Saturday, June 30, 2007

Hold Onto Your Friends

(I was supposed to see Morrissey tonight at MSG but he postponed the show due to illness. And yeah, that's my ticket stub.)

I was in Boston for a program during the Summer of '91 just before my senior year of high school, at the tail end of being sixteen, clumsy and shy.... Mer was in New York and suggested I head on down for Moz at MSG. So I snuck out of my dorm and grabbed the Greyhound from South Station and after a five hour trip, met up with her at Port Authority. We hung out in her room for a few hours, dyed our hair with some Manic Panic (hers purple, mine orange) and glided over to MSG for our true love.

Moz was on this tour to support Kill Uncle, his follow-up album to his solo debut Viva Hate (I'm not counting his collection of singles, Bona Drag). He played a great setlist that evening, July 13, 1991:

Interesting Drug
The Last Of The Famous International Playboys
Piccadilly Palare
Sing Your Life
King Leer
Asian Rut
Mute Witness
Everyday Is Like Sunday
November Spawned A Monster
Will Never Marry
There's A Place In Hell For Me And My Friends
That's Entertainment
Our Frank
Angel, Angel, Down We Go Together
/Yes I Am Blind
/Alsatian Cousin

Mer had pulled good tickets for us. We were on the floor, 18th row, and once we stood on our folding chairs, we could see the Mozster just great.

After that little adventure, Mer and I scowled through senior year of high school in suburban hell together. We graduated, and I went back to Boston for college and she to the City for art school. We wrote some letters that freshman year, but in the olden days before email and free long distance were standard (and you can forget about IM!), we immersed ourselves in our respective lives and quickly lost touch. It was not until about five years later, when our younger brothers ended up in the same high school homeroom and talked to each other briefly did I hear that Mer had died of an OD sometime during undergrad.


Over Memorial Day weekend, I was at my parents' home in Jersey digging through my shit, hoping to find my old Moz Kill Uncle tour t-shirt so I might wear it to the upcoming show. Turns out Mom had thrown it out along with my other old concert tees a while ago -- grrrr! Instead, I did find my old yearbook and flipped through it. Mer had written one of those long two page inscriptions that only your best friends would spend time doing. None of that "Have a great summer, be cool, you rule" crap. She wrote a lot for me to remember and think about -- much of still rings true for me today...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wilco @Warsaw, June 26th

"Curfews are for suckers," Jeff Tweedy said with glee, once he addressed the crowd well into the set. Wilco impressed me last night at Hammerstein, but tonight for my inaugural visit to Warsaw in Brooklyn, NY (and yes, I had some pierogies and kielbasa), they made it extra special, playing a solid two hour and fifteen minute set chock full o' oldies, opening and closing with songs from Being There ("Sunken Treasure" and "Outta Mind (Outta Sight)"). They also played "Why Would You Wanna Live" from the same album, and "Hoodoo Voodoo" from Mermaid Avenue!

For those keeping score at home, they started at 9:22 and stopped at 11:37. They played 12 songs in this set that were not heard on Monday at Hammerstein. Over the two nights, they played all of their latest album, Sky Blue Sky, except for one track (no "What Light"), and almost all of their beloved Yankee Foxtrot Hotel, and a majority of their previous A Ghost is Born.

The crowd for Warsaw seemed to possess more energy and enthusiasm than the audience for Hammerstein, despite being only a fourth in size. Whether you were quick enough to get your ticket through the Wilco presale (as I did), or by waiting for hours in line at the box office, or by paying a scalper loads of money, you were there probably because you really, really wanted to be, and it showed. We were sweating like dogs but nobody cared.

Julie1 and I even got to witness a classic Wawa spazz out moment during "Pot Kettle Black." Holy Christ, this show was good.

Here are some pics on my Flickr.






Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wilco @Hammerstein Ballroom, June 25th

Welcome back, Wilco! Good to see you again, especially after that kinda tired show last year in Jersey. I love your new album, Sky Blue Sky, and have been listening to it non-stop. I enjoyed every second of your two hour set, which included a bunch of older songs like "I'm Always in Love" and a seizure-inducing "Via Chicago" from Summerteeth. I was happy to see Jeff doing his goofy dance again to "Hummingbird" and Nels and Jeff playing patty cake. I was especially psyched to hear the opening chords to "Impossible Germany" when you returned to the stage for the first encore.

