The Thickman’s 55th gig and 102nd – 104th acts of 2009
I entered the North Star Bar on Saturday, for the first time in god knows how long, with less than a pleasant mood. I have found that my current two beer ceiling has made me even less patient and tolerant than I typically am.
It was definitely my first time in at least a year in the great Fairmount venue. I realized that I miss it. This Sunny Day Music promoter needs to pick up the pace for the Khyber & North Star in order to compete with R5. I couldn’t help but reminisce about this decade’s great North Star shows. Franz Ferdinand, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, British Sea Power (when they still had promise), The Breeders, J Mascis, Mike Doughty (just out of Soul Coughing & before Dave Matthews put his disgusting stink all over him), Bored to Death’s Jonathan Ames’s reading during the now defunct 215 Festival, The Frames, Girls vs Boys w/Gina Gershon (Nick Cage and a very drunk pair of Joaquin Phoenix/Adrien Brody were in attendance), discovering The National by accident when they opened for the god awful Elefant (was arm-twisted to go and now I do not regret it), Waco Brothers with a spirited cover of I Fought the Law dedicated to the recently departed Joe Strummer, & who knows what else I am forgetting. Hell, even Snow Patrol & Keane were interesting to see in the tiny venue.
Enough of the tribute. First up was Mean Creek (Boston?). Admittedly, I had very quick trigger finger. I lasted one and a half songs and went to the bar and watched In Bruges with subtitles. Clearly, I wasn’t impressed but I will keep the panning to a minimum since I did not give them a chance.
When I headed back into the gig, I noticed a bit of a fratboy-ish atmosphere. You can just sense that feeling in the air when it gets a bit douchey. One benefit of a crowd such as this is that I will not receive snide looks as I would at hipster gigs since, for once, I was dressed sharply because I just came from a civilized Christmas party full of very nice, pleasant people. I settled in next to the soundboard with one of my favorite gig-mates. It is always a benefit to go to a show with someone who is 6’7″ when you are 6’5″. It provides a sufficient rear buffer zone since no one can see over us. After spying the crowd, I noticed a very interesting specimen. An eagle-printed leather vested fauxhawk who was dispensing high fives and slow dancing with his lady to the music in between sets. Before you ask, no he did not have a chain wallet which quite surprised me. I went to the lengths of asking someone to check for me to verify. Also, this wasn’t a Philadelphia Eagle on his vest. No, it was the cool kind. Unfortunately, I do not need any more friends so I kept clear and just observed. I had so many questions for him but I sensed that his answers would have done my head in. I will spare the four people who read this post of my extreme and irrational hatred for fauxhawks. Also, high fives are always avoided by the large fella unless they come from a child under ten or if I am reaching over a minimum of two people to celebrate an Eagles touchdown at the Linc.
Next were The Features (Nashville). I have seen The Features twice open for Kings of Leon in very small venues before Kings of Leon sucked. My opinion of them was always high after seeing them live. Early on, I picked up two of their CDs and was less than impressed since it did not sound like the same band. The Features are a half-flanneled and bearded/half-smartly dressed and nerded band with anthemic tendencies. The keyboardist looked like a mixture of Ben Gibbard and Jeff Duberville which I liked and disliked at the same time. Unsettling comparison. The lead singer has very distinct vocals that are hard for me to come up with a comparison for. He has one of those brilliant voices that comes through clearly even when he is standing 3 feet back from the microphone. Their keyboards and drums are the most distinct instruments of the band. The keyboards lay a lovely reminder of the late 1960s, where if they lived in that era, they would have been absolute hitmakers. Now, the drums. This guy was fantastic. I was more and more impressed with him as the gig went on. He played in a frenetic yet controlled manner that was the highlight of the show. It is a nice touch when a frontman knows when to step aside. This happened on each song when the inevitable booming drum bits occurred. He subtly yet quickly would clear the stage for his drumming star and play his part on stage-left with the bassist. Great set that was thoroughly enjoyed by all who were with me and by everyone in the venue. Was only distracted a handful of time by the fauxhawk and his wild high-fives and then by two of the douchies as they argued with the sound guy while he was working. They were concerned that he did not have a trash can for their bottles. I did have the urge to tell them that this wasn’t the time to complain about the layout of the North Star’s trash cans. Wanted to say that he was working but I kept to myself. They started pressing buttons on the soundboard and got tossed which was delightful.
The Features need to find a good producer and get someone who can capture that live sound and put it in a recording or they can go cheap and just make a live album. I am sure that their next release will be improved as they are the first band signed on Kings of Leon’s new record label, Imprint. Great, great performance. I will go see them every time that they are in town.
