Jarvis Cocker | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 7.21.2008

Jarvis_mhow2
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.

After five years of hibernation following the dissolution of Pulp, Jarvis reemerged in 2006 with his self-titled solo album which was a grower that I listened to more and more throughout 2007. Playing a couple dates following his performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, Jarvis road-tested almost an album's worth of new songs, almost all of which were great. In particular set-opener "Complications" and his ode to the female orgasm, "Girls Like it Too" were particularly good. So was "Told You Twice," a song about the humilations of Personals Ads, but given an almost James Brown sort of hook. (In a Jarvis kind of way.) Having fully embraced his 40s and all it entails, Jarvis has found his muse (and sense of humor) once again and I think we're in for a classic album sometime in the near future.

We got most of Jarvis too, including the torchy "Big Julie," "Fat Children" and the showstopper "Black Magic" where he expended more energy than most bands do in a whole set. I don't know how he does it. We also got the cover of Master C & J's house music classic "Face It" that he worked up especially for the Pitchfork Fest (Chicago is the home of house music, if you didn't know) which actually sounded more like Pulp than anything in his solo career — one wonders if "My Legendary Girlfriend" or  "F.E.E.L.I.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E." weren't influenced by it. (You can download an MP3 of "Face It" from the Pitchfork fest here.)

Jarvis is also the master of of between-song banter and there are too many anecdotes to recount. But if you live in NYC you can hear for yourself. He plays Terminal 5 tonight. Tickets are still available. Go. Go. Go.

MP3: Jarvis Cocker – Big Julie

SETLIST: Complications | Caucasian Blues | Tonight | Girls Like it Too | Big Julie | I Will Kill Again | Angela | Told You Twice | Big Stuff | Black Magic ENCORE 1: Fat Children | Just a Fucking Song | Cunts are Still Running the World | ENCORE 2: Don't Let Him Waste Your Time | Face it

Some more pictures at my Flickr.

NYC Popfest: Mahogany + My Teenage Stride + The Pains of Being Pure at Heart | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 6.14.2008

Mahogany Despite the torrential rains and a slew of other shows with potentially the same audience (including Love is All, and to a lesser degree, Vampire Weekend), night three of NYC Popfest 2008 was a whole lot of fun. The venue wasn't sold-out by any means — the balcony wasn't open at all — but people who showed up stayed for all five bands on the bill, with very few people hanging at the downstairs bar during any of the performances. Indie-pop fans are dedicated. I'm breaking the evening into two posts, lest it be 10,000 words long or something, so this one covers the first three bands — all of whom are from Brooklyn.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
were the first band of the night and I was anxious to see them, as I've been liking their music for some time, the got the hot mention in L Magazine a few weeks back, and every time I read an interview they mention how much they dig The Pastels. I seemed destined to love them.

And I did. How can you not love great pop songs drenched in distortion and reverb? My Bloody Valentine comparisons abound, but to me they are more akin to Velocity Girl, if Archie had sung lead more. Or the Ropers or early Lilys or any band on Slumberland in the early '90s.

And they are very cute. In particular, keyboardist Peggy bops around on stage like one of the dancers in A Peanuts Christmas. (I'm thinking specifically of the girl who shakes her head side to side.) A friend commented "they just use distortion because they can't sing." (You should hear them play piano.) I would disagree with the not being able to sing part, but even if that was so… so what? I could name a dozen great bands who did the same. Are TPoBPaH great? With only about eight songs under their belt, too early to say. But loads of potential.

MP3: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – This Love is F-ing Right (buy)

Myteenagestride
My Teenage Stride
are seriously fun and their songs are ridiculously catchy. Sometimes maybea little too obvious in their '80s influences (why yes, that song does sound like The Chills' "Pink Frost" and that one is like The Wedding Present covering the Bunnymen…) but frontman Jedediah Smith is a thief with good taste — and a melancholic sense of humor.

A bundle of energy on stage, the songs had more oomph than on last year's quite good Ears Like Golden Bats. The popfest show was their last with bassist Mat Patalano and guitarist Dakkan Abe (I have a feeling the lineup changes a lot) and it seemed like they were determined to go out with a bang and much jumping around. Patalano, who has his own band The Specific Heats, will be particularly hard to replace — he's a real character. They also  played a few songs off their new Lesser Demons EP, and I thought "Theme from Teenage Suicide" was particularly storming.

