Tag Archives: Show Review

A CROPPED OUT Summary: Or Louisville’s Best Music Weekend Ever

Hey Louisville, if you weren’t at CROPPED OUT at some point during this past weekend, you really missed something quite special. It wasn’t just that there were a buncha noisy, arty bands and rock n’ roll and whatnot. There was actually a quite palpable community spirit, evidenced by the smiles, high-fives, and general fun it seemed that most everybody had. Didn’t hurt that some of the best weather of the fall made it possible for lots of bands to play outside, too. So here’s a quick rundown of best parts of the festival, complete with crappy pictures from my cellphone.

DAY 1 — FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11th: Though it got started way early on Friday afternoon, and there was some noise issues early on, Friday was a good start, especially for the Louisville bands on the bill. SAVAGES played immediately after LEARNER DANCER, both of which brought forceful, guitar-heavy rock (the former more in a pop vein, while the latter mined some heavy Sonic Youth-style dissonant territory).

Shedding

One of the early Friday highlights was, of course, Louisville’s SHEDDING (disclaimer: Connor and I are buds, but even if we weren’t, I’d still love his music). Despite his talk of being influenced by RUSH, Connor really brought more of a CURRENT 93 vibe, perfectly mellow yet eerie.

Shit & Shine

Another Friday highlight was Austin, Texas’s SHIT & SHINE, which featured none other than the BUTTHOLE SURFERS’ KING COFFEY on percussion. Tribal, BOREDOMS-esque throb with synth squiggles and CB radio nonsense. Totally fun.

Other Friday night highlights included (in no particular order):
1. apologizing to KING COFFEY for talking his ear off at SxSW ’07
2. MOUNT CARMEL — and the revelation afterwards that KING has never seen ZZ TOP!
3. bonfires (more on them later)
4. hangin’ with MV + EE‘s dog Zuma
5. SHIT & SHINE‘s bunny suits
6. MV + EE singing “Fire on the Mountain” at the end of a fantastic set backed by TIM BARNES and CHRIS from the CHERRY BLOSSOMS (thanks for the beers!)
7. Locals ALCOHOL PARTY, NATIVES, ANWAR SADAT, and AXEL COOPER showing how it’s done
8. Chorizo taco from the Holy Mole Taco Truck
9. Good times with friends old and new
10. Beer

DAY 2 — SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12th: Saturday started inauspiciously as I showed up to the venue, the CRUMMY DEN, way early, so I wandered over to the FLEA OFF MARKET (where I bought an excellent book of photography from Louisville Hardcore’s poet laureate, Mr. BRETT EUGENE RALPH), then had lunch at the Blind Pig. Missed most of the early sets due to some errands I had to run, but caught a little bit of VIDEO DAUGHTER, who were okay.

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MISSION OF BURMA/MAJOR STARS at Warsaw, 7/14/06

Clearly I’m biased as to how awesome Mission of Burma is, as not only do I work at Matador Records, but was recently promoted to product manager, and will probably work with Burma. But that disclaimed, I gotta say that their show yesterday at Warsaw in Greenpoint, Brooklyn was one of the best, most powerfully loud rock shows I’ve seen in some time. Warsaw, for those who don’t know it, is a venue located in the Polish National Home in Greenpoint, and is a short walk from my new apartment. After taking the day off work and completing the finishing touches on my move into my new place, it was a pleasure to leisurely stroll through Williamsburg and Greenpoint on the way to Warsaw. Once inside, a $5 plate of pierogies and $4 Okocim beer were consumed, both of which add up to Warsaw being one of the friendliest, most non-pretentious rock venues in the city.

While I skipped the openers, who were called Dead Vessel or something akin to that, I was psyched to see that Cambridge, Mass’s Major Stars were opening. Wayne and Kate, who also run the fine Twisted Village record store in that bucolic city, are the major stars behind Major Stars, and are as entertaining as hell. Loud, punishing rock riffs incorporating heavy psych as well as hardcore touches are what Wayne, Kate and third guitarist Tom (who perhaps may be the Jesper Eklow of Massachusetts) bring, and their rhythm section (Casey and Dave) keep pounding it all together. Their occasional singer Sandra Barrett was a bit off tonight, I thought. I guess maybe she couldn’t hear herself because she seemed to be over-singing a bit, but whatever. I had fun. Or something.

