NYC Popfest: The Radio Dept. | Mondo! @ Don Hills | 5.15.2009

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Nobody really knew what to expect of enigmatic Swedes The Radio Dept. who were playing their first ever New York show, which was also second-ever show in the United States. There's an air of mystery around the trio — they aren't big on interviews or press photos or playing live in general or releasing records in a timely manner — which fits well with their dreamy, often amazing music. With all the other bands on the bill (Liechtenstein, Cats on Fire, The Tartans), most people's expectations were lowered, kind of amazed that we were actually going to see them play at all.

The verdict: pretty good. Playing drummerless and with a lot less guitar pedals than I was expecting, the band recreated the hazy charm of songs like "1995" and especially "I Don't Like This" the latter of which is from their near-perfect This Past Week EP. The smoke machines and moody lighting kept things mysterious. It sort of reminded me of the Cocteau Twins, who didn't get a drummer till late in their existence. I do wish they'd worked up at least one song with one of the other Popfest bands' rhythm sections, and maybe played one song as a full band — say, "Where the Damage Isn't Already Done" from Lesser Matters — but the laptop percussion and bass sounded pretty good. And loud. You could feel those subfrequencies in your stomach.

The set was short, a "warm-up" for their proper show at The Bell House, and included "Freddy and the Trojan Horse" and, I think, "Pet Grief" and "Why Won't You Talk About It." (I could be wrong about those last two.) The show finished with a new song, perhaps upcoming single "David" (out June 23), which if its thumping, distinctive beat is any indication, the new album will bear a distinct balearic influence. ("Freddy and the Trojan Horse" was already heading that direction.) Maybe they've been hanging at fellow Swedes Studio's studio.

 MP3: The Radio Dept. – I Don't Like This (buy it from Labrador or Emusic)

Frank from Chromewaves make the trek down from Toronto for the show and will probably have a review up Monday or so. Meanwhile, here are a couple more pictures from the show:

shoegazing...literally
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