Sunday, October 26, 2008

CMJ 2008: The Hard Lessons; Great Lakes; The Teenage Prayers; The Box Social; The Orion Experience; The Gay Blades; Action Painters

The Hard Lessons; Great Lakes; The Teenage Prayers; The Box Social
@ 92 Y Tribeca Makor Center
New York, NY - October 25, 2008

The Orion Experience; The Gay Blades; Action Painters
@ Public Assembly
Brooklyn, NY - October 24, 2008

With the economy in the tank, and everyone hurting, and questions and nervousness and a "too good to be true" attitude abounding among the believers of the big presidential campaign, who really wanted to spend their CMJ trolling the venues for fresh new talent? Besides how much room for new blood could there be when practically every show featured a Reatard or a Vivian Girl or a Muslim (not THAT kind of Muslim you fearful Republicans you)? So alas, the call was made, the die was cast - this CMJ was going to be about old friends, a few of the kids from the Sonic Parthenon family of bands - a one-two weekend punch of reliable favorites. And it was a decision well worth making.

It was a time for fun but polite frontmen, wickedly good guitar heroes, and dames on keyboards. The Hard Lessons are a ven diagram in this scenario: Augie is the chops-heavy, mad-dash man of the ax with a penchant for solid vocals while Ko Ko Louise tickles the electric ivories and herself delivered just about the best damn vocal performance this CMJ. The Michigan kids (recently married by the way - YAY!) brought a touch of that Lower Peninsula rough-and-ready to the swank decor of the Makor Center - a Kosher performance space that is as sleek and fancy as things go these days. It proved a great juxtaposition between the haves and the have-nots: the society with the riches hosting the band that needs gas money. And yet, it worked.

Meanwhile back at Public Assembly (once the site of Galapagos - and itself a volatile mix of yuppies, hipsters, artists and people who just like to rock a bit), Tom of Action Painters and Orion of...Orion anchored their respective bands with a little panache, a lot of gumption, and good old fashioned talent. The bands themselves delivered the goods as they have been known to do. Their divergent sounds offered a great little yin-yang of New York rock - the 70's Partridge-Family-From-Hell grooves of the Experience and the New Wave power-pop anthems of Action Painters. With feisty, punky Linda offering shake-it-if-you-got-it keys for the Orion Experience, and Alison charming vast swaths of the electorate with thoroughly tingling pop constructions for Action Painters, a woman's touch was also never far away.

In these days of Joe the Plumber, and Joe the this and Joe the that, let's not forget Joe the Guitar Player. Specifically, Joe the Action Painters guitar player. With much stealth, this Joe may be the best unknown guitarist in the city - and he doesn't need a license to prove it. So let's make him known.

It was also a weekend for duos. The Great Lakes are a soft-spoken country duo, almost draining in their takes on things. But they were far from bad. Conversely, the Gay Blades are hard, in-your-face, blues rock. In fact, except for a little dance beat thrown in, they are pretty much a rip-off of the early White Stripes. Copying isn't necessarily a bad thing if it wasn't so damn obvious. The lead singer even copies Jack White's squirrley live voice circa 2003. On top of that, he's also rather obnoxious, thinking quite highly of himself as a true rock n' roll badass who is too cool for CMJ - to go along with other "I'm an outsider" shtick. It was all quite a turn off - except damn if those riffs aren't catchy as hell and the foot-stomping stage-slamming dancing isn't smile inducing.

The Teenage Prayers continue to channel the Grateful Dead but I wish they would perk up a bit and show some vigor.

The Box Social are nerd-punks from Wisconsin. They play their semi-sleek riffs hard and fast, making for a pretty fun time. Reminds me of the sunny 90's. Remember those days? The economy was good, we knew our place in the world...memories. Thanks guys.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

CMJ Update: What Update? Well...Go See Action Painters and the Orion Experience

In a perfect storm of election, work, and personal affairs, yours truly has been MIA from CMJ. But hopefully you, dear reader, have not been.

Look at the concert calendar and see all the old friends of the blog making the rounds. Looker have done their part but tomorrow, the Orion Experience and Action Painters will own the night at Public Assembly while the Hard Lessons tear it up at Union Hall. Where will I be? Probably another night cancelled - or actually, as of right now - at a third gig entirely but I would be remiss if I didn't encourage you to go out there and catch these bands. This blog has been a little under the weather in its bread and butter lately but don't be discouraged - these bands are still making it happen out there.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Long Blondes Break Up...NOOOOO :(

Two records and it's over - based on some sad news from the band's guitarist on the MySpace page.

Maybe he'll recover someday and the band will carry on. They put on a good live show, and they had a knack for good singles.
These sudden band demises are the pits, worse than the break-ups of long-lived bands.

Two Instant Classics of the Decade from the Long Blondes:

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Remember Music? It's Time for CMJ

Starting Tuesday, it's another five days of the annual CMJ Music Marathon. Like last year, Pennypacker is aiming for all five nights, and considering the recent slack in live reviews, it would be good to see what's out there. That being said, there won't be an itinerary published, I'm just going to try to make it out all five nights. We'll see.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel @ Hammerstein Ballroom (Not a Review)

Slowly but surely we'll all get a sense of what it was like inside the Hammerstein last night with The Boss, Billy, John Legend, and India Arie.

Caroline Kennedy introduces the guys

Glory Days (snippet)

New York State of Mind

Spirit in the Night


Born To Run

People Get Ready (with Obama arriving at the end)

Hopefully more to come...

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Musical Interlude With Bruce Springsteen

Remember when this blog was about music?

From the recent rally in Ypsilanti

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds @ The Theater at Madison Square Garden

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds; Bellmer Dolls
@ WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden
New York, NY - October 4, 2008

So densely layered and deep and yet at the same time oh so sparse and simple, Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds are an encumbering mindfuck and a freewheeling fiesta all at the same time. Playing some maddeningly good classics like "Tupelo", "Red Right Hand", "Love Letter", "God is in the House", "The Lyre of Orpheus", "Deanna" and the big finale of "Stagger Lee", Nick, Warren, and the rest of the clan breathed life into their dark, rich, thundercrackers as well as Nick's restless hearted but nevertheless calming ballads. The new material played - the title track as well as "Midnight Man" and "We Call Upon the Author" sounded a bit disjointed but not always in that good Nick Cave way. That is a shame because the new record is oh so fine. The exception was the show opening "Hold On to Yourself", which chillingly set the tone for the night.

Before the sonic boom of the Bad Seeds, the crowd was wooed by the Bellmer Dolls, apparent local boys I've never heard of. They were fitting openers, full of that same light-sucking bitter darkness as the big boys but without that whisper of gothic that not only infuses Nick Cave's mustache but his whole body of work.

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