Burma’s two-set setup these days can sometimes seem a bit long (as it did to me when I saw them in February at Bowery Ballroom), but last night they zoomed through. Not once did I feel like checking my watch, even at the few songs I don’t know well (which ain’t much). Sound-wise, they were excellent, despite Warsaw’s high ceilings and usually tricky acoustics. And man, were they ever just excellent, entirely. Making jokes about Peter Prescott signing a pact with the devil isn’t far off; this guy has more energy than most twenty year-old drummers. I also like that their new songs showcase a somewhat prog (if that’s the right word for it) sensibility: not in the sense that they’re aping Yes or whatever, but that they now can write and play really punishing post-punk songs with lots of changes and textures. Not that they were ever “simple,” as a band, but you can really tell that with their new songs they’re really part of an overall rock continuum. And like a lot of the best bands from their original era, such as This Heat or Wire (or even John Lydon who was a big Beefheart fan), they’re not afraid to disavow the bullshit punk attitude that “complexity sucks, man.” The crowd, while not quite sell-out size, was very large and really into it, and that helped as well – it was hard to not get caught up in their enthusiasm. So much so that at some point I decided I should at least take a crappy picture with my cellphone, which is what you get up top. Yikes.

HOME BLITZ/GUITAR TRIPS/GREYSKULL/HORSESPIRIT PENETRATES/WATERSPORTS at a random bodega in Brooklyn, 6/24/06

One of the joys in life is when what appears to be a complete clusterfuck, a SNAFU of the highest order, actually turns out okay. It’s even more joyous when it turns out better than okay, even a good fucking time. That’s what happened last Saturday at the Home Blitz/Guitar Trips/Greyskull/Horsespirits Penetrate/Watersports show in the back room/restaurant area of some random bodega on Broadway deep in the heart of Bushwick. Organized by my man Russ Waterhouse of Watersports and Blues Control, this was originally was supposed to go down at Micheline’s, a Caribbean restaurant down the block. Needless to say, they double-booked and the combined weird noise/fashion show didn’t go down (though that would’ve been an interesting clusterfuck, too).

Watersports began the show with their characteristic lo-fi new age murk, and all I can say is I continue to be impressed with the way Russ and Lea play together, both in Watersports and their more “rock” project Blues Control. What they do is pretty much what I want to hear, all the time. The two new songs they played (and I assume that they’re playing on their current tour through the South, check the links for dates) were sweet meditative faux-nature awesomeness. As I’ve written elsewhere, you definitely need to hear it.

The next two bands, Horsespirits Penetrate and Greyskull, were more akin to that noise thing that ‘the kids’ do these days, except about 90% more entertaining and fun than most anything I’ve seen lately. Maybe it’s ’cause these guys are from Western Mass., which seems to be a hotbed for this stuff (Byron?). Or maybe it’s just ’cause they were good, committed to non-craft craftiness. I dunno.

The pleasant surprise of the evening was Guitar Trips, who I had no idea about whatsoever. Fantastic psychedelic guitar-drums duo jams providing lots of heavy drone. Kind of like when you rub your eyes and various lights keep rolling through your field of vision. Even with the abruptness of some of the transitions, this was a-rollin’ and chooglin’. I expect we’ll hear more from these dudes.

The headliner of the evening was New Jersey’s own Home Blitz, playing their second-ever show hot off the heels of their debut 7″. Nervousness abounded, and the 15-or-so takes on the first song probably didn’t help much, but I actually thought it was a rockin’ good time. Apparently some of the noisier dudes were rollin’ eyes, but I liked it. And fuck it, none of us would be here without Half Japanese, so I’m cool with that. All in all, considering none of this might’ve come off at all, that’s fine with me.

TONY CONRAD, TEN YEARS ALIVE ON THE INFINITE PLAIN, May 18, 2005

A little over a week ago, I saw this performance of Tony Conrad’s Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain at the Kitchen in NYC, which was originally premiered at the Kitchen in 1972, 3 years before I was born.

