Archive for June, 2010

Creators Project Mahem

Creators Project  – June 26th – Milk Studios

I was overwhelmed even before I managed to get into the Creators Project festivities on Saturday. Though the event was free and open to the public, you had to officially register to get on the list, which I had neglected to do in time. Luckily, I only had to approach 3 people before I found my way in.

the line outside (Photo Mindy Bond)

He was walking away rapidly and trying desperately to pull the wristband over his fist.

Hey… can I have that?
-Yeah. I was hoping to find someone to give it to. It’s just too…
Stimulating?
-Well, yeah, but there are just too many people.

And with that semi-ominous observation, I strolled into the building. Immediately upon entering, I was bombarded by a barrage of colors, sounds, and attractive people. The even space was massive – 8 floors of art installations, interactive computers, music, movies, and people. Within minutes, I was clutching a free cup of gelato (banana).

Oh, the colors! The Creators Project (Photo Brayden Olson)

Between the free food, water, booze, and culture, I felt like I was at a party for the privileged. The whole thing was absolutely insane. You could just stand around and things would happen. Suddenly, a screen would lift and a band would start playing. If you could die from being too hip, Intel (one of the major sponsors of the evening) would have to convert the studio space into a mausoleum. I kept waiting for the place to implode.

After catching a touch of Gang Gang Dance, we meandered over to check out the much-hyped duo Sleigh Bells – or we at least attempted to see Sleigh Bells. Unfortunately, thanks to the amount of fog-machine-polluted air and due to the sheer height of those present, I would have had to have been 8 feet tall with laser vision to see much of anything.

Sleigh Bells through the fog (Photo Mindy Bond)

Luckily, there was plenty to do, so we left the crowded and sweaty interior room and headed down to carve out a spot for Interpol. I admit I sort of missed the Interpol craze, but there’s no denying that the group put on a good show. Of course, it helps that they pretty much have a decade on the majority of the featured artists.

I was tempted to see M.I.A., but I left before the rabble rouser went on stage in all her multi-colored hair splendor. I had already purchased a ticket for Voxtrot for their last show, and the air conditioning at the Bowery Ballroom has never been more welcome.

We were Voxtrot: The final show

Voxtrot (Last concert ever) – Bowery Ballroom – June 27th

I’ve only ever been to one other final show (at least that I know of). Jump, Little Children. December 30th, 2005. You could say my JLC obsession was rather pronounced. The timing was right. It started when I was about 15, the band toured almost exclusively in the Southeast (both where I’m from and where I went to school), I had a lot of spare time, and a disposable income. Unsurprisingly, after seeing them over fifteen times, the last show was emotional.

The band that was Voxtrot

I’m not going to lie. With so much going on with Northside Festival and with the Creators Project, the major reason I decided to go see Voxtrot was because I wanted to experience the range of emotions that accompany a final show: the adrenaline-fueled performance, the obsessive fans – all coupled with premature twangs of nostalgia and loss.

It’s been three years since Voxtrot released their last proper album, but the crowd seemed determined to give the band a good final show – at least the people who made it out. (Despite the fact that it was a ‘sold-out’ show, the floor seemed to be roomier than usual… perhaps due to the aforementioned alternative events.) From the first notes of “Introduction” (ha), people cheered and moved enthusiastically to the music. I love this song! Oh my God! someone yelled. On stage, lead singer Ramesh Srivastava jumped around wildly when not at the mic and even managed to break a string during the first song.

As predicted, the scene was both energetic and grim. Nearly every song was dedicated to a friend, fan, or member of the music industry.

This is of course the last Voxtrot concert ever. This is very exciting for us. I was really worried. We haven’t put out a record in years. I thought it would be empty, so thanks. This is of course our favorite place to play, said Srivastava.

As he fought to fix his guitar string, the crowd started singing him happy birthday. He was 27.

As I listened to the set, I couldn’t help but ponder the significance of the lyrics and the songs they played. The line: “I used to be your biggest fan.” The songs: “The Start of Something” and “The Wrecking Force.” Then, in the final song: “Oh and I am dead and gone.” Yikes.

I sort of had this plan of making this evening like a Hindu funeral, but I only got as far as this shirt, Srivastava said, only half jokingly.

They energetically powered through their set, often apologizing for being out of practice. You know, we used to be professional but it’s the last show, so I don’t really care now, admitted Srivastava.

Following their hit song, “The Start of Something,” things got a little mushy. There are so many bands out there and it means a lot to me that you’re emotionally invested in my – I mean our – band.

It was impossible not to cringe when Srivastava introduced “Missing Pieces” at the show’s conclusion. Ok. Thanks again. This is our last song ever as Voxtrot. Thank you so much for believing in music and for coming. Then, as if addressing a crowd of graduates, Srivastava continued: Don’t lose your sense of curiosity. Just do whatever you want to do […] Don’t cry. During their last song, he briefly jumped down into the audience for a final hurrah before walking off stage for the last time.

