Fiery Furnaces Played Hiro Ballroom

Written by Jonny-Leather on . Posted in Music, Posts



Eleanor Friedberger looks over to her brother Matthew and mouths “you’re playing too fast, “ and then returns to the mic to attempt to finish singing “Single Again,” totally summing up Saturday night’s performance at Hiro Ballroom.

The entire performance had an uncomfortable feel, with the Friedbergers often losing concentration, getting frustrated by the sound, which was, to their credit, never quite right. The intimacy of the small space, and the overall strength of the songs kept it from being a disaster, but it definitely felt like the type of uncomfortable performance that Fiery Furnaces have gained the reputation for having.

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Brooklyn’s Favorite Cheerleader: Sufjan Sings the Hits (and Elevates the The BQE to New Heights)

Written by Jerry Portwood on . Posted in Music, Posts



When I saw Sufjan Stevens last year at Town Hall, I came away thinking, "Sure, he's talented, I can listen to these lovely, quirky songs hundreds of times, but damn! Can't the boy-man move on from singing about his childhood and adolescence?" The prospect of The BQE, his BAM commission for the Next Wave Festival, seemed like a perfect place to see the singer-songwriter grow into his many musical gifts.

What it confirmed was that Sufjan doesn't just enjoy putting cheerleaders onstage in some ironic tribute to high school popularity contests, he's a cheerleader himself. His ode to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is yet another attempt to elevate an unusual artifact to iconic status through music. Sufjan the brilliant hero! But it wasn't the cacophony on stage (the squeaks and honks from the small orchestra did indeed cause many people to plug their ears due to the unbearable noise at times) that disturbed me as much as Sufjan proving his lack of confidence in his own creation.

Many symphonies also employ film clips and visuals to attract new and younger audiences—with varying degrees of success (and criticism). Sufjan's film piece was projected below the proscenium and above the heads of the performers. It was a jumble of colorful images (blue inflatable gorillas, fast food joints juxtaposed with new developments) and vistas of the busy highway, sometimes sped up for a "Sesame Street" time-lapsed feel. These were spliced with hula-hoopers in BQE-inspired outfits. Then, midway through, the five performers took to the stage to entertain with their hoola hoop prowess. Trouble is, Sufjan did such a great job in distracting from the music, that we didn't have time to appreciate what he'd accomplished, beyond it being a soundtrack to both the film and the live entertainment. I'm all for playful experimentation, but the visual gags trumped any effort at actually forwarding some new vision of orchestral music for a new generation. The message: make em laugh and then they'll jump to your feet with applause.

I saw David Byrne during intermission and wanted to ask him what he though of the display.

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Superdrag Bring Knoxville To NYC

Written by Jonny-Leather on . Posted in Music, Posts


My first ever concert in NYC was a Superdrag show at Bowery Ballroom in 2000. I had recently moved to the city for college, and I went to this concert by myself, also experiencing the Bowery and its sea of homeless for the first time. It was 2000 and the Mets were in the World Series at the time. I proudly wore my old, dirty Mets hat, and a drunken bum attempted to hug me on the street, in celebration of the Mets. At the venue, that weird, scared feeling was abandoned when Superdrag totally rocked the house.

7 years later, Superdrag returned from a hiatus, with their original lineup of John Davis, Don Coffey Jr., Tom Papas, and Brandon Fisher, and this time they rocked The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza. I was there, still wearing that grimy Mets hat, although this year wasn’t nearly as successful as in 2000.

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Figurines and Dappled Cities Played Mercury Lounge

Written by Jonny-Leather on . Posted in Music, Posts


Denmark's Figurines

Coming from the far off lands of Copenhagen and Sydney, Figurines and Dappled Cities played the final date of their tour last night at Mercury Lounge. This was their second straight night at the Lower East Side venue, and surprisingly, it wasn’t packed.

Sydney natives Dappled Cities controlled the stage like a veteran band, commanding an immediately positive response from their audience. In essence, they are a veteran band with most of the members playing together since 1997, when they were only 15 years old. They’ve built a following in Australia, and only now are they making their move towards an American takeover. The vocals of guitarists Tim Derricourt and Dave Rennick really make the band unique, with each often ranging into falsetto hooks. At Mercury Lounge last night, it was that dramatic vocal exchange, as well as their excellent song-craft that made their performance special, especially with the grandiose set-closer “Holy Chord.”

