Monday, July 30, 2007

Rock the Bells @Randall's Island, July 29th

What a crap day! I never, never ever want to go back to Randall's Island again. Please don't make me. I promise I'll be good from now on, okay?

Despite my somewhat decent interest in the lineup, the music couldn't save all during today's miserable excursion out to the mudhole that is Randall's Island. Heather and I met up with Wawa midway through Rakim's set, making it apparent that we had missed Mos Def and Talib Kweli, which was too bad because I had seen both individually before and not together potentially giving rise to some Black Star cuts. Oh well. Then we realized that Erykah Badu wasn't playing -- she probably said, Fuck this thunder and lightning shit, and got the hell out of dodge.

We decided to brave the building crowd and got into line one of the million times we queued up today to catch Cypress Hill's enjoyable if not challenging set. Wawa disappeared for most of their stuff on a quest for some food, so Heather and I were left alone to watch the crowd, which consisted mainly of roving bands of shirtless white men in their twenties with tribal tattoos either on their arms or calves. So, um, uh, why are we here?

Following Cypress Hill, vintage rappers Public Enemy played a tired, outta breath set in which the hits sounded like poorly karaoked versions of the tight originals. They did bring out Scott Ian of Anthrax for "Bring tha Noise" but fell short every where else. "Fight the Power" sounded uninspired to me. Flavor Flav spent more energy pimping his VH-1 shows than remembering the lyrics to "911 (is a Joke)." I decided it would be an appropriate time for me and Heather to grab some grub, as neither of us wanted to miss the next act, the Wu-Tang Clan.

Our ambitions proved fruitless, however, as we spent the next eternity on several lines (Damn them for running out of those mozzarrepas!) before ending up almost in another borough in finding a stall that actually served "food." And, nope, we didn't make it back to Wawa, opting to hang in the less crowded field where we scarfed down our lousy dinners and watched the Wu from screens above the fray. As far as we could tell, the Wu sounded solid, showing up Public Enemy in terms of tightness and excitement. I've always admired their ability to trade off verses seamlessly with so many at the mic. "Protect Ya Neck" sounded perfect. I had wanted to be up closer for the Wu, especially since RZA is a shaolin brother, and ya know, I like to support my kung fu mates, like John Sid and Billy, but oh well...

Anyway, Heather and I knew there was no way in hell we'd slip and slide our way back through the mud to find Wawa with the closer, Rage Against the Machine, coming up. We figured the crowd at that point would be ridiculous and completely stupid, so we coaxed him to find us after our Gilligan's Island type excursion. He was relieved that we hadn't been kidnapped.

So we ended up catching the entire RATM set from the comfort of the back field on the screens above, laughing hysterically anytime the cameras showed the knuckleheads in the moshpit surging back and forth. Yup, not upset we missed that element at all. They played the longest set of the day as headliners, pulling out the favorites as well. Strangely, a good number of the crowd trickled out during this last part of the hellish day, leading us to conclude that they couldn't handle the guitar genius of Tom Morello and were all indeed just a bunch of pussies.

I mean, I love RATM and all -- I actually have all of their cds and used to blast The Battle of Los Angeles while stuck in traffic when I was living in DC -- but god, there is a limit to what even Qbertplaya will do for a good concert. Sure, I was plenty angry at the wretched day and probably my worst concert experience ever, but not enough to channel that rage into a suicide mission into the crowd beyond the gates. I think I was more tempted by the competing sound of the familiar Mister Softee jingle chiming in the distance....

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sonic Youth @McCarren Pool, July 28th

Unlike a year ago, when I saw them in the same setting, co-headlining with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, today's concert at McCarren belonged solely to Sonic Youth. Their main objective -- to play their seminal album, Daydream Nation, in its entirety. (Julie1 and I opted to forgo the opener, The Slits, for some good Polish grub and a donut and coffee in Greenpoint.)

