Foals | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 10.02.2010

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When did Foals become so popular? Music Hall of Williamsburg was as packed as I've ever seen it for the second of the UK band's two NYC area shows this weeknend. And when did they get such a douchey, bro-heavy fanbase? I saw two almost-fights within the first three songs. Then there was the near-constant crowd surfing, even on the slow songs. Even between songs. Jeez.

This is the kind of stuff that can sour a show for and old crank like me. If Foals hadn't been so fantastic, I think I might've left. But there's no denying the Oxford quintet have come a long way in the last three years. Foals' debut, Antidotes, was nervy and twitchy and mathy and shouty…and kind of sterile. Live, that nervous energy came through even more. Their first NYC show — CMJ 2007 — the band mostly faced each other, ignoring the audience, except when singer Yannis Philippakis suddenly lept offstage almost knocking my friend over. Then at Bowery Ballroom in early 2008, the band had already started to come out of their shell, though Philiappakis was so nervous he threw up on stage.

Two years later, the band have released Total Life Forever which is a major step forward for the band and one of 2010's best records. Still filled with complex interplay between the band, Foals have loosened up considerably, making room for heart and soul. Bigger, better, even more danceable. The first single, "Spanish Sahara," was featured prominently in the Entourage Season 7 trailer which ran for like two months on HBO, which shoulda tipped me off, but it didn't seem like anyone I knew was into the record.

Well, people are indeed into Foals, it's just not the crowd I was expecting. Foals sold out Bowery and MHoW and, given what I saw last night, they'll be playing Terminal 5 the next time they hit NYC. The band are certainly ready for bigger venues. Philippakis now faces the audience and makes jokes with the crowd. The band are still shit hot and tight as the Queen's posterior. The songs from TLF sound fantastic, and the Antidotes material (and early singles) sounded better. I woulda liked a few more from the new album (no "This Orient" or "Black Gold"), but Foals have become a live force.

Yannis still likes leaping off stage, by the way. During "Electric Bloom," after climbing a set of speakers and nearly falling off, Philippakis took a FLYING leap into the audience. The whole roam let out a giant "WHOA!" as he flew what seemed to me a good 15 feet out. The crowd caught him. The dude is a little crazy. 

I think the crowd kind of took this to be an invitation to be just as crazy as him. The final song of the night, "Two Steps, Twice," a couple girls managed to get on stage and started dancing. This led to a full-on stage invasion with something like 20 mostly blonde girls dancing plus a few bros who grabbed the mike and sang along. Bonkers. To the band's credit, they let it happen. No calling the bouncers, let the kids have their fun. Though Foals didn't really seem into it.

MP3: Foals – Total Life Forever (Buy it from Sub Pop)

SETLIST: Blue Blood | Olympic Airways | Total Life Forever | Cassius | Miami | Balloons | Afterglow | Alabaster | Spanish Sahara | Red Socks Pugie | Electric Bloom || The French Open | Two Steps Twice

Foals

Not to sound like an elitist prick but…I wonder what Foals think of their new audience. I'm sure they enjoy being able to make more money, but it's gotta be a bit weird. Philappakis and the rest of the band are funny, smart nice guys. They are so not bros. We're talking a band that two years ago played Silent Barn and probably preferred it to Bowery Ballroom. Total Life Forever is clearly them stepping up to the plate, but they didn't seem like that different of a band at MHoW. No fancy clothes, no attitude. Music this good appeals to everyone, I guess. And you can't pick your fans. Being a Saturday night probably made it worse, and I am clearly an snobby curmudgeon, but the crowd really was pretty ugh.

Hot Chip | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 2.06.2010

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This year could be for Hot Chip what 2009 was for Phoenix: one where a band who've grown steadily more popular over the years release their fourth album and officially blow up. That's the feeling I got from the band's show at Music Hall of Williamsburg where the band had the sold-out crowd going bonkers the entire set. And the crowd wasn't just too-cool hipsters, either. (Though they were in full effect.) There are plenty of "normal" folks too, young and not-so-young. Everyone was dancing, sweating, singing along to every song. The positive vibes were definitely felt by Alexis, Joe and the rest of Hot Chip who pretty much beamed the whole show, especially guitarist Al Doyle who also rocked the steel drum on a few songs and seems to relish playing in two of the best dance bands in the world. (He's also a member of LCD Soundystem.) This was my seventh or eighth time seeing Hot Chip and without a doubt it was the best I'd ever seen them — by a mile.

