Ga Ga For Gogol
Things you should keep in mind when you attend a Gogol Bordello show:
- Do not wear dangly or hoop jewelry
- Keep your nails at a short length
- Do not bring a big bag or backpack
- Wear close-toed shoes
- Secure all loose change, wallets, cell phones and other objects in your pockets, if possible
- Drink water before you go; drink beer as you attend
- Do not stand in the back like a pansy
We got positively pummeled at the gypsy punk troupe's show last week at Irving Plaza. As we ascended the stairs, we could literally see steam escaping from the auditorium. Inside, a couple thousand smiling, sweating fans (about 30% of them shirtless) were crowd-surfing, moshing, pogoing and click click clicking their cameras. There was a wide net of people there -- West Coast hippies, loud Eastern Europeans, cross-armed scenesters, a gentleman dressed as a polar bear and confused dudes and their lady friends with little shoes who had only seen the group perform with Madonna at Live Earth (actually overheard: "I thought Madonna was in the group." We wish!).
Frontman Eugene Hutz is not a particularly handsome man, but even with the handlebar 'stache, he turns into a monsterously sexy firecracker on stage. The dude sweats buckets, with a stoner squint hiding behind a messy mat of wet hair, crazy chains and cuffs and tight pants, a thickly-accented growl roaring about something-or-other... a cabaret cowboy. He attacked his acoustic guitar with such brute force, we're surprised there was still a sound hole and not a black hole in its place.
Hutz at one point climbed over the floor monitors, over the floor speakers, on top of the speakers, was hoisted by fans up into the balcony and proceeded to kiss and grope two (willing) girls... all the while carrying the mic. His intimidating but foxy bass drum player literally tossed her drum into the crowd, where she then directed people to hold it flat side up as she climbed on top of it and continued hitting it, like a bird on her own mobile perch.
With songs old and new (a lot from his newest "Super Taranta!" out earlier this month), Gogol Bordello mesmerized and then beat the living hell out of the crowd with its insanity. We left drenched by the sweat of a thousand people and we didn't care. We hope it was as good for them as it was for us.
We Won Battles, We Won The War
Sweat was flying as the smart kids gathered for a math rock kind of Friday at Studio B in Brooklyn. To be fair, math rock is only a convenient label for Battles, whose experimental post-rock is as intricately precise as any classical concerto. Either way, the band generated a number of priceless reactions as fans tried to figure out why their headbanging kept getting out-of-sync with the music. (Hint: constant switches in time signature.)
Appropriately, drummer John Stanier was placed dead center, not only on stage, but also in the mix, and his thundering bass drum and 5-foot high crash cymbal announced each new song's arrival. Meanwhile, Tyondai Braxton deftly kept the band's sound in motion -- bass in one hand, MacBook in the other -- pausing only to grab a mic and lay down some of the winding, chipmunk vocals that pepper the album.
Battles cruised through its set (including the mosh pit-inducing single "Atlas") in a little over an hour, coming back on stage for an all-too-brief encore before the lights came back on and it was once again time for the indie kids and metalheads to go their separate ways.
Heeding The Call Of The Siren
Another year, another day of happy hipsters riding the Cyclone and eating fried stuff at the Village Voice's Siren Festival at Coney Island. Though we found the mostly-rock lineup ho-hum, the day was punctuated with firey goodness from M.I.A. and the New York Dolls.
The former drew what we figured was the biggest crowd. This particular Jaded Insider found it impossible to be in the pocket of good sound for any of the shows on Saturday (July 21), but luckily for us, Maya is one loud woman. Sheathing herself in all the sparkly and/or sequined gear she owned (seriously, silver Chucks? Sign us up), she rocked the crowd with old tracks and new. She had moments of some seriously wack between-song banter, which is practically what we came for anyway. We're very much looking forward to the new record.
The Dolls played for what seemed like hours. Seriously, we watched a song, got a 'dog, played some skeeball, swam in the ocean, ran screaming from the ocean, meet 16 people we knew and purchased some livestock and still the band raged on. When you have that kind of cult status, and are a billion years old between all your members, you're allowed to do whatever you feel like. David Johansen (pictured above) has so much sass still in him. We kind of wish he was our drunk uncle at Thanksgiving.
