Saturday, August 30, 2008

Interlude: Starring King Khan

McCarren Pool might be closing, but we'll always have the memories. Although the lineup a few weeks ago (August 3rd) was pretty familiar - I saw King Khan and Bradford Cox at the Seaport earlier in the summer - the show still managed to shock and surprise. All in all, probably the messiest one of the summer, even without any rain.

King Khan and the Shrines

The last King Khan show was pretty great, and I was curious to see how the ebullient Khan would up the ante for the bigger crowd. Well, he might have gone a bit far, as his on-stage antics ended up making the music secondary. The band had barely finished their first song when he urged the crowd to start throwing bottles and other items at him, and we perhaps obliged him with a bit too much enthusiasm. Then came the predictable jump into the crowd, which did a great job of getting everyone pumped. And then...things got a little weird. In true anarchist fashion, Khan had everyone tear up dollar bills. Then he grabbed a copy of Spin, one of the sponsors of the Pool Parties, which featured Duffy on the cover. First he beheaded her, and put the poor girl's face in front of his, and sang through it into the mic. This became tiresome, so he took the rest of Duffy's body and put it under his chin, before putting it in his pants. And then...he ate the entire thing.

Next were the bananas, brought on by a friendly elderly skateboarder. The fruit was flung back and forth between audience and stage, and it was all good until tragedy struck. A banana hit Khan in a...sensitive area, and the culprit was brought on-stage and had a banana splotched across his face. The rest of the set was more or less one big finale, with some more costume changes and a lot of posing. While the music still went down easy, it was an afterthought, considering the absurdities that went on. And Khan was just getting warmed up.

MP3: King Khan & the Shrines - Torture
MySpace: King Khan & the Shrines
Official Site: King Khan & the Shrines


Recent experience led me to conclude Bradford Cox has a really nice voice, and the added guitars of Deerhunter actually highlighted his penchant for pop songs. Although there was distortion here and there, including the obligatory flame-out finale, it really was a pleasant, dare I say, almost mellow set. There was a bit from the upcoming album, Microcastle, and the songs are woozy, melodic and pretty darn appealing. Some of the various indie bands sprouting up can be frustratingly avant garde, but Deerhunter - some strangeness aside - is quite accessible. Oh, and the set ended, naturally, with King Khan mooning the audience.

MP3: Deerhunter - Like New
Blog: Deerhunter
MySpace: Deerhunter

Black Lips
Black Lips have always been on the periphery. Whether utilizing guerrilla marketing tactics or playing crazy shows out in Brooklyn, the band has been around, but never fully realized for me. In retrospect, it's probably because it's not really my thing - punk-influenced, somewhat abrasive and calling for "rock bands without synths." Oh, the horror! But that doesn't mean I couldn't appreciate the atmosphere, which in this case was a sweaty, mosh-tastic pit. Toilet paper streamers and a ripped up pillow case, courtesy of Khan, were icing on the dirty cake. Afterwards, I felt bad for whoever had to clean up the mess, but at the time, it felt significant.

MP3: Black Lips - Cold Hands
MySpace: Black Lips
Official Site: Black Lips

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Interlude: In White Rooms

New Yorkers are spoiled when it comes to indie rock. Night after night, venues throughout the city overflow with guitars, drums and bass. But for those who love beats and breaks, selections are more limited. Most unfortunate are those who aren’t 21, as the turntable goes hand-and-hand with the beer bottle. Studio B, the epicenter for most things electro, was recently shut down, and while shows have been moved to other locations, it doesn’t look as if their policies are changing any time soon – most fall shows are still 21+.

Booka Shade - Irving Plaza, August 1st

So, I applaud Irving Plaza’s recent if temporary conversion from, frankly, a place that lags behind the Bowery Presents circuit, to the host of some pretty cool electronic shows. Alas, I was naïve enough to take their “Doors at 9/Show at 10” listing on face value, and ended up coming three hours before Booka Shade came on. The silver lining was some pretty cool DJs. It's always exciting when you recognize a song being spun, and there were quite a few here.

MP3: Ellen Allien & Apparat – Jet
MP3: Junior Boys – Double Shadow (Kode9 Remix)
MP3: Orbital - Halcyon +On +On
MP3: Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes
MP3: Simian Mobile Disco – Hustler

It was worth the wait; Booka Shade take live electronic music to a new level. Their set was propulsive, with Arno Kammermeier on electronic drums and Walter Merzinger on a variety of synths and electronics. Although their new album, The Sun & The Neon Light, places vocals in the forefront of a number of tracks, they wisely kept singing to a signature minimum. Aside from the addition of the blissful vocoder, courtesy of Walter, on "Charlotte," the only voices we heard was the cover of Laurie Anderson's "Oh Superman" and the rapid-fire "Cha-cha-cha!" on "Body Language (Interpretation)."

But instead of feeling alienated by what was mostly a programmed performance, that aesthetic of cerebral yet melodic electro-house was incredibly appealing. While their recorded work is measured by restraint - even the most anthemic basslines are relatively sparse - there was a gleeful excess here. Let's face it, the new album is on some level an attempt at pop-crossover and the reaction has been mixed (incidentally, it's funny - and perhaps telling - that those two reviews have almost identical leads). But their live show doesn't attempt such an iffy task: the duo are showmen, but they operate with the effectiveness of a more extroverted DJ set, with the sole focus of coaxing the crowd into a frenzy. It was euphoric.

MP3: Booka Shade - Charlotte
MySpace: Booka Shade
Official Site: Booka Shade

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