And then there are The Whigs. The Whigs are a mildly hyped band from Athens, Ga who I read and heard were fantastic live. They have received comparisons to Nirvana’s live energy which will clearly grab one’s attention. The first thing that frightened me is that the permed bassist with the well-groomed beard came on stage with a hoody and leather coat. It was very hot. I thought that no one can get away with a leather coat on stage today other than Mike Ness. To my enjoyment, he shed the nonsensical idea. I then became concerned with the use of a smoke machine inside the little North Star. Trocadero, TLA, even Johnny Brenda’s, yes. North Star Bar, no. Also, gradually the crowd was shrinking before they even came on stage which is clearly a poor sign. I sported a quizzical look as they came on stage to Florida State University’s tomahawk chop song. Why? Is there a native american in the band? Would not the University of Georgia fight song be more appropriate considering their home base? My vitriol really began within 4 chords of the first song. An absolute theft of Nirvana’s “About a Girl”. Not an homage. Not a play off of it. It was the same exact chords. Bad for step one. Step two was that the drums were Very loud but Very mediocre. He was sporting a quasi-Dave Grohl circa 1993 hairdo. Weak. Step 3 and the nail in the coffin were the utterly awful vocals and contrived enthusiasm sported by the singer/lead guitarist. Absolutely painful to watch. His running guitar strum while barreling towards the stage was a bit much. His vocals were forced and unnatural. If I wanted to enjoy a band that is supposed to be up and coming and has listened to a lot of Nirvana and The Stooges, I would hop in the wayback machine and go see The Burning Brides circa 2002 (Although they never really arrived. Good! Screw them. They abandoned Philly for L.A.). This guy’s guitar playing while hopping around on one leg was making me insane. But get this shocking revelation, the douchey fratboy types were absolutely lapping it up. I was being polite by not asking the others to leave. When it was noticed that I was not paying attention anymore and only playing Scrabble on my iPhone, I received a pity offer to go and was out of there in a flash. I think that we lasted 6-7 songs. There was a steady stream out of the venue before and after us.
The Whigs will eventually hit something that will appeal to a certain type of individual. Someone who is less than interested in creative thought. they will get some sort of opening slot on a tour with a Creed-type and become very popular. It will make me bananas when I hear a single that allows this contrived, derivative sound create income. But to each their own. As for my own, all Whigs material was deleted from my Mac yesterday morning never to be seen again.
My reaction to them was far worse in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Fortunately for you, I was too tired to type. Maybe I need to start drinking again.
On deck (for now): Rural Alberta Advantage – Kung Fu Necktie – 6 Jan 2010
Dr. Dog sold out back to back nights at the Fillmore TLA this past weekend. I attended the Friday show and to tell the truth, almost bailed on it since I’d seen them so often and I haven’t been listening to them much lately. Well as soon as they came on stage they blew me away and I can’t believe I almost didn’t go. They had the packed house singing to every tune and the set was amazing- something out of a dreamscape. They played almost 2 straight hours.
Apparently Saturday night’s show topped Friday’s as the band ordered pizzas for the entire audience. I forgot my camera that night so I don’t have any pictures of my own and so far I can’t find any online. However, I did find a video of the pizza party:
Here are a few pictures from earlier in the tour but the set isn’t quite as elaborate as the Philly shows. I’ll keep an eye out for pictures of this magic night.
Ddog and I hung out at Skunk and Molly’s sweet loft then went to check out Moulinex and Xinobi spin bangin French disco house at Kung Fu Necktie under the El.
A bunch of total nerds wearing, I shit you not, MATCHING sweaters were gyrating all over the dancefloor, which kinda ruined the music for me, but Skunk kept his eyes glued to them trying to dance. Said it was like watching a trainwreck- he couldn’t take his eyes away.
Skunk and Molly have a couple swings in their place:
And they also built a Leggo house for Burning Man. They actually lived in it:
MP3: Xinobi-Day Off
Lukestar, from Oslo Norway. LP Lake Toba released this month.
I play this song 4x in a row every day. Not sick of it yet. A new record.
No, that’s not a female’s voice you hear. Male. Big male. See for yourself-
Lee “Scratch” Perry and the Upsetters from 1971′s Africa’s Blood. The title is fits.
Hugg & Pepp, electronic goodness from the land of Abba.
This joint’s got it’s own laugh track.
What’s going on in Philly besides random hammer attacks?