Becky Stark of Lavendar Diamond looked delightful in her little dress and sang like the former opera buff that she is. Black Lips -- who we've only see perform in tiny rooms that smell like beer -- were cursed with terrible sound. We missed Elvis Perkins, but we hear he was too quiet and Cursive rocked loudly, unsurprisingly. (Photos by Bruno J. Navarro)
Mirah, Mirah Rocked Them All
To be frank, we were only vaguely familiar with Mirah's back catalog going into the show: we only had half the excellently understated "Advisory Committee" and a track from a mix CD a friend kindly gave us called "The Light." The tiny, warm voice on this tune-smith was always pleasant to these ears but never much sought out.
That changed after seeing the Philly native perform with her two piece backing band. Darling banter, perfect pitch and endearingly self-conscious guitar-work had the crowd, including us, practically eating out of her hand.
Mirah (Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn) played a guessing game with the crowd as she revealed a capella versions of songs from her forthcoming "Share This Place" featuring Spectratone International... the album's theme revolves around the imaginary narratives of bugs and fans surmised which insects she was singing about. She performed songs from all her records. She sang happily while drummer Bryce Panic beatboxed in the encore track "Nobody Has to Stay," their "live" version of the track from the "Joyride" remixes album.
Whereas Mirah cooed her way into people's hearts, Ferree made headway with a sledgehammer. This incredibly entertaining goober played most of his debut album "Leaving the Nest," all the while making strange off-hand remarks and silly attempts to gain attention in between songs. He was boisterous, colorful and one helluva singer, though the crowd wasn't quite sure what to do with him. We knew what to do, though: clap and whoop. The perfect summertime artist.
Jaded Insider previously gushed about seeing Slint live on its first reunion tour in 2005, an event we never thought we'd see repeated. But two years on, the band is back on the road playing its revered 1991 album "Spiderland" in its entirety, and last night (July 17) at New York's Webster Hall, even offered a glimpse at what could be in store for this unassuming group of Louisville-reared rockers.
Having never been present for one of the ATP-sponsored Don't Look Back shows of this ilk (indie band plays famous album front-to-back), J.I. was happy to find that knowing exactly which song was coming next didn't deter enjoying the evening. The room was dead silent as the chiming first notes of "Breadcrumb Trail" were struck, with vocalist Brian McMahan assuming his usual place in the far left corner of the stage.
Throughout the night (see set list, above), McMahan was often barely audible above Slint's malevolent, methodical riffage, but his screams on "Nosferatu Man" and the climactic "Good Morning, Captain" ("I miss you!") made the kind of strong emotional connection that can only be felt in a live setting. Indeed, this really is something that needs to be experienced in the flesh, because for as great (and influential) an album "Spiderland" is, it is not really that well recorded. The sheer force of the music takes on a much greater intensity on stage, and instrumentally, the band was tighter than the jeans on a Williamsburg hipster. Every hi-hat tingle and pummeling tom smash from Britt Walford was perfectly in place, while guitarist David Pajo expertly toed the line between tension-building, repeated riffs and crushing distortion.
When the six "Spiderland" songs concluded, Slint moved without a break into the jagged instrumentals "Glenn" and "Rhoda" before busting out the night's biggest surprise: an awesome, nearly 10-minute new song dubbed "Kings Approach" that gradually built speed to a furious finish. By way of comparison, Pajo's hammer-ons and pull-offs reminded us of the second half of Tortoise's "Glass Museum," but the track also had both moments of atonality and proggy rhythmic nuances that left us wanting more.
And maybe more is what we'll get. A source in the know says Slint is further along on its first album in 16 years than its members have let on. Pajo did tell Billboard.com in March that "We're going through the same work tapes we used to get material for 'Spiderland.' There are ideas we just never pursued. So far, it's been really good. I don't know what the final product will sound like, but the actual song crafting is going really well."