Klaxons | Studio B | 4.13.2007

Klaxons_studiob_rachelus What a difference six months make. After an underwhelming pair of gigs in September, Klaxons returned to show themselves as real contenders. At least at their sweaty show at Studio B on Friday night.

To be fair, their initial 2006 reception wasn't all their fault. With only a couple UK singles out, audiences here were unfamiliar with their material. Plus, with the misleading "new rave" tag (despite it being their own damn fault) foisted upon them, the Klaxons were met with the infamous NYC crossed arms.

But this time, the band were on much more level playing ground. Their excellent debut, Myths of the Near Future, was out. More importantly, they had gained a permanent drummer, Steffan Halperin. As a trio, shows were energetic but sloppy, more like a garage impersonation of the inventiveness heard on their singles. Now they can replicate the studio recordings and, often, improve upon them.

They've also dropped the silly early-'90s throwback outfits, the last remnants of the new-rave stigma. Klaxons defy categorization and cannot be tagged as retro. You can dance to their songs, but it is also punky — but not punk funk. There's too much going on in their sound. Myths of the Ancient Future is seriously a great record, and if you've been avoiding it because of silly genre names, give it a chance.

Highlights for me were "Totem on the Timeline," "Isle of Her," "As Above, So Below," "Two Receivers" and "Gravity's Rainbow." For whatever reason, "Golden Skans" seemed a bit off.

MP3: Klaxons – As Above, So Below (buy it)

I have never seen Studio B so packed. Too packed, I'm sure well beyond Fire Marshall limits. This made for an exciting show, but forget try to maneuver anywhere in the club. Audience and band fed off each others energy, making for a great show, even from the back. But the crowd was full of wankers too. Especially near me. There was some dude in a white tshirt and his candycane-striped hoodied girlfriend who, when they weren't mocking the band, stood yelling at each other with their back to the band. Why go to show if you've already made up your mind you don't like them? Stay home.

Brazilian openers Bonde Do Role didn't impress. Like with Girl Talk, it's fun to play spot-the-sample (AC-DC, the Grease soundtrack, the Darkness) but the Run DMC beats and too-shouty vocals did nothing for me. Maybe if I knew what they were saying.

Image swiped from Rachaelus' Flickr photostream.

SoundBites Best of 2006 | Gigs

Hotchip1_11I think I saw upwards of 70 shows this year, some more memorable than others. Some didn’t get written up even though they should’ve (The Young Knives, Battle, Aberfeldy) and others didn’t cause they weren’t worth it (dEUS comes to mind). But these ten were probably the best.

  1. Hot Chip | Bowery Ballroom | 3.11.2006
    "I hadn’t seen a Bowery Ballroom crowd go this bananas since the LCD
    Soundsystem show a year ago. Heck, I was dancing… and I wasn’t even that drunk."
  2. Soulwax + Klaxons | Studio B | 9.21.2006
    "Soulwax rival LCD Soundsystem in their ability to
    bring electronic music to life in a live setting. Or to put it another
    way, they absolutely rocked. (How many ways will I write a variation on
    that statement? Read on.) Why did it work so well? A perfect blend of
    skill, material, presentation and volume."
  3. Richard Hawley | Sin-é | 3.23.2006
    "With a velvety croon, reverbed, twangy guitars and lush orchestration,
    his music recalls Jimmy Webb, Scott Walker, Johnny Cash, Burt
    Bacharach, and Marty Robbins. That out-of-time quality was reinforced at last night’s show at Sin-é that can be summed up in two words: Pure class."
  4. Rakes + Towers of London | Bowery Ballroom | 3.21.2006
    "What a raucous night at Bowery Ballroom, with what I’m sure will be the
    most cups of beer, ice and water ever thrown at the stage, and the most
    gobbing by a band I have personally seen in the last ten years."
  5. Cansei de Ser Sexy | Warsaw | 7.20.2006
    "The queen of the party, however, was singer Lovefoxxx,
    a Bjork-lookalike who jumped around, stripped off clothing, mooned the
    audience, jumped into the fray, and generally partied-it-up the entire
  6. The Dears | Bowery Ballroom | 9.14.2006
    You can say a lot of things about The Dears, but no one can claim that they don’t give 100%. If it were not physically impossible to give 110%, I’m
    sure they would’ve done that."
  7. New Young Pony Club | Williamsburg White Room | 12.09.2006
    "From the catchy-as-hell, extremely danceable songs, to the tight musicianship, to the effortless charisma of spitfire singer Tahita Bulmer,
    New Young Pony Club just had their shit together. It was like they were
    born fully formed, ready for the big time, and I mean that in the best
    possible way."
  8. Belle & Sebastian | Nokia Theatre | 03.02.2006
    "Stuart Murdoch isn’t shy anymore; now quite the cheeky
    frontman, dancing, telling jokes, flirting with the audience… but
    still forgetting the words. Luckily, Stevie Jackson (looking dapper in a mod-ish suit) knows them all and filled in the missing lines, not missing a beat."
  9. Midlake | Mercury Lounge | 6.20.2006
    "There were so many old keyboards, patch-bays, racks of guitars and
    other stuff up there the band didn’t really have much room to move. But
    they could play. Every member was miked, and the harmonies flowed out
    dense and beautiful."
  10. Art Brut + We Are Scientists + The Chalets | Knitting Factory | 5.18.2006
    This is as far as I got with this review: "I wish the Knitting Factory did shows like this all the time. Let a band currate an entire evening on both floors…" And so began the SoundBites Blog Blackout of Late Spring 2006. Which is now over, obviously.

