It’s a sad day when people younger than you are getting critical acclaim before you are. Or after you…but maybe you haven’t gotten any in a long time…any way…Oberhofer is a band from Brooklyn making sick indie tunes. Love the electric-telephone-line vocals and spastic, enthused rubber-band arrangement. They just put out a 7″. It’s good.
There are days when I think this week’s band of the week is one of the most overrated bands of all time. Why were they so lauded by critics and adoring fans? The right sound for the angsty times, maybe? A suicide always boosts a bands profile significantly. But lately especially, I’ve been realizing something that perhaps I missed all along. A raw nerve exposed, perhaps. A level of honesty and directness; ‘from our hearts to your searing eardrums’. The band of the week is…
How are hipsters supposed to feel about Nirvana?
On one hand, they were signed to Geffen, a major major-label; loved by masses of uneducated, unsophisticated persons who placed their CDs in binders alongside such despicable 90s choices as Dispatch and Dave Matthews; wrote possibly the song most covered song by terrible, teenage bands in the last 20 years; and then of course there’s post-grunge to answer for, the genre that bands like Creed and Nickelback would classify themselves as.
But then again, they were loved by such hipster favorites as Sonic Youth (who owe their own Geffen-signing to the band, out of which came such classics as Goo and Dirty) and Dinosaur Jr.; their frontman was a troubled art-school graduate who was a pretentious pain in the ass for music biz people to work with – and then he killed himself; he helped popularize Daniel Johnston; and many consider the band singularly responsible for murdering hair metal (fwew).
My own answer is conflicted. Those shitty ‘Teen Spirit’ covers we all suffered through in highschool were enough to kill off the credibility of nearly any band save maybe The Beatles. And the awkward kids who wore Nirvana T-Shirts were usually the dumbest, most ridiculous pre-emo fuckheads. But you can’t blame a band for their fans – a sentiment Kurt Cobain might want us all to remember: “He’s the one/Who likes all our pretty songs/And he likes to sing along/And he likes to shoot his gun/But he knows not what it means.”
Those hip kids who were there in the early 90s will tell you that Nirvana was like a godsend to them. Finally, a band that ‘got it’ and could actually rock. And they wrote pop songs! Amazing. My cousin Daniel says that Nirvana was one of the best bands he ever saw live. And sure, without Nirvana we might never have had to suffer through Nickelback, but there are those who would argue that we might never have gotten Radiohead either. Fuck, I just read that Panda Bear‘s next album was influenced in-large part by Cobain.
I recently saw the movie The Year Punk Broke (thanks entirely to Damian from Fucked Up, who is totally my hero) and while watching that movie and Nirvana‘s performances in it, I realized that nearly all the bands in the movie sound far more real than most bands today. Bands today pose and try and look cool. And yeah, many of them make awesome music, but can you imagine Julian Casablancas or Karen O or Kevin Drew – phenomenal frontpersons, all of them – actually losing their shit? Seriously letting loose the way Iggy Pop or Richard Hell could in the 70s? No. But Kurt Cobain was like that. The divide between him, his music, and his audience was totally shattered. Fucked Up are like that also, actually, which is why their shows are so insanely awesome.
Anyway, I gotta get to a band practice of my own. Maybe I’ll go into this more some other time. In the meantime, relisten to In Utero (great album) and you’ll see what I mean.
The main band I wanted to see on Sunday at Northside was Les Savy Fav. Unfortunately, full buses and the confusion of trying to navigate my way onto the right subway train in Grand Central made me miss their set. I was very sad. But I still got to see two solid bands play before the festival ended, so that was good.
Will and I got to the Williamsburg Hall Of Music at around 11 thinking we’d just managed to make it before Islands went on. Luckily there had been some technical difficulties earlier which delayed everything so we were actually in time to see L.A. experimental queercore band Active Child. Despite my aversion to two-piece bands trying to fill up soundscapes with toys and back-up stuff (samplers, drum machines, prerecorded stuff), Active Child made the grade due to a modest reliance on the aforementioned and an impassioned performance from main man Pat Grossi.
Islands also played a phenomenal set to a crowd of enthusiastic fans. They played a solid amount of stuff off Vapours but the crowd really went nuts for “Swans”. And Islands did rock the fuck out of that one. Nicholus Thoburn was reliably lanky and charming. And yeah. Good show.
All in all, there were a couple bands I wanted to but didn’t get to see at the fest, and I would’ve liked to have been able to see some bands I wasn’t already familiar with (and there was no shortage of those kinds playing around town). Regardless, it was an incredible festival with many amazing performances from some of the best bands around today and it was just a great trip. I’m beyond glad I came – maybe next time they’ll pay for my ticket?
Oh. And the L Magazine, which I had a chance to read, is also a solid magazine.
And Permanent Records had the best prices on vinyl out of any record store I’ve ever been in. $11.99 for the third Velvet Underground album. Seriously.
