After hearing The Men's new Tomorrow's Hits LP, it's not unreasonable to be at least a little bit concerned that the album's decidedly AOR direction would have some sort of effect on the band's live show. On the other hand, The Men have been a live powerhouse up until this point (I've seen them onetwothreefourfivesix seven times since late 2012), so why mess with a good thing, nahmean? Regardless, fear not, The Men still rule.
With the exception of the mini acoustic set at the Sandy Benefit concert and the occasional horn accompaniments at other shows, The Men's live formula has always been large, heaping portions of RAWK, whether they're channeling Neil Young, Dinosaur Jr., Spacemen 3, the Buzzcocks, the Stooges, the Stones, or all of 'em at once. This show featured plenty of that good, good stuff, with the setlist drawing from each of their full-lengths except, oddly, 2012's excellent Open Your Heart. Highlights for me were the Fun House-tastic "Supermoon" (see above for video) and the kraut-punky "If You Leave..." (see below for video).
This was the record release show for the aforementioned Tomorrow's Hits record, which came out just a couple weeks ago. I'd suggest checking that shit out - I'm enjoying it nearly as much as last year's very good New Moon album. At the present time, the Men's European tour continues through the end of the month, before they make their way back to the US in April for another few weeks of club shows. Their next NYC area show is May 10th at The Wick - get tickets for that show here. Listn to the first single from Tomorrow's Hits (and my crappy iPhone video of a live version of the song from last year here.
There are few bands with as distinctively singular a style as Russian Circles. Over the course of their five mostly-excellent albums, the band has created an aesthetic that's entirely their own, carving out a niche that's instantly identifiable amongst the legions of post-rock pretenders. There are many disparate elements that make up Russian Circles' sound; from brooding atmospherics to harsh riffing to looped guitar pyrotechnics to shimmering arpeggios, with each of those utilized liberally at this show.
At a Russian Circles show (this was the eighth time I've seen the band live - read a much lengthier review from when I saw them last April here), the setlist is largely irrelevant, as the band conjures magnificent peaks and valleys regardless of the specific songs they choose to play. The music's intensity is bolstered by the stark, white lighting the band is backlit by, conjuring a sublime, dreamlike (at times nightmarishly so) atmosphere within the room. The sold-out crowd was appropriately rapt.
The set was highlighted by personal favorite "Carpe" (the leadoff track from their first album, Enter), as well as multi-part epic "Mladek," and a couple from their most recent album Memorial (which I very much enjoyed), with the setlist featuring material from each of their albums. This was, I believe, the first time I'd seen them live where they hadn't performed perennial set closer "Death Rides a Horse."
Canadian noisy hardcore trio KEN Mode opened, supplying a surprisingly groove-oriented set of bleak sludge. I had only heard a few studio tracks by the band prior to this show, but I've since checked out (and enjoyed) out their most recent album, Entrenched. Listen here, and check out a video my buddy Michigan shot at the show below.
First single from The Men's newest album, Tomorrow's Hits, which comes out today... tomorrow night I get to see them play at Bowery (YEAH!!!). Check below for a live version of this song from their show last May at Union Pool.
Whew. Whatta year, amirite?! Yes, new music may have been a bit lacking, but fortunately the one constant that remains is that there's a shit-ton of great live music coming through NYC year-round. When I moved to Williamsburg in '08, I did so almost entirely because of the proximity to so many music venues; nearly 6 years later, that remains my biggest motivation for sticking around.
In fact, my show-going affliction reached new heights this year - I did a rough count last week, and if I wind up going to the New Mastersounds afterparty following the Phish show on December 29th, I will have seen a robust *98* distinct concerts in 2013. According to Jalepzerz' / MeatBox archives, that's a personal record (although I've eclipsed 90 shows in several other years), and as proof, I uploaded literally hundreds of videos to my YouTube channel, effectively documenting my own crime spree.
So, here I sit on Christmas Eve, workin' on my final post of the year for this blog; a post that focuses solely on the highlights of my showgoing for the year. In 4 evenings, Phish NYE Run starts, and if some notable, epic shit goes down, several of these lists could be (at the very least) a bit out of whack and (at most) completely irrelevant. I welcome that. :->
See you in the new year, everyone!
