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.