Sound Bites Best of 2008: Gigs

"Seeing Jarvis Cocker makes you realize that almost all other bands are chumps. This is how it's done. This is a show. This is charisma. This is It. You can't take your eyes off him. My #1 show of 2007 was his show at Webster Hall (and I hate Webster Hall) and this one was better."

And also these…

"Featuring members of infamous garage rock collective CPC Gangbangs, this was Red Mass' first-ever live show and clearly they wanted to make a statement. As their name would suggest, Red Mass were about 10 strong and all-clad in red… apart from the one dude who wore only a Speedo and gold paint."

"The Muslims played an astounding 10 shows during CMJ, and this was the last… despite being obviously tired and guitarist Matty McLoughlin having his fingers wrapped in black electrical tape because he'd busted them open repeatedly over the week, with blood spattered all over his guitar, they played like it was their first show of the week."

Casiokids | Cake Shop | 10.25.2008

"…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."

Late of the Pier | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 10.22.2008

"These are youngsters but they rock like pros, pulling off the guitar heroics, the funky parts, everything. And we danced to it. Even more than the Klaxons, Late of the Pier seem to truly come from outer space. But they make it seem like the most natural thing on earth."

Women | Cake Shop | 10.21.2008

"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."

Kirsten Ketsjer | Lit Lounge | 10.16.2008

"This is the definition of power trio (not to compare them to Cream or anything, there's no bass), three as one — you know, very New Testament but in a rock sort of way… If you like Velvet Underground, Television, Bettie Serveert, the Greatful Dead, Marnie Stern, metal, indie rock, Denmark, spoken word, noodling, no-bass bands, twin-leads, or Nordic good looks… this might be the band for you."

This was a swoon-worthy night. The Bunnymen are 30 this year, hence this celebration of what they consider their crowning achievement with three shows: London, New York, and their hometown of Liverpool."The Killing Moon" is what a lot of people were there to hear, and many unbelievably left after that, but for me it was the album's more obscure gems that made my knees a bit weak. 

"Main Oh See John Dwyer is one of those mike eaters, it spending more time in his mouth than not, all the better to get that overdriven, distorted vocal sound. But I wouldn't want to be the band that used it after them. He's also a Give 100% performer, who slams his guitars around and whose eyes bug out a little when he sings. The rest of the band are no slouches either (they've got a whalloper of a drummer) and there was a nice interplay between Dwyer and Thee Oh Sees' other singer, Brigid Dawson. They played their hearts out."

BOAT | 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."

Witch Hats | Santos Party House | 8.11.2008

"Witch Hats really benefit from clear sound; the sludge turns into organized noise, even if it's just as loud. (Super loud!) It still takes a minute or two for hooks to break through the chaos, but they are there. Witch Hats are wild but with purpose, a bit gothy without looking the part, and possess a wise-ass sense of humor."

Metronomy | Union Hall | 8.01.2008

"Metronomy are better live than you think they're going to be. It probably has something to do with the stick-it-and-clickit lights they had affixed to their chests. Aware that they are three dudes playing keyboards and guitars and bass (and occasionally saxaphone and melodica) with no drummer and a fair amount of pre-programmed music, they know you have to give the audience something more if you want them to actually pay attention to you."

"We are in the midst of a heatwave here in New York with temperatures in the upper '90s during the day and only dropping to around 80 at night. I have spent a lot of it in semi-legal performance spaces with zero air conditioning. There has been a lot of sweating but Sic Alps were the first band I've seen all week that made it feel like the heat was being generated from the stage."

ants Yell! | Pianos | 6.13.2008

"A tight cohesive trio with a beast of a drummer, Pants Yell! were on fire in the packed room. On their excellent third album from late last year, Alison Statton, they sound polite, but live it's more hyperkinetic. You could even say they rocked."

"I texted my friend Don before they started: "There are like 10 girls here. Five are bartenders, the rest are here against their will." I was excited to see Swervedriver's first NYC show in ten years, but all this, um, dudeness was freaking me out. But then Swervedriver came out and just killed it. Like the last ten years never happened. Jaw-droppingly, why-aren't-you-still-a-band-and-making-records good."

"I know this wasn't the coolest show of the night (Sigur Ros) or the coolest show of Love Is All's visit (Cake Shop or Market Hotel win over this) but what show! And band-for-band one of the best I've seen this year."

Violens + Savoir Adore + Amazing Baby | Union Pool | 5.10.2008
"It pleases me greatly to go into a show mostly blind and come out a fan of every band on the bill. That never happens anymore. Maybe I'm just going to the wrong shows."

"This was the first night of their American tour for Elbow's great, just-released fourth album, The Seldom-Seen Kid which is full of the heartfelt mini-epics the band are so good at. Joined on this tour by two violist/backup singers, Elbow were grander than usual, but it was Garvey's charm, humor, and smokey voice that makes people lifetime fans."

"Liela Moss is a pistol. As much as you wanted to check out the rest of the band, it was hard to take your eyes off her. She knows what she's got and she knows how to work it. There is no doubt Moss is beautiful, but she's got the pipes to match and, obviously, a stage presence to hold it all together. Moss held the crowd but certainly the rest of the band kept her up. A lot of crushes were made Wednesday night but The Duke Spirit are the total package."

Liars | Warsaw | 2.09.2008

At 6-foot-somethingorother, Liars front man Angus Andrew is a magnetic, kind of menacing presence. Even in a raspberry colored suit. While sitting down. As you may have heard, Andrew threw out his back shortly before Liars were to begin their current tour with No Age so he's being doing the shows from a chair. (The accompanying table is a nice touch.) For some bands this might have been a major setback but it didn't seem to affect Liars' ferocious performance at Warsaw one iota.

