Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Decemberists / Warsaw / May 26, 2005

I wish every concert I went to took place at Warsaw because A) it takes 10 minutes to walk there from my apartmen B) the sightlines and sound are always great and, most importantly, C) they serve pierogies.

The Decemberists took the stage in matching hats and vests that Chris Funk described as “Polish pimp meets Richie Sambora.” Their main set was very similar to the Irving Plaza show, but shorter. Petra Haden sang “Wuthering Heights,” they made us scream like we were being swallowed by a whale during “The Mariner’s Revenge Song,” they interpolated “Hava Nagila” and some fake cock-rock posturing into “The Chimbley Sweep.” During the breakdown in the latter song, something happened that I’ve never experienced before in my life. Colin Meloy instructed the band and the audience to slowly get quieter and quieter and crouch down lower and lower, until we were all on the floor. I am not shitting you—every single person in the room was on their knees or their stomach. John Moen was sprawled across his drum kit, face down.

And then, in what was the single most ecstatic moment of any concert I have been to this year, we all simultaneously leapt to our feet, right when the band broke back into the chorus.

Jesus. You just can’t plan something like that.

For the encore, Colin did a solo acoustic version of “Shiny” and then… they played “The Tain.” All of it. Apparently, this epic five-part suite had been retired from live performance, but they brought it back because it was the last show on the tour. It didn’t sound quite as metal-riffic as it does on record, but it was still pretty sweet to see Colin sing that “cock in her kisser” line live. Tee hee.

Free For All Tour / BB King’s / May 17, 2005

Reviewed by MH

This was an evening of mistakes. Mistake #1: Being in Times Square at BB King’s for the second time in two weeks. However, this time it’s for a (work-related) industrial show and Akiko and Donna are along for the night. Mistake #2 came quick. Within the first 10 minutes we start socializing with a couple in one of the leather booths surrounding the main floor of the club. At first things seem fine. Idle chitchat led to the woman talking in complete circles. Her spiel started with Elvis’s performance on the Ed Sullivan show and how that one moment changed everything and led to the “five genres of music we have today – rock, industrial, modern, hip hop, and modern.” (Yes, of the FIVE genres “modern” was mentioned twice.) She wanted to know why industrial music wasn’t played on the radio, why it wasn’t part of popular culture, and then started blaming me for not playing them on the radio. She also commented on how Blondie were the first to rap. I started thinking how I would much rather be in one of the Bile videos playing on the stage in front of me than in the hellish reality of that moment. There’s a few pokes and pinches under the table before we high tail it to the bar for a much needed drink.

Sheep On Drugs, two skinny I’m-pretty-but-tortured guys, a brunette and blonde, respectively, jump up on stage with pretty much just a CD. They sang moving lines like, “machine sex, its automatic” and “scarlet woman, laaady of the niiiight” over electro-clash. Akiko and I collectively agree that whoever’s into Fischerspooner should really be seeing these guys instead. The blonde came out in a bloody butcher’s coat, blood dripping down from his nose and mouth to the jacket. The blonde lost the butcher’s coat around the third song to sport a sleeveless black t-shirt instead. I don’t know what he was thinking, ‘cause he can really pull off bloody white clothes, which cannot be an easy feat. The other highlight was the live audience sample they included in their performance. I didn’t have to clap or yell at all! The desperate plea for merch purchases should also not be overlooked.

Pigface is a band that drummer Martin Atkins (PiL, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke) has been running for years now. It’s always changing and this tour includes scary guys from KMFDM and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, as well as Hanin Elias of Atari Teenage Riot, the saving grace of the night. The testosterone level was extreme and Hanin, who opened the set performing some of her solo songs, seemed like she really had a lot to contend with. She was one of four women who wasn’t dressed overtly sexually or dancing/prancing around erotically (actually, the girl from Voodou wasn’t either). The songs Hanin performed with Pigface were as intense and solid as her solo performances or days in ATR, but it seemed like the crowd (99.9% male) didn’t really prefer her vocals to say, En Esch with his fishnets, giant boots, soccer shorts and tuxedo shirt. She’d be screaming her ass off and some heads would bob, but it was gutteral growls that dudes wanted to beat each other to.