Alright, no more travel anecdotes, this one’s all about the music.
Even judging by the few songs we managed to catch from their set, this was way better than anything Will and I managed to catch the night before. If I were to write that they were somewhat sloppy, I would only mean endearingly so. They sounded powerful, the songs were good, and they kept things interesting, not exactly sticking to script, but playing around with pedals at times and making weird sounds, though not to the point of indulgence.
I respected both of Titus Andronicus’ albums, but I wasn’t crazy about them. I definitely was not prepared to enjoy their set as much as I did. They brought the rock. Big time. And their songs’ ragged indie – yet strangely Appalachian-folk indebted – construction proved incredibly potent live. A big part of the audience knew the words to the songs and sang along as amazingly-bearded (“it speaks for itself”) frontman Patrick Stickles dragged them out of his (even more-so) ragged vocal chords. Chants like, “you’ll always be a loser/you’ll always be a looooseeerrrr,” (predictably) went over particularly well.
Titus Andronicus is the kind of rock band anyone would want to see. They play good songs really well and look like they’re having fun doing so. Well, except maybe Stickles, who looks like he’s onstage acting with a purpose greater than having a good time. Guitarist/Violinist Amy Klein, though, was especially cute, bouncing around with excitement the entire time.
When we came back at around 6:00 twee samplegazers High Places were sound-checking. They began their actual set around 6:30. It was just two of them onstage in the large outdoor venue, each with only a guitar and some samplers and beat pads hanging around. For what they could manage they were alright, but as far as live shows go, it was kind of boring.
Next on the bill was Fucked Up, then Liars. I’d seen Fucked Up in Toronto at the Opera House and they played a great set, but that was like a grenade compared to the atom bomb that was their Northside set. They didn’t so much take the stage as invade and annihilate the fuck out of it. The word I’m looking for here is the verb of ‘bombast’. It really was like someone put a bomb – something out of Die Hard – onstage and blew it up. Suddenly the mild mannered hipster crowd was losing its shit as Pink Eyes trolled his way through them, not only roaring the lyrics out to each and every up-close face, but he was charging like a bull, carrying people on his back, picking them on his shoulders, pinning them on the ground, posing for photos (taken all around him with a sea of cameras, iPhones and cellphones) and hugging everybody.
Despite being massive, hairy and sweaty, everybody in the crowd wanted to hug him and be hugged by him; to grab his hands, put their arm around his shoulder, let him know that they were loving this. There was one hot hipster chick who looked like all she needed was his consent to jump him there and then. It didn’t matter that this huge, bald, bearded, hairy guy was stomping around yelling in everyone’s face, it wasn’t fear that he illicited from the crowd, but overflowing love and worship. Many people don’t understand that at the heart of the best hardcore music (Fugazi, Black Flag), it isn’t punk nihilism you’ll find, but instead a great friendly, community ethos, the paradox of which is best illustrated by the violent moshpits at shows. Despite the fact that everyone is charging into eachother at full force, if someone falls down, five people rush to lift them back on their feet.
While Pink Eyes was doing his thing in the crowd, back onstage the band faithfully backed him with a blaring mass of sound. By the time they finished their closing song – the great “Son The Father” off The Chemistry Of Common Life – you felt like you’d just been bowled over completely. The Broken Social Scene show I saw two weeks ago was the greatest show I’ve ever seen in my life, but Fucked Up’s set definitely shook the foundation on which that conviction stands. Easily the best set I saw at Northside.
We hiked it back over to the Williamsburg Hall Of Music in order to catch synthy, not-so-chill-wave blog favorites DOM’s set. They sounded exactly like they do on their EP, Sun Bronzed Greek Godz, and by that I mean they sounded great. Their eponymous frontman’s vocals amazingly sounded just as cutesy live as on record, despite looking like a trailer park skateboarder. Interestingly, they had a little projector on a stand in the center of the stage and some kid in front, simply having a good time, started swaying it a bit, creating a blurring effect on the images. This wasn’t the kind of projector that might fall off – for all I know the stand itself may have been the projector because I couldn’t see anything on top of it and nothing fell off when he swayed it – but nonetheless, Dom (while singing) came over and held the stand in place, then with his hand or fingers motioned to the kid to stop. Understandably the kid was a littled bummed out about being reprimanded by an artist he clearly admired (he knew the words to the songs and was apparently having a great time if one were to judge by his dancing). Dom noticed this and (while still singing) gave the kid a little head scruffle as if to say, “it’s all good buddy.” The venue security interpreted the kid’s ill-advised but clearly innocent action a little differently and promptly hauled him out of the venue.
Really sad to say Memory Tapes following them was a big letdown. I loved Seek Magic – an album that in the chillwave revival to come 20 years from now will be touted as a classic – but the band was simply Dayve Hawk singing and player guitar with a drummer onstage, with most of the music (pretty much all the amazing sounds anyone actually cares about) prerecorded. Considering those onstage weren’t even making most of the music the audience was listening to, it didn’t help that Hawk‘s vocals didn’t quite make the grade without the reverby production which places them lower in the mix.