Set list
Introduction
Raised by Wolves
Firecracker
Kid Gloves
Your Biggest Fan
Long Haul
Steven
Soft and Warm
Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives
Age of Consent (New Order cover)
Berlin, Without Return
The Start of Something
Wrecking Force

Encore
Whiskey
Missing Pieces

Looking for a date with Macabre?

If there weren’t so many shows to choose from tonight, I might have pursued the following line-up:

Step 1. Dogtooth – Cinema Village, 8:00pm

Step 2. Parenthetical Girls – Coco 66, 11:00pm

Parenthetical Girls (Photo Sarah Meadows)

What a creepfest… (though one that promises to be as magnificent as macabre).

Northside Fest – Friday

Hess is More + Kid Koala (Pospect Park), Tame Impala (Glasslands), Darlings (Public Assembly) – June 25th

When I left work Friday night, I went home, thinking I might just take it easy and watch a movie, but apparently, a quiet evening was not in the forecast. Soon after arriving at my apartment, I noticed (via Facebook) that one of my friends from high school was playing the vibes at Prospect Park, so I ran over to catch Hess is More. Though I only saw the group’s last three songs, I was completely charmed. I’ve heard Hess is More recorded, but never live, and it’s quite a different affair in person. Mikkel Hess, the mastermind behind the project, played the drums with his back to the audience (so that he faced his band), but it worked… probably because he’s got that irresistible air of modest Danish enthusiasm. His playfully inventive songs coupled well with the jazzy techno beats. Do yourself a favor and check out Hess Is More on Soundcheck.

Up next was Kid Koala. For his first set, he was joined by DJ P-Love and for the second, The Slew (featuring the ex-WolfMother rhythm section). More than a talented disc jockey, Kid Koala’s ADJ is also a graphic novelist and something of a comedian. He broke up his two sets with a game of bingo, featuring hand-drawn illustrations from his own repertoire. I may not have won, but I did enjoy seeing his whimsical creations (and even a family photo or two) flit across the screen.

Kid Koala sampled music from a wide swathe of genres. Outkast, and old jazz tune, and a song from Monty Python were just a few of the things he spun.

Next, I embarked on a quest to obtain a coveted badge to this weekend’s Northside Festival. Luckily, I didn’t have to look far. I arrived at Death By Audio just in time to grab one from a friend. After slipping in a piece of paper bearing my name, I headed around the corner to check out Tame Impala at Glasslands… only the line was out the door and down the block by the time I got to the scene. Luckily, I found a way in just as the young band was starting to play.

Tame Impala

With their long (often sun-bleached) hair, lackadaisical stage presence, and sunny, psychedelic leanings, they easily fulfill the requirements of an Australian band. Heck. Two of the members were even shirtless (of course, that could have been more a result of the unbearable heat and humidity and not their homeland). Even the vocals seem to fit in with the band’s overall presentation. Instead of hogging the stage, lead guitarist and vocalist Kevin Parker unassumingly jams off to the side of the stage, leaning into the mic to sing only occasionally. The vocals may not be the focal point, but Parker’s voice is smooth (if indecipherable) and the group’s harmonies are pretty solid. And then there are the kazoos… at least for one song.

Check out “Sundown Syndrome” (complete with foreign subtitles!)

More than just your average recent reincarnation of a psychedelic band, Tame Impala also seems to have something a little jazzy going on. Good stuff.

To cap off the evening, I headed over to Public Assembly to catch a set by the Brooklyn band, Darlings.

Darlings

Initially, I walked into the wrong room at the venue, and I was thrust into the honkey-tonk world of cowboys (and girls dressed like pin-ups from the 50s and 60s). Hmmm… this isn’t quite right. I consulted the sign outside the door and noticed to my relief that there was another space across the hall. Bingo.

They may have already played a show at another venue just a couple of hours before, but they seemed to have a surprising amount of energy. Matt Solomon, the drummer, made exaggerated and crazed arm motions and Joe Tirabassi refused to obey the tacit code of bass players to remain motionless. The audience responded the energy and actually danced around in front of the stage. It wasn’t until after the show had ended that one guy took off his flip flop and noticed that his foot was bleeding… profusely. After seeing the puddles of blood on the floor (it appears as if he stepped in some glass and didn’t initially notice), I decided to call it a night.

It was certainly an action-packed evening. I only wonder what tonight will hold…
That said, let me know if you have recommendations!

The sound of a one-man village

Villagers – Joe’s Pub – June 23rd

The stage at Joe’s Pub was set up simply for Wednesday’s set. Just a couple of spotlights coming together to make one beam and a single mic stand. Irish singer-songwriter Conor O’Brien wordlessly took the stage, picked up his acoustic guitar, and began to play “To Be Counted Among Men,” the last track on his debut album Becoming a Jackal. It was a bit of a slow start for the evening, but appropriately so. Though his album is recorded with a fuller range of instruments, his show at Joe’s pub was solo. Conor’s music lends itself well to an unassuming delivery. This way, his poetic lyrics ring out clearly, demanding to be not only heard but thoughtfully considered.

