The Fresh and Onlys | Monster Island + Cake Shop | 5.14 + 5.15.2010


It's a fact: The Fresh & Onlys are the best. Certainly in the low-fi realm, they write better songs, have better musicianship, and are just working on a different plane than most of the bands they're associated with. This weekend they crushed both NYC shows they played. 

I feel now the only thing holding them back is the production of their recordings. Don't get me wrong — I've loved nearly everything they've released so far. All seven zillion 7"s, EPs and albums. But hearing them live, the full sonic force they bring, I want to hear that on record too. I'm not saying go get Bob Rock and protools their songs into digital oblivion, but some nice microphones and a real studio could do wonders for them. Which is just what we might get with their next album, Play it Strange, which will be out on In the Red later this year.

At this point I would like to point out the total awesomeness of guitarist Wymond Miles, maybe the most crimilaly overlooked guitarist in the indie rock world right now. While Tim Cohen's songwriting drives the band, and the rhythm section of Shayde Sartin and Gibson provides the solid spine, it's Wymond's almost shoegazy sonics (he's got like 20 pedals) that give the songs such amazing texture and take them to a new, different place. Again, they're more than the sum of the parts. They've got it all.

It should also be said that despite the bands they tend to play with and the labels who put out their records, The Fresh & Only are not garage rock. Psych, yes. But they've got more in common with Love, Echo & the Bunnymen or The Bees than Thee Oh Sees or Ty Segall (both of whom I love). No doubt they are deeply a part of the SF underground scene, but If people stopped referring to them as garage rock, I think they'd get more attention. They certainly deserve it.

But I digress. The two shows this weekend had similar setlists, cherry-picking most of the killer cuts from all their major releases with emphasis on the new August in My Mind Ep which is maybe the single best record they've released yet. I do wish we'd gotten "Garbage Collector" from it, as well as the its title track. Apparently Kyle doesn't like former and won't play it. Kyle, wise up, it's awesome:

MP3: The Fresh & Onlys - Garbage Collector (buy it)

 The Fresh & Onlys will be back next month to play the Northside Festival as part of the Woodsist night at Music Hall of Williamsburg on 6/25. Hopefully they'll squeeze in another local gig while here. 

After the jump there's some great video from the Monster Island show courtesy Bleary Eyed Brooklyn, as well as some not as beautiful video from Cake Shop that was shot by your truly.

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The Soft Pack | Cake Shop | 2.05.2010

 Whenever you see a colorized high-contrast photo on this site, you know it's 'cause I took sucky pictures.  

Folks were just beginning to file downstairs at Cake Shop when the band launched into "C'mon," clearly ready to get on with their Friday night. It was totally a I-won't-do-what-you-tell-me Soft Pack thing to do. The LA band were finishing up a whirlwind tour promoting the release of their debut album, which included 10 shows the previous Saturday in their current hometown and had been going nonstop ever since. Only one show this day in NYC, but it was a late one — doors at midnight — as well as being all-ages and free. Me, I was in the bathroom line when they started but made it down front by the end of the the second song of their 13-number set.

The Soft Pack are a lot of fun to watch: Guitarist Matt McLoughlin has an intense, gnashed-teeth grin on his face the whole time; bassist David Lantzman (whose birthday it was) is all laid back California cool; and stand-up drummer Brian Hill keeps things barrelling along sans hi-hat. And singer Matt Lamkin ties it all together with that low key but we-mean-it-man attitude. We got most of the new album, a few choice cuts from their Muslims days and their almost unrecognizable cover of Phoenix's "Fences." They finish with the storming "Parasites" (the new album's only retread of old material) that makes the most of it's one chord. The song typifies the Soft Pack too. Maybe the parts aren't new, but they play them like they are.

SETLIST: C'Mon | Down On Loving | Answer to Yourself | Extinction | Bright Side | Right and Wrong | Tides of Time | Beside Myself | More or Less | Faith Man | Fences | Pull Out | Parasites 

MP3: The Soft Pack – Pull Out (buy it!)