"Jeepers, how good are The 1900s? It's been almost two years since I saw them open for Midlake at Mercury Lounge and had kind of forgotten how good they are. And they've gotten better since. Watching last night's fantastic show at Union Hall makes me wonder why I left their album Cold & Kind off my Best of 2007 list." 

Love is All | Monster Island Basement | 10.15.2008


It's nice to live where I do sometimes. After watching the final Presidential debate, I decided to head over to art/performance space Monster Island (about three blocks from my apartment) to see if I might be able to get into the impromptu Love Is All show. Woods had just finished playing and Love is All were up next… perfect timing, and just the thing to relieve all the stress politics have inflicted on us lately.

I can't say Monster Island (my first time there) was packed but everyone that was there was crammed near the stage, pretty much in the faces of the band. It was such tight confines up front that Johan Lindwall whacked singer Josaphine in the face, accidentally, with his bass — leaving a nice goose-egg above her left eye. "It's kind of cool I'm here bleeding onstage," laughed Josaphine who let an audience member dab her wound with a towel from time to time. 

Though the injury clearly smarted, she didn't let it affect the show which focused mostly on Love Is All's upcoming, great second album, A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night, which is due out November 11. The crowd, which included most of Crystal Stilts, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, caUSE co-MOTION, and My Teenage Stride, were pretty much beaming and dancing the throughout. Love is All tend to inspire that kind of reaction with people. They just make you happy.

MP3Love is All – Last Choice (pre-order the new album)

Love is All will be back in the U.S. in a month for a West Coast tour with Vivian Girls,  which you'd be a fool to pass up. Here are the dates:

Nov 16 Part Time Punks Festival @ the Echoplex Los Angeles, California
Nov 17 The Casbah w/ Vivian Girls and Nodzzz San Diego, California
Nov 18 The Smell w/ Vivian Girls and Nodzzz Los Angeles, California
Nov 20 Bottom of the hill w/ Vivian Girls and Nodzzz San Francisco, California
Nov 22 Backspace w/ Vivian Girls and Nodzzz Portland, Oregon
Nov 23 Nectar Lounge w/ Vivian Girls and Nodzzz Seattle, Washington

Nov 24 BC Richards Vancouver, British Columbia

And here's the video for Love Is All's "Wishing Well":

Love Is All + Versus + Crystal Stilts | Bowery Ballroom | 6.16.2008




I know this wasn’t the coolest show of the night (Sigur Ros) or the coolest show of Love Is All’s visit (Cake Shop or Market Hotel win over this) but what show! And band-for-band one of the best I’ve seen this year.

Somehow I’ve managed to not see Love Is All till now. I had tickets to that Knitting Factory show, like everybody else, way back when but couldn’t go, or didn’t go for some reason. And I liked, not loved, their album Nine Times That Same Song and wasn’t quite sure what all the fuss was about. I do now. Of course, Love is All are giant grin wonderful on stage, with boundless energy. It’s a kind of joy that CSS have too, that makes you stop being cynical, momentarily, and be glad you’re here seeing this amazing band. I was won over in about 30 seconds.

MP3: Love is All – I Ran

That’s from a tour-only CDR called Love Is All Play 5 Covers. From the back cover: “We each picked a song with no member getting a say, recorded live at practice.” You might have seen the YouTube footage of them doing this Flock of Seagulls nugget at Cake Shop last week. Other covers on the EP include Dire Straits’ “So Far Away” and Prince’s periodical-loving classic, “Darling Nikki.”

Underappreciated ’90s indie rockers Versus, who broke up in 2001 but have played one-off shows here and there since (including Union Hall last November), seem to be back for real and this show is arguably their highest-profile gig since the Teenbeat 20th Anniversary. (Certainly the biggest venue.) No lyrics sheets tonight, the three-piece Versus (James and Patrick were busy with +/- duties) seemed pretty tight and brought with them a handful of new songs. (One of the Fontaine-sung ones was really good.) And there were a lot of people there just to see them, which I must admit surprised me… happily. Rumors are flying about a new album — and a label to put it out — but for now I’d just like to say welcome back.

Crystal Stilts
were on first. The band have been getting a lot of good press — a glowing Pitchfork review, they’re part of the same Brooklyn scene that Vivian Girls, ca-USE co-MOTION (both of whom were there at the show), and Pains of Being Pure at Heart are apart of. And I do think it’s a scene — new groups influenced by C86, Slumberland Records, etc. I really, really like The Crystal Stilts record, which is so Jesus and Mary Chain (or the Bodines or Jasmine Minks) at times it borders on theft but they do it so well I don’t care.

Despite a friend telling me they were awesome when they opened for the Clean at Cake Shop, I was a little worried Crystal Stilts would be, well, stilted live. They’ve definitely got a schtick. The singer stands motionless, eyes closed, the guitarist was sitting the whole time. And new drummer Frankie Rose plays standing up, with only three pieces to her kit: bass drum, floor tom and a snare, though she used a tambourine instead of a right stick on some songs. Super cool: She’s like Mo Tucker and Bobby Gilespie rolled into one. Schtick it is, but it’s a brilliant one makes for a complete package with their reverby, garagey sound. I can see how it would be better to see them somewhere smaller, darker but they held their own on the bright Bowery Ballroom stage.

MP3: Crystal Stilts – Bright Night Nusery
(buy it)