Posts tagged ‘Music Hall of Williamsburg’

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.

4/15/09: Of Montreal @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (83/100)

April 16th, 2009

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This Outback commercial ruined Of Montreal for me for a couple years, not gonna lie. I saw it as the ultimate sell out. A band I always knew as doing their own thing, giving in to a fake Australian restaurant chain. It almost made want to boycott the Blooming Onion forever – almost. Those colossal calorie kingdoms are just too good to turn my back on for an eternity. Delicious sons of bitches…

But time heals all wounds I guess, because I’m over it. So they sold out. So what. So did Bob Dylan, and Wilco, and just about every other band or musician I admire. But the artists didn’t change. They didn’t start writing songs so they could get them into commercials. In fact, in the Of Montreal’s case, quite the opposite. Their music is even more fucked up and abstract now.

So I walked into tonight’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg waving a white flag, and anxious for a the live freak show that is Of Montreal. And what a freak show it is. Last time I saw them was at Bowery several years ago. At that show, lead singer Kevin Barnes walked on stage in a full white wedding dress. My friend Lauren told me the first time she saw them he entered the stage on a white horse. So long as he didn’t walk out dressed as a Blooming Onion (a kangaroo would’ve been ok), it should be a good show.

I went to the show with my friend Josh, co-worker Olivia and her friends Dana and Bronwen. And we all waited anxiously to see what tricks Kevin and the band had up their sleeves. The crowd was get anxious themselves, chanting for the band to get this whacked out party started. But nothing as crazy happened. Instead, tonight’s madness came from the visuals playing on huge screens behind them, and the cast of actors dressed as different animals, religious figures, ninjas, etc that came out on the stage and acted out…um…skits? Not really. That would be giving them too much credit for having a script or concept. I turned to my friend Josh at one point and said, “I don’t get it.” And he replied, “I don’t think there’s anything to get.” Good point.

It didn’t matter much to me whether I “got” what was going on. It was fascinating, intriguing, bizarre and really fun to look at. Kevin was dressed in his usual flamboyance, but the guitar player had him beat tonight with feathers sprouting off him like a peacock. Like this:


Simply put, an Of Montreal show is unlike any other show you’ll see. I saw a couple security guys look at each other at one point, with looks of utter confusion on their faces. Like, “How the? What the? Who the?” But that’s just it. You should ask these questions, or at least you be thinking them, because that’s the point. They are a freak show, and that’s what makes them great.

That’s not to detract from the music, which I have to admit lost me a bit during my “Of Montreal is on my shit list” period. But they’re still a great band. Original to the core. It’s like seeing Bowie, Prince, Meatloaf, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Rocky Horror Picture show on acid. I’ve never taken acid (I promise, Mom), but I imagine this is what it would be like. Or what the flashbacks would be like. Or something. I mean, I’ve had fucked up, bizarre dreams that make more sense than what I was looking at.

There were Catholic cardinals dressed in red robes with actual cardinal beaks. A woman walking around on all fours with a 3-year old girl riding on her. Ninjas with glittered red faces. Dudes dressed like Buddha. Guys in weird gold masks. People dressed like pigs, and guy in a white suit and tiger mask…and so on.

But that’s the beauty of Of Montreal. I couldn’t see them every day. I couldn’t see them anytime. But I am glad I saw them during this 100 days, if no other reason than to be the wild card, fucked up, weirdest freak show of all the shows.

Of Montreal. That title most certainly belongs to you. You earned it

4/7/09: The Antlers @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (75/100)

April 8th, 2009

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Not sure what to write today, to be honest. I’m sorta in rough shape and not feeling too terribly creative. Or much like a writer. Or much like a human. The show was good, but I was in rough shape for it.

Every year, the company I work for throws a party on the day the agency was started: April Fools Day. This year, the party was pushed back until the 7th for whatever reason, and the budget was scaled back considerably, because of the recession. How scaled back? Well, a couple years ago, for the agency’s 25th anniversary, we were flown out to Portland for a 2-day party the Beastie Boys performed at. If that’s any indication (of course, that’s the extreme).

This year, we basically played drinking games (flip cup, beer pong) in a huge room on the 3rd floor for like eight hours.There was also a live karaoke band, which was cool. Entirely too loud, but that’s just because of the space. It was basically a lot of day drinking, and then I ran out see The Antlers later that night.

