Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Monday, February 26, 2007
Nous Non Plus, the Black Hollies, and O'Death at the Mercury Lounge 2/24/07
This was the best $10 I’ve spent on a show in awhile. There was a long line outside and the place was packed and smelled like farts once I got in, but what then would artfarts be without the occasional petard?
Nous Non Plus play the kind of bouncy indie-pop that makes one want to put on gogo boots and dance, like, forever. They pour Sixties pop harmonies and NYC grit with unequal measure (the pop wins) into songs featuring adorably unintelligible French lyrics, delivered with what appear to be genuine smiles of enjoyment. The enjoyment was catching, and I felt like I’d seen a unicorn or something after watching the cool LES crowd dance around awkwardly to song after song. And speaking of Unicorns, they covered them! In French! With a violin, no less! Magnéfique.
I was excited to see the Black Hollies because they’d been considerably hyped up by the L Magazine and various other things I read, but they turned out to be a pretty generic 70’s-retro-tastic act. I kept thinking they were covering a well-known song, but after failing to put my finger on it song after song, I decided they were just ripping everyone off. I’m not saying it was totally awful…I bopped along to them but soon grew bored and had to go get a drink. Even their visually stimulating velvet blazers and shaggy haircuts were not enough to keep me entertained. But I think they could definitely score a place on the soundtrack to Austin Powers 4, in which the entire period from 1974-1979 boards a time machine and ends up in 2007, but there’s a glitch or something and everything gets a little crappier in transit.
And now for the act that really stole the show: O’Death! Unlike the Black Hollies, O’Death delivered on their New York media hype. Much like the naysayers described in their L interview, I was initially skeptical of a band comprised of college educated Yankees playing Appalachian country music…specifically, skeptical of their potential to rock me. But au contraire! They quickly blew my mind with their combination of man-shrieks about death and lean-tos, call-and-response audience-excitement tactics, un-nervingly fast banjo, and a crazy drummer who used chains and an oil can to make noise. I wasn’t sure if I should hoot and holler with joy for the dark spirit that was trying to git in me, or run for the hills. A crowd of city folk (who were originally from Vermont, as it turns out) was thrashing excitedly about in front, and in spite of having to dodge beer and a few flying possums, I dare say I was caught up in the hootenanny (for once, my Caucasian-shuffle did not feel out of place). My friend Jess, avowed O’Death fan (sporting a wife-beater and plaid shirt), surprised me with her ability to identify with the lead singer’s song about “going into the woods and building a lean-to cause you’re sad.” “That works if it only rains in one direction,” she added somberly, and the two shared a knowing glance. I myself have little lean-to experience, but I could still appreciate the song’s sentiments: a primal shout of "fuck!" to the pure, indifferent Appalachian sky. I think it’s funny that people apply labels like “goth-country” to this band, because the musical prefix “goth” makes me think of Bauhaus (or, let’s be honest, oily fat kids stopping in at Hot Topic to buy Marilyn Manson shirts in between trips to Auntie Em’s and Cinnabon), and I’m pretty sure Gothic in the Southern sense of the word pre-dates any of that hoo-hah. Faulkner could kick Manson’s pasty bare ass any day of the week, then skin him and cook him for dinner. And that is why, as Jess ecstatically promised me when trying to convince me to go out, O’Death is “awesomesauce…like a kentucky hillbilly back porch ho-down meets math rock chain metal…but with more beards.” Totally more beards. I will never doubt my friend again.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Hooray for Ladyfingers!
The word “Ladyfingers” might make you salivate and think of spongy treats, but does it make you want to rock out? Unless you are some sort of bizarre epicurean-punk, the answer is usually no. Adam Weiner is planning to change all that, however, with his smoky mix of vintage blues, rockabilly, cabaret, and country, served with a side of pure NYC punk energy. Lead vocalist/pianist/songwriter Weiner says their name was given to them by a friend after it came to her in a dream in which, she told him, he was not Adam but Ladyfingers. “It’s not even like you need to become that person,” she said, “you are that person. That’s the name. Deal with it.”
Anyone who’s seen the band play knows that they are dealing with it just fine. Weiner describes their live show as “in your face but in a non-confrontational way,” adding that there’s definitely “a theatrical aspect to it.” During the band’s shows at Pianos, where they are playing every Tuesday in September, the audiences take all the entertainment they can handle, as promised, right in their faces. Throughout the set, Weiner morphs from a vaguely menacing carnival charlatan, to a yelping Rockabilly boy, to Frank Sinatra melodizing sensuously, to Jerry Lee Lewis standing up at the piano, and back again.
