Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Ting Tings @ McCarren Park Pool...Kind of.

The Ting Tings
@ McCarren Park Pool
Brooklyn, NY - July 27, 2008

So I went a bit late to the MGMT/Black Moth Super Rainbow/Ting Tings free show at the pool today. I arrived to the area with the Ting Tings already blasting from the speakers into the neighborhood. I intended to go in. But the line was just about the longest line for anything I have ever seen. It nearly wrapped around the entire square block of the pool (which if you haven't been there, is a BIG square block). Word came in late on other blogs that people were still waiting in the line to get into the show while MGMT was on. And no one was being let in by that point anyway.
From what I heard of the Ting Tings - which was pretty much the entire set - it actually sounded pretty darn good, considering they are a one hit wonder summer band that is reviled by anyone worth an ounce of Indie cred. In fact, they actually sounded VERY good. All that really matters are three nuggets: "Shut Up and Let Me Go", "Great DJ", and "That's Not My Name" and they all sounded exceptionally excellent. It must have been a lot fun inside the damn place. But the line proved to be too much, and then something came up so all Sonic Parthenon gig reviews for this day had to be shelved.

Should this really count as a gig review? Not really. But then again, if this could count, then why not the Ting Tings today?

And yeah, MGMT is THAT big. It's rather amazing. "Electric Feel" is one of the best songs of the year and the decade and that's all well and good - but THIS big?

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Refuge From A Maddening World: She & Him @ Terminal 5

She & Him; The Rosebuds
@ Terminal 5
New York, NY - July 26, 2008

It has been a disturbing 24 hours in Gotham. Following the anticipated oddity of the Brian Jonestown show, my long ride home from Terminal 5 accompanied by a very nice new gal pal (who had earlier told me she was "full of brisket", a line I shan't be forgetting for some time) was interrupted by a gang of teens randomly targeting and assaulting an innocent young man on the Q train. Then on the way into the Q train stop to head back to Terminal 5 for tonight's show, I witnessed a man suddenly punch a woman right in the side of her head and take off for the subway. Then on the train, some woman screamed and ran from the end of the car for no explicable reason and then several minutes later, a fight nearly broke out but was thankfully squashed. And so by that point, I considered skipping the gig and finally going to see The Dark Knight for tips on how to be a better vigilante. But then I figured that some of the very same dregs of society would be present at the theater to ruin the show so I chose instead to see another form of Batman and Robin: She & Him.

Interestingly, allusions to Matt Ward and Zooey Deschanel being a corrective to the world's troubles were made the last time I saw them. So once again, M and Z stepped into those shoes and they filled it as impeccably as they can. Zooey's singing has continued to sharpen up and she's now a vocal embrace, a swirl of warmth and passion, simplicity and solidity. She still sounds best as a Jazz chanteuse, but she's channeling more and more of the Greats, most notably Carole King, both in the spirit of that woman's early songwriting chops and later recording success. There was even a new cover of a Joni song thrown in tonight, more proof that Zooey's tastes are expansive and yet consistently classy. And clearly when the Most Beloved New Gal In Indie Rock is channeling a Brooklyn girl and a Toronto girl, she knows what she's doing (I wonder if she's read this book).

Matt, who has never looked more relaxed in his relatively short but wonderfully perfect career, enjoyed playing mostly back-up man to what's pretty much the Zooey show (with the addition of a song led by back-up singer Becky). He did his usual collaborations throughout the set, only taking off on a guitar solo on the penultimate "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" and again on his own "One Magic Trick". And as if to balance things out, the show ended with a lead by opening act Freakwater that actually brought the country side of things to fruition, something that had been lacking that first go-round in April (Note: I would have seen Freakwater open tonight if the Bowery Presents hadn't erroneously posted their start times an hour late on the web).

Zooey is having an Indie Rock equivalent of the year that Jennifer Lopez had in the mainstream some years ago, what with The Go-Getter, the She & Him record, and the subsequent tour. Her only real problem is that she's disturbingly too skinny. Despite shimmering and shining in her old time sequined dress and flowery headband, this candidate for Most Beautiful Face in the World is showing a bit too many bones on the sides. What she needs is a good couple of nights at a New York Deli, that is if we can avoid getting assaulted on the way. Someone fire up the Bat signal.

