Sunday, April 30, 2006

The French Kicks @Pratt, Apr. 28th

Friday after work, decided to head to the campus of Pratt Institute located in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood. They hosted a free outdoors concert with an assortment of indie rock bands including the headlining French Kicks, a band that has enjoyed moderate success in the New York scene. Unfortunately for me, the first act started around 4pm, so by the time I got to the main lawn on campus, it was nearly 8, so I was able to catch two songs by some other band, and then the French Kicks. Good thing it was free!

Andie and the Julies came and met me on the grass for this one. The setting was great. There's a large concrete area in front of the library that served the stage. I was easily able to grab a spot in the front center where I could sprawl out. It did get a little chilly as the sun set, but I was able to do some stretching and situps that would have made Shifu happy.

The French Kicks played for about 45 minutes. I was not totally familiar with their music, but they sounded akin to the Walkmen or Strokes. Same family, I guess. Good sound, but probably nothing I'll ever pay bucks to see as a headliner. If it were a smidgen warmer, it would have been perfect, lying there on the grass under the trees.

The four of us felt like infiltrators, being that the rest of the crowd was probably in the midst of studying for finals. A bunch of them danced in front of us in front of the band, like a scene straight out of the OC. I was just happy to get home before 11 -- I had kung fu the next morning, ya know!

Lang Lang @Carnegie Hall, Apr. 26th

For this past Christmas, I bought my Mom and me a pair of tickets to see Lang Lang, the former child prodigy pianist from China who's now 23. I decided to take the day off of work and make a whole Mom-Daughter day out of it. I was just asking for trouble, wasn't I?

Actually, the day went off without a hitch. I met Mom at Port Authority -- she took the bus in from Jersey, and for once, she did not puke after getting off of the bus. We headed downtown to Temple. I invited her to come see me train and to meet Shifu, now that kung fu is such an important part of my life.

I was a little nervous about bringing her. Kung fu is one of the few things in my life that I can say I have felt truly passionate about. So I was eager for her to check it out and perhaps understand why I love it so much. And happily I was able to introduce her to Shifu. They spoke a little bit in Mandarin, so I have no idea what they were saying, but hopefully she didn't say anything to embarass me too much. (She later told me she told him how all I talk about now is kung fu!) I think I was also a little nervous cos I felt that by bringing my mother, I was showing Shifu how much it all means to me...

...Sorry there, folks! I have drifted far from music!

So, after class, we had a nice lunch in the LES, went back to my apartment to chill a bit, then headed out for a fancy dinner near Carnegie Hall.

We got to our seats, which turned out to be in one of the boxes on the side, so it was kind of neat. There were 8 stools of varying heights in the box, and my mom and I had the two in the rear. We could move the stools for maximum view, so I could also move it near my Mom's. We also had a far, but decent view of the piano.

Lang Lang played a program comprised of favorites by Mozart, Chopin, Schumann, Rachmaninoff and Liszt. I was surprised to have even played a few of the Schumann (Scenes from Childhood). Hearing those songs made me think a lot of the 10 years I played piano when I was young, and how my Mom really pushed me to take lessons and practice. I used to be so annoyed that I had to devote so much time to piano, but now I understand that it really taught me things like to appreciate the arts and to develop a discipline that I'll always have as part of my life.

Lang Lang's performance was exciting -- he's known for really tearing up the keys and being superfast, but I don't think it knocked me out in terms of virtuosity. He played a version of "Hungarian Rhapsody" by Liszt that is always thrilling to hear, but he managed to lose me. As one of his encores, he played "Flight of the Bumblebee" even faster than it normally is. So, I was a little disappointed, but my Mom ate it all up, which is all that really matters!

I took her back to Port Authority and put her back on the bus to Jersey. A whole day with Mom, no blow ups, and I think she had a great time. An overall success, I dare say!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Scissor Sisters @Bowery Ballroom, Apr. 23rd

Met up with Julie2, Heather, Dani and a few others for the second night of the Scissor Sisters' run at the Bowery Ballroom. Apparently Cher was there the night before (if anyone cares) so I was slightly curious as to who we might spot tonight...

