With nights one and two now in the rear-view mirror, and with two drastically different shows in the books, which Phish would we get on night three: the playful, exploratory, clever band responsible for night one's incredible "Wolfman's" and joyous "Tweezer," or the band seemingly content to perform solid-yet-commonplace versions of their songs during night two's boisterous "party show" atmosphere? Or both? Either way we stood to win, although there's a difference between getting the Toys R' Us $500 gift card or the Heathcliff temporary tattoo in your Cracker Jacks, if ya catch my drift.
Of course, reducing how much fun one can have at a Phish show simply to how the band plays is foolish: I've seen many friends ruin their show (and, in some instances, mine) by preshow overindulgence over the past couple of years. Personally, I've become markedly better in that department since the all-around shitshow that was Coventry, with really only one notable blemish on my report card during 3.0. Spoiler alert!
In retrospect, I wish I hadn't started drinking so early on 12/30, but allow me to put forth an incredibly lame excuse nonetheless. See, The New York Football Giants still had their playoff hopes hanging by a very thin, fraying thread, and what better way to end the regular season than with a game against the hated Eagles, accompanied by bloodies and beers? We all met at 4th Down on North 4th shortly after noon, and began drinking - and sports-enjoying - in earnest. Things looked great for awhile, as the G-Men thoroughly dismantled their hated rival to the tune of a highly entertaining 42-7 thrashing. (Don't get me wrong, due to their own atrocious performances during the '12 season, Andy Reid and Michael Vick probably had already punched their own tickets out of Philly by this point, but it was nice to give those two scumbags a hearty boot up the ass on their way out the door.) Sadly, the Lions didn't hold up their end of the bargain, and, with the pressure off, we headed over to Spike Hill for more drinks simply because it was empty (except a couple random Hasids, if you can believe it).
After sitting, staring and drinking for about 4 hours, we had worked up a fearsome hunger, so we stumbled over to Fette Sau for some pork-tastic mealin'. With all the (justified) hoopla over Briskettown (combined with the fact that I rarely eat pork or beef anymore), it's easy to relegate Fette Sau to back burner status, but make no mistake, that place is still fuckin' great. And an A+ to the bartender who kindly put up with my friends obnoxiously pestering her with dumb questions / comments about Briskettown, as she chose to drown them out with a steady diet of Ramones.
By this point, we were all pretty sauced, and I was feeling pretty exhausted, worrying that I wouldn't be able to give the usual 115% at the evening's show. Fuckin' fuck, I don't think I've ever felt more elderly. We limped back to my place for a few beers, comfy couches, and some pre-show non-Phish tunez (mostly Cheeseburger, Oxford Collapse, White Denim and Parts and Labor) before getting a car service into the city.
For this show, we knew we had tickets behind the stage, but we were pleasantly shocked to find that when we got to our seats "ROW 10" actually meant "fifth row." (Not that I really care anyway, considering that I spend the vast majority of all Phish shows rockin' out with my eyes clamped shut.) Pleasant surprise number two was that the sound from our spot was crystal clear, and, let's face it, it's always cool to watch Fishman subtly run the entire show from behind his kit.
The first set started with standard-solid versions of "Jim" and "Cities." "Cities," had been one of the few bright spots during last year's New Year's Run at the 12/30/11 show exactly a year ago, and although tonight's version had none of of last year's extra mustard, it was well-played nonetheless. "Divided" was up next, and with "Reba" and "Bathtub" already off the table, there's literally nothing I'd rather hear as a classic "meat of the first set" song more than "Divided."
"Back on the Train" followed, providing the first light improv of the evening. Very nice version clocking in at nearly 10 minutes. "Ride Captain Ride" was up next. Works for me, since I, for one, was happy for a quick pissbreak. And wake me up when "Ocelot" becomes something better than the poor man's "46 Days." Over 11 minutes in length, none of them terribly interesting or inspired. The set rounded out with a peppy "Ya Mar," pissbreak #2 during the somnambulent "Horn," the oddly-placed but always welcome "My Friend," and the obligatory solid-standard first set-closing "Antelope."
