Holy Ghost! | Mercury Lounge | 2.02.2011

"Sure, we wanna party after the show. You like lemon and honey?" Holy Ghost! frontman Alex Frankel was downing tea between every song last night at Mercury Lounge, clearly not feeling so well, and I don't think the band have played very many shows yet anyway. There were other problems too. More than one false start, and Guitarist Chris Maher broke like three strings during their short set, pretty amazing given the light, Nile Rogers style rhythm playing.So I'm not gonna be too hard on their performance. 

That said, but I did expect a little more from a band on DFA, especially one made of two former members of Automato. The band worked out the kinks mid-set, and finished extremely strong: Great new single and lead track from their album "Do It Again" — which sounds like Blancmange meets Roxette — had a great groove and the first time I've ever seen anyone play an Ipad on stage (the "do it again" sample); Paradise Garage electro-rockin "I Will Come Back," and "Jam for Jerry"* which almost sounds like Phoenix if produced by Arthur Baker.

Though really… almost every song Holy Ghost have is indebted to early '80s New York disco, when Baker and John Robie were behind any single worth dancing to. (When Frankel sings "It's a problem of mine" on "It's Not Over" you just know it's a tip of the hat to New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle.") Fading arpeggiated synths finished just about every song. They have the sound down cold.

I think my biggest problem was that too many of Holy Ghost!'s songs sound similar, at least in their current live setting. Show opener "Static on the Wire," which made my Favorite Singles of 2010 list, is kind of like a sped up, improved take on "Say My Name." On stage, with a stripped down sound and that bare-bones, heavy-on-the-hi-hat beat driving all the songs, many of the tunes just sort of ran together.

What I think would really help would be the addition of a real bassist. They do use the classic 303 sounds a lot, but drummer Nick Millhiser could really use someone to play off of instead of relying on his earbuds to guide him. I bet by the mid-point of their upcoming tour with Cut/Copy, the band will find live up to the lean, mean dance machine potential. Especially in good health, with a crowd ready to dance, not one that's about to go home and watch a particularly weak episode of Top Chef.

SETLIST: Static on the Wire | It's Not Over | Hold On | Say My Name | Hold My Breath | Wait and See | Slow Motion | Do it Again | I Will Come Back | Jam for Jerry

MP3: Holy Ghost! – Do It Again

No denying "Do It Again" is a great single. Like the best Holy Ghost songs, it rises above its obvious influences. The album is good too, out April 5 on DFA.

*An ode to the late Jerry Fuchs, a DFA mainstay who drummed for Holy Ghost and Juan Maclean among others. Nick Millhiser's kickdrum read "Jerry Forever" in that Barbara Kruger style the band uses on all their artwork.

If you want to see non blown-out contrast cameraphone pictures of last night's show, Nicky Digital was there.

Speaking of Arthur Baker and New Order, somehow I'd never seen the video to Holy Ghost's "I Will Come Back" which is a note perfect homage to (with swiped footage from) New Order clip for "Confusion." Note that's Juan Maclean/LCD-er Nancy Wang as the pizza girl in the HG! clip. Both videos and Holy Ghost tour dates are after the jump.

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CMJ ’09: Dum Dum Girls | Mercury Lounge | 10.24.2009


This was the first day of Dum Dum Girls existence as a live band, but clearly they spent a lot of time working out the details, from the look — bangs, gorgeous Silvertone guitars and bass, extremely short black dresses and stockings — to the sound, which is somewhere between the Velvet Underground and '60s girl groups. It was an impressive debut, hot and cool at the same time. I kept thinking, "this is what the Velvet Underground might sound like if all the members were Nico."

Now technically Dum Dum Girls played before Saturday, at the Woodsist / Captured Festival, and some West Coast dates, each with different line-ups. Which could happen again. But this felt like the first real version. The Woodsist fest Dum Dum Girls featured Crocodiles' Brandon Welchez on guitar, Blank Dogs' Mike Sniper on Bass and Dee Dee (who is Dum Dum Girls on record and is married to Welchez) not donning a guitar. That version, which you can see video of, was much more a post punk / goth sort of sound; here the songs felt like a dream, an ethereal haze of reverbed guitars and pristine harmonies. An impressive debut.

