Thursday, August 13, 2009
At 3:00 p.m., when this show was scheduled to start (at the Williamsburg Waterfront), I was sitting in the Bronx, staring out a window at gray sky and huge, speeding drops as the sound of pounding rain was interrupted only by the occasional, terrifying (Uh, not to me, though. Just terrifying to someone, maybe. Totally not me.) thunderclap. Brooklyn Vegan brought the news that the show was being moved indoors, to the new Brooklyn bowling alley called, aptly enough Brooklyn Bowl. There were to be two shows, one at 7, one at 10, with those shut out of the first show getting wristbands guaranteeing entry to the late one. With my brother holding down a place in line for me, I headed down just before 6, caught both the 4 and L trains just as they were leaving their respective stations (sometimes the MTA does all right), and arrived in line just after 7. Fifty minutes later, my brother and I had to head out to make a dinner reservation -- unfortunately, whoever was running the show (no pun intended -- is that even a pun?) had just started giving out the wristbands, and we were at least 20 minutes away from getting ours. Only one solution remained -- cut the hell out of the line. And I'll be damned if that didn't work perfectly. We simply walked to the front of the line, entered from the side, put out our hands for wristbands, then bopped, real quick. Not that any of the straggly masses we had cut said a thing, of course. They were probably terrified of me, I reckon. Dinner was delicious. And then we returned. We got back to Brooklyn Bowl a little before 11, with time to spare before the main event. The venue is quite enormous -- it is, after all, a functioning bowling alley. The concert area is probably a little bigger than a space like the Bowery Ballroom, with high ceilings where two giant fans -- maybe 12 feet across -- kept everyone somewhat cool. We caught the last opener, a determined man with a mad glint in his eye named Ed Schrader who was armed only with a floor tom and a snarl. I sang along to one song (the refrain was "beautiful transvestite in the rain," so obviously I could help it), but I could have done with about 15 minutes less of his pounding, rather tuneless shanties. By the time Dan Deacon, No Age [http://www.myspace.com/nonoage] and Deerhunter came onstage, it was just past midnight -- a.k.a. party time. In the round-robin format, though, Deerhunter started things off, easing us into the madness that would ensue with the meandering, textural title cut from their album Cryptograms. The madness arrived in the form of No Age, starting the physical part of the show with the propulsive "Sleeper Hold." And people got to moshing -- more precisely: skinny hipsters got to moshing. Of course it was a ton of fun, but everything's a little too easy in a hipster mosh pit: lifting crowd surfers is a cinch, there's not much danger of being punched in the face by a bald guy with many tattoos and a four-inch-long goatee, and (for the faint of heart) a less turbulent crowd is always nearby. There were also lots of smiles among those tossing their bodies hither and yon with reckless abandon; no doubt everyone was relieved and happy simply to be enjoying a concert that ended up being a lot more complicated to get into than expected. Throughout the evening, the moshing would come (during Dan Deacon and No Age) and go (during Deerhunter). The slower, more deliberate Deerhunter songs, rather than dragging the show down, actually served as a welcome counterpoint to the the frenzy of the other two acts. With the show ending at nearly two o'clock a.m., the balance was necessary -- two hours straight of No Age and Dan Deacon madness would have been quite a test of endurance. Whoever planned this crazy tour knew what he or she was doing, though, and it's hard to imagine a free show getting much better than this one.