We got about half of Hot Chip's great, new, gushingly romantic album One Life Stand as well as a smattering of songs from Made in the Dark and The Warning. (Don't think we got anything from Coming on Strong but I could be wrong about that.) Perhaps realizing this was a Saturday night crowd, apart from new number "Slush" in the encore they left the ballads at home. With a touring drummer now added to the mix, band both Doyle and singer Alexis Taylor playing additional percussion, all the songs have a little more oomph. Hot Chip always seeming to be changing the arrangements of their songs: "Boy From School" becoming a full-on dancefloor rager; "Ready for the Floor" has become such a better song I almost wish they'd rerecord it; and new track "We Have Love," spare in it's recorded version, sends the crowd into ecstasy; "Hold On" rocks harder. One Life Stand's "I Feel Better" still sounds like "La Isla Bonita" but still has the crowd (including Les Savvy Fav's Tim Harrington, a row behind me, singing all the words) going mental. 

And there is no stopping "Over and Over," sending the crowd over the edge into undulating hysterics, like when the killer in Perfume finally releases his perfect fragrance on an unsuspecting crowd. At the end of the song, I found myself a good 20 feet to the left of where I was standing at the start of the song. I'm not sure how that happened, but I still had all my clothes on at the end, so I'm not too worried about it. It may only be February, but it's gonna be hard to knock this show out of my Best of 2010 show list.

MP3 Hot Chip – One Life Stand

Best New Music recipient One Life Stand is out tomorrow on Astralwerks/DFA. The band will be back in April playing Terminal 5 with The XX and tickets are still available for the 4/23 show.


Fhb  Openers The French Horn Rebellion are a lot of fun, sort of the white nerd version of Chromeo with a bit of comedy team in there too. Siblings Robert and David Perlick Molinari (here with help from Savoir Adore's Paul and Diedre) maybe try a bit too hard in the yuks department, but when they actually get around to playing songs (like their killer single "Up All Night") you can't really argue with the grooves and hooks. They've got the studio skills, and will have their live show figured out soon, so watch out. Download a free EP's worth of tracks here.
  

Also in attendance: Cameron and Abbey of 'Sup who I braved the front of the crowd with for most of the night and have much better pictures than I do. A couple more grainy shots after the jump…

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The Vaselines + Adam Green | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 5.18.2009

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I'm not sure I can add anything to the many, many glowing reviews of The Vaselines on their most recent U.S. tour which wrapped up last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, other than I agree: they were fantastic. I'm going to go out on a limb and say they are better now than they ever were during thier original incarnation. Eugene Kelley and Frances McKee are not only more skilled at their instruments now, but they've also surrounded themselves with some skilled musicians, including smiling 1990s' drummer Michael McGaughrin, and Belle & Sebastian's Stevie Jackson and Bobby Kildea. Jackson, who is looking kind of like Elliot Gould in The Long Goodbye these days, added some lovely country slide guitar to "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" and got to rock out more than he probably does with B&S. There was also a guest horn-honker for "Molly's Lips," rock critic Michael Azerrad, whose performance was enthusiastic if lacking in technique.* But it was McKee's potty-mouthed stage banter that stole the show, none of which is fit to repeat of a family-friendly indie rock blog such as this.

MP3: The Vaselines – Slushy (Buy it from Sub Pop)

SETLIST: Son Of A Gun | Monsterpussy | The Day I Was A Horse | Molly's Lips | Picked a Cherry (new) | Oliver Twisted | Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam | Lovecraft | *New New Song* | Slushy | Teenage Superstars | Bitch | Let's Get Ugly | No Hope | Sex Sux (Amen) | Dying For It | ENCORE: Rory Rides Me Raw | You Think You're A Man | Dum-Dum

*an attempt at rock critic humor

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Also not fit for the whole family: opener Adam Green who was already admittedly out-of-his mind on magic mushrooms when he hit the stage and then proceeded to eat another after every song. He did not stay still for a second the entire time he was on stage: dancing, bobbing, weaving and running serpentine as if he feared there might be a sniper in the balcony. Is this what Doors shows were like? Luckily no farm animals were brought out on stage. I don't really get Green's music, but he is genuinely funny guy and…you're never bored.

