Posts tagged ‘Le Poisson Rouge’

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.

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.

4/16/09: Rhett Miller @ Le Poisson Rouge (84/100)

April 17th, 2009

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I’m tired as hell today. Sort of like the first few weeks. But this is the homestretch. Gotta finish strong. Only a little over two weeks left. And while I love the project, and will probably miss it, I do want my life back. Even if it means I’ll be just another regular person who goes to shows every so often. Wait, that can’t happen. That’s the whole point of this thing – to get out there, and make sure I continue to see more shows. Shows like Rhett Miller on a Thursday night at Le Poisson Rouge.

But before I go into that, what the fuck is up with Le Poisson Rouge lately? I like this place, but they keep giving me reasons to hate it. First there was the mandatory 20% gratuity when using a card to pay for drinks back at the Glass Candy show. Now they’re charging $30 for a Rhett Miller solo acoustic show? Really? No offense, but Rhett’s no Jeff Tweedy. Tweedy I would pay $30 for (and more). Ok, in fairness to LPR, that included the bullshit online fee – but still.

And what’s up with the big beefy security lining the edges of the stage now? Do they seriously have to rig up a velvet rope off the side of the stage? First off, is that really going to keep someone from running onto the stage and molesting the artist? And secondly, it’s just Rhett and his guitar, what’s going to happen? Half the crowd would pull a hammy if they tried.

Speaking of which, this was the most unattractive crowd of the entire 84 days. I don’t know why, and I don’t really care. But just thought I should point that out. It was old and ugly. Shit, I was there too. Damnit.

Ok, so Rhett Miller. The singer/songwriter from the Old 97’s. The alt-country band I used to love. I still do I guess, just don’t really listen to them that much anymore. I like Rhett’s solo work, but have to admit I was looking forward to hearing mostly 97’s songs. I wasn’t disappointed. And he’s funny, self-deprecating, and gives it his all. Sweating all over the place, beating the hell out of the strings of his guitar, shaking his sweaty head around, jumping up and down – and so on.

Which is nice considering he’s just a guy stand on a stage with an acoustic guitar, in a solo spotlight – could’ve been dreadfully dull. But he made sure that didn’t happen. Throughout the set he said “This is a song request from Twitter.” Which I originally took as joke since he’s a smart ass. But he kept saying it, so maybe it wasn’t a joke? He was also taking requests from the crowd, saying once: “I’ll play your song, but that doesn’t make me a whore. All the sex on the street for money, that makes me a whore.” Reminding me of the sense of humor I share with friends of mine. This guy’s alright by me.

Although, I was a bit annoyed by some of the people in the crowd tonight. A lot seemed like the types who don’t go to a lot of shows, so they were violating some standard show etiquette: don’t continually bump into me dancing and say “Sorry.” Just stop bumping into me. And don’t push me out of the way so you can take my place. That sort of thing. But to be fair, I got to shows every night, so I’m a bit hyper sensitive to this sort of thing.

Toward the end of Rhett’s set he mentioned how he recently played the R.E.M. tribute show at Carnegie Hall (yet failed to use the standard “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” joke), at which he played the song “Driver 8.” So he played it again tonight and it was great. I taught myself to play guitar in college by playing R.E.M. songs, and will hopefully one day thank Peter Buck for “teaching” me guitar. So that was a nice touch.

But it also made me realize that he hadn’t played the one song I was hoping he would: “Oppenheimer.” It was still a great show. During the encore he riffed about how LPR was at a French-named club, and then played a verse and chorus from “Question” in French. So have to give him props on that. And for making my tired old, 84th day in a row ass happy that I shelled out the $30 to see him tonight.

3/25/09: Human Highway @ Le Poisson Rouge (62/100)

March 26th, 2009

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The day before going away is always stressful. There’s just too much shit to get done.

Last minute errands to run - mouthwash, kleenex, travel Splenda (pathetic, but I can’t live without this stuff). Finalize packing – underwear: check, socks: check, mini travel speakers that I’ll bring and never use: check. Apartment tidying up to do – bathroom: cleaned, dishes: done, cat: freaked out.

Now add having to this list, having to fit in a band and things just got plain annoying. That is unless I got to Le Poisson Rouge, walked in and noticed that it’s not super packed or hot or annoying. In fact, there were tables, chairs, a waitress and it’s all sophisticated-like. That I could handle.

I figured the show would be later on, so I could spend time after work doing all of the above. Then I got an email from Bekah at Suicide Squeeze records (who put me on the guest list, thanks so much Bekah), letting me know it’s an early show, with Cotton Jones going on at 8pm, followed by The Magic at 8:45pm and Human Highway at 9:15pm. Damn, it was almost 8pm when I got this, and I wasn’t ready to run over to LPR. Guess I’ll get there as soon as I can.

I managed to roll up to the club halfway through The Magic’s set. Bummed I missed Cotton Jones, but what can ya do. The Magic was good. Totally new to me, which is the best way to hear a band sometimes. They’re also Canadian, and have a lot of the same things going as other indie bands today: different members playing multiple instruments, each having some form of keys in front of them (analogs/synths), more than one singer, one of them female – that sort of thing. I like that sorta thing, just saying.