MP3My Teenage Stride – Theme from Teenage Suicide
(buy)

Mahogany_mhowSlimming down from the double rhythm section lineup they had around the time of their stellar 2006 album, Connectivity!, the now five-piece Mahogany gave the best performance of the night and it was definitely the best I'd ever seen them play. (Much much better than their muddled set at Mercury Lounge a while back.) Aided in no small part by the great sound at Music Hall of Williamsburg (which helped all the bands, actually), they just really had it together. The downsizing hasn't affected their sonics at all, which are still a huge swirl of guitars and groovy basslines. And though you could definitely call their music shoegaze, Mahogany don't stare at the floor. They were in constant motion with more than a little posing — which made for some great photos, even for a guy with a crappy point-and-shoot. They still don't seem to be able to play more than a five-song set, though. Or maybe they just know when enough's enough.

MP3: Mahogany – The View from the People Wall (buy)

More Popfest pictures on my Flickr.

Swervedriver | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 6.13.2008

Swervedriver_mhow
Busy night last night. After Popfest at Cakeshop and Amazing Baby at Mercury Lounge, I hopped in a cab back to the WB to catch Swervedriver (again) at Music Hall of Williamsburg. I watched most of the show from the upstairs balcony where I dared to
take out my earplugs. MHoW may be the
best-sounding club in the city. Setlist was slightly different than at
Bowery
, we also got "I am Superman" and "Girl on a Motorbike." Also a different vibe for sure than at Bowery Ballroom — somewhat younger, definitely more girls in attendance. And it's possible Swervedriver were even better. "Duel," "The Birds," and "For Seeking Heat" all sounded spectacular and the band was definitely feeding off the way-into-it crowd's energy. Drummer Jez, in particular, seemed to be having the time of his life. They burned up the stage — I hope this momentum leads to some new music.

SETLIST: sciflyer | juggernaut rides | sandblasted | the birds|  duel | girl on a
motorbike | these times | 99th dream | the hitcher | she's beside herself |
i am superman | never lose that feeling | behind the scenes | son of
mustang ford | for seeking heat | rave down

BV posted some great shots. Swervedriver plays Toronto tonight and Chicago tomorrow. And that's it, folks. For now.

Blowin’ Cool

Swervedriver_now
Of all the bands from the original '90s shoegaze scene, Swervedriver were probably the best. Overall. They never made a bad album, never wasted a million dollars and 15 years testing out the sound of tube amps while not making music, and got out of the game before making an "back to basics" record of substandard Zepplin-esque blues rock. And their live shows smoked. Even while being kicked around by record labels (Creation in the UK; A&M in America) and the UK music press, Swervedriver remained cool.

Having never quite got their due in the '90s, it's heartening to see the excitement around the Swervedriver  reunion, including selling out two nights in NYC. I haven't seen them play since July 1997 at Tramps, when the band was over for whatever they were calling the New Music Seminar that year. Reviews of the reunion shows have been glowing, and as their four albums all hold up I can only imagine this is going to be a triumphant return.

Unfortunately almost all of Swervedriver's releases are out of print, except for a well-chosen but expensive compilation, Juggernaut Rides. f you're going to any of the remaining shows but aren't all that familiar with the band (yes, it seems unlikely) or if you want to know what you'll be missing, here's a track from each of the four albums.

MP3: Swervedriver – Rave Down

MP3: Swervedriver – Duel

MP3: Download Swervedriver_Birds

MP3: Swervedriver – 99th Dream

If you want to hear more, there are live versions of every song from every album available as free downloads on Swervedriver's website.

You shouldn't ignore the opening bands either. At both shows are Glasgow's Terra Diablo, who are actually managed by Swervedriver drummer, Jez. Musically similar, but vocally are a little too emo for my liking. Tonight at Bowery Ballroom are also Dirty on Purpose who have been lauded many times on this blog and their new RCRD LBL EP is among the best things they've ever done; Thursday's show at Music Hall of Williamsburg has Longwave on the bill, who I'm sure can swap label horror stories with Swervedriver. The new songs posted on their MySpace sound great.

