No Cardigan Jokes, Just Some NYC Popfest Picks

The fifth-annual NYC Popfest is this week and I wrote an exhaustive (exhausting?) post about it over at BrooklynVegan, but I thought I’d offer up five Don’t-Miss Bands. Some of them are playing the Thursday show at Cake Shop which is sold-out (thanks to Pains of Being Pure at Heart, though it probably woulda sold out anyway) but both of the ones in that case are playing other NYC shows. Gonna try not too repeat to many phrases.

Gold Bears (Thursday, May 19 @ Cake Shop)
This Atlanta quartet played Popfest last year, but unfortunately almost no one saw them because it was at the day show at Spike Hill. Actually, I have no idea how many people showed up but I had to work and missed it. I remember Kip from Pains saying how good they were. A year later, Gold-Bears are back and signed to Slumberland, who released their debut album, Are You Falling in Love?, last week. The band’s speedy jangle (and singer Jeremy Underwood’s phrasing), at times, seems to be ripped straight from a 1985 Wedding Present single. But there’s also an anthemicism that is more in vein of the Mountain Goats (Underwood’s voice too). What it all adds up to is big hooks and bigger choruses tied up with some “bah bahs” and feedback. Awesome.

MP3: Gold-Bears – Totally Called It
MP3: Gold-Bears – Record Store

If you don’t have tickets to Cake Shop, Gold Bears play Brooklyn Fireproof in Bushwick tomorrow (5/17) with The Hairs and more. Only $5!

Sea Lions (Thursday, May 19 @ Cake Shop)
Didn’t know that much about Sea Lions before they played Popfest last year, apart from Toby liked them, which is usually enough for me. Looking a bunch of high school misfits (in a cute way of course), they won me over in about 20 seconds with their clean guitars Postcard-style groove. (Main Sea Lion Adrian Pillado plays a really cool vintage Vox that I covet despite not playing my own guitar in like three years.) Sea Lions only have a single out (I think?) but like every other good band like this they are now on Slumberland and will hopefully have new music out soon. In the meantime, go see them this week.

MP3: Sea Lions – Let’s Groove
MP3: Sea Lions – Let’s Fall in Love

Again, the Thursday Cake Shop show is sold out but you have two more chances to catch them: Saturday (5/21) night at Death By Audio (with the Hairs, again, and Kids on a Crime Spree[see below]) and then Sunday afternoon at some BBQ in Bed Stuy.

Betty & the Werewolves (Friday, May 20 @ Cameo)
Here’s your quintessential UK indiepop: the sound, the look, the whole lot. Done to perfection. B&tW’s debut, Tea Time Favourites, is a pretty essential listen if you like this kind of stuff. And if you do, you’ve probably already heard it. It also asks the questions not a lot of albums dare to, like “Should I Go to Glasgow?” The band are at their best when they go minor chord (like on “Francis” below) which gives things just enough bite. You need that bitter with your sweet. Well, I do.

MP3: Betty & the Werewolves – David Cassidy
MP3Betty & the Werewolves – Francis

Betty & the Werewolves’ Tea Time Favourites is out now on Damaged Goods records.

Cuffs (Saturday, May 21 @ Santos)
This is Andrew Churchman’s new band, he of much loved Pants Yell! who played Popfest twice. Cuffs are actually 2/3 of PY! plus one of Big Troubles and… somebody else. The demos up on their Bandcamp site sound a lot like Churchman’s old band but live Cuffs rock a little harder with some instrumental passages that I might not call jamming but some might use that word. Cuffs are good. They’re also on early, 7:15 sharp. Cuffs debut 7″ will be just hot off the presses so becareful when picking it up at the merch table.

MP3: Cuffs – Arthur Kroft (demo)

Kids on a Crime Spree (Sunday, May 22 @ The Rock Shop)
Mario Hernandez is an indiepop veteran, having fronted well-liked bands Ciao Bella and From Bubblegum to Sky over the last 15 years or so. I think his new thing, Kids on a Crime Spree, is his best yet which tempers some of his sugary tendencies with our old friends reverb and feedback. Yes it’s been done before — many times by many bands — but Mario is a better songwriter than most and the production is just right. Guess what label KOACS are on?

