Posts tagged ‘LES’

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.


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.

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.