The Rosebuds, by the way, were just about equally stupendous. A mix of disco-pop and plain ol' rock n' roll, this Raleigh group recalled recent faves the Submarines and Sons & Daughters, and More Fun-era X. They are a solid good time and they made a new fan out of me and I'll be seeing them again for sure.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Brian Jonestown Massacre @ Terminal 5

Brian Jonestown Massacre
@ Terminal 5
New York, NY - July 25, 2008

By all logic and reason, this band should not exist. The band is essentially the work of one man, Anton Newcombe, with an assortment of friends backing him up. The band plays great and Anton's songs are structured wonderfully. The pop/rock melodies that drive most of the numbers are extremely well done. So why shouldn't this band exist? Those melodies go nowhere. They are often forsaken for boring psychedelic jams. Anton himself seems irrelevant as he sings terribly, stands way off to the side of the stage, and contributes nothing instrumentally of merit on guitar. He is the worst member of his own band.

Then there is this whole other thing. Anton is notoriously crazy. But more than crazy, he's a jerk. An outright jerk. And he can't control his jerkdom. In one of the most bizarre relationships in rock, Anton is frequently heckled and challenged by his own fans and he takes the bait. And it is no joke. And it has been like this for over ten years. Tonight, Anton wanted to dedicate a song to a "friend" of his who died today. He didn't sound very sincere in his sadness and he even bashed the deceased as being "an asshole". So someone heckled him and of course Anton responded. But he kind of deserved it. And to make this all crazier, this nonsense is actually to be expected and enjoyed by Anton's fans and his band. The man is more or less exploited by everyone around him for their own amusement. It's beyond comprehension.

But take heart Anton. You're still better than the Dandy Warhols.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Incredibly Interesting Symbiotic Relationship of Metric and Heavy Trash

When I decided to see Metric for the first time last year, it came at the sacrifice of seeing Heavy Trash for the first time. I've seen Heavy Trash since but Metric is coming back - moving their Highline Ballroom show from the August 7th to the 8th (apparently so that Mates of State could headline its own show at the venue). What does this mean? It means that instead of Metric duking it out with the Black Keys for gig of the night, they now have to contend guessed it...Heavy Trash (playing at Glasslands). And once again the great struggle between seeing Emily Haines and Jon Spencer is renewed again. And this is to say nothing of the fact that also on the 8th of August, Iggy Pop & the Stooges are playing Terminal 5.

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Whatever Happened to Baby Nirvana?

NPR caught up with the baby on the cover of Nevermind, who is now an angsty teen who thinks the 90's sounds like it was a lot cooler than this decade. Straight up.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New From The XYZ Affair: Trials

The XYZ Affair have released a new EP called Trials, featuring three exciting, new songs. One of those songs, "Evening Life" is now available for download via Stereogum's e-digest subscription.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Celebration; Rain Machine (Kyp Malone) @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Celebration; Rain Machine
@ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Brooklyn, NY - July 20, 2008

Every piece on Celebration inevitably makes a comparison between front woman Katrina Ford and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O. So too will this piece, except this piece declares that these two women have almost nothing in common except they have each made a serious mark on pop/rock music in this decade. The latter is a whirlwind, an unstoppable force, a very distinct figure in a trio that relies on her voice as much if not more so than the guitar and drums. The former is working with an entire different palate. Katrina's voice - much more gorgeous and controlled, much more naturally attuned to music - is but one of the instruments used in this extremely talented Baltimore-based band. For as much as she stands out with her natural talent, her gravitational presence as a performer, and as a real good looking gal, Katrina is playing only a part in this church called Celebration.
Tonight, the Baltimore trio was joined by two Charm City-friends on percussions, strings, and whatnot and two New York friends on horns and percussions. This made for a full invigorating experience. There are only a handful of bands out there who can rely on percussions to carry them through and Celebration may be at the top of that short list. Let's see, how can this be put without going overboard...this was like attending a tribal virgin sacrifice in which the virgin turns out to not be a virgin at all and is in fact leading the festivities. Yeah, that's subtle enough.

The band's recordings do not do them justice (with all do respect to their producer, Dave Sitek). This is a force that needs to be seen live, to let the experience wash over you and to play with your mind. You could close your eyes and still have a good time, that is if you can keep your eyes off Katrina for a few seconds.

