A Saturday Playlist for Weekend Afternoons that Turn into Evenings

Time does get away from one.  When living a life you keep under your hat inarticulate, sometimes you fall back on making lists of songs that would go well with a chilly autumn Saturday afternoon.  Don’t you know it.

What have I been doing?  I managed to get out to see Jesse Malin and Gaslight Anthem last night at the luxurious Brooklyn Bowl.  Brooklyn Bowl is a place out of a fictional New York.  It’s something from a movie about New York at the height of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street era hubris with a little of that vulgar Cash is King Saturday Night Fever mentality about it.  When you’re inside the squeaky clean and enormous cathedral of entertainment beneath its gleaming TV screens and ensconced in its unreality you have a hard time reminding yourself that, hey, there aren’t places like this in New York City, because there you are.

Jesse Malin finished his set with a tirade against the largely unmoved crowd, a tirade about precisely that suburban imperialization of the city, a city in which everyone is hip and brand name and friends with everyone else- everyone’s cool and it’s cool because, as Malin mentioned, you’ve gotten rid of everyone else who isn’t like you in imperial Williamsburg.  I’m not sure the crowd even knew who he was.  Shame, because he played a great set.  He definitely played a better set than  the marble-mouthed and groove-impaired Murder by Death who who followed him.  The kids really went all in for liking those guys, but there really wasn’t much in the messy miasma of their sound to like.  They play a breed of music that jumps the shark while chasing authenticity.  It’s like wearing Americana as drag.  It’s been 150 years since it was 150 years ago, guys, and you’re not Lazarus back from the dead.

They need to get rid of one of their bassists.  I say the big dude takes a hike- the cute blonde was positively molesting her cello and I was rapt.

Gaslight really didn’t put on a show with the same verve and messy punk swing to it as I’ve seen them do before.  The bookmarks are falling out of their fakebook and the highlights are fading from the songs they reference.  It’s amazing what this band was able to do- create an entire critically lauded  album imbued with positive energy out of references to other songs.  I love the album, but their hearts didn’t seem to be in it last night.  The bros really seem to have gotten into these former scrappers, and Gaslight threw them the bone of doing a Pearl Jam cover.  Something tells me they’re heading into a serious sophomore slump.  I guess you can take some guys out of Jersey but you can’t necessarily take the Jersey out of some guys.

I saw the Dodos on Wednesday, clean whiteboy twee without an ounce of soul, but man that guy can play the acoustic guitar.  The band has great vox and mastery of the ax, but can’t anyone play a sleazy sexy beat anymore?  Does everything have to be happy and copacetic?  This is how the yuppies relax in their natural habitat.

Tomorrow is David Bazan and next week is Atlas Sound, and for these I am genuinely excited.

Top Records of 2008

By way of introduction, I present my most carefully considered and powerfully received records of 2008. In years past I have lamented the lack of a unifying artistic theme or musical style linking the exponentially multiplying number of artists the onset of distributed information and cheap personal computer recording has brought to the marketplace of ideas. In years past I have scolded (to very little, er, no effect) the masses, creative or otherwise, for settling into repetitions of pop forms of eras gone by, for shirking the creative and political responsibilities of the day by engaging in playful and harmless anachronistic feats of costume rock.

There is very little unifying my picks this year other than my taste, but the range of amazing recordings that emerged this year differs from years past. In the ever-accelerating slurry of mediocrity abetted by the availability of affordable recording equipment and distribution channels, those just-as-few as ever Shakespeares pushing along the whole project of civilization behind the confused, echolaliac hordes seem to have gotten a lot easier to hear.

Continue reading Top Records of 2008

Going to the Fest: A Weekend of Marathon Drunks, Cheap Beer, and Creddy* Times

Actual Cred
Image Added 12.2.07
I shot down to Orlando, Florida a few Fridays back to get in a car and drive up to Gainesville for The Fest 6.  The Fest is a 3-day punk and post-hardcore extended, gassy and creddy drunk-on.  The kids were there in force and in full uniform, mocking my earlier vintage constitution with their stamina.  These guys were hanging out for the three straight days on sidewalks between show or in bars.  I was only there on Saturday, and I had a late start, and I was still eventually laid low by the debilitating effects of alcohol in spite of all the invigorating earnestness and emo pheromones floating in the air.  Seriously, that should be part of Chinese medicine.  Put a dude with a bad case of recalcitrant attitudes in a closed room filled with collegiate emo vapor, and something about his worldview will have to change.  For the better.