I texted my friend Jeremy from the party to see if he wanted to check out the show with me. I had gotten on the list (thanks Francis) and was really looking forward to it. I hopped in a cab around 8:30pm, and headed towards Brooklyn. The cab driver took me for a ride, saying he didn’t know Brooklyn. Which I find to be bullshit since Williamsburg is right across the bridge. But whatever. I made it, grabbed a slice at my favorite pizzeria and then headed to the club. Meeting up with Jeremy pretty much right away.

The club wasn’t super crowded which was nice. We managed to get right up to the front of the stage. I was literally leaning on it as I took most of the pictures above. And man, the Antlers are pretty great. Their sound is so thick, and dense, you could swim in it. One look at their pedal boards lets you know why:

And their songs are just really nice – the kind you can close your eyes and soak in. Just don’t close your eyes after you’ve been drinking all day like you’re in college again, because you might fall asleep or fall over. Just saying, you know, that’s what I hear.

I’d heard some of The Antlers’ new record before the show, but had never seen them. They’ve been getting good press lately, like this great write up in Pitchfork. So I think it was one of those, “you’ll be hearing a lot about these guys soon” type shows. And their record is self-released, which is totally cool.

They played for about an hour, then left the stage to make way for the headliner. At which time, I left the club, leaving Jeremy behind to watch Here We Go Magic solo. Who I would’ve liked to see. But I just had to get home and get some sleep.

Sorry Jeremy.

Sorry Here We Go Magic.

Thanks Francis.

Rock on Antlers.

1/31/09: Robbers on High Street w/Jukebox the Ghost @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (9/100)

February 1st, 2009

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Day #9 of consecutive music and for some reason, I’m feeling a bit down. I think it’s the realization that it’s going to be a long, lonesome journey much of the time. Not unlike being on tour in the city I live in, except without any band mates. I have been lucky and had a lot of friends join me in my first week, but I think as the project goes on, those will be fewer and further between.

But, I must press on. So I get out to Williamsburg around 9:30 and grab my favorite slice at Anna Maria’s on 7th & Bedford. Every one has their favorite slice in NY, this one is most definitely mine. My friend Adam described it best a few years ago, “This place could charge for the smell.” Indeed.

I inhale the slice on the walk down to the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I’ve been to a few shows here and it’s beginning to grow on me more each time. But I have to admit, I still kind of miss the old venue, North Six - the bleachers, the horseshoe bar, the stage Jack Black dove off of in the beginning of School of Rock…memories.

Tonight’s show is a record release party for a compilation of covers called Guilt by Association Vol. 2. There’s four bands on the bill, and I get there when the second band Takka Takka is finishing up. I wouldn’t have minded seeing them, but it’smy 9th straight day of music, and really not interested in three full sets tonight. I head in, grab a beer and get ready for Jukebox the Ghost. A band I know exactly nothing about.

Turns out I was in for a treat. Jukebox is a fun, 3-piece piano-rock band. Think one part Ben Folds, one part lounge act who plays to the crowd, cracks jokes, and generally doesn’t take themselves too seriously. During their set, two women announce it’s their birthday. So they hop up on stage, dance, shake maracas, invite their guy friends up, too – and there’s basically a birthday party on stage. Good times. 

They finish up their set, and then surprisingly much of the place clears out. I guess not everyone’s there to see Robbers on High Street. Fast forward about 20 minutes, and Robbers launch into their first song. Now, I have to admit, I’m not a massive fan of theirs. I have their Grand Animals record, which is cool. I just haven’t listened to it a ton. And I know I saw them at CMJ one year with Cold War Kids, Dr. Dog, Elvis Perkins, Tapes ‘n Tapes, et al. But, anyhow. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not sure what to expect. 

But here’s what I find out: Robbers are pretty great. They remind me a lot of Supergrass (circa late ’90s) mixed with Soul and R&B. Which makes total sense considering the song they contributed to the GBA compilation, New Edition’s “Cool It Now.”

The already half-empty Music Hall starts thinning out more and more as the night winds down. But I stick around for the encore. And the Robbers don’t seem to notice as they seem to be relaxed and enjoying themselves. Or maybe that’s because of the box of Tecate near the drum riser that they keep reaching into. Either way, they sound great, and put a nice stamp on what started out to be a lonely, dreary day #9 for me.

Thanks guys.