So, three shows, three largely "averageish" first sets, with the lone exception being night one's "Wolfman's > LDB > Wolfman's" for the ages. Hopefully they'd pick shit up in the second set (they would), and hopefully I'd get my second wind at some point (I would not). Well, I guess one out of two ain't bad.
A stupendous 19+ minute "Disease" opened the second set - just what the doctor ordered (rimshot). This "Disease" played around with several gorgeous themes, resembling night one's "Tweezer" both in the pure quality of its uplifting improv and in the fact that the jam really picks up over its last few minutes (in this case, led by some funkalicious Page).
"Twenty Years Later"... I mean, at least it wasn't "Joy" or whatever, but it still signaled a mass bathroom exodus and one of the few legitimately troublesome urinal queues of the run. The "Carini" that came next easily made up for it, however, and after many relistens, I've come to the conclusion that it's probably 1.) the best jam of the run, and 2.) the best Carini I've ever seen (with the possible exception of 8/31/12 Dick's - OK, fine, twist the arm; 9/14/00 Darien was a great version too). Man, what a jam - cacophonous, noisy and borderline unpleasant like a good "Carini" should be, veering off into some serious Type II, with the finale sparked by some real assertiveness by Fishman as he dutifully pounded out the "Tusk" drumbeat while the rest of the boys experimented (successfully!) with a couple of different haunting grooves. I've made a fool out of myself more than once trying to explain to non-believers that what sets Phish apart from EVERY other band on the planet is their unmatched skill at "improvisational composition" - by the end of this jam, what the band is actually playing has as much to do with "Carini" as it does a Justin Bieber song. No, wait; that's a terrible comparison.
I have to say I've never been happier to have "Number Line"'s smarmy sentimentality jammed down my throat than at this moment - I needed a reason to sit and hydrate. And I'm just gonna come out and say it - fuck "Julius." It's this type of soulless, smug, quasi blues wankery that gives Phish a bad name amongst people who have decent taste in music. Anyway. Classic second set closer "Slave" came next, affording me the opportunity to bob my head and smile silently to an old favorite while resting my tender vittles. "Hood" in the encore mined similar emotive territory as "Slave", only moreso - always great to hear, and always a great soundtrack to quietly reflect on how many unforgettable and incredibly unique musical experiences this band has led me through since '96. Honestly, I would've cried my damn fool eyes out during this "Hood" if I hadn't been so dehydrated. By this point, even closing the encore with nobody's favorite, "Show of Life," couldn't knock the perma-grin off my ugly mug.
Post-show we again walked a few blocks east before hailing a cab back to Billyburg; again Luckydog was too packed for us to venture inside so we finished the evening at Rosamunde with tasty beer, sausages and fries. Word to the wise - I LOVE LOVE LOVE spicy stuff, but the chicken habanero sausage at Rosamunde is JUST TOO DAMNED SPICY, PEOPLE! I mean, really!
One night to go, beetchez. I'll finish these recaps up next week n' stuff. Tuddd out.
[the above picture was found simply by Googling "disaster."]
This fine evening, I attended the Cheeseburger show at Knitting Factory. Here are some things that happened!
My buddy Devin came over for some pregame. Let's just say several a capella versions of Melvins' "Suicide in Progress" were performed.
Met up w/Sluggo and his gf at the show. Began drinking Tecates because it's apparently Cinco de Mayo, beetchez.
I had seen -- and enjoyed the pants off of -- opening band Hard Nips last time I saw Cheeseburger, at Bell House in mid-March. With this band, it's all about how much fun they're having onstage, and how unless you're a total schmuck you have to love watching them perform. Tonight they brought their super-excited brand of 2-chord Joan Jett-style rawk to my neighborhood (literally, a half mile from my doorstep!). This was Hard Nips' record release show and, predictably, I got so worked up at the show that I walked out without remembering to buy their album. That sucks, because I don't think their shit is available on eMusic, iTunes, Amie Street, or anywhere. Crap-ola.
Talked with some of the bros from 'burger pre-show and I learned that 1.) original Cheeseburger singer Joe Bradley was in the house; 2.) he was planning to perform. Yay! And, 3.) noone seems to know if or when the new 'burger album is coming out. Boo!
Set opened with "Easy Street," and the band busted through a ton of the classics ["Derby Day," "Jellybean," "Tiger," "Money for the Heart," a couple of new ones named "Winner" and "Suzie," and probably some more jams I should remember but don't].
