circle circle at the space, 1/17/14
I Kill Giants on Flickr.
killed it last night
This show was good. Happy to be able to play with I Kill Giants again.
Tonight!! Youth Lagoon and Majical Cloudz at The Space. Tickets are going fast, be sure to get yours soon!
Going to this tonight! Hope to see some of you there.
Youth Lagoon - “Mute” (Music Video)
CT folks — Catch Youth Lagoon next Friday (5/8) at The Space in Hamden. Here’s the video for “Mute,” one of the better tracks on their dense new LP Wondrous Bughouse. More info below via Manic Productions:
The Youth Lagoon concert at The Space is only a week away and we’re really excited!!!
Due to popular demand, the show is now ALL AGES, so be sure to get your tickets if you haven’t already!
Tonight in Hamden at The Space. Titus returns to CT with The So So Glos (they’re the people who run Shea Stadium in NYC… icons!) and Chris Cappello’s full band. Watch Sweet Baby Chris’s dreams come true live on stage.
Tickets are still available but going fast. See you there.
punk dreams do come true
Now that I’m back from Bulldog Days, it’s time to get down to business. Here’s a flier I made for my band’s next show, which might be my most anticipated show I’ve ever had the opportunity to be a part of. If you’re in the Connecticut area, please come out. The Space might be the most intimate venue that Titus Andronicus and the So So Glos are playing on this tour, and neither band will disappoint live. Also, you get to see my full band play, which may or may not be a plus.
MORE INFO HERE
Why? and Astronautalis coming to The Space Feb 11th!
Buy Tickets HERE
Excited for this.
Don’t miss out on your chance to see Title Fight on tour with Pianos Become the Teeth and Single Mothers at The Space. There are fewer than 50 tickets left for this show and it WILL sell out in advance.
I’m also happy to say that I’ll be interviewing Title Fight at this show and subsequently posting the interview on here/airing it on my radio show. Their new record Floral Green is out now on SideOneDummy, and it’s stellar.
This is going to be one of the bigger shows in Connecticut this year. Get a ticket in advance before it sells out!
THE MUSIC TAPES live at The Blank Canvas. Hamden CT. 11/3/12
It’s hard for me to put into words what the past 24 hours have been like for me, but I will do my best. It was, to put it briefly, an utterly surreal experience. As soon as I walked into The Blank Canvas (a temporary warehouse space owned and operated by The Space), it was as if I had transcended this drab, material plane of existence and entered something entirely transmundane. On record, The Music Tapes are at best capable of merely alluding to this exo-world, giving fuzzy and brief glimpses into it through the nostalgic hiss of old magnetic tape and the gentle bleat of a bowed banjo. Although their recorded music has come to occupy a very special space in my heart, their live show — especially on this tour — is completely incomparable.
I first saw The Music Tapes nearly a full year ago, when they opened for Jeff Mangum at the Shubert Theater in New Haven. It was an appropriate pairing, given that Mangum and The Music Tapes’ frontman Julian Koster were once both members of Neutral Milk Hotel, and the Tapes certainly brought that Elephant 6 Collective whimsy and pyschedelia to the show last night as well. The difference between the New Haven show and this one was as much a matter of intimacy as it was of scope. Along with the previous night’s show in Massachusetts, this show was a preview of the band’s boldest live vision yet. It’s called the “Travelling Imaginary” tour, and it involves the Music Tapes bringing a giant rectangular circus tent to every show and allowing the attendees to come in and sit inside it, inviting them into a dreamlike, musical world for the duration of the night.
Although the band was still working out some logistical kinks (it was, after all, a preview show), the Travelling Imaginary experience was delightfully playful and, at times, soberingly beautiful. It was also surprisingly interactive, featuring film projections, a carnival-style beanbag toss, and a silly Romanian ball game (played with red balloons) that Julian Koster curated and played with the raptly attentive audience of approximately 75 people. When the band was actually playing, they sounded better than I’ve ever heard them, on record or otherwise. Koster was joined by longtime collaborator Robbie Cucchiaro, who played various horn instruments, along with a keyboard player and a multi-instrumentalist who occasionally found himself playing three instruments at once. The four piece was supplemented by an accoutrement of Music Tapes members of the inanimate variety, including a “mechanical organ tower” and a 7-foot tall metronome that stood ominously and obelisk-like behind the group. Koster himself frequently switched instruments from orchestral banjo (which he played with a violin bow) to singing saw, and even to heavily distorted bass guitar, which he used on “S’ Alive to Be Known (May We Starve),” much to the audience’s delight. No matter what instrument he was playing, a wide-eyed smile never left Koster’s perpetually youthful face, which filled the iridescent tent with enough warm energy to staunch the cold air from outside.