I think "Pull Out" may be my favorite song on the new album, rivalling "Parasites" for energy and snarl, sort of surf rock via New Zealand. The whole album is good and, apart from "Parasites" (which was just a single) it's all new material. That first EP never really got a proper release so they coulda just reused all those songs for this, which they didn't (and clearly didn't need to) do and you gotta give them credit for that. The Soft Pack will be back in NYC in April with Nodzz, The Beaters and Male Bonding, so don't miss 'em when they're play. Dates are after the jump.

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Bachelorette | Cake Shop | 6.15.2009

"I'm checking Twitter and everyone's talking about me. What? There's a reality show called that too?"

Most of the New Zealand music that makes it to these shores is of the Flying Nun variety: jangly pop, decidedly male. (Albiet uaually sensitive males.) Annabel Alpers, who records under the name Bachelorette, makes music that is keyboard-heavy, thick with harmony, and often ready for the dancefloor. And she's a girl, obviously. But like so much Kiwi pop, Bachelorette is humanistic and warm… and super-catchy. This was Bachelorette's first show of her U.S. tour supporting her second album, My Electric Family, with help from a drummer and Australian Pikelet who did a set of her own earlier in the night. While laptops surrounded Alpers, the most crucial instrument was live: her breathy, fragile voice that at times recalled Beth Orton or Electrelane. Ten songs went by quickly, and Cake Shop owner Andy Bodor yelled from behind the bar that they could do as many more songs as they had ready. Alpers then gave us one more song, but I'd have stayed all night. I've got a new crush.

MP3: Bachelorette – Mindwarp (Buy it from Drag City)
MP3: Bachelorette – Lifetime (Get it from Emusic)

Bachelorette plays Union Hall tonight (6/16) and then heads across the country before heading back to NYC to open for Here We Go Magic at the Seaport Music Festival on July 3. All those tour dates are below this video I shot of Bachelorette performing "Her Rotating Head" from the new album.

Bachelorette Tour Dates
Jun 15 – Cake Shop NEW YORK, New York
Jun 16 – Union Hall BROOKLYN, New York
Jun 17 – Kung Fu Necktie PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania
Jun 18 – Talking Head BALTIMORE, Maryland
Jun 19 – Crofoot Ballroom – Pike Room Pontiac, Michigan
Jun 20 – Hideout CHICAGO, Illinois
Jun 21 – 7th Street Entry MINNEAPOLIS
Jun 22 – The Jackpot Saloon LAWRENCE
Jun 23 – Larimer Lounge Denver, Colorado
Jun 24 – Urban Lounge Salt Lake City, Utah
Jun 25 – Neurolux Boise, Idaho
Jun 26 – The Red Room Kennewick, Washington
Jun 27 – The Triple Door Seattle, Washington
Jun 28 – The Aladdin Theater Portland, Oregon
Jun 30 – Bimbo's 365 Club SAN FRANCISCO, California
Jul 1 – The Troubadour Los Angeles, California
Jul 3 – Seaport Music Festival New York, New York

NYC Popfest 2009: The Ballet + My Teenage Stride + The Metric Mile + Dream Bitches + Soft City | Cake Shop | 5.14.2009

That's 'Up for a Bit with the Pastels' on the turntable, btw.
The third annual NYC Popfest is happening as we speak. Four days of catchy songs, lovelorn lyrics, "bah bah bah" choruses, mostly polite dancing and vintage clothes. The fun kicked off Thursday night at New York's most indie-pop centric venue, Cake Shop, with a stellar lineup of local talent some of whom I've seen before, some not. It was more like a party than a show, everyone seemed to know one another, and it was the kind of event where the DJ played songs like The Pastels' "Comin' Through" or Orange Juice's "Felcity" and they get the kind of crowd reaction that T.I. or Justin Timberlake (or Justin Timberlake featuring T.I.) might get in a Westside club. 