Well we missed Anthony B and Lutan Fyah last week! They played a place called Wall Street International at 1431 North 52nd Street last Saturday. I didn’t have the guts to bike up there in the pouring rain at 1 in the morn, as that is the usual start time for Jamaican shows.
Tarrus Riley is at the Troc this Saturday.
Hopfest 4, with a KILLER IPA lineup is
performing at the Drafting Room Springhouse all day Saturday.
Do I have time to do both?
Do I have time for one more?
Here’s Delta Spirit, a San Diego band I’m digging bigtime. Their LP Ode To Sunshine is out on Rounder Records.
They also did a Daytrotter session.
MP3: Delta Spirit- Trashcan
MP3:>Delta Spirit- Strange Vine
They are on tour with our own Dr. Dog as we, er, as I type, and hitting Johnny Brenda’s October 23rd (without the Dog).
They’re playing Houston Texas tonight- hurricane be damned.
He usually takes off on his bicycle. Last year he tried for the West Coast but got as far as Missouri. This year he’s taking his tiny scooter all alone all the way up to Canada to this festival with a bunch of obscure (to us yanks) Canadian bands. He’s going mainly to see !!!, but Man Man, Mark Farina and Battles are also playing.
This is the message he left us (links his):
I’m heading to the next time zone to the east. Who knew it was there?
I will be on two 12″ wheels dumping 200cc’s of premium gasohol into a shoddy carburetor.
Antigonish or bust. Depending on time, I might hit Newfoundland and maybe even Labrador. I wonder if those dogs will be there? Or maybe those Belgium barge dogs will be there too- they are smarter than most humans.
I might also have to negotiate an extra day or two off of work.
I’ll be posting to my flickr account via my cell. Roaming charges googledruple as soon as I cross the border, so posts may be infrequent. When I have time to type it out… I’ll post my coordinates too.
Not promising anything exciting… as par for my photo stream.
Check here or add me to your rss reader. Nothing current there yet… just an old checklist. I cannot spell towel btw.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/90193248@N00/ or search flickr for tags “200cc” and “65mpg”.
I know I know… no pedal power this time. I considered bringing my BMX as my support vehicle, but it weighs 50 lbs. I do have AAA btw. You have to buy an RV level of service to cover a cycle. They lobby against public transportation. They will pick my ass up… even in Canada.
I also have a good helmet. See it being made here.
Feel free to pass on if I missed anyone or you wanna share.
Hit me on gmail if you notice that I’m going the wrong way,
Leaving Philly Wed afternoon.
DDOGG es un animal.
I hope he left that schwag homegrown at home.
I had a couple extry tix to the sold out show Friday night at JBs so I jumped on Craigslist to unload them. To my surprise there was post after post begging for tickets. “help a brother out!” one pleaded.
MGMT are gonna be big. Almost every post mentioned MGMT first, even though Yeasayer were the headliner.
Need more evidence? I happened to follow two of the members of Yeasayer into the venue and we all went straight to the merch table. My friend mentioned that she liked the Yeasayer tshirt best even though they weren’t the band we were interested in. The Yeasayer member, pointing to his band’s shirt, turned to me and said, “this is the better shirt, but this is the better band.” That summed it up well.
Yeasayer actually put on quite a good live show, but MGMT got the songs, man.
Yeasayer happened to tape the Conan O’brien show earlier in the day, so when I got home I got to see their appearance before hitting the sack. Pretty cool.
I really should just direct you to R5‘s site since their shows make up at least 80% of the list!
Shows of interest? Well of course, Public Enemy this Friday, Vampire Weekend but it’s sold out, Yeasayer & MGMT for which I have my tix, and Thao Nguyen & The Get Down Stay Down, who I’m digging right now (see track, below).
Surprises? Freezepop @ the North Star whom you should check out, and The Cribs who were on my best of 07 list.
The list also includes THREE bands I saw live back in the EIGHTIES. Can you guess which ones?
