirs with two releases since my last opportunity to see the band, I’d expected to hear far less of the old material. Fortunately, we were treated to a 24 song set spanning Alligator to Trouble, with, what Matt might call, a “good mixture” across the albums. The setlist was near perfect. Being a new Californian myself, I’d have loved to have heard “All the Wine” for the crowd’s reaction alone. But the closer, Vanderlyle/Crybaby Geeks, from 2011’s High Violet, was undoubtedly the highlight of the night. Stripping down to an acoustic set. For all of the raucous, and stage antics, light show, guitar-shredding, drum-deconstruction, The National is a band about the song and the fans are about right there with them. While About Today may have magically brought the crowd to a hush for those final few lyrics…”may I ask you, about today?” For Vanderlyle, the immense crowd became pin-drop quiet for the encore-closing acoustic song up until we were compelled to chant along in unison…”Vanderlyle, Crybaby, Cry…oh the waters are rising, still no surprising you…Vanderlyle, Crybaby Cry…man it’s all been forgiven, swans are a-swimming, I’ll explain everything to the geeks!” I wanted to cry myself. It was a beautiful moment. It summed up the emotions, both from a songwriting perspective and a performance perspective, of everyone taking a part in that moment.
- I Should Live in Salt
- Don’t Swallow the Cap
- Bloodbuzz Ohio
- Sea of Love
- Afraid of Everyone
- Conversation 16
- Squalor Victoria
- I Need My Girl
- This Is the Last Time
- Baby, We’ll Be Fine
- Slow Show
- Pink Rabbits
- About Today
- Fake Empire
- Mr. November
- Terrible Love
- Vanderlyle Crybaby/Geeks (Acoustic)
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down concluded their national tour with Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside on Monday night at the Troubador in LA. The tour was in support of their latest, “We The Common,” an album that shows great maturity, musicianship, and even civic-mindedness over “We Brave Bee Stings And All.” Seeing Thao on stage, it was clear where her passions now lie, namely that WTC is about a lot more than the songs on the album and Thao’s work with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners is pervasive. By 5 songs into the set, Thao had already flipped through virtually every instrument on the stage. It was impressive to behold. And yet, for all her artistic maturity, she nevertheless has been able to retain that youthful spunkiness I was first drawn to in 2008. That spunkiness was never felt stronger than when “Move” transitioned into a medley with Ludacris’ “What’s Your Fantasy?” or perhaps on her duet with Sallie for their cover of The Ronettes’ “Be My Little Baby.” The pointedness of Thao’s songwriting is almost comically genius, with playful, scathing lines like ” I was always on your conscience, but you were only on my mind” and “don’t we live too long, don’t you wait too much” and the onstage delivery is equally ironically cute. Further, songs like “Kindness Be Conceived” translate wonderfully despite Joanna Newsom’s absence. Her time away from the spotlight seems to have done great things for her, but it’s great to have her back. Sallie Ford’s performance was equally fun, having an almost doo-wop sound and instantly danceable. Songs like “Fried Green Tomatoes,” though somewhat silly, were incredibly fun and perfectly compliments the Thao fanbase. Though I’d not heretofor known Sallie Ford, I’m sold as a huge fan.
“And you’re opening for Phoenix on their European tour after this, that’s crazy! How the hell did that happen!?”
Demarco just kinda looks at me with a grin and a shrug.
Oh, I donno. They just came to one of our shows in Paris and liked what they saw, I guess.
The cool ambivalence toward what would otherwise be a career-defining moment for an up and coming band is a good summation of Mac Demarco’s appeal; that being to forgo taking life too seriously in favor of having a good time, an approach that shines through in both his recorded material and his live show.
Mac Demarco is a young man who began making music in Vancouver years ago with his friend Alex Calder under the moniker of Makeout Videotape, before relocating to Montreal and focusing on developing his own material. Last year saw the release of not one but two albums, the vampire-glam of his debut, Rock and Roll Night Club, and the breezy, slacker-rock leaning 2.
His show on Friday, March 22nd, at Sneaky Dee’s, was the first in a series of shows he and his band played as a part of Canadian Music week before taking off to Europe for the aforementioned Phoenix tour. The sold-out set was attended by an army of young men decked out in plaid who spent the duration of the set pogo-ing manically in front of the band, while a harem of fangirls opted to sit at the bottom of the stage as if it were an altar of some sort.
I’m Mac Demarco, and this song is called ‘I’m A Man” , he announced through a toothy smile, kicking off a set that featured a healthy amount of material taken from across both of his albums.
Whereas the recorded material comes off as laid-back music not unsuitable for drinking on a porch in the summer sun, performed live, it takes on a new form, retaining the playful looseness while also gaining an electric groove a la Grease Lightning.
Having seen Demarco before, a staple of his shows for me has always been the esoteric covers he sprinkles throughout his set. He’s done stuff as varied as the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” and Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman” in the same show, and for Friday’s set he presented a cache of covers that was even more expanded and disparate. They fiddled with the opening riffs of Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” between songs before launching into their first full cover of the night, a messy, adrenaline-filled take on Rammstein’s nu-metal anthem “Du Hast”. The highlight for the night in terms of covers occurred later, when the band delved into their own jangly take on Weezer’s Sweater Song. Although a lot of influence from the Blue Album can be noted in Demarco’s music, especially 2, the band made it their own by peppering the lyrics with goofy expletives, delivered by Demarco with the glee of a misbehaving 10-year-old.
The band’s endearing immaturity did not end there however, with Demarco evolving into some playground version of G.G. Allin towards the end of the set by charismatically displaying to the audience both his bare white ass (which some female audience members promptly attempted to spank), and eventually ramping up the sexual show-and-tell by pulling out his balls from his fly mid-song.
The band ended their set with “Still Together”, the closing ballad from their latest album. Demarco brought his girlfriend onstage to serenade her, however, as the band launched into a rocked-out, electrified version of the song’s bridge, the two began to make out before jumping into the audience to crowd-surf together in a display filled with the triumph of a scene taken from an 80’s teen movie. I left the venue that night covered in sweat, satisfied to have witnessed once again that Mac Demarco’s recent success is well-deserved.
[photos : John Szlazak]
It was quite easy to forget that it was a Monday night as Foxygen took the stage on March 4th at Wrongbar, opening for Unknown Mortal Orchestra at a sold-out show. The band recently released their sophomore album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, to the kind of acclaim and buzz that can hurt a band just as quickly and easily as it can help them. It being their first show here in Toronto, a sea of eager fans stood packed like sardines in front of the stage, waiting to hear Foxygen’s throwback brand of 60’s psychedelia and rock.
Having enjoyed both of their albums, I counted myself among these aforementioned eager fans, which makes the sense of disappointment I felt toward the majority of their set all the more disheartening. Normally a two-piece, original members Sam France and Jonathan Rado were joined onstage by a keyboardist, drummer, and bassist, the two to focus on vocals and guitar, respectively.
Being a band whose music is greatly indebted to the summer of love, the musicians graced the stage trying to dress the part by sporting outfits that could be considered equal parts Willy Wonka and Woodstock.
Despite these wardrobe attempts, the band came off as if they’d just raided their high school drama club’s costume room as opposed the post-modern Jefferson Airplane aesthetic they seemed to be trying for.
It was not only the outfits that harkened back to high school, as once the group launched into their catalogue it became immediate, both with regards to their music and their stage presence, that they could easily be equated with that band at the talent show who were a little too into the Beatles and Jim Morrison. France attempted to channel the essence of the Lizard King, which instead seemed to translate into forced yelps into the microphone as the other four musicians seemed to sleep through most of their songs. On several occasions, the band would start a song only to stop to exchange confused glances and shaking heads with one another before launching into another one entirely.