The third and biggest mistake is “Th’ Enigma.” This is a giant jigsaw puzzle of a tattooed man, colored all shades of blue and green, with horns surgically implanted in his skull. Yes, pieces of coral (it’s the thing most common to bone) were attached to his cranium so he could look like Lucifer. This is also the same guy who was a part of the Jim Rose Circus, was on the X-Files, and is here tonight as a member of Pigface, playing keyboards, guitar, singing and doing sideshow antics during the show. At first you can dismiss it, but after about 30 minutes you really just want him to go away. All at once he’s annoying, pathetic and scary. Yet he continues to hammer nails up his nose, swallow crucifixes, chop cucumbers on the back of women’s necks while they rest their heads on a pitchfork, and then chases audiences members, myself and friends included, around with a chainsaw. Some would call this entertainment, but I found it frightening. The majority of the audience acted like this was normal behavior, but I’ve never had a man, a green-horned man no less, come at me with a power tool before. And at first you think it might just be tricks, that it’s probably just magic or something. But then you remember the coral that he’s willingly had fixed onto his skull and realize that is in fact A REAL FUCKING CHAINSAW THAT HE IS SWINGING AROUND BY YOUR LEGS.

So much for being open-minded. I could let the crazy lady talk from earlier in the evening slide – she could have been really drunk, or just crazy, or both – but chainsaw… NO WAY. Everyone came out at the end to play one final song together, and two of the four women on the tour happily danced around some more. Hanin thankfully lent a constructive hand, banging on a floor tom near the side of the stage. Half of the audience jumped on stage as well. I was waiting for a fire to start, for someone to lose a limb or at the very least get drilled in the eye with a nail, but it didn’t happen. Instead Curse Mackey (Grim Faeries, Evil Mothers) announced to the crowd, address and all, that they could all find him at Lit after the show. That was definitely mistake #4, but finally not one that included me!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Boredoms / Bowery Ballroom / May 25, 2005

“Hey, so uh [name withheld] was tripping balls and he fell on his face and now he’s bleeding everywhere and I’m holding his teeth in my hand and we have to take him to the hospital, so we’re leaving the Bowery Ballroom now.”

I received this phone call before the Boredoms even started playing.

Yeah. It was that kind of night.

So basically, every freakout noisecore psych-drone fuckup band out there just needs to stop right now, because you will never be the Boredoms. Sorry. Give it up and stop trying. Play electroclash or something.

The set started with Eye and two balls. When he slammed the balls together, they lit on fire and made thunder noises. He howled. Cthulhu woke up and yawned. Or at least it sounded like it.

Three drummers sat down at three fully-loaded drum kits. One of them was Yoshimi. It doesn’t matter who the other two were because, fuck, it’s Yoshimi. I want to make babies with her arm muscles.

I can’t tell you what happened during the rest of the show. I think that part of my brain is currently being mopped off the Bowery Ballroom floor.

Bright Eyes, The Faint / Webster Hall / May 21, 2005

Worst. Bright. Eyes. Show. Ever.

I guess I should have known, given that this was the Digital Ash tour, that they’d mostly be playing stuff from that album. And I don’t like that album. But they even managed to stink up “Neely O’Hara”! How is that possible? (Well, I guess if Bruce can maul “Promised Land” then anything’s possible.) The sound was just too FULL. Too many cooks in the kitchen, too many people on stage. Also, Conor was clearly in a bad mood.

The Faint played pretty much the same set as the last time I saw them at Webster Hall, even down to the big, scary lighting rig descending for the final song. So yeah, read what I wrote here and that’s how I felt again.

Just as Bright Eyes took the stage, I looked over my shoulder to find Lee Ranaldo and his wife standing right behind me. Ack! Total freakout moment! With just a turn of my head, I could behold both my high-school and college rock star crushes in the flesh! What next—would Richard Marx walk in? Luke Perry? Jordan Catalano? Prince Westley from The Princess Bride?

Read my Newsday review here.

The Evens, Parts and Labor / East River Amphitheater / May 21, 2005

For the first time in waaaay too long, I ventured out of my cave during daylight hours. The sun glared at me and I glared back. Then we made peace and I headed over to the East River Music Project’s first show of the season. If it’s a nice day, going to see some bands play for free at an outdoor amphitheater on the banks of the East River is the best thing in the world. And it was a nice day. So I didn’t care that the Evens were kinda blah, with Ian MacKaye raging against The Man while wearing cargo shorts and playing these dinky songs with no melody. Amy Farina was adorable with her bare feet and ponytail on the top of her head. They tried to get everybody to sing a song about how the police are bad but I didn’t sing it because I’m a scaredy cat and I don’t want the police to hate me.

