Maybe it was just an excuse to check out the newly-opened Music Hall of Williamsburg (you can read my impressions of the place here, but the gist is they turned Northsix into Bowery Ballroom) but Sunday evening turned out to be a great show, with three somewhat like-minded groups.
I don’t think I’d seen Apples in Stereo since 2000, when they were touring for The Discovery of a World Inside the Moon, which I didn’t like very much. Also around this time, head Apple Robert Schneider started singing (live, not on record) in this high, nasally voice that I found offputting… I sorta lost interest in the band after that. (I guess so did he, they took five years off.) But then I heard a couple tracks off of this year’s New Magnetic Wonder and really dug the psychedelic bubblegum direction the band had taken and found myself psyched to see them again.
I would’ve been more psyched if they had started before 11pm (Jeez, it’s a Sunday!) but I live mere blocks from the club so I didn’t worry so much. Apart from Schneider, this is a very different lineup (well different drummer at least) the the Elephant 6-era group I saw many times in the late-’90s. A much tighter, better band, with a keyboardist dressed like Captain Midnight. Lots of harmonies and I was wearing earplugs, so I couldn’t really tell if he was still singing that way.
Both openers were good, and I would say Aqueduct were reason enough to go by themselves. I certainly knew more of the songs played than for Apples, even if I’m not as big a fan of their new album, Or Give Me Death, as I was 2005’s I Sold Gold. Singer David Terry, who kind of looks like a burlier Dave Grohl, is a real charmer, self-effacing, funny, and generally one of the nicer guys on the indie rock circuit. (OK I don’t really know what that last part means, but he’s a sweetheart.) The last time I’d seen Aqueduct, actually, was at NorthSix where they played to about 30 people. A bigger crowd this time (though not too much bigger) but nearly everyone there seemed to be genuine fans. Terry mentioned the NorthSix gig, complementing the Bowery Folks on what a great job they’d done transforming the space — and just how kick ass the sound was. Best moments were the Princess Bride-inspired "As You Wish" and "Keep it Together" from the new one, and "Heart Design" and "Growing Up with GnR" from I Sold Gold/Power Ballads.
The evening started with Toronto’s The Old Soul, who I’m not quite sure how to describe. The brainchild of keyboardist Luca Maoloni, the band’s songs are kind of ’70s-ish in a hurdy-gurdy, Tin Pan Alley kind of way (Harry Nilson and Randy Newman come to mind). The Old Soul are also a band who has a song about Robert Wyatt, and cover one of the more infamous bedridden Brian Wilson era Beach Boys songs, "Vegetables." (Before their show, Friendly Fire label dude Dan Koplowitz told me that Van Dyke Parks prefers their version to the Beach Boys’. He seemed serious.) The album is a crazy carnival of sounds that might be a bit much to take as a whole for some but there is genius in there. Live, though, it all made sense. Despite being short a few members — only five of eight made it below the border — the songs really clicked and took on new life — and order. I especially enjoyed watching multi-instrumentalist Andrew Innanen who played a big tom, keyboards, glockenspiel, tambourine and more. They have yet to capture that spark fully on record — maybe their next album, though — but I’d go seem them again live in a hot second.
Here are the rest of the Apples in Stereo / Aqueduct tour dates… don’t miss ’em!
Sep 19 2007 9:30 Club Washington DC
Sep 20 2007 Maxwell’s Hoboken, NJ
Sep 21 2007 World Café Philadelphia
Sep 22 2007 Lincoln Theater Raleigh, NC
Sep 23 2007 Unplugged in the Park Atlanta
Sep 25 2007 40 Watt Club Athens, GA
Sep 26 2007 Common Grounds Gainesville, FL
Sep 27 2007 AKA Lounge Orlando
Sep 28 2007 Culture Room Fort Lauderdale
Sep 29 2007 Crowbar Tampa
Sep 30 2007 Beta Bar Tallahassee