This Heart's On Fire...CMJ goes Sub Pop @ The Bowery
Hey now. No secret that this here blog has been an orphan now for longer than I care to admit. This was brought on by a combination of lack of free time, using said free time to submit to here, and such utter disgust and frustration with my day job that any urge to write in a blog that may or may not be read by seven people was diminished.
My new job starts in a week, and things have been looking up in general lately (gfriend moving in, b-day coming up soon, NY Giants appear respectable), so hopefully this is the beginning of more and better posts. And without further adieu....
Last Saturday night's Sub Pop showcase at CMJ was the only actual 'label showcase' I attended all weekend; the Friday night decision to go see the horrible adaptation of Everything is Illuminated instead of the Hello Sir! showcase with TigerBearWolf and We Versus The Shark not being one of my smarter moves. While Neil Young meets GBV wunderkind Chad Van Gaalen hit the stage at 7, myself and fellow CMG writer Sean Ford didn't arrive until 9:45, at the end of the Fruit Bats (a/k/a C-grade Shins) set. They really weren't letting in folks with CMJ badges at this point, which was odd considering the only time the place even approached looking sold out was when Wolf Parade was on.
Instrumental rockers Kinski hit the stage at 10:05, playing the first four tracks off of their recent Alpine Static in order in addition to two older songs, and what I was told was a Travelling Wilbury's cover (?) with actual lead vocals. Kinski have only been around since 1998, but they just look old. One guitarist is bald, and the other is a hefty dude with facial hair suggesting that he's listened to The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East more than a couple of times in his life. But they completely rocked. I very much dug Alpine Static, and it translates incredibly well to the stage, offering all the hairpin turns of the studio tracks with the extra noise, improvisation, and requisite rocking out that a good live show should provide. These guys simply enjoy themselves onstage, which is why its a shame that the venue was about 1/3 full for their set, and they won't sell any copies of Static because the Fork crapped on it (by Joe Tangari no less....stick to Britpop dude). Fans of Black Sabbath or the out of print/underrated 1993 Navarro/Avery project Deconstruction would do well to check Kinski out when they're in your hood.
Rogue Wave came on next, and despite accolades a plenty, the only Rogue Wave song I am familiar with is "Kicking the Heart Out" from hearing on a Virgin Megastore sampler. Everybody says they sound too much like the Shins, but I found this to be inaccurate after witnessing their very good set (especially considering they toured with the Fruit Bats). They're simply a very pleasant sounding rock band with good charisma and a melodic sound. They definitely do have the charming/ordinary somewhat disheveled look that I guess could make them odd hearthrobs among the Death Cab set (especially the lead vocalist...sort of a hipster's take on a young Steven Stills), and their set got better as it went on. Maybe their first record sounds more like The Shins than the new one. At any rate, I'm looking forward to it.
If you have any plans to catch Wolf Parade's show at the Bowery Ballroom on October 24th, buy tickets now. Methinks that once Pitchfork gives their upcoming Apologies to the Queen Mary a 9 point something, its all o-vah. I've been listening that record for about a month now. The first few times you listen, you'll write them off as Modest Mouse Jr. But give it a chance, and you'll be completely hooked. They're buddies with the Arcade Fire, but really sound nothing like them, opting for a considerably rawer, maybe Tom Waits meets early Mouse sound. There's hints of Frog Eyes (who members of Wolf Parade have played in) in the vocals too.
Clearly, judging from the now large crowd, this band was who the kids wanted to see, and at least to these ears, they didn't disappoint in the slightest. Despite being seemingly wasted., guitarist/lead vocalist #2 Dan Boecker was extremely amusing, contorting his emaciated frame on each song while only committing the amateurish sin of constantly telling the crowd how drunk the band was in between tunes. Keyboard player/lead vocalist #1 Spencer Krug seemed to be more together, despite his displeasure on having to play on a gigantic rented electric piano that he claims to have never seen in his life. Live, the band exuded a degree of nervous energy that nearly reached breaking point levels on songs like the jittery Krug-sung anthem "I'll Believe in Anything," jittery Boecker-sung anthem "This Heart's On Fire" and swingin' keyboard showcase "Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts." They looked like a mess, and took the longest to set up the stage, but Wolf Parade's set killed. There was even something resembling a mosh pit in the very front row, leaving one dude with a huge gash on the side of his head (which he said was awesome...ew).
So this left the Constantines at 1:30, whose set I stuck around for mostly out of respect, not because I think that either their first record or Shine a Light are particularly good. But I wasn't about to be one of those guys who flip out for the hyped opening act and then split for the more seasoned headliner (like those disrespectful bitches last week at The National gig), so I was game. The Constantines have a reputation for being a live band whose shows transcend their studio recordings, and the relatively (maybe 2/3 full) large crowd seemed to back this up. And they actually were very good live, tight and energetic, leading me to think maybe I need to give Shine A Light another chance. Their set seemed to be split evenly between that record and the upcoming Tournament of Hearts (cool name for an album).
Few additional notes....Chad Van Gaalen seems to be everybody's best friend, prancing onstage and singing inaudible backup vocals during both Rogue Wave's and The Constantines' set. Maybe they all felt bad that he had to go on at 7. Furthermore, if you listen to his excellent Infiniheart , you'd think he was a diminuitive, Oberst-like dude...but he's easily over 6 feet, and kind of looks like Will Ferrell with a shaved head.
And if you live in the NYC area and want to see Wolf Parade, but don't want to be bombarded by scenesters on a Monday night, head out to New Haven, CT on Saturday 10/22 to see them at Cafe Nine. While I currently reside in the East Village, I'm a native of the Greater New Haven area, and it never ceases to blow my mind how 100 minutes on the Metro North train is the difference between hyped bands playing sold-out 500 seat venues versus 50-person dives far more suited to hosting Blueshammer! than blogosphere darlings (or seeing non-sold out Doves and Decemberists gigs at the 700 capacity Toad's Place). Seriously....I've had friends who used to bartend at Cafe Nine....Yalies don't even go there. It's all old men and professional drunks. It's a five dollar show. If you've ever wanted to get real up close and personal with your new favorite Canadian band, here's your chance.