Archive for January, 2010

Concert Review: Old Wives, Hank & Cupcakes, New Madrid at Cake Shop

January 24, 2010

I got invited to Cake Shop for a concert hosted by a company called CitizenMusic Presents last night. Initially there were four bands on the bill: Hank and Cupcakes, Action Painters, New Madrid and Old Wives. According to Facebook messages Action Painters pulled out the show several days beforehand – maybe they broke up, again? Would love to find out the story there, that band is (was?!) really good. Either way, anyone who reads this blog knows I have a deep affection for Hank and Cupcakes. (In fact, they were the first review ever posted on here.) I had never heard of Old Wives and was pretty unfamiliar with New Madrid, but their MySpaces sounded good, so I was pretty excited for the show.

As is rather typical, there was some early show at Cake Shop, some metal crap with a slew of black-clad creeps slithering out around 9 o’clock, when the Old Wives were supposed to begin. The CitizenMusic Presents show didn’t start until well after 10. Ordinarily I’d be pretty pissed off about that, but I was in an unconventionally good mood and just started drinking alone. There were some good-looking chicks there and everyone was having a good time, so a late start wasn’t so bad.

By the time the first band took the stage the room was packed from the front of the stage to the back door.

Old Wives
Photo courtesy of Deneka Peniston

Old Wives, a five-piece rock band from somewhere in New Jersey, began the show with a straight ahead, no bullshit blues jam. It was a nice way to start a set as it not only set the tone for the rest of their tunes, but it put their excellent musicianship on full display. As the band prepared to start their second song, lead singer Jason Gleason asked the crowd, “do you like to boogie?” The five Jersey kids then kicked into a seriously groovy tune reminiscent of Bad Company. Bella Gleason (keyboards) accompanied the driving, danceable number with organ tones that ricocheted between a Zombies-like church sound and some whacked-out, spacey Devo-esque noodling. The eight song set was superb, really superb. I hope this Jersey quintet won’t be strangers to New York, as they are just type of Rock n Roll this City’s yearning for. The musicianship is absolutely first class, the singer, Gleason, has the ability to scream it like Paul Rogers or belt it like Bono – he’s truly a top-rate talent. The rhythm section is perfectly in synch and the songs, especially “Rip Van Winkle” a track apparently about “the desert” according to Gleason, are great. Looking forward to writing more reviews of these guys.

The room was pulsating with an unusual energy in anticipation of the second band, among my very favorite acts, Hank and Cupcakes.

Hank and Cupcakes
Photo courtesy of Denika Peniston

Since I have previously written a rather extensive review of Hank and Cupcakes show (scroll down) I’m going to keep this one brief. If you haven’t seen them, see them. This salacious, riveting duo will have you saying “White Stripes who?!” after the first several notes. The ever-charming Cupcakes was the queen of the ball on this night. Whether exchanging on-stage banter with the crowd or dancing swinging her hips and hair (behind the stage, in the pit, on chairs) during Old Wives’ and New Madrid’s set, Cupcakes proved yet again to be a uniquely engaging personality. Hank, her partner in crime, is an absolute master. With a pedal board that must require its own Ryder truck to move from point A to point B, he created his singularly symphonic melodies from outer space that provided a perfectly tripped-out platform for Cupcakes to hammer away dance beats on her kit. The band will be at Pianos on February 5, this dirty hipster will be there and he’d think you all idiots if you’re not there as well.

I was extremely intrigued to see New Madrid. I’ve heard things here and there about them, but had never seen them live nor really dug into their self-titled EP, which was released last year. The four tracks and live videos on their MySpace had me very interested to see what they’d be live. And, while the songs off the EP are catchy and interesting, and the live videos (as home-made as they appear and sound) are pretty cool, this live show is off the fucking chains.

New Madrid
Photo courtesy of Crystal E

To start with, New Madrid shut off all the lights on stage and stood prepping their fingers, finishing their beers and checking the levels on their amps as Mozart blasted through the PA. The lights shoot on just as the band come in on a brutally fast, chugging punk song I learned from their MySpace is called “Radio Tranquila.” From the outset, frontman/drummer/lead singer, Axel, was in total command of stage and crowd. It was no surprise to see him and Cupcakes chatting it up after the show, because the two are awfully similar. Not only do they both stand and play drums while singing, but they are both supremely enigmatic. Guitarist, Erik Barragan, added massive distortion to his guitar, which, in conjunction with bassist, Anthony Formichella’s flittering bass lines, provided both grit and elegance to the set.