We met up with Ste and Lora, and we stood to the right of the soundboard, choosing to listen from afar in a less neck-craining posture. As soon as the opening notes of "Teen Age Riot" came out of the speakers, I don't know why, but I almost got weepy. The anticipation I felt was overwhelming a bit, and seeing this huge crowd come out for one of my favorite bands gave me chills. Usually you see a show, and you hope that a band will play certain selections, but this time, there was no surprise as to the setlist, obviously. What thrilled me was the opportunity to see Sonic fucking Youth play from beginning to end an album I still listen to regularly, despite it being nearly 20 years old! I mean, for crissake, Ronald Reagan was still in office, the Berlin Wall was still up, and all that other bullshit of the late '80s, yet the music of Daydream Nation still remains relevant as ever.

After about halfway through, Julie1 mentioned she was tiring of the crowd, and she considered moving back even more. I was also annoyed by constant prattle of a few in our area, and some tall doods parked in front of us. So I bade farewell to my pals and decided to weave my way closer to the front. I got to dead center about 20 feet from the stage and decided to soak it all in. The volume up front drowned out any would-be chit-chatters, and I seemed in a good pocket of fans who bopped their heads along to the music as I did.

After closing out the main set with "Eliminator, Jr." they returned to the stage to play a double encore featuring about half of the songs from their latest album, Rather Ripped. As Thurston Moore put it, they were returning to the 21st Century. Here is "What A Waste":

The performance of Daydream Nation was fantastic if you were familiar with the album as a whole. It is definitely one of those albums that doesn't necessarily feature a bunch of songs that can be taken individually. I could imagine if you were trying Sonic Youth for the first time, this would not have been the occasion. Steve Shelley was a beast on drums and kept the band rolling. I particularly enjoyed Lee Ranaldo on "Hey Joni." And lemme tell ya, Kim Gordon is a year older at 54 and still epitomizes beautiful and cool, and Thurston mustn't ever change his boyish haircut. I love how it flops around when he's shredding on the guitar.

The band ended in time for curfew at 9:58 -- Thurston mentioned the need for an anarchy ordinance. That would be sweet.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Is This is Mii?

Hii hii hii! (Mii Generator)

You got Simpson-ized!

Thanks to Hannah for the link.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The White Stripes @MSG, July 24th

I had been feeling cranky about the White Stripes in recent months; I missed out on their itty bitty Irving Plaza show, and forgot about their presale for pit tickets. I didn't feel like coughing up the steep $70 per ticket price to sit far away at the imposing Madison Square Garden, so I decided I'd take my chances and see if I could perhaps snag a last minute choice ticket. Then, I found out that Nick Cave's side project, Grinderman was slated to open, so that really motivated me to go. I ended up grabbing a very nice pair at cost on e-bay in Section 71, putting me right next to the stage in the Loge level. I convinced Wawa to accompany me, in spite of his reluctance to spend such money and concern that the audience would be similar to the last time we saw the Stripes at Keyspan, where the abundance of frat boy douchebags annoyed the fuck out of us. Would the show feel different where we'd be sitting on the side versus my usual spot of standing dead center in the front? Section 71 was awesome, providing a very excellent elevated view of the stage without the elbowing and stink of the crowd.

We arrived just in time for Grinderman. I had caught them the night before on Letterman singing "Honey Bee." They stuck to songs from Grinderman, which was fine, tho it would have been nice to hear Nick dip into some of his other stuff. I think the dark dramatic music of Grinderman would have been better suited to a smaller venue, where Nick's baritone wouldn't get so muddied in the soundmix, but nonetheless, it was thrilling to catch such an opener.

Now, as mentioned above, I did previously see the Stripes play at Keyspan two years ago (and I thought they were great, but the crowd sucked ass), and prior to that, at Roseland. I guess playing (and filling) MSG is a big milestone in any music act's career, and tonight was Meg and Jack's turn, and they filled it well. I knew them to be a stellar act and had great expectations for them tonight, and they were stupendous. For nearly two hours ending just before midnight, they held the crowd captive with a constant drive forward. (See the setlist here.) Everytime I see them, I think the same thing -- how do just two people on the stage manage to energize the crowd and get them going the way the White Stripes do? Fuckin' amazing!