Hot Chip + Matthew Dear | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 4.08.2008

Hotchip_mhow
Sometimes I feel like write too much about Hot Chip. (Maybe I just don’t write enough about other artists is the problem.)  But then they play a show like this and I know, at least in the case of this band, it’s justified. Hot Chip absolutely killed it last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg. There’s a special place in my heart for the Bowery Ballroom show in March ’06 where Pat Mahoney played drums, subbing for an ill Felix, but this was easily the best full-lineup show I’ve ever seen them play.

It’s been interesting watching the band evolve over the last three years, both on record and live. I don’t think they’ve ever played the same song the same way twice. "Boy From School" seems to get the most radical reworkings, which last night segued seamlessly out of show-opener "Shake a Fist." They use different synth sounds and percussion, while keeping the little guitar riff that is the song’s pulse as a constant. I think they just get bored and fiddle with the arrangements and it keeps things fresh for us too.

The main set was a nonstop dance party, with the bulk of Made in the Dark plus "Boy from School," and "Over and Over" from The Warning, plus a welcome but unexpected "Crap Kraft Dinner," my favorite from Coming on Strong. The sound was great (I don’t understand the MHOW haters) and the crowd super-psyched, as was the band. Al especially, who’d spent the afternoon in a pub watching Liverpool beat Arsenal. The encore we got the two slow-jams from the new album, plus "Don’t Dance" and a killer "No Fit State" which Alexis managed to work in a bit of "Temptation" (previously worked into "Boy from School" at Webster Hall last summer). As much as I don’t want to see them stop playing venues this size, they are ready for the Terminal 5s of the world.

Setlist: Shake a Fist | Boy from School | Bendable Poseable | Touch Too Much | Over and Over | Out at the Pictures | Wrestlers | Crap Kraft Dinner | One Pure Thought | Ready for the Floor | ENCORE: Made in the Dark | Don’t Dance | No Fit State | In the Privacy of Our Love

MP3: Hot Chip – Crap Kraft Dinner
(buy some Hot Chip)

Matthewdear
Opener Matthew Dear was pretty great too, playing with his band Big Hands. Much more minimal than on his great album from last year, Asa Breed, his live presence was kind of like the souls of David Bowie and David Byrne were trapped in the body of Timothy Hutton. wearing the skinniest jeans ever and a Euro-fitted jacket and shirt, Dear spazzed out with one of the most impressive arrays of hand-held percussions instruments, including at least four different shakers and this clickety-clack thing that I’d never seen before.

Hotchipmatthewdear
Midway through his single "Don and Sherri" he welcomed Hot Chip to the stage and the song morphed into their version of the song which has been appended to a new version of Asa Breed. It was awesome.

MP3: Matthew Dear – Don and Sherri

MP3: Hot Chip – Don and Sherri

Bao Nguyen took some awesome shots for Brooklyn Vegan, so be sure to check those out.

Follow My Tangent: Hot Chip, Matthew Dear, Free Blood, Music Hall of Williamsburg

The North American leg of Hot Chip‘s Made in the Dark tour kicked off last night in Philly and finds them mostly playing big venues like New York’s 3000-capacity Terminal 5 (where they’ll be on Saturday). When I first saw them three years ago at Rothko I would’ve never imagined they’d be as popular (or as amazing) as they are now. I don’t like the idea of having to see them in such giant places but what can you do? Luckily, they still seem to make time for some smaller places, like tonight’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

For most of this tour the opening slot is going to Free Blood, which is Madeline Day and ex-!!! guy John Pugh. They’ve been around for a few years now, mainly playing here in NYC but this tour is likely to up their national profile. It’s definite party music, but more specifically I’d call it sex party music. Not that I’ve ever been to a sex party, but I’d have to imagine Free Blood’s steamy bump and grind would be a perfect lotion to the motion.

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Live, it’s the chemistry between Maddy and John that make it happen as there’s not a lot else going on onstage. John will occasionally strap on a guitar, and those have been the best moments at the last few shows of theirs I’ve been to. (Most recently at Lit about three weeks ago which is where this picture was taken.) Without it, it drifts into karaoke territory — really good karaoke but that’s basically what it is. There has been a gaping hole ever since the exit of bassist Gorman (who is still in !!!) about a year ago, and they need something else "live" to kick it up from Fun to Awesome. The records, though, are pretty much already there. Just in time for this tour, Free Blood released their second EP, with "Grumpy" being doled out to the internets:

MP3: Free Blood – Grumpy
(from EP 2, buy it from 7 Digital)

Meanwhile, The Daily Growl offers up a remix of that track from Edinburgh’s Found.