Best Live Show of the Year - Phish at Hampton Coliseum, 10/20/13
Top 10 Phish shows I personally attended this year:
10.) 10/25/13 DCU 9.) 11/1/13 AC 8.) 8/4/13 BGCA 7.) 11/2/13 AC 6.) 7/6/13 SPAC (fuck off, I loved this damn show) 5.) 10/19/13 Hampton 4.) 7/14/13 Merriweather 3.) 10/27/13 Hartford 2.) 10/26/13 DCU 1.) 10/20/13 Hampton
The best three non-Phish arena shows I saw in 2013:
16.) Split Open and Melt at SPAC, July 6 15.) Rock and Roll at BGCA, August 3 14.) Crosseyed and Painless at Holmdel, July 10 13.) Twist > Under Pressure at AC, November 1 12.) Theme from the Bottom > Shaft theme at AC, November 2 11.) Drowned at Worcester, October 26 10.) Harry Hood at Merriweather 9.) Runaway Jim at BGCA, August 4 8.) Stash at Merriweather, July 14 7.) Carini at SPAC, July 6 6.) Carini at AC, October 31 5.) Golden Age at Hartford, October 27 4.) Piper > Taking Care of Business at Hampton, October 20 (yup, this is cheating) 3.) Light at Merriweather, July 14 2.) Seven Below at BGCA, August 2 (in spite of the butchered composed section) 1.) Carini at Hampton, October 18
Very little has changed since the last time I saw Fang Island in March. Fang Island are still one of the very best bands in the world; Fang Island put on a joyous, exuberant live show; Fang Island are still exponentially less popular than they should be. Whatever. While all y'all shitheads are off posing and preening at the next Pure Bathing Culture show, I'll be pogoing and grinning like a madman at Fang Island. SUCKAZZZ!
My recollection of this show is a bit hazier than it should've been due to my buddy's surprise bartab in Chelsea before the show, but I can happily announce that the band performed a bunch of old chestnuts as well as a *NEW* song, entitled "StarQuest," and it was awesome. Below is a drumless version of the song recorded on a rooftop in what appears to be East Williamsburg, near where I used to live. Enjoy!
As I mentioned earlier this year, 2013 is a big year for Thalia Zedek. She released a new album, Via, with her solo band a few months back and toured the States and Europe in support of it (here's my entry on the Union Pool show), and recently Matador reissued Come's iconic first album Eleven:Eleven after many years of it sadly languishing out of print. Recent years have found the members of Come working together (as on their brief 2011 reunion tour, which I attended and enjoyed), so with the anniversary and all, the time seems right for a tour, no?
I first heard Eleven:Eleven in about 2006, when I was managing a door factory on Long Island, and Come's bleak yet rockin' odes to despair and helplessness fit that chapter of my life VERY nicely at that point. Eleven:Eleven is truly one of indie rock's underappreciated albums, and it's good to see that the publicity surrounding the reissue has stirred up a decent groundswell of interest in it.
J in to Bowery, and I arrived during Come's first song of the evening. I was under the impression that the band were going to be performing Eleven:Eleven in its entirety, but instead they chose to treat the crowd to highlights from Come's catalog. Highlights for me were most of Eleven:Eleven's faster-paced songs: "Dead Molly," "Submerge" (see video below), "William," and "Fast Piss Blues" among them, as well as songs from other Come releases such as "Cimmaron" and "In / Out."
As a fan of the material released by Zedek's moodier solo band over the last several years, it's easy to forget just how heavy Eleven:Eleven is, and what a monster the band can be live. Come's engine is heavy-hitting drummer Arthur Johnson, whose superlative work on the skins leads Come's music through changing tempos and plenty of quiet / loud dynamics. Zedek and fellow guitarist Chris Brokaw trade off on lead and rhythm, occasionally intertwining leads seemingly telepathically, Marquee Moon-style. Brokaw's mastery of the slide guitar highlights some of the more miasmic moments.
Come has three dates left on this tour: 7/12 at the Empty Bottle in Chicago, 7/26 at the 40 Watt in Athens, Ga, and 7/27 at the Earl in Atlanta. If you live near any of those venues I strongly advise you to go. Er, I mean, come.