One would think that an apparent lack of focus would be beneficial to a band known for their messy psych jams, however it only led to guitar solos and song breakdowns that had all of the roughness and none of the fun. The band did make an effort to pull it together toward the end, an attempt which seemed to shine on the songs “Oh Yeah” and Oh No Pt. 2”, the latter being the behemoth of a closer from their new album. Perhaps it was the number of tonal shifts scattered throughout the song that left no room for goofing around, but Foxygen managed to pull it together and launch into a spirited and groovy rendition. It’s performances like that, along with their largely enjoyable recorded material, that still gives me hope that there is a good band called Foxygen, it just didn’t seem to be the one I saw onstage that night.
Despite my mixed feelings, the crowd seemed to mostly enjoy the performance, with a large fraction of them leaving the venue, indifferent toward catching Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s set.
UMO is the mouthpiece of New Zealand ex-pat Ruban Nielson, who, with a bunch of guys from Portland, makes catchy, art-damaged pop songs that have the fidelity of something recorded by a tape player underwater.
The band is touring in promotion of their aptly titled second album, II, which dropped last month. Whereas their first record featured straightforward yet catchy guitar pop, the new album plays with a variety of genres as disparate as soul and psychedelic rock, influences that translated with a surprising effortlessness into the live setting.
Seconds into their set, after launching into the fuzzy opening riffs of “No Need For a Leader”, UMO had already proven themselves in many areas that Foxygen did not. At three onstage members, UMO still managed to display to the audience a sense of presence and command that, until this point, had been absent that night. From the groovy bass to machine-like drumming, they made sure that the audience immediately knew from the get-go that they meant business.
The band continued to power through their set with an energy nestled comfortably between focused and fun, playing a healthy balance of material from both of their albums. Although Nielson’s voice would occasionally get lost in the sea of instrumental noise, the consistent musicianship more than made up for this.
The band saved the best for last, launching into their signature song, “Ffunny Ffrends”, and their new single, “So Good at Being in Trouble”, to cap off their set. The highlight of their show, for me at least, occurred when the band returned to the stage for an encore, which included the band offering (for the first time live, apparently) their take on garage rocker Jay Reatard’s “My Shadow”, which despite being a cover managed to retain all of the raw energy of the original. The band followed this high-octane sugar rush with a spacey, chilled-out version of old cut “Boy Witch” before leaving the stage, however their departure was one that was well-earned.
Over the weekend, Discosalt attended the first ever Catalpa Festival on Randall’s Island. Two solid summer days/nights of diverse live music from an eclectic lineup including The Black Keys, Snoop Dogg , TV on the Radio and Girl Talk – all under a blue leopard print banner commanding the crowd to “DANCE BITCHES!”. Despite the rain, some poor footwear decisions and two “wham jam, no thank you ma’am” sets of Umphrey’s McGee, the NYC festival, striving to be a pioneering East Coast festival comparable to California’s Coachella and Chicago’s Lollapalooza, managed to deliver.
SATURDAY – JULY 28
8-8:45PM TV on the Radio
Having not performed in New York since September of 2011, this was a real homecoming for Brooklyn’s TV on the Radio and a real treat for the predominantly New York based crowd. After being cheered on stage by the collective fan cries of “Brooklyn!”, the band tipped their hat (and beard) to another New York musician – dedicating “Second Song”, to a “dear-departed inspiration, Mr. Adam Yauch…I would not be in New York City without the words of that man.” This was one of the best performances I’ve seen out of these guys, and in a surprisingly short set, the band managed to hit all the crowd pleasers, squeezing in “Staring at the Sun”, “Wolf Like Me” and “Will Do”.
9:30-11PM The Black Keys
The Ohio garage-rock duo (with a little help from some friends), oiled up their gritty back-to-basics blues engine with some sonic lube worthy of classic rock torque. Ripping into a seemingly endless zeppelin-esc guitar rock grab bag to draw the biggest crowd on Saturday – with plenty of audience participation na-na-na’s. In only 90 minutes, Auerbach and Carney cranked through a crunchy set of soulful modern blues rock, gunning down broken dreams and witchy women with a raw intensity that is best experienced live, and along the way nailed down some fan favorites like “Your Touch”, “I Got Mine”, “Thickfreakness”, “Girl Is on My Mind”.
SUNDAY – JULY 29
So…the last time I saw Matisyahu perform, he was an Orthodox Jew. Now, he’s ditched the Chassidic shtick for a clean shaven look, crowd surfing and inviting female audience members to dance on stage with him. “No more Chassidic reggae superstar. Sorry folks, all you get is me … no alias.” His face is smooth, but his voice is even smoother, as Matisyahu managed to skank out some new gems off his new album and revisit some old classics – playfully chastising the audience for requesting “King Without A Crown” and “One Day”, saying – “Obviously I’m going to play them, Those are the only two songs everyone knows”.
6:15-7PM Matt and Kim
Matt and Kim definitely win the festival award for funniest stage banter …or drummer Kim Schifino has revealed a horrible case of tourettes. “I know what you’re thinking, we’re a little out of shape, I’ve been doing exercises, though — something called a Kegel…because I want to fuck the shit out of you tonight!” When Kim wasn’t shouting “fuck” or “shit”, she was shouting, well “fuck” or “shit” or restarting “Daylight” after hitting Matt’s keyboard with her sticks. “I get crazy with the sticks and I just have to hit shit”. The band left the stage thanking the crowd for taking their 2012 virginity.
7:45-9PM Girl Talk
In my next life I want the energy level of DJ superstar – Greg Gillis. The one man mash-up party monster (along with a crowd of 20 or so aggressive people dancing non-stop around Gillis) drew the biggest crowd of the day and did not disappoint. Gillis performed an hour plus set of dozens of effortlessly produced classic hip-hop, pop and rock mashup-style remixes – including everything from M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” mash with Ice Cubes “It Was a Good Day” to Nirvana, Notorious B.I.G, Elton John and the bounce friendly Nine Inch Nails “Wish” mashed with Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone”. There were lights, confetti, inflatable animals, balloons, balloons filled with confetti, toilet-paper guns, crowd surfing and enough sweat and bouncing to make a porn star blush. Gillis closed the high energy set with his version of Gun’s and Roses “November Rain”, as confetti rained down on the crowd.
9-9:40PM A$AP Rocky
I was really rooting for A$AP Rocky… that is, until, the air horn. The upcoming 23-year-old Harlem rapper, rocking a “Fuck Swag” T-shirt and signature skinny Jeans, spent more time shouting over his own backing tracks and firing off bullet sound effects, whistles and air horns, than he did rapping. While surrounded by a stage entourage that never consisted of less than 8 people at one time, the image conscious A$AP Rocky told the crowd – “people used to fuck with us for wearing skinny jeans around 2004. Now we’re right here with our skinny jeans and you embrace that shit”…well…how about embracing some music.
9:40-10:45PM Snoop Dogg
Interspersed by pre-recorded blacksploitation inspired skits on a giant projection screen – which included the Doggfather firing an assault weapon at the crowd, smoking weed and taking out a “bitch” – was a crusty old man dancing, a Lady of Rage appearance, a furry Nasty Dogg with an eight-foot long stuffed penis and a giant spliff, a cloud of weed smoke and of course Mr. Snoop Dogg backed by the original Dogg Pownd, performing the 53- minute gangsta rap classic – Doggystyle. The set was on point as the entire crowd, even security, could be spotted singing along with the familiar sounds of “Gin and Juice”, “Murder Was The Case,” “Serial Killer,” “G’z and Hustlas” and, of course, “Doggy Dogg World.” Snoop ended the Doggystyle set declaring – “I ain’t stopping, I’m like the bunny, I keep going and going”, just before coming back with two encores- a Pharrell-assisted “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and “Young Wild and Free” as his DJ played Wiz Khalifa verses. Unfortunately, Snoop’s alter ego Snoop Lion never made an appearance.
Then….there were these people…
Chromeo DJ Set
The Chromeo DJ set on July 8th felt just like that – a DJ set. Regardless, good times were had by all – even the Ottawa Police and fathers of small children. Chromeo plays their next show July 28th in Sacramento (with instruments).