The only thing more of a surprise than Kyp Malone being the opening act (under the banner "Rain Machine") is that the TV on the Radio member cut off his 'fro. It turns out his magical powers did not stem from that head of hair, that in fact, his power and appeal come from his art, his mind, his heart. In stark contrast to the musical orgy that followed, this performance was a lesson in simplicity. Whereas Celebration made use of everything but with practically zero emphasis on guitars, Kyp was on stage with his Epiphone-brand Les Paul and nothing else. He played a series of sterling mood pieces, ranging from the reflective to the socially conscious, giving full weight to his words against a backdrop of a few simple yet haunting chords. He made some use of a loop-pedal thingamajig, especially on his last song, an old TVOTR nugget that was absolutely perfect. His songs all sounded like they would each be the perfect climaxing ballad on an album of thoughtful Americana rock, with only occasional dalliances into that classic TVOTR distortion, but rather than sound redundant, they were each impressive, goosebump-giving meditations on life.

In other words, this was one hell of a show.

See? It's Kyp.

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Reasons to Stay in New York

No this is not a report about Clare and her band deciding against leaving town. But it is about this town.

This city has become too expensive, maybe even too expansive, too susceptible to change, too stagnant, and above all, it's become a rather contradictory place to live. But on this weekend's excellent edition of Studio 360, taped at the recent Aspen Ideas Festival, host Kurt Andersen gave us some significant food for thought as to why this may not be a city so easily forsaken:

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Murder Mystery; Action Painters; Lissy Trullie @ Bowery Ballroom

Murder Mystery; Action Painters; Lissy Trullie
@ Bowery Ballroom
New York, NY - July 19, 2008

As if in response to the Siren festival earlier in the day, tonight's show at the Bowery Ballroom was uncharacteristically calm, laid back, and relaxed. It made for the city's best medium size venue to shine as a showcase for some up-and-coming acts.

Murder Mystery immediately sounded like the Strokes gone country. But by the end, they didn't really sound like anything in need of such a definition. And they were pleasantly fine throughout.

Despite the overall calm atmosphere, Action Painters blew the roof off the joint. Seemingly piling on all the energy that was squandered by the city in Coney Island, they let it erupt through themselves here on Delancey Street, in a set that wasn't just their best yet, but was one of the best sets of the year period. It's amazing to see a young band not in need of working out any kinks. Everything is place. They are ready for prime time. From the keyboards to the nifty guitars, from the lyrics to the melodies, this is exceptionally good stuff.

Lissy Trullie is a gem of a songwriter and has a real knack for some of the same hooks that Action Painters go for. She also shares their love of good hats. Fedoras and variations thereof were in plenty supply, making for a snappy night in looks, not just sound.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Siren Music Festival 2008: Ra Ra Riot, Jaguar Love, Times New Viking, Annuals, The Dodos

Siren Music Festival 2008: Ra Ra Riot, Jaguar Love, Times New Viking, Annuals, The Dodos
@ Coney Island
Brooklyn, NY - July 19, 2008

The location of SPHQ makes for a quick report from this year's heat-drenched, over-stuffed, poorly laid-out Coney Island affair. Let's do it in order of the bands seen.

It was hard to tell whether the poor Main Stage sound system was at fault for not hearing the Dodos or if it was the Dodos themselves. I couldn't tell when they stopped or started playing a song. Nor did it sound like anything of shape was coming out anyway. Once I saw the Xylophone being played on what seemed like mute, I decided to check out Annuals over at the Stillwell Stage.

Annuals' indie pop sounded pretty decent for the few minutes that I caught. No complaints here except that I wanted to check out Times New Viking AND get a Warriors t-shirt from the surf shop so I had to go.

A t-shirt, a lamb/chicken/rice platter, and a walk later, it was time for Times New Viking. The first batch of songs sounded peppy, highly spirited, and not too dissimilar from Titus Andronicus. And everyone was having a good time including all the big sunglasses wearing hipsters, the shirtless men (of which there were enough to constitute their own demographic), and the annoying beach ball throwers. After a bit however, the band started to sound a bit redundant and sloppy, and the personal space was also becoming a bit eradicated, so it was time for another trip to the Stillwell Stage.

After about a full minute, I had enough of Jaguar Love. I don't quite know what the hell that was but it wasn't the band that made "Bats Over The Pacific Ocean", no sir.

Back at the Main Stage for the last time, it was time to settle in for Ra Ra Riot and Islands.

