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." 

Swervedriver | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 6.13.2008

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
, 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.

Swervedriver + Dirty on Purpose | Bowery Ballroom | 6.11.2008

.Swerved_bowery There were not a lot of girls at Bowery Ballroom last night. It shouldn't have been that surprising to me. Swervedriver have always been a Dudes Band. But I hadn't been to such a dude-heavy show in a long time. And, as you often get with shows by veteran band, you could tell a lot of the dudes hadn't been to a show in a long time. 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. A bit. At one point I thought it might be funny to take pictures of all the women at the show and ask them what they got out of the deal for agreeing to come to the show. Might be funny for the blog, right? The ladies perspective.

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. And maybe it's just the decade that's passed, but they almost seemed better than I remembered. Swervedriver's sound hasn't dated I don't think — it's the sound of vapor trails off hot desert pavement, or after-burners on a spaceship. On songs like the slow-burn "Duress" it felt like gravity lost its grip on us just a little bit. The band was clearly into it as much as the crowd. Adam Franklin is a cool dude, looking more like Geoffrey Wright having long-since shaved off his signature dreads, and didn't say more than ten word to the crowd the whole show but he had a smile on his face every time he did. Dudes win.

MP3: Swervedriver- Duress 

Swervedriver play tonight at Music Hall of Williamsburg. It's sold out but if it's anything like last night's show, there will likely be people selling tickets outside. And probably a few available at the door. If you were on the fence about seeing them, I can say without hesitation… go.

Dop_bowery Dirty on Purpose were about as close to perfect an opening band as you could find. There's definitely a throughline from Swervedriver to DoP's effect-laden sound, especially in guitarist George Wilson's whammy-bar, guitar-manhandling style — which was in full effect on the set-closing instrumental "Monument." No matter how similar their styles were, a few impatient types in the crowd couldn't help themselves and shouted 'SWERVEDRIVER!" throughout the set, to which guitarist Joe Jurewicz responded. "Swervedriver are on next. Maybe you want to wait to wait downstairs in the bar till they're on."

Blowin’ Cool

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.