My Teenage Stride

Best band of the night was My Teenage Stride who seem to shed members after each Popfest performance. Last year, they lost a bassist and guitarist. Tonight was MTS' final show with longtime drummer Brett Whitmoyer, and frontman Jed Smith seems genuinely broken up about it. "New York is a shitty place for bands,' he admitted to the crowd before clarifying, "Well, a shitty place for bands to try and make it." It's especially shitty, as My Teenage Stride are at a creative peak if you ask me, with their current string of monthly Emusic singles being some of the best stuff they've done to date. They played their May single, which has yet to actually drop and the name of which I missed, and it rivals "Creep Academy" for awesomeness. (I shot video of it, which is below.) They'll have to rebound quickly, though, as their next gig is Monday night at The Bell House.

MP3: My Teenage Stride – Creep Academy

Dreambitces Second place honors go to Dream Bitches who I'd never seen live and likely never will again as this was supposedly their last show. Too bad, as they were great, sounding more than a little like '90s DC band Tuscadero, with a similar girl-centric POV. Maybe not the most original band, but they do it really well — the harmonies, the attitude, the humor. And it's not like Tuscadero are doing it anymore. Nor Dream Bitches, either. Who'll step up and fill their shoes? Should be noted that Dream Bitches had the most fervent, ready-to-dance fans. One last hurrah.

MP3: Dream Bitches – Video Games

Metricmile This was the first gig for The Metric Mile in at least a year if not more, marking their transition from a keyboard/guitar duo to a five-piece, including current My Teenage Stride's Jenny Logan on guitar and onetime Mahogany member Roy Stiles on "minimalist drums." They haven't quite worked out, exactly, how to pull off their Trembling Blue Stars-esque studio creations in a live setting as a full-on band, and there were some technical difficulties but when it came together there were some really nice moments. Singer Jeff Ciprioni is a good guitarist and I'm a sucker for that kind of spindly lead that intertwines with the bass. Hopefully they'll start writing as a band too which should make things more interesting. 

MP3: The Metric Mile – How to Beat the SAT

Theballet The Ballet got a fair amount of blog coverage a couple years ago and got some pretty choice opening slots (Hidden Cameras, Voxtrot) but they've sort of faded away since then, to the point that I kind of forgot I knew who they were and that they had some really good songs, sonically somwhere between The Magnetic Fields and The Postal Service. Glad to see their still around, or back, whichever the case may be. Live, though, they aren't much to watch and by the time their headling slot came around I was kind of beat. 

MP3: The Ballet – In My Head

Thesoftcity Backtracking a bit, I missed openers Knight School but I've seen them before and like them. I got there just in time to catch the live debut of The Soft City who put out a nice single on Cloudberry Records back in 2007. Since then the band have taken a new direction with founding member Phil Sutton (who spent time in Velocette and Comet Gain) taking a backseat, literally, to the drum stool, handing over vocal duties to Dora Lubin. Was surprised to see Ladybug Transistor/Crystal Stilts keyboardist and all-around funnyman Kyle Forrester on bass, an instrument he seemed to be fairly skilled at. Very jingle-jangle guitar pop, not unlike later period Velocity girl. They seemed to have it pretty together for a first gig. It does seem a waste to only have Ludin sing, as Sutton's got a nice voice too. But we'll see where the second gig takes them.

MP3: < a href="">The Soft City – Wallflower

Video from the show after the jump!

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Rooftop Vigilantes | Cake Shop | 2.12.2009

There is a certain brand of rock that just isn't made in New York: shambolic, raucous, but anthemic and super-melodic, with knowing humor. The Midwest, however, excels at this stuff, from the Replacements to Flaming Lips to Tapes n' Tapes. The latest in this line are Lawrence, Kansas' Rooftop Vigilantes who tear it up at Cake Shop. I am always in awe of bands who can thrash around the room while still actually playing. Their album, Carrot Atlas, is 16 songs in just 27 minutes, a total rush. Live, it's faster, sloppy and more awesome of course. Ending the night perfectly, Rooftop Vigilantes dare to cover the Replacements, ripping through a saxophone-free version of "Can't Hardly Wait" which brings the whole thing full circle.

