Posts tagged ‘Cake Shop’

What I learned in 100 Days

May 5th, 2009

Here goes: the last and final “What I learned…” post. But this time, for the whole 100 days.

This is the most exciting time in music that I’ve ever experienced
And I grew with Motley Crue, Guns ‘n Roses, R.E.M. Metallica, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, U2, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Run DMC, Red Hot Chili Peppers and more. These are all legendary, amazing bands. But I’m telling you – right now this is the most exciting time in music. At least for my generation and those younger than me. Here’s why.

The old music model is broken, but that’s okay: the power has shifted to the artist. The Internet is killing majors, but fuck majors. You don’t need them. But bands need you, now more than ever. Bands may not make any money selling records, but they never did anyways. Fans have the power to keep music alive by simply going to see live music, buying merchandise (and yes, records) directly from bands. This has never been more true than ever before. Fans have direct access to more music than any other time in music.

Some might say there’s no quality control anymore. But fuck that. You are the quality controller. You decide. Any band that has access to a computer can record a song, put it on the Internet and let the people decide if it’s any good or not. That’s exciting because there’s more of it, and you can decide what’s worth your time.

Not only that, but look at the music itself. Take the genre of “indie rock” for example. Listen, I hate genre monikers like this (remember “alternative rock”?) but it’s exciting when one “genre” can be as diverse as to include bands like Belle & Sebastian, Matt and Kim, Sufjan Stevens, Feist and Blitzen Trapper, alongside Animal Collective, N.E.R.D., Kings of Leon, The Avett Brothers, Of Montreal, Bell Orchestre, Black Lips, Wolff, and Wilco.

The ’60s sounded like revolution. The ’70s sounded like rock and disco. The ’80s sounded like pop, new wave, DIY and glam. And the ’90s sounded like grunge and hip hop. So what does the ’00s sound like? All of the above and them some. And that’s pretty damn exciting

People like to see other people do things they couldn’t imagine themselves doing
People remained curious about this project from beginning to end. At first, I think they wanted to know about the music. Later when they asked me, “How’s the project coming?” I think what they really meant was, “How the hell are you still awake or alive or sane?

People like being a part of something
This goes for all the friends who joined me on the journey, the musicians, PR contacts, managers, etc who I met, plus the random people who emailed me and generous people who sent donations. When I started out, I hoped a lot of my friends would go to some shows with me, but I figured I’d do most of it alone. Boy was I wrong. Friends came out of the woodwork for this, and it was awesome.

I also tried to meet as many musicians as I could. I would approach them after their set to tell them what I was doing. About 98% of the time the response was really great. A few musicians blew me off, but fuck them. They were too self-involved anyhow, so who cares. I got to meet some great people. And they were as happy to be a part of it as I was to be doing it. See The Wrens entry for an example of how happy.

As you know I also took donations. These were not only a way to help me get through the 100 days, but for everyone to get involved and feel apart of the 100 days. Some were as small as $1, some got as big as $200 or $250, but I appreciated them all equally.

Finally, I was fortunate enough to get on a lot of guest lists. Sometimes that was a result of me unabashedly requesting it, but more often than not they were offered up by different contacts I made, or people who contacted me along the way. The generosity of PR folks, band members, band managers, label people and so on was helpful, humbling and appreciated.

The band (almost always) starts an hour after the venue says they will
Keep this in mind if you’re going to see a show in NYC, at the Bowery or Mercury for example. If they say the band goes on at 8pm, they actually go on around 9pm – or later. This is just how it is, at least in NY. Why? Alcohol.

Venues want to get you in and sell you as many overpriced drinks as they can before you notice that you’re waiting for the band to start. And they’ve gotten pretty good at timing it out. Which meant I got pretty good at timing when I needed to show up. Unless I wanted to see the opening bad, then I was screwed.

But, there are a few exceptions:

The “Early show”
These is the show before the show that’s scheduled to bring in the real crowd that night. The doors for these shows are usually at 6:30pm or 7:00pm, and the bands tend to start 30 minutes after they say they will.

Europe
Shows start on time in Europe. I learned this one the hard way when I missed Ben Lee at La Fleche d’Or. But it wasn’t just France. Shows in England started at or near the listed time, too. Just a word to the wise if you’re gonna see a show in Europe.