We got a late start on Saturday, so we only really saw a handful of bands straight through their set, but the ones we did see were great.  We were lucky to have tucked right in catching Gaslight Anthem.  These were a group of guys from New Brunswick, New Jersey dropping Tom Waits and Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros references and screamed singalong vocals a la Gainesville sons Hot Water Music to the effect that the mainly dude audience was worked into a hugging froth, a kind of bathtub-gin and sweat mochachino of aggressive sincerity.  There was so much earnest dude-embrace afoot that the band almost couldn’t play.  Did I forget to mention that people were onstage hugging the band and stealing the mic?  Through it all, the singer kept a smile on his face and the band didn’t miss a note.  When the show was finished I was emptied of my usual vitriol and cynicism.  Watching a group of people allow each other to have such an unabashedly good time was really, really fucking refreshing.  It was a good change from the usual black hoodies and blank faces behind ridiculous oversized sunglasses, hangovers, and paranoid drug experiences that you get on the street in NYC.  These punks were so, so… well adjusted.  And good.  Seriously.  Very good.

My favorite venue of the night, The Side Bar, and the one to which I kept returning,  was featuring mainly English bands playing stripped hardcore.  We caught the last half of Chillerton‘s set and wished we had caught the first, so my compatriots and I threw $1.50 at cans of Pabst and 12 oz. at our thirst.

We got a good spot at the main venue to see the night’s headliner, Dillinger Four and, once the show got underway after various amp problems were resolved and a long, rambling, alcohol and Adderall-assisted audience conversation between bassist and vocalist Paddy Costello and the nearby pit drunks was completed, we were treated to what Paddy described as folk music.  I’m paraphrasing, but the reasoning is something like this: “We’re not making punk music, we’re just folks and you’re folks and this is music so let’s listen to some fucking folk music.”

A few words about one of my favorite bands, the Dillinger Four.  This is the real thing.  They come from the punkest city on earth, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and their “Midwestern Songs Of The Americas” is one of those albums that defines what punk rock should be.  All metaphysics as to what is punk and what negates punk aside, it’s the ice-nine of punk rock.  I don’t know what punk was before the Dillinger Four, but since they started making music the whole configuration has changed, and there is no reason whatsoever to think you’re making punk rock if you haven’t considered the birds of the air that are Dillinger Four.  Guitarist and vocalist Erik Funk and his wife own and operate the Triple Rock Social Club, great venue and great bar.  Guitarist and vocalist Bill Morrissette runs Extreme Noise Records in Minneapolis, the all-volunteer run record store cooperative where I may have bought a Planes Mistaken for Stars EP and definitely bought the first  Antarctica EP.  Drummer Lane Pederson is a doctor of clinical psychology.  Paddy Costello is a verbal weapon and anthropomorphic social affront.  Together, these guys are one great fucking band.

The show was incredibly tight, sufficiently long, setlisted mainly by songs from their first album and, despite the fact that this place seemed to be a former 1930’s-era theater with multiple tiers going up one story and down another, incredibly packed.  Though that meant one was constantly being nudged aside or involuntarily brushed up against, the fact that 95% of the people there said things like, “excuse me” (in the way that means excuse me, not in the kabbala-derived open-sesame sense mistakenly used by many) and “Sorry, can I get through here?” meant that the crowd density led to a good experience of solidarity and not one of mounting annoyance.  Punks are great.

To be honest, most of the rest is fuzzy, but you can be assured it was all creddy- and sufficient to put me back in the mind that I should be excited about making music again.

*Creddy: Adj. Having or pertaining to cred.  Genuine.  Imbuing those associated with a thing with an objectively admirable and witheringly intimidating sense of the genuine.  See also, F’real.

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