Monday, June 30, 2008

The Hold Steady @ McCarren Park Pool

The Hold Steady; The Loved Ones; J. Roddy Walston & The Business
@ McCarren Park Pool
Brooklyn, NY - June 29, 2008

The first Jelly NYC Pool Party of The Stay Positive Constructive Summer of 2008 was also the Tad Kubler Birthday Bash. The man himself provided some of the most intense solos I've seen him do, on all sorts of guitars, and it really made the concert. Well that, and the fact that the stormy skies let up just in time for the entire set.
THS played pretty much all of the new record and as of right now, half of it seems to be a bit on the sloppy, slow side. But as with all things Hold Steady, it may just take some time to get into. The stuff that does work already - the title track "Stay Positive", "Constructive Summer", "Magazines", "Sequestered in Memphis", "Lord I'm Discouraged" - work swimmingly (bad pool party reference). "Slapped Actress" has adequately replaced "Killer Parties" as the finale. The rest of the set was filled in by great renditions of already great material - "Stuck Between Stations", "Multitude of Casualties", "Chips Ahoy", "Banging Camp" and so on. A really rocking version of "Same Kooks" was a bit of a more-than-pleasant surprise, as was "Arms and Hearts", one of a bit too many ballads played this day but it worked very well.

The Loved Ones were a terrible mall punk band that weren't just Warped Tour bad, they were BEYOND Warped Tour bad. I'd rather see Paramore. I'm not joking. Like Dude, they were like, 30 Seconds to Mars bad. That's BAD.

J. Roddy and the Business made an impressive showing at the Langhorne Slim release party (and it certainly may have impressed Craig Finn of the Hold Steady because he was at that gig, liked them, and now here they are opening for his band). Could their brand of 70's-homage southern arena rock hold up for a second showing? Ehhhh. It worked for the first few songs but how much of this can one take? I figured they'd make for a good opener for the Hold Steady and they did but I wouldn't be in any rush to see them again.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Clare & The Reasons @ Joe's Pub

Clare & The Reasons
@ Joe's Pub
New York, NY - June 27, 2008

Deep, textured, extra lush pop music usually doesn't go hand-in-hand with words like "raw" and phrases like "stripped down" yet that is exactly what is going on in the world of Clare Muldaur and her band. This is one of those rare treats when one can hear pop music at its purest form, devoid of technological production in any way (well, except for some electricity used for the guitars, amps, and speakers but that's about it) and really come to appreciate it. This red bedecked ragtag group of mushy misfits conjure up elemental feelings and make you swim in them. Between Clare's giddy little voice (which on occasion approaches Billie Holiday, and no foolin'!) and the band's spit-shine polish, it really becomes one of those cliche cases where one can forget their troubles for a bit. Whether it is cute little musings like "Pluto", slightly more serious works like "Under The Water" and "Alphabet City", or goofball comedy numbers like "Can Your Car Do That? (I Don't Think So)", one understands why the band's record is called The Movie, since it feels like the soundtrack to some ironic, New York romantic comedy gone awry. Hilariously awry.

Oh, by the way, Clare & The Reasons may have saved a certain candidate for President. After a week of some dicey, somewhat shocking calls that alienated the candidate from his supporter here at SP, the band's rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" with all the lyrics shelved in place of simply singing the name "Obama", conjured up all those gooey "it's the personality, not the issues" swooning that got this old schlub excited about the campaign in the first place. Oh so we differ on the death penalty, so what? What's a little major policy conflict when you got New York's best and brightest singing your name to the tune of the most famous movie song of all time? There's even a Kansas connection for pete's sake. Alright, all is forgiven...for now.

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Dirtbombs Live at Other Music

From back in April:

Episode Page

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Venue News; Spektor/Hammond at McCarren

  • The old Galapagos site (still operating for a bit longer) will be renamed Public Assembly.
  • The Union Hall-related venue being constructed on 7th St between 2nd and 3rd Aves in Gowanus/Slope/Sunset will open in the autumn and will be named the Bell House.
  • Remember when a little known singer named Regina Spektor collaborated with the Strokes? And remember when the Strokes would pack in major shows at places like the Hammerstein? Well one of those Strokes, Albert Hammond Jr., also known as The Happy Stroke, or The Stroke Who Shows Emotions, is now opening for Regina at McCarren Park on August 15th.

