Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Monday Night Music Club Recap

Monday Night Music Club at the Gramercy Theater
So last night was my unofficial birthday party at the Gramercy Theater, giving Monday Night Music Club a go. Great bands who aren't typical Live Nation acts (in fact they are quite good) pumped through the venues amazing system. They spared no expertise in the sound and lighting quality. For some of these bands, I know this was the biggest venue they have played, but no one would have known by the performances. A great time was had, and I always forget that the Gramercy theater has Newcastle Brown Ale in cans! Probably the only place on earth that you can see live music and have a 12 oz can of Newcy Brown outside of the Steel City itself. Indulgences like these are the icing.

Adam Arcuragi at the Gramercy Theater in New York

Thanks to Gabe and Margaret for preventing my well-deserved trouncing at the door. Walking into a commercial venue with a video camera is like dangling a live electrical wire in front of a kitten.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"I Am Become Joy" by Adam Arcuragi

I am Become Joy by Adam Arcuragi

When the music festivals end and I wake up to find my shoes still on - sometimes my trousers - then a familiar cycle begins: long glances out the window, an impulse to wander, a lull in the blogging. All of the Northside music that saturated me has diminished in potency, no longer toxic to action, and now I am ready to resume. After a long break, reviewing Adam Arcuragi's record is a good way to get back in; a Glass Joe.

I AM BECOME JOY is his third, following a S/T debut and then a vinyl EP called SOLDIERS FOR FEET, the release of which was where I saw him perform for the first time. There is a common thread through the three: Gospel stylings, a huge band, choir parts, traditional folk instruments - all of the things that strengthen Adam's live performances. At SXSW, I saw a stripped-down, acoustic version of his material, which made me more aware of the thoughtful songwriting and the intense, poetic moments in the lyrics. Equally ubiquitous throughout his incipient catalog, THIS is predominantly why I am so fond of the songs and why I think Adam is not the typical gospel/folk singer.

I don't agree that "being a singer-songwriter is basically like walking around with a sandwich board that says 'I HAVE DICK LEPROSY',"* but I do understand that the popular indie taste of the moment is firmly in the Progressive corner. That being said, I AM BECOME JOY has the advantage of being one of the best things going in a unique variation of the S/S genre that makes it appealing to different types of music fans. I am often surprised at the reaction it gets from friends who play and listen to completely different genres: electronica kids, folk fans, mainstream music lovers too. It seems to be a little bit random, which I think is evidence that the underlying emotive nature of the sentiment is universally magnetic. Good, poetic songwriting can do it with one line; the only people immune to that are non-English speakers, and people who lack thoughts.

I am particularly pleased with how allusive it can get in the verses. References to Rimbaud, Absalom etc. are constantly sending me to Bullfinch or Wikipedia for a refresher. I like that. And a funny side note about the NYC release show for SOLDIERS FOR FEET: After Adam's 12-piece band got off stage, I whirled around on my bar stool, my own sort of indication at the conclusion that the show had been a success. Mike Doughty was sitting there semi-incognito, right next to me, and all I could do in that vulnerable moment was blurt out his name. It turned out he was doing a secret DJ set that night. After he calmly dodged my first exclamation with a slight tilt, my next (and first ACTUAL) line of speech was: "So I hear there is this weird DJ on next - is that who you are here for?" As obnoxious as I seemed unable to avoid being, he was very nice - a veteran under fire. He mentioned that he had enjoyed Adam's last song, confirming my glee. After that, I normalized, and we just talked about Angry Dave stage diving on the Jeff Buckley DVD - a subject he is asked about constantly.

Adam consequently has a gig tonight in New York: 8 pm at the Gramercy Theater. I believe he goes on 3rd of 5 acts (doors 7pm).

