Since Green Day’s tour ended, there is really nothing much to talk about when it comes to the band. The Twitter feed has gone silent as Billie Joe had a technology rant at the concert in Peru and I have a feeling we won’t be hearing from him for a long while as Green Day headed back to the Oakland area to work on whatever they are currently working on. I had thought I would stop blogging at this site, but I decided at the last minute to keep it up and talk about not only Green Day, but other music, theater, social and political musings as well. I’ve been a bit busy with a maniacal project at work, and haven’t blogged much over the last week. I hope this column will be a weekly roundup of events I’ve gone to and hopefully will be able to bring you new music and acts to check out for yourself. Just a note: you won’t like what I like and vice-versa. This is just a place to share what I heard. Here goes the first one, What I Heard over the week of Friday, Oct. 29 to Friday, Nov. 5.
Japanther, Dog That Bites Everyone and Team Spider – C-Squat, NYC – Oct. 29, 2010
A few months ago, I traveled to California to see Green Day’s last American shows of their tour. The tour ended in Mountain View, just outside of San Francisco. At the same time, a small music festival called “Hoodstock” was going on in Oakland and the first night of Hoodstock occurred the same night as Green Day and featured the Brooklyn-based, two-piece band known as Japanther. I was a bit bummed that I couldn’t see them at Hoodstock. I swore when they came back home to the Brooklyn area that I would indulge in a little Brooklyn art-school noise, and luckily, a small show for Time’s Up, a “New York City-based not-for-profit direct-action environmental group that uses events and educational programs to promote a more sustainable, less toxic city” benefit happened at C-Squat in Manhattan’s East Village just before Halloween.
C-Squat is the heart of Manhattan’s anarcho-crusty-punk, whatever-it’s-called, music and political scene. Since I’m not what I would call a punk and am too old to really fit in, I was a bit worried about feeling out of place. I go to a lot of events by myself and feel out of place everywhere, so it’s not necessarily just at punk shows do I feel like a strange misfit. Luckily my friend Mike Chickenman introduced me to a few people at C-Squat, and I also saw a girl there that Mike had introduced me to when we saw Bad Religion at Irving Place on Wednesday of that week. I also met a kid named Grim at the venue, and he was kind enough to talk with me for a little bit. I ran into some politically-minded people that I have met over the last years at the Time’s Up benefit also, so I began to feel a little less out of place than I usually do. I don’t consider myself a punk (as no one else would either), and I don’t fit easily into any “scene.” Luckily, by the time that Japanther hit the stage, my inhibitions about my own sense of identity faded away, and I almost hurt myself dancing when I joined in with the younguns on the tiny dance floor. I’m always amazed at shows that have a crazy dance floor. On the whole, people take care of each other as they are slamming into one another, unlike the pit at Green Day’s Montreal show that I went to back in August, where people were just assholes.
C-Squat is also where on-the-road ‘zine legend Aaron Cometbus recently wheatpasted some of his original Cometbus writings on one wall and floor, and I took a few pictures of his work for a friend who is a huge Cometbus fan. I only had my iPhone on me, and the few crappy pictures of the night that that I took can be viewed here.
I started the night watching the bands from the balcony, as Mike had left by this time to head to work and I still didn’t yet feel comfortable enough to hang out on the floor. I also kinda love to watch a dance floor from above, too. The night began with the band Team Spider, a mix of ska and punk, and they got the small crowd going as bodies slammed into other as they will do to music with idiosyncratic beats. When dancers fell, others were there to pick them up, even as masked Halloween dancers violently pushed each other and a dog ran through the crowd chasing a ball. The band itself was fun, and I liked their song “Fuck Brakes,” which basically is about, well, the freedom to chose brakes or not, or Live Free or Fucking Die. The lead singer wore a bike helmet with a NYS license plate stuck through it, and I have the feeling that he’s had more than one encounter between bike and car in his life. You can listen to some of their songs at their Myspace page, including “Fuck Brakes,” located here.
The next band up was Dog That Bites Everyone. I had seen them open for Star Fucking Hipsters in Tompkins Square Park over the summer, and I enjoyed their mix of garage rock and r&b. They are a difficult band to categorize, and I enjoy that, too. The crowd had gotten a bit denser by this time, filling up with people there for the Time’s Up benefit that weren’t really into dancing, so the crowd didn’t move as much as they did for the first band. I thought to myself that when Japanther went on, those folks were really going to have to get out of the way or be crushed, and I ended up being right about that. I was still up in the balcony for the band’s set, but I knew that my time was limited there as the person next to me, who was really drunk, threw up over the balcony and really needed to go home. Here are a few pictures of their show at C-Squat from their Myspace page.
After Dog That Bites Everyone, I was going to head outside for a smoke, but they weren’t letting people outside as capacity had been reached, so I ended up talking at the door with a doorman and some crazy funny kid who was trying to decipher a strange text message and picture that he had received from a friend. The kid couldn’t figure out if the picture and accompanying text meant a booty call or not, but I was a little scared for him as the text message mentioned blow torches and pliers, and I told him that he had two choices: call the guy and figure what the heck he meant or stay and see Japanther and not run the risk of third-degree burns. I have no idea what he decided, as I headed back in after the smoke and Japanther were ready to go on anyway. I headed to the floor and was determined to dance as much as this old body could.