After The Magic finished their set, I took a seat near the stage, and waited for Human Highway. They didn’t take that long, but I was just feeling the “night before traveling” anxiousness, I guess. When they did take the stage, it was with some familiar faces from The Magic. Obviously necessary to reproduce HH’s record Moody Motorcycle live, since they’re only a two-piece.

For those who don’t know, Human Highway is a side project from Nicholas Thornburn (from the Canadian band Islands) and Jim Guthrie (Canadian singer/songwriter). They put out this record which was inspired by 50s/60s rock, doo-wop and soul. Just one of those fun, one-off records that hit me the right way at the right time.

Much like tonight’s show, which was early, chill and relaxing. Just like I needed tonight. They played the songs I wanted to hear off the record, even threw in a few covers, and I was out the door and back home before 11pm. A perfect way to end the night before heading out of town.

All I can think about tonight is:

Get me on the airplane and put me on a plane…Hurry hurry hurry before I go insane..

I wanna be on vacation…

3/7/09: Glass Candy @ Le Poisson Rouge (44/100)

March 8th, 2009

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Curse you daylight savings time. Curse you to hell.

That’s right, I’ll curse the darkness when halfway through Glass Candy’s set (which started after 1:30am) the time leaped ahead, from 2am to 3am. And I’ll curse it again when I got to bed at 5am instead of what should’ve been 4am. Ok, 4am isn’t that much better, but you know what I’m saying.

But I guess if I’m going to lose an hour, it might as well be at some weird dance party/rave thingy in a really dark venue with enormous balloons flying through the crowd, glow sticks flying through air, and feeling like I’ve been transported to a huge house party in San Francisco.

That party of course being the Italians Do It Better show at LPR. I had planned on seeing another band out in Brooklyn, The Giraffes, who contacted me on the blog a few weeks ago. Someone from the band said they’d put me on the guest list. I sent them an email and said, sure. But then never heard anything back from them. No confirmation, and that was a few weeks ago. So I didn’t want to get all the way out there for an 11 o’clock set time, only to find out I wasn’t on the list and I couldn’t get in.

So I bailed on that, and decided to join my friend Matt for the Glass Candy show instead. I felt bad for a minute, but I wasn’t sure if The Giraffes were counting on me, and quite frankly I wasn’t looking forward to another weekend night out to the nether regions of Brooklyn, watching a rock show alone. Next time, Giraffes.

Matt, his friend Thiago and I got to LPR a little after 11 (door time), and waited in an enormous line to get in. During which we got continually accosted by everyone from d-bag Bridge and Tunnel dudes, to nice little old ladies asking, “Why are you in line? What’s going on inside? What’s so special in there?” Seriously people? Have you never seen a fucking line in New York?

When we got into the club, it was relatively empty – save for the enormous balloons all over the stage and floor. Glass Candy wasn’t supposed to be on until 1am, and there were two other bands opening : Nite Jewel and Twisted Wires, with DJ Mike Simonetti (who owns the label) spinning in between.

Twisted Wires was pretty decent. Nite Jewel was pretty meh. Overall the night was pretty interesting. Definitely outside of my usual indie rock scene – which is a good thing. Exposure to scenes that are new to me is always a plus. Plus, Ida No (Glass Candy’s singer) is adorable.

They kept the room pretty dark all night, with flashes of light illuminating the band periodically. The bass was thumping, people were dancing everywhere, so LPR had rave-like quality all night.

About halfway through Glass Candy’s set, LPR officially made my shit list. When I bellied up to the bar to buy a round of drinks, I was informed of their ridiculous credit/debit card policy. Want to use a card? They’ll hit you with a mandatory 20% gratuity. And then have the balls to print an “Additional tip” line below that on the receipt. Are you fucking serious? What is this, a strip club? You’re already killing me by charging $9 for a Jack and Coke. Now you’re going to make me tip you over $5 for three drinks

Despite all of that, the night was worth it. A different kind of crowd, a different kind of show, lots of balloons and thumping bass. But I know I’ll be kicking myself for staying up till 5am, when I’m dragging ass later this week

2/17/09: Fujiya & Miyagi w/School of Seven Bells @ Le Poisson Rouge (26/100)

February 18th, 2009

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Just another manic Tuesday.

A 10pm door time, an 11pm start time, a sold out Le Poisson Rouge, or rather, a completely oversold Le Poisson Rouge – we’re talking Great White kind of oversold. Julian Casablancas and his lovely wife Juliet Casablancas (Joslin) watching the show right next to me. All to see School of Seven Bells and Fujiya & Miyagi.

Like I said, just another manic Tuesday. 

This was a completely spontaneous show for me. I was lying around Monday, looking to fill up my week with shows when I came across this one. I don’t know if it was a late booking or what, because 24 hours before the show, there were still tickets. Then on the night of the show, it was a fucking madhouse. Tons of people waiting outside, hoping to get a ticket.