New Madrid deliver a set full of highlights. When they decide to get loud, they get fucking loud. Axel is not only an irresistibly engaging performer, but he is a phenomenal singer. Not to mention a very good, original-sounding drummer. Truly a great talent. And the songs are really great. There were a group of very tall, hip-looking girls no more than 6″ from the stage with their hands in the hair from start to finish; a little punk dude headbanging at the stage’s edge with his shirt off; an old, bald man contorting his body in an almost disconcerting fashion; people making out left and right; an agglomeration of flashbulbs fit for a Paris Hilton appearance.

The crowd stayed, drank and cheered from start to finish. The energy was palpable, and the performances by the bands were really, really great. This dirty hipster has two new bands on his “must see” list: Old Wives and New Madrid. If last night’s concert at Cake Shop were any indication, it appears that good times and good… okay, great bands are alive and well in New York. -DFH

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Titus, Oh Titus

January 22, 2010

WordPress alerted this dirty hipster to the fact that my favorites, Titus Andronicus, had referenced my blog in a post of theirs. Gosh, what an honor. Is it possible to type out of key?

What I really want to say, though, is I’m impressed. Pretty ballsy to share such a shitty review with one’s fans. Also, those two new tracks of theirs, “Four Score and Seven (Parts 1 and 2)” are pretty rad. So, I’m going to give the fellers a chance. They’re hosting their release party at Bowery on March 6. I’ll be there. Last time I saw the band at Bowery they sucked – hard. This is one dirty hipster laying down the gauntlet; impress me! I’ll be whistling a different tune if you, well, can keep a tune.

Here’s a link to what they had to say about what I had to say about what they had played and how they had played it: Titus Andronicus Blog.

Oh, that Real Estate album still sucks, sorry guys. It’s boring and it’s wrought with poorly-written material. Take away the production and you’re left with a couple of jerks from Jersey who couldn’t write a riff if their Z-28 depended on it. Not that theirs need be riff rock, but come on, a little bounce, a little energy. It’s fucking suicide music! -DFH

Death Cab Crashes

January 16, 2010

Here’s a link to a clip of Death Cab For Cutie at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards on January 15. This is about as bad a cover as you’ll see/hear.

DEATH CAB COVERS “DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME” BY SIMPLE MINDS

GIBBARD: “Can I get some autotune in the mic, and can you drop me an octave so I don’t sound like a bitch?”

SOUND-GUY: “No, sorry. You’ll just have to let everyone hear how much you suck.”

The Deli Magazine Fan Poll: Best Emerging NYC Artist of 2009

January 14, 2010

Our good friends at The Deli Magazine have opened up polling to the public, so we encourage our reader to get out and vote for their favorite emerging act of 2009. Poll closes tomorrow, so hurry up and get on it!

Deli

Album Review: Real Estate’s “Real Estate”

January 12, 2010

While there appears to be some debate as to where exactly Real Estate are “from” – are they a Jersey band or a Brooklyn band? – their muted, heavily-reverbed surf sound certainly feels sunny and coastal. Well, it feels sunny and coastal at the surface. Beneath the super-clean, biting guitar arpeggios and often distant-sounding drums is a particularly mellow lilt. While slow and somber music is not by definition bad, these tunes don’t just lilt; they drag.

“Coming up on Fox 5 News at 10: Hipsters all across Williamsburg have been committing suicide at an alarming rate. Could a newly-released, wanna-be-surf-rock album be the cause? We’ll fill you in on the details after these messages.”

The first track, “Beach Comber,” is the only song on the album with any real kick. The four tracks that follow it seem to be a more accurate representation of the band: boring. “Fake Blues” has a semblance of a groove because the drums provide enough of a George of the Jungle rhythm that the track doesn’t fall flat on its face. But, the several songs after that continue in a similarly monotonous, hurry-up-and-die fashion as the ones that preceded. This dirty hipster isn’t going to waste too much of his or your time detailing just how this album fails, but he’ll gladly offer some opinions as to why there’s no point in shelling out $10 on iTunes for Real Estate.