For more information visit: Chromeo.net/tours
‘If I had known Deltron was playing’, a statement heard from a Snoop Dogg attendee following the Snoop Dogg show on July 10th. I think it would be safe to say that Deltron had some competition that night, with Snoop playing on the main stage and El-P and Killer Mike playing at Ritual nightclub nearby – but never the less, the fans did come out.
The excitement level was high before the show even began. Fans spoke about the legendary album that came out over a decade ago, reminiscing about how they found out about the trio and wondering what Deltron 3030’s new music would sound like. I personally found out about Deltron through Tanner Hall’s pioneering ski segments (circa 2002) and found some fellow skiers in the crowd that night that were just as enthused as I was.
The ‘Deltron Orchestra’ came onto stage and sat modestly while the crowd roared with anticipation. This was followed by Kid Koala then by Dan the Automator (rockin’ tails) who kicked things off with an instrumental to get the crowd going. Then all of a sudden, like a lion out of a cage, Mr. Del the Funkee Homosapien graced the stage accompanied by Dan the Automator conducting the Deltron Orchestra.
They played the classics like ‘Mastermind’, ‘Things you can do’ and ‘Virus’ off the Deltron 3030 album. They played some new songs off of ‘Event II’ coming out in August. They even ended things off with ‘Clint Eastwood’ by Gorillaz, which I think was the highlight of the night since it caught everyone off guard. Apart from Del battling with the extreme volume of the orchestra on some songs, this was a show with no sad faces – all members of Deltron delivered and I predict that ‘Event II’ will be of epic proportions.
They continue their tour at ‘Rock the Bells‘ in San Bernadino, August 19th.
For more information visit: www.kidkoala.com
The kid who never left summer camp
It started off with an exciting interaction between musician and fan that you see little of these days; a guy who went into the crowd, shot streamers, played humorous videos and got the fans involved – In every single song. The over-involvement and camaraderie with fans brought me back to an awkward phase in my life; a time of dirt-staches, first hairs, under confidence, and no-reason-boners (NRB’s). Rich Aucoin brought me back to summer camp – circa 2001.
His motivational, ‘you-can-do-it’ attitude reminded me of the camp counsellor who eats, sleeps, and would even die for camp (if it came to it). The one who counts down the days in which he can once again take part in the mind-moulding process of young pre-teens. Not to say that Rich Aucoin didn’t have his songs but the show grew tiresome when every song consisted of the same crowd/chorus involvement and motivational slogans.
All things aside, the Halifax native is a promising musician with foot stompers like ‘It’ and ‘Push’ and the fans that liked him, loved him to death. I don’t think this will be the last you will hear of the CMW indie award winner and I am intrigued to see what he comes up with in the future.
For more information: www.richaucoin.ca
Usually when David Gray comes through the capital he plays at the intimate and high class venue known as the National Arts Centre. At the NAC people are accustomed to wearing fancy clothes, drinking expensive wine, sitting down while the musician plays and erupting into a unison of applause when the song finishes. Singing is frowned upon and dancing is strictly forbidden and punishable by death.
Last Friday marked the first time David Gray has not played at the NAC in Ottawa and the first time he’s ever played at Bluesfest. There was singing, there was dancing and there were a lot of first timers to the Englishman’s bobble-head style, but he was of no disappointment to them. He played songs from ‘White Ladder’, ‘Life in Slow Motion’, ‘Draw the Line’, and his newest album ‘Foundling’. At the end of the show the crowd shouted for an encore, but because of strict festival scheduling, the encore was not possible.
David finished off his tour in Shelburne, Vermont on Saturday and has no other tour dates planned yet.
For more information visit: www.davidgray.com
Radiohead Live June 6, 2012 @ Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
My brains have been scrambled. Radiohead probed my mind… and I liked it.
Radiohead may actually be dark scientists, merely posing as musicians who are highly adept at their craft. Operating at forbidden frequencies, and unlocking aural sequences the equivalent of cosmic code breaking, it seems plausible that this band could cause a cataclysmic celestial event. An event, where formulas and proofs replace measures and movements and theorems and algorithms, substitute tempos and time signatures.
Radiohead was the band that sold us jazz by convincing us it’s rock. But, after witnessing their experimental mastery onstage, a more fitting decree is – Radiohead is purging our arcane notions of dance music and reprogramming it into something unearthly, maybe even a little unnerving ( like a college student’s introduction to David Lynch). The truth is, Radiohead is alien. The band speaks an entirely different language than most of us, and live, summon an other worldy sound -both unnerving and beautiful. I heard the death rattle of a thousand dying star systems. Felt the rumblings of an astral anomaly and ancient planets violently rotating. I heard all earthly matter beautifully swirling towards a wormhole, being replaced by antimatter as it enveloped all it touched. I heard the sound of the apocalypse, and Radiohead were the end of music on earth. The effects this sonic experiment, caused audience consciousness to disintegrate. From the front row to the lawn, everyone seized and convulsed in unison, as if losing control over their bodies and minds.
We Are Serenades‘ [Adam Olenius and Markus Krunegard and friends] are snazzy dressers, and great performers. On May 9th, at Mercury Lounge, the lovechild of Shout Out Louds and Laakso, put on an incredibly fun and technically inspired show – performing a collection of synth-inspired folk songs – ranging from, the beautiful harmonies of “Daydreaming” to the off-tempo-yet-incredibly-fun “Weapons”. I found it funny – a Swedish band performing in the States, sang back-to-back songs about Mexico – opening their set with “Criminal Heaven” [the song from which the album takes it’s title] and ending on Christopher Cross’ “Ride Like the Wind”. It also dawned on me that “All the Words” will play at my wedding this summer. Check out some images from the show below:
We were then given Sennheisner headphones, motioned into the theater and seated in tiny “space pods” – [ side note: I probably should have worn sweatpants and not the skinniest pair of jeans I own, but I digress]. Kid Koala took the stage, accompanied by his daughter, Maple, sitting contently in the chair beside him. Then, with a giant smile, Kid Koala proceeded to blow every mind in the crowd, as he performed a magic show on his turntables that would make David Copperfield green. It is incredibly rare for a musician to give so much of themselves to the audience. While most Dj’s and musicians stand on stage trying to act as cool as humanly possible, Kid Koala appeared with no pretense; more like a friend – sitting in his living room – doing what he enjoys doing most. This was what made the show such an awesome experience.
I talked to Kid Koala a.k.a Eric San after the show and he let me in on some details for the upcoming Deltron 3030 Event II – the sequel to the legendary Deltron 3030 album- which will be released in July, as well as, 12 Bit Blues another album coming out on Ninja Tune in the fall.
Here is a song called “3 Bit Blues” which appears on the upcoming album 12 Bit Blues.
You can also listen to a couple songs off the Space-Cadet album below [disclaimer: the tracks on this album are so relaxing, I haven’t been able to make it through the album’s entirety without being lulled to sleep].
If you have the opportunity to check out Kid Koala’s “Space-Cadet Headphone Experience” show, you should not think twice. I left the show feeling so inspired, that I immediately went home and turned on my MPC [MIDI Production Center]. After a 2 month creative drought, I quickly chopped up some samples, remembering how good it feels to create music you can call your own.
We caught Starfawn again last night at Spike Hill opening for and outshining Something in Spanish. We first learned about Starfawn a few weeks ago at Lit Lounge when they performed with Teeel and we’ve been huge fans ever since.We gave you the history behind the band when we posted the Teeel remix of their set-closer “Greenlight.”
Something in Spanish
[photos: Cory Greenwell]
Other Lives were at the Bowery Ballroom on Friday night as part of their first major venue headlining tour. Coming off of their tour with Bon Iver, Other Lives will be beginning a ten day stint supporting Radiohead. A big step for any young band, but to kick off Radiohead’s first US tour since 2008, it will be huge. The exposure that they’ll get out of this tour will be incredible and it couldn’t happen to a more talented group of musicians.
I last caught Other Lives at Mercury Lounge back in June (Review), but the professionalism at the Bowery showed a definite level of maturity.
