Posts tagged ‘Pianos’

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.

4/23/09: Darwin Deez @ Pianos (91/100)

April 24th, 2009

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I walked like a zombie toward Pianos tonight. Must…see…music…but…want…sleep. Another late night at work. Left at 11. Darwin Deez was supposed to go on around 11:40. Naturally, they didn’t go on until after midnight. I got there around 11:20, so a band named Thing One was on stage. I have no idea what the fuck they were all about. They were a sight to see, if nothing else.

The singer was jumping around, bouncing and shaking like he was possessed. But his look and enthusiasm didn’t really match the music. It was weird. The band looked like four totally different guys on four totally different pages. I couldn’t figure it out. The singer was a real singer, like Seal or something. But he looked like a jock, and wore a Grateful Dead t-shirt, and skinny headband. I was seriously confused. Still am.

Ok, speaking of skinny headbands. What the fuck is up with this new trend on guys? I get it on women, but both guy lead singers in the bands tonight wore skinny headbands, like this, except on a guy. Not sure if this is going to make it to the level of singers with drumsticks and extra floor toms, but I’ll be keeping an eye out. Might be a new thing. Or an old thing and I’m just noticing.

Thing One finally got off stage just after midnight, making way for Darwin and his bandmates to take the stage in their ironic outfits. They kicked off the show sort of perfectly for them: to a choreographed dance to the Peanut Butter Jelly Time song. Pretty funnny. Then transitioned into an upbeat song the people in the front row immediately began dancing to.

Most of the people in the crowd seemed like Darwin Deez veterans, and they came to dance. Especially the guy who grabbed the tambourine from the stage, and danced with it – in time – all night, as if he was a member of the band. Darwin didn’t seem to mind.

The show as fun, pure and simple. The songs were pretty simple and guitar-driven, geeky, art school indie rock. Sure, there was level of pretentiousness cloaked in irony. But it just seemed like young NYU/art school kids having fun being in a band. I’m not going to give them shit about that. I’m an old fart compared to them. And I’ve seen too many bands in the past 3 months for this to faze me. I just kicked back, listened, shot pics, and smiled.

They ended their very short, 30-minute-ish set to another full band dance number. Not sure about the song this time. Not sure if matters. It was 12:30 and I was fucking beat. But not too tired to say a few words to Darwin and grab a CD before hopping in a cab home.

91 down

9 to go

4/22/09: Wolff @ Pianos (90/100)

April 23rd, 2009

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I haven’t made it this far to give up so easily, just eking out the last few shows. I said I wanted to make them count. To see whatever the best show is on that night, every night until the end. But man, it’s not always that easy. Like Tuesday night when I got back from Bristol, CT and just picked a band playing a late show at Cake Shop. Or like tonight, where I did the same thing, but at Pianos. And just like last night, I was pleasantly surprised. But it wasn’t an easy road getting there.

I was supposed to see Starfucker @ Union Hall, but I had to work late enough that I didn’t think I’d make it there in time. I even paid my subway fare, sat and waited for the R train, but then bailed worried that if I missed it, then I wouldn’t make it back to Manhattan in time to see anything on the LES. So I left headed toward the LES.

Got to Ludlow, bought some dinner, tried to use my ATM card, but nothing. Card was declined. Not for lack of funds, but “No account.” Huh? That’s weird. Must be their machine, I thought. I get to Pianos expecting the band Wolff to be on. They were scheduled for 10, but things never run on time. Nope. They were going on at 11p instead, the band before them went on at 9p and were just finishing up. Damnit. Ok, so maybe I’ll go to Mercury Lounge and try and catch something.

I get there, don’t feel like paying $10 for some bands I have no idea about, especially when there’s hardly anyone there. Damnit, back to Cake Shop. Some weird showcase going on. Not into it. Let me get money, at least I can go into Pianos and grab a beer while I wait for Wolff. I try the ATM outside Pianos. Nope, declined. I try the other ATM a few feet away. Nope, declined. I try another ATM across the street. It’s out of order. Then another ATM outside Cake Shop. Nope, declined.

What the fuuuuuuuuuck?!?!?

I call my bank. Can’t get through, keep getting cut off. At this point I’m thinking this is karma reigning down on me for not making it out to Union Hall since I was on the guest list, and it’s the last 10 days of the project and here I am, picking a band pretty much at random. Then I remember, that’s not it at all. It occurs to me that I received a replacement ATM card from my bank that I hadn’t activated yet. Oops.