The stage looked like a red playground, with different kinds of instruments set up and several microphones stationed all over. Jack ran around the stage in bringing us on his musical mystery tour and showed why he works hard for the money.

Here's a video of them performing "We're Gonna Be Friends":

I love the White Stripes without reservation, and they are never to be missed live.

Here's the last song of the evening, "Boll Weevil":


A funny side note. So, as a condition to Wawa coming tonight, I promised him I'd go with him to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in two weeks at Webster, even though I said to myself I'd never go to that sweatbox again in the summer months after seeing Sleater-Kinney and The Roots there last August and hating every drippy moment. After Grinderman finished their set, I spotted a tall lanky figure sit right in front of us and joked with Wawa that it was David Fricke of Rolling Stone, who I swear is stalking us because he seems to be at every show we're at, but instead, I realized it was actually Brian Chase of the YYYs, only because right next to him was Nick Zinner.

So yeah, like wow, 2/3s of the YYYs right there in front of us (with a dark-haired girl who looked like a stand-in for Karen O.). During the White Stripes' set, the guys sat the whole time, and sent an awful lot of text messages. I don't think I saw either of them clap once. Maybe they were taking notes on the competition....

I was pleased as punch, however, when sometime during the Stripes' set, who else should sit down in front of us, but none other than Nick Cave himself. And yes, he did clap, with his red right hand.

I did see someone else who might have been Moby (but who cares), and someone else I briefly thought was Michael Pitt (of Dawson's Creek fame), but it actually just turned out to be a chick who resembled him. Gnarly!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Last night, met up with Sucheela after work and caught a lovely little film, "Once," starring Glen Hansard of The Frames and Marketa Irglova, his bandmate in his side project, The Swell Season. It is a basic tale of boy meets girl and falls in love with her and can't have her, but the execution is by no means simple. While the dialogue is somewhat sparse (which may be a godsend given the accents of the Irish Hansard and Czech Irglova), through the use of beautiful music, they manage to tell a tale full of emotion, romance, friendship and longing without hitting you over the head with it.

The film reminded me a lot of a favorite film of mine, "Before Sunset," which focuses on two main characters as they rekindle or perhaps more accurately, find a new romance between each other while simply walking through the streets of Paris. There is little reliance on plot points. The movie just breathes. The tension between the two is palpable, and as the viewer, you find yourself rooting for certain things to happen.

I walked out of the theatre a wee bit melancholy for the main characters, admiring the restrained passion they felt for each other. Upon reflection, I also decided the movie suggests that sometimes people come into our lives for a short while, and however limited and brief their interactions with us may be, they cross paths with us for certain reasons, and it's important to keep our hearts and minds open for those beautiful moments. Hansard's character in the movie may have not gotten the girl in the end, but she helped push him forward and compelled him to make more beautiful music for the world to hear.

Hansard and Irglova and the rest of The Swell Season play songs from "Once" next week at the Blender Theater at Gramercy. I might have to dig up a ticket to this sold out show. I was supposed to have seen them opening for Damien Rice in December at the Beacon, but alas, work kept me. D'oh!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fuck Off, Moz!!!


Morrissey cancelled his postponed MSG date. Now I'm truly "Disappointed":

Our unsleepable friend
Gets the message on an ill wind
All your friends and your foes
Would rather die than have to touch you
To say the least: I'm truly disappointed

Truly, truly, truly, oh...
Drank too much
And I said too much
And there's nowhere to go - but down

Young boy - I wanna help you
See these lines ? : truly disappointed

Truly, truly, truly, oh...
Don't talk to me, no
About people who are nice
'cause I have spent my whole life
In ruins
Because of people who are nice
Oh, this world may lack style, I know
Each bud must blossom and grow, oh...

