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Before we bring you our own JERRY CONNOLLY ’s second installment of his report from his experiences at San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival, our favorite music festival in the U.S. hands down (for the reasons Jerry cited a few days ago here, which I agree with), a quick announcement and recomendation for those in the New York area (and those in Western Michigan and Philadelphia) from me to you:
Scottish born, English artist ASTRID WILLIAMSON is a longtime favorite of The Big Takeover, and she rarely plays in the U.S. This week brings three chances to catch her awesome set of pipes (two gigs in New York, both of them free admission, as well as Grand Rapids, with one in Philly a few months later), and her excellent work on the piano and guitar. She’ll be singing songs from all three of her excellent solo LPs (including plenty of tracks from her recently reissued 1998 zenith, Boy For You), and, if we yell loud enough, hopefully something from her older LP fronting GOYA DRESS. I not only urge you to check out “Boy For You,” “Everyone’s Waiting,” and “Reach,” all pretty incredible and soulful pop songs at http://www.myspace.com/astridwilliamson, but also to head to one of these gigs after you’ve heard the goods:
Mar. 11 2008 7:00P
The Living Room NYC154 Ludlow Street, New York
Mar 12 2008 7:00P
The Wealthy TheatreGrand Rapids, Michigan
Mar 13 2008 11:45P
Rockwood Music HallNYC, New York
May 30 2008 2:00A
2008 NON-COMMventionPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania
I myself will be at the Living Room show, so I will see you there. (And if the missus can look after our cute but awfully demanding newborn twice in a week, I hope to catch the talented, classically trained Ms. Williamson as well at the Rockwood, after seeing BOB MOULD and HALOU at Irving Plaza earlier in the evening—err, I guess they are calling The Fillmore East now, but we all know what it really is.)
(Oh, and again, those looking for photos of my new son, Jim—thanks for hundreds of emails from everyone patting me on the back for becoming a dad, that’s really nice of all you people!!!— who is 42 days old today, you can still go to http://www.bigtakeover.com/author/Jack+Rabid/ and click on the February 18 entry, they are still there. He’s a damn site cuter than I ever was at his age, the little bugger.)
(And remember, those who want to see old SPRINGHOUSE videos from MTV in 1991 and 1993, they are now up on our myspace page, at www.myspace.com/springhouse . And I haven’t forgotten I need to write a eulogy for my old friend MIKE CONLEY of Las Vegas to Los Angeles early ‘80s punk rock band M.I.A., I will in a few days, promise.)
Anyway, here is Jerry again, coming to us from the Left Coast!
(To read his first installment, again, go to http://www.bigtakeover.com/author/Jack+Rabid/ and click on the March 3 entry.)
NOISE POP, SAN FRANCISCO, NIGHT 3, FEBRUARY 29
by JERRY CONNOLLY
Day three of Noise Pop (day two for me, as I missed out on Thursday’s debauchery with a headache, alas), has me biking to Bottom of the Hill (BOTH) in the Portrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. BOTH has been my frequent destination for live music over the 11 years I have lived in The City, and I could get here with my eyes shut. The mid-size club (capacity being 300) has great sound and a decent layout. And I can’t help but feel very comfortable as I walk through to door at 9:00 sharp.
The first band on is the San Francisco quartet VEIL VEIL VANISH. Dressed in all black, the two guitar, bass and drums outfit would not have been out of place on the venerable 4AD label during the ‘80’s; albeit it on the lighter side of dark. As the band gets things started with the track “Reproach” from their debut EP Into a New Mausoleum, it’s clear this melancholy lot is not content to be overly dour, and for that I am thankful. Their danceable rhythms and atmospheric sound are coupled with subdued vocal delivery, and the overall affect is blissed out pop the works quite well. The band charge through their eight-song set to a slowly filling venue and appreciative applause, but they never seem to grab the full attention of the room. Such are the spoils of drawing the opening slot on a four-band bill I reckon.