So I grab some cash, take a couple deep breaths, and then head into Pianos about 15 minutes early for the Wolff show. There’s a total of four people in the music room while they finish setting up. When they start playing, 10 minutes earlier than their set time, I’m one of three people in the room. Then I think those people leave at some point and I might be the only on in the room.

That doesn’t last long as people continue to file in and out of the room throughout the night. Intrigued I assume by a guy with a tuba, and a guy on drums, and Planet Earth visuals being projected onto the backdrop of the stage. Or maybe it’s because the show was free. Either way, I was glad to be there, despite the annoying bullshit that happened before.

I checked Wolff’s myspace page before leaving work, as a Plan B in case I bailed on Starfucker. It seemed like an interesting band. Brian Wolff on tuba/vocals/samples/loops/effects pedals/everything under the sun. Steve Garafano on drums. Brian’s tuba is hooked up to his effects board, so every sound you hear (save for the live drums), comes from him blowing into the tuba, and manipulating the sound in real time.

Nothing is pre-programmed, but plenty of things are layered on top of each other. He even turned the tuba into a microphone sings through it. Truly fascinating as a fan of music, and pedal/gear freak. I think Steve was playing to a metronome as well, and he was fucking automatic. Like a human drum machine.

The music itself comes out like industrial/electronica. And the visuals really help the experience, especially during “Bull Elephant,” which I thought was the highlight of the show/rehearsal. That’s what Steve kept repeating throughout the night, ‘Welcome to our show slash rehearsal.”

Whatever it was, it was a really unique, interesting, fascinating, and fulfilling experience. And probably better than the two Starfucker songs I would’ve seen had I made the trek to Brooklyn.

4/6/09: The Mess Around @ Pianos (74/100)

April 6th, 2009

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New York punk rock is fun. Ok, punk rock in general is fun. If I had a punk band, I’d probably name them Three Chord Monte. In fact, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a band named that already. If not, and you start one after reading this, gimme props.

The Mess Around are a band I’d like to start. A fun, three chord garage punk band that was clearing just having fun at Pianos tonight. I guess when you’re doing a free Monday night show with about 20 people in the room, and you’re playing short punk songs, is there any other way? Me think not.

I hadn’t heard of The Mess Around before tonight. I was getting back into the NY state of mind, where I scour the sites of any number of venues within walking distance of my place, and probably see something decent. You know, not have to transfer three times on the London or Paris metro. That’s one good thing about being back in NYC.

So it was between this show and a show at Zebulon, which is a venue I need to get out to for a show. They have a lot of interesting world music. But tonight, I needed something easy and close. The Mess Around were going on at 9pm, and the songs on their myspace page sounded high energy. Good enough for me.

When I got there, I wasn’t sure if they were doing a sound check or what, because they were definitely playing, but there was no one in the room. Curiosity (or pity?) made me go check it out. A few people followed behind. They were in fact playing their first song – a song that the bass player and lead guitar both broke strings during. And the lead singer/guitar player was out of tune during. Not a bad way to start off a Monday gig.

But they just laughed it off. Setting the tone for who they are, and what the show would be like. Think The Ramones, The Clash, The Misfits and Sex Pistols and there you go. Except these guys seemed like nice, normal guys. In fact, go to Pandora.com right now, create a new station using The Ramones as the band, and what follows is pretty much what this show sounded like.

Or, you can watch this:


I have no idea what their songs were about, called, or what any of the lyrics were.There may have been something about a girl in there somewhere. They were just too fucking loud to know for sure. And I was sitting right next to the stage, with my earplugs jammed into my ears (just in case).

Sitting there listening to The Mess Around tonight made me miss my band a little. We had one song that was a three chord monte like these guys. It was dumb and fun to play and we could’ve gone that direction, and I probably wouldn’t have been ok with it at the time. But looking back, who cares, right? At least we would’ve been playing shows, inviting friends to come out, and just fucking around. But alas, it was not to be. I’m too old for that shit. But The Mess Around are not (although the singer did say some of the guys were over 30, so they needed more breaks during the set).