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I'm Amazed I Like My Morning Jacket

Jim James' ode to the Allman Brothers Band (especially Duane) with "I'm Amazed" finally allowed me to not scoff at his band...for once.

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Dream Ticket: The Dirtbombs; The Fleshtones; Titus Andronicus; The Mighty Fine

Maxwell's on July 11th went from your typical mostly annual Dirtbombs thing to a full blown major event with the addition of the Fleshtones and the late breaking add of Titus Andronicus and the Mighty Fine.

The Dirtbombs are in Europe now and returning to play the NYC area that weekend (Fort Greene Park the day after Hoboken, and Asbury Lanes the day after that). Then they are off on that tour with Spiritualized (which includes New York and Philly dates).
Titus Andronicus is about to kick off a ton of shows in the area with their show at at the Knitting Factory tomorrow night. They are also going on a big cross-country tour.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Always Look On The Bright Side of Life

  • I knew I was a hipster, and not a suit, when staring into the mirror at the office I observed my blazer, AC/DC t-shirt, jeans, sneakers, and bag and that I had just listened to Cut Copy, Santogold, and the Kills on my Ipod.
  • It's very funny that the most responses yet that I have received to a gig review have been from my brief, rather incomplete review of the Raconteurs and Black Lips. And you can imagine what they all say.
  • Sweet moment: Crossing 5th Ave whilst wearing a White Stripes shirt, a girl about 8 or 9 years old, big, broad smile on her face, walks up to me and says "nice shirt!" and gives me a big thumbs up. It's probably because she likes the White Stripes but it's also possible she just has a thing for flying penguins.
  • I know one can never truly know of every band in the world, but I swear that when Other Music publishes it's weekly new releases list, they are making half of those band names up.
  • I made reference to George Carlin's death but I assure you it hasn't hit me yet. And I don't know how I will react when it does.
  • This is dangerous. A gorgeous, gorgeous woman with a brain and an opinion.

  • Labels:

    Airborne Toxic Event Takes Pennypacker's Advice: Playing Mercury Lounge, Conan

    Well...kind of.

    July 31 at the Merc. It's a late show, so one may be able to catch the free Flogging Molly/O'Death show at the other side of lower Manhattan first. Anyone care to make a crosstown run with the old man?

    And having nothing to do with anything I've said or posted, the band will be on Conan O'Brien on August 1, about 4 months after making their TV debut on Carson Daly. At this rate, they will be on Jay Leno by Christmas (though really between you and me, they should be playing Letterman already), and Saturday Night Live by next February sweeps. And by that point, forget the Mercury Lounge, we'll be up to the Bowery Ballroom, if not Terminal 5. But one step at a time...

    Oh, forgot to mention...this DC-based blog conducted an amazing, thorough interview with the band back in April. And this reminded me that I forgot to plug the band's recent project of 10 acoustic performances via YouTube. I get so hyper and distracted by news of gigs and TV appearances that some good stuff slips by. The first four installments are up on the band's MySpace page.

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    Monday, June 23, 2008

    George Carlin Didn't Die...

    The massive Times obit leaves out his role as the conductor on the children's show Shining Time Station.

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    Sunday, June 22, 2008

    Gogol Bordello; Murder by Death @ McCarren Park Pool

    Gogol Bordello; State Radio; Murder by Death
    @ McCarren Park Pool
    Brooklyn, NY - June 20, 2008

