Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Captain Sons and Daughters - The Stone, NYC 26/09/08

Completing a trio of visits to my new favourite place on the planet, The Stone, I come tonight to witness a two piece, man and woman, junk and organ, Captain Sons and Daughters. I come on a newfound friend's recommendation, and it's well placed. The duo start up with the dude creating subtle loops on his collection of metal boxes with dials and switches and wires sticking out them, while the dame plays long drone notes over the top on her manually fanned organ. It all sounds very aged, a long worn and sepia toned sound, like they're tapping into something that has been playing since all this was just fields. As his extended delays constantly fade and replenish themselves in slight variations a railway momentum is gathered and her organ delves into melody, it's all so lovely and heartwarming it's like seeing your grandparents smile at each other.

If it hadn't finished I could have slept there and used the sound as a blanket. So comfortable.

Manorexia - The Stone, NYC 25/09/08

Jim Thirlwell is the curator for september at The Stone and tonight he brings his own Manorexia project to the stage, or at least the bit of floor where you imagine a stage would be, if The Stone wasn't so damn humble and minimal and so fucking god damn cool.

So it's a performance of fairly creepy, subtly exciting and wonderfully rendered pieces, featuring three lovely ladies on violins, one equally lovely lady on cello, one super chap on percussion and xylophones and whatnot and the foetus J.G.Thirlwell himself on laptop.

The least noticable part is played by Jim and frankly I have trouble figuring out exactly what is coming from his laptop, but it's unimportant. The whole thing is easily enthralling enough to pop me out of my Brooklyn Beer induced premature semi-slumber and raise the hairs on my neck. It's not horror music, but it is subcutaneous and it is impressive in its execution to the level that makes you sick and delirious with awe. It rolls and changes and surprises you. It is a show that finishes with you immediately walking up to buy a CD despite knowing that there is no way it can recreate what you just witnessed. It is one of those rare shows that makes you feel exceptionally lucky to be in a certain place at a certain time.

It is what it is all about. It is why I go out.

Andrew WK - The Stone, NYC 24/09/08

So The Stone is a little place John Zorn set up as a 'not-for-profit performance space dedicated to the EXPERIMENTAL and AVANT-GARDE'. Just a tiny room with some fold out chairs, a grand piano and no lock on the toilet. It is a fucking cool place. Every month a different artist curates two acts a night, six nights a week. That's a lot of music.

The door is inconspicuous, a corner near nothing else, 'The Stone' in tiny silver letters by the handle, but it's easy to spot the place tonight by the line (this is America so it's a line, not a queue. I learnt this) of hip kids outside. Pourquoi? Andrew WK is playing. A solo improvised piano set. What am I supposed to expect from this? His reputation is firmly rooted in how hard he parties not how well he makes stuff up on the piano, but I figure it's worth checking out. And it is.

He walks out, shorter than I expected, in a white suit and sits and fiddles with a couple of keys. He continues to fiddle with the two keys while developing a light melody over the top. Soon he's in the middle of some very nice, delicate, quick and repetitive piano piece, reminiscent of Steve Reich, maybe, only the bits that sound off are more accidental. He continues on, surprising the fuck out of me a few times before coughing into the microphone, uncertain of what to do next. A few false starts and jokes starts and a shaking head. The mood is exceptionally light. An um and an ah and he's off and his ass is out the seat and he's singing wop bop a loo bop and shaking his legs about and he's had enough and it's 'thanks everyone' and he's off back through the door to the basement, sweating a little.

I leave feeling more confused about who the fuck Andrew WK is than when I went in. Regardless, whatever he is he's alright on the piano. I know that much.

All Tomorrows Parties New York - Kutshers Country Club, Monticello NY 19/09/08 - 21/09/08

I went to New York baby. This is what happened:


I take the Shortline bus from New York City to Monticello in the Catskills, upstate New York. It's eighty degrees out and we cruise along the highway as the leaves turn colour and the daytrippers park their SUVs by the chrome diners at the side of the road. There's Madlib on my ipod. It's the last thing I'll ever play on it before it disappears somewhere in the three day blur waiting to kick off at the other end of the bus route, at Kutshers Country Club.

Kutshers has charm. An erstwhile golfing suave-hole rendered semi-creepy kitsch from lack of modernisation. The chandeliers are square brown glass affairs, the wallpaper peeling and as Patton Oswalt points out in his friday night stand up routine, "David Lynch could shoot here. Just turn up and fire his set designer 'cause all his work's done for him". Friday night is all about the stand up for me. There's a bunch of bands playing a bunch of 'classic' albums on the main stage, but nothing that appeals enough to distract me from the jokers. I catch the end of Joe DeRosa, I laugh a couple of times. I watch Maria Bamford play the funny freak, occasionally lapsing into just plain freak. I see Eugene Mirman deliver a consistently chucklesome set, as satisfactory as a well timed light lunch. And I take in Patton Oswalt's set, as long as the other three combined it delivers the lowest lulls and the heartiest lols of the night. Funny guys.


