Sunday, July 30, 2006

Bloc Party @McCarren Pool, July 29th

Saturday night headed to Williamsburg -- what? two weekends in a row? -- to catch the Secret Machines and Bloc Party at McCarren Pool. Pretty cool idea for a venue -- a huge unused pool with crumbling cement and chipped paint that fits about 5,000 of your closest friends in the baking sun. I met up with Eddie and Bharat, and we got reasonably close to the front right of the stage. We arrived just in time for the second act -- the Secret Machines. I had heard their name certainly but never bothered listening. They consisted of a drummer, lead guitarist and keyboardist on lead vocals who sometimes switched to another guitar. They managed to play a very big sound, which was good for this outdoors venue, but at times their songs almost got a little jammy to the point where we were left wondering, was that two separate songs? Kinda atmospheric like Mogwai, kinda Ravonettes, maybe?

After the Secret Machines, the headliner, Bloc Party hit the stage. Now, I know that I'm a little late in the game to be seeing them for the first time just now. I have no idea why. I've half thought about catching them at the Bowery or at other smaller venues, even Webster or Roseland, but I never really felt a tremendous need to. I guess I kinda lumped them into that whole wave of new new wavers (like the Killers, who I'm so not into) that I knew were solid acts, but doing nothing really earth shattering.

Upon seeing them, I have to say I enjoyed them. They put on a great show, and their leader, Kele, is very charismatic. I dunno if they (and the Secret Machines) were $42 good, but they were solid. They certainly had me wondering why I didn't see them at Bowery last year...oh well!

That turned out to be just the start of my evening. After the show, met up with Wawa, Indie Twin Dave and Julie1 for a drink at Capone's (free pizza!) (Julie2 and Gina ditched us), and then headed to the East Village for Whitney's birthday. Hung there for a while and chatted with some very chill people, and then to Belmont to catch Fa spinning for the Trini crew who was in town for the weekend. Danced till about 4am to some nice reggae jams till my weary legs were about to snap. Amituofo!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Golden Smog @Bowery Ballroom, July 26th

Tonight after some fine dining at the Shake Shack with Wawa, Shana, Indie Twin Dave and Heather -- yummm yummmm! -- headed down to the Bowery Ballroom where we met up with Eddie to catch alt-country's finest supergroup, Golden Smog.

I caught them 2 years ago with Wawa at the very same venue and enjoyed them immensely despite the fact that I didn't know any of their songs aside from a few covers that were played. This go around, I listened to their new album "Another Fine Day" online so I had some better familiarity with the material.

While Wawa and I were stuck in the stairwell waiting to check in with the will call tickets person, the band walked right past us. Gary Louris almost brushed up against me, dare I say it. Once we got onto the floor, and caught the last half of the last song by the opener, I led the group up front. I knew this crowd would give me little resistance. Not your usual packed crowd of young hipsters at the Bowery. Loads of middle-aged folks, including this one dude with the worst combover in front of me. Eddie whispered Tobias of "Arrested Development" fame, but this guy was nowhere near as cool as David Cross. It was like if you ran into your junior high school science teacher at the supermarket during non-school hours. Well, anyway, he seemed to really dig the music, as he swayed back and forth, so that's cool with me!

What I love about Golden Smog is that it's a group of musicians, all accomplished in their own right, but they decided to get together and just have a blast, and it's evident in the way they played on stage. They started off admitting having not rehearsed a whole lot, and it took a little bit for them to get it going, but then it really started happening. Like I said, I did a little homework this time around, so I actually could sing along to some of the new songs. They also played some great covers, including "Starman" by Bowie and "Revolution Blues" by Neil Young.

A few guests jumped in at various songs. Jenny Muldaur (daughter of Maria, apparently!) guested on vocals for a handful of songs. Mike Mills of R.E.M. came onto the stage randomly to steal some beers, but eventually joined in for a song. For the last song, Craig Finn of the Hold Steady sang lead vocals on "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

All in all, an excellent night of great live music. I look forward to seeing Louris, Murphy & Co. again! And next time, Jeff Tweedy better show up! :)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Noir @Rose Live Music, July 21st

Last Friday met up with Hannah and John Sid at Rose Live Music, this great new bar in Williamsburg that features an eclectic concert calendar focused primarily on jazz and world music. Hannah invited a few of us from Temple to check out her friends, Noir, a jazz quartet lead by a trumpet backed by keyboard, electric bass and drums.

The venue was very intimate allowing us to see the band nicely, which I feel is important especially when it comes to jazz since there are generally no vocals or verbal communication. When I do catch jazz, I am always reminded of James Baldwin's excellent short story, "Sonny's Blues," which did a beautiful job of detailing the silent interactions during a jazz gig. There were about twenty people there to support this tight band, which played psychadelic/experimental/funk sounds for about an hour. All the band members were great, but I was particularly impressed by the guy on keys, who coaxed out so many interesting sounds. Between him and the trumpeter, they definitely more than made up for any absence of guitar.