They were still able to have fun and fuck shit up. Not like unskilled amateurs, but like a bunch of guys acting like teenagers. Think of it this way: their myspace tagline is “Shake ’till you shit yourself,” and some of their songs are titled, “Drunken Words”, “Trainwreck” and “Dance All Night.” So, obviously they aren’t songs you have to overanalyze or think too hard about. Just tap your foot, nod your head, and let it be what it is. Which is always a good reminder. That at the end of the day, it’s music. It’s ok to have fun with it.

And shake your ass ’till you shit your pants.

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.

3/13/09: The Rosewood Thieves @ Pianos (50/100)

March 14th, 2009

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As I write this, on a flight to Minnesota at 8:30am on Saturday 3/14/09, I’ve officially passed the halfway mark: 50 straight days of live music. Yipee. And lucky for me, a crew of friends joined me for the 50th show. Along for the ride was Eric, Charlie, Josh, Scott, Matt, Dan, James, his friend and Eugenie, his wife. “At least you know you have people that love you,” said Scott. True. That’s always good to know. Thanks everyone for making it out.

Wow, I’ve never done anything 50 days in a row, apart from eat, sleep, shit and breath. But now I’ve seen 50 consecutive days of music, and 73 bands within that time. Yes, I know this project is called 100 Bands in 100 Days, but as I’ve said before, that’s just more or less a better sounding name than the reality. Obviously, I will have seen 100+ bands after the 100 days. This is about going to see at least one band a day, every day.

Tonight was exciting. I definitely felt a sense of accomplishment. Mostly because I had a bunch of friends telling me they were proud of me. And I was proud of me, too. I guess. But while I was excited for the show, and happy so many people made it out, I couldn’t completely enjoy the show, unfortunately. I had something else on my mind.

My grandma Katie.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how I had to get up at 5:30am to catch a quick flight to the homeland. My 82-year old grandmother has been pretty sick lately, bouncing back and forth between ICU and a rehab facility. And while I’ve been getting frequent updates by phone, email and text for the past few weeks, I felt like I needed to get back and see her while I can.

Despite her weakened state, she’s still as stubborn as ever. When I told her I was going to come see her, she said, “What about your music?” I said, “Don’t worry grandma, I’m going to see a band while I’m there.” To which she replied, “It’s not like I’m going to die. I’m too stubborn to do that.” I couldn’t help but laugh, because she’s right. She is. But she wasn’t done taking the piss out of her situation. I said, “I wanted to tell you I was coming. I didn’t want it to be a surprise.” She said, “You just don’t want me to drop dead.”

That’s my grandma.

But before I could get back to see her, I had to get through my 50th show: The Rosewood Thieves @ Pianos.

I told everyone to meet at the venue around 10:30, and like a scene out of some movie, we all walked up at the same time. Seriously, it was weird. First, Eric, Charlie and me. Then Josh and Matt. Then Dan a second later. Scott, James and Eugenie were already inside. We went in, grabbed drinks, headed toward the back room and within 10 minutes or so, The Rosewood Thieves were on, pretty much on time. Weird for a Friday night.

They sounded really great. One of the best sounding bands I’ve heard in the Pianos room. If not the best (doesn’t mean the best “show” mind you). Their sound was almost too big for the room. The Thieves are a 6-piece band with a really well-balanced guitar/keyboard sound. They are a bit derivative, but I don’t mind it because they borrow from all the right places: Bob Dylan, Revolver-era Beatles and a touch of psych rock. There’s even a bit of Spoon and Supergrass in there.

“Supergrass, yes. But more earnest,” said James. Well put.

They cranked out almost a dozen songs as the room continued to fill up. When they announced their last song, a cover titled “Live Till You Die,” I took a peek at their set list. It said they had one more “encore” song after that – but must not have felt up to it. Or run out of time.

I introduced myself to Eric (singer/vox) who I had corresponded with over email leading up to the show. I told him the show was great. Thanked him for the guest list spot. And then split for a quick nightcap before calling it an early night – and an even earlier morning.

50 days down. 50 days to go.

Random sighting after walking out of Pianos: Los Campesinos! singer Gareth, strutting down Ludlow.

2/24/09: Slim Twig @ Pianos (33/100)

February 24th, 2009

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What the hell just happened?

Was I really just at Pianos for Slim Twig? Or was that just another figment of my imagination, like the Nyquil-induced dreams I had last night…as I lay in bed for 12 hours, sweating, then freezing, sweating, then freezing. I’m sure I’m not the first person to ask themselves if that really just happened, though. Sick or well. If you’ve seen this Toronto trio, you know what I’m saying.