Real Estate's recent self-titled LP

Stereogum made some stink about how Titus Andronicus were in this band’s top friends on MySpace. I read this review (which was gleaming, for some reason) while listening to Real Estate and began to think about the relationship between New York (and her bands) and the national press. If there were one city that this dirty hipster would think would have the balls and the brains to boo a band like Titus Andronicus off stage, I though New York would be it. For one reason or another, TA continues to play in front of big crowds at Bowery Ballroom. Maybe we’re more polite than everyone thinks. Way more polite. TA seem to be at the forefront, or at least towards it, of a new wave of extremely unprofessional, unpolished, careless bands. Real Estate may the next in line to take the stage at Bowery and not only sing out of key, but bore the crowd half to death. Yet, as people show up, the journalists at 10,000 feet and beyond (Stereogum, Pitchfork and the like) assume that there must be something they’re missing, and they don’t want to be the ones who miss out on laying claim to have been responsible for breaking the next great act.

Can we do something about this, New York? Please?! There’s a lot of great music in this small ~15 mile radius. Why the fuck are we not only accepting but championing something as uninspired as Real Estate? I thought at one point during this record, “hey, this could be fun to have on while cooking!” But as the LP continued to drone on without offering so much as a melody (seriously, there are no melodies whatsoever – shocking), I began to realize that cooking with this record on would be awfully dangerous. Shit, you run the risk of passing out face down in a pot of boiling water only to be awoken by ecstasy in realizing the album had finally ended.

Whether you’re from New York or not, you’re better than this. It’s inexcusable to create a 10-track album that leaves nothing behind. There are no tunes to hum, no melodies to whistle, no beats to shake to. Real Estate’s latest release is a raggedly-constructed cobweb of reverb that leaves this dirty hipster crying, “NO MORE!” Grizzly Bear (though I personally prefer Department of Eagles) and Fleet Foxes deserve our attention. Real Estate, and the unbearable, Titus Andronicus, do not. -DFH

Josh Groban: Worse Than Ever

January 8, 2010

Any of you watch the National Championship game last night? (That was the big confusing sporting even that prevented you girls from watching the big crossover event on Grey’s Anatomy.) To any of you who did, had you the pleasure of hearing Josh Groban sing the national anthem? As only a dumbass like Josh Groban can, he dropped a lame turd all over it. He did his best impression of an even-more-irritating-looking Nigel Thornberry doing an impression of the Giovanni Jones from Long-Haired Hare. Sorry, I watched a lot of cartoons as a kid. Point being, whoever chose to have that putz get up in front of the nation and sing the “Star Spangled Banner” like that needs to be reported… to somebody. Crickets.

Oh, and for some reason Flea was playing bass along with the band that played my grandparents’ engagement party. Icing on the really weird, bad cake.

Eric Clapton and the Past, Present and Future of Rock n Roll

January 7, 2010

The Beats begat the Hippies;

Who begat the Punks;

Who begat the 80’s;

Who begat scenesters;

Who begat the hipsters;

Who begat ?

For a movement that has shown itself to be nothing if not self-conscious the hipster brigade has great trouble answering the simple question, “what is a hipster?” Is it the clothing, the neighborhood, the music, the diet, the, the, the…? Well, in short, no; it’s not any of those. But, far too often, when faced with the question of what a hipster is, the most common answers given by both hipsters and, um, others alike, revolve around those things. The look, the location, etc. Isn’t that rather silly? In fact, doesn’t that, as a hipster – if you are one – kind of offend you? Have the phenomena of Facebook Live Feeds, Twitter, blogging and internet dating made us so surface-oriented? Have I used enough question marks in this paragraph?

Sorry.

Think of how you’d describe the Hippie movement. I’ll tell you, when I think of those people, the first thing that comes to mind is an ethic, a credo, an ethos – you know, like the tenets of National Socialism, say what you will about them. Same with the Beats and the Punks. Sure, there were physical expressions (clothing, music) that allowed them to identify themselves and be identified appropriately by others; but, to be identified as something and to be defined by something are two entirely separate issues. Yes, a hipster wears a flannel shirt and a vest, and the girls don’t show off their tits or their legs. Yes, a hipster listens to Grizzly Bear. Yes, a hipster lives in north Williamsburg, Greenpoint or Bushwick. Beyond that, there must be something more, no? A definition?!

Before I deliver what I can only imagine will come across as a self-indulgent sermon about hipsterdom, watch this video of Eric Clapton. Trust me, it’ll make sense once put into context.