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The Village Voice's Siren Music Festival has been going strong for nine years, and although each of the past three years has been deemed the potential "Last Siren Fest Ever" because of the impending luxury condominium takeover, the third Saturday of July has remained a reliable day of free music, awful (but free) juice, and every type of fried food in existence. The dedicated reader will know that I live in the Bronx. The extremely dedicated, possibly obsessed reader will know that I stayed over in Tribeca the night before this year's Siren Fest. The unhealthily dedicated reader who is also my stalker will know that I had to go back to the Bronx for a change of clothes and also to drop off a big old bag of clothes, and only then take the D train to its final destination. What would compel a man to travel so far? Dedication, friends. To the festival, to the music ... and also to you, dear reader. By the time I got to Coney Island, the festival was half over and I had missed many of the bands I had wanted to see. I headed over to the Main Stage to try to catch the end Frightened Rabbit's set, but as I arrived the band was just finishing their last song. This caused me no small sadness, and I sought succor in swag. I browsed the tents set up along 10th Street, vendors hawking wares free and costly. Games of chance to win logo-splattered sundries. New brands of juice proffered on unwitting passers-by. Each year, Siren seems to play host to a new juice company giving away obscene amounts of its product in the hopes of raising brand awareness. Beverage giveaways are a dangerous thing, though. Parched after my long journey and looking to make my water bottle last, I accepted this years offering, a vile specimen called Vio. This juice, though, was a most unpleasant draught. Let's just say that if I were a hare, I would belong onstage, because I was frightened of this potion (which would make me a frightened rabbit -- hilarious). I will go to great lengths to avoid this carbonated concoction in the future. Speaking of future, the next band I saw was called Future of the Left ! Wow! I didn't even plan that. Talk about synchronicity. These guys are an energetic punk trio from Cardiff, England, and they held nothing back. I arrived about halfway through their set, and though their style does not quite align with my own, they played well, and I can always enjoy frenetic drumming for at least a while. It was too hot for me to get in the center of the crowd, but those who dared were treated to a visit from bassist Kelson Louis Tregurtha Mathias, who made his way past the press pit and barrier and into the crowd during the last song. And that's always fun. I stuck around the Stillwell Stage for A Place to Bury Strangers [http://www.aplacetoburystrangers.com/, http://www.myspace.com/aplacetoburystrangers], whom I had planned, but failed, to see at least a couple of times before. APTBS are another trio, fronted by Oliver Ackerman, the founder of effects pedal company Death By Audio, which has been patronized the likes of U2, Wilco and TV on the Radio. Unsurprisingly, Ackerman makes ample use of his own creations, getting his beat-up Fender to wail, scream, and any other anthropomorphic verb you might imagine. Think Sonic Youth at their most tuneful, or My Bloody Valentine at their fastest tempos. If you dig nasty effects, you'll probably dig APTBS; if you don't, then maybe don't waste your time. Interestingly, their hard-charging rhythm section often sounded a lot like Future of the Left's; the two bands' divergent guitar styles made all the difference, though. The next band, Israeli wildmen Monotonix , http://www.myspace.com/monotonix] are not exactly notable for their guitar style, or even anything much related to their music. They've built a reputation as one of the most outrageous live acts in rock and roll, and on Saturday I witnessed why. They set up their drums within the crowd as a palpable buzz arose from the spectators. The set began slowly, with guitarist Yonatan Gat and drummer Haggai Fershtman playing a dramatic introduction. Suddenly, the band launched into a song, as water flew in the air (usually it's beer, but $5 Bud Light is hard to part with, I guess). Singer Ami Shalev (another trio! wow) was not wearing pants, and after about a minute had no shirt on, either. He spent most of the show held aloft by the crowd, who were, amazingly, unfazed by lifting this man's extremely hirsute and sweaty body. Gat and Fershtman also eventually found themselves playing in the air, as dozens of sweaty arms Iwo Jima'd the drum set and the band members in an impressively cooperative group effort. As I found myself on the outside of the crowd surrounding the band, I noticed the foreign sensation of a breeze against my back. I turned around and realized that many people were observing the madness from a distance. This is the luxury of seeing Monotonix in an outdoor space; at a small, packed club there would be no such respite for the weak-hearted. I have to admit, though, that I myself was somewhat yellow, slipping out just before they finished to make my way back to the Main Stage and try to secure a decent position for headliners Built to Spill . I got as far as the sound tent, a solid spot made possible by what seemed to me to be a rather smaller than usual crowd. Built to Spill had some sound trouble early on, but they played beautifully. The day was coming to an end, and the sun was sinking slowly, bathing crowd and band and park in gorgeous golden light. Airplanes passed silently by in the west, where the sky paled from gold to blue in a sweeping gradient. I felt then that there could be no better place than Coney Island, no better sound than a Doug Martsch solo and a rickety Cyclone roar. Four hours on the subway was a pittance for such a moment.