We headed in to catch a bit of DJ Tiga. He was...a DJ.

We got a little restless and finished our beers, so the girls decided to head back out to grab a smoke. Kinda neat that we did, cos we did get our celeb spotting for the evening. Karl Lagerfeld, in typical getup (although I did not see the fan he likes to carry), with a boy toy posse, hopped out of a party van and went for the side door. Weirdly, tho, tonight the guest door was switched with the normal people's door, so everyone got confused. Karl and Co. tried going to the newly designated "Ticketweb" door, but got bopped to the "Guest" door (which is the regular door). All very confusing, I know. We kinda felt like Karl should be able to enter whatever damn door he wanted to. Unless he did really buy his tickets off of Ticketweb, then I guess there is something to be said about following the rules...

Some guy stood with us in the smoker's section and was all chatty with us while this all went down with Karl. I couldn't tell if he was gay or not -- I do have the worst gaydar. i guess that's what being at a Scissor Sisters' show will do to ya. He claimed to have seen Anderson Cooper at the Bowery as well. Now there's something newsworthy, for once. (EDIT -- Apparently, Kylie Minogue was there too. Glad to hear she's recovered from the breast cancer.)

We headed back in and stood at the front to the right of the stage by the stairwell heading downstairs. It was the first time I had stood there; apparently, Heather, who is shorter, stands there all the time. You miss a lot of what happens on the stage, but you get to see the performers along the front of the stage really well. So we had a perfect view of Ana Matronic and Jake Shears as they whipped through their set. They started off with "Take Your Mama Out," which I love.

Scissor Sisters are a guilty pleasure. They are definitely high on the gayness factor, but not as uber-flaming as Erasure, probably cos of Ana Matronic's charming ways. She went off a few times on New York City's cabaret dancing laws, questioning whether we were living in the movie "Footloose" and demanding that we boogie our butts off. And as far as I could tell, the crowd did dance up a storm. They played some off of their fun debut album and also a bunch of new tracks coming out soon.

It was a nice tight set of about 75 minutes. After they finished, we headed back out onto the sidewalk, only to spot Karl Lagerfeld again. Awesome!

Wilco @Starland Ballroom, Apr. 21st

This time, did a "road trip" to Sayreville, NJ, (home of Bon Jovi, yeahhhh!) for a sold out Wilco show. Hopped in Wawa's car with the Indie Twins for the little over an hour drive. While heading towards the Lincoln Tunnel, Stacey told us how she had to come up with car related songs for her job (she's at VH-1) and so Ministry's "Jesus Built My Hotrod" came up. Amazingly enough, it was one of my songs on my iPod -- I guess that's what having a 10,000 song capacity will do for ya. I don't think I had listened to that song since it was big in the early '90s. Stacey and I dug it over Wawa's car speakers. I don't think he was too pleased, so he made us listen to some Cheap Trick live album. Ugh!

After a pleasant dinner at what seemed to be the one sit down restaurant in the area -- Bella Napoli, check it out! -- we missed the opener and headed to Starland. The only other time I went there, it was pleasant. I caught Ryan Adams there with the Britta and the floor was loosely packed. I was left with the impression that it was easier to weave to the front in Jersey cos maybe they don't care as much. But when we got to the Wilco gig, it was immediately apparent that it was packed. And packed with meat heads. Hipsters were the minority here. There was no weaving through the crowd for this one. So we settled for a spot to the right of the sound board, with some view of the band. Julie1 and her sister and bro-in-law showed up too, but there was no standing with them.

Wilco hit the stage around 10:15, I think. I love Wilco and always will, but soon we concluded that perhaps it is time for them to go back into the studio and record new stuff. They played a lot off of their last album, A Ghost Is Born, and a few cuts off of Being There and Summerteeth, and the requisite "I'm The Man Who Loves You" and "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart." They sounded fine, but I think they too are probably tired of touring.

At points during the performance, Jeff Tweedy addressed the crowd and seemed kinda annoyed with the boozers and frat boy atmosphere. He even asked some people to "stop being a dick." People laughed, but I think he was 100 percent serious. I saw him last November at the free solo show he did at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. He was much more mellow and chatty then. This time, although they sounded fine, it felt like they were going through the motions a little bit.