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Going for Baroque: Figurines

Written by Brian Heater on . Posted in Music, Posts

After two records which drew favorable comparisons to indie rock royalty like Pavement, Built to Spill, and Modest Mouse, record three from Figurines presented itself as the perfect opportunity to mix things up a touch. Besides, record number two, last year’s catchy-as-hell Skeleton, had  helped score the band slots opening for bands like Tapes ‘n’ [&hellip
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Superdrag Reunion Tour Coming To NYC

Written by Jonny-Leather on . Posted in Music, Posts



When I was 11 years old, my brother went off to college to attend the University of Tennessee. Not long into his Knoxville, TN residence, Chris indulged himself in the local music scene, where he’d go on to play drums for popular pop-punk goofballs The State Champs. Knoxville’s rock scene has never gotten much attention, and The State Champs and loads of other good bands never quite made it, but in 1996 the best band in the scene broke out to mainstream success with a MTV and radio hit called “Sucked Out.”

That band, whose name you can’t quite remember, is not Nada Surf: It’s Superdrag. “Sucked Out” wasn’t a monster hit, but it was one of those songs that was played once an hour on rock radio and MTV for part of that year. While Regretfully Yours was a great album as a whole, and contained songs far superior to their unexpected hit, none was as infectious. A year later the band released Head Trip in Every Key, which saw the band expanding in every direction, very successfully. While it was well-received by the critics, the record company saw it as not having a strong enough single, and without steady radio play, it was a huge failure in terms of sales.

Since then the music industry has changed greatly and radio and MTV have less of an influence over the success of an album, and good reviews from critics can be much more influential.

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Happy Birthday, Mr. Pollard

Written by Josh Heerter on . Posted in Music, Posts

Robert Pollard, grandmaster of the venerated Guided by Voices, turns 50 today. If you haven’t heard of him, his versatile lo-fi rock won critical acclaim during the mid- 1990s, cresting with 1994’s Bee Thousand.  Essentially, he’s an expert at cutting gems with crass tools. Pollard is a known asshole, and his latest solo work could [&hellip
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Music To Wave Your Lighter To: The Drive-By Truckers Roll Though New York

Written by David Callicott on . Posted in Music, Posts

You know those TV commercials for monster truck rallies that scream, “POWER! POWER… POWER… THIS FRIDAY NIGHT, NIGHT… NIGHT…” Well, that was what I kept hearing in my ringing ears in-between songs this last Friday night at the Bowery Ballroom. This weekend the unapologetically southern Drive-By Truckers rolled through Manhattan for one of the last [&hellip
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Hungover: or How I Learned to Stop Sleeping and Love CMJ Week

Written by Jonny-Leather on . Posted in Music, Posts


A Place To Bury Strangers played at least 5 shows during CMJ week.

I’ll be the first to tell you that the CMJ Music Marathon is now totally unnecessary. Since the arriving to p2p file sharing, blogs, myspace, and email, it’s become incredibly easy for music industry people to discover new bands (which is the purpose of CMJ). Most of the bands playing CMJ had at one point this year infiltrated the vast system of music blogs that now control the independent music industry.

After speaking to a lot of people, there was a general agreement that this year’s CMJ was the weakest one yet. Many more popular bands had decided not to play the 5 day NYC takeover. In fact there was a number of much better shows the week prior, with indie rock icons like The National, PJ Harvey, Black Mountain, Nada Surf, and Sunset Rubdown all playing.

With that said, last week was still an insane week for a music fan. While it seems that everyone is talking about Wednesday night’s Dan Deacon/Deerhunter/No Age/White Williams show at Bowery Ballroom, there were a few other performances that night that will be hard to forget.

A Place To Bury Strangers’ late night performance at Music Hall of Williamsburg was mind blowing, and easily my nomination for the best performance at this year’s CMJ Marathon. As it was expected, they were as loud as anything you’ve ever heard, but it was an enjoyable loud that made it feel like there were planes taking off inside the Brooklyn venue. Projections and great use of strobes added to the spectacular nature of their performance. It was late, and I could barely remain standing, but every moment was pure bliss.

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