Apart from Dee Dee, the only constant between the two line-ups is drummer Frankie Rose who brought some new beats to the mix, along with her signature driving motorik style she perfected in Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts. She'll play some East Coast dates where Dum Dum Girls will open for King Kahn and the Shrines. She's old pals with Dee Dee, but Frankie's got her own band now so don't expect her to be a regular member.

Also, if you missed Dum Dum Girls on Saturday, they're playing tonight at Bruar Falls with Girls at Dawn (not bad when the opened for Fresh & Onlys recently) and Reading Rainbow. Now the BF website tries to be sly about it — "EXTRA SPECIAL SMART SMART GUEST BAND" — but both Girls at Dawn and Dum Dum Girls' have it on their MySpace pages, so the cat's officially out of the bag.

MP3: Dum Dum Girls – Jail La La

Jail La La

Look for DDG's Sub Pop Debut sometime early 2010. Also at the show: Music Snobbery, Amrit of Stereogum, and the NY Times. A lot of people kept saying this would be hard to get into, but I think there were so many things going on Saturday night it kept attendance down.

One more interesting note. On my way into the city to head in for the Brooklyn Vegan day party on Saturday, I walk right past a Dum Dum Girls photo show under the JMZ. Of course, I snapped a quick pic:


Tour dates after the jump…

Dum Dum Girls 2009 Tour Dates

Oct 26 BRUAR FALLS w/ Reading Rainbow & Girls At Dawn Brooklyn, New York
Oct 28 PEARL STREET NIGHTCLUB w/ King Khan & BBQ Show Northampton, Massachusetts
Oct 29 MIDDLE EAST DOWNSTAIRS w/ King Khan & BBQ Show Cambridge, Massachusetts
Oct 30 BOWERY BALLROOM w/ King Khan & BBQ Show Manhattan, New York
Oct 31 BELL HOUSE w/ King Khan & BBQ Show Brooklyn, New York
Nov 1 FIRST UNITARIAN CHURCH w/ King Khan & BBQ Show Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nov 12 BELLY UP TAVERN w/ The Raveonettes & Crocodiles Solana Beach, California

Girls | Mercury Lounge | 6.25.2009


Sometime in the last twelve months, Girls got good. They were good last July when I saw them at both Market Hotel and Glasslands, but but there was a ramshackle vibe that felt like they weren't sure whether they were really ready to leave the bedroom. But at Mercury lounge they are really good. Like "Whoa what happened" good. Credit new drummer (all loosey-goosey Keith Moon fills) and a nimble-fingered lead guitarist for the transformation. Christopher Owens and Chet White have always had the songs, mind you. In a lot of ways Girls are the ultimate San Francisco band: the laid-back vibe, the folky jammy-ness that has always been present there, as well as the neo-psych scene that has popped up over the last ten years. But it's totally different than the garage scene of Thee Oh Sees or Ty Segall (with whom they play at Cake Shop on Saturday). Girls are working on a whole other plain of dreamy, hazy beauty and noise.

MP3: Girls – Morning Light 

Girls play tonight with Real Estate and Kurt Vile. Tomorrow, Girls are at Cake Shop with the awesome Ty Segall and Charlie & the Moonhearts. You're a dummy if you miss them this time around. Girls self-titled debut drops September 22 on True Panther Sounds and it includes the great new song "All Right" which was probably last night's highlight.

Art Brut | Mercury Lounge | 6.01.2009


It felt like 2005, kind of. Art Brut had just taken the stage at Mercury, and in the crowd were bloggers Heart on a Stick and Yeti Don't Dance.* Yet something was slightly different. Eddie Argos' questionable moustache now seemed to be on the face of drummer Mikey B and his stage banter familiar but skewed. Was this some sort alternate reality cause by a rip in the time/space continuium (or JJ Abrams)? No, it was the start of Art Brut Week, a five night onslaught at Mercury Lounge, and the first time the band had played that venue since their first vist to America three and a half years ago. Surviving the Similar But Slicker And Not As Good Second Album, and now back with The Much Better But Yet Still Not That Different Third Album, Art Brut were back to remind us why we loved them in the first place: they are an exuberant good time as a live band.

