Archive for August, 2010

South Carolina deep in my heart

I recently had the chance to check out the dreamy lo-fi husband/wife duo Tennis over at the Cake Shop (write-up here). It’s hard to believe that last week marked their first time playing in New York and harder to believe that they weren’t headlining the show, and I don’t think I was alone in this assessment. In a strange perversion of the norm, there were far more people present for Tennis (the first opener) than for the subsequent two bands – Family Portrait and Ducktails.

I think this one is fairly self-explanatory

Their story is pretty cute, too. I absolutely love the band’s description on last.fm, which reads:

The idea for the project began one day a couple of years ago when Alaina made fun of Patrick for playing Tennis in college, which is an elitist rich man’s sport. A year later the two fled their hometown Denver to spend eight months sailing and exploring the North Atlantic coast. During their adventures they began writing music together documenting their experiences.

Take a listen to their recent single, “South Carolina.” (video slightly NSFW, but nothing crazy)

I’m not going to lie. As a South Carolina native, this one holds a special place in my heart.

[Note: Sorry for the unexplained hiatus. At long last, Verizon has finally decided to restore Internet service to my apartment. Hooray!]

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White Magic and a blond Vincent Price

Last night marked one of the final events of the summer for the Celebrate Brooklyn series.

White Magic

The evening began with a set by the appropriately creepy psychedelic/folk group White Magic as the sun went down. Unlike a lot of her contemporaries, singer Mira Billotte is soulful (and yes, a bit eccentric) without being overly dramatic, which is a nice change from some of the overly hyped and annoyingly affected singers of late (like Nika Roza Danilova of Zola Jesus).

Take a listen to an excerpt of one of their songs:

After White Magic played, musician/composer Marco Benevento and his two musical collaborators set up their gear at the pit in front of the stage, and a giant screen was assembled in anticipation of the main event – a special movie screening of Roger Corman’s House of Usher based the chilling tale by Edgar Allan Poe.

Check out the trailer for the movie here:

Benevento composed an original score to accompany the classic early 60s horror film. The music was pretty sweet – even if the movie itself was a bit… campy and the dialogue was sometimes a bit difficult to decipher.

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the film when Philip Winthrop arrives at the Usher mansion to collect his (doomed) fiance, Madeline, from her creepily over-protetive brother, Roderick (Vincent Price).

When Benevento isn’t creating scary scores, his music is actually pretty sunny.

Sweet show and home by 10

Fol Chen + Baths – Mercury Lounge – August 3rd

It’s kind of odd to go to an indoor show that starts when the sun is still up, but the Mercury Lounge’s back room makes you lose your sense of time. The opener of the early show was the one-man electro-pop act Baths, which is the project of 21-year-old Will Wiesenfeld. “Hi. Whoa! Sorry to scare you!” Wiesenfeld said as his voice suddenly broke through the soft chatter. “Hi New York. It’s very sweaty here. I’m not used to it, but it’s cool… I’m going to start playing music.”

Will Wiesenfeld of Baths (Photo Philip van Hirtum)

Baths consists of a laptop, a mixer, and vocals. Wiesenfeld projects the kind of lovable (but somewhat awkward) intensity you might expect from the ‘hero’ of a Judd Apatow movie. Though his work required him to be at arms length from the mass of knobs, dials, and buttons, he didn’t let that stop him from some serious upper body dancing, and his energy was contagious.

After playing a handful of songs, Wiesenfeld began to talk over the concluding notes of a song. “This is going…” He stopped, and switched off the reverb. “This is going to be my last song. Stay tuned. Fol Chen is next… Oh!” he exclaimed, momentarily switching off his music. “And I’m Baths. B-A-T-H-S,” he said excitedly, almost as an after thought.

When Fol Chen singer/guitarist Samuel Bing walked on stage in his bright red shirt and pants combo, the crowd snickered a little. But when the remaining four members of Fol Chen joined him – each wearing the same outfit (save Sinosa Loa, the sole female member who wore black tights to match the shiny black buttons of her red shirt), the reaction changed to something akin to amusement. “Matching outfits? Yes!” said one audience member toward the front of the room. Maybe I was just influenced by the White Stripes-like aesthetics, but the instrumental interludes seemed reminiscent of a tasteful soundtrack to an old sci-fi movie – playful, but definitely eerie as well.

Fol Chen, wearing different matching outfits (Photo Bruno Lestrade)

In the studio, a significant portion of Fol Chen’s music consists of samples, but their music translates well to a live setting. Their sheer weirdness mixes irresistibly with their alluring vocals, irrepressible beats, and 80s-tinged keyboard riffs. The frenzied drumming propelled the music and threatened to transform Fol Chen into a hypnotic martian marching band of sorts. (The brief addition of a trumpet for one of their songs only reinforced the image.) Everyone but the drummer – who was working up a real sweat – contributed backing vocals, but even he approached the mic for one song near the end of the set. Fol Chen was also joined on stage by vocalist Kárin Tatoyan whose cover of “In Ruins” appears on the band’s EP by the same name.

During the song “The Idiot,” back-up singer (and recent New York-transplant) Patrick-Ian sang, “Everyone here thinks it’s a joke,” which seemed to be an interesting tag line for the evening given the borderline cult-like and somewhat ridiculous matching outfits, but joke or no joke, their music is worth a listen.

tUnE-yArDs, take three

There are ambivalent too-cool-for school crowds and then there are tUnE-yArDs fans. Instead of shying away from crowd participation, the latter group actually embraces it and exudes a child-like energy to mirror the impressive outpouring by mastermind Merrill Garbus.

Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs playing at pop fest 2010 (Photo Sam)

I had the opportunity to see tUnE-yArDs perform again last night at Park Slope’s new music venue, The Rock Shop. (Full review to appear on Brooklyn Vegan soon). Here’s an example of how enthusiastic the small but spirited audience was:

(An excerpt from a newer song, roughly titled “Do You Want To Live?”)

The crowd was even ultra supportive in the face of technical issues. After realizing that her ukulele didn’t seem to be working properly, Merrill stopped to try to fix the problem. Here’s how it went down:

(the laughter was because Merrill inadvertently captured someone cheering in the audience in her loop, and it became incorporated into the song).

Looking forward to hearing that new upcoming material!