A Slim Twig show is a pretty bizarre, funhouse-like experience. A noisy, psychedelic, rockabilly freak out. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s pretty avant-garde shit, but there’s some interesting stuff going on in there. They’re like Sonic Youth and Liars and Jon Spencer and, some dude fucking freaking out on PCP. It’s weird and undecipherable at times. Yet interesting at all times.

Or maybe that’s because I have been ODing on vitamin C that last couple days. I don’t know.

This was a Paper Bag Records showcase, which was supposed to be Slim Twig, Josh Reichmann Oracle Band and Winter Gloves – a bunch of bands coming into town from Canada. But, Winter Gloves couldn’t make it across the border, so it was just the two bands. Didn’t matter to me though. I was only going to be able to sit through one band. And Slim was up first. 

The room was pretty empty when they started, but filled in a bit as they played. The singer made sure to call us out in the audience for forming, as he called it, the typical “New York half moon.” Three people moved forward to fill in some of the space between our half moon and the stage. I wasn’t moving anywhere. As I sat there, sweating and sniffling, and generally looking and feeling like a total mess, I was at least happy I was sitting there. Sitting being the key word. I found a stool. Bonus.

This fucking sucks to be getting sick during this journey. I mean, I have some great shows coming up this week. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a little cold and exhaustion ruin that. If nothing else, I’ll just be delirious for a few days. But at least for the last couple shows I’ve seen, that’s only helped me.

2/19/09: Black Taxi @ Pianos (28/100)

February 20th, 2009

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This was the first truly miserable experience of this project. It wasn’t Black Taxi. They were fine, I guess. A bit all over the place, jumping from funk, to rock, to prog, to blues/jazzy shit, to the singer using a trumpet, a glockenspiel, playing keys, a megaphone, wearing a top hat, hitting a drum slung around his neck (yes, another singer with drumsticks) and so on. It was the last night of their residency at Pianos, and a lot of the crowd seemed to be into it. But I don’t know. I just didn’t get it. Mostly it’s because I was just fucking exhausted. 

Before the show, I headed up to Times Square with some friends from work to check out Will Ferrell’s “You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush“.

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It was great: 90 minutes of Ferrell squeezing every last bit out of the best character he played on SNL. And doing it as well as ever before. It was a funny (yet, still somewhat depressing) journey down memory lane from the last eight years. From the moment he was lowered onto the stage, strapped to a guy who was dressed like a fighter pilot, to the moment he finished by drinking a Budweiser laying flat on his back on the stage – Ferrell was brilliant.

Again, a great show. But obviously, not a “band.” So I had to head straight down to Pianos for Black Taxi after it was over. Needless to say, none of my friends felt like putting in the extra effort.

Before the show, I was happy that my evening was going to time out perfectly since the Ferrell show went from 8-9:30pm, and Black Taxi was supposed to go on at 10pm. But then, with about 1/2 hour left in the Bush show, exhaustion hit me. I was wiped out, felt like shit and wanted nothing more than to just go home and curl up in bed. But no. I had to go to Pianos.

Damnit.

Luckily I caught the D express train from Rockefeller Center right away. Took that down to West 4th, walked right across the platform where an F was waiting, took it two stops to 2nd Ave – and I was on my way. I was desperately hoping that I would walk right into Pianos, the band would be playing their first song, the show would go by in a matter of seconds, and I would be home somewhat early (11-ish). That didn’t exactly happen, but close.  

When I got there, Black Taxi was on stage, but just setting up. The room wasn’t as packed as I’d seen it before, but it’s small in there, so it’s never super comfortable. And I’m sure I pissed a lot of people off by not checking my big ass coat, and slinging it over my messenger bag – basically taking up enough space for 2 people. But fuck it. They’re on my turf. I do this shit every day.

The show began after a slow set up. I knew basically nothing about this band going in. I listened to some of the tracks on their myspace page, and the track “Wanted Man” is pretty solid. But also misleading, since not much of the rest of their stuff sounds like that. That song makes them sound like some Kings of Leon-inspired band. But that’s where the comparison ends.