Must have got fucked up after the comics 'cause saturday I woke up wanting to eat pancakes for breakfast for the first time in my life. We go hitch a lift to a giant Walmart. I say it's giant I don't know how big a regular Walmart is but this thing was huge. There were giants in it too, scooting around in electric trolley cars, buying giant sodas and giant bags of Cheetos. Giant TVs. We get to a roadside diner and go all 'when in Rome' ordering fries and steaks and a stack of pancakes and coffee, coke and OJ. The woman at the table next to us is ninety and talks thick bronx like an eighty a day New York narrator. The waitress is fat, black and friendly and fucking perfect.

The sun is so bright. The roads are so wide. The liquor store puts the vodka and rum in brown paper bags. We take a cab back to Kutschers with some Californians, all nice people, covered in sunshine. Everybody all weekend is nice people. The day is spent drinking in the heat by the boats by the lake. Smoking cigarettes. We just don't bother with anything else. I don't see Alexander Tucker play but he see's me dancing to the tele through my bedroom window. After half the acts have played I finally drag my ass to go see Edan and Dagha, doing this whole thing of rapping about rapping while scratching and mixing, whilst scratching and mixing. I get it you know. Rappers need to learn to rap about something that ain't rapping, how good they are at rapping, how their rapping is better than other rapping or how they can rap and do other shit at the same time. You don't see guys in bands playing guitar and singing over the top about oh my god see how I play the guitar whilst singing as well. More people should rap about Satan, the dark lord of hell. Or something. I digress though, and Edan was actually pretty entertaining. Like really good cabaret or something. He even wears wigs. And Dagha did a stellar job of standing next to him, occasionally saying shit and fucking about with an echoplex. Blah. My flask is drained.

Oh I have to go film Low. My god I cannot hold a camera still. This footage is useless. This band is boring. Go back to the room and drink to Shellac. Wait it's too early to start drinking to Shellac. Oh shit. What's that? Lightning Bolt were great? Weren't they playing straight after Shellac? Yeah. Fuck. Fucking Rum overdose. Fuck it. Wasted. What a waste. Well, I'll stick the general consensus in here, in lieu of a first hand review. Shellac and Lightning Bolt were both awesome. Of course they were fucking awesome, they're always awesome. They're awesome bands. They're live bands.

Afterwards some guy is playing Mario music on the grand piano in the lounge area. It's one of my favourite sets of the weekend and it's from a punter. Straight up. Stomping on those keys like goombas.


Whoops. Fucked up that night huh. Ok let's get some work done. Let's film everything today.
Le Volume Courbe. Jesus it's barely even lunchtime. Pfft at this weak-ass twee-ass ass-music. Pfft right at it. Music for people whose toes point inwards. Who's next? The Wounded Knees? Did I even see them? Might as well not have. Sunday is boring to look at. I'm falling asleep looking at the line-up. It's bands with a capital L after the b. Gemma Hayes? Good Lord no thanks. If I wanted those vibes I'd sit in a cake shop full of babies. Hold up, EPMD are playing. how on earth did that happen? (Gawd bless ATP) They're a total anomaly but thank fuck for that. Here they come, old motherfuckers playing to the whitest crowd they've ever seen. They declare that they are going to school everyone in the meaning and essence of real hip hop. Hooray! No-one has ever done that before! Good job EPMD. Well, you're entertaining and all, it's a bit weird all your mates just hanging around on stage with you but whatever, I like your raps. I like your rapping ways.

I don't like Mercury Rev and then I watch Mercury Rev and I've gotta admit, I liked watching Mercury Rev. It's not my bag you know, but it's clear these guys are experienced in the art of performing music. And so they should be, because they're old. The singer looks like a faun in some fantasy theatre production and he keeps pretending he's flying. It works, somehow. It's a big sound. Over on the second stage I don't like Trail of Dead enough to be bothered to write their name out in full, but they did ok. They made a little bit of the ceiling fall down, which is pretty cool in my book. No-one was hurt though, which was boring, and the set maintained a level of excitement which didn't match up to the energy they all seemed to be putting in to it, which is probably somehow bad for the environment. Their fans seemed to love it though, but they're fans of Trail of Dead, so who cares?