Ra Ra Riot probably sounds pretty darn good in a nice, small, well-spaced venue with adequate temperature. Their sweet, well-crafted orchestral rock sounds are more down home in spirit than they are proggy, but there is still something vaguely classical about them and it's a good thing. But alas, the poor sound system at the Main Stage struck again and the band became drowned out in a chorus of hipster talk, Cyclone screams, an echo chamber, some kind of a speaker sound delay in the back, and various Astroland cacophonies. Shade had begun to win out the day over the heat but it wasn't enough, and old Pennypacker had to pack it in and forgo a listen to Islands.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stay Positive: The Pennypacker Perspective

No further review of the Hold Steady can really say anything enlightening after Mike Conklin's piece in the L Magazine a couple of weeks ago:

The amount of tolerance you’ve built up for the Hold Steady is most likely directly proportional to the amount of tolerance you still have left for the archetype of the Rock Nerd as it came of age in the 90s: male, college educated and a little bit bumbling — the obsessive record collector with an encyclopedic knowledge of rock history, the guy with all the band shirts, the guy who labored over mixtapes in lieu of being able to express emotions like a regular person, the guy who could never quite get the girl because he’d already become her best friend; the college radio DJ, the tireless booster of vinyl as the preferred audio format.

Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn has been courting that guy for the duration of his band’s career, with four full-lengths that have as their primary subject matter what is essentially a series of coming-of-age stories about teenagers in the throes of the punk rock scene — for many, including Finn’s characters and Finn himself, a brief but important stop on the road to what they will later become — set in suburbs and cities that may as well be nameless, even though they never are. He preys on nostalgia for something which has only been gone for a few years, but which, in the wake of the internet, seems like a relict of a long gone era. It’s an approach that’s fraught with problems, from the appearance of being a one-trick pony to the ongoing bout with gooey sentimentality. Unless, of course, you’re “that guy.”

That's it. That's there all there is to it. It's the reason why as of last night, the David Letterman show, one of the last places left on television to regularly hear good contemporary music, declared the Hold Steady the "best rock band in America". The Hold Steady, and their ascendancy to the critical and somewhat popular consensus, are the latest in a line of revenge-of-the-nerd bands (to steal and paraphrase a line from Mick Collins in a recent radio interview). The squares, the losers, the regular joes, the geeks, all those guys (and some gals too for sure) - who first found refuge in the Ramones all those years ago and later on in an assortment of punk and bar bands, ranging from the credible underground to the laughably mainstream (as well as the laughable underground and the credible mainstream) - are reveling and relishing in the triumph of the Hold Steady.

That being said, there is a definite incongruity going on in the gears and the works. Not many of the fans can empathize with the seemingly endless litany of stories involving massive intakes of drugs and criminal behavior (and if Finn himself ever did lead this life he couldn't be any further away from it than he is now). Not many of the fans, probably none of the fans, can say they are or know someone like Hallelujah, the chief protagonist of Separation Sunday (except me of course - I know a Holly). And among the secular sophisticates within the fan base, doesn't all the Catholic imagery go a little overboard?

Then there is the Springsteen factor. At the end of the day, despite all the inheritance from Finn's Minnesotan ancestors in the Replacements, and his references to Youth of Today and 7 Seconds, there is no question that the Hold Steady are essentially the second coming of the E Street Band, just with fewer members and a lot less soul (which isn't as much of a slight as that reads). And that's the Hold Steady in a nutshell. If Bruce is/was Dylan in a bar band, then the Hold Steady are Bruce wishing he was more punk than he actually is (again, that's not as much of a slight as it reads).

So either you love this stuff or you don't. You're either in it for the lyrics or you're not. Either you're OK with Craig invoking Billy Joel ("you catholic girls start much too late") or you're not. Either you love the "gooey" (damn Conklin stole my word for it) guitar solos from Tad Kubler or you don't. Either you love the very pop keyboards of Franz Nicolay or you don't. Either you take the time to learn the names of the bass player and drummer or you don't (Galen and Bobby).