I like Argos best when he's in Jonathan Richman mode, wide eyed and excited by the world: modern art, new girlfriends, summer jobs, amazing hangovers, mysterious bruises DC comics, chocolate milkshakes. And this was the Argos we got Monday, though a slightly, slightly subdued one thanks to recovering back problems. (Less bouncing, but he still goes into the crowd.) The new songs sounded great, better than on record.** And we were treated to first album favorites like "Modern Art," "Good Weekend," "My Little Brother," and "Emily Kane" albeit with updated lyrics as you might expect from Argos. And while I do wish "The Replacements" and their anthem "Formed a Band" had been part of the set, there's always tonight, tomorrow, Thursday and Friday for that.***

MP3: Art Brut – Summer Job (Buy Art Brut Vs. Satan

SETLIST: Alcoholics Unanimous | Direct Hit | Modern Art | Summer Job | Rusted Gun of Milan | What a Rush | Emily Kane | Demons Out | DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake | Pump Up the Volume | Good Weekend | Positively 5th Street | My Little Brother | Nag Nag Nag Nag | ENCORE: Bang Bang Rock N' Roll | 18,000 Lira | Mysterious Bruises

Brooklyn Vegan has some good pictures.
*That first Art Brut show at Mercury Lounge had one of the highest concentration of then-NYC music bloggers ever, many of whom don't post anymore. 

**Has there been a band that would be more suited to Steve Albini's mostly live recording process than Art Brut? Why haven't they done this yet? I suppose getting Frank Black for Art Brut Vs. Satan was probably the same idea/next best thing, whichever came first. 

***Not that I'm going again this week, which is all sold out. If you still want to go, but didn't plan ahead, you'd do well to check Ticketmaster occasionally as tickets will probably be released for each show on the day of.

Field Music Presents: The Week That Was | Mercury Lounge | 3.09.2009


As should be done when touring any concept album, The Week That Was is played in its entirety, in order, with barely a quip in between songs. Though when it's done, Brewis says, sheepishly, "Well, that was 'The Week That Was.'" While the record, a 32 minute ode to Paul Auster, the media and '80s production, is lush with strings and other accoutrements, here it's a stripped-down four piece: TWTW mastermind Peter Brewis, his brother and Field Music colaborator David on drums, plus a guitarist/keyboardist and bassist who switches to marimba for the dreamy "It's All Gone Quiet."

Still, without the strings, the lovely "The Airport Line" shows it's prog roots and suddenly less Kate Bush and more Rush.* (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) There's also a little Steely Dan floating around in the ether ("Charly Freak"), which keeps popping into my mind as these guys are seriously good musicians. And when you've got those chops the tendency to go nerdy is always there. But The Week That Was is rooted in great songs, so the odd time signature and occasional noodling is welcome.

MP3The Week That Was – It's All Gone Quiet (buy it)

Stretching things out to proper set length is Field Music's first album chesnut "It's Not the Only Way to Feel Happy" and a cover of John Cale's "Fear is a Man's Best Friend."

SETLIST: Learn to Learn | The Good Life | The Story Waits for No One | It's All Gone Quiet | The Airport Line | Yesterday's Paper | Come Home | Scratch the Surface | ENCORE: It's Not the Only Way to Feel Happy | Fear is a Man's Best Friend

The Week That Was have a few dates left on this tour. Catch them if they stop near you:

Mar 11 Canadian Music Week at The Green Room Montreal, Quebec
Mar 12 Canadian Music Week at The Gladstone Hotel Toronto, Ontario
Mar 14 Canadian Music Week at The Mod Club Toronto, Ontario
Mar 15 The Grog Shop Cleveland, Ohio
Mar 18 Friends Bar @ SXSW Austin, Texas

*for about 20 minutes I was going with "less 90125 and more ELP" but I realized I really don't know enough about Yes to pull it off. But the idea was that the more overt Trevor Horn-isms got stripped away. Not that I know that much about Rush either, but I was forced to listen to 2112 enough by friends that I know it when I hear it.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart + caUSE co-MOTION + The Depreciation Guild | Mercury Lounge | 2.07.2009