    Jack T. Conqueror, joining me in attendance at this mammoth gig, said it best (paraphrasing): "this is either a real sign of the internationality and universality of music or this is the Village People", and the truth with Gogol Bordello is that it is both. For every second that the shtick and the monstrosity of the shtick serve as overkill, there is a second of absolute success and brilliance. If they weren't so talented, they couldn't pull it off. Eugene and company certainly set out to give you your money's worth and they succeed at that. The only real problem they have is that a period of exhaustion quickly sets in, YOU, the concert goer (or in this case, ME, the concert goer) gets exhausted. Maybe it's because I'm not one of the hundreds of fans going absolutely ballistic upfront. A good chunk of the success of a Gogol concert is the fandom. It is hypnotic to see the most eclectic crowd in New York also be the most intense crowd in New York. And that by rationale, the immensity of the band, the sound, and the venue all work very well.
    That immensity did not work well for the other bands on the bill. State Radio in particular may not work well anywhere for any reason period. A hypermix of stoner metal, white boy reggae (and not that good Clash kind of white boy reggae), and Warped Tour stupidity, these Boston kids just don't cut it.
    Murder by Death actually suffered from the surroundings. They played too early to too small a crowd in too big a venue. The hollowness of the environs swallowed their sound and made them seem a little off, even if they really weren't. For whatever reason (maybe these just listed) Adam seemed to focus on more of the downer numbers, the ones that require him to moan just a slight bit. To see Murder by Death in their absolute prime, see them in small, humble places in order to appreciate their humble effort at making compelling outlaw rock. When they want to tear it up, they certainly can, and they certainly should, on a regular basis.

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    Friday, June 20, 2008

    R.E.M.; Modest Mouse; The National @ MSG

    R.E.M.; Modest Mouse; The National
    @ Madison Square Garden
    New York, NY - June 19, 2008

    When I first caught wind of this tour, I instantly assumed that it would be the kind of thing where R.E.M. would pass the torch to the National as the Indie-ethic Pop-Rock Band of the Nation (sorry Mr. Brock for skipping you over). I don't know how the rest of the tour has gone, but based on the sound in the Garden tonight, if you were new to the National, you were probably not very impressed, and you also had no reason to see R.E.M. pass on or cede anything.

    Stipe, Buck, Mills, and their two amigos came out wailing and they never let up. Playing only a couple of ballads, and everything being short and sweet, R.E.M. made the case for arena rock to live on just a little bit longer. The hypnotic goings on behind the band - a series of screens that relayed the scene on stage as if it was an already edited and produced performance video - were not only beyond impressive, they were actually distracting. At one point, it was even safe to wonder if the show would have been half as interesting without it. But the ferocity of "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" and "Bad Day" easily silenced that. Other highlights included the Mike Mills-led "Don't Go Back to Rockville", the Johnny Marr-joined "Fall on Me", "Losing My Religion", "Supernatural Superserious", "The One I Love", and "Man on the Moon". Michael Stipe did something I never thought he did...ever: He smiled and laughed a lot. In his dapper striped suit, the ever chatty, chrome domed Stipe had his usual political things to say but had even more to say in the field of being friendly, open, and inviting. Like the band's music.

    Isaac and the gang in Modest Mouse sounded exactly as they should have. In fact they sounded even better when I closed my eyes and let their music wash over me. Like their records, either you like it or you don't or you like some of it. I fall into that third category. "Dashboard" was the real highlight, though "Fire It Up" also stood out. Something tells me they are tearing it up right now at the Music Hall of Williamsburg with their sudden late show.

    While the Garden was kind to R.E.M. and Modest Mouse, it was surprisingly a bit rough on Brooklyn's best. The hollow cavern of the arena stilted the strings and winds of all types as the National were in deluxe mode, Padma Newsome and the horn section all in cahoots. Of course they didn't sound bad, but if you were new to the band tonight, you wouldn't think they were full of lush, symphonic melodies. In fact, you would have thought they were a loud rock band, as all that came through were the beats and some of the Dessner guitar grind. If there was anything on the up and up, it was Berringer's voice. Already something divine live, Matt's vocals seemed even more powerful and more prominent in the arena.

    It's funny. When I first started praising and passing on the gospel of the National, my immediate pitch to the uninitiated was "a little like R.E.M.". Tonight, the two bands couldn't have sounded more different. Don't be fooled though. Whether they were chilling with "Fake Empire" or inspiring warmth with the Barack-dedicated "Mr. November" (I called that one a year ago, though the "Great White Hope" line may not be the best thing to bandy about), the National still laid claim to the mantle that was fashioned by bands like R.E.M. two decades ago - thoughtful, intricate pop-rock that despite whatever torrent of sub-genre labels one may wish to slap down, transcends categories and simply inspires.