It was a pleasant Wednesday evening, the sky was blue and a cool breeze rolled off the Hudson. I exited the subway at 14th Street, and walked around Chelsea for a little bit. As I was walking down 19th Street or somewheres, the sun of the remains of the day illuminated smoke wafting in from somewhere. Something was on fire, somewhere. I walked around some more, saw some fire trucks blaring away, barrelling down 9th Avenue, and eventually found what they were looking for: a building, off the West Side Highway, where something (I couldn’t tell what) had happened. At the least, it wasn’t a big hellacious inferno or anything. So the sirens were a little superfluous.

I kinda forgot about it and strolled to the Kitchen, on the other side of 10th Avenue. I waited for my friend Warren who had the tickets, and watched as various luminaries (look, there’s David Behrman! there’s Lee Ranaldo! etc.) came into the lobby.

When the space opened prior to the performance, we saw that the large number of chairs we expected to see weren’t there. In their places were various pillows strewn about the floor. Though there were a few chairs here and there, and some placed in orderly rows on risers, I opted for the floor.

The performance began with two violins, amplified. Not quite as loud as I expected them to be, perhaps my hearing hadn’t adjusted to “normal” volumes after hearing the fire trucks race to the non-fire. Then the pulsing bass came in, one note, it underlying the the drone of the violins, supplying a base, as it were. This was the same pulse as Outside the Dream Syndicate, the same as Slapping Pythagoras. If I want to get all technical music-nerdy, I would state that there were a few times where the bassist (I forget his name) was slightly off, time-wise. But that’s ok, people are not robots. Anyway, the fourth instrument in the group was the long string (one of Tony’s inventions), played by Jim O’Rourke.

After a short period of time, four projectors were switched on, and the visual component of the piece began. I could describe it more, but I’m feeling lazy, so I just looked up this interview I had with Tony in 1998, and I’ll let his words about how the piece developed in ’72 take it for a little bit:

I thought that it would be interesting to work with a more complex overlay of even simpler material, so I made some more [film] loops, which actually I had already devised for the making of [1970’s] Straight and Narrow, I already had this pattern set up. I generated some loops which were simply made of these same stripes, which I shot on a piece of fabric… I had the negative [black] image and the positive [white] image… eight times a second it goes back and forth. And of course the projectors don’t match, so they could get in-between effects… But how did the music come into the picture?

… Yeah the real story is that I forget how that happens right now….

It looked really, really wild and I thought, ‘Well that’s good.’ Now what I wanted to do was to play music with it, so I felt that I should get a group together, and we’d do live music, and it would be very meditational and it would be very terrific…

… I would slowly manipulate the projected image so that over the course of an hour and a half, all these images would converge and make something really amazing happen.

So that was basically what was happening, over thirty years later, on a very-different-from-then West Side of Manhattan. I noticed that as the performance went on, the violins got louder, more assured, and were assuming a similar — yet not nearly as unpleasant — noise to the fire trucks from before. Interesting (or perhaps not?) how context is everything. There, in the performance space, the droning blare instilled a calmness, a stasis — though at the same time there were overtones dancing all over the place. O’Rourke’s glissandi functioned as a counterpoint to the stasis of the violins and bass, and added an element that I found heightened the dissonances and consonances.

Every once in a while, without any pre-determined manner, the violins would synch into the same beginning, primordial root chord, and the film strips would synch together to appear to dance before my eyes. Sometimes my eyes would follow the four projectors’ emissions left and right across the screen, sometimes my eyes would converge in the middle, sometimes my eyes would zig-zag uncontrollably. Oddly, and perhaps chillingly, there were a few moments when I imagined those strips giving me the sensation of falling, head-first, along the thin spines of the almost-four-years-gone World Trade Center. I tried not to think of that too much, though I can’t say that it was an altogether unpleasant feeling.

At the time I wasn’t really sure how much time had passed. The films had converged into a singular image, and eventually the playing stopped, Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain was over. I looked at my watch; it was over two hours since we’d entered. We left, went outside, and a cooler breeze this time rolled across the Hudson.