The word "twee" gets thrown around a lot when talking about The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. They are cute, with tendencies towards la-la choruses and cardigans ("we have three extras just in case"). But what you don't hear a lot, at least not yet, is how much they rock. Not the way, say, Cheeseburger rocks, but singer Kip keeps his guitar in buzzsaw mode and the amps set to Tinitus. (Another thing you don't hear people talk about too much is how dirty the lyrics are. All innuendo, but…filthy!) I've seen TPOBPAH a bunch of times over the last year and while they've always been good, they are genuinely really good now — tight, rocking, and both Kip and Peggy have become more confident singers. This was their album release show, tour kickoff, and first performance since being bestowed (deservedly) with Pitchfork's coveted Best New Music status. The room was packed — packed! — with friends and fans, all of whom were very vocal and enthused and bobbing and swaying. The only thing that could have made it a more perfect evening would have been if it had fallen a week later on Valentine's Day.

MP3: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Tenure Itch (buy it)

The whole night's line-up was kind of Friends and Family Night at Mercury Lounge. TPOBPAH's Slumberland Records label-mates caUSE co-MOTION played beforehand, with what I'm pretty sure was their first ever gig at the venue. (The band favors house-parties and Cake Shop.) Spazzy, scratchy, nasally, in an endearing way, they are the Eddie Deezen of indie with a bassist who literally bounces off the walls. Peggy was right up front in the crowd bouncing around too. They play again on Thursday at Cake Shop with Kansas band Rooftop Vigilantes, and Beachniks (which features JB of Crystal Stilts).

MP3: caUSE co-MOTION – I Lie Awake (buy it)
The other two bands both featured Pains drummer Kurt Feldman. He fronts The Depreciation Guild, who meld early-'80s electronics with classic shoegaze and the do it very well. Somehow, that combination of two quote-unquote dated sounds actually makes them contemporary. They did remind me a little bit of OG shoegazers Revolver but it may have just been Kurt's vocals. A lot of American bands tried to do the dreampop thing in the '90s but almost none of them pulled it off as well as the Depreciation Guild do now. Nice light show too. They open for TPOBPAH on all dates over the next month, so do show up early if you're going to see them. The Depreciation Guild's album is a free download.

Kurt also plays drums in Zaza, who are also in the dreampop realm but a little more on the arty, 4AD side, from what I could tell from the one song I showed up in time to catch. Will have to check them out again next time.

Please do check out Pains and the Depreciation Guild on tour if you can. Videos and tour dates after the jump.

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Future Tense: The Week That Was Hit the U.S. in March

Oh happy day. One of my favorite records of 2008 was The Week That Was' debut album, a lush production that recalls the days of Kate Bush, ZZT and The Blue Nile but minus some of the '80s ickier sonics. So I'm very curious how the Brewis brothers are going to pull the album off in a live setting when The Week That Was tours here briefly in March. But if anyone can do it, they can. Field Music were always great live, and all of them are also in TWTW. I guess the real question is how many other musicians will be along for the ride. I can't wait to find out. Here' where:

Mar 7 The Empty Bottle     Chicago, Illinois
Mar 9 Mercury Lounge     New York, New York (tickets)
Mar 15 The Grog Shop     Cleveland, Ohio
Mar 18 SXSW     Austin, Texas

The weekend of Mondo Kim's closing, I picked up the 7" of The Week That Was' brilliant "The Airport Line," mainly because it was $2 but then the b-side, the Razmataz Lorry Excitement remix of "Learn to Learn" turns out to be amazing, transforming the song from Peter Gabriel into Heaven 17:

MP3: The Week That Was – Learn to Learn (Razmataz Lorry Excitement remix)

And the original just for comparison purposes:

MP3: The Week That Was – Learn to Learn (album version)

Buy the album from Insound. It's brilliant.

Ida Maria | Mercury Lounge + Union Hall | 1.15.2009 + 1.16.2009


Ida Maria's songs are little vignettes and she's a total method actor. On songs like "Louie" and "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked," she's brimming with infectious joy; but with "Drive Away My Heart" and "Stella" she's accessing some dark memories and ripping her guts out on stage for all to see.. And on "Queen of the World" it's joyously drunken until things get a little too soused and the melancholy sets in. But whichever mood the song's in she lives it. By the end of her 30-minute set each night she was soaking wet (via a water bottle), lipstick-smeared and emotionally drained. The sets may seem short on paper, but we were joking after the Mercury Lounge show that if she did any more she might die. You know, for her art.