Parts and Labor, though—oh man. U2 as a noise band! Every song aims for the hilltops—and scores! Poisson, hook me up with that new shit.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Fischerspooner / Canal Room / May 19, 2005

This performance featured costumes, heavy makeup, video projections, bubbles and confetti. And yet, it didn’t feel over-the-top enough. The first time I saw Fischerspooner, at the Electroclash festival in 2001, they had all of those things plus dancers, an army of light and smoke machine operators, and choreography and stage direction worthy of a Broadway musical. They were also really annoying, starting and stopping every song repeatedly as part of some sort of “hey, let’s expose the artifice of the situation” art-school experiment. I loved the glorious trashiness of the music, but goddamn, after a half-hour of that bullshit, I wanted to assassinate Casey Spooner.

This time, they only pulled the stop/start stunt once, and I was actually glad they did. A minute into a lackluster version of “Emerge,” Casey got all bitchy and stormed off stage, out the club’s back door and onto Canal Street, followed by the rest of the band. (Yes, they’re using a full-on rock band now. No more fake playing and lip-synching, at least as far as I could tell.) Of course, they came back and played the song again, with far more enthusiasm.

The show was fun and theatrical and silly. Casey crowd-surfed and humped various band members. The only annoying thing about it was the backup singer, who unpleasantly reminded me of the snooty girl in A Chorus Line.

As Tom Breihan so eloquently put it here, I just don’t get why everybody hates Fischerspooner. Sure, for them, style is substance, but so what? Their songs are catchy as fuck and they’re fun to look at. What’s wrong with that? Maybe it is all some art school prank. If so, good for them. They fooled me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Bruce Springsteen / Tower Theatre, Upper Darby, PA / May 17, 2005

Well, I knew it wasn’t going to rock. I was prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for was most of the Devils & Dust songs sounding even duller than on the record. “Matamoros Banks,” “Jesus Was an Only Son,” “Silver Palomino,” “The Hitter,” “Black Cowboys”… zzzzz. Oh Bruce, how you feel the pain of the common man. Blah blah blah. But when the common man comes home from work at the factory, she doesn’t want to hear this boring-ass shit. She wants to party.

I really shouldn’t complain. I got to see a Bruce Springsteen set from only like 20 rows back at the Tower! I sat right behind Pierre Robert! And he did play some gorgeous stuff – “Youngstown,” “Incident on 57th Street,” “Wreck on the Highway.” Definitely more than a few “well, everybody should just stop making records right now because no music will ever be as beautiful as this” moments.

But it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to. Two songs I was really, really, really excited about seeing—“Reason to Believe” and of course “The Promised Land”—were delivered in such radically reconfigured ways, I barely recognized them. “Reason to Believe” literally sounded like Beck’s “One Foot in the Grave”—it was just Bruce, a harmonica, and his stomping foot. No trace of the original melody. Totally intense, totally punk—totally not “Reason to Believe!” Also, “The Promised Land” was done as an acoustic dirge/lullaby. Now, I understand that it must get boring playing the same songs over and over again for decades. But goddammit, why ya hafta go and make things so complicated, Bruce? “The Promised Land” is an ANTHEM! It should be shouted from the hilltops!

More griping: Both “The River” and “I’m on Fire” appeared on virtually every other setlist from this tour, according to Backstreets. Yet they were nowhere to be found in Philly. Screw that.

Also, Bruce ended the show with a cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream,” played on a pump organ. He’s been doing that for most of the tour, and if you’re a crazed Bruce fan, you know that it isn’t actually that weird—he’s been a Suicide fan for years. (Check out “State Trooper”—sounds like Suicide unplugged, doesn’t it?) But here’s my beef: “Dream Baby Dream,” when performed by Suicide, is one of the scariest pieces of music of all time. Alan Vega sounds like he’s about to kill Baby. But Bruce turned it into a straightforward love song. No! This song is about nightmares! Not sweet dreams! Damn you, Bruce!

