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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The 1900s + Stevie Jackson | Union Hall | 1.10.2008

1900s_unionhallJeepers, 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.

The 1900s are better live than on record, however, and the warm vibe of Union Hall really fits in with their psychedelic/baroque take on Fleetwood Mac. (They even covered Tusk‘s "I’m Not Wrong.") It doesn’t hurt that the band are super-tight and can replicate the harmonies heard on the recordings. Most reviews tend to focus cute redhead vocalists Caroline Donovan and Jeanine O’Toole, and perhaps rightly so, but there’s something about songwriter-guitarist Edward Anderson‘s voice that is appealing. And when mixed with the ladies’ voices it’s tingly good. There were less psychedelic freakouts this time around, though the monster show-closer "Two Ways," which featured Stevie Jackson doing his best Doug Yule impersonation, certainly made up for it…if that’s what you were looking for. Setlist:

Flight of the Monowings | Acutiplantar Dude | Bring the Good Boys Home | Georgia | The Medium Way | Cold and Kind | When I Say Go |I’m Not Wrong | Two Ways

MP3: The 1900s – Two Ways
(buy Cold & Kind)

Speaking of Mr. Jackson (who is exactly one day younger than me, turns out) Belle & Sebastian’s #2 man in charge played a fun, funny opening set. He is integral to B&S though I’m not always that crazy about his songs, which tend to be a little too cutesy Jonathan Richman-ish for me (though he has definitely improved since "Chickfactor"), but in a solo context it’s much better, with him telling stories between songs, encouraging audience participation, and generally having a good time.

He only did one B&S tune, a lovely arpeggiated take on "Jonathan David" (perhaps his most Stuart Murdoch-esque song), though that may be wrong as I missed the first couple songs. Mostly it was new stuff, including a slow-jam rap about filmmaker John Huston. There were special guests too. Laura Cantrell (not to be confused with Laura Gibson, who opened the night) joined him for a cover of Hank Williams’ "Lost Highway" and an original called "Dusty." Then he brought the 1900s out to back him on show-closer "Try Me" which I shot kind of sucky footage:

MP3: Belle & Sebastian – Jonathan David

The 1900s and Stevie play again tonight at the Mercury Lounge and, as of around noon, there were still tickets available.