Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Interlude: We Are Your Friends, Part 1

Summer is halfway through. That's frightening, but it's been an incredible couple months of live music, and Saturday, July 12th's show was the best of them all. Todd P, along with Impose and my great friends at Crashin' In, curated a spectacular celebration at the Yard, an outdoor venue in Brooklyn that I've been meaning to visit. The singer of Titus Andronicus put it best, when he called it the best day of his life. Unfortunately, Chairlift canceled, and some subway-hopping meant that I missed opener Soiled Mattress and the Springs, who played their final show. Still, one of the best shows I've been to in two years of concert-going. Can't beat that.

Soft Circle

Soft Circle is Hisham Bharoocha, formerly of Lightning Bolt and Black Dice. He performed like a one-man Battles, using guitar and keyboard loops, and propelling his set with some sick drumming. It's not surprising that he was "drummer 4" in the 77 Boadrum drum festival last year, and that he'll be doing it again this year - dude is nasty on the kit. Although mainly instrumental, some distorted vocals - a la "Atlas" - added to the mix. I was really impressed with his playing, and the juggling of sampled and live effects, creating something unique and danceable. An auspicious beginning!

Soft Circle plays Cake Shop with like-minded rockers Tussle on September 13th, and Bharoocha plays Los Angeles' 88 Boadrum on August 8th.

MySpace: Soft Circle
RCRD LBL: Soft Circle

Knyfe Hyts

I couldn't help but be intrigued by Knyfe Hyt's outlandish wardrobe. It takes a certain kind of band to stride onstage in bath robes, but I'm not sure if it's a good thing. It was undeniably noise: the ear-splitting sort, with guitar abuse and vocals that recalled distraught kitties. In other words, not really my thing at all. Exposure to something different for sure, but I'll be passing on their album.

MySpace: Knife Hyts

Crystal Antlers
Los Angeles' Crystal Antlers pummeled their way through a spirited set. With two dedicated percussionists and a keyboardist, it was a very energetic affair, and there was so much going on that it was easy to overlook the vocals, which were buried under the instruments. While exhilarating, I can't say it was that memorable; most of the energy dissipated after they went offstage, but they seem to be worth exploring.

Abe Vigoda

Continuing the L.A. block, four piece Abe Vigoda took over. While no less percussive than the preceding groups, the band had a melodic angle, with dual vocals and shimmering guitar lines. Some moments were Dan Deacon-esque, not so much in absurdity, but rather the bright-eyed, Disney-esque hooks. An appealing, enjoyable set. Their new album is Skeleton, which just came out.

MySpace: Abe Vigoda

Vivian Girls
Trio Vivian Girls has been receiving decent amounts of buzz over the last couple weeks, so I was eager to see them with my own ears. One immediate observation was the brevity of the songs, which seemed to end just as they got going. Still, I wouldn't call them minimalist: it's garage-y rock, but the shoegazey vocals make their music a bit softer around the edges. I'm not entirely sold yet - they don't have the most immediate hooks - but the set has piqued my interest. They'll be at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on July 29th with Tilly and the Wall.

Telepathe was fresh off a Seaport show (with Abe Vigoda and No Age, who were supposed to headline this show, but didn't make it). Judging from name alone, I was expecting something unusual, and hopefully electronic. They fit that characterization loosely, using samples from a laptop, but it was the weird vocals that distinguished the band. Singer Busy Gangnes was just that, hopping on a concrete slab and into the crowd, while singing cryptically into the mic. It was off-putting, but memorable. I think they might be better on record.

MySpace: Telepathe
Official Site: Telepathe

Six bands down, seven more to come.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Interlude: July, July!

The good news is, we're into July coverage. The bad news is, the month is half over. Things have developed into a sort of pattern: the week begins slowly, but then come weekend, I'm going to shows back-to-back-to-back. Unfortunately, that hurts prompt coverage, but thankfully I'm neurotic enough to revisit everything that's happened. Everything I went to over this span was free, and it's unbelievable how much stuff goes on during the summer in this city. I'm incredibly grateful that I live here - and to all the cool people that made it out to these shows, thanks for coming! Let's get to it.