MP3Rooftop Vigilantes – Girls Want Teeth

MP3Rooftop Vigilantes – Drew Want Dino

Rooftop Vigilantes Carrot Atlas is a bit hard to find — not on Insound or Emusic — but you can buy it directly from Woodenman Records for only $8. Worth it.

I shot some video at the show, which you can watch if you click through the jump…

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CMJ 2008: Casiokids | Cake Shop | 10.25.2008


I do understand when people say Cake Shop is the best venue in the city. If you are at the very front of the stage and the band you're watching is is bringing it, it can be an amazing show. I experienced a little Cake Shop Joy on Saturday night watching Norway's Casiokids which was maybe the single funnest show I attended the whole week of CMJ.

In Norway, Casiokids' shows involve props, shadow puppets, papier mache heads, streamers and balloons, but judging by this show they don't need all that to make a great party. Armed with a bunch of bargain basement keyboards (most of which were, yes, Casios), homemade shakers (that I thought were bottles of some weird creamy drink till they started shaking them), and a whole lot of enthusiasm, Casiokids barreled through a 25-minute set — once they finally got all their equipment to work. While I'm not so crazy about their 2007 debut, Fuck Midi!, they did mostly new material at Cake Shop and all of it was great. Poppier, funkier, better. 

We got both sides of their new Moshi Moshi double A side, "Gront Lys I Alle Ledd" and "Togens Hule," which is apparently the first Norwegian language single ever released in the UK. Um, hooray? Don't understand a word, but you can dance to it.  My favorite, though, is what will be Casiokids' next single, the name of which I don't know and probably couldn't pronounce if I did. It was at this point that Ketil squeezed through their wall of keyboards, past the monitors and got face-to-face with the crowd, basically standing directly in front of me the whole time. My friend Erin said it looked like I was being serenaded. I don't know about that but this video is pretty up-close and personal. And far too short — my memory card was nearly full:

Here's a MySpace rip of another of the show's highlights, an instrumental called "Fot I Hose":

MP3Casiokids – Fot I Hose

You can download Fuck Midi! from Emusic. I've searched for download stores that have the Moshi Moshi single but nothing's turned up yet but you can stream it on their MySpace, and there's a live version on The Ivy League Sessions. Casiokids, please come back soon!

CMJ 2008: Women | Cake Shop | 10.21.2008


I realized, about two songs into watching them, I realized I'd seen Women before. Maybe it was at SXSW or Glasslands, can't remember exactly where, but I'd definitely watched them play — the singer was dressed exactly the same way. I think I didn't make the connection because Women are so much better live than on record. The album, while good, is a little too drenched in Animal Collective-style reverb, while onstage (or in Cake Shop's case, the floor) they hit pretty hard.

The Canadian band were playing at about 4PM, the first of about ten shows they're doing during CMJ — most of them day parties. Singer Patrick Flegel remarked, "I'm not quite used to the afternoon thing, it feels very dark down here." Cake Shop does have a "always 2AM" feel to it, but Women's music is pretty dark, brittle and almost post-punky goth, with some amazing interplay between Flegel and second guitarist Christopher Reimer's instruments. There's also some '60s pysch-pop elements as well — "Black Rice" has a definite Brian Wilson vibe to it. Some people I talked to didn't like the vocals (the only thing with reverb on it today) but I thought they fit Women's sound perfectly. I left very impressed.

MP3Women – Black Rice (Buy)

Catch them this week if you can. Here's where they'll be:


Bearsuit + Boy Genius | Cake Shop | 10.13.2008



I'm not sure Bearsuit really need the costumes but I do appreciate the effort. The sextet from Norwich, England, draped in blue capes, have enough going on already, what with the flutes and melodicas, various cheapo keyboards, tambourines…not to mention guitars, bass, and drums. Not to mention, of course, great songs and an infectious energy. 