Next up was Mogwai, a band I have somehow seen quite a few times despite not liking them at all. Every show a boring load of durr. A load of building up to nothing. Now I don't know if it was the setting tonight, I don't know if they were on tip top form playing the tip top cream of their catalogue, but they raised hairs on me. There were pay-offs at the end of the slow climbs. They were trudging up those mountains and when they broke through the clouds at the top there was beauty there for everyone. Bravo those Scots.

After avoiding Dino Jr and avoiding writing about Brian Jonestown Massacre because yawn, so all that's left on the bill was the main event, the curators of the day, My Bloody Valentine, and people were excited all over. I already reviewed MBV at one of the Roundhouse gigs in Camden earlier on this year and this was more of the same except I wore earplugs for the famous holocaust finale because last time I damaged my ears. The first time around tipped this one but probably just 'cause it was the first time around. Still, it was special and a real fitting end to the festival line-up, all noise-talgic and dreamily brutal.

Once MBV was over I got to put down the camera and pick up the vodka. A drink by the lake, a drink in the bar, a dance, a girl punching me trying to get me to dance with her like that's gonna work (it might), closing time, a party of twelve (approximately) left on site, a man with a speaker on his back like the pied piper of indie leads us to the shack from Friday the 13th on the other side of the lake, run down and beat up and full of mattresses and no electricity. I leave and howl across the lake to a party of stragglers. We get back to the jetty and running jump into the lake as the sun starts to rise. The security return us to our room where I shower then wake up elsewhere, back in the lounge area by the grand piano, several hours after checkout.

We have a three hour wait at the shortline bus station so we take a walk around Monticello. It's quiet. The trees are beautiful. The houses perfect. I could move there, I think. I could read all day, I think. Sit on my porch, I think. Then I get on the bus back to the city and when I see the Manhattan skyline I remember how much more exciting it is having people around. And I realise that I had a really great time at ATP, but it wasn't the music, and it wasn't even the setting. It was the people. It always is. Every last one of those friendly fuckers.

Mark Kozelek w/ Sun Kil Moon - The Scala 17/09/08

I absolutely expected Mark Kozelek to be an intolerably depressed guy. I love a lot of his music but I understand that he can write it because he's had a lot of shit in his life like wife cancer and dead parents so I thought man I'm looking forward to this but I'm not looking forward to him being all sad and shit, moping around like a donkey. I was so wrong. So so wrong. The guy could have done stand up.

He comes out and he looks like Elvis and he says how y'all doin and people murmur and someone says how are you and he tells us about his uk tour, how he's spent the last two weeks travelling around really shitty places playing to small audiences consisting solely of fat guys with backpacks.

His set is so nice, like a wind-up toy perpetually winding down, everything slow and delicate and haunting, everything covered in dust, evoking nostalgia despite the absence of memories. He plays variations on recordings, extended tracks and complete reworkings. They have movements really, they have prologues and epilogues, musically and lyrically, and there's magic in the transitions. It's so damn sad and beautiful.

And he plays all night.

And it's perfect.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Secret Chiefs 3/Zu/Skullflower - Cargo 16/09/08

As is fast becoming a regrettable habit for me, I missed the first act - Skullflower - due to arriving at a reasonable time, rather than a ridiculously early one. This is unfortunate for Skullflower, as it means I can't review their performance on here, one of the most reviled blogs on the internet. I mean respected not reviled, thast was a typo. And thast.

So I'll give you an approximation of haute-couture-porn peddler Mike Keelin's review in lieu of my own, because he got there early enough to see it, because he lives thirty seconds walk away. This is what he said: It was alright, droney.

Sounds good to me.

So I arrived, got some wine and took a trip to the Zu and they were dirty heavy. I mean even all of their instruments looked physically heavy. Low slung pendulous bass, brassy mammoth sax and, well, the drums actually just looked like any drums but they sounded bad-ass and it all came together and it all sounded crushing, the rhythm section so weighed down, anchoring your neck to the floor with a cast iron chunky bass choker and embellished chain-link drum riffs, while the sax flew around above you and got tangled in your hair like a god damn jazz pipistrelle. Maddening, but so satisfying. They reminded me of Noxagt, but with a saxaphone, but somehow without reminding me of Ultralyd. What I'm trying to say is that they rocked. Really hard. And they jazzed hard too. It was all in my ears and eyes and all over my face. The jazz. And then I had a cigarette.

So I smoke and drink wine and then it's back for the Secret Chiefs 3 and their so-crazy-how-could-it-not-work approach to genre blending. Heavy meddle psych-reggae from the fiddle east served with a bowl of thick guitar singapore noodles. What the fuck is this music and how does it not sound like nonsense? The fact that all of the musicians in the band are fucking awesome probably helps. Seriously, these guys are tighter than spandex and ten times as fun. They jerk on stage like parodical robots, luxury metal, and launch magnificently into a well lubed irish/arabic mindfuck fiddler on the roofies sound. A staccato flow. It's a thing.

