Sisters are Doing it For Themselves

Sisters at Dead Herring, photo from Nicki Ishmael's Flickr

This past Saturday I went to apartment/venue Dead Herring to catch Boston's Pants Yell! who are one of the best indie-jangle bands out there. And they were great. But the surprise of the night was Brooklyn duo Sisters who kind of blew me away, both through some great songs and the volume and wallop with which they played them. I've seen drummer Matt Conboy around the neighborhood for years — he's hard to miss with a mushroom cloud of hair to rival Kyp Malone's — and knew he lived in the Death by Audio complex (as does singer Aaron Pfannebecker, I think), I just always figured he played in some sort of proto-metal band or something. An impression reinforced when I saw them lugging in an enormous tower of equipment that rivaled Sic Alps' monolith of amps. I was glad I had my earplugs.

They were indeed very loud, but in a surprising turn of events (to me), instead of metal, Sisters are more in the melodic, noisy world of late 80s/early 90s indie rock: Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine, Husker Du, etc. Backed occasionally by an iPod and the classic Casio Rapman keyboard, Conboy and Pfannebacker made quite a ruckus sounded great, I thought, despite the ad-hoc soundsystem. They also provided their own light show. Consider me an instant convert.

Sisters_cover Up till now, Sisters sole release was a cassette, though I think they're now selling it in CD-R form too. But they just released a split-7" with Nashville's Jeff the Brotherhood on Death by Audio Records. Both bands will play Death by Audio, the venue, this Sunday for a record release party. Both sides of the single are ace, and here's the Sisters side:

MP3: Sisters – Highway Scratch

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." 

Popfest NYC: From Bubblegum to Sky + Pants Yell! + The Besties | Pianos | 6.13.2008

Who says early shows suck? NYC Popfest's happy hour show at Piano's was blast and Pants Yell!'s show in particular was a corker and may take the prize of Best Performance at NYC Popfest 2008. (I missed Tullycraft… more on why in a bit.) A tight cohesive trio with a beast of a drummer, Pants Yell! were on fire (no cats needed) 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.

They know their history too. Their album is named after the singer of Young Marble Giants, and the t-shirts they were selling were emblazoned with the names of perhaps future albums: Amelia Fletcher, Aggi, Tracey Thorn, and Phoebe Summersquash. And speaking of that last name mentioned, Pants Yell! covered Small Factory's "Happy to See You" which made me like them even more.

MP3: Pants Yell! – Shoreham Kent

MP3: Small Factory – Happy to See You

From Bubblegum to Sky The evening started with From Bubblegum to Sky, a punchy, fizzy band from pop maestro Mario Hernandez, who splits his time between NYC and the Bay Area. The band were playing with a fill-in drummer who only had three hours notice/practice but they pulled it off. This stuff is so sweet — especially Hernandez's vocals — that it might put off some listeners, but FBTS are more muscular live than on record, bringing it closer to Cheap Trick territory (with a healthy dose of Marc Bolan) than anything else. If interested, they're playing Union Hall on Thursday.

MP3: I Always Fall Apart


Brooklyn's The Besties are always fun and more often than not perform with some sort of high-concept gimmick (costumes, etc) but tonight's gimmick was to have no gimmick. Luckily they have energy, charm, and catchy tunes — I don't think they need the other stuff at all.

I fully planned on seeing indie pop legends Tullycraft who were headlining the show and by the Besties finished the rock room at Pianos was packed to the gills. It's much smaller than it used to be, thanks to the newly added bar in there and a big merch table. I'd been enjoying the cheap happy hour beer and went for a pitstop before Tullycraft came on. As I walked out of room, the guy at the door said "If you leave you can't come back in." I thought he was talking about leaving Pianos, so I said "I'm just going to the bathroom." "If you leave the room you can't come back in." My bladder won, they wouldn't let me back in… so I left to go see Grand Archives at Bowery Ballroom.

By all reports, Tullycraft were bonkers and the crowd was going banannas with crowd surfing and everything. Next time, guys. My streak of missing Popfest headliners would continue throughout most of the weekend.