My ticket was waiting for me at will call, and my friend Ryan was walking over to meet me. He showed up, we got inside, and I thought the music would start shortly after. Boy was I wrong. In fact, School of Seven Bells didn’t get started until after 11pm – on a school night. Ryan and I grabbed a drink, got settled in and the place started to fill up like water in a bathtub. Ok, weird comparison. But seriously, the flow of people really was like rushing water. They just wouldn’t stop letting people in.

I had no idea School of Seven Bells was going to pack it in like this. But I guess the dude in the band is from the Secret Machines and the women are cute identical twins. Ok, that has nothing to do with their music, but it’s still true. So SOSB came, they played…they came and played a lot of songs that sounded the same. I have their record Alpinisms, and I like it, so don’t take this as a slam on them. It’s just that they started out strong, and then after about 30 or 40 minutes, it started to all sound the same. And they weren’t doing anything spectacular on stage either, so my interest started to wane.

I was ready for the Brits-playing-Krautrock who are Fujiya & Miyagi. And shortly after losing interest in SOSB, I got my wish. F&M came out strong. I have both of their records, but I’m ashamed to say, I don’t really know any of the songs well enough to comment on what they played. I just usually put it on and then do something else. Oh, well, I know the one where they whisper “Fujiya…Miyagi…Fujiya…Miyagi…” They played that one. Which was cool.

F&M were tight, angular, and precise. The crowd was jumping up and down, dancing and singing along. They had super interesting, Gondry-esque light projections on the walls behind them, and an unrelenting stamina to continually crank out song after precise song.

But all I was thinking was ”What the fuck am I doing?” It was 1:30am on a Tuesday. Yes, a Tuesday. I’ve been to 26 consecutive days of music and again I won’t be in bed until after 2am. I blame you, Le Poisson Rouge for booking such a late show. Ok, ok. I blame me. I didn’t have to come up with this insane binge gigging idea, now did I.

2/2/09: Frightened Rabbit @ Le Poisson Rouge (11/100)

February 3rd, 2009

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I have to figure out what I want this blog to be about.

I’ve been told I’m holding back. That I need to be edgier. Funnier. That I need to bitch more. That it needs to be more about me. That no one really cares about reading yet another review of another underfed, tight jean-wearing hipster band from Brooklyn playing at a dark venue on the Lower East Side.

All valid points.

And while half of me wants to say, “Fuck off. This is my idea. I’ll do what I want.” The other half is saying “I know, you’re right. I suck.” But when you make a living keeping yourself out of your writing (at least, overtly), it’s tough to then publish a diary about your innermost feelings. “I’m still trying to figure out what the voice is. What my POV will be,” I often say. Is that the truth? I don’t know.

But here’s what I do know:

I’m sort of afraid I won’t finish. I’m only 11 days in and already overwhelmed. Only when I get to the venue do these feelings wash away. When the music begins, I’m reminded why I’m doing it. But what if I get into a situation where I’m working late (as I often do) and unable to see a band? My job obviously comes first. It’s what I do, and I love it. I should be able to find a couple hours a day to knock out a show.  But what if I can’t? Call me old fashioned, but if I miss even one day, what’s the point?

Next, what if I get to the end of 100 days and I hate music? Or rather, don’t want to go out and see it anymore? Or need a break? Or become jaded? I originally set up this project because I missed seeing music. So I was going to see 100 bands in a span of 100 days – not necessarily consecutive. But that didn’t seem pure, and often disappointed the people I explained this stipulation to. Now it’s 100 days in a row and while that is way cooler – it still worries me that I’ll get burnt out.

And, I could go broke trying. I’ve already spent around $300 in just over a week on tickets, beer, food, cabs, etc. If I keep this up, it’s going to be over $4,000 total. I can’t afford that. I live in NYC. My rent is more than most people’s mortgages. I gotta figure out a way of doing this cheap(er). Or get sponsorship, or more donations to help me out – something. (a HUGE shout out to those who have already donated. Thanks Mom, Boz, James, Al and Steve)

My apartment is a mess. It hasn’t been cleaned since I started. Sorry, but I’ve working and seeing bands. So it’s fucking filthy. Not gonna lie.

And what if I can’t relax afterwards? Think about it. Most people go straight home after work. They cook dinner, read a book, watch TV, take care of the kids – whatever. They have down time. Me? I’m out seeing bands, often times straight from work. Or I stop home to feed the cat, drop off my stuff, and then head out. I’m already A.D.D. enough as it is. Put this project on top of that, and who knows what I’m going to be like after 100 days. I could completely collapse into the fetal position…or I could be unable to sit still at night. Bored out of my mind.

These are just a few things that worry me about this project. Listen: I know it’s going to be fun. It’s already one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. And I know that no one wants to listen to me complain for the next three months. In fact, many people have even told me I’ve inspired them to do something they’ve been putting off. Plus, the look on the band members’ faces when I tell them they’re apart of this project has made it worth it thus far.

But what can I say? This is the shit I think about, and what you’ll be reading about from now on. Because while this will remain about music, it has to be about more than that or we might all get really bored, really fast.

Oh, yea. I almost forgot. Frightened Rabbit was great. See the video and pics. I don’t feel like writing about music today.