MP3: Kids on a Crime Spree – Trumpets of Death

Kids on a Crime Spree’s debut, We Love You So Bad, is out May 31 on Rock-a-Fella…just kidding. SLUMBERLAND. They’re also playing with Sea Lions and fellow Popfest band The Hairs at Death by Audio Saturday night.

Silver Swans (Sunday, May 22 @ The Rock Shop)
Duo from San Francisco who have yet to release a record but the songs offered up on their Soundcloud page are terrific: minimal, ethereal electro with strong songwriting backing it all up. Their debut album is called Forever which hopefully won’t be how long we’ll have to wait to hear it. I always wonder what stuff like this will be like live, but I really can’t wait to find out.

MP3: Silver Swans – Secrets
MP3: Silver Swans – Mother of Pearl (demo)

Silver Swans also open for Austra on Monday at Mercury Lounge so if you’re attending that sold out show, go early and catch them.  They also play Pianos on Tuesday, May 24 at Pianos.

Fan Modine (Sunday, May 22 @ The Rock Shop)
Joe Pernice isn’t the only guy out there setting downer lyrics aloft on the gossamer wings of gorgeous orchestral arrangements, you know. Gordon Zacharias has been making music under the Fan Modine name for almost 15 years. Gratitude the Shipper (not on Slumberland [I know!]) is his first album in seven years and is pretty spectacular orch-pop that is reminiscent of The Zombies and the Left Banke and, yeah, The Pernice Brothers. Chris Stamey of the dB’s produced and all sorts of cool people played on it, like Mitch Easter and members of Polvo and the Essex Green. Fan Modine doesn’t do a lot of touring so this is a pretty special event.

MP3: Fan Modine – Julu Road (MP3)
MP3: Fan Modine – Through the Valley (MP3)

The whole line-up Sunday is a good one, beginning with The Hairs (ex-Knight School), and also featuring The Motifs (Crayon Fields offshoot), Procedure Club (more Slumberland Action), Panda Riot (shoegazey goodness from Chicago) plus the aforementioned Silver Swans and Kids on a Crime Spree. The Rock Shop has a lovely roof deck if it ever stops raining and the kitchen makes a great burger.

Cats on Fire Will Never Be Your Woman, but They Will Play the West Coast and Release a Compilation


While we wait for Finland's Cats on Fire to make a third album, we can look forward to Dealing in Antiques, a 20-track odds-n-sods compilation from the band's eight year existence. The album is out May 12 on Matinée Recordings and includes a pretty great cover of White Town's unlikely '90s hit "Your Woman," which will probably make Pains of Being Pure at Heart keyboardist Peggy Wang happy if no one else. Check it out:

MP3: Cats on Fire – Your Woman

Last year's Our Temperance Movement made my Best of 2009 list and if you haven't heard it, you should definitely give it a spin. It's like all the best jazzy, jangly bands (Orange Juice, The Smiths, Felt, Wild Swans, etc) of the early '80s all rolled up into one new foppy delight that is fantastic in it's own right.

MP3: Cats on Fire – Letters from a Voyage to Sweden 

They're also a great live band, and their Don Hill's performance at last year's NYC Popfest was the highlight of that weekend. So good. They're not playing it this year, but they will be flying over to California later this month, playing Hungry Beat! party at La Cita in LA on May 29 and then the San Francisco Popfest on May 30 (with the Tyde, My Teenage Stride and more!) — do go see them if you live over there. They'll then jet to Hong Kong for a show on June 12. Hopefully we'll get them to the East Coast this year at some point.

Full track list for Dealing in Antiques after the jump:

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NYC Popfest 2009: Liechtenstein + The Tartans | Mondo! @ Don Hill’s | 5.15.2009

While Cats on Fire and The Radio Dept. were the main attractions at Friday night's show at Don Hill's, but really the whole bill was pop-solid. Swedish trio Liechtenstein, recent signees to Slumberland, played their first ever American show. Dressed alike in white tops and black skirts, Renée, Naemi and Elin kept banter to a minimum and ran through a set of their best songs so far, including "Apathy," "Roses in the Park," and their best song, "Everything's for Sale." (Which should really be amended to their Slumberland album, but it's not.) The obvious, and most common, comparision is with the Vivian Girls, but where VGs came to their sound somewhat accidentally, it's clear that Liechtenstein are fans of the Shop Assistants, Mo-Dettes, Would-Be Goods, Talulah Gosh, and other C-86 touchstones. They are also are better musicians, though Vivian Girls might have an edge in the tunes department. Melodies and stage presence are a bit chilly, but it's a cool blast nonetheless.