Soulwax + Klaxons | Studio B | 9.21.2006

Soulwax tore the house down last night. Show of the Year So Far… but before I get to that, as usual, a digression.

The last time I tried to go to a Polish club in Greenpoint was the summer of 1998 and the bouncers at Club Europa wouldn’t let my friend Andy in because he was wearing shorts. We ended up at some other bar where, it turned out, we also weren’t welcome and all the patrons chanted "get out!" while "Hit the Road Jack" just happened to be playing on the jukebox. "Listen to the song!" yelled one of the many solo drinkers in the place as we skulked out.

That was what went through my mind as I walked over to Studio B, a former Polish disco on the desolate corner of Meserole and Banker, that’s been turned into a hipster disco — though the only change I’m guessing is the music played and the talent booked. For example, tonight was Soulwax (the live band alter-ego of Belgian mashup kings 2 Many DJs)  and upstarts The Klaxons, who I’d seen on Tuesday at Club Midway and was hoping would play with better sound.

I showed up around 11:15 to find a couple different long lines and little organization. Having weasled my way onto a guestlist, I asked the bouncer what the deal was; he told me to go to the end of the big, long line. I did, but then thought better of it and went back up and asked a girl who was also working the line who let me in right away. Then I find out I’m not on the list (from what I was told, I was far from the only one) but I was able to pay and go in and not have to stand in the Big Long Line.

Anyway, Studio B. As mentioned a paragraph or two earlier, it felt like a Polish disco though it was now quite the scene, reminding me of what I thought, before I moved here, NYC clubs would be like. My impression was formed entirely from Bright Lights Big City and Less Than Zero (and yes I know that was set in LA). It was huge and the chemical smell of smoke machines was pervasive in the air.

The Klaxons had just taken the stage as I walked in and I’m happy to report the sound was indeed better than at Club Midway. Way better. But I’m not sure it helped. Playing on a proper stage, with good lighting and a good PA showed just how young and inexperienced a band they were. I now think the Midway show was better — smaller, more in-your-face. Part of the problem for me was the drummer was too far back on the stage and you couldn’t see him. It just zaps the energy. They finished their half-hour set with "Gravity’s Rainbow" which finally got the crowd going. No doubt they’ve got some good songs, but as a live band they’re just not there yet.

In contrast, Soulwax have it down to a science and had the packed room bouncing the entire time. Despite having and liking both 2004’s Any Minute Now (who can forget the fantastic video for "E Talking") and last year’s electro-heavy Night Versions, I had zero expectations going in. But dear god, what a show.

While musically doing a different thing, Soulwax rival LCD Soundsystem in their ability to bring electronic music to life in a live setting. Or to put it another way, they absolutely rocked. (How many ways will I write a variation on that statement? Read on.) Why did it work so well? A perfect blend of skill, material, presentation and volume.

Looking like cricketers in matching white outfits, the band came out silently and immediately got down to business. Mastermind brothers Stephen and David Deweale manned vintage analogue synths, with a rock-solid rhythm section beside them. No problem seeing the drummer here — his kit was at the front of the stage (why don’t all band’s do this?), set up sideways, facing the rest of the band. (Also a LCD Soundsytem parallel; along with using the same kind of old-timey vocal mike.) Soulwax then proceeded to play Night Versions in its entirety. No stage banter. No breaks between songs to tune instruments or fiddle with keyboard settings. Just an hour-long, nonstop dance party. The light show was simple but effective, with yellow and white strobes going off from time to time. Classy.

Did I mention the crowd was going bonkers? As my friend Dorrit put it, paint was peeling off the walls and faces were melting. I was up near the stage and at first I thought it was just the front rows, but then I turned around and the whole club was going mental. It was one of those trancendent, in-the-moment happenings that can make even a rock purist believe. (Not that I am a rock purist.)

Studio B’s smoke machines helped a lot too.

It also made one aging, drunk blonde believe she was at Flashdancers. This woman climbed on the edge of the stage, initially sitting on the stage-right speakers beside the drummer. She would kick out her leg and slide her hand suggestively up it. Eventually she stood up and started gyrating and, for one jaw-dropping minute, dropped her pants and waved her thonged ass at the crowd. I mean, as long as she was enjoying it, right? But… yikes.


Lots of cameras at the show but so far no pictures to be found on Flickr. This crowd shot swiped from Skaterdays photostream.