Primal Scream | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 3.29.2009

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Few people know how to hang off a microphone like Bobby Gillespie. With his right arm over the top, at times it seems to be the only thing holding him up. Over the last 20 years, Gillespie has perfected an air of detached cool — it's not indifference — and he's on form tonight at Music Hall of Williamsburg, despite a Sunday night crowd that takes a while to warm up. Maybe Primal Scream too, who don't really hit their stride till Screamadelica highlight "Higher Than the Sun." But from there, it's pretty much Hit City, climaxing with "Swastika Eyes," Movin' on Up" and "Rocks" (the latter of which is one of my least favorite 'Scream songs but I'm in the minority on that.) For a band often accused of genre-hopping, it's a cohesive set of Stones-influenced rockers: sometimes a little bit dancey, sometimes a little bit dub; sometimes a little bit country, sometimes a little bit rock n' roll. Like Soundtrack of Our Lives, Primal Scream get by on good taste, musicanship, and throwing shapes more than originality or lyrical content… and when it's done this well, it's enough. 

SETLIST: Kill All Hippies | Can't Go Back | Miss Lucifer | Suicide Sally | Jailbird | Beautiful Future | Higher Than The Sun | Deep Hit | Exterminator | Suicide Bombs | Sick City | Shoot Speed | Swastika Eyes | Movin' On Up | Rocks | ENCORE: Damaged | Country Girl | Accelerator

The Soundtrack of Our Lives | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 3.11.2009

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Epic. A nearly two-hour show of guitar windmills, endless stick twirls, karate kicks, ponderous, psychedelic lyrics and massive riffs. You could watch The Soundtrack of Our Lives and spend the whole time picking apart the references: The Who, Stones, Pink Floyd, Love, Spirit, Faces, Beatles, etc. But to do so is to miss the point of TSOOL, who distill everything that is great about rock's classic late '60s / early '70s era into one incredible band. And an even better live show. Seriously, these guys knock it out of the park every time. 

The band are supporting their fifth album, the 24-track Communion, and most of the show is from that, which is fine as it rivals Behind the Music as their best album. I wish we'd gotten the pastoral "Pictures of Youth" but it's hard to complain with the nice selection from all five TSOOL albums. We got "Thrill Me," "RA 88," "Flipside," the building "Second Life Replay" and their incredible, genius cover of Nick Drake's "Fly" from the new record, plus "Big Time," "Nevermore," "Firmament Vacation" and more… so many songs I can't remember them all.

The encore was nearly as long as the main set, and began with "Sister Surround," the closest TSOOL have come to a hit in America and, no matter how many times I've seen them do it, never ever ever gets old. Much like the rock moves that are their bread and butter. In other hands it'd be cheesy, but it's like they invented them, though guitarist Mattias B√§rjed's red satin Who jacket (probably an original) reminds you of the past.

MP3: The Soundtrack of Our Lives – Fly

MP3The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Firmament Vacation

TSOOL play Bowery Ballroom tonight. Tickets are still available. Seriously, go see them. And they've got some other dates around the US too:

Mar 12 Bowery Ballroom New York

Mar 13 Double door Chicago

Mar 15 The Independent San Fransisco

Mar 16 Trubadour Los Angeles

Communion got a good review in Pitchfork today, even if it reads at least a point higher than its 6.2 rating.

Crystal Stilts: New Single, Touring, Etc.

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Following last year's fantastic debut Alight of Night (which nearly topped my Best of 2008 list) Crystal Stilts are back with a brand-new single. They've been playing "Love is a Wave" since last summer at least and is almost always in their set, so it should be familiar to anyone who's seen them play since then. But it does represent the bands first truly new material in a long time, certainly since they became a real band, as the album was supposedly recorded three years ago. Like a lot of their new songs, "Love is a Wave" really zooms along with Frankie's motorik drumming keeping the gas to the floor, and guitarist JB Townsend's Clean-esque lead line bouncing around. 

MP3: Crystal Stilts – Love is a Wave

"Love is a Wave," backed with "Sugar Baby" (not sure if I know it or not) is out at the end of the month on the red-hot Slumberland Records. Crystal Stilts headline a pretty stellar bill on Saturday at Music Hall of Williamsburg that includes Canada's Women and Blank Dogs who I have yet to see. Tickets are still available. It's a busy night, what with A Classic Education, Knight School, My Teenage Stride, We Have Band and Post War Years playing that night at various places, but there's a lot of value for the money. Crystal Stilts and Women are touring together pre-South by Southwest and here are the dates:

Mar-14 Brooklyn, NY Music Hall of Williamsburg
Mar-15 Washington, DC DC9
Mar-16 Lexington, KY Al's Bar
Mar-17 Jackson, MS 121 Milsaps
Mar-18 Houston, TX Rudyard's
Mar-19 – 21 Austin, TX SXSW 

CMJ 2008: Brooklyn Vegan Showcase | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 10.21.2008

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This was a great way to kick-off CMJ with a solid line-up of up-and-comers, older favorites (relatively speaking) and a few curveballs. I'm a bit biased as a Brooklyn Vegan contributor but this really was the place to be the first night, especially for me as I live mere blocks from the venue.