MP3: Liechtenstein – Everything's for Sale
MP3: Liechtenstein – Roses in the Park

Liechtenstein's debut album, Survival Strategies In A Modern World, is out June 9 on Slumberland.
Los Angeles' Tartans, meanwhile, are warm as the California sun. They are cute, dance constantly (on stage and off) and are clearly huge fans/scholars of indiepop, from the glockenspiels and melodicas to their clothes to the great cover of early Go-Betweens single "People Say" they played. I do wish they had more songs that rival their great "Cats of Camerford" 7" but as they've only released two singles so far, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

MP3: The Tartans – The Cats of Camerford

NYC Popfest: The Radio Dept. | Mondo! @ Don Hills | 5.15.2009

Nobody really knew what to expect of enigmatic Swedes The Radio Dept. who were playing their first ever New York show, which was also second-ever show in the United States. There's an air of mystery around the trio — they aren't big on interviews or press photos or playing live in general or releasing records in a timely manner — which fits well with their dreamy, often amazing music. With all the other bands on the bill (Liechtenstein, Cats on Fire, The Tartans), most people's expectations were lowered, kind of amazed that we were actually going to see them play at all.

The verdict: pretty good. Playing drummerless and with a lot less guitar pedals than I was expecting, the band recreated the hazy charm of songs like "1995" and especially "I Don't Like This" the latter of which is from their near-perfect This Past Week EP. The smoke machines and moody lighting kept things mysterious. It sort of reminded me of the Cocteau Twins, who didn't get a drummer till late in their existence. I do wish they'd worked up at least one song with one of the other Popfest bands' rhythm sections, and maybe played one song as a full band — say, "Where the Damage Isn't Already Done" from Lesser Matters — but the laptop percussion and bass sounded pretty good. And loud. You could feel those subfrequencies in your stomach.

The set was short, a "warm-up" for their proper show at The Bell House, and included "Freddy and the Trojan Horse" and, I think, "Pet Grief" and "Why Won't You Talk About It." (I could be wrong about those last two.) The show finished with a new song, perhaps upcoming single "David" (out June 23), which if its thumping, distinctive beat is any indication, the new album will bear a distinct balearic influence. ("Freddy and the Trojan Horse" was already heading that direction.) Maybe they've been hanging at fellow Swedes Studio's studio.

 MP3: The Radio Dept. – I Don't Like This (buy it from Labrador or Emusic)

Frank from Chromewaves make the trek down from Toronto for the show and will probably have a review up Monday or so. Meanwhile, here are a couple more pictures from the show:


NYC Popfest 2009: Cats on Fire | Mondo! @ Don Hill’s | 5.15.2009


"America, your economy is shit." Cats on Fire singer Mattais Björkas was addressing  the NYC Popfest crowd at Don Hill's with grave seriousness. "Our is too of course. And greenhouse gasses are at an all-time high. Of course, that didn't stop us from bringing a suitcase full of Finish bottled water on the airplane with us." Rimshot! It was at this point that I realized I had him figured all wrong. Impeccably dressed and coiffed, prone to pursed lips, I thought he was kind of a sourpuss when the Finnish band played Don Hill's at last year's Popfest.

But last night I got it — he's hilarious. And I don't mean laugh at this person prancing around onstage. Björkas is a genuinely funny guy with a bone-dry wit and tongue planted firmly in cheek. And when not playing guitar, he has the guts to dance onstage the way many of us dance to the Smiths when no one else is at home. The rest of the band are ace, it should be noted, ably replicating the immaculate, arpeggiated pop (think Aztec Camera, Smiths, Felt, Eggstone) found on 2007's The Province Complains and the excellent, just-released Our Temperance Movement. And Cats on Fire are a flat-out great live band, the whole group has chops, and the audience was lapping it up, dancing… well, more of a bob and sway than the geek-out the music really meritted.