Sure, there are always tracks I would have liked instead, but you put on a pretty rockin' show tonight. I am excited to see you tomorrow night at Warsaw.


PS -- Nels is a monster on guitar.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn @Sol, June 24th

Last night, went with SoCo to catch my kung fu mate Billy's band, The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn, fresh off their win on The Morning Show's Subway Idol competition. While I've dragged SoCo to a few gigs now, this marked the first time we were doing something in his territory -- a swing dance gig, sponsored by Swing Remix.

Although, I was excited to see Billy and the Vipers in a proper gig setting (the prior times being on the street), I was nervous about the occasion -- a swing dance lesson followed by a few hours of swing dancing. SoCo has been swing dancing for a long time, but I had never even dabbled. Sure, I bought me some Brian Setzer and Cherry Poppin' Daddies when they were hip in the late '90s, but I have always regarded myself as having two left feet. But now that I've been doing the Fu for almost a year and a half now, I've learned to be less self-conscious while moving my body and not worry about looking like a fool. The name of the game is learning and having fun, and I was sure I could do that!

After a fun 1/2 hour lesson during which we kept rotating partners and learned some basic moves, Billy and the Vipers then hit the stage and kept the crowd lively. They played a good mix of slower tunes (well, definitely good for me, anyway) and really fast ones for which even SoCo decided we oughta sit out.

When we first got on the dance floor, I did manage to kick one woman accidentally -- too much chi! -- which made me feel oafish and iffy for a short while, but after an apology, we moved on and focused on workin' it. SoCo was a masterful leader, and I had a blast dancing away the evening with him. Also, it was reassuring to hear Billy's familiar voice and giggle while I stumbled around like a lunatic. I enjoyed watching the other dancers and wondered about the subculture that probably exists amongst them, like in any small group, like of my beloved Kung Fu Dorks or fellow concert addicts.

I had a great time. I dunno if I ever would have tried something like last night without the guiding hand of SoCo (and the friendly face of Billy), but I'm glad I did, and look forward to the next dance, when I hopefully won't take down any other people.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Branford Marsalis / Joshua Redman @Town Hall, June 20th

Every once in a while, I take a break from the indie rock 'n roll lifestyle and slow down for a nice evening with Mom, like I did last year when I took her to see Lang Lang at Carnegie Hall. Last night, met up with her after work for her delayed Mom's Day gift -- a fancy dinner at DB Bistro Moderne, followed by some jazz at Town Hall featuring two saxophone greats, Branford Marsalis and my long-term love, Joshua Redman.

I was obsessed with Joshua Redman back in my early twenties. I went through a real jazz phase during my college years during which I collected many of the dead greats, so it was refreshing to catch someone only a few years older than me playing with such a dynamic vibe, and not in that cheesy smooth jazz kind of way. And because of his collaborations, I've branched off and also followed the music of the likes of Christian McBride and Brad Mehldau.

I've seen him in a variety of venues over the years -- the most memorable being the teeny tiny Blues Alley in DC. I was so miserable in my first year of law school that Fall of 1996, I went solo to this spendy jazz club to cheer myself up, and ended up talking to Joshua after the set. He was really friendly and appreciated the drink I bought him at the bar. I dug him so much that I had him autograph my copy of his CD at the time. Yes, uber-dork!

Anyway, the last time I saw Joshua in concert was in Spring of 2001, again with Mom, and I pretty much stopped following him shortly thereafter for no good reason. Mom and I have occasionally ventured to a jazz gig together over the years, including a fun weekend at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2004, but we never caught up with Joshua again, till last night. When I saw a few months ago that Joshua Redman would be opening for Branford Marsalis as part of the JVC Jazz Fest, I pounced on tickets when they went on sale, and grabbed a very nice pair in the 4th row.

For this latest iteration of Joshua Redman, he is working as a trio, with the excellent Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. It was wonderful seeing them nice and close and in a relaxed format, where I didn't have to worry about the elements or a waitress pestering me for a two drink minimum. His set lasted about 50 minutes, and focused on cuts from his latest release, Back East, including a beautiful eastern, almost gypsy-esque song called "Zarafah" dedicated to his mother. I particularly dug the Theolonius Monk cover "Trinkle Tinkle."

Next up, Branford Marsalis. Maybe because I've been spoiled by the last two times I went to Town Hall (for Bright Eyes and for Feist) during which I sat in the front row, I felt compelled to improve our seating. When I passed by the ticket scalpers before the show, I noticed they were hawking tons of front row seats. And surprise, surprise, many of them remained unoccupied, so I seized upon the opportunity and moved us up front. Mom was skeptical and afraid we'd be busted, but she doesn't know she's got Qbertplaya for a daughter.