Hipsters started popping up around the country in the late-90’s. Saddle Creek packed the hipsters’ lunch while Rivers Cuomo put their clothes on. Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond, Jr. brought the hipster to the big City right around the turn of the Century, and, as typically happens when something catches on in New York, the whole world caught wind. That’s why Lebron needs to come to the Knicks. But, that’s for another post. (And, to be totally honest, this dirty hipster half wishes he’d stay in Cleveland and teach the children a thing or two about loyalty. You remember which sin is Al Pacino’s favorite in The Devil’s Advocate, don’t you?) Once the identity had been disseminated to the masses, pockets of hipsters began sprouting in cities around the world, especially in the northeastern part of the United States. Philadelphia jostled for rank with Brooklyn for the first several years of the aughts. Man Man, The Teeth and Dr. Dog shaped the scene in Philly, which, in turn lent its sound to the Brooklyn bands like White Rabbits and The Harlem Shakes.

Rivers Cuomo - a lesson for all hipsters in fashion

So, that’s the identity. But what about the fucking definition? What. The Fuck. Is. A hipster?!

This dirty hipster has an idea, and it’s not a particularly pleasant one. Ahem…

the hipster movement has no definition!
It’s not a movement!

It’s not a revolution! It’s a reaction.

It’s a reaction of a generation firewalled. This country has grown too big to have a collective consciousness. No number of Facebook messages is going to incite a riot on Pennsylvania Avenue. And, why would we want a riot, anyway? We’re safe aren’t we? Even in these “trying economic times,” are we really all that afraid of slumming in the shadowed streets with distended bellies? Are we worried our president is going to ship us to gas chambers or have his guards open fire on public gatherings? Americans are comfortable. (It’s impossible to stave of generalization, here, so just deal with it. You get my point, don’t ya?) Americans have been comfortable for quite some time now. So, it kind of makes sense that this generation feels the need to be uncomfortable. Self-imposed poverty is nothing new to youth movements. In fact, it’s more or less a staple. The difference this time round is that there is very little more to the movement than the notion of self-imposed poverty, and there need not be more to it. It’s a simple reaction. It’s half conscious, half unconscious, and it’s simple. It may suck to realize that it’s so ordinary, but that’s also kind of the idea, isn’t it? We hipsters are not giving a middle finger to the world. Rather, we hipsters are engaged in a conversation with those who will write our biographies and we are pretending to listen. Is it just me or is there something perfectly and beautifully ironic about that?

One thing the hipsters can certain hang their hats on is that there has been a resurgence of Rock n Roll as a result of the movement’s attitude. Granted, it’s not what Pitchfork or Rolling Stone would classify as “Rock Music,” but that’s because Pitchfork and Rolling Stone don’t get it. Sure, it’s typically more lilting, typically less extravagant than Led Zeppelin or The Rolling Stones or Cream. But, what Rock n Roll is, always has been and always will be, is the musical and ethical expression of the nation’s youth. Luckily, the hipsters survived the 90’s and have successfully separated themselves from the grossly over-produced, over-hyped, over-syndicated dog shit that wedged its way into this country’s treads after Kurt passed. And some really beautiful music has come out in the past five to nine years, and it seems to really only be getting better. As radio dies, bands no longer have to adhere to the 3.5 minute pop structure. As music videos die, bands can once again concentrate on their words and meanings instead of their hair. It’s very nice, but we should be very, very careful about taking too much credit for that. For, who this can all be attributed to is Eric Clapton. And John Lennon and Paul McCartney. To Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. To Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Marc Bolan. To Bonzo, to Roger Watters. It’s attributable to Tina Turner, Bono and Paul Simon; Eddie Vedder, Anthony Kiedis, John Frusciante, Kurt Cobaine, Billy Joe Armstrong, Thom Yorke, Julian Casablancas and Jack White. It’s all Rock n Roll, man. All of it. Department of Eagles, Girls, Phoenix: Rock n Roll. It’s the way that “Badge,” a track originally recorded in 1968 (that’s 42 fucking years ago, people) was still powerful in 1986 in Switzerland, and was still powerful when Clap, Ginger and Bruce got back together at The Garden in 2006 – and people went ape.