"She Comes To Me" by Adam Arcuragi download mp3 (with permission)

* from Adam's HIGH-TWO page.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Northside Festival - Day 3 Recap (part two)

susu at northside festival
Photo: Katz Hernandez

susu at northside festival
Photo: Katz Hernandez

SUSU managed to turn up the volume for the second half of the evening, and by the time Wild Yaks came on, I was out of film. It was just as well really, because the people were packed in so tight that I wouldn't have been able to get a good angle (or even raise my hand above my head). SUSU played tracks from their Win EP as well as a couple of new songs that I didn't recognize. The venue seemed to get darker and darker on film, so I had to get a little creative with the footage (notice the exposure all the way up). Here are "Seeing Octagons" and "Sawtooth" from the WIN EP

wild yaks at northside festival
Photo: Katz Hernandez

Wild Yaks. What can I say about these guys? They are the absolute best band to close out a night. I know I organized the show, but I have never been so into the music at the very end of the night before. They just kept building and increasing everything. No one wanted them to stop. We didn't even hesitate breaking curfew, which bought us about 15 more minutes of Yak. I could have used another hour.

wild yaks at northside festival
Photo: Katz Hernandez

wild yaks at northside festival
Photo: Katz Hernandez

wild yaks at northside festival
Photo: Katz Hernandez

sitcom serf showcase at northside
Photo: Katz Hernandez

Thanks again everyone. Until next year.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Northside Festival - Day 3 Recap (part one)

photo: Katz Hernandez

Bad weather and a minor malfunction with the Casio digital watch couldn't stop us from rockin' out at the SS / Thru Windows Showcase Saturday night! Thanks so much to all of the bands for playing, and thanks to Bar Matchless and Northside collectively for entrusting me with this show. They clearly have no idea what a reckless decision that was, or they don't care. Either way, I applaud them, and I think we had one of the best shows of the Fest! I have posted some video below, there is more on Vimeo and YouTube.

adam arcuragi
photo: Katz Hernandez

brienne rose and lavinia wright
photo: Katz Hernandez

Adam Arcuragi, who played our SXSW show, started it out early with some foot-stomping indie-gospel-folk-rock numbers. He has a new record called I AM BECOME JOY, which is coming out soon. I have a review copy that I can't stop listening to. Guitar, singing saw, singing chics, organ. That's difficult to beat. Here are "She Comes To Me" and "Bottom Of The River" from I AM BECOME JOY and "1981" from his first record (S/T).

david hurwitz of the boy bathing
photo: Katz Hernandez

the boy bathing at northside festival
photo: Katz Hernandez

the boy bathing at northside festival
photo: Katz Hernandez

Since touring down to SXSW and back, The Boy Bathing has been recording new material for an EP (untitled) to be released in the Fall. As it is the first Northside though, and The "L" Magazine has been so kind to them, we decided that we had to get them out for a show. They obliged. David and Co. rocked some tracks as well as a couple from A FIRE TO MAKE PREPARATIONS, released in 2008. Here are "Love Nothing" and from AFTMP, "The Questions Simple."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Northside Festival - Day 4

Wild Yaks

Day 4. As I spent most of the day uploading and editing video from our Showcase the previous night, I didn't make it out to Brooklyn until late afternoon. It seemed from the schedule that Public Assembly was the place to be, so we just camped there all night. The Bloodsugars, who we tried to book at SXSW opened it up at the Engine Room Recordings stage. I find this band very interesting in their arrangements and the overall musicality of each member. Seeing them live reveals that they also know how to shake their asses.

Dinosaur Feathers were next up on the big stage. I had only heard their MySpace page, which makes them sound sort of pop-ish. In person however they have a lot of interesting elements to their sound and a really rich 3 part harmony. I thought they put on a great show, and by the late stages of a music festival I am generally uncompromising about what I am going to stick around for. This is "History Lesson."

I was really bummed about running out of tape before Wild Yaks came on to headline our showcase, so I caught this song towards the end of their set at Public Assembly. Wild Yaks is an earthquake of a band.

Northside Festival - Day 3

Just a quick note: The Sitcom Serf / Thru Windows Showcase pics are not quite ready, so I will post this tomorrow or the next day. The video of all of the bands has been uploaded to the inter-web though, so check it out in the mean time.