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    Thursday, June 12, 2008

    The Airborne Toxic Event @ Pianos...Again.

    The Airborne Toxic Event
    @ Pianos
    New York, NY - June 12, 2008

    This may be the most original band in America. They don't sound or look like anyone else. So far the only thing they repeat is their intense and immense performance on their visits to New York City and Pianos in particular. Whether they are playing straight up rock n' roll like "Does This Mean You're Moving On?" and "Gasoline", pleasant pop like "Happiness Is Overrated" (you can catch their February Pianos performance of this song shot by yours truly here), or monster, thundering bust-your-heart-into-a-million-pieces power ballads like "Sometime Around Midnight" and "Wishing Well", Mikel and company construct deep-seeded, substantive songs.

    Free of gimmicks, pressure, cliquishness, and all those other things that usually go with the territory of rock n' roll, the Airborne Toxic Event curl up with a literary bent, and then unfurl a torrent of prose and poetry. On a deeper level than even that, they just know how to tear it up. The twin Fender Jaguar guitar attack by Mikel and Steve make for some potent mixes of boogie and pop. "Shy"Anna is a one woman wrecking crew on keyboards, viola, tambourine, and sudden mosh pits on the floor literally knocking this poor old writer for a loop. Meanwhile, Noah and Daren provide the most pumping, pounding rhythm section to come along in a long while.

    Earlier today, I was asked to name my five favorite bands playing in the world of music right now: I easily came up with the Dirtbombs, the National, the Hold Steady, and Camera Obscura. The fifth took me a second, and I realized it was the Airborne Toxic Event. And as if to back me up, tonight's crowd demanded, and received, the first opening band encore that I have ever witnessed.

    Once again, Pianos was too small to hold it in. Forget just the loud crowd that was jammed in like sardines. The sound of the band seemed to test the walls. During the crescendo within "Sometime Around Midnight", it felt like the floor was about to tear apart. When
    they blow away the Fratellis' fans tomorrow night at Webster Hall, they are going to have figure out a bigger place to play (Mercury Lounge, Mercury Lounge, Mercury Lounge) when they come back, probably next month.

    The debut LP is out August 5th on Majordomo. I can't wait.

    Insta-Clip 1
    Insta-Clip 2
    Pictures coming soon

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    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    Rumors of the White Stripes Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated... private conversations.

    Stereogum obviously doesn't know all the details of the last half-year or so, but this latest episode is just more proof that the White Stripes are not only not finished, but that the band - and most importantly here, Jack - seem to have made amends with the city from which they came.

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    The Go-Getter: The Pennypacker Perspective

    So all biases for She & Him aside, The Go-Getter is not just a decent Indie film that avoids the pitfalls of pretension, it is actually a near-perfect picture. The screenplay of this compelling road trip dramedy is essentially poetry and it is delivered with stirring warmth and sincereity from the entire company, notably the surprising lead Lou Taylor Pucci. Rather than be a overgrown pretty boy, Pucci is an authentic, lovable portrayal of a good kid who does one stupid thing. Considering the series of events that follow his one stupid thing, he handles it all with a mix of bewilderment and existential acceptance. Zooey gives her strongest performance yet in a role that she absolutely excels in (the ultimate good girl), and if it wasn't June, she could have (and should have) some Oscar buzz. Bill Duke shows up for a monologue that is the highlight of the picture (along with the small ode to the French New Wave), Judy Greer makes a cameo doing her best Judy Greer-ish performance, and Maura Tierney makes you remember why she was a discovery on Newsradio before she was stranded on E.R. for so many years. Jena Malone is maybe the one hiccup in the affair but not so much for her performance as for the brazen and bold way she sheds her childhood acting past for the role of the sexpot. It is too-far-off-the-scale from her past work. But she does pull it off, as disturbing as it is.

    The soundtrack is, as was to be expected, exceptionally good. Besides being the birthplace of She & Him, it is a repository of prime M. Ward material, most notably "To Go Home" and "Sweethearts on Parade". The Black Keys also show up a couple times, including with their career best "10 A.M. Automatic".