So, really, for me, this is day one, since I arrived on Friday, the second day of Northside. I had a show on the 24th that I had to run so I missed Thursdays happenings. So yeah, there’s no ‘day 1′ review. Sorry Now that that’s cleared up…
I arrived in Brooklyn at around 2:00 PM Eastern Time from Toronto, but it took me and my compadre/photographer/bandmate Will till nearly 5:00 to get to our hotel.
From the airport we took a taxi to the nearest subway, hopped on and managed to get to 14th, from which we transferred over to the famous L Train (a.k.a. the ‘hell train’ according to The Besnard Lakes, apparently not the biggest fans of Brooklyn). Our hotel was on MEEKER St., so we asked the nearest person on the subway – some hot chick who looked, shall we say, reasonably hip (she was wearing cool sunglasses, but not the plastic kind hipsters wear) – how to get to Meeker. She thought we meant BLEEKER St., and told us we had to go back to 6th and walk from there.
When we got out, we asked people where Meeker was and everyone thought we meant Bleeker, and we didn’t even realize we were on the wrong street until we got to the hotel address and it was a clothing shop. Then we noticed our mistake and mapquested the actual location on my iPhone, proving definitively that Apple technology is superior to human beings.
A few words about Williamsburg, Brooklyn: it’s like the coolest place on Earth. Everyone looks cool. The girls are all amazingly dressed. 65% of the people here look like they’re in a ‘Rising’ band. Will noted that there’s barely any corporate presence in Williamsburg – a Subway (sandwiches) here, an American Apparel (of course) there. Amazingly though, no Starbucks, no Urban Outfitters, no H&M.; The buildings all look really beautiful. It’s hard for me to describe exactly how considering I’m not an architecture expert, but they look so classic and homey, old but as though they’ve been maintained incredibly well. The entire place, as well, has a very bold, confident vibe about it. Hip and proud.
We picked up our passes at the Northside HQ on Bedford and then sat around enjoying the FREE BEER (not the band, actual free beer) for a while. We still had plenty of time to kill before the show we were planning on seeing so we went record store hopping. We were kind of disappointed that most of the record stores in Williamsburg aren’t particularly special, surprisingly (still) placing a large emphasis on CD sections, whereas in Toronto the CD sections are already practically an afterthought in most independent record stores. The only store that really impressed me was Academy, which had a huge selection of vinyl, singles, local cassettes, turntables on which you could listen to stuff, and a helpful staff that turned me onto the two records I left with, one the debut by Brooklyn melodic thrash-punk band Nude Beach, the other a Florida band called (to be updated later with name and myspace link).
Shout outs as well to North Highlands, who set up streetside in front of Northside HQ and gave a solid one-song acoustic performance.
Past 9:00 we made our way over to the Williamsburg Hall Of Music for the Woodsist showcase. The increasingly impressive Warwick, NY label assembled a solid bill for the night that included Moon Duo, Sic Alps, Fresh and Onlys, Woods and Real Estate.
We arrived towards the end of Moon Duo‘s set but saw enough to be impressed by the San Francisco psych/drone band, which actually gave one of the more exciting performances of the night.
Sic Alps brought the energy but their lack of distinguishable songs, vocals, lyrics and/or melodies apparently didn’t help them in with the audience. It was cool to listen to more as stylish, noisy background music than anything else.
The Fresh and Only‘s surprisingly seemed to have the opposite problem. Their songs, melodies, vocals, etc. were great but they didn’t quite have the energy you would expect from a band that sounds so exciting on their lo-fi albums. That being said though, they did play a very respectable set.
Woods played a fine, if somewhat too jammy, set. If I was high though – which I probably should have been – it would’ve been really fucking cool. They sounded like the cool homey stoners you would think they’d be, not too charismatic but nonetheless very much in the moment. Especially dude on the floor making sound effects who looks like he’s just smoking a weird hookah the entire time. I like that guy.
Looks like I’m all set to fly into New York Friday for Northside and I’m psyched to be covering it. Some fest person just wanted me to pass on the info that badges are discounted 25% till midnight tonight. You have to go this site and enter the discount code “LMAG” and yeah, bam! Discounted.
Volcano Playground and Tearjerker are two of the best shoegaze bands in Toronto. And both are playing tomorrow (Thursday, June 24th) at Tiger Bar. I will be there. Check out this digital 7″ with VP’s “Anywhere” and Tearjerker‘s “Nice Clothes”.
Derek Wilson, frontman for Toronto post-punk band Bravestation, just sent me over the band’s sophomore EP. And yeah, it’s really cool. Nod of approval directed at the more experimental direction they’re heading in after a solid but very Interpol-esque debut EP. Still a lot of dark 80s stuff going on though…