Random, unforeseen bullshit
You show up hoping to see the band that starts at 10pm only to find out that they pulled out and aren’t playing. Or their timeslot got swapped with the band at 9pm. Or the band that was supposed to play at 8pm didn’t show up, and so each band got bumped up an hour. All of these happened to me, and it pissed me off, but what can you do?

Beer is only as good as the tap it comes out of
I drank a lot of beer over 100 days, which is why I’m not drinking any for another month or two. But I didn’t do this for me. I did it for you, the readers. Ok, that’s what I tell myself. But either way, I did it, and now I’m here to report back.

Here is your guide to the best/worst beer taps in NYC: (from worst to best)

Mercury Lounge: Shitty
The PBR is the worst, but it’s also the cheapest, which makes it tempting. Don’t do it. It tastes and smells terrible. The Bud Light is ok, but I would step it up if you’re at the Merc.

Bowery Ballroom: Just ok
Stella isn’t bad here, but can be a bit average, and lose some of the sweetness it should have. And it’s $7, which is bullshit, so they should clean the taps and figure a way of making it worth the price.

Webster Hall: Not bad
Plastic cups suck, but the beer wasn’t bad.

Pianos: Pretty Good
I drank mostly PBR cans at Pianos, but the times that I drank from the tap, I got a Stella and it was pretty decent – mostly because it comes in a glass, not a plastic cup.

The Bell House: Good
Didn’t really drink too much from the tap here, the cans are too cheap ($4), but the one time I did, it was good.

Cake Shop: Good
The music room may be a dive, but the tap beer is good.

Rockwood Music Hall: Good
Pretty decent, but I’d suggest getting a glass of wine instead. They pour them pretty deep.

Music Hall of Williamsburg: Very good
Probably because it’s new, but all the beer I drank here was good.

Le Poisson Rouge: Very good
I hate the stupid mandatory 20% tip if you use your card at LPR, but it’s a new enough venue that the beers come out of the tap tasting delicious.

Joe’s Pub: Excellent
It’s a nicer and more expensive venue, so naturally, they care about their bar.

Going to shows alone isn’t as bad as it seems
Before this project, I would go see a band alone, but not that often. And I’d feel sorry for myself, and hate that I didn’t have anyone to talk to, and waaaaahh waaaaahh waaaaahh… Then I realized, seeing a band can be like seeing a movie. Once it begins, being alone is fine. You shouldn’t be talking during the music anyhow. Granted, some bands are a lot more fun to see with friends. But don’t let the fact that no one else wants to go keep you from going. Just go.

Get to know unknown bands
It’s only natural to want to blow off bands you’ve never heard of before. You’ve never heard them, so why would you care? That is, unless you need to see music every single night, like I did. And sometimes there’s a night where you don’t know who to see, so you have to pick a band at random – as I did. And you know what you’d find out? It’s worth taking chances on unknown bands.

Music will never cease to amaze me
The fact that I can find live music in downtown Hartford, CT on a random Monday night amazes me. How I can still see Les Paul, the 93-year old man who invented the solid body electric guitar, every Monday night, have him flick me off for a picture and meet him afterwards amazes me. The fact that I can be asked on stage to perform with a band that’s been together for over 20 years, to a sold out crowd in NYC amazes me. And the fact that I can see 100 consecutive days of live music and still love music amazes me.

Thanks for reading. Now do yourself a favor and go buy a ticket to see a band, right now.

4/25/09: Box Elders @ Cake Shop (93/100)

April 26th, 2009

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I’d like to think Box Elders were named after one of my all time favorite Pavement songs. But, then again I’d like to think a lot of bands named themselves after Pavement songs, because Pavement was an amazing band. Influential enough to warrant such inspiration. But I think these guys were named after the bug instead. The bugs I grew up with in Minnesota. Annoying, but harmless, little bastards.

Not like the band, Box Elders. They weren’t little or annoying. They were tall and fun. From their ridiculous outfits, to their song-after-song-after-song assault on the eardrums. They just cranked out pop gem after pop gem with little or no pause or audience banter. Ramones style. And the similarity with this masters of the three chord, two minute song didn’t end there.

If I had to describe Box Elders to someone, I’d say they were The Ramones and Beat Happening, with some California surf punk thrown in. And the funny thing is, they’re from Omaha. Ok, that’s not funny ha-ha, but you know what I’m saying.