Japanther is a two-piece band made up of drums, bass, and a cassette sound machine. The two members of the band, Ian Vanek and Matt Reilly, met at the Pratt Institute art school in Brooklyn, and have an art school sensibility mixed with punk and a techno beat, I suppose. They’ve been around since 2001. While the sound might not be for everyone, I guarantee you that if you see them, you will be compelled to throw yourself into a few sweaty bodies and loose all sense of physical inhibition. Oh wait, that just could be what I did for their show. Your experience, of course, may be different.
Japanther – “River Phoenix”
World/Inferno Friendship Society and In Cadeo – Brooklyn Bowl, Halloween, Oct. 31, 2010
I was looking forward to this show so much, and I think my expectations of meeting new people and enjoying a fun Halloween were blown out of proportion in my head. It’s not that I didn’t have a good experience hearing and seeing World/Inferno Friendship Society, I did, but as someone who goes to a lot of events by themselves, I felt incredibly lonely at this show where everyone seemed to know each other and were in on the Great Pumpkin Experience.
Mike was there again, and a few people that I’ve met, but Mike was working and others knew scores of people there, and due to my mood, I didn’t have that Friendship experience. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, another loser night by myself, and got way too overwhelmed and left early. Plus, I was still incredibly tired and in pain from Friday’s Japanther show at C-Squat.
The first band, In Cadeo, was not my cup of tea. They fashion themselves after the band, The National, and while they are incredibly accomplished musicians with a big sound that included cello, I was bored stiff watching them. Reading their press, they are placed in a grunge/punk category, but I think they are more hipster-sounding grunge, if there is such a thing. (Ugh, categories!) I am very good at moving to any band that I see onstage if their music moves me, and I have no qualms about bopping my head if the beat is right. Unfortunately for me, In Cadeo bored me to tears, but that also might be due to the incredibly crappy mood that I was in. You can hear some of their songs at their Myspace page, and they have incredibly positive press, so don’t let my bad mood affect your listening pleasure. I enjoyed their lyrics and the song, “The Archer,” so make sure you check that one out.
As the time neared for W/IFS’s performance, the crowd packed into the space around the stage tighter. If you’ve never been to the Brooklyn Bowl, it’s part bowling alley, part bar, part stage area, and it’s huge. The intimacy of C-Squat wasn’t there, and again, my mood and body wasn’t the best. I huddled into a corner with my back to a wall but close to the stage. I was hoping that I would be compelled to fling myself into the pit at some point, but it just wasn’t happening, but it was fun to see the crowd go wild and it was evident that this musical collective, with a rotating cast of musicians (and an aerial performance, too!) and the audience have a great chemistry together that has been cultivated over a long period of time. [Read the Wiki page for more info.] I hope that if I see them again, I’m in a better spirit because I love their sound: part-punk and gypsy-rock with a touch of Weimer-era Germany thrown in, too, and I heart tremendously any band that combines an excellent front showman with brass. I hope to see them again when I’m not in such a holiday funk.
Showgasm at Ars Nova with Visiting House Band Declan Bennett
Last night’s show was a cabaret showcase called Showgasm, which takes place at the Manhattan space, Ars Nova, on W. 54th Street. I went to see Declan Bennett play with members of the American Idiot cast, including ensemble member, drummer Gerard Canonico, bassist Chase Peacock, and Jared Stein, assistant musical director of the show, on piano. Chase Peacock and Brian Charles Johnson of American Idiot also performed as their two-piece rap band, Fran Sancisco, doing two songs, including “Roofie Girl,” which is basically a rap about getting girls high on roofies cause they can’t get them any other way.
I was quite impressed with Bennett’s sound and style, and as usual, impressed with the drumming of Gerard Canonico and Jared Stein on piano. I had never heard Chase Peacock play the bass, except for a few months ago at a Green Day Rock Band event, and I give him a thumbs-up as well. There was a cello player also, but unfortunately, I did not catch his name. Bennett’s style is soulful and his lyrics are touching. He’s quite earnest in his performance and music. It was the first time I had heard him play and I couldn’t really hear him speak from where I was sitting when he said the titles of songs, but his MySpace page contains at least one that he performed called “Blu Tack” that I really enjoyed. I look forward to hearing him perform again.
The night itself showcased several comedy acts and there were some laugh-out-loud performances, including one of the funniest performers I’ve seen in a while, Amy Albert. Her Delilah Dix character is a washed-up cabaret/movie star who likes to tell her tales of hanging out with the likes of David Hasselhoff and Paula Abdul, and she has a great cabaret voice and musical style. Check out her website for a clip of her act. I also enjoyed the host comedian, Billy Eichner, who tried to show his video, “Forest Hills State of Mind” based on Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” but the video just wasn’t cooperating. The full lineup of acts who performed can be found on the Ars Nova Showgasm site, located here.
Forest Hills State of Mind – Billy Eichner with Rachel Dratch and vocals by Amy Albert
Things I Wish I Could Have Heard
Lastly, there were three performances this week that I wish I could have gone too, but hell, you can’t do everything. Roger Waters performed “The Wall” this week in New York City and Social Distortion played with Lucero and Frank Turner at Roseland. On a smaller scale, an acquaintance of mine, Christian Gibbs (who played in the house band for Lizzie Borden: The Show) had a cd release party last night at the 92StY’s Tribeca space. His band is called Lucinda Black Bear and the album is called Knives, which is a follow-up to their first album, capo my heart. I love them. Check out the band at their site, located here.
That’s it for this week. I hope that I get to hear/see/do some stuff this week to report back to you!