MP3: Cats on Fire – Horoscope
MP3: Cats on Fire – Letters from a Voyage in Sweden

If you missed them Friday night, Cats on Fire play Bruar Falls with Swedish trio (and fellow Popfest-ers) Liechtenstein on Tuesday, May 19. I highly recommend you clear your schedule. Our Temperance Movement was just released in the U.S. on Matinee Recordings and if you like the MP3s on this post, you're gonna want to get the whole thing.

I shot video of two songs, which you can watch if you click through the jump…

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NYC Popfest 2009: The Ballet + My Teenage Stride + The Metric Mile + Dream Bitches + Soft City | Cake Shop | 5.14.2009

That's 'Up for a Bit with the Pastels' on the turntable, btw.
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. 

My Teenage Stride

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.

MP3: My Teenage Stride – Creep Academy

Dreambitces 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.

MP3: Dream Bitches – Video Games

Metricmile 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. 

MP3: The Metric Mile – How to Beat the SAT

Theballet 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. 

MP3: The Ballet – In My Head

Thesoftcity 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="">The Soft City – Wallflower

Video from the show after the jump!

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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." 

NYC Popfest: The Hermit Crabs + Cats on Fire + More | Union Pool | 6.15.2008

"So we played Mondo Party on Friday," said Cats on Fire's Mattias Björkas after their first song at Union Pool on Sunday. "And there's already a review on the internet. It was mostly positive."

Oh boy. I was pretty sure he was talking about this site.

Then, I was sure. He continued: "The person wrote…'The Finnish don't quite have the command of the English language their
Swedish neighbors do, and Björkas stage banter came off
stilted and a
cold." The audience erupted in laughter. Me, I felt flushed. I yelled out "It's much warmer today!" but I don't think he put it together that I was the guy who wrote that. Probably just as well. That was a first, getting quoted. If there's a next time, I hope it's about something positive.

And Björkas' stage banter was warmer on Sunday. The band was more relaxed — probably less jet-lagged from the long trip from Finland — it was a better show than at Don Hills on Friday night. The crowd ate it up like sugary cereal.

The final event at NYC Popfest 2008 was a lot of fun, very chill, and way off schedule. Bands were supposed to start at 2PM but then the kickoff got pushed to 3PM. But they didn't actually start till maybe 3:30 and there eight acts on the bill.

It was all right though, despite it being monstrously hot and humid. Union Pool is a nice place to hang out, with a big outdoor area with a fair amount of shade. A barbecue was set up with The Besties manning the grill. And the performance room — which is really cute and actually perfect for Popfest — stayed nice and air conditioned.

The day's biggest discovery was Boston's One Happy Island, who had some really winning songs with lots of interesting instrumentation, including kazoo, glockenspiel and ukulele, which at one point was played a distortion pedal. (That was a first.) Three of the four members sang, though they'd do well to feature the lovely voice of drummer drummer Rebecca Mitchell.

MP3: One Happy Island – Temporary Tattoo

Other bands on the bill included the ukulele stylings of Dent May (who I'm guessing probably listens to Jens Lekman); twangy Boston indie rockers Hands and Knees; and the slightly fratty (but master of self-depricating stage banter) Steve Goldberg and the Arch Enemies.

The band I was actually looking forward to were Glasgow's The Hermit Crabs who are purveyors of the loveliest folk-pop in Scottland this side of Camera Obscura. Comparisons to that band abound, but The Hermit Crabs are a little more country, and a little more subdued. Maybe a bit too subdued after a long day in the hot sun drinking beer, which is totally not their fault. Singer Melanie Whittle seemed like the nicest person on the planet and performed with her shoes off. I'd love to see them again under cooler circumstances.

I shot video of The Hermit Crabs doing "Friends Folk Festival"…

: The Hermit Crabs – Friends Folk Festival

So ended my Popfest 2008. A few more pictures from Sunday after the jump…

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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)

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

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.

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.