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Before the show, I spent all day in Central Park with friends, laying around in 80-something degree weather. So come show time, I was feeling pretty wiped out, but still managed to pull it together to meet up my friend Josh and Scott, a friend of a friend. We grabbed some pre-show drinks at Local 138 before heading to Cake Shop – my savior of a venue lately.

Cake Shop has probably been the best venue to see smaller, relatively unknown bands throughout this project. Whoever is booking the shows there has a great ear, because I’ve yet to be disappointed. Just a little something for your NYers out there, if you’re looking to spontaneously check out good local music, pop by Cake Shop. Like Josh, Scott and I did tonight.

We got there around 10:15p and Box Elders had just gone on. There was a decent crowd at the show, which was good. You never know at these shows. I’ve been to Cake Shop and seen it super crowded, and I’ve been one of five or six people. Tonight, we’re probably talking a good 20 or 30 people bopping along to the pop gems of Box Elders.

What an interesting band, visually and audibly. Your eye immediately goest to the bass player, who is shirtless with a silver coat, super short shorts, and ankle-high alligator boots. He whipped his hair around, getting in caught in the Christmas lights that hang above the stage. Then there’s the drummer who plays standing up, and often plays keyboards and drums at the same time. He was truly amazing, in his drumming and multi-tasking abilities. On guitar was a really tall, goofy guy who was also sporting super short shorts and moccasins.

“What I want to know is how the hell these three guys found each other,” said Scott. Solid question. They definitely seem like an odd trio, but maybe that’s why it works. Or they’re the only three guys in Omaha who can relate to each other, so they formed a band. Whatever their formula, it’s a good one.

“A bit one note,” said Josh. Sure. Solid point, I guess. But I was totally ok with it, because I like that one note. Even if I hear it over and over and over again.

4/21/09: Virgin Forest @ Cake Shop (89/100)

April 21st, 2009

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Damnit, I’m tired. Really tired. I’ve been on my feet shooting TV commercials all day. Not the kind of shoot you see on Madmen(too bad) or Trust Me (thank god). It’s run and gun. Lots of back and forth, moving from one shot to the next, etc. Basically not a lot of time to relax for 10 hours. So, being up at 7am + shooting till 6pm + a 2 1/2 hour drive back to NY + doing work for a couple hours at home + a band @ Cake Shop = fucking tired. Oh right, and add in 89 straight days of live music to that, too. Luckily, I got one of these bad boys on the shoot to come home to.

Many people ask me how I decide on which band to see, if I have any specific criteria. I can’t remember what I’ve mentioned here before, but it’s pretty simple. I check the better venues (Bowery, Mercury, LPR, Music Hall) then Timeout NY, if I don’t see anything worth seeing, I check other/smaller venues (Pianos, Cake Shop, Living Room, Fontana’s). If I don’t recognize anything, I just start picking bands from these venues and check out songs on their myspace pages. This is how I’ve stumbled upon some good bands: The O’s, The Answer, The Mess Around, Blonde Acid Cult, Lights, and tonight, Virgin Forest.

I have to say, as random as this selection may seem, this was a really good band. And, it was at 11pm on a Tuesday night and there were only probably 20-25 people there, they were still better better than some more well known bands I’ve seen so far, like Annuals, Maps & Atlases and The Bird and the Bee, for example. Who were fine, I guess. It’s just that this band had something none of these bands had. Problem is, I can’t totally put my finger on it.

They didn’t put on much of a “show,” I mean the bass player and singer/guitar player sat down the whole time. The set was pretty short, and so were the songs. But it just felt good being around their music.

My initial reaction was they sounded like 70s AM radio. It was really warm, and comforting, and familiar. But not in a badly derivative way, although they did seem to be pulling from some major influences, I thought: Van Morrison, Willie Nelson. They even covered a Leonard Cohen song, and reminded me a bit of some No Depression bands I grew up with. More references escape me at the moment, but I guess the point is this: maybe they sounded so good because they sounded familiar.

Again, not in a bad way. I really, really liked it. And could’ve sat there for another half hour, at least. But instead, they wrapped things up around 11:30p.

Before the show, I was worried that this selection was sort of phoning it in, on the 89th day. But not after. I stopped up to the stage after the show and talked to the guitar player and told him of my project. He said, “I think I’ve heard about you. Or someone doing something similar.” I don’t know if there is someone else doing something similar in NY. If so, show your face, nemesis. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure he meant me. I told him it was day #89, he thanked me, I gave him $5, took one of their 45s they had for sale, and jumped in a cab.