1/31/08: Public Enemy/The Roots/Everlast @ The Troc
1/31/08: Plaid @ Johnny Brendas
1/31/08: Reef the Lost Cauze @ The Khyber
2/1/08: Illinois @ Olde Club, Swarthmore College
2/1/08: National Eye @ Johnny Brendas
2/2/08: Spinto Band/The Whigs/Plants & Animals @ Johnny Brendas
MP3: The Whigs- Right Hand on my Heart
2/3/08: Dan Deacon @ First Unitarian Church
2/8/08: Cat Power @ Starlight Ballroom
2/8/08: Photon Band @ Johnny Brendas
2/9/08: White Williams @ Johnny Brendas
2/9/08: Gene Loves Jezebel (!) @ The Khyber
2/10/08: Liars/No Age @ First Unitarian Church
2/13/08: The Ataris (acoustic) / East Hundred / Quintero @ First Unit Church
2/14/08: A Sunny Day in Glasgow/Remote Islands @ Johnny Brendas
2/14/08: The Iguanas @ World Cafe Live
2/15/08: Yeasayer/MGMT @ Johnny Brendas
2/16/08: Crooked Looks / Drink Up Buttercup / Illinois @ The Fire
2/17/08: Freezepop / Boy In Static / The Model @ The North Star Bar
2/16/08: Philly Ska Show @ World Cafe Live
2/16/08: Pissed Jeans/Food for Animals @ Johnny Brendas
2/20/08: Black Mountain/Ron Iver @ Johnny Brendas
2/21/08: Genghis Tron/The Austerity Program @ First Unitarian Church
2/21/08: Fleshtones/Jukebox Zeros/Dark Horse/The Carousels @ Johnny Brendas
2/22/08: Atlas Sound/Valet/White Rainbow @ Johnny Brendas
2/22/08: Daniel Johnston / The Capitol Years @ The Troc
2/26/08: Bowerbirds/Phosphorescent 2 Johnny Brendas
MP3: Bowerbirds-In Our Talons
2/27/08: St. Vincent/Foreign Born/Pattern Is Movement @ First Unitarian Church
2/27/08: Vampire Weekend @ First Unitarian Church
2/28/08: The English Beat / RX Bandits @ The Troc
2/29/08: Caribou/Fuck Buttons @ Johnny Brendas
3/3/08: Team Robespierre/Parts & Labor @ Danger Danger Room MP3: Team Robespierre-88th Precinct
3/4/08: Matt Costa/Jonathan Rice @ First Unitarian Church
3/4/08: Men feat. membes of Le Tigre / Hey Willpower (mem. of Imperial Teen) @ The North Star Bar
3/4/08: Born Ruffians/Cadence Weapon @ Johnny Brendas
3/5/08: Strike Anywhere/Paint It Black/The Riverboat Gamblers @ First Unitarian Church
3/5/08: The Stills @ Johnny Brendas
3/12/08: Louis XIV @ The North Star Bar
3/13/08: The Pogues @ Electric Factory
3/14/08: Bob Mould Band @ The Troc
3/18/08: New Model Army @ The Khyber
3/19/08: Burning Brides @ The Khyber
3/20/08: The Mountain Goats / The Moaners @ First Unitarian Church
3/22/08: The Cribs with Ra Ra Riot / Jeffrey Lewis @ The North Star Bar
3/23/08: Sons & Daughters @ Johnny Brendas
3/26/08: Xiu Xiu/Thao Nguyen @ First Unit Church
MP3: Thao Nguyen & The Get Down Stay Down- Beat (Health, Life And Fired)
4/2/08: The Boredoms @ Starlight Ballroom
4/4/08: Weston @ The Khyber
4/8/08: Man Man/Dirty Projectors @ The Starlight Ballroom
4/9/08: Explosions In The Sky @ Starlight Ballroom
4/10/08: Hot Chip @ Starlight Ballroom
4/10/08: Papa Grows Funk @ World Cafe Live
4/16/08: Autechre / Rob Hall / Massonix @ Transit
4/27/08: Feist @ Academy of Music
4/28/08: Tokyo Police Club @ The First Unit Church
6/8/08: The Breeders @ TLA
6/22/08: Devo @ Festival Pier
I used to play The Lemonhead’s first three albums endlessly when I was a DJ at my college radio station in the late ’80s, so you could say I’ve been a fan of the band for ages.
My wife would leave me in a heartbeat for Evan Dando if she had the opportunity. She’s seen him perform solo a handful of times but I shudder at the thought of watching him sing Mrs. Robinson so I never had the urge to see him live until I heard he was teaming up with Karl Alvarez and Bill Stevenson of the almighty Decendents.
The Troc was pretty empty so we had no trouble walking right up to the stage. After the show we waited in the alley backstage with one other super-fan (also named Matt) and got to meet the hunk himself. My wife is still grinning.
How was the show? fine I guess. I expected more from their earlier punkier albums because of the new members, but no such luck. Evan’s voice has really held up well over the years even though his years of drug abuse have wreaked a bit havoc on his good looks.
If you haven’t heard the newest album (self titled from 2006) then take the time to give it a listen- it’s actually quite good with a sound that fits perfectly between the early punk stuff and the later pop stuff.
UPDATE: The other Matt in the picture made it onto spin.com, along with other pics from the Philly show.