Between my exhaustion, a headache that was getting worse with every bit of microphone feedback (and there was a lot), and how disjointed a lot of Black Taxi’s songs were – this show just didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t compute. Black Taxi were definitely trying to sell it though. But I couldn’t wait for it to be over so I could leave, and go home and write this when I should be sleeping. Oh yea, I should be sleeping. I think I’ll go do that right now. 

Bye bye.

1/30/09: Right On Dynamite @ Pianos (8/100)

January 31st, 2009

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My friend Al emailed me earlier in the week about some shows he was going to check out. This being the first of two. He said his cousin plays in this band Right On Dynamite, who just got off tour with Frightened Rabbit. I checked out their myspace page and it sounded good to me. Let’s do it. 

We hit up Motor City, a dingy dive bar on the LES, before the show. On my walk over, I text my buddy Charlie who used to live across the street. Here’s how that went down:

charlie

Unfortunately, I went before I left my apartment. Sorry Chuck. 

Al and I grabbed a drink, and then headed over to Pianos to catch the show. We catch the end of the band before them (Shit, I can’t remember their name. Someone let me know, cuz I’d like to see them some time). Al introduces me to the band before they hit the stage. Nice guys, nice vibe in the room. Fun, relaxed. 

Right On Dynamite hit the stage: Daniel on guitar/vox, Nicholas on bass/vox and Jon on drums. Their music is poppy, lo-fi and somewhat unpolished (at least, live) with slightly overdriven, bright guitar. Fun and simple vocal hooks and basslines. Solid, simple drums. Basically, the formula that Built to Spill made a career out of. And believe me, the similarities between these two bands don’t end there.

So I’m nodding along, digging the vibe, and so is the crowd. Then after a song or two, Nicholas calls me out! I guess Al must’ve told him about the project, and he wanted to tell the crowd (and the rest of the band). He says, “I want to talk about Al’s friend Nick over there. (pointing me out) He’s going to see 100 bands in 100 nights, and we’re band number eight. Really cool idea.” Daniel, says “Wow. I love the number eight. We are the octopus.”

Indeed they are. An octopus of  musical good times, like this guy. Right on, Right On Dynamite. I had a blast. Thanks for making eight, great.

Man that was a corny way to end.

1/27/09: The Rural Alberta Advantage @ Pianos (5/100)

January 28th, 2009

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It’s day #5 and I’m already tired and my stomach’s a mess from going out, drinking beer and eating shitty food for four nights in a row. Honestly, what have I gotten myself into? Two weeks ago I was on a pretty solid diet – counting calories, low carbs, barely any drinking, working out – but I have fallen off that wagon pretty hard, and fast. And if I keep drinking beer at every show, I’ll need to change the URL to 100 days of rehab. I have to give myself some rules, like immediately. Here’s one: I can only drink beer at shows on the weekend. I’ll start…um, next Monday. 

I’m guess I’m just feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole thing. Plus, I’ve spent a bunch of money so far. Which is why I am going to be adding a Paypal donation function to the blog soon. I’m sure my mom will donate a few bucks. You should too – if you value karma.

So I worked until about 10pm tonight and then went straight to the show. From advertising to binge gigging – this will be my life for the next 95 days. I’m really looking forward to tonight’s show. It’s the Rural Alberta Advantage @ Pianos. A great little Canadian band playing their first show anywhere outside of Canada. Technically they’re from Toronto, but Nils (vox/guitar/keys) originally hails from Alberta – hence the name.

I get to Pianos, pay my $8 and head into the backroom, where it’s super packed because the band The Loom is playing their last show of a residency there. Lucky for the RAA, most of the crowd stayed to see them. And they’re great right from the first note. They seem happy, excited, humble and genuine – basically, like every other Canadian I’ve ever known. Their music is honest without being sappy or whiney (and the comparison to Neutral Milk Hotel is impossible to ignore). Nils (vox/guitars/keys) tells the stories behind some of the songs and thanks the crowd about a million times.

And then chimes in with, “Man, you guys are intense…” Then shyly turned away to his bandmates as if to say, “Let’s start, fast, please…” But he’s right. NY crowds don’t aim to intimidate, we’ve just seen it all before, and want you to show us what you’ve got. So we sit and stare and wait. The great bands are able to use that energy to pull out their best.

The RAA did just that, because as they could see, NY loved them tonight. So they returned the sentiment and treated us to something special. Following the final song of the set, they walked into the middle of the crowd and sang us a quiet, sweet goodnight song.