Black Kids | Bowery Ballroom | 5.18.2008

BlackkidsBlack Kids have come along way since playing the R Bar back in October. The six months of touring have done them good. Once a bit unsure, last night the band were confident and tight, the sound at Bowery was spot-on. And singer Reggie Youngblood — who is a mustache away from looking exactly like Phil Lynott — has a real star quality about him. People were dancing and singing along to all the songs from August’s Wizard of Ahhhs EP. "Hurricane Jane" sounded especially good…it was a fun show.

The only thing they seemed to be lacking were songs as good as that initial batch that got them all that attention last year. The material that I’m assuming will fill out their upcoming debut album were funkier than anything on Wizard of Ahhhs, in a ’80s Prince kind of way. Which could’ve been a good thing if they were catchier, but they seemed to be all groove and no hooks. Perhaps they need a few more listens to sink in — I’m anxious to hear what former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler (who was the first artist to ever play Bowery Ballroom nearly ten years ago, btw) brings to their songs as the album’s producer. I guess I’ll find out when Partie Traumatic comes out in July.

Sloan Sloan Sloan

I haven’t written about Sloan since last May. Which is a long time for me. So get ready, I’ve got lots of info.

Firstly, this is the cover to the band’s new album, Parallel Play — This is the band’s eighth studio effort and the title is a reference to the stage in kids’ development when they play next to each other but not with each other. Which is their winking way of describing how the band works these days. For more on this, bassist Chris Murphy had this to say:

Collaboration can be difficult. Our band does less of it than we used to and it’s too bad. It may just be a romantic feeling but the songs where something major was added by someone other than the main writer are my favorite. I definitely come in with finished song structures but I like to leave room for someone to play something I wasn’t expecting.

We never fight. We just stew. Aren’t the best bands the ones that are founded in passive aggressiveness? If this is true then we are truly the best band ever. When you’ve gone this long without a real fight there is the constant fear that if we start telling each other the truth that it will be the end of the band.

If we videoed this process even Metallica would think we looked like goofs:

"Don’t try to make my song sound like the fucking Traveling Wilburys!"
"Yeah well give your backwards delay wah pedal to some 15 year old that thinks it’s cool!"
…band over.

We have all developed a sophisticated sense of humor that we use against each other at times. Patrick is the funniest man alive but he also loves digital delay. That would make me a Traveling Wilbury.

This is the most democratic, percentage-wise, Sloan record we’ve gotten in a long time. As you may know, all four members write and sing and this time it’s pretty evenly split, with everyone getting three songs, except drummer Andrew Scott who gets four. Clocking in at 35 minutes, Parallel Play is their shortest ever. Kinda funny, as their last one, 2006’s Never Hear the End of It, was their longest. It’s out June 10 on Yep Roc but you can hear it right now, via a streaming player on the Yep Roc website. But here’s the first single, Chris Murphy’s "I’m Not a Kid Anymore":

MP3: Sloan – I’m Not a Kid Anymore
(Pre-order Parallel Play)

I’ve listened to the album a few times and it’s another strong one in their 17-year career. Chris Murphy brings snark and melody, Patrick Pentland delivers the Big Riffs, and Jay Furgeson‘s encyclopedic pop knowledge gives us the best songs on the album, including highpoint "Cheap Champagne," which should please anyone who really dug Navy Blues‘ "C’mon C’mon." As for drummer Andrew Scott, he generally classes up the joint, and finally answers the question many Sloan fans have been asking: "When will Sloan’s genre-plundering finally lead them to reggae?" The time is now, folks.

They may all be nearing 40, most of them with kids, but they’ve still got it. Certainly, they’re still easily one of the most consistently awesome live shows of my rock-show-going existence. If you’ve never experienced Sloan in person, shame on you, but you can rectify that shortly as they’ll be in the States in June:

Jun 14    Detroit        Majestic Theatre
Jun 15    Philadelphia    North Star Bar   
Jun 17    Washington, D    Black Cat   
Jun 18    Cambridge, MA    T.T. The Bear’s (buy)
Jun 19    New York, NY    Bowery Ballroom   
Jun 20    New York, NY    Bowery Ballroom   
Jun 22    Cleveland, OH    Grog Shop   
Jun 23    Chicago, IL    Double Door

Tickets for the Bowery shows are on sale this Friday.