I can't speak for the whole crowd because I was (of course) stationed at the edge of the stage all night, but up front things were pretty hectic. Some tiny blonde chick ripped my loungy fat guy shirt off twice.
Ok, fine. Self-indulgent bullet point: I sang on "Easy Street" and "Derby Day" briefly before being pulled onstage for part of "Tiger." Good stuff. Devin probably spent more time onstage than I did.
"New" vocalist Jayson Greene (Panthers, Orchid) rocked the house. There were plenty of equipment problems, but that's what happens when you decide to stage your concert at a beer-throwing contest. Kinda wonder if this type of deal is some sort of electrocution hazard.
My ankles are seriously trashed. Otherwise, I feel as though a garbage truck ran me over at full speed.
At one point the singer jumped off the stage and (perhaps by design) I was the only moron that made any attempt to catch him. As a result, currently I can't turn my neck to the right.
Said stagedive occurred during "Money for the Heart," right during the "we're gonna make it!" section. I was so drunk at that point that I thought exclaiming "we didn't make it!" was the funniest thing a human's ever said. Kill me.
Spongebob made an appearance, in pinata form. Remember when, back in the day, Cheeseburger brought pinatas to their shows and people would get conked by the huge flying beasts? That was awesome.
For the last song of the set, Joe Bradley took the stage for an awesomely feces-encrusted version of "Do You Remember." Just as the song was starting, somebody THREW UP ALL OVER ME. Post show I took inventory and it appeared to be a massive beer-boot, with perhaps 3 or so slices of pureed pizza mixed in.
I can't stress enough how totally trashed the room was by the end of the set. There were beercans hanging from the stage lights, for fuck's sake. I would seriously doubt Knitting Factory will ever let them play there again. Good work, folks!
Cheeseburger didn't take the stage until after 1 AM last night, but it was well worth the wait. These guys continued their winning streak with yet another awesomely entertaininig display of slovenly rock and roll antics.
After being introduced by the legendary Z105 DJ Zach Richards, they kicked out most of the hits ("Gangs All Here," "Easy Street," "Good Times Roll," "Derby Day," "Tiger," "Do You Remember") along with a few new ones ("Suzie," "Tight Jeans," another one whose name I can't remember) and a ramshackle version of "Louie Louie." Also present were gummi cheeseburger-filled pinatas flying through the air and conking people on the head, silly string, several attempts by crowd members to sabotage the drumkit (most of them successful), inter-band-audience tackling, a couple of brief appearances from the sexy as hell Budweiser skirt-clad beermaid that was at the recent MHoW show, and a troughload of spilled/thrown beer.
I'd be a right schmuck if I didn't mention the act that directly preceded the mighty Cheeseburger: some dude named Juiceboxxx ("from Milwaukee, Wisconsin," as he reminded us many times) who spat out hilariously awful Technotronic-esque rhymes over, well, Technotronic-esque beats. Lots of shit about "getting part[ies] started" and "[having] a one way ticket" with the occasional chorus about "sweat from [his] balls." But the guy's stage antics were fucking hilarious -- he headbutted me in the face pretty hard, climbed on/jumped off the bar, fell over (what appeared to be) very painfully several times, writhed on the floor, and in his best move of the evening jumped on some dude's back riding him around for awhile as the guy he was riding panicked and tried to shake him free. Fucking hilarious, and Juiceboxxx never allowed the chaos he was causing to break his steady flow. (I tried to get some good pics of this guy but only came away with these two because he was constantly climbing, jumping off and dry-humping something new every half-second.)
"I knew Northsix. Northsix was a friend of mine. You, sir, are no Northsix."
I really, really used to love Northsix. After all, I saw a ton of good music there last year (Panthers twice, Boris, Blue Cheer, O'Death, Titan, Pearls and Brass, Emergency Party, Pissed Jeans, many others), and, along with the now sadly irrelevant Warsaw, it was the venue closest to me (driving wise) that I went to most in '06. Early in '07, it was announced that Northsix would be shutting its doors for renovations; The Bowery Presents had bought it and that it would be closed for a few months while it was prettied up.
