Love Is All + Versus + Crystal Stilts | Bowery Ballroom | 6.16.2008




I know this wasn’t the coolest show of the night (Sigur Ros) or the coolest show of Love Is All’s visit (Cake Shop or Market Hotel win over this) but what show! And band-for-band one of the best I’ve seen this year.

Somehow I’ve managed to not see Love Is All till now. I had tickets to that Knitting Factory show, like everybody else, way back when but couldn’t go, or didn’t go for some reason. And I liked, not loved, their album Nine Times That Same Song and wasn’t quite sure what all the fuss was about. I do now. Of course, Love is All are giant grin wonderful on stage, with boundless energy. It’s a kind of joy that CSS have too, that makes you stop being cynical, momentarily, and be glad you’re here seeing this amazing band. I was won over in about 30 seconds.

MP3: Love is All – I Ran

That’s from a tour-only CDR called Love Is All Play 5 Covers. From the back cover: “We each picked a song with no member getting a say, recorded live at practice.” You might have seen the YouTube footage of them doing this Flock of Seagulls nugget at Cake Shop last week. Other covers on the EP include Dire Straits’ “So Far Away” and Prince’s periodical-loving classic, “Darling Nikki.”

Underappreciated ’90s indie rockers Versus, who broke up in 2001 but have played one-off shows here and there since (including Union Hall last November), seem to be back for real and this show is arguably their highest-profile gig since the Teenbeat 20th Anniversary. (Certainly the biggest venue.) No lyrics sheets tonight, the three-piece Versus (James and Patrick were busy with +/- duties) seemed pretty tight and brought with them a handful of new songs. (One of the Fontaine-sung ones was really good.) And there were a lot of people there just to see them, which I must admit surprised me… happily. Rumors are flying about a new album — and a label to put it out — but for now I’d just like to say welcome back.

Crystal Stilts
were on first. The band have been getting a lot of good press — a glowing Pitchfork review, they’re part of the same Brooklyn scene that Vivian Girls, ca-USE co-MOTION (both of whom were there at the show), and Pains of Being Pure at Heart are apart of. And I do think it’s a scene — new groups influenced by C86, Slumberland Records, etc. I really, really like The Crystal Stilts record, which is so Jesus and Mary Chain (or the Bodines or Jasmine Minks) at times it borders on theft but they do it so well I don’t care.

Despite a friend telling me they were awesome when they opened for the Clean at Cake Shop, I was a little worried Crystal Stilts would be, well, stilted live. They’ve definitely got a schtick. The singer stands motionless, eyes closed, the guitarist was sitting the whole time. And new drummer Frankie Rose plays standing up, with only three pieces to her kit: bass drum, floor tom and a snare, though she used a tambourine instead of a right stick on some songs. Super cool: She’s like Mo Tucker and Bobby Gilespie rolled into one. Schtick it is, but it’s a brilliant one makes for a complete package with their reverby, garagey sound. I can see how it would be better to see them somewhere smaller, darker but they held their own on the bright Bowery Ballroom stage.

MP3: Crystal Stilts – Bright Night Nusery
(buy it)


  1. Thanks Bill for information about From Bubblegum To Sky. The last time i heard about them was 2 years ago with the staff of Ennie Meenie Records from Califórnia.
    I put you on my faves

  2. I wish people knew that "is" is capitalized. It's a verb. Doesn't matter how short it is, you capitalize it. Maybe the band doesn't even know this. Anyway, their name is Love Is All.

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