[photos: Cory Greenwell]
The Drums performed a 4 song set last night (Valentine’s day) at W.I.P. (short for Work-in-Progress & owned by the proprietors of the Greenhouse). We caught The Drums last at CMJ 2010 (Photos). Starting roughly an hour late a midst the bottle-service-heavy underground art house (even if a bit contrived), The Drums tore through perennial favorites such as “Best Friend” as well as their more current hit “Money” and the dancing made me really miss the days of Mondo at Don Hills.
Catch the photos from last night’s performance below.
[photos: Cory Greenwell]
[photo: Cory Greenwell]
Evan Kaloudis at OneThirtyBPM reviews Jeff Mangum Live October 29th, 2011 at Town Hall in New York.
Years ago when I began diving into the world of indie rock, I ruled out the possibility of ever seeing Neutral Milk Hotel or the reclusive Jeff Mangum — in any form — perform live. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea would be seen by many as the “crowning gem” of the genre and since the band’s breakup, Mangum had been as elusive a figure as any, only showing his face at Elephant 6 reunions at random.
In recent years, however, Mangum began poking his head out of his shell, first by playing Neutral Milk Hotel songs at others’ shows, to playing full sets unannounced, to playing ATP and embarking on a small tour of his own. About two weeks ago he even stopped by Zuccotti Park for a brief performance at Occupy Wall Street. Naturally, after missing him at ATP, I had to catch him in New York.
I trekked out into the snowy New York night (the first pre-Halloween snowfall since 1958!) and made it to New York City’s Town Hall theater just off of Times Square. The Town Hall hosts a wide array of events including Broadway shows, choirs, orchestras, jazz bands, comedians — hell, you can even catch Rush Limbaugh there at the end of the month (I implore you not to). And while the venue often does do acoustic shows like this, I didn’t really expect to be seated for this momentous occasion.
Opening for Mangum was Ólöf Arnalds, an Icelandic singer-songwriter, who alternated between guitars and a ukulele-like charango. She performed in both English and Icelandic, bantering with the audience throughout her songs as she plucked her strings and arpeggiated her chords before entering into the next verse. The 35-minute set was certainly soothing, and truly showcased Arnalds’ talents — especially her closing: a mic-less, a cappella version of an Irish folk tune — but I couldn’t help but feel anxious throughout the whole set, eagerly anticipating what was to follow.
Mangum soon appeared on stage and the entire theater erupted in applause. Then — absolute silence as he opened up with Aeroplane‘s closer “Two-Headed Boy Pt. Two.” Perhaps it was out of awe, or maybe it was just he nature of the venue, but for his first three songs (“In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” “Song Against Sex”) there was complete silence except for applause between songs. Mangum commented, “You don’t have to be so quiet,” and went into “Gardenhead” as the cheers began.
Next was the eight-minute epic, “Oh Comely,” which yet again brought the crowd to silence as Mangum clenched his eyes shut and bellowed through the darkness of the theater, going the extra mile by holding notes before carrying into the final section of the song.
After another solemn number, “I Love the Living You” (a Roky Erickson cover), Mangum returned to Aeroplane again with “Ghost.” The silence had become prevalent again, leading Mangum to engage the audience to get them to make some noise: “Now fucking sing!”
The cheering and banter from there on continued, with the audience’s singing becoming more and more amplified as Mangum played through all parts of “The King of Carrot Flowers” without break, and climaxed with his last song of the set, “Holland, 1945.” As he played those opening chords the room suddenly came alive; it seemed as if ever single person in attendance knew all the words as was singing along. It was truly an enthralling moment.
After a standing ovation, Mangum returned with “Two-Headed Boy Pt. One” and b-side “Engine” before taking off into the night, leaving the audience standing and cheering for a good five minutes before they were disappointed by the sight of tech crew taking his set-up apart.
Although the audience lulled at times, Mangum put on a fantastic performance and managed to get us all roaring together to make for a truly ghostly experience. Despite this all — and it pains me to say it — Mangum’s “dee-dees” will never compare to Scott Spillane’s trumpet work, and however great the songs stood on their own, a full-backed band performing them would be worlds apart. Unfortunately, I don’t think a full reunion will ever happen.
Hopefully I’ll be eating my words in a year or two’s time.
Two-Headed Boy Pt. Two
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Song Against Sex
Gardenhead / Leave Me Alone
I Love the Living You (Roky Erickson cover)
A Baby for Pree
The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. One
The King of Carrot Flowers Pts. Two & Three
Two-Headed Boy Pt. One
Starfucker, also known as STRFKR, formerly briefly known as Pyramiddd, performed to a sold-out Bowery Ballroom on Saturday night. A far cry from the Nachbar show I organized in 2008 (link) and even the Mercury Lounge performance of 2009 (link). How things have changed…bigger venue, bigger sound, bigger crowd, and even a bigger band…but there was one major deficiency. Ryan, the face and frontman of Starfucker, is gone. Starfucker may have started as a solo project of Josh’s, but for anyone who had seen them live, Ryan was the center of attention. For those that had never seen Starfucker before, the absence is really no loss. The band sounded fantastic, Shawn and Josh both stepped up to share duties that the comically bad dancer Ryan once alone bore and had I not known better I would think they’d spent years with this approach. Call me an old man, well-removed from the loop, as I was unaware that in early August, Ryan had announced his departure from the band to focus on his solo career. It’s unfortunately hard to recover from an unexpected blow of that caliber. I wasn’t prepared.
Nevertheless, the band DID sound amazing. Starting off with the their first ever single, German Love, the band instantly drew the crowd in. Though in essence a simple and pure pop song, when combined with a rad laser show, harder-than-anticipated synth beats, and a crowd of primarily 18-20 yr olds, a pit was bound to erupt. It was, in fact, in many ways, one of the most aggressive shows I have seen in New York, and it was from the first note. My girlfriend and I were literally forced from front row, center stage to fifth row, stage left by the time German Love had finished. Growing up going primarily to punk shows, I loved it. The energy of the band and the crowd ramped up quickly and never faltered. My concern that the show would lack energy, sweat and dancing without Ryan was quickly alleviated.
New York’s Caveman played a sold-out recordless record release party last week (9/15) for the digital release of their debut album “CoCo Beware” on Magic Man! Records (which you can get here). Packed with psychedelic pop jams from beginning to end, we were ecstatic for the chance to catch these guys live. Their show contained a visual component which was relatively nondescript, but which worked nicely to light the stage in a beautiful way while not distracting the audience from the focal point of the performance, namely the music. Frontman Matthew Iwanusa’s vocals contain traces of the nostalgia that seems to pervade every fuzzy shoegaze band since 2008…which is, of course, essentially every “new” band since 2009…but only ever so subtly and in hearing them live, I felt as though harmonically the vocals were aimed more at creating a mood than a mentality. Anyone you speak to will tell you that if you like Grizzly Bear, you’ll like Caveman, however in a live setting, while a great deal of the albums texture does come through that invariably draws the Grizzly Bear references, I found Caveman to provide what was, for me, a significantly more engaging and exciting performance. Iwanusa alternated between a standing drum and guitar and on songs such as “My Room” and “Great Life” launched into ferociously heavy tribalesque drum tirades turning the otherwise melancholic and hushed songs into truly dance-worthy jams. It’s rare to find a band with such sweeping and beautiful sounds to also have the pop sensibilities that Caveman has, and perhaps the best example is “Thankful.”
It’s no surprise that Caveman are so quickly generating buzz instantly upon the release of their debut and have gained places opening with the likes of The War on Drugs, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and the White Rabbits. These guys put on one hell of a good show. Abandoning the sold out crowd with a deafening reverb, Caveman returned to the stage to perform one last unplanned nonalbum song “Wasted Life.” Our recommendation, be sure to catch Caveman at CMJ next month, you won’t be disappointed.
Yuck and Tame Impala played a sold out show at Webster Hall on Monday 25.4.11.