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Tenement Street Workshop Benefit Gala, featuring the Joe Etzine Band and more Let me just get some disclosure issues out of the way here. Tenement Street Workshop is an artist collective co-founded by my brother Patrick. Whew. The honesty feels good. This is what good journalism is all about. Anyway, this event found me once again enjoying an evening of culture on a New York City rooftop, this time in Brooklyn. Tenement Street Workshop is a new artist collective that was created with the aim of fostering all kinds of artistic expression, from theatre to music to pizza-making (my contribution). To that end, the founding members put together a benefit gala (don't be fooled by the fancy connotations of that word -- plaid shirts and cutoff jeans were at least as welcome as blazers and pocket squares) with two new, original one-act plays, along with musical performances by the Joe Etzine Band ; Hillary Johnson , and J.J. Gluckman. There was also wine. And, friends, it flowed. Before we get to the wine, we had to get to the roof, however, and it was a bit of a trek, especially with the L train's being replaced by a shuttle bus east of L orimer St. I was also carrying a big old box of brownies (homemade, with walnuts!) to give away along with the wine -- not exactly a common hassle when I go to shows. The space, though, was awfully swell, with sweeping views on all sides made more wonderful by the absence of the predicted rain. After the first play, the one-act "Rubble," a post-apocalyptic comedy written and performed by students in Carnegie Mellon's BFA program, the first musical act, J.J. Gluckman played an acoustic set. Since it was acoustic, and on an enormous, windy rooftop, the sound wasn't great, but I appreciated having a little musical accompaniment to my red wine-and-brownie-filled intermission. The next play, "Tales of Brave Ulysses," was a "rock-opera movement piece" that retold the classic Odyssey legend using Cream music performed by the Joe Etzine Band. For whatever strange reason, this was the third play I've seen in the past year that has been based on Greek myth. The stories never get old, though, and the approach was fresh enough to overcome the obstacle of everyone in the audience already knowing the story by heart. It didn't exactly hurt that the band was just bad as hell. Uh, that was a compliment. During the play, of course, they only played Cream songs, but judging them purely on execution, I was impressed. Dave Levy on trumpet used some sort of crazy wah-wah effect that made his horn sound like Clapton's Gibson, and Mr Etzine h imself added guitar flourishes that complemented excellently the actors' movement and dialogue. In fact, the band as a whole played its auxiliary role well, supporting the action onstage (well, there wasn't really a stage, but you know what I mean) without overwhelming it. After the play, the band played a set of their own material, which veered into more improvisational territory, jamming at length on jazzy cuts with just enough blues-rock influence to remind me that they were the same band that had just torn through "White Room" and "Tales of Brave Ulysses." I'm not sure how often this group plays shows -- they're all still students as far as I know (and at different, non-NYC universities, no less) -- but hopefully it's soon. Besides the Joe Etzine Band, Hillary Johnson also played after the play. Her songs are piano-based, but since getting a Steinway & Sons on the roof would be awfully problematic, she opted for the acoustic-guitar approach, running into some of the same windy rooftop-related obstacles as Mr Gluckman, but gamely carrying on. Go on to her MySpace page for a stark cover of Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy.” Because if there’s one thing that I condone, it's stark covers of Marcy Playground's "Sex and Candy."