Let’s keep the pressure on. Let’s not let bullshit find its way into the hipster identity, because the hipster identity is all the hipster has. Let’s remember what Rock n Roll is and what it’s all about. It’s about inclusion through filtration. Everything gets a shot (how else is a little spanish dude like Santana going to make it big unless someone says, “yeah, you can open for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band?”) but it’s got to impress to stick. The hipster movement will be dead soon and there will be nothing left but nostalgia. And that nostalgia can either be reminiscent of that which hovers around the 60’s, or it can be that which hovers around the 80’s. I know which one I’d prefer… “Where is my place?” Think about it. -DFH

Album Review: Black Taxi’s “Things of That Nature”

January 5, 2010

Being afraid of cliché, this dirty hipster hesitates to call Black Taxi New York’s best kept secret, but, shit, they just might be. Though, from the recent press and the kinds of shows they’ve been headlining, it’s difficult to define them as a secret. Each time this band takes to stage they project something more professional than what can often be expected from a New York Indie band. (Anyone who’s seen Titus Andronicus will know what I mean when I infer that so many Indie bands look and play like amateurs.) There is a level of poise and confidence that is rare, but they are derived from the fact that these fellas are terrific musicians and they write killer songs. The band had previously released two EPs, “Black Taxi EP” (2007) and “Untitled” (2008) that offered small windows into their range within the Indie/Pop/Rock format. “Pretty Mama,” the third track on their first release is the sort of song that makes one a fan of a band based on one track. Luckily, the band’s latest release, “Things of That Nature,” an ambitious 13-track EP, opens the doors to a mansion of creativity and pop brilliance.

Black Taxi's Ezra Huleatt at MEANY Fest
Photo courtesy of Denika Peniston

Now, since this dirty hipster has always found album reviews that articulate the reviewer’s most minute, second-to-second thoughts track by track to be unbearably boring and unhelpful, I’ll keep this (and all reviews to follow) brief and accessible. First off, the album is great. Really, really great. Another common reviewing practice that this dirty hipster abhors is the use of comparison. That is, saying that a band like Dr. Dog reminds one of The Beatles is not interesting; nor does it seem necessary or effective. Who doesn’t sound like The Beatles? Shit, Black Taxi sounds like The Beatles. There are also elements of the dancier tracks from The Talking Heads; pop elements from The Bravery and, and, and… see what I mean? What Black Taxi’s “Things of That Nature” is all about is strong, driving beats from the rhythm section (bass – Krisana Soponpong :: drums – Jason Holmes) that you can dance to if you’re a chick or head bang to if you’re a dude. The guitar work (Bill Mayo) is absolutely superb. Superb! I say. He has excellent taste and timing. He knows when he needs to be the rhythm guitarist, he knows when he needs to shred and he knows how and when to create a lead melody. He also has a gorgeous voice (esp. “It’s a Ball” & “Can’t Bring Myself to Care”).

Now, every great rock band needs a frontman. One that, while the other members may have presence out the ass, you in the audience can’t help but fixate on this one dominant figure. Black Taxi has their Mick Jagger in the form of Ezra Huleatt. In concert he is the emcee. He’s the shirtless dude with the American flag bandana and glitter paint on his face. On the album he is provides the band’s grit, the intrigue. Huleatt displays his diverse musical ability as he can be heard either belting out earnest vocal lines, laying down a trumpet solo or pumping out melodies on the Fender Rhodes. Not to mention various percussive instruments sprinkled throughout the album.


Courtesy of Artisanal Television

Black Taxi’s “Things of That Nature” is an album for which you should really shell out the $9.99 on iTunes. I did. And I’ve certainly already gotten my $10-worth of enjoyment out of it. One thing this dirty hipster would like to stress is how good these guys are live. Theatrical, endlessly entertaining and pitch-fucking-perfect with their instruments. Get out there and see them January 28 at Bowery Ballroom, it’s one of the best shows you’ll see, well, maybe ever. Certainly would be nice to catch them at a joint like Bowery before you have to pay $50 to see them at The Garden. I’ll be there, for sure. -DFH

Maybe the Two Best Tracks of 2009

January 3, 2010

This dirty hipster has spent the bulk of his adult life trying to sort which music he likes and doesn’t like. At a certain point in 2009 he noticed that his increasingly-stringent filtering process seemed to be limiting his taste rather than cultivating it. So, at the behest of some close and trusted friends, he loosed the chains and allowed new types of music to engage his pallet. With so much effort put into denying that anything created with anything other than a guitar and a blues-based progression could merit remark, it was a difficult transition but; it was ultimately a fruitful one. Being sure to concentrate on songwriting, arrangement and a level of intelligence in newer, poppier, more electronic tracks, this dirty, dirty hipster found two tracks that he’d be sure to have with him on a desert island.

LADY GAGA’S “BAD ROMANCE” – The world’s guilty pleasure is actually a terrific Rock song

YEASAYER’S “AMBLING ALP” – Finally, a song that invokes the sound of the 80’s in a non-faggy, non-lame(MGMT) way