For a band that formed only a little over a year ago, the London/Hiroshima/ New Jersey foursome, Yuck are quickly becoming one of the best new bands out there. They might sound like they belong in the early 90’s but they are one of the more technically gifted guitar acts to tour in a long time, and prove themselves to be more than mere “Nineties revivalists” in concert. Drawing obvious inspiration from grunge and shoegaze bands from over a decade ago, they somehow manage to sound all their own, frontman Daniel Bloomburg channeling a bit of a young Dylan-esc stage swagger on a raw version of “Georgia”, and the band showing a more melancholy dreamlike side on “Suicide Policeman”. Substance o
If you haven’t seen Yuck live yet, there are still Tickets available for their Headline show at Bowery Ballroom on May 27th or you can head over and catch them play a free in-store at Other Music TONIGHT.
Aussie musical ensemble Tame Impala took the stage last and is a beast. Their 70 minute psychedelic hypno-groove melodic rock performance was packed with enough emotion and atmosphere to keep your head swirling around like the light show they project behind them. With 9 flat screen monitors featuring a psychedelic light show rigged up to their guitars, the band tightly ripped through the entire Innerspeaker album, some lesser known tracks off their debut EP and even covered “Angel” by Massive Attack! Check out the full setlist and some pictures from the whole show, below:
Kentucky is not the first place you would expect to find a dance rock band of the caliber of The Pass, but these Louisvillians aren’t one to let their geographics tie them down. Which is lucky for us, considering we had two opportunities to see them play this past weekend in New York. Selling out venues across the country (twice selling out NY’s Pianos and even the 700 person Headliners in their hometown of Louisville), The Pass are nevertheless one of the more underrated bands of the scene. That was, perhaps, until Friday night when the line to get into Pianos stretched around the corner of the block and dozens of people that we spoke to were unable to get into see the band. For a young band still out to prove itself, there are certainly worse problems to have.
Drawing influences from Justice and LCD Soundsystem (R.I.P.), The Pass create a basement party kind of sweaty dance rock that packs crowds in and keeps even the most rigid hipsters moving. Recently featured on the CMJ and SXSW websites, big things are coming for this band who have found their music in primetime television and several CW and MTV televisions.
The sets at Pianos and Fontanas navigated the usual hits with all of the songs for which videos have been produced (except Criminal) making their appearance, but we were fortunate to be treated to two brand new songs, “It’s Less Dangerous” and “Hologram,” both of which were written in the last few weeks with kinks still getting worked out. The first of the new records had the anthematic quality showing the promise of that truly great record the labels are always looking for and the second displayed a really interesting wah wah kind of sound showing an exploration and development of guitar leads in their sound. Perhaps the tweet from Bank Robber Music said it best when they said “Wow. Suspicions confirmed at Pianos. @ThePassTheBand can’t write a bad song.” While they didn’t have the birdmen look this time, they put on a great show as always. In their feature, CMJ said “The courageous quartet pours passionate lyrics into a whirlwind of synthesizers and upbeat rhythms, all while catering to the perfect dance party environment” and notes that “the Pass’ music draws inspiration from dance parties, relationships, making out, the power of positive thinking and whatever rests in between.” It couldn’t be clearer from this week’s performances how true those statements are.
The Pass are definitely a band to keep up with so that you can be the guy or girl who knew about them before they blow up, and we’ll definitely be at the next performance (if we can get in the door).
Trap of Mirrors
It’s Less Dangerous
Girl Don’t Wait
Treatment of the Sun
How to Live
The Pass: Live at Pianos
Cassette Kids: Live at Pianos
The Pass: Live at Fontanas
You always know a band is on the serious up and coming when they can sell out New York’s Mercury Lounge. On Wednesday January 12th, I was a lucky enough to see Canadians The Rural Alberta Advantage rock out in the tiny, packed space. As people jostled to get a better look, their broad appeal became immediately apparent. Lead singer Nils Edenloff wailed his way through the entire new album, plus a few old songs in just over an hour, pausing only momentarily between their short, explosive songs.
MP3 Downloaf: The Rural Alberta Advantage “Frank, AB”
The band’s sound ranges from softer synth sounds, which border on 90’s emo, to no-holds rock and roll. There were definitely strong ties to various 90’s rock influences, but I don’t want to overlook the folky quality that characterize some of their softer songs. I think that is part of the allure of the band: they have a sound that appeals to a wide range of people. Throughout the set, I had a nagging feeling that I was missing something, and it finally dawned on me towards the end of the set: Edenloff’s voice has a similar quality to Billy Corgan. I kept trying to get a better look at drummer Paul Banwatt, but even if I had a better view, I wouldn’t have been able to see those arms moving. He was flying along with unparalleled precision. Although the record is catchy and entertaining, it’s Banwatt’s energy that gives the live set so much motion. A later conversation with Edenloff revealed that he and Bandwatt work together in song writing, and the synth songs are Bandwatt’s opportunity to explore a broader range in his drumming. The third member of the trio is Amy Cole, who plays back up keyboard and the recently added bass peddle. Her sweet voice accompanies the edgier sounds in Nil’s singing. Altogether, the band has a tight, balanced sound, even with the muddy sound system at Mercury Lounge.
Snowden came to New York’s Mercury Lounge on Friday (1/21/11). The last time we saw Snowden was in 2008 at the Forecastle festival, when I expressed my overwhelming love for the band (LINK). Since that time, a lot has changed for the band. The enigmatic Corrine as well as David have parted ways, leaving Jordan and Chandler to be joined by two new members. The change appears to have been very recent, as Jordan told the crowd that the new members had only one day to rehearse all of the songs. The tour is promoting the recent release of “Slow Soft Syrup”, the new free EP from Snowden, that operates as a bit of a teaser for the forthcoming full length release…their first since 2007’s “Fuel of the Celebration”. When you’re a band that hits the road as hard as Snowden has for the last several years, I would imagine it’s hard to find the time to write.
I’m glad they found the time. Syrup appears to be a good indicator of the new direction of the band as the album seemed to align with the slightly varied style of the live performance. The songs have a definite, deepened complexity, and it results is a less hookcentric, anthematic sound. In one portion of my review from 2008, I wrote “Virtually every song is an dance anthem….and when Black Eyes starts out….in my eyes, it’s impossible to not start moving.” The scene slower and darker now, although new songs like “Lemon Peel” still show that the guys know how to make the crowd dance from time to time.
So transitions like this can go either way for a band, but for a band that has spent playing club bangers like “Black Eyes”, they’ve made the transition amazingly well, and Syrup’s “No One in Control” is perhaps the perfect example. Jordan Jeffares’s songwriting skills really get put to the test, yet he passes effortlessly.
Grab a track from the new album below:
MP3 download: Snowden – “Don’t Really Know Me”
And check out more photos from the show:
[nggallery id=118] (more…)
Of the pilgrims who come to New York to make music, few of them make a lasting impression on the indie scene. I went into Tuesday evening’s show at Mercury Lounge wondering if Alex Schaaf’s band Yellow Ostrich would emerge as noteworthy or not. I had heard a live studio recording that sounded good enough to catch my attention, but performance on the radio is completely different than on stage. Despite some jarring technical difficulties, Yellow Ostrich completely impressed me during their first song. Schaaf and his drummer, Michael Tapper, put on an energetic and technically striking show.
They opened with my favorite song, WHALE, off of their new LP “The Mistress”. Unfortunately during the song there was a computer issue and we had a thirty-second intermission just as the song was building to it’s fullest sound. As soon as the issue was resolved they jumped back into the song on full blast. Their song structure for “The Mistress” is based largely on loops built by Schaaf, backed by Tapper on drums, with Schaaf also multi-tasking on guitar and bass pedal. Part of what made the show so impressive is that it sounded like a full 4 person band, with a collective good ear for harmonies and tight beats. When Schaaf builds the vocal backing his voice is sweet and smooth, but when he sings lyrics, his voice has a nasal quality to it, which I think gives the illusion of multiple people singing. They played primarily songs off “The Mistress” with one new song called “Daughter” and one old song off of the “Fade” EP called Fog. It was a short set with lots of charming banter in between songs from Schaaf who was clearly shocked by the size of the audience and slightly nervous.
