[NOTE: as indicated by the above title, the entry you are currently reading completes this post, albeit almost exactly a month later / tardiness duly noted / bite me. Also, thanks to Ben for supplying a couple of these pictures.]
Wild Yaks at Cameo Gallery + (PARTY TYME), Saturday March 12, 2011
At about 6 AM I got a phone call from my friend, who we'll call "Cindy Shouts," (hehehheheh), who was coming down from Buffalo for the weekend-plus for some good old-fashioned show-going and good timez... she and her friend, who we'll call "Ben," were rapidly approaching NYC. About an hour later they were at my doorstep... pleasantries were exchanged, and I was generously bequeathed gifts the likes of which I've rarely seen, including some wonderful baked goods, a Buffalo Sabres beer coozie (HAHHAHA AWESOME) and a Garfield-themed promotional glass (inside joke). Since it was still mad early, we retired to our respective sleeping quarters for a few hours before meeting up for a splendid Vietnamese sandwich lunch and, then... retiring to our respective sleeping quarters again, hahaha.
Picked them up for dinner (Wild Ginger, yummo) before heading first to Radegast for beers and then to Cameo for the Wild Yaks show... apparently I had seen this band before a couple summers ago opening up for Brooklyn's Your Nature (who I enjoyed), but I didn't remember jack shit about 'em. Before the show I wondered aloud what they sounded like, and was told "beards and yelling." Lamentably, this description turned out to be all too accurate. [For the record, the yelling was horrendously off-key to boot.] But the band's suckitude was our gain; the horrible music only served to remind us how much more fun we could be having at my apartment.
Not gonna lie -- there are few things in life I enjoy more than combining cheap beer, expensive appurtenances, and gratuitous musical discussion. Said enjoyment is amplified exponentially when one's companions have great taste in music, as was the case in this instance. Snippets of the evening's conversation, each of which still ring true at the time of this (relatively) sober writing:
- Major Stars are FUCKING AWESOME.
- Sleep's Jerusalem / Dopesmoker is THE SINGLE GREATEST ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT BY ANYONE EVER IN THE HISTORY OF EVERYTHING.
- My new apartment beats the shit out of my old place in every possible way.
- I love the new Parts & Labor album, and I'm OK with being a bit obnoxious trying to convert people. Sue me.
- God fucking dammit do I wish Cindy still lived in Brooklyn.
Eventually 4:30 rolled around and my roommate and his girlfriend, who were just getting home, stepped up to the plate and joined the party... Cindy and Ben headed back to their hotel just after sunrise, and the impromptu shindig finally petered out at my place around 8:30 AM. Yay.
Harvey Milk with Occultation at Union Pool, Sunday, March 13, 2011
With the previous "evening" not technically ending until mid-morning, none of us were feeling especially spry. I finally rolled out of bed sometime between 2 and 3 PM before heading out to Saint's Alp on Bedford for some noodles, dumplings, and a lovely smoothie type thingy of some sort. Bought a couple of pricey muffins (Muffins! WHEEE!) on the way home before contacting Cindy and Ben; at this point in the day, for some reason I felt like a million bucks; suffice it to say my comrades did not. It was agreed that we would meet up at Union Pool not much before the show was supposed to start so as to provide for an ample opportunity for further recharging of batteries.
As things turned out, "doors at 8" turned into "doors at 9," with the opening band, Occultation, not starting their set until about 9:40 PM. Ouch. But, in this case, the good thing about an interminably delayed show was that by the time the band started playing, I'd had a few, putting me in the perfect frame of mind for enjoying Occultation's doom / stoner / prog / psych / ultra-reverby bag. I quite liked these guys.
By setbreak, the combination of exhaustion, light beer, and the puzzling spell of natural euphoria which had accompanied me throughout the day had my head fucking spinning. [AWESOME.] As I hung tight to my spot on the right side of the stage, more jackasses began elbowing and jostling for position... this is what happens when you have a sold out show at Union Pool via 'small room / obnoxious entitled scenesters n' posers.' But what can ya do.
The mighty Harvey Milk took the stage and greeted us by playing their newest release, last year's A Small Turn of Human Kindness, in its ENTIRETY. Yes, you read that right: top to bottom, front to back, head to toe, the crowd was treated to a complete run-thru of what's arguably the bleakest, most oppressively cheerless piece of music ever committed to tape. To start the show. Yep.
Which, needless to say, was fucking AWESOME. A Small Turn may have been described elsewhere as "a huge, steaming pile of unpleasantness, completely inappropriate for anyone who spends less than half their day plotting the deaths of themselves/others" by, uh, me, but I somehow managed to glean some honest-to-goodness beauty from this live rendition. Or maybe it was the euphoria. Either way, my grin stretched from ear-to-ear througout the whole thing.
