I first stumbled upon Brooklyn's O'Death in mid-December 2006, when I caught their set opening up for Langhorne Slim at Northsix (the current site of Music Hall of Williamsburg, kids). I found O'Death's music to be truly unique - a seemingly absurd (at least, absurd on paper) blend of country, American folk, bluegrass and mountain music, delivered with the zeal (if not the decibels) of a hungry punk band. Their ramshackle tunes and shambolic performance style lend themselves to the crowd going absolutely apeshit, which, as I've bitched about before, is an all too uncommon occurrence at Brooklyn shows. In the years since, I've seen O'Death perform live several times, and they're definitely on my short list of "Brooklyn bands who need to be seen live in order to be fully appreciated."
J to the F, and walked over to the Bell House, which, shit! When was the last time I saw a show here? According to my notes it was Come in April '11? Yeesh. Anyway, I like what they've done with the place since I was here last - they now have tables outside in front of the building which allow for outdoor chillin' and boozin'. Not too shabby - if I lived in this neighborhood - which I thankfully don't - I'd probably enjoy a beverage or two here reasonably often.
I walked in towards the end of Zachary Cale's set / I didn't hear enough of his stuff to pass any real substantive judgment, but what I did hear wasn't terribly interesting or original. Kendra Morris was up next, and her shit sounded to me like an Amy Winehouse impersonation, bursting with all of the melisma and conteporary pop vocal phrasings that make modern pop radio so very unbearable. Not at all my cup of tea, but good for her - it seemed like she had a handful of fairly devoted fans crowded up front, faithfully mouthing the lyrics to her inoffensive pap. I left as soon as I finished my beer and headed outside for some fresh air.
O'Death took the stage a little before midnight, and their set lived up to my glowing memories of performances past. These guys are nothing if not visually arresting - the drummer plays a cylindrical metal gas can instead of a hi-hat, the fiddle player hops around like a man possessed, and there's plenty of hootin' and hollerin' to make things lively. And beards. Lots of beards. The crowd was a little sparser than previous O'Death shows I've attended, but the folks up front were stirring up a righteously hellacious racket.
The band mentioned that they're working on new material, and they played several of the new songs during the set. O'Death is hoping to have a new record out this year, which would be awesome.
"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*