I left looking forward to the inevitable new releases that I am sure Yellow Ostrich will be recording in the future. Check out their www.YellowOstrich.BandCamp.com to download all eight of their records for free.
Jónsi (Jon Birgisson) front man of Iceland’s Sigur Rós, played the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York last night (11/10/10), marking an end to the bands North American Tour and treating the audience to a sensory maelstrom. The show set opened with a striped down acoustic “Stars in Still Water”, brandishing Jon’s trademark falsetto croon which permeated every hidden crack and cranny in the room, swooping and soaring through a forest of nature inspired animation projected behind the stage. The musical elements of the show, notably piano, harmonium and Jon’s signature sustained “ooooo” were only heightened by dramatic lighting and graphics that provided just the right stimuli to push the performance into a mesmerizing sensory realm, unearthing a wonderland of magical Icelandic forests, fire, animals, and spirits of the night. The only thing missing… elves.
The set ended on “Around Us”, with Jon alone on his knees fiddling with vocal effects pedals, returning for a ceremonial encore of “Sticks and Stones”, showboating an enormous feathered headdress, spinning around on stage like a mystical shaman. The final song, “Grow Til Tall” was easily the most moving track from the night; Jonsi’s fragile tenor escalating the dizzying volume of sonic layers and then gliding back down, only to completely take off into a beautiful moody falsetto flight of “You’ll… know,You’ll… know,You’ll… know,You’ll… know!…” Only then, resonating into an intense percussive firework explosion, as bright lights flashed like lightning against a raging snow storm and blowing branches.
You can check out some videos from the show that have made their way onto youtube and a performance from Jonsi which aired last night on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon below:
Our friends at Em Gee Photos snapped some really great shots at the Cut Copy Jelly Pool Party this past Sunday, August 8 on the Williamsburg waterfront. The Aussie synth pop band opened with “Lights & Music” and played an hour long set that included some older favorites and 2 new songs off their untitled upcoming album, one of which “Where I’m Going” you can check out in the Discosalt Audio Player. The band tore it up, infusing as much energy into their performance as the crowd, which was only “slightly” trumped by that girl bouncing up and down in the window behind the stage. If you were there, you know what I’m talking about. Check out some more pics below:
Evan Dando and the Lemonheads played the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn last night (July 30) with Josh Lattanzi and The Candles. Both bands, whose front men oddly resemble one another, put on two great sets but what is most amazing, besides Dandos voice, is that he looks the same age as I remember him when I was in Junior High. Hard to believe he is 43.
Seeing Dando perform live is both nostalgic and strangely relevant at the same time. He sings with a humility, a reckless weary voice, and a bit of either nervous stage energy or ADD (cutting some songs short as if he made his point, next song, awkwardly introducing the next). And while he still can’t seem to shake off his slacker image, his stage presence never parodies his early 90’s fame as one of pops biggest screw-ups . Whether he is playing punk, rock, pop, country or metal, his lyrics still seem poiniant to where he is in life and credible. Dando performed a mix of old lemonheads power pop favorites, some inspired covers from his most recent album, Varshons and some intimate acoustic songs, ending on a stripped down solo version of the Lemonhead classic “Alison’s starting to Happen”.
Since their breakthrough in ’86 with, what is now one one of the most sought-after punk relics of the 80’s, the indie EP Laughing All the Way to the Cleaners, The Lemonheads have certainly had one strange trip. After a slew of college radio friendly LP’s like Hate Your Friends (1987), Creator (1988) and one of my favorites, Lick (1989), the band enjoyed some mainstream success where Dando was one of Peoples “50 Most Beautiful people”, and appeared in a cameo at the end of Reality Bites. Then he admitted to smoking crack cocaine. The tipping point. There was more crack cocaine, a public arrest for possession of drugs at Sydney airport while high on heroin and LSD handing out flowers to strangers and feeding money through the grates in the pavement, depression, a nervous breakdown, rehab and people just stopped taking the band seriously. The Lemonheads and Dando disappeared from the spotlight for about 10 years, but he cleaned up and returned in 2006, most recently releasing the cover album, Varsons, which “sounds like a mix tape slipped to you by a music-obsessed friend anxious to turn you on to something new.” Varshons is “filled with obscure nuggets… [which] cut a wide swath, jumping from early British psychedelic to Dutch electronica and like all good mix tapes, you never know what is coming next.” Kind of like Evan Dando’s career.
Check out Dando’s cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Waiting around to Die”, and a Smudge song.
Monotonix, the bare bones (and ass) garage-rockers out of Tel Aviv, Israel played a rowdy set at the Siren Music Festival kickoff party on Friday night, once again saying yes! to crack. In case you missed it, our friends at Backseatsandbar were there to document the spectacle. With a drum set rigged up right in the middle of the crowd, wielding mic in ass, animal like front man and international butt beat maker extraordinaire Ami Shalev tore into his set and a sea of sweat soaked bodies, shredding guitar and ripping farts. Check out the video below, completely shot and edited with an iPhone 4. Is that a garbage can on the drummers head? You bet.
Oh no, wait, sorry, wrong vid. The real one is below:
It was one of those beautiful spring evenings, where being indoors feels like a travesty. The only thing keeping me from the fading sunlight was the promise of an incredible live show. Patrick Watson and the Wooden Arms delivered. The audience literally couldn’t get enough of Watson and his circus act of musicians.
Watson is idiosyncratic to say the least. He seems to be receiving an outside energy at all times, struggling to contain it within his body and release it through his music. He rocks, sways and bobs his head, conducting the onstage musicians even when he is playing solo. His performance is visual as much as it is musical. Strobes and lighting from the floor of the stage emphasize the highs and lows of Watson’s style. It felt like a depression era circus with a fun house and beautiful ladies riding plumed horses.
They opened in total darkness with “Fireweed”, the strings and guitar solo drifting over the hushed audience. As the sound increased, so did the lighting, a sort of visual foreplay to the impending swell of the music. Watson’s songwriting features a lot of slow build ups to cacophonous sounds, which cut back to delicate vocals. As a live audience member, watching these swells was a joy. Everyone on stage is building, adding layers and adjusting to each others sounds. It reminds me of the ocean, with calms between sets of waves.
He followed with “Beijing” which always feels like an opera, telling a story. In this case, the story was taking place under the graceful chandeliers of the Bell House. The sound was wonderfully complicated as it floated up to the wooden rafters. During “Traveling Salesman” Watson crooned into a megaphone as though he were a trumpeter, using a mute to create the “wah waaah waaaaaahhh” sound which we use in colloquial speech. For “Crickets” he made the entire audience hush because he swore he was hearing crickets. When we all stopped to silently listen, sure enough there were crickets (which turned out to be ventilation fans). It was an amusing lead into “Crickets” during which he sometimes chose not to use the mic, instead cupping his hands to his mouth. He also played a new song called “Sit Down Beside Me” which featured guitarist Simon Angell playing with a spoon.
When they played the last song, the audience was going wild, Watson came out and announced that they had a little something special and would be right back. He reemerged wearing a contraption sprouting stems topped with megaphones and bright LED lights like a crazy sea creature on his back. He and the band came to the middle of the audience and we all sang “Man Under The Sea”. The drummer played the saw with a violin bow, and the guitarist stood on a folding chair. It felt like a summer camp sing-a-long on the last night before we all returned to our suburban homes, The Bell House’s rafters and buffalo art emulating summer cabins in Maine and Vermont.
This did not quell the audience’s desires to hear more, so the whole band returned to the stage and played a little improv piece from an audience suggestion entitled “Where are my Pyjamas?”. It had a Radiohead-y sounding guitar line, and was truly a unique experience. Although Watson gets most of the attention, his band, Simon Angell, Robbie Kuster and Mishka Stein were wonderful. Watson introduced them and the strings many times throughout the night, in a self humbling and appreciative way. They were wonderful and deserve their own props for working with Watson to create his Time Burton-esque dreamland.
