Friday, May 16, 2008

Interlude: Catchin' Up

Summer has begun, but I have unfinished business. I had a solid three week hiatus from concert-going, but I made it to a bunch of events as the school year winded down. I saw a couple bands for the second time, but also went to some fresh parts of town, which is always an interesting experience. It's probably accurate to say that I learned NYC's geography through concert venues, but as I see it, that's not a bad way to do it.

Eisley - Highline Ballroom, April 23rd

Eisley will always hold a special spot in my musical genome. They were one of the first bands that I really got into, and they've remained compelling even as I've been exposed to more and more music. It's a shame that they haven't really caught on, but it's always a treat to see them. Their set was split between their first two albums, Room Noises and Combinations, but a few oldies really made the night special. "Mr. Pine's" wintery sentiments, "Sun Feet's" bewitching vocals and "Lady of the Wood's" ethereal mood cemented Eisley as truly unmatched when it comes to otherworldly narratives. And even with authoritative guitars and percussion - in contrast with their acoustic set last summer - the DuPree sisters' pure voices floated above the mix, highlighting every hook. Highly recommended.

A few words on the venue itself: Highline Ballroom is on 16th Street, all the way on the west side of town. That makes it bit of a hassle to get to (a la Terminal 5), but the space itself is quite good. There's some seating on the side, but it's mostly a standard general admission venue, and a manageable size. If there's a compelling enough band playing there, it's definitely a solid pick.

MP3: Eisley - Mr. Pine (Live at the Troubadour)
MP3: Eisley - Sun Feet (Live)
MP3: Eisley - Lady of the Wood (Live)
MySpace: Eisley
Official Site: Eisley

The Hold Steady - Webster Hall, May 2nd

Some things don't change. The Hold Steady brought their guitar licks to a strangely under-promoted event - their name wasn't even on the marquee or Bowery's website - but loads of dedicated fans showed up anyhow. My opinions of the band haven't changed much from when I saw them last year, but I think I "get them" a bit more. Craig Finn is still decidedly un-melodic, but his words resonate a little more with me. I can't really related to the alcohol references, but his romanticism - albeit the sweaty, blue collar type - is definitely appealing. And instrumentally, the band was always good, and they rocked hard. "Massive Night" had a fist-pumpin, floor-shaking shout, and while I couldn't quite match my neighbors' enthusiasm, it reminded me how great live music can be. Major bummer at the end of the set, unfortunately, as they didn't come out for an encore, leaving many with unkind things to say about the sponsor.

The Hold Steady play the first Pool Party at McCarren on June 29th. Their new album, Stay Positive, comes out on July 14th.

MP3: The Hold Steady - Stuck Between Stations
MP3: The Hold Steady - Southtown Girls
MySpace: The Hold Steady
Official Site: The Hold Steady

Miller Theater, Columbia University, May 3rd

My friend Amy invited me uptown for this unique event, which featured Julliard musicians fusing classical instruments and electronic effects. The subways weren't cooperating (which is to say, my knowledge of the 1/2/3 line is limited - did you know that they split?), and I arrived pretty late. Still, I managed to catch the second half.

Ryan Francis - "Music For Strings"

An ensemble of classical musicians assembled onstage, which seemed reasonable enough. Although hardly my area of expertise, I expected a pleasant enough experience. Imagine my delight, then, when said musicians put on headphones, and added pretty ambience to their strings. I've always felt that there's a logical intersection between classical and electronic music - Aphex Twin's an example I've used - and this was definitely another case. The group is called the Axiom Ensemble, and it's clear that they know their mathematics.

MySpace: Axiom
Official Site: Music Technology at Julliard

JacobTV - "Lipstick"

Next, Jeremiah Duarte Bills performed "Lipstick" under the guise of JacobTV. I was reminded by the disembodied vocals of Boards of Canada, as Bills used vocal loops - laughter and short articulations - alongside his own flutework. He created a weird, but strangely enticing blend of meaning and melody. Although circular in structure - he repeated only a number of samples - there was a spontaneity in his arrangements that kept things interesting.

MySpace: Jeremiah Duarte Bills

Ron Ford - "Salome Fest"

The Axiom Ensemble concluded things with a piece called "Salome Fast." Naures Atto provided vocals, which is to say, she vocalized disturbingly into a microphone. Distortion, which was almost violent at times, flooded the room. It was off putting, but perhaps a necessary reminder that electronic and classical music isn't always gentle, or accessible. They've been doing this for quite a while, and if you've got a chance, definitely check them out. You should, however, familiarize yourself with the local subway system beforehand.

Halcyon - Dumbo, Brooklyn May 10th

The ride was much smoother downtown to Halcyon, an excellent shop in Dumbo, Brooklyn. (For locals: from Union Square, take the 6 Train to Houston, transfer to the F, get off at York Street.) Although Other Music is definitely closer, Halcyon is a fantastic place, with a ton of vinyl and rarities. The store itself has a really interesting setup, with pseudo rock gardens and, most importantly, a DJ booth. It was a nice day out - and Dumbo is a really nice neighborhood as well - so we set up a tent outside. I can't say I recognized what was spun - Miss Eleanor from Bentwave and Wayne Folk of Metra Records mixed sets - but it was a really cool event. Halcyon has stuff going on every Saturday and Sunday, and it's worth the trip.

And on a vaguely related note, this song is fantastic.

MP3: Orbital - Halcyon +On +On


Christina said...

I heard the Eisley songs on Hype but I can't download them right :( Can you help?
Thanks x

Aram ZS said...

Hackers soundtrack FTW :P

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...