Young girl, one day you will be old
But the thing is, I love you now
Mmm ...

This is the last song I will ever sing (yeah!)
No: I've changed my mind again (aaw...)


And thank you.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Built To Spill / Cat Power @McCarren Pool, July 7th

Julie1 and I grabbed some ice cream cones with chocolate dip and then moseyed on up to the front of McCarren Pool quite easily for Cat Power. This was my third time seeing Chan Marshall, having previously seen her first at Town Hall over a year ago, and then five months ago at Hiro Ballroom. As we all know, seeing Cat Power can be a mixed bag; she can be brilliant, or just plain ol' infuriating. Today, Chan seemed to be all business. Gone were the prolonged moments of awkwardness and rambling and goofy storytelling. She spent hardly any time on banter. Perhaps it was the awareness that she was not the main act and was operating under a time constraint. Perhaps it was the summer sunlight flooding the stage. Perhaps it was the lack of intimacy in this concrete venue. Whatever the reason, Chan kept her cool and played a confident, polished set with her small backing band, the Dirty Delta Blues Band. She kept her nervous tics and hair chewing to a minimum. Happily, they barely touched her last album, The Greatest. While I love that album, one of my tops for 2006, (a) I felt nothing could top seeing her run through those songs with the Memphis Rhythm Band, and (b) I was ready to hear different songs. She sounded good this time around. Solid, if not dazzling.

Unfortunately, after Cat Power exited the stage, the assholes aka fratboys seemed to shove their way out of the woodwork for Built To Spill. I think they must have loaded up on beer during the Cat Power set. Looking around the Pool, it was interesting to see what a diverse fanbase Doug Martsch & Co. have. The fratboys were the most prominent, however, and they ended up right next to us. Julie1 and I debated whether to sacrifice our positioning and head for the back, but we decided to simply move away from them a little bit, which ended up being the right thing to do.

Coincidentally, this was also my third time seeing BTS -- last time was just over a year ago in San Francisco at Slim's during my trip out to the West Coast for Radiohead at Berkeley. While I thought BTS were quite brilliant at the small Slim's club show, their multiple guitar layering was perfect for an outdoor venue like McCarren. As I've noted before, the guys are low frills and all business about their music and demeanor. They moved through their songs swiftly, well, as swift as songs with long guitar jamming can be. Their performance was so good, it made Julie1 and me forget about the assholes who surrounded us.

Unfortunately, we missed the opener, Bob Mould, but seeing Cat Power followed by Built To Spill was definitely an interesting coupling that worked pretty well for me, much like last year when I saw Sonic Youth followed by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at McCarren. Cool beans.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The New Pornographers @Battery Park, July 4th

Just like last year's 4th of July celebration with Belle & Sebastian, I wanted this year to be another fun gathering of friends, food and fireworks. We were almost thirty people strong, mostly from two of my worlds, concerts and kung fu. A bunch of us got there earlier to secure some prime real estate in front of the stage, and we enjoyed a leisurely afternoon only slightly marred by rain.

This was my third time seeing The New Pornographers -- I saw them two years ago with The Sadies and Stars at Prospect Park, and last year at the Nokia Theater opening for Belle & Sebastian. They play solid power pop that is ideal for an outdoor crowd -- you needn't be hugely familiar with their accessible music to have a good time. They maintain an energy that is upbeat and reminds me of The Cars at times. I thought the sound where we were was a little muddy, but at least we had a great view of Carl Newman and Neko Case and their flaming red hair:



(Kathryn Calder kinda has red hair too, I think!)

The New Pornos entertained us with a good mix of the old -- a lot from their last smashing success, Twin Cinema -- and some new from their upcoming release, Challengers. I particularly liked "The Bleeding Heart Show" with its chorus of Hey Las.

After the show, we lost a few and then ambled our way to a bar for a stretch, and then headed to the FDR Drive for the fireworks spectacular. At that point, it was raining harder and we were feeling chilly, but it was all good times. Hooray!