CMJ 2008: The Dears | Hiro Ballroom | 10.23.2008




It may be an almost entirely new line-up but The Dears still got it. Murray Lightburn still gives it his all, and if the new band doesn't quite have the swagger of the line-up I loved of the last four years, they are getting there. It helps that this Dears is touring behind the just-released MISSILES which is light years better than 2006's rushed and murky-sounding (yet still good despite) Gang of Losers, the making and touring of which caused its meltdown. Only Lightburn and keyboardist (and Lightburn's wife) Natalia Yanchak remain, though some of the band played on the new album. 

So here were are at one of NYC's cooler-looking clubs with pro lighting, sound and smoke machines — all of which aid in the Dears' air of epic grandeur. The new band is tight, especially on the MISSILES tracks which make up the bulk of the set. "Dream Job" and the Lightburn-Yanchak duet "Crisis." It was when they dipped into material from the last two records that the difference was apparent. While "Lost in the Plot" and "The Death of All the Romance" sounded right, but without George Donoso going Animal-style on his kit and Patrick Krief's emotive guitar-playing style (again, swagger) you realize what you're missing.

The difference was underlined by Patrick Krief standing at the side of the stage the whole time, singing along to all the new material. He was loving it. I kept wanting him to jump up on stage and grab a guitar. Glad to know there are a few unburnt bridges in the Dears camp. Now I don't want to dis the new lineup — they're very good, especially guitarist Jason Kent who brings the visual panache needed to be in The Dears — it's just when you've seen one band blow you away time and time again for three years, a rebuilt engine takes some getting used to. But when epic MISSILES track "Lights Off" hit the midway point where it takes off into the stratosphere of solos that The Dears are still capable of making the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Like I said, they've still got it.

SETLIST: Disclaimer / Money Babies / Berlin Heart / Crisis I & II / Lost in the Plot / Bandwagoneers / Lights Off / Demons / Whites-Only Party / 22: The Death Of All The Romance / Meltdown in A Major

MP3The Dears – Crisis I & II (Buy MISSILES)

I would also like to say Hiro Ballroom is a great place to see a show — it's a beautiful room, with awesome sound and even better lighting. (Why do most clubs have such crappy lighting?) But with $7 beer and the dreaded Bathroom Attendents, it's not a place I want to hang out. More reviews: Brooklyn Vegan | NY Mag

I shot video of "Dreams" too… take a gander:

Two Nights Out with Metronomy

Metronomy: it's gotta be the shoes
Surely a contender for Record of 2008 is Metronomy‘s upcoming second album, Nights Out. It’s dance music, but poppy and skeletal and weird and fun and surprising. There is also whistling, which you don’t get enough of if you ask me. And no bad songs. “Heartbreaker” is my absolute favorite, which they’ve been playing live for more than a year.

MP3: Metronomy – Heartbreaker

Metronomy mounts a short North American tour starting next week with two stops in NYC. On Thursday they play a free show at Hiro Ballroom. You can RSVP here, though I found the process confusing and wasn’t sure whether I had successfully RSVP’d or not. On Friday they play Union Hall, which I’m definitely going to, where they will be playing with “very special guests.” Union Hall doesn’t usually kid around with their “we’ve got a surprise planned” so you might want to get your tickets now.

Here’s all the tourdates:

Jul 28 The Social,     Toronto, ON, Canada
Jul 29 Funky Buddha,     Chicago, IL, USA
Jul 30 Gypsy Hutt,     Cincinati, OH, USA
Jul 31 Hiro Ballroom,     New York, NY, USA
Aug 1 Union Hall, Brooklyn     Brooklyn, New York
Aug 2 MEG Festival,     Montreal, QC, Canada

Radio Soulwax Tour | Hiro Ballroom | 4.17.2004

I was thinking about the difference between LCD Soundsystem and Soulwax, the two best live dance music acts going today, and having now seen them both play within two weeks of each other has brought it into sharp relief.

Where LCD Soundsystem are brining a rock aesthetic to dance music, Soulwax approach live music from a DJ asthetic. Belgian brothers David and Stephen Dewaele are better known as mashup pioneers 2 Many DJs (though Soulwax actually came first) and certainly have a good idea of how that should work. Soulwax Nite Versions, the official name of their touring band this time around, is like seeing a flawless DJ set but without turntables. One nonstop, 50-minute dance party that basically replicates the Soulwax Nite Versions album in it’s entirety with a few flourishes to remind you, if you could possibly forget, that this was all being played live on-stage.