This was thier NYC debut — they were supposed to play here back in March 2007 on their way to SXSW but ended up getting deported instead. (They do look threatening, don't they?) The crowd was small but enthusiastic crowd, which included a highly-intoxicated birthday party, and certainly made the band feel welcome. Luckily for the revelers, Bearsuit are the Ultimate Party Band. In some circles, at least. Here they are doing "Foxy Boxer":

And here's a couple MP3s:

MP3Bearsuit – Foxy Boxer

MP3Bearsuit – Itsuko Got Married

NYC Taper was there too and has the whole show available to download. They'll be playing his free day party at Cake Shop on Thursday, October 23rd. (They're on at 6PM.) Bearsuit visit the East Coast and the Midwest before heading back to NYC for CMJ, where they'll be playing a whole bunch of shows.

Opening was Brooklyn-via-Connecticut quartet Boy Genius who I've meant to write about for about six months but haven't quite worked slotted in time to do so what with all the Crystal Stilts shows I go to and the new Fall television season. This was my first time seeing them and while I like their CD, they are definitely better in person. Watching them, I was reminded of the wave of jangly bands that came in R.E.M.'s wake in the mid-'80s, a comparison reinforced by their cover of Miracle Legion's classic single "The Backyard." There's also a little bit of The Bats in Marisa Cerio's snaky guitar leads. It's a checklist of Things I Like, especially on their faster songs which suit them best. Boy Genius are playing this Saturday with Elk City at Union Hall.

And those Bearsuit tourdates…

Oct 14 The M Room    Philadelphia PA
Oct 16 Beachland Tavern w/ The Afternoon Naps    Cleveland OH
Oct 17 The Elbow Room w/ Pizazz, Woven & Wild Years    Ypsilanti, MI
Oct 18 DAAC    Grand Rapids, MI
Oct 19 Schubas w/Canasta, Pale Young Gentlemen & Colour Me Pop DJs    Chicago, Illinois
Oct 20 CBGB w /Bunny Grunt    St Louis, MO
Oct 21 GARFIELD ARTWORKS    Pittsburgh PA
Oct 22 CMJ showcase @ Spike Hill    Brooklyn NYC
Oct 23 NYCtaper CMJ SHOWCASE @ The Cake Shop    New York
Oct 25 The Yard    Brooklyn, NY

BOAT + Creeping Weeds | Cake Shop | 8.17.2008


If BOAT lived here instead of Seattle I have a feeling they'd be my favorite local band.  All their songs are catchy,  and funny without being jokes. The band also has good stage banter and a penchant for props — big signs, confetti and shakers made out of Solo cups. But they know when to say when on that stuff. They remind me a little of '90s NYC band Muckafurgason (who were the see-them-every-time band for me) if you remember them, though BOAT are definitely more a straight-up rock band and less about the laughs. But you will laugh. This was BOAT's first NYC show, the third date of their first-ever East Coast tour and they seemed pretty happy to be here. As did the sparse but jazzed crowd. Fun!

: BOAT – Bee Buzz

MP3: BOAT – Period, Backslash, Colon

MP3: BOAT – Elephant Ears

Buy some BOAT. All their records (all two of them) are great. Though I'm sure they'd love it more if you bought them from the merch table when you go see them play live.

BOAT are currently on the "We Jam Super-Econo" Tour where they share instruments with Philadelphia's Creeping Weeds. More earnest than their tourmates, they are similar musically with a "classic indie rock" sound, embellished with glockenspiel and, on one song, didgeridoo. They finished their set with a "cover" of BOAT's "I'm a Donkey for Your Love" that featured both bands at once, a nice segue into the second half of the show.

