Sunday, February 06, 2011

Young Prisms and Radio Dept Played Music Hall of Williamsburg

The promise of bad weather did not deter an enthusiastic crowd from tromping out in the slush to see San Francisco’s Young Prisms and Sweden’s Radio Dept play at The Music Hall of Williamsburg on Wednesday.

However the weather did take its toll on Young Prisms, who had to endure a 6-hour drive from Philadelphia to get to the city. The tough travel didn’t impact their set, though. They rocked out their psychadelic angel sound (shoegaze) that by turns evoked Best Coast (playing at Music Hall of Williamsburg the following night) without the beach and My Bloody Valentine with more melody.  Their bassist cranked it up for their ear crushing last song which was more about the driving bass and shredded guitar riffs than the ethereal vocals (nothing more than wailing really), so much so that the lead vocalist abandoned her post and pulled her microphone to the guitar amp for greater wall of sound impact.

Young Prisms are currently touring in support of its debut full-length, Friends For Now, released earlier this month on Kanine Records. They also have a few 7” splits for sale.

Radio Dept’s dream pop was quite a departure from Young Prisms’ sound assault.  They played a tight set to a crowd going wild screaming out songs and “I love you!”  “We love you too,” said Radio Dept’s vocalist, but not enough for an encore. Instituting the incremental stage departure trick for their final song, each took their leave of the stage until no one was left. The crowd began their shouts of “One more song!  One more song!” But to no avail. The lights came on. The show was over.

Photos by Shanda Boyett. Copyright 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Regal Degal, Dustin Wong, (The) Tony Castles and Nightlands Played Glasslands Gallery Jan. 20

Hidden on a desolate stretch of warehouses near the waterfront in Williamsburg, a muffled bass was the only indication that I had reached Glasslands Gallery last week for the Tony Castles show.

Inside, I chuckled at the DIY interiors – paper clouds, woodsy wallpaper, etc. that decorated the place. The crowd was small and convivial, full of extended musical families giving hugs and backslaps while we waited for Dustin Wong to take the stage.  Regal Degal had already played, probably the “coolest” dudes in a lineup that included guitar virtuosos and former band nerds. I said “hey” to Regal Degal’s baby-faced vocalist and planted myself in front of the stage. I did not get a drink. Was thinking about maneuvering the deserted streets alone later that night and thought I should keep my wits about me.

Dustin Wong took a seat and began tuning his guitar, playing a few riffs, fiddling with the spaghetti of wires and space shuttle buttons at his feet. But wait, that was the show. That was his performance. Oh. 

Guitar playing = 10. Performance = 2.  I might have just as easily been in his basement on a cold Saturday night. Maybe it's just me, but I like a little bit of the magic. This was technical beauty but not a performance.

Finally, my raison d’etre – (The) Tony Castles - began setting up. They had promised new songs on Twitter earlier that day and I was pumped. Tony plays lo-fi pop that isn’t as lo-fi-y or poppy as a lot of stuff out there. Think Women or The Young Friends. It’s got a little more longing, a little more R&B soul and a dab more motorcycle grease. I think the latter comes largely from guitarist and keyboardist Willie Miesmer, who blew an amp just as they were about to go into their new tune. He seems like a tinkerer. New song was cool, too.

After their set, I waited to get a peak at Nightlands. The five of them set up and then left the stage to wunderkind Dave Hartley. He IS Nightlands and the rest there to execute his vision. (Take a note here, Dustin Wong.) Hartley looked like a fatigued long-haul trucker. So I really wasn’t expecting the next thing that happened: Angels flew out of his mouth when he sang.

I figured that was a sign to wrap it up. Also a 20-something tweeking on X was petting the fur-lined hood of my coat and telling me she wanted to wiggle.

I slung my camera over my shoulder and headed out into the quiet of the street. A fuzzy moon followed me to the subway.

Photos by Shanda Boyett. Copyright 2011.

Dustin Wong

The Tony Castles

Dave Hartley of Nightlands

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Here We Go Magic and Broken Social Scene Played Terminal 5 January 18

The Here We Go Magic/Broken Social Scene show at Terminal 5 turned out to be one of those surprisingly intimate musical moments that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, where you just know you’ve seen something unique and are grateful to have been there for it. And this despite a crowd that was fairly lackluster.

I have a hypothesis: there is a direct correlation between ticket prices and crowd energy.  The higher the prices, the lamer the crowd. Case in point: Tickets for this show were $40. Two twenty-somethings near me debated the merits of getting or not getting a tattoo. They decided that if you HAD to get one, better to get it in a place no one could see at a job interview. Understand the logic, but this was a rock concert people! Try to be interesting.

