Amazing Baby + The Blacks + Suckers | Union Pool | 8.16.2008

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This was the after-party to an all-day scavenger hunt hosted by music mag Death & Taxes magazine. Teams spent four hours running around New York finding stuff, some of which included various forms of alcohol. Before the bands was a two-hour free-booze-and-tacos BBQ, so needless to say the crowd was well-lubricated and some didn't make it to the headlining set of Amazing Baby. Me, I skipped the scavenger hunt and BBQ and showed up just in time for the bands. An early show (7:30 or so), especially for Union Pool, and easily the most on-time show I've ever seen there. I love the actual venue; the lax way they run the non-posted schedule, not so much.

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This was the fourth time I've seen Amazing Baby since their live debut in May and each one has been a slightly different line-up, centering around a core of singer William Roan, guitarists Simon O'Connor and Rob Laasko and drummer Matt Abeysekera. We seen a backup singer leave and return, and original member Leah Carey seems to be gone now. Most recent change, bassist Jane Herships is now playing with Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson. She was front and center in the crowd at this show, though. "I'm the only fan who knows all the words," she told me afterward. And the only one who knows how to play the songs.

Amazing Baby have managed to keep things fairly low-key in the nine months they've been together, despite being the recipient of Mark Ronson's praise and being named on of NME's 25 Bands Making America Cool Again, which is good as they've only got about eight songs. And they've only been a band for nine months. (Amazing baby indeed.) Four of those songs are available on the Infinite Fucking Cross EP which you can download from their website for free. It's the same songs they had as free downloads on their MySpace page four months ago (with a shorter version of "Pump Yr Breaks" and no "Infinite Palace"), but if you haven't picked them up yet do it now. It's good stuff.

They've wisely turned down a couple small tours with big-ish bands in favor of sticking around Brooklyn to work on new material  — though the they will tour with MGMT (with whom they're friends and once shared a drummer) and Violens in the UK. (How do you turn that down?) Hopefully they won't come back with too big heads.

MP3: Amazing Baby – Invisible Palace

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But I digress. Back to the show. The Blacks, who I've written about before and are palls with the D&T crew, flew in from San Francisco just to play this show. On record, they're not that far off from Yeah Yeah Yeahs or The Cramps or any number of No Wave-influenced groups. Good songs, for sure, but  maybe not 100% distinctive. Live, however, there is only one Blacks, thanks to tambourine player JDK Blacker. He is like Animal from the Muppet Show if he poured all the energy of playing a drumkit into just one tambourine. I bet he could hand crank ice cream in record time.

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Opening the show was Suckers, which is the live incarnation of Quinn Walker whose double album Laughter's an Asshole/Land Lion garnered a 7.3 from Pitchfork and love from Stereogum. The main thing I remember about the album is the cover, depicting Quinn as a Viking puking a technicolor rainbow. Actually, there are some pretty good songs on it, like a folky Dan Deacon — a hodgepodge of ideas where the only cohesive theme seems to be banning of the word "No." As wacky as the album is you'd expect some shenanigans when Suckers play live, but after two times seeing them live (the first was the Stereogum party at Market Hotel with SF's awesome Girls) I have to say they're kind of boring, the most distinguishing aspect being Walker's vocal intonations which sounded a lot like Axel Rose. (To be fair, Suckers seemed to be down a member and they were better the last time.) A couple big No Nos in my book: everyone was sitting…rock bands don't sit! They also don't wear shorts.

Amazing Baby play Market Hotel this Friday and, according to the flyer, it's free Colt 45 all night which could be awesome or horrible depending how the night goes. They're also opening for Does it Offend You Yeah? at Bowery Ballroom next Saturday (though it's not on their MySpace…hmm) and play with A Place to Bury Strangers at Music Hall of Williamsburg on September 15.

The Blacks, meanwhile, play with A Place to Bury Strangers on September 29 at Bottom of the Hill in SF.

Suckers, double meanwhile, play Le Poisson Rouge on September 12 with Dragons of Zynth.

I shot some video of Amazing Baby. Here's "Head Dress":

And here's "The Narwhal":

Shake It Tonight

Theblacks2My friend Kelly was visiting from San Francisco last year and we went to see her friend’s band, The Blacks, play at Pianos. She told me he played tamborine in the band. "That’s it?" I asked skeptically. She replied, "He really gets into it."

That was kind of an understatement. Joel Gion is cool and all, but JDK Black takes tambourine playing to a new, intense level. He’s a dynamo. The caption I wrote on Flickr for the above photo: "It was that point in the show where the tambourine player became ‘pure energy.’"

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The Blacks are back at Pianos, and have been since Saturday, and are upping the tambourine factor just a little. Dubbed "The Tambourine Experiment," they’ll be distributing 100 tambourines to the audience, though I doubt the combined crowd’s involvement will be able to eclipse JDK intensity… though it will be fun to try.

Musically, The Blacks are in that blues/garage/punk school — think The White Stripes, Flat Duo Jets, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs — and are certainly good at it, but it’s the tambourine you really remember. And tonight’s show sure sounds unforgettable.

MP3: The Blacks – The Flame

According to the Pianos website, The Blacks take the stage at 11:30, though the venue is notorious for running late (sometimes very late). If you can’t make it tonight, The Blacks play Union Pool on Wednesday (5/14) but it’s not a 100 Tambourine show. But, really, the one they have is plenty impressive on his own.
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