In addition to the musicianship, Soulwax have the look too. All four members dressed in white, against that jarring optical illusion backdrop (jagged pink-and-white lines) with an ultra-simple but entirely effective light show. Plus the put the drummer up front. I know I’ve said this before, but why don’t all bands do this?

The show last night at Hiro wasn’t quite the ecstatic experience I had in September at Studio B, but that was a Friday night and I had zero expectations of the show. A hard show to live up to, but it was nonetheless great. I didn’t stick around for the 2 Many DJs set (it was 1am and I have a regular job) but the most of the crowd looked ready to party.

If you have no issues with being out late on a Wednesday night, I implore you to check them out tonight. (Or anywhere else on their tour.) You can even stay home and watch Lost before going out, as doors don’t open till 11pm. (Art Brut are playing earlier.) If you have any affinity for this kind of music, you won’t be disappointed.

Radio Soulwax tour dates:

Apr 18 2007  STUDIO B         BROOKLYN, New York
Apr 19 2007  S.A.T              MONTREAL
Apr 21 2007  METRO            CHICAGO, Illinois
Apr 25 2007  CHOP SUEY      SEATTLE, Washington
Apr 27 2007  MEZZANINE      SAN FRANCISCO, California
Apr 29 2007  EMPIRE POLO GROUNDS     PALM SPRINGS, California

MP3: SoulWax – Accidents and Compliments
| Buy Soulwax Nite Versions

Image is from frankowski’s Flickr photostream —  actually from a show in Sidney, Australia, but pretty much captures the vibe of the show.

Mew | Hiro Ballroom | 7.26.2006

Listage: Ten things about Wednesday night’s Mew show at Hiro Ballroom:

  1. Mew are apparently huge in Denmark, though I guess that’s like being huge in West Virginia. Still, it is surprising that their fourth album, And the Glass-Handed Kites, is their first to get US distribution. It’s predecessor, Frengers, really should have… it’s the real winner in their discography. It was also the first date of their first-ever US tour (not counting showcases in NYC and LA in 2003).
  2. The guitarist looked exactly like Sean Patrick Flannery.
  3. I am a sucker for bands that put the drummer at the front of the stage
    (Echo & the Bunnymen most famously), though it puts your gear at
    risk (see #9).
  4. Singer Jonas Bjerre is the most doe-eyed person I’ve ever seen.
    Surely he must have played Tiny Tim in a grade school presentation of A
    Christmas Carol. Maybe it was the scarf.
  5. The crowd was vocal, especially the two German guys behind me who sang along — loudly — to every songs. I sang along a little bit to "Snow Brigade," my favorite from Frengers.
  6. Overall this was a good show. Mew have a very produced (very ProTools-y, but in a good way) wall of sound on record and they for the most part pulled it off live — their first US gig ever. That said, I think there was a fair amount of playing to tapes/laptops. Vocals seemed to perfect at times (though Bjerre was clearly singing, just maybe with canned backing vocals, though every member had a mike) and everything was very, very in synch with the projected background videos.
  7. Those video projections, as well as some clever floor spots that lit up each members face, made this show an easy one to take cool-looking photos… even on my crappy cell phone. Yet some dude in front of me insisted on using flash every time, resulting in really boring pics.
  8. Mew really aren’t that far off, musically, from Muse, though I get the feeling Muse realize how ridiculously over-the-top their music is. Mew seemed pretty serious… I prefer Bjerre’s vocals to Muse’s histrionics, however.
  9. After attending five or so shows at Hiro, I really think it’s one of NYC’s better venues. The sound is great and there are multiple levels so the shorties can see. Plus, the way stage is set up  — jutting out like a runway — allows the audience to stand on three sides, offering unique vantage points. Like watching some guy steal a drumstick taped to the side of the kick after the show finished, and then talking his girlfriend into stealing another from his stick bag.
  10. That said, it still hurts to pay $7 for a bottle of beer.

MP3: Mew – "Snow Brigade"

Also in attendence: Music Snobbery, more to come I’m sure.

Photos courtesy special SoundBites correspondent Edwin De La Cruz. A few more after the jump…

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