Yours truly will make no bones about it. A ton of bands that sound like the Hold Steady, that exist either in the ether of American dives or existed on the radio through the 80's and 90's, would no way appeal to me these days. But these guys do. The occasional odes to 70's arena rock, which make me cringe on some recent records that shall go nameless, sound perfectly OK to me when coming out of this band. What makes the Hold Steady the exception are Finn's stories, his lyrics, which we've already established aren't really always that relatable. So if you run the spectrum from Dylan's ambiguous poetry to Springsteen's blue collar stories, Finn holds a strange middle where it sounds like Sprinsteen but appeals like Dylan (or is it the other way around?) and that's what makes it work for someone like me.

Stay Positive is a worthy follow-up to Boys and Girls in America and Separation Sunday (and by-and-large surpasses the Franz-less first stab Almost Killed Me). It doesn't hold the consistent punch of the last two records but that's in part because the band does try to expand its sound and they more or less succeed at each turn. The standouts are indeed the sing-a-long anthems - "Constructive Summer", "Sequestered in Memphis", the title track. They are equal in measure to "Stuck Between Stations", "Hot Soft Light", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Banging Camp", and "The Swish". Songs like "Magazines and "Yeah Sapphire" are almost up to snuff of the previous secondary winners like "Massive Nights", "You Can Make Him Like You", "Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night" and so on and so forth. As an album to simply enjoy listening to, Stay Positive is certainly one of the best records of the year.

One more thing about the title track and the Conklin piece. He's right. No one can relate to that one. In fact, the song breaks a golden rule I wanted to establish in a piece I cannot finish called "The Things I Don't Want To Hear In Rock n' Roll Ever Again": the topic of being famous. I hate when artists sing about their careers. It's self-indulgent to the worst possible extent. I wanted to yell at Jack White for that b-side late last year, "It's My Fault For Being Famous" (despite it's undeniably catchy country hook). But if anything, "Stay Positive" makes for a nice companion piece to that song. Whereas the former is a bitter resentment towards the media and maybe some of the unruly, obsessive fans, the latter is a love letter to the fans (probably including a few of those unruly and obsessive ones too). And while I sympathize with the former's rage, I am warmed by the sentiment in the latter, and while that still doesn't make it possible to be empathetic, it harks back to the same good feelings that the Hold Steady supply over and over. And while most of us cannot relate to that song in particular, the vibe and emotion of the song and the overall album, the message of staying positive and who is saying it and why it is being said, it not only makes us feel good to be listening to music, it makes us specifically feel good to be back into a bar band.

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Looker; Orion Experience; Other Local Faves' Upcoming Shows

We're slipping here at the SPHQ because Looker and the Orion Experience are playing Maxwell's tonight and yours truly had no idea till just now. Booooo.

You can catch also Looker tomorrow night at Public Assembly (the rock n' roll venue that was once Galapagos Art Space, which itself has officially moved into DUMBO and will no longer host rock shows). They will also be playing the Mercury Lounge on the 25th and Union Hall on August 22nd.

The Orion Experience will be at the Knitting Factory on July 24th and the Highline in October.

Action Painters are playing the Bowery Ballroom on Saturday night, opening for TigerCity, making for a nice alternative Siren festival after-party.

The Teenage Prayers have joined Eli "Paperboy" Reed for his show at Union Hall on August 1.

NYC's other Teenage band of note, My Teenage Stride, is also playing Union Hall in August...the 20th to be exact.

Psst...Joan Wasser is playing the Bowery Ballroom on September 25th. Don't tell anyone till I have a ticket.

In another slip-up, Wormburner played the Merc last night and now you'll have to wait till the Fall to see them again. Drats.

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Black Tie Revue Broke Up

I had a feeling, confirmed by a MySpace bulletin today.

Oh well, at least I got this:

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Dirtbombs @ The AfroPunk Festival in Brooklyn

The Dirtbombs
@ Fort Greene Park
Brooklyn, NY - 7/12/08

On a beautiful, humid-free Saturday summer late afternoon, the Dirtbombs closed out a day of Afro Punk rock n roll with a very basic but very strong set, the minimal version (meaning no "Leopard Man" intro, just right into "Start The Party"). "Stop" and "I Can't Stop Thinking About It" were brought in from the bench for some mix-up in the set and the show concluded with Ben moving his drum kit down to the grass, and playing it up with Mick. There was also a puppy running around!

