Posts tagged ‘Wilco’

4/18/09: Bear Hands w/Real Estate & The Tony Castles @ The Shank (86/100)

April 19th, 2009

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This was a day of music from beginning to end.

First, I met up with a woman named Lucette who’s helping launch a website called It’s in private beta right now, but when it launches, it will be a central hub for music fans to write about their concert experiences. Seemed like a cool idea to me. She wanted to talk me about the 100 bands project and filmed a quick interview with me for the site – asking about my favorite show of the project so far, and of all time. I picked Wilco & R.E.M. in 1999 for all time. I don’t know if it is my favorite all-time show or not, but it was an amazing show/overall experience. I met Tweedy. It poured rain. They had to cancel the show due to lightning, and I walked back to the car completely soaked. It was magical. But truthfully, picking one isn’t really that possible.


After that, I remembered it was record store day – one day I make a point to buy music from a mom and pop music store. Like going to church on Christmas in hopes that you won’t go to hell (yet, knowing Hell doesn’t really exist). So I buzzed over to Other Music to see what exclusive singles they’d have on sale. Here’s what I picked up: Crystal Antlers “Tentacles”, Condo Fucks “Fuckbook” and an exclusive Record Store Day Blitzen Trapper 45, called “War is Placebo”. They also had different band members doing DJ sets all day, like guys from Grizzly Bear, the Raveonettes, and even Bill Callahan doing a live acoustic performance. I would’ve liked to see that, but already had plans to meet my friend Ben at The Shank in Brooklyn to see Bear Hands, and a bunch of other bands.

The Shank is another one of those “semi-legal” venues, like L.A.M.C. and Death by Audio. It’s out, sort in the middle of nowhere in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and from what I gather, it’s a sound stage for TV and films by day. Underground indie rock venue by night. They were selling Colt 45 tallboys out of a cooler, people were smoking freely and there were makeshift benches set up to hang out in between sets.

I rolled up around 9:45, just in time to see the first band finish their set. I was supposed to be on the guest list, but wasn’t. No big deal. I paid my $10, and had to spot Ben another $4 since he was supposed to be my plus one. (he’s a broke grad student, and former drummer in the band I played in)


Second band of the night, but first full set for me was by a band called The Tony Castles. Terrible name. Good band. I couldn’t quite figure out where they were pulling their sound from, influence-wise. It sounded like some Talking Heads, but with a falsetto voice instead. Either way, they were starting the night off pretty solid.

After them was a band called Real Estate, sort of a snoozer, with more moments of “meh” than “yeah.” It’s not all their fault. In their defense, the sound isn’t awesome at The Shank, at least not for vocals. They get strangely muffled. “It’s like we’re at an arena,” said Ben. Exactly. The guitars sounded good (behind earplugs, of course), just not the vocals.


Either realizing this, or just by some stroke of luck, Real Estate changed gears and played about a half hour of straight instrumental songs. Which weren’t half bad. And they ended on a solid pop song. Not a terrible set overall.

The Shank never got super packed, which was nice. Yet, it was still hot as hell in there. And it definitely had an “out in the middle of nowhere” vibe since it’s surrounded by a bunch of warehouses, and there’s a guy guarding the door who won’t let you stand outside the door. “You gotta walk if you’re gonna talk,” said the man. The bathroom floor/carpet was soaked in water from a busted pipe connected (or, not connected) to the sink. So, no chance of washing your hands after you do your business. Not ideal.

Ben and I knocked back a few Colt 45s throughout the night. Officially the first malt liquor I’ve had since probably college, maybe high school. And it wasn’t that bad. Better than Mickeys or O.E., that’s for damn sure.

The last and final band, Bear Hands, went on just before midnight or so. I think, but not sure. Being at The Shank is like being in the Twilight Zone. You lose all sense of time and place. The Colt 45s don’t help, either. But let’s just assume it was around midnight, since the receipt from my taxi ride home after said 1:58am.


Bear Hands were good. They didn’t blow me away. But they didn’t stink it up either. The singer played the whole set shirtless (um, ok). He even took a song into the crowd at the end. I can appreciate that. The one thing I’ll nail them on though is the whole floor tom used by the guitar player thing. Damnit. Not another band doing that. Especially since it didn’t really add much to the sound and seemed more like a prop than anything. I’m getting really tired of it. Where is it coming from? It’s one thing if you’re Animal Collective, and Panda Bear is actually a skilled percussionist. It’s another to just use a floor tom in a superfluous way.

But to each band their own, I say. Ok, I never say that. Nor should anyone else. It’s a stupid phrase that doesn’t really work. But the Shank does, if you want to drink cheap beer, see upcoming indie bands, and feel like you’re at some exclusive place in the middle of nowhere. Just remember to pack the Purell.

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

4/13/09: The O’s @ Fontana’s (81/100)

April 13th, 2009

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God bless America for bluegrass music. The beautiful, sweet sound of the banjo, acoustic and slide guitars. Eat your heart out indie rock. Sometimes you just need a little reminder of where you came from to set you straight. I wrote all of that with a Texas drawl in my head, FYI. Even though I’m from Minnesota, yet somehow lost my accent all together somewhere between growing up in MN, undergrad in SC and the last 7 years in NYC. I just think talking about bluegrass sounds better with a southern drawl. Or, in the case of this blog post – imagining a drawl in your head as you write.

The O’s were just the reminder I needed that I grew up with roots/American music like The Gear Daddies, The Jayhawks, Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Son Volt, The Honeydogs and so on. I was raised on this stuff. It’s in my blood. Even though I don’t really bust it out that often anymore – apart from Wilco who is in a steady rotation pretty much all the time (I listened to A Ghost is Born twice and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Sky Blue Sky each once today). So it was nice to see two guys up on stage, cranking out some stuff that sounded like home. Or some version of it.

But tonight wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. It was supposed to be about a big show. The Neko Case and Crooked Fingers show up in Times Square. Except I choked and didn’t get a ticket in time. And now that there are a limited number of days left in the project, I want to make sure they all count. So I felt like a bit of a loser for not jumping on that ticket, and that I was just settling for some random music. But it’s these moments that surprise you the most.

The O’s are two guys: John and Taylor. That was pretty much all I knew going into this show tonight. Oh, and I saw that they were playing a show in Dallas, TX with Mark Olson and Gary Louris, formerly (and soon again, I think) of The Jayhawks – hometown heroes of mine. So, in my mind, if these guys are good enough for the Jayhawks, they’re good enough for me. And I was right. Or, they were right. Ok, we were all right.

The O’s were great. Not only great musicians and songwriters, but funny and self-aware about there being less than 20 people in the room. They cracked self-deprecating jokes about it the whole time, which helped break the tension of it being early and empty. They played a fairly quick set, under an hour, and probably could’ve played more if the sound guy would’ve let them. I know I could’ve listened to more.

I introduced myself to the band and picked up a CD after the show. I mentioned how I was a big Jayhawks fan growing up, so I was happy to see them playing with Olson and Louris. They said they cut their tour short to get back to Dallas so they could play that show with them. I said good luck, good night, and ran across the street to pick up dinner from the best little dumpling house in NYC (as far as I’m concerned).

81 down, 19 to go.