Still not sure what to think about this band... I'm really enjoying this song, "Weird," (it's the single from their upcoming album) and they put on an entertaining, energetic set when I saw them opening for Pissed Jeans at Bowery a couple weeks ago (see below for several videos). Of course, there's a difference between "wearing one's influences proudly on one's sleeve" and "slavishly imitating said influences." The obvious influence in question is Bleach / Incesticide-era Nirvana, but either way these guys get extra points for actually rocking. In that way, these guys remind me of Metz, whom they sound nothing like.
Whatever. I'm not going to overthink this one for now. I listened to their 2011 self-titled EP last weekend, and it was good enough. Say what you want, but "Weird"'s chorus is fucking undeniable, and I'm looking forward to their new album, which comes out May 14th.
No clue when I'm going to get around to posting the review for this show, so I figured I'd share this tasty tidbit. "False Jesii pt. 1" into the cover of Guns N' Roses' "It's So Easy" was the entire encore of last night's Pissed Jeans show, and in this clip "It's So Easy" begins around 2:37. Enjoy!
The Men are a band who should need no introduction on this blog, but here goes anyway. Here's a write-up (and video) of a show I saw of theirs at Don Pedro in November; Here's a write-up (and videos) of their Sandy Relief Benefit show at St. Vitus in December, and here's my 2012 Best Albums List, which The Men topped. Any questions?
This night served as the record release show for their album New Moon, which is at this point the best album I've heard thus far in '13. My buddy Oatter and I decided that since we'd be seeing The Men, why not behave in a manner befitting true manly men and start the evening with a few rounds at McSorley's? A fine idea.
Before things got too out of hand, we were chased the fuck out of there by some kid who wouldn't shut up about some band called The Lumineers, who I'd never heard of, but who Oatter informed me were horrible. At the time I was disappointed to have my drinking curtailed by such careless stupidity, but had this not happened we would've easily wound up plowing through 30 dark in less than an hour, which... yeah.
We got inside Bowery midway through Nude Beach's set of inoffensive, jangly alt-countryish power poppy stuff. Not bad by any stretch, and kinda catchy in a '90s kinda way, but nothing really worth sticking around for (Oatter took the cue and left to get some pizza).
The Men's set was next, featuring songs from Leave Home, Open Your Heart and the new New Moon, with a heavy emphasis on the newer tracks (see below for the kajillion videos I shot). I, for one, welcome the Crazy Horse / Tom Petty aesthetic they've brought to their newest tunes because they've managed to retain their trademark rough-around-the-edges scruffiness while exploring melody more thoroughly. But still no "Oscillation." (Was that a Chris song?? Open Your Heart's album credits are no help.)
Interestingly enough, The Men's new direction has them embracing plenty of hoary old rock and roll clichees (slugging whiskey onstage, sharing microphones, a horn section guesting on many songs, and generally rocking the fuck out in sweaty fashion), and I for one welcome that with open arms. If more Brooklyn bands played like this, I could more easily justify the amount of money I shell out for renting a dump. Good on ya, gents.
I have trouble describing what Beak> sound like to people, but I've found a good rule of thumb is that if someone's eyes glaze over at the mere mention of "Portishead side project," then they're probably not going to be interested in this type of stuff anyway, because it's more krauty, proggy and (in most cases) less accessible than your typical Portishead musical accompaniment.
So, how to describe this set... should probably start by saying that Beak>'s sound contains hints of the following bands: Can, NEU!, Holy Fuck, Tortoise, and of course Portishead (well, sorta), and they definitely understand the dynamic advantages of loud, cutting guitar squall (Mogwai). Their strict adherence to knotty minimalism does not obscure the fact that this is highly danceable, groove-based music, and their metronomic perfection shouldn't be mistaken for lack of soul: this is the type of stuff that could easily be fed into a laptop or a sequencer, but Beak> choose to perform every note live. Good stuff.
One of the show's highlights, "Wulfstan II," featured an interruption of a few minutes while the band replaced a busted bass drum pedal - check below for video. After the equipent switch, the band went straight back into the "Wulfstan II" groove and completed the song, which was cool as fuck.
Opening the show was Chrome Canyons, who played a sort of retro / futuristic dance / electronica dealie featuring vintage synth sounds and - surprise - a theremin! I enjoyed them, and people were definitely getting down to their shit, but it's the type of thing (think: Gang Gang Dance or School of Seven Bells) where you can never really be sure how much of the music the band is actually performing live, and how much is on the laptop. I hate to overthink this, but homeboy's theremin playing was suspiciously good.