Night Two of Swedish Invasion 2007 featuring Peter Bjorn and John, this time at Mercury Lounge. Setlist was almost identical to the Union Hall show the night before, though a couple songs switched position. Before their set I saw bassist Bjorn Yttling at the bar and congratulated him on the great show Sunday night. "This one’s gonna top that one," he told me. How so? "We’re gonna be more drunk! Last night we waited till after we played. Tonight we’re drinking already."
It would be a stretch to call the show sloppy, it was definitely looser than the one in Brooklyn. They seemed more nervous. But the show was no less enjoyable. It was the first "official" show, the first Manhattan show, and while I’m sure there was a guest list it didn’t really feel like an industry crowd. Plus, former Concretes singer Victoria Bergsman was in the house to join them for their "Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart" for the indie set, "Young Folks."
Because of her appearance, the song felt more like an event than the previous night, though I contend bongoist Lars was again the real star. I was standing on the couches stage left and it was truly a great moment to see the whole crowd, smiling, bouncing up and down, whistling and singing along. How could you not? Bergsman seemed like she didn’t want to be there (then again, she looked like that in the Concretes too), but maybe that shy charm worked in her favor for some. I dunno. It sounded great and, for me, was easily the second best moment of PB&J’s set. (YouTube: Check them out performing it earlier in the evening for Conan O’Brien.)
The top slot, as the night before, went to "Up Against the Wall," the set-closing finale that owes more than a little to the Wedding Present (by way of New Order) and is the band’s "rock out" number, allowing all three to make a joyous racket. For more than ten minutes. There was an extra song in the encore (in addition to their cover of the Concretes’ "Teen Love" and "I Don’t Know What I Want Us To Do") but I’m blanking on what song it was. Matthew Fluxblog was there, and he usually gets the setlists. He’ll know.
For me the Union Hall show was better, probably because it was the first. And it was more intimate. Or it could also have something to do with being distracted by the couple making out in front of me (or just to the side of me) throughout the whole show.
BLIND ITEM: What Hollywood starlet, recently separated from her indie rocker boyfriend, spent the entire show canoodling with new, faux-hawked paramour at Mercury Lounge while checking out the set from hyped Swedes Peter Bjorn and John?
Three…two… one… Give up? It was Drew Barrymore. I’m not generally such a Page Six kind of guy, but it was thrust in front of me so much it colored the whole evening. I’m not talking the occasional kiss. This was full-on macking the entire show. The entire show! They slow-danced to "Up Against the Wall" which was actually quite sweet but most of the time all the flagrant making-out was just distracting.
Both opening bands were quite good. I’d seen White Rabbits a few times before, playing with Voxtrot at Mercury Lounge nearly a year ago, and then on the same bill as Acid House Kings and The Legends at Cake Shop over the summer. They have just gotten better. They benefit from not sounding or looking like any other NYC band of the moment. Visually, they could be a Two Tone act from 1980, all shaved heads, v-neck sweaters with oxfords underneath. You could even say there’s a bit of Madness (later period) in the arrangements, especially when they bring out the guy playing baritone sax. But White Rabbits have more swagger than Madness ever did — it’s more like if Tom Waits was in acalypso band… on a bender in New Orleans. Some people compare them to the Arcade Fire, but I don’t hear it. Maybe it’s that there’s a bunch of them and that they try to entertain the crowd while being serious about songs? I know this, though: I am a sucker for any band with two drummers. White Rabbits are definitely one of my favorite local bands of the moment.
Born Ruffians are not generally the type of band I’d listen to at home but I enjoyed their set. The Toronto trio, who drove down especially for this show, seem to wear their Canadian heritage on their sleeve more than most — actuallly seeming like a small town band that hopped off a truck, more than the labelmates of Grizzly Bear that they are. (they covered a GB song tonight.) To me they kind of sounded like Black Francis fronting the Minutemen (or fIREHOSE), which is a pretty good thing in my book but I am old and all comparisons I make tend to go back to Freshman year of college.
I had an unofficial photographer for the show, but getting those pictures are at his discretion. Hopefully sooner than later. Lots of cameras at the show, so look to Flickr for visual evidence. Plus BV was there again, so I’m sure he’ll have something up soon.