4/18/09: Bear Hands w/Real Estate & The Tony Castles @ The Shank (86/100)

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This was a day of music from beginning to end.

First, I met up with a woman named Lucette who’s helping launch a website called Superglued.com. It’s in private beta right now, but when it launches, it will be a central hub for music fans to write about their concert experiences. Seemed like a cool idea to me. She wanted to talk me about the 100 bands project and filmed a quick interview with me for the site – asking about my favorite show of the project so far, and of all time. I picked Wilco & R.E.M. in 1999 for all time. I don’t know if it is my favorite all-time show or not, but it was an amazing show/overall experience. I met Tweedy. It poured rain. They had to cancel the show due to lightning, and I walked back to the car completely soaked. It was magical. But truthfully, picking one isn’t really that possible.


After that, I remembered it was record store day – one day I make a point to buy music from a mom and pop music store. Like going to church on Christmas in hopes that you won’t go to hell (yet, knowing Hell doesn’t really exist). So I buzzed over to Other Music to see what exclusive singles they’d have on sale. Here’s what I picked up: Crystal Antlers “Tentacles”, Condo Fucks “Fuckbook” and an exclusive Record Store Day Blitzen Trapper 45, called “War is Placebo”. They also had different band members doing DJ sets all day, like guys from Grizzly Bear, the Raveonettes, and even Bill Callahan doing a live acoustic performance. I would’ve liked to see that, but already had plans to meet my friend Ben at The Shank in Brooklyn to see Bear Hands, and a bunch of other bands.

The Shank is another one of those “semi-legal” venues, like L.A.M.C. and Death by Audio. It’s out, sort in the middle of nowhere in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and from what I gather, it’s a sound stage for TV and films by day. Underground indie rock venue by night. They were selling Colt 45 tallboys out of a cooler, people were smoking freely and there were makeshift benches set up to hang out in between sets.

I rolled up around 9:45, just in time to see the first band finish their set. I was supposed to be on the guest list, but wasn’t. No big deal. I paid my $10, and had to spot Ben another $4 since he was supposed to be my plus one. (he’s a broke grad student, and former drummer in the band I played in)


Second band of the night, but first full set for me was by a band called The Tony Castles. Terrible name. Good band. I couldn’t quite figure out where they were pulling their sound from, influence-wise. It sounded like some Talking Heads, but with a falsetto voice instead. Either way, they were starting the night off pretty solid.

After them was a band called Real Estate, sort of a snoozer, with more moments of “meh” than “yeah.” It’s not all their fault. In their defense, the sound isn’t awesome at The Shank, at least not for vocals. They get strangely muffled. “It’s like we’re at an arena,” said Ben. Exactly. The guitars sounded good (behind earplugs, of course), just not the vocals.


Either realizing this, or just by some stroke of luck, Real Estate changed gears and played about a half hour of straight instrumental songs. Which weren’t half bad. And they ended on a solid pop song. Not a terrible set overall.

The Shank never got super packed, which was nice. Yet, it was still hot as hell in there. And it definitely had an “out in the middle of nowhere” vibe since it’s surrounded by a bunch of warehouses, and there’s a guy guarding the door who won’t let you stand outside the door. “You gotta walk if you’re gonna talk,” said the man. The bathroom floor/carpet was soaked in water from a busted pipe connected (or, not connected) to the sink. So, no chance of washing your hands after you do your business. Not ideal.

Ben and I knocked back a few Colt 45s throughout the night. Officially the first malt liquor I’ve had since probably college, maybe high school. And it wasn’t that bad. Better than Mickeys or O.E., that’s for damn sure.

The last and final band, Bear Hands, went on just before midnight or so. I think, but not sure. Being at The Shank is like being in the Twilight Zone. You lose all sense of time and place. The Colt 45s don’t help, either. But let’s just assume it was around midnight, since the receipt from my taxi ride home after said 1:58am.


Bear Hands were good. They didn’t blow me away. But they didn’t stink it up either. The singer played the whole set shirtless (um, ok). He even took a song into the crowd at the end. I can appreciate that. The one thing I’ll nail them on though is the whole floor tom used by the guitar player thing. Damnit. Not another band doing that. Especially since it didn’t really add much to the sound and seemed more like a prop than anything. I’m getting really tired of it. Where is it coming from? It’s one thing if you’re Animal Collective, and Panda Bear is actually a skilled percussionist. It’s another to just use a floor tom in a superfluous way.

But to each band their own, I say. Ok, I never say that. Nor should anyone else. It’s a stupid phrase that doesn’t really work. But the Shank does, if you want to drink cheap beer, see upcoming indie bands, and feel like you’re at some exclusive place in the middle of nowhere. Just remember to pack the Purell.

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