Friday, July 10, 2009
HEY HEY HEY!!! Oscar D. Meany here more Chris Letterii goodness! I cannot stress how excited I am whenever we get a new story from this cat. Some people like music, this guy LIVES it. I wish I had this kind drive to be out there, night after night... ;) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Real Estate, Air Waves, the Beets at Bruar Falls Hoo boy. Before we get to the meat of this tale, I'll tell you a little story about the bus. I MTA Tripplanner'd (http://tripplanner.mta.info) the fastest way to get to Bruar Falls, the new(ish), Cake Shop-affiliated venue in Williamsburg, and I was directed to take the Bx19 to the 5 train to the L train. Sure thing. But then, after ten fruitless minutes, the Bx19 came -- out of service! And our new lieutenant governor is a former MTA chief? After this bus debacle, I can't say I trust him. I made my way down eventually -- finding an alternate route through the sheer force of my own wits -- but the hurt was already deep. I got to the venue at a quarter past nine, expecting to have missed Real Estate, who were scheduled to open the show at 8:30. Here's where the story takes a turn for the happy -- the show hadn't started yet! Thanks for waiting for me, Bruar Falls. It was probably a good call on their part, as the concert space in the back of the bar (cordoned off by just a curtain, so if you didn't feel like paying the $7 cover, you could still hear the music) was far from full even when Real Estate started setting up at about 9:20. In fact, they hadn't even started checking IDs at the door. Take note, astute readers: there's no rush at Bruar Falls. It's all about the experience. The experience began with Real Estate, possibly my favorite band on the bill. Well, it actually began with a Corona, but you're not here to read about my drinking habits (although I do tend to share these details rather often). Their songs, full of delicate, dual-guitar interplay, meander and build to gentle, immediately familiar refrains. Live, the band is not afraid to jam; the end of "Fake Blues" was a particular highlight. Catch them tonight with Titus Andronicus for free at the Whitney Museum, or next week at the Bowery Ballroom with Woods and Wavves (7/15) or Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg (7/16). You've already heard my thoughts on Air Waves , and they were very solid once again. By the time they took the stage, the room was fairly full, which was probably a relief for the bands and the venue, since most of the weekend's hype was around the Captured Tracks/Woodsist Festival (which lost much of its appeal to me when it was moved indoor to the frequently sweltering Market Hotel). Frontwoman Nicole Schneit thanked the crowd for bucking the hipster trend and coming out to Bruar Falls. That's called fan appreciation. Cultivating good will -- savvy move. The dedicated reader will recall that I skipped out on the Beets' set the last time I was at one of their shows. Not so this time. As they hung up a banner that read "We are the Beets. We are from Jackson Heights, Queens" I realized that these guys probably don't take themselves too seriously. When they launched into the snottiest cover of the Beatles' "I Should Have Know Better" that I've ever heard (out-snottying even my snotty-as-hell, preteen brother's band's version) my suspicions were confirmed. Their drummer plays standing up, all three group members shout-sing (suffice it to say that their harmonies aren't exactly CSNY-level) and they invited "the fourth Beet" onstage for a couple songs to provide some accompaniment on the recorder (yes, the instrument that you (and everyone else in the country) had to sort-of learn in 3rd grade music class). This was a savvy move by the Beets, as there is undoubtedly no instrument more crowd-pleasing than the recorder. This has been confirmed by numerous independent research studies. I have to be honest, here, loving readers: I didn't stick around for Grooms. I know I have disappointed many, but I was rather exhausted, the hour was late, and I was facing a 90-minute (at least) commute back to the BX borough. I really do like Grooms and their Pavement-style jams a lot, though, so I have no qualms recommending their upcoming shows at Death By Audio (tonight!) and the Whitney Museum (July 17th, with Abe Vigoda and free!). And I'm sure I'll be back here talking about one of their shows soon. Until then, I salute you. www.meanyfest.com
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The Antlers @ Rooftop Film Series, Friday 26th June 2009 Hello again, gentle readers -- I come bearing tidings from another show. I've been wanting to check out The Antlers for some time, especially having missed out on three great bills earlier this year which they opened (The Walkmen/Beach House, White Rabbits/Cymbals Eat Guitars and Au Revoir Simone). So when I heard tales of a $9 evening of rooftop Antlers fun, with a film screening and open bar to follow, I leapt on the next downtown D train, with nary a moment even to cop some O.E. I knew the weather forecast for Friday night was dire, but I have never been cowed by meteorological misgivings, and this night would be no different. As I popped out of the subway the sun was setting in all its scarlet splendor, and no drops fell nor did clouds loom. I was looking forward to conquering my