Saturday, July 07, 2012

The CBGB Festival: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah; The Hold Steady; Superchunk; Duff McKagan's Loaded

The CBGB Festival: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah; The Hold Steady; Superchunk; Duff McKagan's Loaded @ Times Square New York, NY - July 7, 2012

In the true spirit of the old CBGB & OMFUG club, the organizers of a multi-venue festival put on a two-stage free show in Times Square and damned if it wasn't a mess. Who's on the bill? Who knows! When are they playing? Some time today. For how long are they playing? Not very long at all. At least that's the sort of sloppy imagery of which you'd think in regards to the founding punk club in New York. But anyone who remembers the later years of Hilly Kristal's club will remember it was a machine, it ran like clockwork, packed bills that were managed tightly, and all the packaged, polished grime you could muster to go with that. So I don't know what these guys today were up to.

Nostalgia is big. Especially for folks of a certain age. You can find nostalgia in just about anything. Indie and Punk Rock are no exceptions. People of this hack's generation are nostalgic not just for days they missed out on but are already nostalgic for earlier waves of nostalgia. So in that mold, this CBGB festival may be the right idea. So with that came this hastily put together, fly-by-the-seat-of-its-pants two stage showcase, which had some reminders of the old Siren Festivals of yore. And what a Siren Fest it would have been with some of the bands on the bill.

I caught the last song of Duff McKagan's Loaded as I stood under the Father Duffy statue. I do believe this was the first time I've seen a one time member of Guns n' Roses so there's some weight in that. And who was with him on that last song, a howlin' rendition of the immortal Stooges' "Now I Wanna Be Your Dog"? Glen Matlock. I do believe this was the first time I've seen a one time member of the Sex Pistols. My cynicism - itself a sort of phenomenon that deserves a counter-rebellion - dampened any notion of "OH MY GOD!!!" coursing through my veins so I met myself somewhere in the middle.

Immediately after that final song, on cue, five blocks away up Broadway, Superchunk began their set. Introduced by John Norris (who along with fellow emcee Matt Pinfield made for a very nostalgic 90's MTV rock day), the founders of Merge Records, the musical captains of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Superchunk delivered the set I promised myself in my heart I would see some day. Superchunk is one of many bands that escaped my attention until just the last couple of years. Majesty Shredding possessed such fine songs that I soon found myself living in No Pocky for Kitty. The rest is not-quite-history but may get there. Live is another matter. This was INSANE. Superchunk had more energy and more intensity than just about almost any other band I've ever seen do anything ever. And the fact that they are completely excellent musicians helps things. Mac McCaughan is a rock n roll machine, which is fitting considering he is essentially the most all natural frontman you could ever want in a band. Laura Ballance, Jim Wilbur, and Jon Wurster did their parts like it was no skin of their backs, yet I was sweating just from watching (and jumping up and down like a lunatic while a CBGB fest photographer snapped away at me because he thought he saw the ghost of Hunter S.)

Then there appeared to be a two hour lull in the concert so... Lunch was had at Marky Ramone's meatball truck. I had, of course, the pastrami balls. There could be no other way.

Then came a band that could be considered an old friend of this blog and the radio show. Except of course that Elwood doesn't know a single member of the Hold Steady. The closest he ever came was when he wound up suddenly standing next to Craig Finn at a gig - a gig that not minutes before, I had thought had an opener fit for a Hold Steady opening slot (and it turns out Craig thought the same thing). But the Hold Steady, through their relentlessness, their ubiquity, and the very essence of their music, are meant to be old friends. Running through a score of hits, the band put more guitar muscle into songs that now lacked a keyboard. Steve Selvidge is a full flung member of this operation and he's helping find new ways to appreciate old favorites. The contrast now between the live show and the records is increasing. How this band is sounding STRONGER after all this time, is remarkable. But hey if Superchunk can be more powerful then ever, then why not the Hold Steady? There was a fine taste of some stuff to come too...the story continues with our old friends...

Finally there came Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Talk about nostalgia. The original buzz band of the current era. Discovered and hyped by the initial waves of Indie Snob Blogs. The first prominent self released album. The first Internet-based success. The waves made since then have lessened considerably but the news that today is the last day on the job for two original members hit Scene 2005 in 2012 like a hammer. Who knew? I always thought this project was essentially Alec Ounsworth. It's on me that I didn't know he had a consistent band so far throughout. At some points in the set, this was a rocking, substantive affair. At other points, the band started to drift like Ounsworth's mumblings. Which is essentially why this band has remained foreign to me despite having several songs of note. Nevertheless, it actually made for a fine cap to the end of the day. A strange, odd, nostalgic day.


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