Much of the setlist was culled from the band’s newest and best album, Mary’s Voice, which is out now on Merge Records. Album opener “The Dark Is Singing Songs (Sleepy Time Down South)” made for a wonderful highlight in the middle of the show, with Cucchiaro’s muted trouble accenting Koster’s pining vocals, while “Spare The Dark Streets” found Koster’s banjo waltzing in time with Cucchiaro’s valve trombone. The setlist also included standout tracks from the band’s other two LPs, including the metronone-assisted “The Minister of Longitude” from 2008’s Music Tapes For Clouds and Tornadoes. Although the show was filled with evocative instances of beauty both great and small, there was one moment in particular that stood out as truly moving and memorable. When Julian Koster solemnly stood in the center of the tent for the last time to play “Takeshi and Elijah,” surrounded by his bandmates and their various eccentric instruments, it was akin to when I saw Jeff Mangum close with “Ferris Wheel on Fire” in Boston last September. As “Takeshi’s” forlorn banjo chords rang out amidst the hushed, cross-legged crowd, the room assumed the kind of indescribable energy that many of Julian’s endearingly imagined folk stories are about. It’s as if there was an abstract understanding reached amongst everyone packed into the tent last night — some profundity so immaterial that it could only be conveyed through music, specifically that of Julian Koster The song’s last, lone banjo note seemed to last forever, as if in an eternal solipsism, as a testament to the timelessness of Koster’s legacy. By the time the full band came crashing in at the very end, keyboards and horns blaring, it seemed more like a celebration than a requiem. The Travelling Imaginary may have ended for us that night in an objective sense, but it nevertheless left an indelible mark on everybody who was there.
Of course, if you’ve been paying attention to what I’ve been posting in the past day, you know that my experience with The Music Tapes didn’t actually end at The Blank Canvas that night. When I drove home with Julian Koster in my car, ate veggie burgers a diner on Dixwell Avenue with seven of the loveliest people I now know, and eventually made breakfast and drank coffee with them this morning, I saw a human side to a group of people who just last night had made a pretty good case for idolization. It made me realize a truth about modern music culture, specifically with regards to The Music Tapes, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Elephant 6. There are no rock stars anymore — just people who are creative and/or crazy enough to survive this kind of musical existence. Julian Koster and the Music Tapes do that and more; they thrive in their lifestyle and inspire others to do the same. When Julian signed my copy of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea before we all headed back to Hamden to take down the tent today, it felt oddly anti-climactic, but the truth is, he had already left his mark on me. That mark — the mark of influence, respect, and hope for the future — was more permanent than any autograph could ever be.
Please Remain Calm Album Release Party 12/15 CT
More bands TBA, tickets on sale this Friday here: http://www.manicproductions.org/event/178777
We’re gonna be on tour from now until then and we’ll be pulling out all the stops. Let’s get wild
Very excited for this show next month. Please Remain Calm is quickly climbing up my favorite albums of the year list. Check it out on bandcamp if you haven’t already.
The Guru - “Go Easy”
Connecticut’s own precious psych-pop youngsters The Guru have a new album on the way called Go Easy, and they just dropped the title track/first single via The Needle Drop. As Anthony Fantano points out, “Go Easy” marks an impressive maturation in composition and presentation from their last album Native Sun. True to its name, “Go Easy” is calm and relaxed, but it maintains the dancey, evocative grooves that make the band so infectiously enjoyable.
On this track, the group expands beyond the confines of their traditional four-piece sound, incorporating hilariously smooth, disco-reminiscent saxophone and a slightly distorted vocal effect that lessens the intensity of frontman Eddie Golden III’s manic pipes. On the whole, the track is not nearly as immediate or aggressive as anything on Native Sun, but it feels a lot less niche-focused and potentially more enjoyable in the long run.