Sitcom Serf on Vimeo

Sitcom Serf's YouTube Channel

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Northside Festival - Day 2

Friday at Northside was for me six bands, two free Heineken, two reasonably priced / unreasonably sized pieces of pizza, four business cards, several ales at regular cost, one 12" record, one immaculate size 12 pair of Kangaroos and no hangover. I am realizing this morning that I came very close to festival perfection. The one blip being that I missed filming any of Sean Bones' set. In an effort to be more accommodating, I will sometimes ask a band when during the set they would prefer me to film (some are subtle about it, some aren't - Bryan Dunn). I must have missed the signal, because when I looked up at one juncture the band was already on their way out. Sorry Bones.

As for the rest of the performers: Elfin Saddle sold me a lovely 12" of their new record RINGING FOR THE BEGIN AGAIN. This was the only show on at 6:30pm, so it was difficult to get to. I am really glad I made it; they have a very beautiful style. Zaza gave me an out of body experience. The Rabbits played a great new song called "Song Of The South" (below) and Drink Up Buttercup gave me the perfect ending to the night. A lot of bands I missed of course, and for the rest I did see, I would rather let the video speak for itself:

Friday, June 12, 2009

Northside Festival - Day 1

So far so good for the Northside Festival. Badge pickup was a dream (at 7:30pm), there was free Heineken in the press lounge (yikes), and Williamsburg is properly becoming like a mini-Austin. In my excitement at all the new places to eat, I stopped into a really nice pub on 8th and Berry (can't remember the name) where I was actually laid low by the biggest burger I have ever eaten. Feeling gut-shot, I managed to stagger to Spike Hill to catch Discovery et al. As for the late night plans, they had to be swapped for lying face down on the bed with my arms wrapped around myself, dissuading a possible rupture in my bloated innards.

These videos are from Discovery's set @ Spike Hill. Oh, and if you find the official schedule a little hard to download and print, I have put it into moderately print friendly text files on the right, just above the Northside Logo.

POSTSCRIPT - Monday after the fest, I just heard is the official release show for Opsvik & Jennings' "A Dream I Used to Remember" @ NUBLU (Monday June 15th - 9:30pm $10). This will be a great show. I reviewed the record a few weeks ago.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Deastro Does It Right

Detroit electronic rock quartet Deastro (pronounced like your favorite G.I. Joe villain) are an absolute MUST SEE band for everyone. I am tempted to end the blog there, but I feel obligated to expound just a touch.

Putting the music aside for a moment, Randolph Chabot, the soul and face of Deastro is very nearly possessed while he performs. If you aren't moved even a little bit by him then you belong in the morgue. Manipulating his table-top of wires and gadgets, he repeatedly hurls himself away from it, diving at the rest of the stage and the crowd, incorporating visits back like a trips to the surface for air. And here is where it really gets good: the music. The tunes. Every electronic band out there should take a lesson from Deastro about the importance of the substance behind the blips and bleeps. I was a little hesitant to see a show the night before the Northside Festival began, sort of like courting a bar fight before a prizefight. In the end a good punch in the face was just fine. Armed with a music-high, I feel all the more ready to go into the ring today. Here's the single from MOONDAGGER, which a grabbed on vinyl (with a free limewire EP) for 12 bones. If that isn't enough, there are 4 albums on Deastro's Myspace page that you can download for free.

I know. And you can see them tomorrow (Friday June 12th) at Studio B as part of the Northside Festival. I can't recommend them strongly enough.
"Parrallelogram" by Deastro download mp3 (with permission)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Demander / Art Brut @ Mercury Lounge

photo by Mike Strapp

Monday night is my favorite night at Mercury. A lot of things are dark, and the rest of the LES usually books the uninspiring. Demander, opening for Art Brut, played an amazing set. A big bouncy rock band was just what I needed. Hardish rock with a vivid female vocal - I thought it was great. I bought the record THE UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS, but didn't actually hear my favorite song from the show on it. This is always a good sign - It means I can buy the next record without misgivings.

