Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – 9/23/09 – Radio City Music Hall, New York City


Karen O is a performance artist, but she also is a bit of a throwback. She’s a rock star in an era where rock stars are dead, but she has also maintained some of the teenage innocence that reminds the audience that this “act” is just that. She is having fun dressing up in outrageous gear, she’s chuckling as the songs end and the crowd starts cheering and she’s basically reminding you not to take everything so seriously. She may look like a cross between Joan Jett and Pat Benatar, but the show she puts on is distinct to her. I have much respek for this band because they have created something new and unique while looking back to past influences, without losing their own current identity.

I have been planning to see this band for years now, but it has never worked out. So I while I was excited to be seeing them at all, seeing them at Radio City was really perfect, in many ways -- big enough to contain the huge, stadium sized sounds of “Zero” (and the giant eyeball beach balls and confetti that accompanied it), but small enough to make the performance seem intimate.

It’s to be expected that “Our Time” and some of their early stuff were left off the set list, but aside from that, every song you wanted to hear was played and played really well. “Gold Lion”, with the Love and Rockets riff and the Siouxie and the Banshees chorus was probably the tightest sounding tune of the night, aided, of course, by an enormous ground-to-ceiling “YYY” back drop. But there were a bunch of other highlights as well. The slow songs were all commanded perfectly by Karen O and the encore of “Maps” and “Hysteric”, with strings accompanying both, was fantastic. “Zero” had a huge sound, as if it was being played for 30,000 people in Liberty State Park. The aforementioned confetti came right at the end of the song, which was odd, but it created a party vibe for the last five songs of the night, which was cool. Basically, everything was as you’d have expected it musically -- the dance songs, like “Heads Will Roll” and “Phenomena”, were really dancey; the punky tunes, like “Dull Life” and “Pin” were really punky and the standard rock songs like “Y Control” and “Cheated Hearts” were excellent. Few of the songs were taken to amazing heights, but none of them disappointed. And as far as performances go, Karen O is the attraction and she brings the whole show to a new level. “Cheated Hearts” was especially great, as she pranced from side to side and ended up on the floor of Radio City, singing with the audience.

Radio City always brings a great vibe and great sound, but it also provides a band the opportunity to absolutely blow the roof off (see Jacket, My Morning, June 2008). The Yeah Yeah Yeahs did everything but that, which is much more of a back-handed compliment than it should be. This is a unique band with varying sounds and an incredible lead singer. That people fawn over Gwen Stefani and Pink is laughable after seeing Karen O. It’s weird to say that you can take her performance for granted, but since it took me so many years to go see them, her reputation preceded her and I it took me a few days to fully appreciate how well she commands the scene and get everyone’s ass shaking. Looking back, this is a band that could sound great in Madison Square Garden or a small club and that’s no small thing. No matter where they are playing, there is no way you will walk away and not enjoy what you saw.

BV pics and review here.

Setlist:

Runaway
Phenomena
Shake It
Heads Will Roll
Pin
Dull Life
Gold Lion
Miles Away
Skeletons
Soft Shock
Cheated Hearts
Zero
Turn Into
---
Maps (Acoustic w/ strings)
Hysteric (Acoustic w/ strings)
Y Control
Date With The Night

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Les Savy Fav (with Hannibal Buress) – 9/9/09 – The Knitting Factory, Brooklyn, NY


Les Savy Fav seems to embody a similar aesthetic to The Hold Steady – aging indie rock guys who are taking bits and pieces of the great punk, hardcore and rock n roll that preceded them and rolling it into one sound that can only be called “post hardcore”. If The Hold Steady are Springsteen with a punk rock aesthetic, then Les Savy Fav are The Pixies with a Dischord Records aesthetic thrown in. It’s as if Ian McKaye and Fugazi learned how to have fun, spit brew and rock out like complete maniacs.