But wait, there’s more! Lots more ("witch music," "techno," etc)… after the jump.

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Calvin Harris | Bowery Ballroom | 4.28.2008

Calvin_bowery_spookyghostI really try not to be some sort of elitist, but the my elitism kicks in and I get annoyed. The crowd for Calvin Harris at Bowery was overrun with creased-brim ballcap bros and girls who looked like Heidi Montag? Had I somehow accidentally ended up at a Webster Hall club night? The opening DJ, Burns, made it seem like it, playing a predictable set that included "DVNO," "The Music Sounds Better With You," "Robot Rock," and Mylo’s "Drop the Pressure." What fresh hell was this?

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised Calvin Harris is popular beyond higher-than-thou types like myself. His songs are big, obvious dance tracks, made for maximum enjoyment and butt-shaking. Why would I be the only one to like it? Still, the bankers-n-babes crowd was annoying. But it all pretty much went away when Calvin took the stage. He’s a 6′ 5" party machine with a tight band and everyone pretty much ate it up. (I think last year’s show at Mercury Lounge was better, though. Again, the elitism.) There was a little too much crowd-pumping for my taste ("Come on New York!"), especially when it seemed people were pretty pumped as it was.

Save for four songs we got all of I Created Disco plus two new songs that seem like Calvin’s work with Kylie and Roisin Murphy has rubbed off on him. "Back Door" and "Jerusalem" were full-on Eurodisco, complete with sweeping strings and Haddaway-style piano and if the crowd’s reaction to them was any indication, just might kill off the jock-jam loving portion of his American fanbase. Bring it on.

Setlist: Conjoined Skin | Certified | Disco Heat | This Is The Industry | 80s | Merrymaking at My Place | Neon Rocks | Back Door | Jerusalem | Colours | Vegas. I
Created Disco | The Girls

MP3: Calvin Harris – Disco Heat
(buy I Created Disco)

Also in attendance: The Music Slut, Punk Photo, and Disconap.

I wasn’t really close enough to get good pictures, but I do like the one I took found above. Calvin’s all a blur but right in the middle of it is a clear-ish shot that looks like he’s staring straight at the camera. Spooky.

Super Furry Animals | Bowery Ballroom | 2.25.2008

Sfa_bowery2Great to see Super Furry Animals back at Bowery Ballroom after eight years of playing other NYC venues. A better show all around, and a definite change-up to the setlist. The band opened with "Slow Life," a number that has for the last few tours the first of the encore. We were also treated to "Fire in My Heart" and, most excitingly, "Ice Hockey Hair," though nothing from Radiator or Mngw. (We got both at Music Hall of Williamsburg last month.) Actually there was no encore at all this time, just one awesome 100-minute set. For those keeping track, tonight’s "The Man Don’t Give a F***" clocked in at a relatively brief seven minutes.

MP3: Super Furry Animals – Receptacle for the Respectable

Openers Times New Viking were pretty great too; rowdy indie rock a la Yo La Tengo, Superchunk, or the Fall. And really, really loud.

Los Campesinos! + Spinto Band | Bowery Ballroom | 11.30.2007

Loscampesinos_boweryWho knew Los Campesinos! were so popular? Their show earlier this year year at Mercury Lounge was sold out, yes, but I had no idea they could fill Bowery. Fill it they did and the crowd was going crazy for this Welsh seven-piece who have yet to release a full album.