Stream “Go Easy” above and pick up Go Easy when it drops on November 21st. Connecticut folks pay attention: That night, The Guru will be playing an album release show at The Space in Hamden with Tigers Jaw. Find more information about that show HERE.
JOYCE MANOR live at The Space. Hamden CT. 8/14/12
For those of us who regularly frequent shows in Connecticut, there were many jokes to be made at The Space last night. Which band was going to break down in tears first? What was going to go wrong during TWIABP’s set this time? How long was it going to take for a heated bro-fight to break out during Joyce Manor? There were also many circumstantially humorous but shockingly serious questions asked, like, for instance, “how the hell did this show sell out in advance?” and “where the fuck did all of these people come from?” By the end of the night, a solid 70% of the crowd comprised people that I had never seen or interacted with in my life, which is practically unheard of in my more recent experience with Connecticut punk shows. Jokes aside, it was hard to deny the significance of this show, both in an immediate sense, and as a benchmark for the popularity and marketability of emo-revivalist punk rock. With four highly accomplished independent touring groups on the bill, this show was like emo revival’s perfect storm, and it just happened to descend on the sleepy town of Hamden, Connecticut last night. Frankly, I think it caught most of us off guard.
The show began with recent Topshelf Records-signees Sirs playing to an already packed crowd just before 7:30. They played a set mostly comprising tracks from their new self-titled album, which Topshelf released earlier this year. I recognized the sentiments that some attendees expressed in that it would have been nice to see a local act in more need of a popularity boost as an opener, but I’m sure that Sirs were grateful to end their tour with such a bang. The band’s grooving, abrasive take on Kinsella-style math rock was a fitting sound for the bill, and they were impressively tight.
The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die played next, and, as always, they both blew my mind and disappointed me ever so slightly. I’ve come to expect much from The World Is… in the past two years, but perfect shows are not among those expectations. Transcendent, beautiful moments, always, but never technical perfection. In my experience, they have suffered a lot of technical difficulties, from failed bass cabs to malfunctioning pedalboards, but with a six-member lineup, it’s hard to blame them for running into occasional problems. Last night’s show was no exception to this trend, but what happened this time was scarier and potentially much more dangerous. Towards the end of “Victim Kin Seek Suit,” guitarist Chris Teti accidentally slammed his head into Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak’s guitar, causing profuse bleeding and bringing the show to a tenuous halt. The band carried on afterwards as a five-piece, cutting their set short to accomodate Teti’s absence.
Oh but the moments! Those moments of transcendent beauty during their set last night were possibly more transcendently beautiful than any other time I’ve seen them. They opened with the first track on their new LP, a plastering post-rock epic with harmonizing guitar leads and masterful math rock drum work. The following song “Gordon Paul” sounded just as communally resonant as ever, and the closer “I Will Be Okay. Everything” may have even usurped the former song’s ability to get the crowd going. The highlight for me came in between the two, when the band played “Mega Steve,” during which frontman Tom Diaz handed me the mic for the entirety of the song’s slow, screamo-influenced second half. I got to live out my dreams of being a member of TWIABP, and it was even beter than I could have hoped.
Algernon Cadwallader assumed something of an emo-revival elder statesman status when they began their set after The World Is…, running through song after song from their two full lengths and various 7” records to the ecstatic uproar of their engaged fans. “Spit Fountain” provided a particularly joyous opener, and with the ear-to-ear smile that occupied Peter Helmis’ face throughout the entire set, I almost forgot that I was seeing an emo band. Nevertheless, I had a great time, and hearing songs like “Stars” and “Some Kind Of Cadwallader” again brought me straight back to the days when I was first getting into this kind of music. Algernon Cadwallader were there then, and although so many of their contemporaries have since split up, they seem to be in it for the long haul.
