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." 

Witch Hats | Santos Party House | 8.11.2008


After Friday night's blindside show at Glasslands I wanted to see Australia's Witch Hats again, having heard the record and hopefully with a decent PA this time. Which I definitely got at Santos, even if they didn't go on till after 1AM. 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. Their album, Cellulite Soul, is very good but doesn't give you any warning to the sonic mayhem they create onstage.

Santos Party House, which looks like some underground club kid's half-remembered dream of 1988 with it's concrete, columns and giant-ass disco ball, seems to have spend the majority of its funding on the sound system. Speakers seem to rim the entire ceiling. Literally wired for sound. I didn't hate the place. People say drinks are expensive but Bud bottles are $4, not so bad. It was an odd crowd, mostly made up of pomade-tats-n-bangs types who were there for the Monday night Declassified party where DJs were spinning obscure rockabilly and girl group singles. But there was also tie-and-khakis bankers, club kids, and a fair amount of old school NY rockers, most of whom left after Heavy Trash's performance earlier in the night. (Matador Records major domo Gerard Cosloy stayed for their whole set.) Witch Hats sent some more running for the doors during their first song — did I mention they are really really loud? — but I think anyone who stayed dug them.

Here's video I shot for the song "Stupid Arrangements":

Witch Hats continue their American tour, and here are the remaining dates (Hey Baltimore, don't miss that show!). Go see them!:

14 Aug Philadelphia @ Millcreek Tavern w/ Whales and Cops + Ugh God + Drums Like Machine Guns
15 Aug Baltimore @ Nerve Centre w/ Hollywood, Vivian Girls, Crystal Slits, Sexually Retarded
16 Aug Washington DC @ Velvet Lounge w/ Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds
17 Aug Chapel Hill @ The Cave w/ Americans In France
18 Aug Atlanta @ The Earl w/ Derek Lyn Plastic + Coffin Bound
21 Aug Memphis @ Hi-Tone w/ The Barbaras + The Dranks
23 Aug San Antonio @ The Mix w/ Boxcar Satan
24 Aug Austin @ Beerland w/ Golden Boys
29 Aug San Diego @ The Yard w/ The Sess
30 Aug LA @ Fuck Yeah Fest

MP3: Witch Hats – I Can't Stay at Home (Buy it from Emusic)

Heavy Trash + Witch Hats | Glasslands Gallery | 8.08.2008


On the way home from All Points West my friend Kelly texted me, asking if I was going to Glasslands that night to see Heavy Trash. I wrote back saying I wasn't planning on it but as I live only a few blocks away and I would definitely be back in time for it, I said sure why not?

Admission, I had no idea who Heavy Trash were. Well, it would turn out I did know… I just didn't know it yet. Heavy Trash is Jon Spencer's rockabilly band with Matt Verta-Ray of Madder Rose. Blues Explosion was never my scene, though they were always great live, so I haven't really followed his career, obviously, but I was excited to see Spencer play somewhere this small and grungy.

If you're not familiar with Heavy Trash, Spencer does the same to rockabilly as he did to the blues — he explodes it. Well not really, but he does have that certain intensity so this is more Hazil Adkins than Chuck Berry. Spencer looks good in a suit, even when sweating up a storm — and it was hot in Glasslands.

Things got a bit wilder when King Khan showed up, complete with film crew, to once again steal steal some limelight from yet another band (he did it at McCarren Pool with Deerhunter and the Black Lips) though it was obvious it had been planned out in advance. It was a fun little surprise but I think I'm Khan-ed out for a while.

MP3: Heavy Trash – Way Out

Another surprise was Australian band Witch Hats who I also knew nothing about but ended up buying their record afterwards. Tall and skinny with Jesus & Mary Chain hairdos, they laid down a thick layer of of fuzzy, slightly gothy garage rock (think early-'80s Fall), powered by one of the best drummers I've seen in a long time. They were loud enough to knock you back a bit and I was annoyed with myself that I'd forgotten to bring earplugs. I could've done with a little less sludge and bet they're just a powerhouse with a good mix.

MP3: Witch Hats – Summer of Pain

The might just get a better mix tonight when Witch Hats and Heavy Trash play Santos Party House. If you're not too tired from the weekend, I highly recommend checking them out. And even if you are tired, these two bands will probably wake you up.