Doveman opened with delicate gentle indie-folk-jazz. I’m not quite sure how to categorize his music, but it was soft and fleeting, with lots of improv. I felt like I should have been in a speakeasy wearing a gown and holding a cigarette. It was completely lovely and set the tone for the Wooden Arms perfectly. Doveman front man Thomas Bartlett is a well known musician in his own right, playing with The National, Norah Jones and David Byrne.
xx The Elephant
If you haven’t heard of Sharon Van Etten or seen her completely destroy a live performance, she might fall under that category of something “you never knew you always wanted.” But maybe you were one of the lucky ones to attend her show at Union Hall on Friday night like I was.
“It means a lot that you guys wanted to share this night with me, “ Van Etten said shyly to her rapt audience – who definitely did not wander in by accident. She’s solid proof that sometimes looks are so deceiving — a slip of a girl with killer pipes, leaving you to shake your head and wonder how such a big voice can come out of something so small. It’s the reason watching her play live is oh-so-rewarding, the chance to truly see what an anomaly she is. Everything about her suggests a near-painful shyness, from how she looks blankly at the ceiling while she rocks out on her guitar to the way she prefaces many songs with a soft and sheepish, “I hope I don’t fuck it up.” And then she punches you in the face with the largest voice imaginable and crazy range – not to mention a soprano that would make angels weep. She certainly didn’t fuck it up, not even once. Her lyrics are bold, original and absolutely unapologetic. Standing alone in a sea of folk singers crooning the same old songs, she’s got a new take on love – and her voice demands that you listen up.
Van Etten’s debut album Because I Was in Love came out in 2009 (laden with great lyrics like “I was whispering in my sleep/ all my secrets that I keep/ I told to you /I do I do I do”) and she’s contributed vocals for bands like The Antlers, among others. On Friday night, she debuted more than a few new pieces and let the crowd in on her secret, “I still get nervous when I play new songs. That never goes away.” She busted out a new one called “Heart in the Ground” (“It’s supposed to be an optimistic song!”, Van Etten was quick to note.) and flipped through a notebook at her feet to play a song she said only her agent had heard before that night.
Small as she may be, Van Etten owned the stage with her neat bob haircut tucked behind both ears, her powerful voice climbing and falling, and her liberal use of the word fuck. She cradled a fire-red guitar, sipping & gargling something stout between songs as “a vocal warm up.” It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that everyone in the crowd had a mad crush on her. In fact, about halfway though her set, some people in the audience got surly, shushing a few obnoxious talkers at the back. Nobody was messing around, they felt honored to hear Van Etten sing, and so did I. Turns out we all like getting punched in the face by good music.
Check out some more images from the show courtesy of Lauren below:
Kate Nash performed two sold out nights in New York this week, the first at the Bowery Ballroom on Thursday (4/29) and again at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on Saturday(5/1). I have to start this review out with letting everyone know just why Kate Nash has that special place in my heart. In April 2008 (just over two years ago) I flew to New York to catch Kate Nash at Webster Hall where I ended up meeting Lily, the girl who has since become my girlfriend. Since that time Kate, the cute little brit she is, who made her way through the MySpace ranks to put out one of the best albums of 2007 has all grown up…from school girl nerd chic to rocker chick.
Clad in black leather, resting on crutches and donning a new doo, Kate led the 2010 crowd through most all of her latest album “My Best Friend is You.” Her performance was amazingly energetic and boucny considered the bum foot and the crutches (and some jerk stole one of her crutches after her Bowery show last Thursday). While Kate had written at least a few of these songs long enough ago to have treated us to four songs in 2008 that eventually made it on to the new album, four to be exact, and a few songs that were written back then but have yet to find a home on an album (“Model Behaviour”), it was pretty much exclusively the new album with Foundations and Mouthwash the only exceptions (and those non-album tracks) which was admittedly a bit heart-wrenching as anyone who has heard me blab on about Kate Nash knows I became a huge fan via MySpace (quite by accident) ages before “Made of Bricks” came out. Knowing that she is moving away from the songs like “Nicest Thing” and “Birds” is sad to see and makes me feel like the old man seeing my daughter grow up into a woman. That said, I don’t find “My Best Friend is You” to be the departure that people seem to think it is. Yes it is more riot grrl at times, but I suppose having seen Kate at Webster Hall prepared me for that. Hearing songs like “I Hate Seagulls”, “Do Wa Do” and “Share the Guilt” makes it absolutely clear that Kate is in large part the same girl who takes her everyday life and makes cute folkish pop songs out of it. Nevertheless the rawer, grittier songs like “Higher Plane,” “Mansion Song” and “Model Behaviour” dominated the evening.
Overall though the concert was a lot of fun and a great anniversary of sorts for us. Older, different somewhat, but still together, and still having a lot of fun together.
Plenty more photos and the setlist
(setlist via Flickr)
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone came to the Mercury Lounge on 4/27 for an incredibly great set. We have been responsible for putting on two shows for Owen, first on Halloween 2008 with No Kids and Pomegranates in the now defunt Pour Haus and again last year with You’re My Density at Skull Alley. On both occasions, Owen sat behind the keyboard and told us his stories, however in New York with opening band Magical Beautiful as his subsequent backing band, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone performed the best set we’ve yet seen from them. Primarily because this time it was a “them” rather than just Owen, and while Owen is all that’s needed to get the essence of the songs, hearing the little something extra the backing band provides made all the difference.
The set started with one of my favorites, Nashville Parthenon. They also informed us that the new Sun Kill Moon EP titled “I’ll Be There” (which makes me think of the show Friends) will have a cover of “Natural Light” which they also played. One thing you have to love about a band named Casiotone for the Painfully Alone is their way with titles, and among my favorite songs is no exceptions, namely “Traveling Salesman’s Young Wife Home Alone On Christmas In Montpelier, VT” and my girlfriend particularly liked the title “Tom Justice, the Choir Boy Robber, Apprehended at Ace Hardware in Libertyville, IL” which Owen informed us to be a true story. As Owen finished the song Killers it occurred to him and us that someone had been playing their iPod on its loudspeaker in the crowd to combat Owen’s set. What makes this occurrence particularly interesting is that I had a discussion with Owen and Nick from No Kids at the first show on Halloween 2008 about rude crowds and their complaints that “We Can Hear You.” After being called out, the immature kids snickered a few times like 4th grade schoolboys then let it go. I was afraid that Owen was going to be turned off to the crowd by that point, but it was clear that during the course of “You Were Alone” that the set somehow turned in a very positive way and the energy of the crowd really picked up as did Owen’s own. While you’re not going to find crazed or hectic dancing at a CTFPA show, the bouncing increased as did the sing-alongs and the entire atmosphere seemed to have lighted somehow just in time for two more of my favorites, “White Christmas” and “Bobby Malone.” Unfortunately, it seemed the amp couldn’t keep up and Owen blew out his speakers. After playing a few more songs, Owen closed the set with “White Jetta“, warning the crowd that to stay the same is to never change.
I have always greatly enjoyed seeing Owen perform in the past, but seeing him as a full band was an entirely new experience and one I hope to catch again and again.
(Photo courtesy: mercurialn)
Much hyped Texas trio Harlem graced New York with a quicky on Thursday (4/22). I can think of lots of adjectives to describe their show: silly, giddy, playful, unpretentious…the list goes on and on. They certainly don’t take themselves too seriously lending to a signature stage presence.
<3 The Elephant
Last time I saw real Estate they were opening for Woods at Market Hotel. I liked them well enough then to catch them at another Todd P show this weekend, featuring a total of 4 bands, although we only saw 3 of them.
Liam the Younger was on stage when we got there, and they were going at it. They weren’t bad, but they did need some help in the vocals department. Both of the singers were a little bit weak. Neither projected enough and there wasn’t any balance, you could barely hear the poor kids. I am going to chalk it up to a little bit of inexperience and a little bit of nerves.