As the Algernon trio left the stage, and the Joyce Manor crowd began to pack thicker and thicker into The Space’s standing area, I felt an uneasy sense of impending danger approaching, akin to what one might experience in the so-called ‘calm before the storm.’ A largely predictable affair ensued once it began. Joyce Manor opened with “Call Out (Laundry),” although they could have begun with virtually any song from their self-titled, and their fans — many of whom seemingly materialized out of some void and appeared at The Space that night — went exactly as crazy as predicted. As I stood there in front, batting off stage-divers and dodging flying arms, I wasn’t sure whether to love it, laugh it off, or just leave the chaos ensuing around me. The crux of the issue, for me, is whether Barry Johnson — the band’s perpetually smirking frontman with the dreamy eyes and ridiculous blackout tattoo on his left forearm — is simply an insufferable, unwarranted asshole, or if he’s absolutely on point most of the time. The truth, as I discovered last night, is both. In between winking and waving at crowdsurfing girls and lobbing mean-spirited zingers at kids in the audience, Johnson definitely came off as somebody who cares a lot about himself and little else. Before launching into a sloppy and forgettable version of a Murder City Devils song, Johnson snarkily introduced it as an Oasis cover, as if that were some hilariously ironic thing to do. And yet, there were moments during the set when I couldn’t help but agree with his stage banter, barbed and pointed though it was.
"So, this is your first show, huh?" Johnson sneered as a pile of kids in front collapsed on each other during one of the more heated moments of Joyce Manor’s set. He proceeded to lightly ridicule the same kinds of fans that I’ve always had a problem with ever since I first started listening to Joyce Manor — fans who were at his show, listening to his band’s music. It suggests an impressive amount of guts (after all, he is right), but also a tremendous lack of respect or caring for his own creative product. Joyce Manor’s music, after all, panders thoroughly to the same kind of people that Johnson apparently enjoys chiding so much. The songs are catchy and accessible to even the least indoctrinated ‘punk’-identifying kid, and the lyrics are appropriately vague and delivered with enough disaffected fervor to appeal tremendously to ‘struggling’ middle class white kids. This music is practically tailor-made to suit the fans, and the fans, as last night’s show made very clear, eat it up ravenously. This realization would almost make me admire the band for putting out the relatively challenging Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired, if that album’s more obtuse aesthetic weren’t so obviously the product of laziness rather than a conscious effort to be more interesting.
For what it is, though, Joyce Manor’s music is quite good, and the success of last night’s show reaffirmed my belief that I wasn’t alone in thinking so. From what I could tell, their performance was considerably less tight than when I saw them in April, but their ravenous fans didn’t seem to notice. Much like the band’s music, the cramped moshpit was sloppy, aggressive, and more than a little obnoxious, but I paid my due diligence inside it for the majority of the set before stagediving my way out of there during “Constant Headache.” As I clawed my way over the dense crowd, scraping The Space’s low-hanging ceiling and desperately trying to avoid acting like the literal throngs of people who had unflinchingly kicked and elbowed their way over me in the previous half hour, I realized something that I had known long before I started listening to Joyce Manor. Whether I like it or not, I’m on track to becoming my own worst enemy. Perhaps I might sit the next show out, wherever or whenever that may be. Until then, I’m content to sporadically listen to Joyce Manor on my own time, where neither their Tumblr fanbase, nor the previously unseen legions of people who showed up last night can touch me. Something tells me that there might be some overlap between the two.
View a full set of photos from this show at the Lewis and his Blog facebook page, and be sure to follow Manic Productions and The Arc Agency for information about more Connecticut shows like this in the future.
Joyce Manor - “Violent Inside”
"You’ll go looking for an excuse / To feel sad or confused
When all you want to do is let them all feel abuse.”
Tonight, I’m going to see Joyce Manor play a sold-out show in Connecticut at the top of a stacked bill that includes Algernon Cadwallader, The World Is A Beautiful Place…, and Sirs. I’m well aware of Joyce Manor’s current popularity within the punk scene, but thinking about how well this show is doing still surprises me. Shows at The Space rarely sell out, and when they do, it almost never happens in advance. The last time I can remember a show selling out there in advance was when Max Bemis played a solo show, and that was months ago. Even though a good portion of this show’s marketability is due to the strength of the overall lineup — each of the supporting bands has a strong draw in CT — Joyce Manor are headlining. Something tells me that this show would still do well without the auxiliary support.