Anywayyy, Brooklyn locals Here We Go Magic did their best to pump up the anemic crowd with their psychadelic pop sounds. But not even bassist Jen Turner, who slithered around her instrument like a limber grassnake, could evoke more than a mid-level enthusiasm. And no one seemed to notice that keyboardist and vocalist Kristina Lieberson appeared to have on a red snuggie at the start of the show. Epic coolness. Their last song of the just over half-hour set, “Tunnelvision” from their first album, was a completely off the hook jam.

The crowd perked up when Broken Social Scene hit the stage. (Maybe it was the YouTube cameras?) The Toronto-based collective put on a mesmerizing and intimate performance that was captured via live YouTube broadcast. Core members Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning led the giant cast in a set that lasted more than two hours and thankfully featured more off-album jams than their NYC show at Central Park this summer.  It was probably one of the Top 10 shows I’ve seen ever.

They kicked things off with “World Sick”, with Drew preparing the crowd for a lengthy run, saying, “One down, 20 to go.” In fact, the band ticked off more than 20, with time to spare. A grateful showman, Drew kept a new-agey, self-help dialogue going with the audience “You came to see us and we came to see you,” he said. “We are a self-help band. Let us take all your troubles,” he continued, building an intimate connection with the crowd that culminated in him politely engaging in a Christlike crowd-surf towards the end of the set.

It was this generosity of spirit that made it such an amazing experience. Even in a fairly large space like Terminal 5, Drew was able to draw the audience in. He repeatedly thanked everyone for being there, and the band seemed genuinely psyched to be playing together and entertaining a crowd that finally began to perk up (although, several folks who had secured front row vantages didn’t even bob their heads. If you’re in the front row and you won’t even bounce along to the music, you should be ejected. Just saying.)

When they finished the YouTube taping, the show was officially over, but no one wanted it to end, least of all the band, so they kept playing, bringing out Here We Go Magic to join them in a soulful cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Ooo Baby Baby”. Still gunning after that, the jester Brandon still wanted to play one more. So they did.

By any measure, be it length of show, number of songs played, number of musicians, heart, amazing music, whatever, these guys surpassed all expectations and offered up an amazing night I won’t forget.

I have a few folks to thank for being able to enjoy this performance. Half of the Occasional Empty Nesters won tickets to BSS, but had to bail at the last minute so told me to pick up at the box office. This GOT ME TO THE VENUE.  Thanks OEN. However, the staff at Terminal 5, the most-hated music venue, wouldn’t let me take the tickets without OEN’s ID.  Epic Fail.  Some kind strangers offered me an extra ticket for free when they saw me flailing at the Will Call window. This got me INTO THE SHOW.  Thanks kind strangers.  : )

Photos by Shanda Boyett from my iPhone below (Because T5, the most hated music venue, doesn’t allow big cameras.  Boo.)  Copyright 2011.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lost in the Trees Played Joe’s Pub Friday, Jan. 7

North Carolina Collective Lost in the Trees played Joe’s Pub Friday night, pulling out all the stops with a theatrical and soulful performance that began softly and built to a joyful crescendo.

Wearing a homemade painted shirt of his own design, Picker tried to engage with the audience at Joe’s Pub, which was a little stiff. “How’s your food?” he jokingly asked at one point, eliciting little more than a murmur.

Despite the audience’s lack of charisma, the band still brought it. When they played with Plants and Animals at Bowery Ballroom back in June, they punctuated their performance by hopping down into the audience and playing in the round. This time, the drama took the form of an ivory horse carried through the audience at the start of the show while frontman Ari Picker gently crooned “Dead Bird”. 

The women in the band added more subtle dramatic touches, with ribbons and sticks woven in their hair, metallic ribbons around their waists and glitter on their faces. 

This fairy flair melded perfectly with the band’s orchestral folk pop sound. The complex orchestrations backdropping their frontier lyrics about simple pleasures and family dynamics creates a quilt of emotional music that wraps you up. It is mesmerizing to both listen to and watch. Violinist Jenavieve Varga in particular has a muscular style that is hard to look away from.

The group played a few new tunes, as well as favorites from the current album, All Alone in an Empty House. They covered the title song, as well as “Walk Around the Lake”, and finished with “Song for the Painter” as one of the encore songs.

In case you weren’t able to get tickets to the sold-out show, the group will be back in New York February 7 at the Mercury Lounge.

Photos by Shanda Boyett. Copyright 2011.