Family Portrait was up next, and in my opinion, they stole the show. Their music has a lot of variety and a lot of energy. Styles swing from 60’s surfer songs to Nirvana inspired rock songs. Despite the range of influences, it was still a consistent sound, and enjoyable the whole way through. I look forward to hearing more from these boys (guys? we were guessing at their ages, and the results were inconclusive). Whatever they are doing, I hope playing Todd P basement shows is the springboard for a real record. Stay tuned, I’ll be following up on them.
Real Estate headlined the show. Here’s the thing about them: they are extremely consistent in their sound. They all sort of blend together a little bit. They put on a good show technically, despite a crowd of adoring fans, people weren’t getting into it. On another note, they had some er…supporters there who were sort of shouting in between songs and it was rather unprofessional. I don’t want to be that uptight person at a show…but I feel like these guys are probably going to do very well for themselves in the next couple of years and the time to establish themselves as professionals is now. As far as their musical performance was concerned they played like top notch gentleman, I think they just need to get their friends under control a little bit.
A few words about Monster Island Basement: I miss Market Hotel. It had such character (i think that character was old nicotine) and it was a good shape so that you were never in a bad sopt. MIB has lots of suppor beams, and a weird corner stage that makes it easy to be in a blind zone or stuck right next to a speaker. I’ll take it over nothing for sure, but I amholding out hope that Todd P can get proper licensing in place for MH so that it will come back to life. Without the nicotine.
<3 The Elephant
Saturday (4/24) night’s line-up at Music Hall of Williamsburg was a sunny pop-rock theme adventure. Featured headliners The Morning Benders are from lovely San Francisco and their music certainly reflects it. As much of today’s west coast rock, they are breezy and infectious–ladies seem to be most susceptible to the beguiling charms of lead singer Chris Chu’s charms. Big Echo has received tons of critical acclaim (a great 8.2 from LTH) throughout the blogosphere since day 1, so it was no surprise that they were able to completely sell out 2 shows here in New York. Their particular brand of 50’s surf inspired indie pop is nice because it blends contemporary indie rock with obvious throwbacks and lots of charisma.
<3 The Elephant
(Photos courtesy: Jeremy Bold)
Upon initial listen, Liars sound rather hardcore and angry, and you know me, I shy away from hardcore. Lately though I’ve been signing a different tune, I have started to get into lo-fi, which has led me closer to noise rock and hardcore.
So with a little nudging from the deeply trusted Nana, and some other music friends, I decided to go see them at Bowery Ballroom on 4/15/10. If I don’t like them at Bowery, then they just aren’t for me. I really gave their 2007 ST album a few good listens before the show. At Jeremy’s recommendation I started with the last track, Protection. It’s the softest and most melodic track, and really demonstrates the depth of what Liars are doing. Before the show I was still not 100% on board, but hey, I love shows, so nothing to lose.
We got there just in time for Liars. To me they seem to be a great paradox: the sound doesn’t match the act of the band. This can be either a good thing or a bad thing, in this case it’s a wonderful thing. They clearly work really hard to build the sound they create, and do it with fervor and enthusiasm. Front man and lead singer Angus Andrew has incredibly long forearms, and when he dances he looks a bit like a transvestite orangoutang, very feminine and little awkward. I loved his dancing, it really defined the paradox: post punk meets Brittany Spears? Also, Andrew is totally raging on stage, and sweats like crazy. He would be still for a moment and then start head banging, and it was like a backlit shower. In the meantime, while Andrew is on stage rocking out, the crowd was essentially moshing in the front. Their music does have some violent undertones (“Blood, Blood, Blood” from the track “Broken Witch”) but also some sweet moments. Part of me wonders if it is intended as sarcasm and humor, validating the fact that upon first listen they are merely a hardcore band, but in reality they have a serious musical background and strong theme.
They were having fun onstage, and being badass rocker pirates has nothing to do with the image, and everything to do with the music. They were incredible onstage, created such energy that I am considering seeing them again at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sunday. They make me want to run out and see Fuck Buttons and No Age and every other angry band that I previously thought I didn’t want to see.
Have a nice weekend Lovies!
(all photos courtesy of Ryan Muir)
<3 The Elephant
LCD Soundsystem returned to the stage this week with warm-up performances at Music Hall of Williamsburg last Thursday and another performance at Webster Hall on Monday, April 12th. We last caught LCD Soundsystem in 2007 in support of their sophomore album Sound of Silver which was the last proper tour they’ve played. The time away from the stage resulted in a focused effort on the upcoming though already leaked “This is Happening.” While the album had been leaking out track by track, first with Drunk Girls, then Pow Pow the full album hit the Internet last night and you couldn’t help but get the impression that James was keenly aware of this as he literally got down on his knees and begged the crowd not to fileshare the album. Knowing that filesharing has become a fact of the business he went so far as to say, if you’re going to steal it and share it, fine…just please wait until we release it so we can do it the way we want to. A great point considering James has indicated that This is Happening is to be the final release of the band under this moniker.
Following the hilariously enjoyable set by Fall on your Sword, LCD took the the stage and Murphy’s ill-preparation was hardly recognizable. Looking a bit as though he had only just arisen from a week on the couch and as he admitted, a bit too much on the booze, Murphy started into “Pow Pow,” what will hopefully prove to be the first single from the upcoming album. The energy you come to expect with an LCD Soundsystem show was delivered with the first note. Perhaps he’d forgotten just how incredible LCD Soundsystem comes off live because he continued to thank the crowd over and over for our energy and the way we were dancing. By the time Us vs. Them hit bodies were slamming everywhere and that this was among their warm-up shows had long been forgotten. Unfortunately, such absence was never more obvious than when Murphy started into one of the old classics and one of my personal favorites, “Losing My Edge” when Murphy stumbled drunk through the lines and while the song has always been something of a mockery, Murphy seemed to be mocking his fans in the way he performed this one. While a lyric guy and one who loves Murphy’s off kilter vocals, the best moment for me came when Murphy’s mic broke midway through “Yeah” and he along with the rest of the band launched into the loudest, most violent rendition of the song that I’ve ever heard.
Closing the set with the song that he almost has no option but to close with when performing in New York was of course “New York I Love You” and it seemed to show that Murphy is either completely ready and didn’t need the warm-ups or he’s got a way to go before being completely ready because he was acting goofy and asking himself rhetorical questions throughout the set.
All in all, the music speaks for itself and anytime you have LCD Soundsystem playing LCD Soundsystem’s music, it’s going to be a great time, and while I loved that Murphy was playful with the crowd, I would rather hear him take his own music a little more seriously. I look forward to hearing the rest of This is Happening and having those songs soaked up on the dance floor the way Someone Great and others have over the last few years because once Murphy starts playing all of these songs like he did in those moments of “Us vs Them” and “Yeah” last night, he’s going to murdering kids on the dance floor.
See more photos below:
Yr City’s a Sucker
Us V. Them
Losing My Edge
All My Friends
I Can Change
Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
New York I Love You
A Place to Bury Strangers:
Brooklyn’s volume knob maximalist trio A Place to Bury Strangers is an experience in noise. They played Webster Hall last night, March 30th and made me believe the hype that they are New York City’s “loudest band.”
The Big Pink:
Mp3: THE BIG PINK: VELVET
Lissy Trullie has become the rocker du jour for fashionistas and hipsters throughout New York. She oozes hipness. With her 60’s mod warhol haircut, dangerously high mini skirt, and sexy pouty stage persona, there is no question, Lissy is interesting to look at. But its not all style over substance. Her set on Friday showed she can be interesting to listen to as well. Working through a mix of noisy garage pop rock hits with Strokes-like riffs, along side some more poppy Blondiesc tunes, and a surprisingly good cover of Hot Chips “Ready for the Floor”, she managed to grab my full attention and leave me wanting [to hear] more…and I swear it wasn’t just the mini skirt… I think.
Lissy Trullie – “Self-Taught Learner (TMDP Remix)” | download