Maybe they'll play again in another twelve years. You should see them if they do. Don't take acid though 'cause it wouldn't make a blind bit of difference.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Deerhunter - Rough Trade East 13/09/08

Never been to a free gig in the huge new(ish) Rough Trade store just off Brick Lane before. I wondered how it would work, how they'd prevent shoplifting and how they'd make it sound any good. Turns out they just don't bother. I guess the clientele at Rough Trade East are assumed to be too twee to steal anything and too busy jerking off in their pocket over the generic indie boys on stage to notice the shitty sound.

Who cares anyway? Deerhunter play pretty regular indie rock (but wait, indie rock isn't a sound it just means independant rock! No it doesn't you know exactly what it sounds like stop being pedantic) and pretty regular indie rock is pretty boring but has it's moments. They played five or six tracks of their 'neutered Sonic Youth' sound, of which approximately one track achieved the heady heights of 'ok'. That was its 'moment' then. One of the main problems in enjoying the set arose when I realised who it was the singer sounded like. It'd been irking me for the first few tracks before it hit me: He sounds like Bono Vox. And that was it, now I can't like Deerhunter. Oh well, no great loss huh. Still I feel sorry for the guy, not because he's got that skeletal condition that makes you look a Tim Burton creation (that's indie, it suits him) but because he now, to me at least, sounds like the most arrogant prick on earth. I'm sure he's not. he only came off as mildy arrogant when heckling the audience during a technical failure. "Like talking into a void" he said. Yeah well maybe if your band had any substance we'd give a shit.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Queen of Swords/Teeth - Old Blue Last 11/09/08

I think they were called Teeth, that's what it said on the website, but all I could see was legs. Really great legs. Sure there was this surfs up looking dude on a laptop playing diddlywiddly acid rhythms and some hip guy on a stripped down drumkit bashing along but really all I could see was the legs on the girl singing. At least I think she was singing, I couldn't really hear her, or I wasn't listening. It was some ra ra ra kind of stuff I think. Anyway, my god what a set of pins. Great band.

Then Queen of Swords came on and did this synth heavy horror set that was very satisfying, all drone and drum fills. A nice hefty sound. Some guy behind me who I've never met in my life taps me on the shoulder and jerks his chin at the bassist and tuts and goes "playin' with his back to the audience innee, tsch, TURN AROUND MATE" to which my response was a confused nod of agreeance because I didn't really know why he thought it necessary to tell me that and inwardly I was of the opinion that I hadn't noticed because I was just listening to the music and who cares if he's facing the wrong way because he's a fat dude and I don't care what his face looks like I don't want to gaze longingly into his eyes or anything - the dude is just some fat dude - but obviously this guy has a problem with it and I don't want to upset him. Guy looks ready to flip and I don't want to die at the hands of a man who has a problem with bassists that face the wrong way. That is not what I want at all. That was it though, that was all he wanted to say to me and once that was out of the way I got on with the business of enjoying Queen of Swords. Which I did with ease because they're very good.

Later on I stole an ashtray from another bar because why the fuck not.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Faust/Shit n Shine/Goodiepal - CARGO 02/09/08

I arrived late so Goodiepal is going to be reviewed by a special guest person, Kaya from Pighole Records, because I liked what she said about it last night. Be sure to come back once this post has been updated because she hasn't done it yet. Oh but no-one reads this blog so who cares.

UPDATE UPDATE, KAYA's REVIEW ARRIVED: they're like the band in Godard's weekend. a drummer, singer and one market seller talking nonsense. nice thing to see at the beginning of the night.

I've seen Shit n Shine a few times now. Tonight was good, I'd rate it in the middle somewhere, overall. In fact exactly in the middle, between the first time I saw them (worst) and the second time I saw them (best). I'd rate it second. Out of three. Silver medal I'd give it, if I gave medals to specific performances of bands. I don't. I wish they'd change up their drums a bit. Three quality drummers but not enough drumming. Ain't that a thing? Echellento guitarings though. Very delicately manipulated feedback. Very satisfying.

Then comes the Kraut stylings of der Faust band. Starting out sounding like Phil Collins (what on earth was that) but a spot of likeable improvisation later and it's into party arty mode as the main midget grey German hippy goes all french grins and funky bass, the giant mashes the drums, the greasy sleezebag harasses the guitar and the amdram failure woman overacts on eggshaker and dire vocals. You can bug out to that. Then comes the chainsaw and live painting followed by the chainsaw passing through the live painting. It's not usual, but it's not particularly good either. It's mildly entertaining is what it is. I got some MDF in my eye. Some art-debris.

Oh and all the staff were assholes.