Musically, I find them a little samey, but I really love their attitude, lyrics, enthusiasm, and musical outlook in general. (Plus, the singer plays the glockenspiel.) And, though they’re young, they know about music that existed before they were 14. Even if, as they sing in "International Tweexcore Underground," Calvin Johnston never meant shit to them. (Don’t believe it, though.) They’re just trying to rile up the old timers. Of which their were more than a few at the Bowery show. Unlike Cajun Dance Party, the over-30 set are not scared to attend their shows.

It was a short set, but they played pretty much everything they’ve released so far, from singles "We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives," "You! Me! Dancing!," and the aforementioned "Tweexcore" to their cover of Pavement’s "Frontwards" and maybe five more. Short and sweet is better anyway. But I look forward to hopefully hearing a full LP next year.

MP3: Los Campesinos! – The International Tweexcore Underground
(buy some)

There were probably as many people there to see Spinto Band. Here’s a band I like much better on record than I do live. Not sure why. Their debut, Nice and Nicely Done is choc-ful of clever pop songs but I’ve seen them maybe four times now and they have yet to do it for me. I look forward to a second album though.

Richard Hawley | Bowery Ballroom | 12.01.2007

"This song’s called ‘Lady’s Bridge.’ No, that’s not a euphemism."

Richard Hawley is a master of many dying arts, not the least of which is joke-telling. He’s a funny guy in general, but Hawley also knows how to deliver a punchline, the kind of which went out of fashion here around the same time as subscribing to Playboy. Some of them flowed seamless from personal anecdotes about songs, you could tell they were well-rehearsed bits, so I won’t spoil any of them here in case he uses them on any of the remaining dates of his first-ever U.S. tour.

The Bowery show Saturday night was the first night of that tour and he had the crowd right where he wanted from minute one. The show was a lot like his Sin-e performance in March of last year. Hawley is a pro, as are his ace backing band, and his velvet croon was in perfect form. It was such a class act, it’s one of the few times I wish the show had been somewhere like Joe’s Pub, which would have been the perfect place to see him. (He’s actually played there before, solo acoustic in July 2005 — his only other NYC show was the Sin-e gig.) And we only got one song from Late Night Final ("Something Is"), and none from Lowedges or his debut.  But when the mirrorball came on for his waltz-time single, "Hotel Room," it was one of those perfect moments where you felt happy to be just where you are.

MP3: Richard Hawley – Hotel Room
(Buy some Hawley)

Setlist:  Valentine | Roll River Roll |Just Like the Rain | Dark Road | Coles Corner | Tonight The Streets Are Ours | Lady’s Bridge | Hotel Room | Serious | Darlin’ Wait For Me | Our Darkness | The Sea Calls | Born Under A Bad Sign | Something Is |  I’m Looking For Someone To Find Me | Encore: Tonight | The Ocean

If you weren’t able to make the show, NYC Taper was there and has his whole show available as lossless FLAC downloads. Also there: Brooklyn Vegan, Yeti Don’t Dance, PunkPhoto, Disconap, Ugly Floral Blouse, Fresh Bread, and probably more.

Hawley also plays a free acoustic show at Other Music on Monday (12/3) at 8pm.

Richard Hawley | Bowery Tickets Still Available | Other Music In-Store on Monday

Just a reminder that crooner extraordinaire Richard Hawley is playing Bowery Ballroom on Saturday and there are still tickets available. His show at Sin-e last year was one of my favorites of 2005. But if you can’t make it Saturday, you’ve got a second chance. He’s playing an acoustic in-store at Other Music on Monday at 8pm. I’m hoping at one of these two shows he’ll do "Long Black Train."