Oh, but there was more. Earlier in the set Harvey Milk main man Creston Spiers had suggested the following to the audience: "we'll play for as late as they'll let us, as long as we don't have to play an encore." Sir, you've got yourself a deal! They then proceeded to plow through another 40 minutes of classics, including personal faves like "Shame," "Motown," and "I Do Not Know How to Live My Life." Great show, and Harvey Milk's was easily one of the best sets I've seen all year.
As for post-show, we were all still pretty shot from the previous evening's marathon blowout, so after a couple quick beers at my place we pulled the plug and called it a night, and wisely so.
[I doubt any enterprising tapers captured this set, but go here for an EXCELLENT recording from the Harvey Milk set from two nights later.]
Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Terminal 5, Monday, March 14, 2011
Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a band that I figured I'd never see live, and for many reasons. For one, they hadn't played a live show in nearly 10 years. For two, there are like ten people in the band, and shepherding them all together couldn't be that simple after all this time (could it?). For three, given Godspeed's shadowy reputation as highly principled anarcho-enviro-socialists (um, or something), they seem like the last band in the world that would reunite behind the strength of absolutely NO new material for a quick n' dirty Filthy Lucre-tastic cash-grab-o-rama world tour.
But I'm glad that they did. I was actually originally thinking of skipping Godspeed on this tour despite them playing so many NYC dates (was it four? five?) because, frankly, the venues they had chosen in which to perform (Terminal 5 and Brooklyn Masonic Temple) are the two absolute WORST-sounding shitboxes I've ever set foot in. But my mind was changed by the simple facts that Cindy was visiting, and she already had a ticket and tix for the Terminal 5 show could be had for a reasonable price (about $40). SOLD!
Anyway, the hours leading up to the show were totally uninteresting, so I'll fast-forward to meeting up with Cindy and Ben at Terminal 5. We snuck up reasonably close on the left side of the stage, away from the seemingly constant shuffle of feet, the mind-bogglingly atrocious sight lines, and the terrible echo chamber effect you get well, pretty much anywhere else in this room.
Colin Stetson opened, he of the cartoonishly large bass saxophone and the flawless circular breathing technique. Stetson wrangled so many disparate sounds out of his instrument that I initially thought he was utilizing some sort of sampler triggering prerecorded snippets, but apparently he was creating all of the tones and textures live without effects, which is pretty astounding. Yup, I enjoyed his set (which can be downloaded here).
Finally Godspeed was up. And not 'finally' because setbreak took forever or nuthin' like that. 'Finally' because this would 'finally' be the 'final' set I would see over this 6 day, 7 show, 12 band shitzaster. Deep breaths, everyone.
Of course, this set was truly epic. I am going to do my best to forego too much flowery horsefuckery here, but what a great, great, great band. A few notes:
- When discussing the vaguely-defined, unfortunately-named "post rock" genre, Godspeed is undeniably king. More virtuosic than Mogwai, grander than Sigur Ros, more dynamic and diverse than Explosions in the Sky, and just plain better in every way than bands like Tortoise, Maserati, Trans-Am, Red Sparowes, and on and on.
- For someone that has spent altogether too much time taking in limp, uninspired sets by atrocious trendy Bushwick shitgaze / laptop pop / krustcock / twee / post-smegma / whatever acts over the past several years, the thoroughly maximalist experience of Godspeed concert experience is a revelation. And the respectful crowd combined with the emotive, dramatic nature of the music to somehow make the show seem more intimate than it should have, considering the 3000-strong attendance.
- The set lasted about 2 hours, 20 minutes, lengthy by nearly anyone's standard. However, at no point did it feel like they had overstayed their welcome.
- From what I remember, the band was accompanied by provocative images / phrases projected on the wall at the back of the stage. That's all well and good, but in my state, listening intently with eyes closed tight worked just fine, thankyouverymuch-ah.
- I have NEVER heard Terminal 5 sound this great, which is really a feat considering the (assumed by me) difficulty of micing and amplifying so many instruments. [If ya don't believe that it sounded great, hear for yourself.]
Post show, we walked a few blocks along 11th Ave. before grabbing a cab back to the the uber-hip Ace Hotel, where Cindy and Ben had a room. After wandering around for awhile in search of ABSOLUTELY ANYWHERE THAT WOULD SELL US BOOZE, we very cumbersomely and awkwardly bought about 20 loose Bud tall boys at a Rite Aid, and the party was on.
As fun as the show was, the remainder of the evening > early morning was probably funner. More music geekery, improbably vitriolic arguments (which is the poppiest Sleater-Kinney song ever?!?), dance party starring Ting Tings and Hercules & Love Affair, more Jerusalem / Dopesmoker (of course!), and yadda yadda yadda. I seem to remember finally cabbing it back to Williamsburg circa 6:30 AM, trashed, grinning and glassy-eyed.
So, across the board, GREAT. FUCKING. TIME. Come back any time, y'alls.