Last time Ida played NYC, during CMJ 2007, there was a crowd of about 15 but that was before she'd officially released anything. This time, with her debut Fortress Round My Heart already a hit in the UK, both shows were way sold out — I don't think I'd seen Mercury Lounge that packed since the Arctic Monkeys. This was probably, technically, the better show of the two. The crowd was amped, and Ida wore a gold flapper dress and burned like a sparkler until dousing herself with water for the big "Oh My God" finale and everybody I talked to left kind of blown away. "Stella" was especially great.

For the Union Hall show, she wore flannel and corduroy which suits her better, and she was just as intense but her voice was totally shot, singing at least an octave lower than the night before and leaving a lot of the singing (especially the choruses) to the guitarist and bassist of her pro backing band. She also broke a string two songs in and didn't have a second guitar at the ready so she went the total lead singer route for the rest of the show, which isn't a bad thing. The string incident also gave us an extra song — a solo performance of b-side "Going to Hell." Union Hall has an intimacy that Mercury doesn't so there was definitely more of a "connection" with the audience which made up for some of the other shortcomings.

MP3: Ida Maria – Going to hell

I also shot video of "Queen of the World":

I left my camera's memory card at home for the Mercury Lounge show but you can see photos  and read reviews at Brooklyn Vegan, Music Snobbery, and the NY Times. Ida's coming back to the States for SXSW which will hopefully include a tour that hits more than just NYC and LA. It should give her time to rest up her voice too so when she's back in March she'll hit us with full force — which might be more than we're ready for.

Whiskey Please: Ida Maria Playing NYC in January

Ida Maria writhes on the floor during CMJ 2007
Don't say I didn't tell you. Norwegian firebrand Ida Maria is finally coming back to NYC for two shows, her first since knocking me for a loop when she played CMJ 2007. In the meantime, Ida released her debut, Fortress Around My Heart, which took me a while to warm up to after falling for her demos, and the UK press has become smitten with her. Basically, I think anyone that sees her live becomes smitten. Here's what I wrote back then:

Diminuitive, and dressed in a mint green school marm top, a dark teal leather skirt, purple tights and bright blue boots she looked pixie. But when she strapped on the guitar and opened her mouth, she transformed into a whirling, wailing little powerhouse… pouring every ounce of energy and emotion into her songs to the point where she seemed lost in them some of the time. Mikes were knocked over, drums stumbled into and more than once she dropped to the floor onto her back where she continued to sing and play guitar.

So, seriously, don't miss one of these shows. She won't play anywhere this small again. The first show, January 15 at Mercury Lounge (tickets!), also happens to be my birthday, so come out, see a great show and help me mark another year off the calendar. Or if you can't make that show, she's also playing Union Hall (tickets!) the next night, January 16.  Neither show is sold out yet, but they will. L.A. is getting her before NYC, on Jan. 12-13. Hopefully, Fortress Around My Heart will get a U.S. release date soon. Go see her!



Glasvegas | Mercury Lounge | 10.04.2008




Glasvegas had the best light show I've ever seen at Mercury Lounge. It wasn't intricate, just colored lights aimed at the back wall and the four members of the band, as well as occasional strobes. Simple but dramatic, and perfectly executed — just like Glasvegas' themselves. Mixing girl-group melodies and rhythms (courtesy standup drummer Caroline McKay) with thick washes of guitar effects, their songs are anthemic sing-a-longs, the kind where glasses are held high during the Big Chorus. Again, maybe not the most original thing, but they do it so well, you kind of have to be impressed. The volume, the lights, the songs, not to mention a posse of roadies that seems a little overkill in a 220-capacity club, Glasvegas play Mercury Lounge as if it were an arena. Do I love Glasvegas? It's a good record, but a knockout show. 

MP3Glasvegas – Lonesome Swan

Glasvegas' self-titled debut is out this week digitally, but won't get a proper U.S. release till early next year — which is when the band will be back, probably playing somewhere much bigger. For those Gawker Stalker readers, Paul Rudd and Peter Dinklage were at the show who I'm going to guess couldn't understand singer James Allan's thick Glaswegian accent any better than I could. Impenetrable! 

I shot video of "Go Square Go":