Quasi + Crystal Stilts + Sic Alps + Soft Circle + Marnie Stern + Jeff Lewis | Knitting Factory | 12.20.2008
Wow, one of the best single-show line-ups of the year currated by and staring Quasi, that had us ping-ponging between two floors so there was no downtime. (Though there was some, in my opinion, unecessary overlapping going on which was slightly annoying.) The last time I saw Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss was at NorthSix five years ago and I'd forgotton how good they are. This was also my first time seeing them as a trio (Joanna Bolme, who like Weiss, is also a Jick). Coomes spent a lot of time on guitar instead of keyboards which clearly he enjoys. And it's always a pleasure watching Weiss play drums.
Perhaps following Quasi's lead, Sic Alps made their debut as a trio last night, adding former tour-mate and fellow San Franciscan Ty Segall on drums. Segall is a great performer in his own right, and anyone who's heard his great debut from this year knows he's a perfect addition to Sic Alps' sludgy, swampy garage rock. The band flew in from San Francisco just for this show and left behind The Monolith — their towering Jenga-like stack vintage equipment that is such a visual presense at their shows. But with Segall on drums, it freed up Matt Hartman to crank out all sorts of weird noises on his guitar and occasionally sing. Mike Donovan still scrunches up his face when he sings, as if someone is resetting his shoulder. For my money, it was the set of the night.
An aside about the Monolith for you Sic Alps fans: Talking to Hartman after the show, he said that with Segall on drums in the space that the Monolith would normally be, it may now morph into more of a Wall. Sounds like they're gonna need a bigger van.
Crystal Stilts' set in the Tap Room was marred by not-so-great sound and not having keyboardist Kyle Forester with them this time but it was still a good set. I've written about them enough this year so I won't bore you with more, but I did get video of a new song, the one that was called "poopface" on their setlist at Le Poisson Rouge. It's below.
Somehow, this was my first time seeing blog-adored guitar-slinger Marnie Stern, who has been praised upon high by all the heavyweights. While I appreciate her energy, and it's fun to watch a cute girl doing Steve Vai style hammer-on guitar flourishes, she is just not my thing.
Neither was Soft Circle, which is ex Lightning Bolt and Black Dice drummer Hisham Akira Bharoocha. Like Andrew Bird, Liam Finn, Feist and others, Bharoocha uses loop pedals to be a one-man-band, building his creations from the bassline up… but he focuses on grooves, not so much songs. Which I think was my problem. He does it very well, but the songs don't really go anywhere, they just get bigger until he decides to stop.
Wearing a ratty Watchmen t-shirt, Jeff "Jeffrey" Lewis opened the night with his charming, funny, thoughtful, absurdist folk and spoken word. He's a real charmer if you ask me, and we got a couple "movies," both of which were works in progress: "Low Budget Detective Flick" and "The Complete History of Communism in Korea."
This was also my farewell to the current Leonard St. location of the Knitting Factory, which will close on New Years and reopen in February in Williamsburg in the former Luna Lounge space. The Leonard St locale opened just before I moved here in '95 and I've seen a lot of amazing shows there over the years: Wedding Present, The Fall, Jonathan Richman, The Chameleons… the list goes on. I hope they'll transform the Luna space into somewhere more pleasant to see a show. See ya in February.
There are a few more photos up on Flickr. Here are those videos:
Sic Alps – Message from the Law
Crystal Stilts – Untitled new song