photo by Mike Strapp

Art Brut were charging $18 at the door, and they were playing 5 nights in a row with all but Monday sold out. I know their first record was very well received in 2005 - I think Pitchfork put it in the top 50 - but I was still taken aback to hand over 18 big ones to the venue before having even touched beer to lip. Art Brut were unlike anything I have seen recently; I read a review that basically said something along the lines of "Every generation needs an Art Brut." I'm not sure if it was insinuating that Art Brut are the newest stars of an old genre, or that Art Brut have created a genre that it must pass on via its many "franchise" bands (We Are Scientists). I think it is the former. And I think the genre is basically every-man punk. The message of every-man punk is pretty classic: I'm hammered, I like mainstream art that wasn't mainstream at it's inception but has since created its own fans, I want to essentially f*ck and fight spurred by a deep urge within that I think it criminal to deny. Not my cuppa, really. That being said, the show was rammed. The band were spot on, and the crowd looked ready to do anything they were told. Check out Eddie Argos doing the "punk rocker in the crowd" thing. I bought Brut's first disc, BANG BANG ROCK N' ROLL. Demander is a little more my genre, so here is "Hollis."
"Hollis" by Demander download mp3

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Prigs, Kara Suzanne, Adam Arcurgi, Putnam Murdock @ The Gramercy Theater - June 29th

Here's a strange thing. On Monday June 29, Live Nation are putting on a show with Adam Arcuragi, Kara Suzanne and a couple of other NYC bands at the Gramercy Theater. Why is it strange? Well: Live Nation. Non-lame acts. $7 cover. Free for college students!

Apparently as Mondays are not their best nights, Live Nation and the beautiful Gramercy Theater want to open it up to lesser indie bands and try to farm a bit of talent. I think it is a great idea. Adam and Kara are friends of this blog who have played in some of our past shows, and this will be a really great opportunity to see them in one city's better sonic venues.

June 29 is consequently my birthday, so after my swanky B-Day dinner, I will be enjoying beers on all of my friends. Mark it on your calendar and start photoshopping your old school ID. Here are some free tracks from the performers.
"TV Reporter" by The Prigs download mp3
"Stumblin'" by Kara Suzanne download mp3
"Broken Throat" by Adam Arcuragi download mp3
"Bright Future" by Putnam Murdock download mp3

Buy Tix here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Micah P Hinson

--written March 20, 2009--

Waterloo Records on March 18th was an interesting scene. Justin Townes Earle was on stage doing hillbilly songs, Dept. of Eagles were hanging around outside, and I was thumbing through the stacks looking for Micah Hinson's record. A lot of people were buying records at Waterloo, something I rarely see. Hell, I rarely see record STORES anymore. Maybe it was just SXSW week? Maybe Waterloo has managed to figure out how to make American super-consumers spend their cash on stuff? My small contribution cost me 8 big ones. A bargain.

Micah P. Hinson's NEW record was not there. What I got was THE BABY AND THE SATELLITE, which for me is one of the best things to come out of SXSW 2009. All I know about Micah the person is that he is from Abilene, TX, a town whose main fixtures are 2 christian universities and a Waffle House. I also know after asking around that my friends here in New York have all heard of him, but aren't intimately familiar. Someone joked that his first demo was called "Jesus and My Short Stack." Whatever.

photo by Andy Sheppard

So let's get to that record, which I have been listening to for months. The whole thing is driven by lovely melodies in the vocal and in the lead instruments which alternate in and out with the verses. The album's anima and "slow-song" feel convey a sad backdrop, but the lyrics themselves and the way the songs resolve is incredibly uplifting.

Instrumentation on the record remains fairly constant, and musical themes occasionally mirror one another between songs (with slight variation), making the album seem like a more cohesive work than if one only were to hear isolated tracks. I am not sure what about one record versus another makes it work out this way, but I feel like the songs from TBATS must be heard all together. That being said, I have posted "The Dreams You Left Behind" below all by its lonesome.
"The Dreams You Left Behind" by Micah P. Hinson download mp3 (with permission)

Oh and if you ever tour through Decature, GA:

The Waffle House Museum (who's pic I stole above)
2719 East College Avenue
Decatur, Georgia 30030
Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
*By Appointment Only* - WTF.