When the lights came up and everybody started walking out, Four Tet came floating out of the PA. Whoa. But if you look here, you will discover that yes, Bruce is indeed a Four Tet fan. Somebody get Kieran Hebden on some Devils & Dust remixes ASAP!

Jeff Buckley exhumed

Our friend Daphne Brooks (no relation, I wish though...) will be reading/discussing her new amazing little book on Jeff Buckley this Thursday. Daphne is one of our favorite thinkers. Join us, won't you?

A Reading of Jeff Buckley's Grace
with author Daphne Brooks

Thursday, May 26
at 7:00 p.m.
Cake Shop
152 Ludlow
LES, NYC
(between Stanton and Rivington)
www.cake-shop.com

The power and influence of Jeff Buckley's Grace increases with each passing year. Here, Daphne Brooks traces Buckley's fascinating musical development through the earliest stages of his career, up to the release of the album. With access to rare archival material, Brooks illustrates Buckley's passion for life and hunger for musical knowledge, and shows just why he was such a crucial figure in the American music scene of the 1990s.

Jeff Buckley's Grace is latest in the 33 1/3 music series by Continuum Books. Copies of the book will be available at Cake Shop.

Daphne A. Brooks is an assistant professor of English at Princeton University where she teaches courses on AfricanˆAmerican literature and culture, performance studies, critical gender studies, and popular music culture. She is the author of two books, Jeff Buckley's Grace (2005) and Bodies in Dissent: Performing Race, Gender, and Nation in the TransˆAtlantic Imaginary (Duke University Press, 2006).

Monday, May 23, 2005

Dropping/kicking science

Not a show review, but a book review.

If you're reading this, chances are great that the Rock Snob's Dictionary will beckon more than a few heaving belly laughs from you.

I interviewed co-author David Kamp here. Kamp is the guy who wrote that stunning article on Rick Rubin/Johnny Cash that ran in Vanity Fair last year; one of the best pieces of music journalism in recent memory.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Thunderbirds Are Now! / Knitting Factory Old Office / May 12, 2005

This show was perfect. Perfect venue (dark, dank, low-ceilinged basement), perfect audience (sardine-packed math rockers and tight-pants-hardcore kids), perfect length (30 minutes), perfect temperature (tropical), perfect smell (body odor + beer), perfect band. Detroit’s Thunderbirds Are Now! play jittery ADHD-core electro-punk, like all your favorite no wave bands but with actual melodies and hooks. Dinky synths, garage riffs, slapping-your-little-brother beats. On stage, the band somehow managed to top the energy level of their manic new album Justamustache, freaking out like Les Savy Fav’s kid brothers, bouncing around in the crowd and just generally losing their shit. The singer/guitarist looks and sounds like he’s twelve years old (I honestly thought it was a girl singing the first time I heard TAN!) and a lost Pete from Pete and Pete. He has a bird tattooed on his arm, which could be a thunderbird, but I don’t know what a thunderbird looks like and Google Images is just showing me cars and email programs. At one point, he leaned over and kissed the bass player on the cheek. That was the best part of the show.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Motorhead / B.B. King’s / May 5, 2005

Reviewed by MH

Motorhead were awesome. Dudes SMOKED and there was smoke!!! (But sadly no pyrotechnics.) As soon as the first song started up, flasks were being pulled out and joints were sparked up by all around me. No matter where you stood in the place, the sound was deafening (in a good way). Lots of old dudes w/ beer guts wearing King Diamond shirts. There was a bunch of guys in suits, too, and one in particular was sporting a Motorhead shirt underneath his jacket. The male to female ratio was out of control. It’s the first thing we noticed walking into the sea of black at BB King’s (which felt like a Jersey shore venue). Donna and I were the hottest girls in there even given the fact that I had on jeans, a hoodie, converse and no make-up. The gross part was walking through the packed crowd. Rubbing your body against metal dudes, big or small, hot or not (mostly not), made us feel violated. It didn’t help that even if the guys had some room to move aside, they wouldn’t. Knowing this and having no choice but to squeeze through made us cringe. Another shitty moment: the drum solo. He thought it was bad ass, but it was truly boring. He’s got 14 cymbals, two of which he never hit the entire night, but at least his lighting was good. With his long blonde hair flailing under the yellow lights he looked like some golden-haired creature, which was awesome since he’s fugly under regular lighting. But watching him solo felt, like...well it felt wrong! It’s all ROCK! ROCK! ROCK! ROCK! and then you’re subjected to that out of nowhere — it was just a total bummer. And people thought it was tight!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Mars Volta / Roseland / May 6, 2005

I gotta hand it to the Mars Volta. They play half-hour long songs and still manage to debut at number 4 on the Billboard 200 and sell out Roseland two nights in a row. They have convinced an entire generation of skateboarders that prog rock is cool and maybe got some kids to check out the Fania All-Stars. They are not white, but Alternative Press and Filter put them on their covers.