The Bowery show is the kickoff date on Hawley’s first-ever solo US tour. Here are all the dates:

Dec 1  Bowery Ballroom     NYC
Dec 2  World Café Live     Philadelphia
Dec 4  TT the Bear’s     Cambridge, MA
Dec 5  Horseshoe Tavern     Toronto
Dec 6  The Abbey     Chicago
Dec 7  400 Bar     Minneapolis
Dec 10  Crocodile Café     Seattle
Dec 12  Café du Nord     San Francisco
Dec 13  Troubadour     Los Angeles

And not to make this too much like a Brooklyn Vegan post but, actually, Other Music has a slew of great in-stores coming up…

The Clean – Tuesday, November 27 @ 8PM
Tinariwen – Wednesday, November 28 @ 8PM
Celebration – Friday, November 30 @ 9PM
Richard Hawley – Monday, December 3 @ 8PM
White Williams – Thursday, December 6 @ 8PM

CMJ 2007 Day Three | 1990s | Bowery Ballroom

Ida_mariaNot sure why I’ve seen Glasgow’s 1990s three times this year. Their debut, Cookies, is loaded with champagne-and-coke big riff rock songs but it’s not the stuff that normally compels me to repeat viewings. But they have been fun every time I’ve seen them, and the crowd was definitely into their party-it-up vibe, especially three girls who were singled out by official show videographers to be the sole audience members seen. (They also got interviewed downstairs after the show by MTV weenie John Norris). Singer John McKeown still seems generally chuffed that people are there enjoying themselves but it’s drummer Michael McGaughrin — whose kit is still wisely positioned at the front of the stage — who makes them so much fun to see, even after three shows.

CMJ 2007 Day Three | British Sea Power | Bowery Ballroom

Ida_mariaBritish Sea Power are responsible for one of my favorite gigs of the last five years (NorthSix, August 2003) but it was not exactly their night on Thursday. It was still better than most of the shows I went to that week. Singer
Noble has a mesmerizing voice that my friend Kate says "is like a
cocoon." And their abbreviated set meant we only got a greatest his
set (plus two new songs, one of which being the Wedding Present-esque single "Atom"), short but satisfying. So where did it all go so-so? CMJ audiences are not the most attentive — there was a group of fratty dudes up front who would not shut up. This probably wouldn’t have been a problem if BSP were playing at their normal volume but for whatever reason the amps were below the band’s normal gale force. It definitely knocked the wind out of their sails.

Caribou | Bowery Ballroom | 10.06.2007

Caribou_bowery01Saturday night was Merge Records night in New York with three of the label”s biggest band in town playing separate shows. Most indie lovers went with Option 1: The Arcade Fire at Randals Island. (Apparently some other bands played too.) Option 2, if so lucky, was to see Spoon perform on Saturday Night Live. Some of us, those who don’t like standing in a field for five hours or have friends at NBC, went for Option 3. I think I made the right choice.

Last time I saw Dan Snaith was at Bowery Ballroom in 2001, back when he was still using the Manitoba moniker. More has changed since then than just the name of the band. After two albums of albums of laptop cacophony with hints of melody, Caribou has gone pop for the just-released Andorra, which I think is one of the year’s best. Mind you, he still makes room for the psychedelic freakout, and his idea of Pop is not the same as, say, James Blunt’s, but its still loaded with undeniably catchy tunes.

The psychedelic freakout aspect plays a little more heavily in Caribou’s live show, which features lysergic projections and an overload of percussion. Two drum kits were front and center, with dedicated man Brad Weber on one and the second for Snaith, who played it at least part of every song, when he wasn’t on guitar or keyboards.

I have stated many times before that two things that push my buttons are a) putting the drums at the front of the stage and b) two drummers. So this was my kind of show, even if all this pounding turned some of the tight, perfect songs on Andorra into longer, wilder things… with false endings. Every single song had a point where at least one person in the audience clapped before it kicked back in, usually with another three minutes of double-drums and flashing, seizure-inducing lights.

As I’m not an epileptic, I found it all awesome. If Snaith and Weber weren’t so good on their kits, it wouldn’t have worked. But they were so in synch, it was a thing to behold. And the rest of the band, guitarist Andy Smith and bassist Andy Lloyd, were nothing to sneeze at either. I left quite happy about where I had chosen to be that night, and even though the show was indoors, I still found Caribou outstanding in their field. Wah wah!

: Caribou – Eli
(Buy Andorra)

And here’s video from the encore, the last six minutes. I’m pretty sure there was a song attached to this…