I've written about Emmy already, so straight to the North Carolina's The Sammies who were odd men out on the bill. They reminded me a lot of stuff I used to play when I was a college radio DJ, the many bands who formed in R.E.M.'s wake. (In fact, their new album was recorded at Mitch Easter's studio, he the man who produced Murmer and Reckoning.) The Sammies don't aspire to be anything more than fun, riff-heavy rock n' roll and in that they succeed. An image makeover could help their rep a bit but it might also make them seem like phonies. I say stay just the way you are.

Speaking of late-'80s college radio, Shearwater are just a smoke machine and some eyeliner away from being a goth band. As a closet goth, I appreciated thier grandiose sound and the melodramatic, operatic vocal stylings of Jonathan Meiburg. They're better live than on record, partly because of drummer Thor, who looks like a Thor and is a multi-instrumentalist who seemed to be a crowd favorite. Not something I'd sit around listening to but they are very good live.

Next up Ponytail. I've seen them a few times and I know some people love them. People who's opinions I respect. But they are not for me. I've actually grown to not hate them since the first time I saw them. But they are not for me.

Passion Pit have gotten pretty popular in the last six months and have a feeling a bulk of the crowd were there to see them — which makes me feel slightly vindicated about my review of their Pianos show where I said "These Bostonians are going to be big." (I got lambasted in the Brooklyn Vegan comments section for that.) Catchy dance music with a strong '70s soft rock undercurrent (Jeff claims they're are basically Chicago; the bassist kind of looks like Rupert Holmes) and a charismatic frontman who should really take singing lessons. He's going to blow out his vocal chords if he keeps up his now-signature shout-yelp-falsetto. But the crowd loves them.

"Singing DJ Jens Lekman" followed — emphasis on "DJing" and not so much on "singing." Once people got their heads around that, they let their hips take over and the dancing commenced in full. When he dropped Mariah Carey's "Fantasy" the whole crowd went nuts and, actually, it was one of the most genuine moments of the night.

The show, like all of them at CMJ this year, was running an hour late and I was intent on hitting too more shows (yes it was after Midnight) so I left after two Phenomenal Handclap Band songs. They were good, what I saw, and look forward to catching a full set soon.

Tons of pictures at Brooklyn Vegan (here and here and here) and reports from all over.

CMJ 2008: Emmy the Great | Pianos + Music Hall of Williamsburg | 10.21.2008

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"Whoa, she's got a keyboard player," I remarked as Emmy the Great was setting up for her first of many CMJ shows at Pianos Tuesday afternoon. I'd seen Emmy play four times previous and at none of them did she have more than a second guitarist and a violin player. But here she had three people backing her. No, four. Wait…five. Oh my god, Emmy the Great are a six piece?

My first thought was "Isn't this overkill?" I always compared her to Billy Bragg or Mary Lou Lord. One of those "less is more" types who just need their well-written songs, a guitar and a voice to win over audiences. Won't drums and a bassist and a keyboard player just make it more difficult to focus on what makes her special? 

Well, yes and no. While there was all that instrumentation, it's not like Emmy became Joan Jett or anything. Drumming was gentle, embellishments tastefull, favoring the song. At Pianos, during the Music Slut party, where the mix was a bit in flux, the vocals got lost a bit in the mix but having heard most of her songs before I didn't mind so much; he set sounded much better at Music Hall of Williamsburg, though her's is really more of a sit-down kind of show.

The band sounded great and it was nice to hear the songs I knew so well in bare-bones form fleshed out a little more, but I don't think I'd have wanted it to be my first impression. She is capable of such turns of phrases, clever but often sad and hit straight to the heart of it, that's what you should hear above all else. But as Heart on a Stick said, any day you get to see Emmy twice is a good one.

Emmy's new single, "We Almost Had a Baby," is out on November 10 and her debut album, First Love, will drop in January. Here's video of Emmy doing "Easter Parade" at Pianos:

Late of the Pier | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 10.22.2008

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I was somewhat skeptical that
Late of the Pier could pull of the genuine weirdness of their awesome, insane debut album, Fantasy Black Channel, in the live setting. I was trying to describe them to a friend I ran into at the show and gave them my standard spiel: "Part Gary Numan, part Flash Gordon soundtrack, part Warren G, part Metal." But pull it off they did, and played it all live sans laptops. 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.
MP3:
Late of the Pier – The Bears are Coming

Late of the Pier play Irving Plaza on Friday… with Soulwax! Go, go, go. Fantasy Black Channel gets an American release in January.