Kode9 - Winter Garden, July 1st

Burial's Untrue was an anomaly. How did such a difficult record get such a response? I guess it's a testament to the power of the 'net, and it looks like the break has given the guy's mates at Hyperdub a boost. Kode9, the founder of the label, spun along with some cohorts at the Winter Garden, and thankfully no one was seated this time. The set reminded me how much I enjoy a good dance party, although this one was a it different than usual. Dubstep really defies conventional dance wisdom: instead of a steady, throbbing beat, the genre calls for stutters and sometimes even silences, which opened a window for applause, something you rarely hear at the usual rave. Along with the sounds, there was remarkable visuals, cascading colors and images that reminded me of a virtuoso's street graffiti. Basically, I danced my ass off.

MySpace: Kode9
Official Site: Kode9

Sonic Youth - Battery Park, July 4th

Alas, I missed the Feelies (I was DJing). But it was quite a marvel to see the generally sparse Battery Park transformed into a bustling, crowded lawn. It was drizzling in a foreboding manner, but thankfully it didn't break into a downpour for once. There was something patriotic about seeing one of America's truly legendary bands in the flesh - more so because they haven't sacrificed any of the independence that's made them so great. However, I can't say I'm a huge fan, or that I'm that knowledgeable about their back catalogue. It is, as Thurston Moore demonstrated by slicing into his guitar throughout the set, a band founded firmly in noise. Even Kim Gordon's songs were lacerating, her voice close to a keen. But feedback or no, this is still a band to be reckoned with.

The afterparty wasn't bad, either...

St. Vincent - Castle Clinton, July 10th

After a nice week off, we were back to a mostly empty Battery Park, hanging a right for St. Vincent at Castle Clinton. It's a neat venue: walled off, but open to the spectacular downtown cityscape. Unfortunately, the space is mostly filled by chairs, which was nice after some hardcore standing up, but not quite the same as being up against the stage. Annie Clark is something else - she'd be pretentious if she wasn't so incredibly charming. Whether disclosing the origin of her album, Marry Me (Arrested Development) or making little asides ("freedom isn't free"), Clark was just as adorable as she was at Bowery Ballroom. However, the show more orchestral and less rocking, thanks to a bunch of classical musicians accompanying her. Along with the marvelous tracks from Marry Me, Clark played some new ones, including a song that showed off an unlikely influence: Prince. Simply wonderful stuff, and I can't wait to hear the next album.

MP3: St. Vincent - Marry Me
MySpace: St. Vincent
Official Site: St. Vincent

Brazilian Girls - Prospect Park, July 11th

The destination for Friday was Prospect Park (over No Age at the Seaport, as I'm not the biggest fan of them). It was really nice to see a new part of the city - and a lesson that Manhattan doesn't have a monopoly on architecture. A bit of a subway mishap (sorry, guys!) meant that we had a bit of a walk, but seeing the Brooklyn Public Library and Arch was a nice consolation.

The theme of Brazilian Girls' set was globalization. From an obvious, green, wire frame globe to Sabina Sciubba's devilish blend of ethnicities, this was one for the (mixed) masses. They have a new album coming out on August 5th, aptly titled New York City, and the show was all about the fusion of cultures in our city. With some lyrics unprintable in politer publications (which I try to adhere to), the show was dancey, dirty and a lot of fun. Although we weren't particularly familiar with the band, it was impossible not to move. A moment that pretty much encapsulated the set was when Scabbia invited various kids in the crowd onstage: spontaneous, communal. Alas, the place cut them off before "Jique," but we definitely got our money's worth (I chipped in the $3 suggested donation).

MySpace: Brazilian Girls
Official Site: Brazilian Girls

More to come...
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