deep-seated, irrational fear of seeing live music and a film on a roof in Manhattan. Alas, only the latter half of that phobia was to be allayed. The rooftop in question was at the Seward Park Educational Campus (350 Grand St. in Manhattan), so when the promoters were unable to set up in the rain, they were forced to move the music segment of the evening inside to the school's cavernous auditorium. The sound in the auditorium was odd; this is definitely not a space built for rock concerts, even those of the slow-building, ethereal variety. Last time, I talked about punky lo-fi bands like caUSE co-MOTION! -- the Antlers are about as far from that sound as you can get. Their songs typically begin with ambient keyboard soundscapes and emotive singing from frontman Peter Silberman, and build to throbbing, majestic climaxes with a density of sound impressive for a three-piece band. Silberman is not afraid of the falsetto -- perhaps a divisive move (see "Bear" to make your call), but I for one appreciated it, and not just for the fact that it makes my Bee Gees cover band a more acceptable hobby. He can sing up there, so why not do it? Some of the delicacy of his voice was lost in the too-heavy reverb of the auditorium, but as I got used to the sound I started to enjoy the wash of sound created by the unusual acoustics. For some reason, all of the sound seemed to be pooling somewhere in the upper corner of the room, stage left, and as each song built to its swirling peaks, that spot hummed and pulsed with energy. Odd, I know, but it was somehow comforting and relaxing. After about a half an hour, the Antlers finished up and the host announced the fantastic news that the screening was to take place on the roof. The film was called Humpday and it's about two best friends who decide to film themselves having sex. With each other. I thought it was well-made and very funny, so go on out there and see it while you're waiting for the Antlers to come back to New York (their next NY show is an album (re-)release party at Mercury Lounge on August 21st). And be sure to check out the upcoming Rooftop Film Series events -- hard to beat $9 for live music and a film screening on a roof. And it's really hard to beat when they throw in an open bar of Radeberger pilsner afterwards at Fontana's. The only way they could improve on that would be to put it in a 40-ounce bottle and a paper bag. Yessir.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Howdy Hi music lovers, Oscar D. Meany here with some video of The Johns, rocking out with M.E.A.N.Y. USA at Brooklyn's Union Hall. Please watch and enjoy! Oscar D. Meany
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Hi, Everybody!!!! Oscar D. Meany here. We here at M.E.A.N.Y. Music are very happy to introduce you all to our newest writer, Chris Letterii!!! Hello everyone, my name is Chris Letterii and I'm new on the scene here at M.E.A.N.Y. I'm a junior at Fordam University and I live in the Bronx, so I weather many hours on the subway in order to check out the finest bands New York has to offer. I do it out of love of music and dedication to you, gentle reader, that I may share with you my findings. When I'm not on the D train, I make pizza and listen to Tom Waits, often at the same time. And I know you're all wondering, so let me get this out of the way now: my favorite malt liquor is Old English. I don’t know if 40 Skillman Ave is the next Market Hotel (unlikely), but it probably ought to be. Looking for a musical amuse-bouche before the Grizzly Bear show at MHoW last Sunday, I stopped by with friend for the Beets’ first anniversary BBQ celebration at this makeshift backyard venue. It was free, the sky was blue, and I couldn’t think of a single good reason not to go. I picked up a forty of O.E. (obviously) and headed over to a complete stranger’s house to a band whose set I would end up missing because I had to go to another show. Only in Brooklyn. Due to my customary tardiness, I missed the first band, Knight School, arriving instead mid-way through the awkwardly-capitalized caUSE co-MOTION!'s set. As long as you're not a curmudgeon, it's kind of hard to dislike this band. Their particular brand of noisy pop songs rattle along at under two minutes each of hooky, lo-fi bursts of energy, and I couldn't help but to get my toes to tapping. While caUSE co-MOTION! are far less divisively fuzzy than lo-fi bands like, say, Times New Viking, the next band, Air Waves, take an even less abrasive approach to the lo-fi aesthetic. Don't look for polish, but in this case that doesn’t imply a sheet of distortion on every song. Rather than the punky outbursts of caUSE co-MOTION!, they tend more towards a folk approach to songwriting, with a recognizably Brooklyn flair in the execution. Singer/guitarist Nicole Schneit, with a voice at once weathered and resilient, steers the band through melancholy, but (thankfully) stays clear of melodrama. The band shift tempo easily, and after the energetic preceding set, the lovely, 3/4 time amble of "Gems" was a welcome change. Unfortunately, I had to skip out before the Beets went on (had to get to that front row for Grizz!), but I'm sure the gravity of the occasion inspired them to reach hitherto unknown heights of shambolic musical bliss. Happy 1st, gentleman." You see? AWESOME... I wish I was THERE WITH HIM. Stay tuned. O.d.M.