Ladyfingers’ songs often feature outlaws as narrators, though many also catch the flavor of painfully suburban Americana; “white bread/Aquanet/I’m all dressed up for the dance,” Weiner sings in the track that lends their newly-released album, “My Prom,” its name. When asked how personal the songs are, he responds “I think I’m looking for characters within my own persona, or maybe I’m trying to create extensions of my persona…I don’t like to totally detach from myself.” He says the characters he explores affect his psyche in turn; for example, when he first did the darkly smoldering “Real Live Boy,” “people thought that’s Adam doing a gag, or that’s me doing cabaret. And the more I’ve done that song, the more I’ve turned into that guy.”
Scary? Maybe a little. But it’s this open exploration of fantasies both dark and light that make for such an engaging performance. The backing band, consisting of Dave Pinzur on bass, Robbie Radack on guitar and banjo, and Raky Sastri on drums, play hard and loose, taking liberties with arrangement that can only come from trust borne of hours of practice. Raky in particular will often go off in unexpected directions. “It’s unbelievable,” Weiner says, “he plays it like it was an improvisational jazz song…it makes it a whole different genre.”
The energy of these live performances is not easy to harness, but the band recorded “My Prom” in such a way so as to let that energy shine through as much as possible. They recorded it on a vintage reel-to-reel 8-track over the course of three sweaty days in Weiner and Pinzur’s Astoria apartment, and 80 to 90 percent of it was recorded live. “There are tracks in the album where we messed up,” Weiner says, “there’s tempo shift, I stumble over some words, somebody hits a clammy note, but that’s the way we wanted to do it. It sounds like we sound live.”
This gritty sound is a far cry from previous recordings. In a brush with country stardom, Weiner once garnered interest from some heavyweight Nashville producers but quickly realized he wanted out: “we went through this whole process of making this demo in one of the best recording studios in Nashville, and I ended up liking my stupid mini disc recording that I made at a live show better than that.” Additionally, the producers’ concept for the band—“straight up country…the outfits, the string ties, everything…but as delivered by New York Jews”—was somewhat degrading. Adam has no regrets; “I would’ve been Garth fucking Weiner,” he says. “What would that have done for me?”
Not much, for the band’s likeability lies partly in their unassuming character. Unlike many bands who do “straight up vintage,” the four guys in Ladyfingers refuse to play dress-up or identify as any particular genre other than the nebulous catch-all of “rock and roll.” “If I’m doing something that I feel is just a recreation of a genre, we usually take it out of the set because it’s not ours,” Weiner says. Though this resistance to genre often makes it difficult to fit into the notoriously cold and snobby New York scene, it seems people are starting to take note. So if you crave a departure from prevailing musical trends into the forgotten wilds of America’s past, this band is for you. Or, in Weiner’s words, “there’s a lot of good stuff going on in the city that doesn’t get much press…come to our fucking shows.”
Friday, July 14, 2006
Sunday, January 15, 2006
The Deli Magazine and stereoactivenyc.com present: many bands @asterisk, 1/14/06
http://www.thedelimagazine.com and http://www.stereoactivenyc.com are awesome and you should click on them.
The F-holes played first and were greeted by a crowd of shocked and awed faces. Everyone in the room went silent for the first song, a relentless barrage of punk rock hate. At the end of the 30 seconds, the faces lit up and the bodies went into motion as the next song began. This was a short-song kind of band, and the ADD-stricken children of McKibben street liked the idea. The members of the band combined fisty guitar, tinny drums, and baritone sax to create a skrony whirlwind of sound over which the lead singer, this totally hot girl in a misfits t-shirt, screeched, yelled, and crooned, driving the audience to frenzied madness one moment, and lulling them into lustful fantasies the next. I urge you to tell everyone you care about at all of this band, because they will not be playing $8 shows for long.
Ok, so enough with the masturbation. It was a fun fun set and there were lots of people we didn't know there (definitely a first!) One highlight was when the Asterisk dog (half pitbull, half boxer), driven mad by all the rock, started jumping on me and nipping at me while I was singing. I sang-screamed into the dog's face for a few seconds; this drove the dog away. She then concentrated on Josh, biting his strumming and fingering arms alternately, until my boyfriend bravely pulled her off him. We played all our fastest loudest songs. Soon-to-be classics like Killer Vagina and Eat Shit Fuck Off seemed to get the crowd a-boppin. I jumped around more than I usually do, and realized how tiring it was to give performing and singing your all both at once. How the fuck did Henry Rollins do it? I was so sweaty. I wanted to take my shirt off but I didn't wanna lose my indie cred, so instead I just poured water all over myself. The last song, Clever Monkey, is a slow burning rock ballad-turned-crazy-screamfest, and people seemed to like that one the most. I sang and screamed and screamed. My throat is really scratchy today. I would appreciate some tips on how to keep the vocal chords strong and healthy. Tina?