I’ve never professed to be a Joyce Manor fan, but I can certainly understand what makes them appealing. The hooks are there in full effect, the songs are brief but occasionally memorable, and the band has a solid image that’s marketable to disaffected tumblr-blogging, pizza-eating cool kids who would have been scenesters in 2007 if they had been born a few years earlier. I saw the band open for Andrew Jackson Jihad a few months ago, and although I bought into their product during the course of the show, it left a bad taste in my mouth in retrospect. In one particularly cringeworthy moment, a wheelchair-ridden Andrew Jackson Jihad fan had made his way near the front so that he could see the stage prior to Joyce Manor’s set, and within 30 seconds of the show starting, he had multiple people jumping, falling, and even climbing on top of him just so that they could have their precious few minutes of stage diving time. Within minutes, he was forced to actually retreat to the back of the venue after an altercation that ended with a particularly angry Joyce Manor fan threatening to beat him up. Keep in mind that this guy was paraplegic.
The nihilistic, violent attitude that Joyce Manor’s music promotes is certainly fun and obviously appealing to most people who ascribe to the ‘independent’ philosophy, but I think that in the long term, it’s neither productive nor necessarily healthy. In the traditional sense, feeling “violent all the time” is very ‘punk’, but in a more utilitarian sense, feeling anything all the time is probably not beneficial to anybody. In a musical sense, it’s easy for me to dismiss this band as nothing special, mostly because they seem to employ one or two basic songwriting formulas that lead to a handful of great songs — “Beach Community” and “Constant Headache” are particular favorites — and plenty of tossed-off tracks that sound like lesser imitations. But ideologically, I think I have a more serious issue with this group that I have been trying for some time to come to terms with; their music makes me feel fundamentally suppressed as somebody who cares about things beyond companionship and the apparently critical importance of ‘having a good time’.
Inevitably, this post will be reblogged by the same devotees that I spent the past few paragraphs chiding, and this commentary will be erased — who wants to read it anyway? What I’m trying to say is that Joyce Manor makes me confused. Despite my past problems with the band, certain fans, and (let’s be honest) their relatively insubstantial music, I can’t quite stop listening to them. Joyce Manor, to me, is becoming a case study for how far I can push myself to enjoy something that I feel is wrong. My appreciation for this group will potentially change depending on how comfortable I become with myself, or, on the other hand, how strong my ideological convictions become in time. Until that turning point, I remain — perhaps hypocritically — very excited for their show tonight. Very excited, and fairly perplexed at my own tendency to look way too deep into everything.
Stream “Violent Inside” above, and pick up their latest album Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired from Asian Man Records.
WYE OAK live at The Space. Hamden CT. 7.5.12
The best live shows are those which radically change an audience member’s perspective of a band’s recorded music and redefine the context in which he or she views that particular band’s creative output. I gauge the shows I see by this definition because I think it helps me rate more clearly and be as objective as possible — a tricky thing to do when dealing with an entirely subjective art form. By this definition, a lackluster performance by my favorite band would be worth less to me than a surprisingly great performance delivered by some local act of which I didn’t think much before. Ascribing to this live show philosophy discourages potentially harmful idol worship and opens one up to pleasant surprises — surprises very much like the one that I received last night at The Space.
To be honest, I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about Wye Oak prior to the show, nor did I expect much from them. The Baltimore duo has released three records since their founding in 2006, but I’ve only spent real time with Civilian, their 2011 breakout LP. Civilian never exactly gripped me, but there was something oddly captivating about the record. Frankly though, I decided to go to the show last night largely out of obligation to acknowledge their critical praise, and because it provided a good excuse for a date. Although I was only a passive fan at the time that I arrived, I was impressed by how many people seemed to be genuinely excited to be there. Even with only two bands on the bill, the show drew one of the most impressive crowds that I’ve seen at The Space in a long time. The venue seemed thoroughly packed throughout the entire show, and murmurs of excitement drifted through the audience in anticipation of the 9 PM start time.