They finished their main set and did two encores of 3 songs each. We didn't stick around to the end, tho. Wawa had spotted the setlist from where he was and then convinced us to ditch the standards "Heavy Metal Drummer," "War on War" and "Late Greats" so we could get a jump on traffic before the one lane got all jammed up. It felt as if we were leaving Yankees Stadium with only 1 out left in the top of the 9th, and the Yanks were up by 5...maybe cos that was as soon as we got in the car, Wawa had to listen to WFAN to get the latest MLB scores...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

TV On The Radio @Bowery Ballroom, Apr. 18th

Tonight met up with Wawa and the Indie Twins at the Bowery for TV On The Radio's sold out gig. This was my third time catching TVOTR. The first time I saw them in January 2005 opening for George Clinton at B.A.M. Unfortunately, they only played an abbreviated 30 minute set, and I was sitting in the nosebleeds. Then, last October, I caught them opening for Franz Ferdinand at the Theater at MSG. While I normally dig getting tickets as close as possible (we had GA Pit tickets up front), the sound mix where we were standing during the MSG show was so bad -- the bass dominated their entire performance. So I was really looking forward to tonight's show, at my favorite NYC venue.

And they did not disappoint. They played a nice tight set for about 70 minutes, and they were brilliant. They played a good mix of old and new tracks. I cannot wait for their new album to come out. The sound mix was great since we were about 2/3s of the way back from stage, in front of the bar. I could see everything I needed to, and I could hear everything just fine. Also our positioning afforded a nice view of David Bowie lurking in the balcony. We all knew he'd be there, but it really is a thrill to see him occasionally checking out what's new in the indie rock world. And the length of the show was perfect for a late night gig, especially for my weary post-kung fu class legs.

Stacey and I were so excited by the show, we cut out during the intermission to grab t-shirts at the merch table. Unfortunately, "Staring at the Sun," which is one of my favorite tracks from their last album, started up before we could head back upstairs, but one of their roadies was "helping" with the singing, so I was not totally missing anything great...

It was certainly one of the more diverse crowds I had ever seen at Bowery. Wawa told me that he'd be catching TVOTR later this summer at Jones Beach opening up for Bauhaus and Nine Inch Nails. Now, that'll be interesting, I'm sure...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Chris & Rich Robinson @Town Hall, Apr. 15th

Tonight met up with Wawa again for the Robinson Brothers' last of a three night stand in New York for their acoustic tour. I don't have much to say different from my review of their gig the night before. I was sleepier for this one -- drinking pitchers of sangria with my kung fu classmates was probably not the best idea, but the day was gorgeous, so we had to celebrate it somehow...

The Crowes again played a great set of songs, including a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Wreck on the Highway." I think I only heard maybe only 3 or 4 of the same songs from the night before, including their first original hit "She Talks to Angels" which I don't care how trite it is -- it's gorgeous. At one point, a dog ran across the stage!

An interesting moment -- some idiot yelled for them to play "Freebird" by Lynryd Skynyrd. I never understand why that continues to be a funny joke, no matter who we're seeing. Wawa and I caught Ben Folds (at the same venue, coincidentally) and he actually tried playing a few bars with improvised lyrics. But I would think the Crowes' fans would be particularly sensitive to the Crowes often being described as being derivative of big 70s southern rock bands like Skynyrd. Chris Robinson actually voiced his annoyance but in a completely smooth way. He said something to the effect of "If you actually expect to hear that song, you're at the wrong fucking concert!" Amen!

Wawa was in his element tonight. While I was more than happy to be sitting, I was a little sad that I couldn't see Wawa rock out completely, jumping around like the nut he can be. But he did his best while sitting. And after the show, as we passed the sound board, I saw the sound guy looking over the setlist. I said, "hey, can I have that?" and he handed it over to me no problem. Wawa had already headed out, so when I met up with him on the sidewalk, I handed him the setlist. I mean, what am I gonna do with a list of Black Crowes songs that I don't even know? He was psyched -- I think he's gonna frame his two setlists. Hehehehe....