I had a feeling that they'd kind of want to make a ham-handed attempt at appealing to Williamsburg's burgeoning yuppie population but this is ridiculous. Half of me just wants to think "this place just needs to be broken in a bit" or whatever but then you visit the bathroom and you think you're at a fucking movie theater. I hoped that they'd keep a couple of the features that really endeared the venue to me, as a cripple -- namely the few seats along the left side, or the bleachers, but nada. Basically it just seems like a sanitized-for-your-protection Bowery Ballroom, which... meh.
Regardless, I had kind of avoided a couple of potentially crappy shows at "new" Northsix (it's now known as The Music Hall of Williamsburg) since it opened a couple of weeks ago because I was hoping to start off my showgoing experiences at the new place with something memorable, and Cheeseburger rock more than enough to fit that bill. This was to be the third time I've seen them, with the first being a "surprise" appearance at Panthers' release party for The Trick (where the mighty 'burger performed under the assumed name of "Meatballs the Band, AKA CHEESEdog and the VeggieBURGERs" -- pretty subtle, eh?). Second time was some street festival in Greenpoint or Williamsburg or somewhere which would have had a full set by Cheeseburger and a headlining set by the totally awesome Oxford Collapse, had not the thing been rained out in the middle of Cheeseburger's set. BOOOO GOD!
So, a brief primer: when attending a Cheeseburger show, you're know you're going to get huge, heaping/steaming portions of the following: 1.) belligerent drunkenness by their singer, Joe, 2.) charmingly novice-level musicianship, and 3.) good old fashioned loud, balls-to-the-wall rock and roll. Yes, this is the perfect show to get shitfaced before/during -- too bad I was driving, so none for me. The show was introduced by some dude called "Mooch," apparently a native Williamsburg resident (who knew such a thing existed!), who both bemoaned the influx of transplants ("you all have to stop talking like such [sissies]. No more... asking 'what do you want to do after brunch,' ok?") and complimented the influx of hot chicks to the 'burg. His overlong shpiel/harangue was mercifully ended when Joe from Cheeseburger entered stage left and broke a beer bottle over his head.
Shortly, the band ripped into "Good Times Roll," which sorta got the kids moving. (If you can't dance at a Cheeseburger show, then, pray tell, when can you dance?!) Within a few minutes, Joe (again, he's the singer) had pulled out at least 4 or 5 decent size horse-shaped pinatas, which, of course, made their way straight into the crowd. Within minutes, the crowd had torn the equine candy-holders into pieces, covering the floor with peppermint hard candies, Now and Laters, and gummi cheeseburgers. And, of course, this immediately touched off a deluge of shit being thrown at the stage: semi-full beers, cups of ice, giant chunks of the pinatas, candy, and empty cups. Faaaantastic! Particularly awesome was seeing the still-unbroken pinatas (these things must have weighed a good 15 lbs.) flying through the air and conking unsuspecting people in the head. Fuckin' rock and roll!
Within a couple of songs Joe had stumbled offstage and into the crowd, squirming around on the floor, which by now was covered with the assorted detritus that limp-wristed hipsters had heaved towards the stage but had fallen short by a couple of yards. The band tore through the hits ("Money for the Heart," "Easy Street," "Tiger," "Derby Day") and played a new one, "Suzie" something or other. Between song banter consisted of visits from a shapely/comely beermaid, drunken boasting ("I've been drinking since 5 o'clock!") and, eventually, a half-hearted attempt to get the crowd to stop throwing shit ("seriously, man, fuckin' truce....") a sentiment which was immediately nullified by the band tossing more shit back into the crowd.
They closed out their set what seemed like super early, but got called back onstage for an encore (pretty frickin' rare for an opening band, no?), only they couldn't play "Do You Remember!" Seriously, it took them a good several minutes to figure the chords out, which was pretty hysterical. I mean, y'know, it ain't "La Villa Strangiato" or whatever. Of course, I nearly soiled myself because I was laughing so hard.