The fellow Baltimore act Other Colors opened the show with a lucid, beach rock sound that even they seemed to recognize was a little played out. This show was their first on a string of tour dates with Wye Oak, and since they evidently lack a following outside of the Baltimore scene, they seemed very grateful to be playing with such an established band. Watching their set, it was clear that they were self-aware about their relative lateness to the game; their complacent, reverb-heavy pop sound was nice enough, but they were clearly straining to stand out through the use of instrumental backing tracks and unusual guitar tunings. Frontman Will Ryerson managed to get some pretty interesting sounds out of his 5-string Fender Jaguar by essentially playing it upside down and left-handed. The highlight of their set came in the middle, when the band brought none other than Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner herself onstage for a moody duet piece that got the crowd psyched up for the headlining performance afterwards.
When Wye Oak’s two members took the stage, they placed themselves relatively far apart from each other, taking up much more stage space than any duo normally would. This turned out to be rather appropriate in a way, as they managed to sound both better and more expansive than many bands twice their size. Multi-instrumentalist Andy Stack spent most of his time on drums and percussion, but also tried his hand at electric bass and synth during the set, occasionally all at the same time. Wasner herself was armed with a formidable arsenal of effects pedals and an array of sexy Reverend guitars, the same rare brand used by Greg Horbal of The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die.
With a mere glimpse at the band’s impressive live setup, I could already feel my perception of Wye Oak starting to change as they began their set. I had never been sure how to classify the group other than as an “indie rock band,” but as they powered through their lengthy and varied setlist, I soon began to formulate an idea of who Wye Oak really was. They opened with two new tracks featuring a hard-edged guitar sound and fleet-fingered riffing that called to mind the work of St. Vincent, both of which blew me away. Following the new material with a rousing performance of “Holy Holy,” a rollicking standout from Civilian, was an inspired move that absolutely cemented that track’s indie rock anthem-status in my mind. Soon after, the band performed their new single “Spiral,” introducing it as a “disco song” and demonstrating even more versatility as they eased into the song’s jerky new wave rhythm. A well-sequenced assortment of Civilian tracks, new songs, and some older material (including an impromptu performance of “Take It In” from 2009’s The Knot) comprised the rest of the setlist.
The highlights were numerous and varied, but many centered around Wasner. Her guitar and voice worked in tandem, complementing each other and creating a stark sonic contrast when the moment called for it. Towards the end of the set, “Dogs Eyes” veered wildly from bubbly power-chord pop to droney, distorted blues, while their set closer “I Hope You Die” mixed singer/songwriter overshare with atmospheric guitar melodies and synth inflections. Also towards the end, the title track from Civilian came across as a heartbreaking mid-tempo anthem that may or may not have made a large contingent of the male audience members fall in love with Jenn Wasner. (Editorial note: If I’m trying to avoid sullying my esteemed critical perspective with subjectivity, I really do need to stop falling in love with so many talented female artists at shows…)
The band returned for a brief encore, which is always kind of pointless at The Space since there is no backstage area. After walking awkwardly through the crowd and back again, Wye Oak played two more tracks: the upbeat “Prayer” from The Knot and the gentle, subtly crushing Civilian closer “Doubt,” which Wasner performed solo, evoking the melodramatic folk of her collaborator Sharon Van Etten.
Earlier in the show, the band acknowledged that this was their first traditional live performance since February, which is a relatively long time for a band powered by internet buzz to go without touring. But in that time, some of which they probably spent recording the new material that they debuted last night, it’s very possible that Wye Oak discovered a part of themselves that was not conveyed on Civilian or on their past records. Maybe it’s been there all along, and I just had to have it forced into my eyes and ears to recognize it. Either way, this live show was a truly special event. I may have been missing out on Wye Oak earlier, but I certainly won’t be anymore.
Setlist - 7/5/12:
- 1. “Too Right” (unreleased)
- 2. “Better” (unreleased)
- 3. “Holy Holy”
- 4. “Plains”
- 5. “Spiral”
- 6. “Dreaming” (unreleased)
- 7. “Take It In”
- 8. “Hot As Day”
- 9. “My Creator”
- 10. “Dogs Eyes”
- 11. “Civilian”
- 12. “That I Do”
- 13. “I Hope You Die”
- 14. “Prayer” (encore)
- 15. “Doubt” (encore)