Branford expanded upon Joshua's trio format with the addition of a piano, which lended itself quite nicely to the other Thelonius cover of the evening. He is a skillful bandleader, often dropping downstage to allow his bandmates to do their thang. I especially liked sitting in front of Jeff "Tain" Watts, who is a powerful drummer.

Branford and his mates finished after about 75 minutes. I still preferred Joshua's ability to let loose, but overall a great show. Mom appreciated the present, and I bet she understands now a little better about what it is to be a Qbertplaya.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Franz Ferdinand @Bowery Ballroom, June 13th

It's starting to become a ridiculous, sick and twisted game...take (insert name of favorite indie band here) and have them play a "secret" show at (insert name of small venue holding less than 1,000), and chances are, I'll be there. Last week, it was Interpol at the Bowery Ballroom; next week, I'm gonna have to find a way to get my paws on a White Stripes at Irving ticket; then the following week, I'll be at Wilco at Warsaw.

Well, tonight, it was Franz Ferdinand at the Bowery (again), and the bouncer waived me through without looking at my ID (again), and I ran into the usual suspects including the Music Sluts, Heather, Julie2, and Wawa (again), but this time I brought SoCo along for the ride.

Despite all the redundancy, you'd think I'd be bored (*yawn*) with a gig like tonight's Franz show, but they popped the cork on the champagne for this gig. This was my fourth time seeing these Scottish laddies, and certainly the most intimate time. In the past, I quite enjoyed the throbbing masses especially during their biggest hit, "Take Me Out," when you could feel the floor vibrate with all the bouncing, but tonight's venue lended itself quite nicely for the task at hand -- charm the crowd with reminders of past gems, while launching a good handful of new tunes that are forthcoming.

While we still went nuts for "Take Me Out," "Jacqueline," "Michael," "Walk Away," "40'" and so on, we also were able to appreciate the new stuff, which I quite liked. SoCo declared it a good heaping of Gary Numan, prolly due to the increased presence of keys/synth. One of the songs featured a thumping on the synth that reminded me of "Laura" by the Scissor Sisters.

The best part about seeing Franz at Bowery is being able to see the little teasing gestures done by lead singer, Alex Kapranos. Even his eyebrows would twitch in an enticing manner. He exhibits an effortless rakish charm that balances well with the straightforwardness of the bassist, Bob Hardy, who still has such a sweet babyface, even with the bearded scruff. I remember loving Hardy back when I saw them the first time at Roseland in September of 2004. He is all business up on stage, but his bass line is crucial to Franz's sound.

I was not so thrilled with the crowd this time (some people should be banned from 'dancing'), but you take what you can get. At some point, I'll have to draw the line and just say no to yet another secret show, but you can't really take heroin and put it in front of the junkie and expect him to say no thanks, now can you...

(Another bunch of scalawags from Scotland)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Feist @Town Hall, June 11th

Less than two weeks ago, I sat in the front row of Town Hall for Bright Eyes, and tonight I had the privilege of sitting in nearly the same spot for the lovely Leslie Feist. I knew it was gonna be a magical night even before we entered the building; SoCo wanted to see if he could get a last minute ticket even if it meant we'd be sitting apart, and luckily, a wonderful woman gave us her extra press ticket in Row M for free. Even the scalpers were in awe of our ticket karma.

Before Feist & Co. came on, the trippy harmonious Grizzly Bear opened. I was eager to catch these funny boys from Brooklyn who've been deemed
buzz-worthy by the blogs. Plain and simple, they're weird -- I thought of the Beach Boys on downers and acid -- but beautiful to hear. SoCo, who managed to sit up front with me for a stretch, didn't get into them until a few songs in, but dug them in the end. Here's a clip of their song, "Lullabye":

A funny aside -- the guy who sat next to me told me how before the show he went to buy a Grizzly Bear t-shirt at the merch table and realized that it was the guys from the band. He asked them what they were doing sitting at the table, selling their own stuff, and they said they wanted to see if anyone recognized them, and that he had been the only one so far. Hee hee!