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The opening

The finale:

Part 2

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The Dirtbombs; The Fleshtones; Titus Andronicus @ Maxwell's

The Dirtbombs; The Fleshtones; Titus Andronicus
@ Maxwell's
Hoboken, NJ - July 11, 2008

Back from their fantabulous tour of Europe, the Dirtbombs returned to their NYC-area stomping grounds only to have a Frenchman bum rush the show twice. Other than that, it was an all-Hoboken affair, with lots of sauciness up front and great sound in the back. With the use of "Leopard Man" as their opening number this tour, the Dirtbombs may not have just perfected their own way of opening a show, they may have instituted the best show opener in rock history. The goosebumps that arise when Ben starts the pounding and the crescendo to the opening chord is about as thrilling as this band has ever been. Going through this tour's standard set list, the band settled on sticking around on stage for the encore and unleashing a 35-minute version of "Kung Fu" that included a couple of extra songs thrown in and Ben's best monologue on the mic in his career. He even handled the moshers well.

The Fleshtones - the only Brooklyn band to actually be from Brooklyn - make their Sonic Parthenon debut by doing what they've been doing for the last 25 years - fun, friendly garage rock. The look of the band is, as one friend of mine put it last night, a "bit long in the tooth", but the spirit is there, the songs are fine, and any band that walks off stage and goes right to the bar is alright by me. Also, they are the second opening band I've seen in a month have their own encore. But of course that was going to happen. They're the Fleshtones.

Titus Andronicus is the next big thing in the garage rock/punk world. They play everywhere and their fan base is rabid and growing by the day. Pop music has never sounded so vociferous. The keyboards are other worldly, and the style of the band's sound transcends the hardcore genre they would seem to revel in. This could very easily be very bad but the guys make it work. Also, they come off a bit evil, which kind of helps for some reason.

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New Video From She & Him: "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?"

The concept of the video appears to be a juxtaposition between Zooey being adorable and bloody murder happening everywhere. But even the murder comes off adorable.

Highlight: M. Ward's expression when he first comes across Z's body. It's like "What? What is this?"

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Luna Lounge is Dead. Long Live the Knitting Factory

The Luna Lounge, which once stood in the heart of the Lower East Side (and played home to the likes of the Yarrows) moved to Williamsburg last year (and played to the likes of the Knitters, Heavy Trash, and Looker), and just never took off. It never seemed to pack the place in. And there seemed to be some legal troubles. Well whatever the reason, the club has folded. In its place will be the Knitting Factory, relocating for the third time in its New York history, going from the LES to Tribeca and now to the site of the second Luna. Meanwhile, the Knitting Factory brand is expanding from its New York and Los Angeles operations, opening up new clubs in Spokane and Boise (?!).

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New Videos From The Airborne Toxic Event and The Duke Spirit: It's a Fight!

Yahoo is having a fight among 4 videos which requires we the people to vote.

Without giving a fair shake to the other two videos, the only two you need to vote for over and over are "Sometime Around Midnight" by the Airborne Toxic Event and "The Step & The Walk" by the Duke Spirit.

The Duke Spirit will be back in New York at Webster Hall on July 30, opening for Supergrass. The Airborne Toxic Event will be in New York on the next night, headlining a late show at the Mercury Lounge in prep for their appearance on Conan.

Meanwhile, the next rounds of acoustic Airborne re-do's are up, including "This is Nowhere" and this very cramped version of "Does This Mean You're Moving On?":

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Re-Evaluation of Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

A couple months ago, I savaged this young man in a terse, rather vague review as part of that now legacy-defining Langhorne Slim record release gig (Langhorne is currently enjoying a massive surge of popularity, J. Roddy recently snagged an opening slot for the Hold Steady who were in attendance that night).

Recently, Oh My Rockness provided an mp3 of MBAR covering the Cars' "Drive". I still wasn't liking it. All the while, I was struck by the name of this guy popping up in a lot of hipster rags.

Now Stereogum posted the video for his song "Buriedfied" and I have to's good. This is good, haunting, textured material. Why didn't he sound like this that night at the Merc?

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X Made Videos OMG!

Not even YouTube has been able to be an adequate source of vintage X material but now VH1 of all damn places has a handy helping of X videos, and it kicks off with "True Love Part 2", you know - the one where X officially left punk rock behind to explore the dangerous, forbidden world of Disco!