Still, two hours of the Mars Volta is not fun. Not fun at all. It is, as Jamie pointed out, like going to the opera. An edifying high culture experience. There is a complicated plot and lots of symbolism and high drama. A man wails in a foreign language. Every piece has ten choruses, thirty breakdowns and sixty time-signature changes. You leave feeling educated. And very, very tired.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

New Order / Hammerstein Ballroom / May 5, 2005

Since I am reviewing this for Pitchfork, and thus must conserve all witty observations and one-liners, I will instead report how Luke Jenner, frontman for The Rapture, who happened to be sitting next to me, enjoyed the show. I will also note that he was wearing a pink sweater and cowboy boots.

Beginning of set through “True Faith”: Luke sits stone-faced and quiet. Claps at end of songs.

“True Faith”: Luke mouths words, leans back and forth in chair a little bit.

“Jetstream” (featuring guest vocalist Ana Matronic from the Scissor Sisters): Luke picks nose. Hard. Rubs boogers in palm.

“Bizarre Love Triangle”: Luke bounces slightly in chair.

“Love Will Tear Us Apart”: Like rest of crowd, Luke stands up and sings along.

“Temptation”: Luke stays on feet. Dances vaguely.

“Blue Monday”: Luke’s date is not feeling this one at all. She sits with unpleasant look on her face as Luke stands. Midway through song, he sits down.

I’m also pretty sure that Nicky Hilton walked by me when I was waiting in line at the bar. So I watched her take her seat in the front row of the first-floor box and periodically checked in on her throughout the evening. She danced the entire time and seemed to be having way more fun than Luke Jenner.

Read my Pitchfork review here.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Decemberists, Rebecca Gates / Irving Plaza / May 4, 2005

caryn: So, what did you think?

amy: petra haden is adorable

caryn: A very nice addition to the band, I think. Their harmonizing was particularily sweet.

amy: she sang lead on a kickass cover of kate bush's "wuthering heights"

amy: i noticed that several songs seemed a bit slower than on the album

amy: but it didn't bother me much

amy: maybe it had to do with the new drummer

caryn: Can I say something right off the bat? Prepare for a rant. I think that Kelefa of the Times is a popist. I'm so sick of this Bush-era condemnation of things that are smart and the celebration of smart people who dumb themselves down. I mean, I love pop just as much as the next Crunk Juice-drinking red-blooded American. But to condemn musicians for being too literary? Bah! Harvard guilt goes far, eh?

amy: wow

amy: it's like everybody's so desperate to not seem to be a rockist, sort of

caryn: Seriously, I'm sick of the damp morass of the cultural climate right now. There's this stupid ass guy the Bush cabal just installed to head PBS. In an interview he said he didn't even watch PBS that much and he'd rather read People magazine. Give me a fucking break. We need to take to the streets and reclaim our culture and I nominate The Decemberists to lead the charge. Now, back to our regularily scheduled episode of Colin Watch 2005.

amy: he ate dinner at republic before the show

amy: we know this because we ate there too!

caryn: Yes, that was very exciting. Let me fill our readers in more fully. Amy and I decided to sup at the reasonably priced and plentifully plated Republic restaurant in Union Square. I'm digging into my noodles, look up, and there is young Colin Meloy enjoying a nice repast with a cast of thousands. Amy stole his fork after he left.

amy: not true! caryn didn't even tell me when he walked by to leave so that i could ogle him!

caryn: C'mon, someone's got to protect your pride. Now, we need to confess to the People, that we were living VIP at the show. Tell the people.

amy: yeah, we were straight VIP-ing at this show

amy: at one point colin came and stood right behind us

caryn: We had real, live Decemberists up in our grill before the show started. We were also extremely nerdy and got there almost before the band, even. This insured good seats. And I didn't even get kicked out by David Bowie.