Apparently Noir plays every Sunday at the Surf Bar in Williamsburg. Looks like I'll have to check them out again soon!

After Noir finished, John and I retired to the sidewalk in front of the bar. We chatted with one of the owners for a bit who mentioned that Meshell Ndegeocello stops in frequently. I'm thinking I'll be stopping in Williamsburg more frequently myself now, too.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Yo La Tengo @Prospect Park Bandshell, July 13th

Tonight, poor Ste was detained by work, so I ventured to Prospect Park late by myself to catch the amazing Yo La Tengo (go Jersey!). In 2001 they recorded an instrumental soundtrack for eight short undersea documentaries of Jean Painleve, entitled The Sounds Of Science, which was the subject of tonight's program.

I showed up as the sun was setting, so I knew I didn't have much time before YLT started. I used my handy dandy Friends pass to enter the pit and quickly searched for a seat. It was packed, I guess cos the front area of the pit, normally filled by about 3 rows, was taken up by the band's instruments and setup. Amazingly, the first unoccupied seat I found? Front center! Yeah, baby!

YLT came to the pit -- a threesome of middle aged, unassuming individuals -- James, Ira and Georgia (as pictured above). The films started up on the large white screen suspended above them, and they began.

The films were old school documentaries, with occasional English subtitles. Almost Zissou-esque, if you will. I didn't pay too much mind to the film, however. Friggin' Yo La Tengo was playing right in front of me, as if I were sitting on my couch, watching them in my living room. The music they played was completely without lyrics, and mostly ambient type noises you might imagine that would accompany marine imagery of seahorses, octopi and the ilk. Lots of quiet plinky noises with gentle drumming mainly by Georgia. But there were occasional moments of crazy dramatic feedback, and for those moments, I was especially thrilled to be seated RIGHT THERE. While Georgia primarily played the drums, James the bass and Ira the guitar and/or keyboards, they also played musical chairs with each taking a turn at some other instrument. Very cool!

Tonight was also a chance for me to play around with my old digital camera. I've had it for almost 4 years, and I don't think I've ever read the instructions or properly learned how to operate it in manual mode. Because the lighting for the band was minimal so as not to detract from the documentary (and I didn't want to be obnoxious with a flash), I had to fuss with the exposure and shutter speed settings, and rely on the light generated by the projection itself. Yeah, so I had no idea what I was doing, but luckily, some shots came out. Not easy!

I am happy that I pushed myself to go even though Ste couldn't make it. What a marvelous experience!

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Barrington Levy @Prospect Park Bandshell, July 7th

Tonight returned to Prospect Park to take advantage of my Friend membership to see Barrington Levy, reggae man extraordinaire.

It's time for bed -- I wanna Kung Fu in the morning....I'll have to write more later! Good night!

Friday, July 7, 2006

Belle & Sebastian @Battery Park, July 4th

Happy our nation's birthday everyone! Today was one of the lucky folks who grabbed a pair of tickets to the free Belle & Sebastian concert at Battery Park. It was the first time I ventured to this part of town for a concert, and the setting proved to be pretty nice. The stage was situated on a nice green lawn with trees scattered throughout, and a view of the Hudson River and New Jersey to the west. Because I got in line a little earlier and was soon thereafter joined by Julie1, we were able to lay down a blanket probably about 100 feet from the stage.

We were later joined by Julie1's sister Victoria and brother-in-law Chris, as well as Shana and Eddie. It was great being able to sit there and chitchat and people watch. Heng Min from Temple happened to be on the next blanket over -- amituofo!

Martha Wainwright opened. Sadly, none of us paid her any attention. I suppose she's not really a large venue kind of performer, but then again, when I saw her open for Golden Smog a few years ago at the Bowery Ballroom, she kinda wore on me then too. Oh well.

Happily, the organizers cut her set a little short -- but because they knew the rain was coming. Oh, and yes it did. After Martha finished, as though on cue, the skies opened up and poured on us. We quickly folded up our blankets and the six of us huddled under 3 umbrellas. So, needless to say, we got more than a little wet...

But it was one of those quick showers and I got to see Rad as well, and soon the sun came out again. And then came Belle & Sebastian. I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed seeing them for the first time in April at the Nokia Theater in Times Square. This time their performance was not as tight, but just as enjoyable. They seemed a bit more loose and relaxed, and the ever charming (and pretty gay but not gay) Stuart Murdoch was zanier and chattier than last time. They focused less on the most recent album and played a good mix across all their albums. As one of their encores, the lead guitarist even played a re-enactment of Jimi Hendrix's version of the Star Spangled Banner. Awesome!

After the fun concert, we met up with Andrea and Rebecca. I made a quick decision and invited everyone to my place since I'm a block away from the Promenade figuring it'd be perfect for viewing the fireworks. It was the 4th of July after all.