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah @Bowery Ballroom, Apr. 14th

Ok, so I went to see the Robinson Brothers play Friday night. I also went to see Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at the Bowery Ballroom later that same night. I figured, what the hell, tickets became suddenly available on Ticketweb that afternoon, and I had to head south on my way back to Brooklyn anyway...

I missed the two openers, but got to Bowery plenty of time before CYHSY was slated to hit the stage. I met up with Julie2 and her friends Natalie and Gina. The floor was packed but we found some room on the left side of the floor. We soon discovered why -- someone was cutting the cheese mighty bad. was so stinky we started worrying about whether s/he would make it to the bathroom in time. Ugh.

As if that weren't a good enough indicator of the crowd, we also ran into a couple locked in an embrace. What made this groping pair particularly noteable was that they wore matching homemade tied dyed t-shirts. Say what?

So in the stinky spot on the floor, I had also had another couple in front of me. They seemed to be on date 2 or 3. They chatted throughout the entire show, so their bobbing heads kept getting in my way -- grrr. And behind us were a bunch of loud drunk frat boy types who repeatedly cracked themselves up by yelling "YEAHHHHH!!!" as they loudly clapped their hands. And strangely, they knew a lot of the lyrics, and you wanna know how I know? Cos they were fucking loud.

But all those annoying people aside, CYHSY were amazing. The Britta and I caught them last summer at a free show at South Street Seaport, where there were a lot of annoying drunk Wall Street types (perhaps former drunk frat boy types?). So I knew they would be good.

I hadn't really listened to their album since last summer, so to hear all those songs performed again live was so exciting. Alex Ounsworth, the lead singer, has got a strange voice that has been compared to David Byrne. In my opinion, he kinda yodels. He sounded good. Seeing the band play together as they built their wall of sound reminded me of the time I caught Arcade Fire. Just listening to their respective debut albums doesn't do them justice. They both have great cds, but both put on live performances that are worth standing amongst the dregs of society.

CYHSY have a simple set up -- your basic drums, bass, guitar(s), keyboard(s). Their five members managed to build a sound so big it reminded me of Broken Social Scene, which needed like 15 people on stage. Most of their songs have an upbeat tempo, some kinda bouncy. I hope their next album explores other moods as well.

So, yeah, I don't know what possessed me to do two gigs in one night, but I really enjoyed the music of both. And I was happy to hang out with Julie2 some more and meet her friends. After CYHSY were done, Julie2, Natalie and I went to Epistrophy for a drink. They're both into seeing gigs more of the $10-12 variety -- meaning more obscure bands -- so I hope to join them for those soon.

Chris & Rich Robinson @The Rose Theater, Apr. 14th

Chris and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes announced a few months ago that they would be doing an acoustic tour and they decided to kick off the tour with three consecutive dates in New York City. Wawa went to the first night at Warsaw in Greenpoint and raved about how amazing it was. We already had a pair to the third night at Town Hall in midtown, and he had a single to the second night. On a whim, I checked the Lincoln Center website, and to our amazement, a sweet pair 11th row center was available. So just after midnight on Friday, I suddenly found myself with plans for that evening.

I would not call myself a fan of the Black Crowes. In fact, I can't say that I've ever bought any of their albums -- not even their greatest hits compilation. I do recognize, however, that they have an amazing catalogue of songs and play good, solid rock with excellent 70s influence. Chris Robinson has a wonderful voice and is a charismatic leader. His brother Rich sings well, too, but his talent lies in guitar playing. And Wawa, who follows them to a certain degree, tells me that they change up their setlists for every show, which seems like a rarity nowadays.

Last year, I also caught the Crowes as a full band at Hammerstein. It was a night of great music as well. Being at Hammerstein, however, it presented a very different atmosphere than the Rose Theater. The Hammerstein was general admission standing, and the crowd was full of beer and the air full of pot smoke. The Rose Theater, which is part of Lincoln Center at the newish Time Warner Center, is a beautiful venue, with excellent acoustics, and it seemed intimate and civilized. No weed or booze action there. We were assisted by no less than 3 ushers.