So, yeah, Cheeseburger has joined the ranks of great Brooklyn bands who I'll go out and see at any available opportunity. And, yeah, throwing the pinatas around was pretty cool, and I for one propose they branch out into messier territory, with water balloons or pies or some such nonsense next time I see 'em. *Sigh* a boy can dream *sigh*
Luuuuuunch. Anyway. As it turned out, thanks to rain, and lots of it, I really don't have much to report from the Williamsburg Street Music Festival thingy on Thursday night. Rain throughout the day postponed openers Best Fwends set, which I really didn't have any interest in catching anyway. Instead, my friend and I had beers at The Abbey on Driggs. I wound up drinking 5 1/2 beers in less than 45 minutes, so I had a decent buzz going by the time we finally exited. We missed the first song of Cheeseburger's set, but they played "Money for the Heart," "Derby Day" and part of "Hot Street" before the thunderstorm came sending everyone scurrying. We somehow eventually made it back to my friend's apartment in Sunnyside to max, relax, and eat Peruvian chicken. The rain cleared up after less than an hour or so, so who knows, maybe Oxford Collapse got a set in after all, I have no idea -- but at that point getting me off the couch with my mouth stuffed with beans n' rice, yuca and that awesome green sauce wasn't happening.
On to Friday's show. Bobby Bare Jr. is definitely amongst my top five favorite live performers at this point. I was trying to come up with a list of other artists whose shows I prefer that still perform regularly, and all I could come up with was Comets on Fire, Mogwai, Arcade Fire, Social Distortion, and the now semi-retired (from playing live, at least) Robert Pollard. This being the third time I've seen Bare Jr.'s live show, I've still never seen him headline a set. Last year he opened for Drive By Truckers and pretty much blew them off the stage, and later I caught him opening for Centromatic. No Centromatic fan am I: he made those guys look like a fucking Barney sing-along or some shit.
Fortunately, Thursday night's Bobby Bare Jr. show was indoors. (Again, I'm aware that The Slip were headlining this show but I find them to be bland). Openers Meowskers kind of reminded me of bands like Bon Savants and Cheyenne, if only because of three reasons: 1.) chicks obviously dig 'em; 2.) their schtick is basically spare melodies delivered over inoffensive chording and 3.) I (embarassingly) kinda like 'em, too. Seriously, there were a ton of eminently porkable college chicks who showed up for these guys' set, most of whom were drinking heavily. Of course, ya had to know that as soon as Meowskers left the stage, these chicks would be gone and there would be plenty of room up front. "Hate to see you leave, but I love to watch ya go." [Flips down shades]
After the last shrill teenybopper cheer died down, Bare and his band began setting up immediately, and I noticed that the personnel -- and notably the instrumentation of his backing band, the Young Criminals' Starvation League -- had changed entirely. No more handlebar-sportin' well-dressed guitar dude (Richie? Is that his name?), but instead a dude on guitar/bass/trumpet/keys and a woman splitting time between bari sax and keys. Of course, I cheated and looked at their taped-to-the-stage setlists, pleased that they were planning on playing a heaping portion of great songs.
Opening with a somewhat more sedate version of "Valentine" -- complete with horn intro -- it became obvious that this would be a more pensive Bobby Bare Jr. show than I was used to. Throughout the set his jams seemed trippier than his usual countrified Pixies/ramshackle powerhouse RAWK. As his backing band seems to constantly be shifting members, it's cool to note the differences in performance styles. Well, for me at least. Cool shit. The set's second song, "Borrow Your Cape," featured the band roaring straight through in full bore hard rockin' mode. "Flat-Chested Girl from Maynardville" followed, and like previous versions I've seen the closing freeform coda was cacophonous and super dissonant. More faves were to come, amongst them "Uh Wuh Oh," "Mayonnaise Brain," "I'll Be Around," "Heart Bionic." According to their setlist, they had planned on playing "Stop Cryin'" before ultimately ending with "Terrible Sunrise," but... fuckin' time constraints. They closed their set with the requisite cymbal-crashin' big rock ending, after which I pretty much booked out the Bowery door to my car. Seriously, sticking around for The Slip's first couple songs would have been pointless because, face it, I was going to leave anyway, and always better to check out on a good note.
So, yeah, here's hoping Bobby Bare Jr. and the Young Criminals Starvation League comes back real soon (y'hear?) and that they can fire up a full 90 minute-or-so set of the good stuff. I'll be chewing my toenails in eager anticipation.