The Unsacred Hearts
The Unsacred Hearts started playing in the other room before we were done, so I didn't get to catch all of their set. I ran over right after though, and saw some good shit. Their music is kind of like ours, in that it is mostly plain old back to basics punk, with a little new stuff thrown in. The singer utilizes a sort of song-speech (or as Wagner would call it, sprechstimme) reminiscent of the technique used by Black Flag era punk bands. It was fun music and it got me bouncing up and down. I especially liked the song that went something like "hey lacky dacky oy" or some such nonsensical phrase. Unsacred Hearts, you make me smile.
The thing about this band was, they all wore matching sunglasses. Pretty cute, no? They played catchy, classic, jammy down home rock music. It reminded me of "the barn" back home in ct, where us baby boomletters would go in our moms' and dads' old clothes to dance to grateful dead cover bands and do drugs, before it got shut down cause drugs are "bad for kids." (I only went there once or twice, I swear it!) It gave me the same sort of feeling, like I'd smoked too much pot and was having my feet moved by infectious music I was not supposed to like; or, as some might call it, "groovy." This band is definitely parent friendly (unless you're like, way older than me and don't have baby boomers for parents). You should take your dad when he's in town.
This band was really fun in an 80's metal sort of way. Imagine "hot for teacher" being played by girls in this year of our lord 2006 and you will basically have Dirty Excuse. I like 80's metal and girl bands and 2006 just fine, so this is a.o.k. with me. The singer/bassist has a great gravelly rock voice, and some fast fingers to boot. She also makes good rock face. The two guitarists were both pretty sick, taking some nicely timed solos to show off their virtuosity. And the drummer (the only guy in the band) also had some rather extended cadenzas. Their songs were a little on the long side due to these cadenzas, but hey folks, they're just living on the edge.
After Dirty Excuse I got pretty hungry so I went to Foodswings to shamefully devour a fried fake-meat sandwich coated in buffalo sauce. (More veggies in 2006 my ever-growing ass!) When I got back the concert was basically over. I am still working on my journalistic stay-power. Maybe if someone were to comment on this blog it would encourage me. Anyway, it was a mega fun night and I highly reccomend Asterisk to anyone seeking a good concert-party. It was still pretty full when I got back around 1am. Clearly Williamsburg is over. East Bushwicksburg is where it's at now, kids. Just don't forget to eat your vegetables.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Quarterslot and the Good Vibrations @Cake Shop, 5/25/05
Quarterslot and the Good Vibrations turned out to be a three-piece consisting of Heidi (Quarterslot) on vocals, and a couple of dudes (the Good Vibrations) on guitar and drums. They play a fun mixture of explosive indie blues and 50’s rock-musical kitsch whose closest modern cousin I can come up with is Morningwood. Dressed in an altered version of a dress stolen from Mama-Slot (in attendance, having made the trip from Bedford; the town, not the silly street in Brooklyn), she looked like, and basically was, a naughty little girl playing dress-up in her mother’s clothes and shoes, unfraid to show us her nice new bra and panties. She had a bowl of sugared strawberries onstage with her, which she fed to us with glee. From the very first song, I knew she would hold nothing back. She kicked her legs and jumped around, alternately singing songs about how she liked boys (don’t we all, sometimes?) and was done with them (“I’m not gonna make French toast for you!”), as well as the greatest truth of all, especially for one entangled in the jaded LES Scene: “everybody uses everybody!” She morphed curiously from Janis Joplin to Sandra Dee to full out James Brown. It was totally groovy, as if somewhere along the line the three of them had gotten frisky and made a baby. While the guitarist was mostly confined to playing simple chord progressions as a backdrop to Heidi’s theatrics, he got a good solo in while Heidi was spread eagle on the amp having pretend guitar sex with him. At the end of the half hour set, Quarterslot was sweaty and exhausted, the audience smiley and sociable. She’d given us all her hott sexy energy and I did what I could to thank her; I let her feed me more strawberries. I might be a bit biased because I love her so, but I think that Heidi and her Vibrations are going to rock this homogenous little New York world, and even the cool kids will be a-dancing.