Here are the Hot Chip/Free Blood tour dates…

4/11/08 @ 9:30 Club in Washington, DC
4/12/08 @ Terminal 5 in New York, NY
4/14/08 @ Paradise in Boston, MA
4/17/08 @ Vic Theatre in Chicago, IL
4/18/08 @ First Avenue in Minneapolis, MN
4/22/08 @ Showbox in Seattle, WA
4/23/08 @ Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR
4/24/08 @ The Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, CA

Tonight’s opener, however, is Matthew Dear, who apparently got his hard drive stolen at Galapagos last night while DJing there. Not sure how that happens, but it sucks. He just reissued last year’s Asa Breed as Asa Breed – The Black Edition (buy) with a bunch of remixes, including a cover version of his single "Don and Sherri" as done by…wait for it… Hot Chip. I like the original plenty, but the ‘Chip’s take on it is great too:

MP3: Matthew Dear – Don and Sherri

MP3: Hot Chip – Don and Sherri

Though Dear DJs a lot, tonight is him with his band, Big Hands, and maybe if we’re lucky we’ll get a Hot Chip or two onstage to join him for "Don and Sherri." He’s on at 9pm, if you’ve got tickets.

And, finally, speaking of Music Hall of Williamsburg… they’ve now got a happy hour. From 6pm till the first band starts, well drinks and draught beers are only $3. Which is nice ’cause there aren’t any other bars to go to beforehand in Williamsburg.

Super Furry Animals | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 1.25.2008

Sfa_mhow"So our next song is ‘Northern Lights,’ which will be played in the style of Teenage Fanclub." It was that kind of show. After seven years of touring with electric raincoats, 5.1 stereo sound, elaborate visuals and celery-chomping gorillas, Super Furry Animals were back to basics.

Now, "basics" is the ‘Furries world still means having room for a laptop and a Power-Rangers helmet but this was, more or less five guys playing nearly two hours of great songs with the ability to keep things loose and change it up if necessary.

Which brings us to that Teenage Fanclub version of "Northern Lights." The song, from 1999’s Geurrilla, normally has a tropical vibe with steel drum and mariachi horns. I’m going to guess that there were laptop problems with this one so they just decided to play it straight. I still prefer the original — maybe one of my favorite SFA singles — but it was cool to see them just sort of winging it.

The band played for nearly two hours, with a mid-show break to "grab a drink." We got most of their new, return-to-form Hey Venus! and probably three songs off all the other albums, except Mwng and Love Kraft which only got maybe one each. But I can’t say for sure. Highlights for me were "If You Don’t Want Me to Destroy You," "Zoom!," "Receptacle for the Respectable," "She’s Got Spies," "Slow Life," and "Into the Night."

There were a couple firsts at Music Hall of Williamsburg, one being this marked their Brooklyn debut. Second, traditional epic show-closer "The Man Don’t Give a Fuck" clocked in at around five minutes, and was followed by Guerilla’s "Keep the Cosmic Trigger Happy," ending the night. I’m certain this was the only time I’ve seen them since the f-bomb laden, Steely Dan-sampling single was released that it didn’t close the show. There were some shenanigans too. Gruff Rhys engaged the crowd in a
little audience participation, getting everyone to wiggle their fingers
on top of our head like "jazz antlers" or something. And, of course, the robot head.

Sfa_mhow2

Sound was good, though it seemed a little quiet till they got to "Zoom!" and the sold-out audience didn’t really get into it till then either. Well, except for this dude who was totally into it, much to the occasional mortification of his tolerant girlfriend. (I’ve been that guy before.) Then there was the dude next to me who played Othello on his cellphone during the entire show. To each his own.

MP3: Steely Dan – Showbiz Kids

I only caught the last four songs of openers Holy Fuck but they were good as usual. Expanding beyond the live dance music vibe they had in effect when they opened for Forward Russia, there was a definite Who vibe going on this time. Hope they come back soon.