We all crammed into my little apartment, and Lisa, Julie2 and Gina even came by. I was so pleased -- I never thought I could fit so many bodies in my living room at one time! It was kinda cool hearing this mishmosh of people discuss how each person was connected to everyone else. We drank beers and ordered some pizzas and took advantage of the A/Cs my dad and Ste helped install last weekend.

Unfortunately, by the time we got our butts going, the Promenade was already filled to capacity, so we were DENIED!! I couldn't believe that I actually live a block away from the Promenade, and I couldn't enjoy it....ooops! So instead, we returned to my nicely chilled living room and watched the fireworks on TV, which also allowed us to catch the syrupy Nick Lachey and moldy oldie Lionel Ritchie. All Night Long, anyone?

As the fireworks show progressed, we could hear the actual ones blasting in the distance. We discovered that if you lie on my floor in a certain part of the room, and looked out of the window at a particular angle, you could actually see some of the tops of the fireworks above the buildings. Woo hoo! Hooray for ground floor apartments with a slight view!

We closed out the evening by watching Liza Minelli bang out her version of "New York, New York." Awesomeness!

Saturday, July 1, 2006

TV On The Radio @Prospect Park Bandshell, June 30th

Tonight headed over to the Prospect Park Bandshell for the free concert -- yay Brooklyn! I missed the opener, Voxtrot :( , since I didn't escape work soon enough, but made it in time for Matt Pond PA and then the headliner, TV On The Radio.

I am about to crash, so I'll write more are some pics for now:

Now it's later. So I missed Voxtrot (rats) but got to Prospect Park before the second act, Matt Pond, PA, started. I found Whitney and her friends chilling on a blanket on the lawn so I hung with them for a bit. As Matt Pond, PA started up, Whitney, her friend and I headed over to grab some beer. While we were waiting in the slow moving line, I spotted Kyp Malone just standing on the lawn, casually chatting with someone. Nice.

So after I bought my $7 Bud Light, I used my Celebrate Brooklyn Friends Pass which allowed me access to the pit up front. Yeah, did you know for a measily $50 donation, you can have a reserved seat in the pit for virtually all the shows at the amazing Prospect Park Bandshell all summer? In the past, I'd have to worry about getting to the park early enough for a good spot with a buddy who could watch my seat whenever I got up. Now, with my pass, I can pass to and fro since the seats in the pit were more than enough for those who had access. Totally worth it. Especially when for any one concert, I might spend $50 easily to be up front.

Matt Pond, PA was your typical average indie band. The crowd got mildly interested for their last song -- I think it was on the OC?

While I was psyched to be in the second row, I was feeling a little lonely, so I convinced Wawa to abandon the Indie Twins, Heather and Julie2 (and some other dude) and join me in the pit. I loaned him my pass so that he too could get the magic bracelet. Woo hoo!

We ended up grabbing two seats 2nd row center. This was the fourth time he and I caught TVOTR together (the third was a few months earlier at Bowery). I think I can safely say for both me and Wawa that it was utterly amazing this time around. The lead singer, Tunde, was so hyper I couldn't get a clear shot of him. He was a constant whir of motion and sang with so much emotion. The larger stage also allowed additional musicians including members of Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra and backup singers to join them on stage.

They played a nice mix of songs from their first cd as well as ones from their upcoming release. And from start to end, they did not let up with the frenetic level of energy. I didn't even mind the fact that they skipped "Staring at the Sun."

Seeing TVOTR so closeup gave me the high that I so love from live music. My $50 was definitely well spent, even if I don't end up seeing any other show this summer.

Afterwards, Wawa and I met up with the rest of the crew and headed down 9th Street to a bar. Drunken hijinks ensued. I won't mention specifics, other than Wawa, Stevie Nicks, Gypsy dance. That is all.

Joe Purdy @The Cutting Room, June 29th

Gonna make this a quickie, cos I am forever lacking in sleep....

Thursday night, after kung fu, headed uptown to meet up with Shana, Eddie & Co. at The Cutting Room, a nice little bar with small stage and tables set up cabaret style. Shana urged us to check out one of her favs, Joe Purdy, a singer-songwriter dude.

Before Joe hit the stage with his band, his opener was a solo singer-songwriter dude named Chris Pierce, who had a great voice and stage presence. He mentioned something about having a song featured on the soundtrack to "Crash" which was also used in Banana Republic commercials.

After Chris' set, Joe Purdy came on with a full band. The Cutting Room was a great spot to hear some music, especially if you lucked out like me and was able to grab a seat for the show (oh my weary kung fu legs).

Since I have yet to make up the night of sleep I missed during my redeye flight back from Cali, I was kinda sleepy during the entire night. So I will sum up Joe by saying he sounded like a less constipated Adam Duritz of Counting Crows. If you enjoy Sam Roberts or Ryan Adams, you might wanna check him out.

I unfortunately was due to turn into a pumpkin at midnight, so I left before the end of Joe's set. Hopefully I can check him out again before he becomes the next big thing. Shana believes strongly that Joe is about to hit it big, and I think he might have a chance...his music was featured in "Gray's Anatomy" after all! :)