amy: caryn shot the shit about portland bars with him and some other guy while i pretended like i didn't notice

caryn: Colin seemed nervous when I started dropping Portland science. Like maybe I had followed him all the way across the country. I think I might look like that girl.

amy: scary stalker girl?

caryn: Speaking of, a rundown of tonight's Strange Ladies Who Love Colin report. There was a girl who thrust her tap shoe at CM. And another who threw a dirty sock at him.

amy: apparently the words "it's sara's birthday" were written on the sock

amy: colin was kinda mean about it. he made some snarky comment.

amy: but you know what? after watching this show, i don't think colin is my favorite decemberist anymore

amy: i think it's a tie between chris funk and jenny conlee

caryn: I'd get snarky if someone threw a dirty sock at me. The place to was way sold out. Unlike many sold out shows, the crowd stayed completely in place the entire time. Completely rapt. Jenny Conlee reminds me of Carol Kane for some reason.

amy: yeah, i can see that. i think it's the teeth.

amy: she was making some hilarious faces and seemed very happy up there

amy: chris funk... man, that guy rules. he put on a pink bandana during "mariner's revenge song."

amy: and he used to manage the coup and lifesavas!

caryn: Yeah, she would roll her eyes into the back of her head. The new drummer is this guy John Moen who's been in about a million different appealing Portland bands. The Dharma Bums, The Maroons. I think he was in Satan's Pilgrims. He plays with Malkmus, I believe.

amy: he seemed to fit right in. he got quite goofy during "the mariner's revenge song", which was the last song of the evening. he was crawling around on the floor and stuff

caryn: Would you say that the crowd was a youth and beauty brigade?

amy: not really

amy: i was very happy to see lots of nerdy boys unaccompanied by females

caryn: That song about the California wine. Man, that so could have been the Sideways theme song.

amy: totally

amy: i thought this show did a good job of balancing the silly and the sublime

caryn: I loved, loved, loved when Petra started fiddling the hora and then Colin turned it into this faux guitar solo thing and struck all the electric guitar solo poses, but was only plucking on his acoustic. Brilliant.

amy: yes! "hava nagila" in da house!

amy: it was just another example of colin totally fucking with rock star stereotypes

caryn: Indeed. What were these kids wearing? They looked like chef's jackets merged with safari wear and morphed with deck hand gear. I think whatever it was, it was extremely uncomfortable because little by little they all took off their costumes.

amy: it's the same outfits they wear in the press photos for the new album. you can see them, oh i don't know, HERE

amy: so did you honestly like rebecca gates' opening set?

caryn: Honestly? No. It's weird. Here I am, a person who actually owns every Spinanes 7 inch available. I own all Spinanes releases. Yet, she played almost nothing I knew nor was what she did play compelling. If she didn't have me, I doubt she had anyone. It wasn't the right mood for the size of the venue and crowd. That said, I am a Rebecca fan and I do think she is an awesome songwriter. I don't think she did a terrible job, I just think she could do better. Maybe as the tour progresses John Moen will back her up on drums; he actually used to play drums for her after Scott Plouf left the Spinanes. I'm sure that's how she got the gig, too.

amy: yeah, it was definitely the wrong setting for her. big, loud club full of people who don't want to see you, and you are just a woman with a guitar: not good

amy: oh yeah, i think my favorite part of the show was when everybody started playing tambourines

amy: i think that was during "the sporting life"? maybe?

amy: then at the end, colin threw his tambourine in the audience

caryn: There were multiple tambourines dispersed. What a lovely parting gift!

amy: the decemberists are so my favorite band right now.

The Books, Keith Fullerton Whitman and Greg Davis / Knitting Factory / May 2, 2005

KFW + GD = Drone-o-rama! Big, pillowy swathes of sound pouring forth from a buncha computers, keyboards, mixers, percussion instruments and beards. They pushed buttons, banged on stuff and showed films of nature, toys and cats. Or at least I think they did. I couldn’t see everything that was going on because I was sitting in the balcony and that big pole was blocking my view. But the noize boyz I consulted with said it was awesome, man.

In between sets, we noticed that a girl down in front had taken her top off and was now wearing just a black bra. That was unexpected.