Franz Ferdiand | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 10.08.2008

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The last time Franz Ferdinand played Brooklyn (not counting last night's Obama rally) was in January 2004 at NorthSix, a month before their debut would be released in the UK. It was single-digits freezing outside but the place was packed and people were going nuts and singing along to every single song.(The album had leaked about a week before.) You could see in their pasty Scottish faces that they were surprised by the crowd's reaction — and absolutely thrilled. It was a star-making show, and they deserved it.

Alex Kapranos and co. had the same giant smiles on their faces last night as they returned to the same address, now refashioned as the fancier Music Hall of Williamsburg. In town, I'm guessing, to show off their just-finished third album, Tonight, for Sony/BMG suits, it's clear they know they've got a winneron their hands, given the utter confidence and joy with which they played last night. Kapranos must have let loose five flying kicks and a couple leaps from the drum riser, and Nick McCarthy literally didn't stop smiling. Franz Ferdinand were great during their short four-song set at Tuesday's Obama rally, but here they really tore the lid off the joint. 

We got seven songs from Tonight, including show opener "Bite Hard" which starts like a Nilsson piano number but then kicks into a more Ferdinand-ish groove. Some of the new ones have been around for a while, and were heard last year when they played Bowery Ballroom, and it's interesting to see how they've developed since. "Your Favorite Lie" has now been retitled "What She Came For," which still begins kind of like The Scissor Sisters' "Laura" but now trades the Haddaway-style dance jam ending for a wild rocking-out jam ending. (I may be the only person disappointed by this turn of events.) You can compare and contrast for yourself: here's a recording of "Your Favorite Lie" from a year ago and then "What She Came For" from last night's show here. And here's a recording of the version from a year ago.

Of the other six new ones, "Turn it On," with its glam-electro thump and analog synth bassline, is still the obvious single of all the new songs and the crowd treated it like it was already a hit. "Ulysses" was another synth-heavy, strut-worthy, four-on-the-floor stomper with a "la la la" chorus that everyone was singing along to by halfway through the song. The rest: "Kathryn Kiss Me" has a nice Madchester piano riff; "A New Thrill" is a rocker in the "Michael" school; and "Send Him Away" is a '60s-ish sounding number with a guitar lead that sounds curiously like Yeasayer's "2080."

As for the hits…you know what? "Take Me Out" doesn't get old. Neither does "Dark of the Matinee" or "Michael" or "Tell Her Tonight" or "40 Ft." That first album is genuine modern classic and still sounds great nearly four years on, even after being entirely unavoidable in 2004. It's follow-up, You Could Have it So Much Better With… could've been better, but it actually sounds pretty good given some distance, especially the two they played last night. "Outsiders," actually, kind of brough the house down during the encore… until "This Fire" burned it down. It's been three years and Franz Ferdinand have honed the new stuff already into crowd pleasers and if the MHoW show is any indication, we are primed for it. Clearly, Tonight cannot cannot come soon enough.

MP3Franz Ferdinand – Outsiders

MP3Franz Ferdinand – This Fire

SETLIST: Bite Hard* | Michael | Tell Her Tonight | Turn it On* | Dark of the Matinee | Send Him Away* | The Fallen | Kathryn Kiss Me* | Take Me Out | ULysses* | 40 Ft. | What She Came For* | ENCORE: A New Thrill* | Outsiders | This Fire
(*New songs)

A few more photos on my Flickr.

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Brooklyn's caUSE co-MOTION opened the show and I'm going to go out on a limb and say this was the best they've ever sounded. They seemed a little weirded out to be playing somewhere this fancy, with a kick-ass sound system, and not some musty, semi-legal space like Death by Audio or Silent Barn. Their scratchy post-punk pop (which owes a lot to Glaswegians Joseph K and the Pastels) was a good appetizer for Franz Ferdinand, though the bands' material is a bit samey and when singer Arno announced "We've got four more songs," I think he might've meant that literally. Four years and four 7" singles (with no song reaching the two-minute mark) doesn't make for the most prolific band, especially one that plays as much as they do, but you get the sense they don't really worry about it. caUSE co-MOTION certainly have fun, and are fun, and with 20-minute sets they never wear out their welcome.

MP3: caUSE co-MOTION – Which Way is Up?