This is a tremendous live rock band, with frontman Tim Harrington providing some of the most entertaining shit going on right now. The band behind him is tight as hell and plays with real purpose – the rhythm chugs and the lead guitar whips through some nice unique sounds, all while Harrington prances around in nothing but briefs that are barely supported by his impressive beer gut.

On this night, Harrington started by coming out dressed in faux army fatigues and a white Italian “Polizia” hat. He seemed to be pretending to be in the jungles of ‘nam, shooting the audience members and radio-ing for backup until the band kicked in and the beer spitting and striptease started. It’s an incredibly hilarious and awesome scene, the guy just jumping off the stage into the crowd, prancing around amongst the audience, singing from the bar, climbing the walls and donning costume after costume, every stitch of which ended up on the floor.

The new Brooklyn version of The Knit is really nice and not that much different than Music Hall of Williamsburg – a compliment, for sure -- with great sight lines and $5 Ommegang Witte brews, and best of all, a window in the back of the music room that allows people in the outside bar to see all the goings-on inside. In the case of Les Savy Fav, they might have seen a fat, bald dude pressed against said window, threatening to drop his cut-off sweatpants.

I happen to think that their 2007 LP, Let’s Stay Friends, is one of the best records of the decade, and I’d heard about their wild live shows, so I was pretty excited to finally see these guys. They exceeded my expectations. This is a really great live band on all fronts and it was made even better by the fact that The Knit seemed to want to avoid overselling this show, so a room with a capacity of 300 seemed to only bring in 200 or so people. Plenty of room to move around, never more than 30 feet from the stage, $5 Omegang Witte brews and “Patty Lee” rocking your headpiece. This was very much worth every penny of the $17 entrance fee.

BV’s pictures tell most of the story. Go see this band. We got the picture above from the Village Voice here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

84. “Me And Jiggs” by Josh Ritter


I feel like Josh Ritter is in a tough spot – he seems stuck between the indie taste-maker world of Pitchfork and the easy-listening adult contemporary crowd of WFUV. At least he’s a huge star in Ireland.

Whatever the case, he has put out a bunch of solid albums this decade, none of them breaking any real new ground, but all very solid in the rootsy folk singer-songwriting genre. Lovers of Joanna Newsome, Devendra Banhart or Smog might find Ritter a little too safe for their ears, but I don’t buy into that. Ritter is what he is and he does it quite well. He rarely blows the mind, but he’s tuneful, a good songwriter and a solid lyricist. “Girl In The War”, for example, is a fantastic song, a perfect example of what he does so well.

“Me and Jiggs” follows Ritter’s template to a tee, but it packs a late-night lack of cohesion that some of his other songs maybe lack a little bit. We love this song because we love singing Townes Van Zandt and painting our names on the water towers and all the other things that Ritter makes sound so fucking enticing after drinking 10 Harpoon IPAs on a front porch in Shaftsbury, Vermont. (Grave apologies to Robert Frost. It wasn’t you, it was me).

85. “Trapeze Swinger” by Iron and Wine (2009)


“Please, remember me fondly.
I heard from someone you're still pretty.
And then they went on to say that the pearly gates had such eloquent graffiti, like: 'We'll meet again' and 'Fuck the man' and 'Tell my mother not to worry'.
And angels with their great handshakes were always done in such a hurry.”

I knew I’d be including this song after I’d heard the most recent album version of it on the B-Sides record, “Around the Well” that just came out this past year. It was the third version I’d heard of it and each time the song was powerful and affecting and really nice to listen to.

The first time I’d heard this was from the “Live at Bonnaroo 2006” double disc that someone made for me – a stark acoustic-only version that closed the set and really sounded great. Two years after that, I saw them on Austin City Limits and they again closed with this one, this time with some female backing vocals. Then I heard the album version, which has a different rhythm to it, a little more studio production and some backing vocals looped throughout. Every version of this 9-minute tune is vintage Sam Beam. Make sure you check it out.