My only problem with the Books is their overzealous sampling. They have these gorgeous, lilting, folky melodies with just the right amount of glitch drizzled on top, and then they go and fuck them up with all these stupid dialogue clips. I found this to be particularly irksome in the live setting. Every time I saw that guy reaching over to push a button on the sampler, I wanted to scream, “NO! DON’T DO IT!” and then dive down from the balcony and bite off his hand.

The most fascinating member of the Books is vocalist/keyboardist/fiddleist (is that a word?) Anne Doerner. Spaced-out hippie earth mama chick with a husky voice, mad fiddlin’ skillz and even madder armpit hair. She looks like your favorite camp counselor or, if your brain has been fried by eating too many Nerds Ropes, the editor of Spin magazine. At one point she held up a jar of mayonnaise and said it was a portal to another dimension. Uh huh…

I thought the Books’ set was pleasant, relaxing and quite beautiful (samples aside). Yes, it was a bit long (I stopped looking at my watch after an hour and a half), but I was in total zone-out mode, lost in thoughts of the cosmos. Had I not been sitting in a comfy chair the whole time, however, my experience might have been different. Friends who stood down on the floor the whole time thought the Books were “some Phish bullshit I would have thought was cool in, like, ninth grade.” “It was like I went to see my favorite rapper perform all the great songs on his album but all he did was the skits.”

Monday, May 02, 2005

Sightings, Pajo / The HintHouse Roof / May 1, 2005

I love New York City so fucking much. When the weather’s warm and the sky is clear, and I’m sitting on a rooftop with my friends and assorted indie/psych/folk/noise freaks, and the air smells like barbecue, and there are little children running around, I completely forget about astronomical rent, Mayor Bloomberg, drunk guys pissing in the street, cockroaches and acid rain. Because this place rules.

Every year, the No Neck Blues Band throws a Greek Easter celebration, and this year it took place on the roof of their compound in Harlem. Coincidentally, the Columbia MFA visual arts program was simultaneously holding their spring show at a space down the block, thereby transforming 131st street between Broadway and 12th Ave into a little slice of Williamsburg for an afternoon. I briefly checked out the art show, only to reconfirm the fact that I suck at art.

The roof was crowded with happy, chilled-out people with lots of hair. Mark Ibold was there. Surprisingly, James Iha and Thurston Moore were not.

Sightings played a half-hour of throbbing scree n skronk. I thought their subwoofers were going to explode. As usual, the groove songs worked better than the non-grooves. The bassist and guitarist were making luuuv to their instruments, getting all googly-eyed and guitar-faced.

Dave Pajo did hushed solo acoustic folk stuff that was pretty for a minute and then blah. Daphne noticed that he was wearing one of those turquoise rings you buy in gift shops in Arizona.

We left before NNCK’s set. Sorry, guys. But your house was awesome!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Good Charlotte / Radio City Music Hall / April 26, 2005

Thanks to the magnanimous Tim Quirk (that guy rules!), I found myself at some sort of secret RealNetworks-sponsored Good Charlotte show at Radio City on Tuesday night. I thought the crowd would be mostly RealNetworks tools, and there certainly were plenty of those, but there was also a healthy representation of genuine GC fans (I think the show was open to fan club members and contest winners, too). So many adorable eight-year-olds in studded belts and eyeliner! I wanted to hug them all!

As with any pop-punk band, I expected GC’s live show to be through-the-roof exciting, with tons of pogoing and windmills and guitar faces. This was not the case. Benji sure did spit a lot, but other than that, they totally phoned it in. They also looked TERRIBLE. Maybe it was just bad lighting, but whenever the fan-o-vision screens did a close-up on someone’s face, it was like a “BEFORE” shot in a ProActiv ad. Joel looked like he was PMS-ing, all bloated and out of it. And those creepy tattoos on the sides of his neck…ugh.

Despite the lack of on-stage enthusiasm, the music sounded great. “The Anthem,” “I Just Wanna Live” and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” were all nice n crunchy n shiny.

Best part of the show: Christopher Weingarten got up to go to the bathroom at the exact moment GC started playing “Girls and Boys.” A pack of screaming girls came running down the aisle and—I shit you not—knocked him flat on the ground! He later said, “Man, I wish music still made me feel that way.” I told him to steer clear of me at the Decemberists show next Wednesday.