Feist came on around 9:20 and played for about an hour and a half; her set focused mainly on her latest brilliant release, The Reminder, though she did dip slightly into Let It Die. Here she is performing "I Feel It All":

A nice surprise was when she was joined on stage by her beau, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene who accompanied her on piano for a song. She also played a rockin' version of "Mushaboom":

Feist really wowed me with her live performance. She seemed really comfortable and loose and joked all night long. Not only does her music exhibit so many different influences, but she is adept at playing them well. She can coo with the best of them as well as thrash and get a whole crowd foot-stomping. She reminded me of when I saw Cat Power at Town Hall almost exactly a year ago, perhaps because they are both similar in looks and have voices to die for, but with Feist there was no fear of things spinning out of control; instead, we bopped along and clapped and had an all out good time.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Saturday Nite Fever

I met up with Andie and Julie1 in the evening at the Delancey for The Music Slut's 2nd Anniversary Party. The girls and I sat in the back corner and chilled over some drinks and caught up on our respective lives. Andie had some thrilling news to share -- she's a librarian at the new Mulberry Street Branch of the New York Public Library, and while she was manning the front desk recently, guess which prominent resident of the neighborhood came in and filled out a library card application? None other than the Thin White Duke himself, Mr. David Bowie! Tee hee!

After we had been chatting for a bit, Music Slut Matt came over to say hi and revealed that he was in a slight panic over the fact that the next band up -- The Gaskets -- were experiencing technical difficulties. More specifically, only the duo's lead singer had showed up, and no one could locate his bandmate, the musician. Rut-row! So Plan B kicked in -- the singer got on stage and sang over their album playing on Matt's laptop, while a few partygoers who knew the words sang back up. As weird as it seemed, it was hysterical and it worked. It was like Ashley Simpson on SNL, but without the blips! The lead singer, who had fantastic energy, was very good natured about it, commenting that the music probably sounded better this way anyway. Those on stage had a great time, and I think the audience did too. We loved cheering on Matt & friends.

The girls and I then headed north through the Lower East Side to the Mercury Lounge to catch The Spinto Band, a band that Julie1 and I had dug a few years ago during some showcase at Rothko. It was fairly easy to maneuver up to the front of the itty bitty Mercury, especially when one has four beers worth of liquid courage. We missed all of their openers, but for once, the entire night was not about the music; it was about being with my girls and having a good time. We enjoyed the energy of this band too although I didn't pay too much mind to lyrics or what was going on. I just immersed myself in my general sense of total satisfaction that it was turning out to be a kick ass weekend...(yes, even with that whack job of a Sopranos finale).

(Shitty camera phone picture)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Interpol @Bowery Ballroom, June 5th

Okay, should I be embarassed when the bouncer of the Bowery Ballroom is checking people's IDs, and he waives me through because he says he sees me all the time?! So what if I was there less than a week ago. As I've stated before, the sound system generally rules at the Bowery, and I expected no less for this secret way sold-out Interpol show.

I had seen Interpol on three prior occasions: November 2004 at Hammerstein, March 2005 at Radio City (4th row pit, baby!), and at Jones Beach opening for the Pixies in June 2005. All three times were to support their last album, Antics, and by the third time, the boys seemed pretty fatigued. It could have been the abundance of sunlight during their set, or the abundance of vodka in my body, or my impatience for the Pixies, but I found they had lost their edge a bit.

I salivated at the thought of seeing Interpol in my favorite venue. In anticipation of tonight's show, I listened to their first two albums on my iPod on repeat for the last few days for the first time in about two years and caught the lead single off their upcoming one -- "The Heinrich Maneuver" -- on their website. Despite people's inclination to write off anything that has become popular, Interpol's music still remains excellent to me. And the boys did please the packed house. They teased us with the debut of only three new songs (including the aforementioned single) in a setlist packed with favorite oldies. Perhaps the one negative of focusing on favorites is it encourages people to sing along loudly and that can be fun and all, but some people, well, really ought to leave it to Paul Banks.

Oh, by the way, I spent most of the show watching Carlos D. playing the bass. He's pretty fuckin' fantastic despite being a Smokey McSmokerson! And his mustache could definitely kick the ass of the mustache on Brandon Flowers!

Overall, a good, solid show. I will probably buy the new cd when it comes out, but will I feel a huge need to see Interpol again in a larger venue? Probably not.

PS -- Everyone came out for this one. Met up with Wawa, both Julies, Gina, the Indie Twins, a bunch of friends of friends, and Music Slut Matt, who's got the setlist and some nice pics on his site.