It's a great window not just into the band (and some of the lame videos they were compelled to make in order to have at least some success in the music business) but into the 80's in general. Watch as the band morphs from a punk band delving into other contemporary sounds into cheesy hair metal-ish behavior into an alt-country band. Despite the changes in production and aesthetic (and the post-'86 departure of Billy Zoom), witness the consistent songwriting structure by John and Exene, and their ability to transcend the rapid ways in which a decade can change.

Also, here's what Exene is up to these days while the band tours.

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Black Cab Sessions: The National, Langhorne Slim, Daniel Johnston, Others

This is a pretty neat idea. Film an artist or artists playing acoustically in the back of a black cab in London.
The producer recently appeared on Soundcheck:

Web Site

The National:

Langhorne Slim:

Daniel Johnston:

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Finn, Sheff, Cave, and Berryman

Who is John Berryman?

And what does he mean to Craig Finn of the Hold Steady (in "Stuck Between Stations"), Will Sheff of Okkervil River (in "John Allyn Smith Sails", and Nick Cave (in "We Call Upon The Author To Explain")? And why now, 36 years after his suicide?

Oh there won't be any answers here. This is just observation.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Okmoniks; No Bunny @ Lit

The Okmoniks; No Bunny; Hollywood
@ Lit Lounge
New York, NY - July 5, 2008

Somewhere in between Be Your Own Pet and their fellow Arizonans the Love Me Nots are the Okmoniks. Led by a feisty, organ-hammering sexpot, the Okmoniks play their brand of 60's inspired garage rock with a slight hint of pop and a whole lot of loud. And to show they get their inspirations from all the right places, they played one song that sounded lovingly lifted from the Ramones' immortal "Oh Oh I Love Her So". The band comes off a lot sweeter than they probably intend but there is nothing wrong with that. Even the most intense forms of rock n' roll need good doses of sunshine.

The performance art that is No Bunny is something to behold. 15 minutes of a man with bunny ears, make-up, a disturbingly proportional amount of facial hair, and a laptop. A yelling affair atop recordings of those same 60's and 60's-inspired tracks. Where No Bunny makes his mark though is with that technological contraption known as a computer. In a scene notorious for its rampaging presence of Luddites, it takes a lot for a dude to use a computer as his band. And it may as well have been a band. In fact, a band would have a lot of fun. But in the meantime, all a man-bunny needs is his laptop. There's an Apple Ad if there ever was one.

Hollywood do not conjure up sunny, bright, slick L.A. They are a hardcore garagepunk bit of mayhem directly descended from the great early 80's Los Angeles punk scene which then took a detour into more hardcore, thundering garage sounds. They are loud, they are grimey, they are intense. They are a total visceral experience. Most important of all, they also make it sound appealing to the uninitiated. Give it a few minutes, and its hard to resist stomping along.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

The Deli Party @ Galapagos, Featuring Action Painters and La Strada

Action Painters; La Strada; Fools for April; Atomic Tom
@ Galapagos Art Space
Brooklyn, NY - July 3, 2008

Deli Magazine's party at Galapagos featured the return (finally) of Action Painters to the Sonic Parthenon review page. After seeing them for a few minutes last August, it has been a series of missed opportunities, one after the other, but at long last, all things are right. And the band did not disappoint. In a just a handful of songs, they proved the right mix of power pop and garage rock. Their songs would be slick and creamy if it wasn't for the fact that they are a straight up rock n' roll band. They are so much fun, it isn't funny. And they are yet another example of the vanguard of New York bands that make this city refuse to go quietly into the rock n' roll night.

La Strada were recently hyped by L Magazine as a band to watch this year, and while their recorded stuff didn't really lead one to feel that way, their live show is another matter. Few bands need 6 or 7 members but La Strada is one of the few projects that can work with that number. A compelling string section back up the acoustic sounds of accordion and percussion, and an able singer to anchors it all. This is pretty serious stuff and it is executed rather sharply.

Fools for April are an acoustic pop band with light, sprinkly stuff. Good for your girlfriend. If she's into that sort of thing.

Atomic Tom should suck. They really should. Contemporary sounding power pop is really just a few shaves away from being Hoobastank or something awful like that (I don't know, is that band even still around? What's popular these days?). But here comes Atomic Tom doing it right. A sensationally powerful lead singer, driving riffs, and some winding, tightly crafted melodies make for full-on excellent affair. There is very little, if anything, retro about them. They are very new sounding. And while that can be a tricky road to navigate, they make the most of it.


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