MP3: Creeping Weeds – Long Way Down

"We Jam Super-Econo" Tour heads to the Northeast before swinging back to Brooklyn's Union Hall on Wednesday where they share the stage with My Teenage Stride. That's a hard bill to pass up, though the Muslims/Howlies show the same night at Union Pool (confusing, isn't it?) makes a tough decision. There's also the Vivian Girls at Death by Audio that night too. When it rains it pours.

Here are all the BOAT/Creeping Weeds dates…

August 18th-P.A.'s Lounge-Boston, MA
August 19th-The Oasis Pub-New London, CT
August 20th-Union Hall-Brooklyn, NY
August 21st-The Lantern-Blacksburg, VA
August 22nd-The Brillobox-Pittsburgh, PA
August 23rd-Schuba's-Chicago, IL

I went a bit crazy with videoing BOAT at this show. Here's "Make Way for the Genius to Appear":

And three more after the jump:

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School of Language | Cake Shop | 3.08.2008

Sol_panoMaybe the crazy weather kept people away — I saw more than one fallen tree — but nonetheless a very good, if sparsely attended, show by School of Language at Cake Shop on Saturday night.

I got there super early, as I’d tried to go see Lightspeed Champion at Union Pool only to find it "sold out" though I’m guesing it was really "guestlisted out" as no one in their right minds would pay the $8 service charge on a $12 ticket that Ticketmaster was asking for this show. (Seriously, why does a venue this small not use Ticketweb? I love the actual room but the people running UP move further and further up my shitlist every time I [try to] see a show there.)No one seemed to actually be in performance room of Union Pool but there were easily 30 people waiting around to see if spots might open up. I said screw it, not wanting to risk School of Language selling out or something (no advanced tickets at all for Cake Shop) I just headed over there.

I was so early I caught their soundcheck and stuck around, well, because I had nothing else to do. It turned out I didn’t need to go so early, but you never know in these situations and after being rebuked at Union Pool I didn’t feel like chancing it. Which meant I caught all the bands on the bill. One was pretty good (Chicago’s The Poison Arrows) in a Sonic Youth/Afgan Whigs sort of way, and the other… um… did a sloppy cover of Depeche Mode’s "Enjoy the Silence" that was the most memorable point in their set.

Anyway, David Brewis and his ace hired band (drummer Ryan Rapsys, and bassist Doug McCombs) ruled the night. I always considered Field Music to be a pretty tight band, but when you’ve got two ringers in your band it’s hard not to notice, especially when it’s the rhythm section who always elevate (or lower) the quality of a show. "I can’t believe these guys are here playing my songs," Brewis gushed but he’s no slouch either, obviously. With only one, short, album the set was obviously brief, filled out a bit with a cover of Roxy Music’s "If There is Something." Like the album, the show was bookended with the phonetic babble of "Rockist" songs (that babble being canned, via some sort of little mp3 device…I think), the first of which I shot video of:


MP3: School of Language – Rockist Pt. 1 (Buy It)

School of Language continue their North American tour…

Mar 10 – DC9 Washington DC, Washington DC
Mar 11 – Beachland Ballroom Cleveland, Ohio
Mar 12 – Sneaky Dee’s Toronto, Ontario
Mar 13 – Pike Room (Crofoot) Pontiac, Michigan
Mar 14 – Empty Bottle Chicago, Illinois
Mar 15 – Scrummage University Detroit, Michigan
Mar 17 – John Waldron Arts Center Bloomington, Indiana
Mar 19 – Nectar Lounge Seattle, Washington
Mar 20 – Towne Lounge Portland, Oregon
Mar 21 – Hemlock Tavern San Francisco, California
Mar 22 – Spaceland Los Angeles, California
Mar 23 – Club Congress Tucson, Arizona
Mar 25 – Mohawk Austin, Texas
Mar 26 – TBA Norman, Oklahoma
Mar 27 – Record Bar Kansas City, Missouri
Mar 28 – Billiken Club St. Louis, Missouri