Also in attendance: Punk Photo; SPIN, Vulture, and the Voice; Photo swiped from ryandombal’s Flickr photostream.

Super Furry Animals’ tour is only just beginning. See all shows and request a song, though apparently the widget wasn’t exactly working correctly as of Friday.
 

Sondre Lerche | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 11.26.2007

Sondre

Sondre Lerche is charming even when shilling. Monday night’s solo show at Music Hall of Williamsburg was kind of like watching an extended segment of a talk show where the blonde Norwegian relentlessly plugged Dan in Real Life, the romantic comedy he scored. In-between songs from the soundtrack, he told stories of how director Peter Hedges (who was in the house) asked him to do it; how he wrote the song "To Be Surprised" while a scene was being filmed in the next room; how he met the cast of The Office at the Dan in Real Life premiere; how awesome he thought the movie turned out… etc.

It would’ve been kinda nauseating if Lerche wasn’t so genuinely enthusiastic and generally psyched about the whole experience. And if the songs weren’t good. (It was still a bit much.) Remember, the Dan in Real Life soundtrack is his second good album this year — the other being the fantastic, underheard Phantom Punch. The only real downer of the show was that I was under the impression of that he was going to be there with his backing band, The Faces Down. No, this was him solo. Which ended up being totally fine. Lerche is one of those performers, like Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello and Robyn Hitchcock who can hold a big room’s attention with just a guitar, a sparkling personality and some great songs.

He had the mostly-female audience in the palm of his hand, who were singing along often and loudly. It was really cute, especially on "Modern Nature," where they filled in Lillian Samdal’s part of the duet. Lerche played for maybe 90 minutes or so, hitting all his albums plus a cover of Elvis Costello’s "Human Hands" (from the DiRL soundtrack). He also performed an abbreviated, impromptu cover of Scritti Polliti’s "The Word Girl" after some girl screamed out "Scritti Polliti!" for seemingly no reason. (I think it was maybe better than the original which featured some seriously icky ’80s production.) Part of me considered yelling "Orange Juice!" in hopes of a "Consolation Prize" cover. But I didn’t do it. The only time I really wanted the Faces Down to be there was for The Phantom Punch‘s rockin’ title track, yet he still pretty much went to town on his instrument.

It baffles me why he’s not more popular. Anyone who’s seen him live leaves charmed yet Music Hall of Williamsburg was only half-full at best. And at only 25, he’s got plenty of time to gain more fans.

MP3: Sondre Lerche – To Be Surprised
(buy the Dan in Real Life soundtrack)

MP3: Sondre Lerche – The Phantom Punch
(buy The Phantom Punch)

MP3: Scritti Politti – The Word Girl
(buy Cupid & Psyche 85)

I also shot video of "Modern Nature":

Dirty on Purpose | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 9.28.2007

Dop_mhow01Any post I write about Dirty on Purpose is going to be a little biased as they are friends of mine. But I would be a fan even if that wasn’t the case I would like them — their melodic, shoegazer pop hits all my buttons — and I genuinely think they just keep getting better.

Friday was the last night of their tour with Fujiya & Miyagi and their first time playing at Music Hall of Williamsburg. This was easily the best sounding gig of theirs I’d ever attended. MHoW’s sound system is state-of-the-art, and Dirty on Purpose sounded epic. Arena even. Guitars roared and chimed. Yet everything was crystal clear, the bass and drums, everything where it should be… maybe the vocals were a little low but that always seems to be a problem with them. DoP are a band of quiet singers.

Despite being openers it was clear there were plenty of people there to see them — it was a hometown audience and all. A set full of crowd pleasers — "No Radio," "Marfa Lights," "Car No-Driver" — plus a new one (the tremolo-heavy "Audience") from their upcoming Like Bees EP, another new one that I don’t think they’ve recorded yet, and their cover of Real Life’s synth-pop hit "Send Me an Angel" which they’ve been doing for about a year.

The latter I’m sure started as a joke but over the last six months or some has really come into its own and is now genuinely awesome, with George Wilson’s guitars going into freakout overdrive. It’s still dancey, a little gothy, but with that MBV treatment to it. It would sound brilliant on Gossip Girl in one of the show’s many over-the-top party scenes… someone get Alex Patsavas a copy of the EP now.

MP3: Dirty on Purpose – Send Me an Angel