Holy shit.

Tomorrow is day 90. The last 10 days. Let the countdown begin.

3/18/09: Isabella Lundgren @ The National Underground (55/100)

March 18th, 2009

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I found myself strolling down Houston tonight, looking for a band to see. I didn’t have anything planned, and I was tired of the Bowery, Mercury Lounge, Cake Shop, Pianos, etc. Don’t get me wrong. I love those places. They’ve become like second homes. But I just couldn’t do it again tonight. I couldn’t stand around and wait until 11pm for another indie rock to hit the stage in a dark rock club. I needed something different.

And the thing is, there were decent bands playing, too: Clem Snide @ Bowery, Old School Freight Train @ Mercury. Either one of these would’ve been good show I’m sure, but like I said, I just couldn’t do it. I needed a night off.

Before I made it to the LES, I was walking around the Village. It was still light out, and I was hoping for a miracle in the form of music flowing out from a bar somewhere that would draw me in. Then, I’d grab a drink, and have a nice relaxed day 55. But I was coming up blank.

Nothing happening on Bleecker, damnit. Nothing happening on W. 3rd, damnit. Finally, Sunshine called me up and helped me try and find someone to see by playing music from Myspace pages of bands playing at The Living Room, Arlene’s Grocery, etc. But nothing seemed worth it. I had resigned myself to going back to Mercury tonight.

But then…

As I ambled towards the Merc, I passed The National Underground – a place I’d walked past a million times before, but never stopped into. From the sidewalk it looks more like a bar than a music venue. But there’s a small stage opposite the bar, and another room downstairs. So it’s legit, and just what I was looking for: soothing jazz flowing out from a club, drawing me in. I checked the window for a poster, to see who was playing. Looks like a female jazz singer named Isabella Lundgren. Good enough for me.

I’ve talked about my neophyte status as a jazz listener before (but I’m getting better, I hope). I didn’t recognize a lot of her songs, wasn’t sure how many were originals, standards, or what. I did recognize the classic “All of me,” but not to many more. But so what. This was just the kind of evening I wanted.

To stumble onto a band while it’s still light out, and be home before it got too late. I don’t want you all to think that I’m losing steam. That’s not the case at all In fact, quite the opposite. The second half of this project has totally re-energized me. I just felt like changing it up tonight. To go somewhere I hadn’t been, see something less predictable . Tonight was as much about retaining my excitement for the usual venues I love as it was about keeping the project diverse. How am I doing on that this week? Let’s see:

80s metal/rock on Monday.

Quirky Euro indie folk on Tuesday.

Jazz tonight.

Hip-hop on Thursday (The Roots).

Friday still TBD

Electro-pop on Saturday (if I can get into the Cut Copy show).

Now that I look at it, that’s not too bad at all. Here I was stressing about making sure the bands in the last half of the project live up to some standard, or at least help contribute to diversifying the total outcome. But I’m fine. This week is what this project is all about.

3/4/09: Phones w/Paper & Holy Hail @ Cake Shop (41/100)

March 5th, 2009

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I really didn’t want to go out tonight. Seriously, this was my 41st day in a row of going out to see music. I just wanted to go home, relax and watch some TV. Maybe play my Xbox, or my guitar. Something. I just know I didn’t want to go some small, dark venue again. Waaaaa waaaaa waaaaa…

This is a self-imposed project, so I can’t really complain. And I was meeting up with an old college friend Karen who I haven’t seen in years (thanks for the beers, Karen), and her friend Chrissy who she hadn’t seen in years. So at least I didn’t have to endure this night alone. Which turned out to be a good thing considering the bands I was about to see.

First up: Phones.

Ok, I’ve seen it all now. My music-fandom life has collided with my gadget-geekiness life. You know those little keyboards, drum sets, oscillators, guitars, etc that cost a few bucks for the iPhone? If you’ve downloaded any of these apps, then you’ve probably messed around with them a bit, but never made any real use of them. But there are definitely some people who have figured out how to create music from them, and the “band” Phones are some of those people. Sort of.