    This film is writer-director Martin Hynes' debut. This has to be one of the most impressive debuts of the decade. What could have so easily been a ham-handed waste of talent in a muck of pretentious drivel is instead a meditation on not just the classic road story, but on the fundemental concepts of family, friends, and relationships. There have been few if any pictures that have done so much about the complicated process of being distant siblings by doing so little. A very simple, sparse story about two brothers is made complex and whole by a wedge of assorted characters who run the spectrum of good to bad to good again and it is all set against a loving backdrop of the North American west, from Eugene to south of the border. Comparisons to road trip films and novels of the past are inevitable, but The Go-Getter makes a very strong stab at carving out a niche all its own.

    In New York, the film is playing at the Quad Cinema on E 13th St between 5th and 6th but you only have a couple more days to see it. Its run ends Thursday night.

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    Saturday, June 07, 2008

    Even Dylan <3's Obama

    How impressive is Barack Obama (even with his Jerusalem flip-flop pandering)? He even has Bob Dylan speaking out in support of him, and in uncharacteristically (for Bob) direct, blunt, non-cryptic, non-cynical terms.


    Could the Dylan/Springsteen/Bright Eyes/Arcade Fire/Decemberists/M. Ward concert for Obama be not far off from now?

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    Thursday, June 05, 2008

    Dream Ticket: Flogging Molly and O'Death

    That Pier 54 free show with Flogging Molly on July 31? Yeah, O'Death is opening.

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    Wednesday, June 04, 2008

    New Video From Joan as Police Woman: "To Be Loved"

    She's been getting a lot of buzz lately, and it seems to be not for the first time in her career. Hopefully this time it will stick because this is very good stuff:

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    Monday, June 02, 2008


    In one of the biggest media crimes of the decade, Public Radio International has axed Fair Game (I figured something was up when the show was in repeats for way too long on either side of Memorial Day). Read here and here for the details - though interestingly, the cancellation is yet to be acknowledged on the show web site. The podcast is still being updated with old shows and segments.

    As it is noted in places on the links, the comedy on the show was mixed at best. All of Faith's cohorts were pretty annoying (the program could feel like a bad imitation of The Daily Show for radio). But Faith herself is/was a fantastic host. Smart, well-informed, asking very pointed, and very substantive questions, especially by public radio standards, she tooks things to a new level. It also helped that she is absolutely cute as a button in every way possible.

    As with most good public radio shows, Fair Game provided informative news segments on issues and trends, and it was also a great source for interviews on independent cinema. But most important of all, it was one of the best sources for new Indie music. The bookings were sensational. Even the artists that I personally did not care for, I respected their presence on the show. Except when they ignored my request for the Dirtbombs and kept the CD I sent. But that was under their old music coordinator so who knows.

    The entire Fair Game music catalog

    Camera Obscura
    Heavy Trash
    Holly Golightly
    Via Audio and Orba Squara
    Au Revoir Simone
    The National
    The Magnetic Fields
    Mountain Goats
    Norah Jones
    Clare & The Reasons
    Ira Glass (he's not music but he's Ira Glass so there)


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    Sunday, June 01, 2008

    The Raconteurs; The BlackLips @ Terminal 5

    The Raconteurs; The Black Lips
    @ Terminal 5
    New York, NY - May 31, 2008

    Is it me? Maybe it's me. Sure, the new record is one bit of awful but why should that affect the live show? These are the Raconteurs after all, this is Jack White after all. Whether it did or not, it was bad. Bad bad. All those little things that signify a Jack White show - the between-song pounding, the ins and outs and ins again of songs, etc etc was annoying. They even looked annoying. Obviously, the venue didn't help with its stifled sound and ridiculous set up.

    The Black Lips are the most overrated band in America. They cannot play. And not in that punk aesthetic sort of way. They just can't play. Their songs that sound good on record still sound good live but we're talking about a handful of songs like "Bad Kids", "Oh Katrina", and "Make It". Otherwise, they are pretty damn bad.

    Maybe it's me.

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