Luckily, our seats were right in front of the sound board, which meant that our positioning for the sound was probably optimal. Since we got there early, Wawa was also able to ask the sound guy for his setlist before the show even started. I think he was pretty psyched for that alone.

The concert was marvelous. The brothers played about 20 songs, joined for about 2/3s by their bassist, Sven. They even played a song by Devendra Banhart. Seeing them opened my eyes -- I didn't realize that Chris played the guitar (and pretty well) and that Rich could sing lead every once in a while. I didn't know most of the songs, but that's why I will go see the Crowes even without being a fan. Their songs are beautiful and rich-sounding, and Chris puts great emotion into his singing. His voice was a little shot on the high soft notes, but otherwise, he really reached the audience, despite sitting in a chair the entire evening. He also provided some funny but not overbearing banter.

It was a great concert to go to, again, thanks to my ticket karma. I now look forward to seeing them on Saturday as well.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Neko Case @Webster Hall, Apr. 7th

Met up with Shana and her friend Andie for this one. We got to Webster Hall early to procure our seats on the beautiful platforms along stage left. God, I think I would have to leave if I ever had to actually stand in the middle of the floor at Webster again...

Tonight's opener were the High Dials. A band from Montreal -- Canadians again -- surprise! I texted Amanda if she had heard of them, and of course, she did. They were groovy. I was reminded of late 60s/early 70s psychedelic rock, and bits of the later Beatles, especially when they brought a sitar player onto the stage. Well, I assume it was a sitar, but I'm not really up on my Indian instruments. Could have been a tabla for all I knew... Anyway, I made sure to pick up their latest cd.

I think if I just go to enough gigs and buy cds at the merch tables like I have been recently, then I'll never have to set foot in Virgin Megastore or Tower Records ever again!

Neko Case played after the High Dials for probably a good hour and a half. She had a great backup singer who harmonized very nicely, a standing bass (which I always love), and an awesome musican who played banjo and pedal steel guitar. When I saw the New Pornographers last month, I was a little sad when I found out that Neko wouldn't be joining them, but seeing her solo was very satisfying. She dips into the country, which is not really my thing, but she has a nice powerful, throaty voice that is not annoying like your typical country crap that's on top 40 nowadays.
She and her bandmates had great banter going on too. It was a nice show to cap off my 7 gigs in 13 days run. I was pretty beat by the end. Thank God for the platforms!

After the show, we walked up to Union Square and caught the 4 train downtown. I was happy to discover that Andie lives in Cobble Hill not too far from me. She enjoys going to gigs too. I think I now have someone to check out Southpaw with! Awesome!

The Stills @Mercury Lounge, Apr. 5th

Tonight, caught another in a recent wave of Canadians taking over the indie rock world. Met up with Julie1 and Wawa at the wonderfully small Mercury Lounge for a night featuring the Stills, who are touring a few small venues in advance of their 2nd album coming out soon. I had not seen them before, and enjoyed their first cd a lot.

On my all-knowing indie guide Amanda's recommendation, we got there early enough to catch the Sam Roberts Band. Sam is another Canadian with scruffy hair and scruffy beard and hipster Puma sneakers, so I was skeptical, but he and his band played some awesome rock. His sound reminded me a bit of Ryan Adams when he gets into those long jam segments of certain songs. I went after the evening to grab a cd but sadly the merch table had packed up already. I look forward to seeing Sam Roberts again, or at least buying a cd of his...

The Stills played a nice mix of new and old. The crowd went nuts any time they played a cut from the first album. I was particularly psyched to hear "Lola." The two lead singers of the Stills seemed like two goofy Canadians. It was also the first time in a long time that I bothered packing my camera, so I spent a good amount of time just fiddling with my camera and trying to get a few good shots. I think I'm leaning more and more towards leaving the camera at home. Overall, the Stills were great, but I think Julie1, Wawa and I agreed that Sam Roberts blew us away, so anybody following him had a lot to play up to.

Because we got to the Merc early for Sam Roberts we were able to get right up front center, happily, but between Sam Roberts and the Stills, I definitely lost several hearing cells. My ears still had that cloudy feeling the next morning when I got out of my bed.