Phones is not a “real” band, more of a fun, random project from guys in The Subjects and a guy from White Rabbits. They toured together recently, and while on the road they were fucking around with iPhone instruments. Then decided, what the hell, let’s play a gig with our iPhones. And It wasn’t as bad as it may sound. Sure, it started out a bit rough, but then worked its way into something resembling music. Obviously it wasn’t much to look at, just 5 dudes holding iPhones, and one working a mixing board. But it was fun, and definitely the weirdest show I’ve seen so far.

Next up: Paper

How do you follow an iPhone band? You play soooooo fucking loud that people forget about the band before. Seriously, these guys were ear-piercingly loud. But in a good way (sort of). The guitar tone was Steve Albini-inspired, while the beats and keys were total Krautrock. Until they weren’t. It was weird because when they started, I was certain they were German. Then they played some dirty, garage rock which had be thinking they were Swedish (they were). Then the played some new wavey stuff that had me thinking they were German again. Basically, they didn’t know who they wanted to be. They were touching a bunch of different genres, and doing them well, but lacked a bit of focus overall. If they just picked on and went with it, they might have something.

As they tried to destroy our eardrums, the funniest thing ever happened in front of Chrissy, Karen and me. There was this guy, who I was calling him “The Hip Dancer” and not because he was cool. He was dancing so fucking hilariously that it’ss going to be impossible to describe. But this shit was funny as hell. He would dip his shoulders toward the floor, and then move his torso as if to shake out the dance through his ankles. That’s the best I can describe it. Fucking brilliant.

Finally: Holy Hail.

Meh. Holy Hail was annoying and not good. They photographed well, but that’s about it. Just suffice to say they missed the boat by like 5 years. They sounded old and tired to me.

Speaking of old and tired. After three full bands at Cake Shop, that was me.

Peace.

2/28/09: Lights @ Cake Shop (37/100)

March 2nd, 2009

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I’m finally back. Ok not totally back, but up to about 78%. Roughly.  But you know what’s not back right now? My fucking site! I’m so pissed off. Obviously by the time this entry is up, the site problem will have been fixed. But as I write this, I’m fucking fuming. Livid.

Ok, so the band.

This show was a total surprise. And the best thing about it was prompt, not that pricey, and not that bad. I was going to see the Pathmark Gospel Choir Competition at the World Financial Center in the afternoon, but I missed it. Too busy putting this thing together:

(buffet)

I missed it. Whatever. Music is better at night, anyhow.

I met up with Jeremy at Local 138, a few steps from the Cake Shop, for some pre-show beers with him and his buddy Max. Ok, so the recession sucks, we all know that. But look at the bright side, it means $3 beers until 9pm at Local 138.

I was actually planning on seeing either Spectre Folk or Major Stars at Cake Shop, but when we got to the club, Spectre Folk and Lights had switched slots. That’s fine. I didn’t know either of them anyhow.

Lights was a psych-rock band, with two cute girls (and one dude), and another one working an overhead projector, sending patterns onto the band with oils, paint and water. Trippy, bro. The music sounded good, nothing I really remember all that much, but the spectacle of it all was pretty decent.

When they wrapped things up, I talked to the singer Sophia about the project. She thought it was cool. And I was done with music for the night.

Sometimes Saturdays are big bands at bigger venues. Sometimes they’re unknown bands at Cake Shop. I’m fine with that. But the night wasn’t done. Time to head up to Chelsea for a 75th birthday party I didn’t want to miss.

Yes, I know someone who’s 75, who I’m not related to. The man’s name is Giorgio Gomelsky. My band used to rehearse in his building. He’s a grandfather of rock and roll, and a great guy. I really miss talking to him. I guess I could go up to the space and see him more often. But you know how it is. Life gets in the way sometimes.

Jesse Malin was hosting the party. And it was full of a bunch of people I don’t know, but who I assume have a long history with Giorgio. I’ve only known him a few years and I can only imagine the stories they have with him. I’ve heard a few of his (usually involving the Rolling Stones or Eric Clapton) and I can only imagine how many more there are.

We got to his building in Chelsea and it was super packed…

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But Giorgio was nowhere to be found. I asked around and I guess he was upstairs, relaxing in his place. Makes sense. He did just have sugery. I head upstairs, and there are a few people hanging around him, wishing him happy birthday. I do the same and then head back downstairs (grabbing my Les Paul on the way – still have a lot of gear still in the building), have a beer with Jeremy and Max, and we split.

Mission accomplished.