After a 30-minute changeover, the trio WHITE DENIM hit the stage. I know nothing of this band other than they hail from Austin, Texas but that actually doesn’t tell me much. As I ponder not researching the band, the guitarist immediately launches into some noodling that reminds me of Up on the Sun-era MEAT PUPPETS. That perks me right up. When the drummer joins in, the initial impression is given further support and I’m quite pleased. Then something unexpected happens. The bass joins the fray and the Meat Puppets vibe quickly dissipates in favor of a heavier yet no-less frenetic and still somewhat disjointed din. As the band pummels away, I’m not sure how I feel, but it’s certainly not bored— they have my full attention, and from the looks of things I am not alone. The next song steams along, the guitarist takes on the vocal duties, and he’s got a great set up pipes. Soulful and a bit gruff, the voice is every bit as frenzied and the perfect compliment for the spazz-rock being laid down. At this early point in the set, I notice that the room is full and all eyes are on the stage. Continuing to play as if their lives depend on it, White Denim tears through seven songs in their 30-minute set and it just gets better as time wears on. Wild applause at the end of the final song can only mean one thing—on their first visit to SF they won the crowd over and will no doubt be well received on their next visit.
Next up is Brooklyn trio A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS. Being of the opinion that their debut LP was one of the best of 2007, I am really excited to see them, and hear how they recreate the sheets of industrial noise and melody in a live setting. With the stage lights off and a projector at the rear of the club turned on the empty room is quickly filled as the band gets ready to begin. I don’t recognize the song, but it’s a hook-heavy blast that immediately grabs the crowd and lets me know I’m in for a good ride. The deafening sounds bring to mind the best of the JESUS & MARY CHAIN and ‘90s shoegazer bliss, but I mean no injustice, as they don’t seem intent on reviving past glories of others. Sure, a song like “The Falling Sun” reminds me at times of JOY DIVISION, what with the monotone deadpan vocals, but that takes nothing away from the beauty that band injects into this utterly bleak piece of work. I’m over the moon hearing that track as well as “To Fix The Gash In Your Head,” and “I know I’ll See You” from the debut. From wence the songs I don’t recognize come, I don’t know, but they fit in seamlessly. Then things go array during the eighth song, when it appears the bass goes out. I say “appears,” even though the bass does stop, but I can’t tell if it’s by design or not, as I can’t see the stage through the crowd (two seven-foot 20-somethings deserve thanks for this!). The guitar and drums go on in noisy fashion but the band has lost the momentum that had been building. The next, and as it turns out last, song continued this downward spiral and comes off as nothing but self-indulgent. It’s not a good end to what was a fantastic set until the last ten minutes. No matter, I will be back when they hit town, and I expect most of the crowd feels the same. It’s evident from the shouting of “Encore” and “Play louder” that the crowd want more. Sadly, they won’t get it tonight as there is a schedule to keep.
As they band break down their gear I do notice a fair number of people heading for the door and with no in/outs, it’s obvious who they came to hear.
Nevertheless, the night is capped with Toronto’s HOLY F**, who I heard for the first time a few days back. Holy F** play driving instrumentals that are a mix of rhythm and of noise—imagine debut album TORTOISE mixed with hardcore, and you’d be close. Employing various electronics and keyboards as well as a “live” rhythm section, the band’s music is eminently danceable without actually being dance music. Opening up with “Super Inuit” from their latest release sets the crowd off, and I’m into it. Next up is “Royal Gregory” and I couldn’t be happier. What I like about the songs on the album, is that they are relatively short bursts: three to four minutes of kinetic bliss, and when they’re over you want more.But as I begin to realize with the third song, the live experience is a much different tale. The song lengths are creeping upward, and the improv seems less interesting and more like jamming (as in jam-band, or some other hippy-esque twaddle). I don’t recognize the next few songs but I’m unhappy with the way things are going. The joyous bopping of the band seems to bring out the frat-house party band feel that I really dislike, and it’s getting worse as the songs go on. As much as I do like the LP, and I do think it’s a great listen, this live show is making me move alright—move to the exit which I do in quick order. Heading down the street to get my bike, I can still hear the music, and my overall feeling is that of disappointment. I’ll stick with Holy F**’s recorded output and forget about the live show. The first few songs were so great, but I’m just not built for jam aspects that followed. That said, if you’re up for night of sweaty dancing head out to see Holy F** when they hit your town.
Thanks Jerry!! And don’t forget, one and all, to order the current issue of The Big Takeover, issue 61, details found on the link on the homepage…
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