Conor O'Brien of Villagers (Photo Richard Gilligan)

Seeing Villagers was a nice conclusion to a double-feature of singer-songwriter types. Earlier in the evening, I caught Sam Amidon over at the Mercury Lounge. Hopefully, my review will go up on Brooklyn Vegan soon, but suffice it to say that it was a great show. Amidon’s songs took us on a trip through the mountains, revealed the story of a woman waiting for her husband to return from war, and paraded us past girls with rosy-red lips. (Then there were the homicidal vegetarian robots and the little people walking on rubber band bridges… but we won’t get into all that now.)

Back over at Joe’s Pub, the sound was excellent. Of course, if you’ve been to the space, you’ll know that ‘pub’ is a bit of a misnomer. Instead of grime, clinking steins, ill-prepared seafood, and burly men, this pub is more of a lounge or a speak easy. Small tables and booths fill the space, people are quiet and respectful, and there are candles sprinkled throughout the place. There may not have been percussion, but the you could feel the gentle rumble of the 6 train going by under the venue, and surprisingly, the effect was kind of nice.

After playing a handful of songs on the guitar (including the excellent title track), O’Brien hopped over to the piano. I’m going to give this a go. O’Brien proceeded to warn us that he didn’t really know how to play the piano, but the piece didn’t seem all that rudimentary, and eerie lyrics were quite compelling. I’m going to write more songs for the piano. That was really fun, he admitted after switching back to the guitar.

O’Brien concluded his set with a nice little encore, featuring two songs not found on the album, “Cecilia and Her Selfhood” and “On a Sunlit Stage.”

Dark days at the Williamsburg Waterfront

The Williamsburg Waterfront opened its gates for the first show of the 2010 summer concert series with Karen Elson, Grizzly Bear, and Band of Horses tonight… that is if you bought a $30+ ticket.

would-be concert-goers kicked to the curb (photo Matt Karp)

I understand that the ticket money for the paid shows is slated to go toward the restoration and preservation of north Brooklyn’s parks, but the idea of such expensive tickets (over 50 bucks for Belle & Sebastian once the convenience fees were factored in) certainly seems to be a bit much… especially since listening for free doesn’t really seem to be much of an option this year.

Last year, fans and casual listeners alike could sit in the adjacent park to take in the sites and sounds for free. This year, that is no longer an option. As I found out tonight, the ‘public’ park is no longer open to the ‘public’ when it comes to the paid waterfront shows.

In addition to closing off the park, they also rotated the stage this year so that the band faces the water, making it all but impossible to catch a glimpse of the stage from outside of the fence – especially after event members hung up huge banners to block any remaining connection to the music.

Hrrumph.

My tenth grade moment

So I saw The National for the third time this year – this time it was at Radio City Music Hall. Quite a change from seeing them at the Bell House in March. Before the show, one of my friends said that the show probably wouldn’t be the same since the lead singer Matt Berninger wouldn’t hop off the stage like he normally does, but it turns out that the size and formality of the venue is no hindrance to Berninger’s performance. As if painstakingly following a script, Berninger did indeed leave the stage on a few songs.

Matt Berninger (Photo Shawn Anderson)

But the real magic happened during “Abel.” At least, it did for me. Berninger jumped off the stage and started pulling that oh-so-long mic chord behind him as he walked up the aisle in the theatre. For a few seconds, I lost sight of him. And then, there he was, right outside my row. And then… what? He started climbing over the seats and ended up stumbling right into Row WW, Seat 409 – my seat. As he stood haphazardly balanced on the seat behind me, he leaned over, grabbed my shoulder to steady himself and put the mic right in my face as he sang. And, though I know nearly all of the lyrics to their songs and the chorus to “Abel” in particular is embarrassingly simple, I admit I froze a little and was too stunned to sing along. After my moment had passed, Berninger continued on his way, climbing over the seat in front of me and then heading back to the stage.

The above was just an excerpt from my review for Brooklyn Vegan. Check it out here.

There were a lot of haters in the comments section for that post. Mostly they were hating on the band or the sound quality at the venue, but one person commented that the review seemed like it was “written by a 10th grader for the high school rag.” Initially, this got me down a little. I need to be edgier with my reviews, I thought. Then it hit me. I felt exactly like a fifteen-year-old girl when Matt singled me out. It was seriously insane. For the 15-20 seconds that he stood their in my seat, I actually don’t remember hearing anything, which I think is why I couldn’t bring myself to sing along. It was as if my brain made a snappy decision. What are the most important senses in this situation? OK. Sight and feeling. And my hearing just temporarily vanished in order to allow me to really take in the scene in front of me and be hyper aware of Matt gripping my bicep. Complete sensory overload.