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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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="http://www.cloudberryrecords.com/mp3/sc_wallflower.mp3">The Soft City – Wallflower
Video from the show after the jump!