That fine, fine music
Then one fine mornin' she puts on a New York station
She don't believe what she heard at all
She started dancin' to that fine fine music
You know her life was saved by Rock 'n' Roll
Despite all the computations
You could just dance to a rock 'n ' roll station
And it was alright.
--The Velvet Underground, "Rock and Roll"
Just got back from the New York City launch of Concerts for Kerry
, music fundraisers for his presidential campaign. I actually went mainly because I've missed every other post-tour NYC concert by Bishop Allen
, the Brooklyn-based band I blogged about
way back in October. (Seems like a lifetime ago.) I've also been looking for a chance to see the venue, the legendary Knitting Factory
, which I've wanted to experience ever since I read about John Zorn's historic histrionics
It is a very inviting space, though the stage seemed a little crammed, especially when the orchestral pop band Silent League
came on with 8 or 9 players. An unscheduled singer (Rachel?) and her two acousitic guitarists opened, followed by the pounding, ferociously tight rock band The Head Set
. These guys had tension bordering on fury, and singer & guitarist Jordan Blaugrund looked, danced, and belted out their songs in perfect, barely-contained rock star character. Despite being smartly dressed in a sports coat, he reminded me of this photograph of Iggy Pop
, one of my favorite black and white portraits of all time. I definitely hope to catch their next show at The Luna Lounge
on May 7. I picked up their CD, Ask Her Twice
, for a cool $5, and while it sounds good, I definitely think they're better live. It might also help to have real speakers--I'll have to wait until I go home to a non-computer-speakers stereo system.
They were followed by Silent League, which had an hard time setting up on the small stage, and then some initial sound problems. At first, what with the delays and their multilayered sound (they had two keyboards, two to three guitars, a trumpet player, an electronic violin, and a saxaphonist who moonlighted with some sort of electric bells), they seemed just a little tame after The Head Set. But singer/keyboardist Justin Russo was able to carry them from breathy piano ballads to enormous harmonic crescendos that surrounded one like a hurricane of music. I have a feeling that unlike The Head Set Bishop Allen, Silent League might be even better recorded than live, and hope I can catch them at the Pussycat Lounge
on April 22.
And then came Bishop Allen. A lot has happened since I last saw them at the Mercury Lounge---they've completed the incredibly long Support the Thunder
tour, and I've gained much more of a sensibility for small-venue rock shows, as well as spent the intervening months rocking out to their Charm School
CD. So I'm not sure what the difference was, but they were simply excellent
. This despite Christian Rudder having some sort of tuning problem followed by his strap breaking. If anything, the mishaps added a touch of endearing charm to their blaring charisma.
They definitely rock harder and have a really confident stage presence now---lead singer Justin Rice pranced in leaps and bounds in between guitarist Christian Rudder and bassist C.O. while behind Jack Delimitraux danced large, seated at the drums. I don't know how Rice managed not to get tangled up in the wires, and I can't think of anything to compare his dancing style to, but I'd love to see him cut completely loose in a club one day. I was standing pretty near the stage, in front of C.O., and I was absolutely struck by her carriage. She danced with her shoulders in a way that was very appealing to me as a Bharat Natyam dancer, and managed to look both casual and glamorous in a purple polo, a wide cream-colored belt, jeans and Catwoman boots. While she probably actually moved the least of the four, something about her outfit and stamping out the rhythm really made me want to dance.
And I did, along with most of the rest of the audience I could see---something that even The Headset's intense pounding couldn't elicit. It might have also been the caused by the sheer joy and mutual affection that radiated from all four musicians, and especially from Rudder. He broke out into the widest, most earnest grin with each of Rice's crescendos or the lines he shares with C.O. as if he was singing an old favorite for the first time in years. Calling him and C.O. back-up vocalists seems insulting, really. C.O., especially---every now and then she dropped a breathy little line into a song like icing onto a cake.
Even when they were singing about ghosts and black aches and break ups, their skill and enthusiasm painted grins on most everyone's faces. Something I love about Bishop Allen is their songwriting -- lyrics
you can sing along with that are anything but cliche -- and I think I wasn't the only one who was singing along. (Well, I was mouthing along, since I wouldn't unnecessarily inflict my singing on innocent bystanders even while drowning in an amped up band.) Their sound check was a really amusing mini-song where Rice sang "check check check" which I hope they record sometime. They played about three or four more songs, one of which sounded like a partial homage to the wonderful Velvet Underground song Rock and Roll
. I can't wait for them to record another CD, but in the mean time, I hope to catch them at The Tank
on May 8. Afterwards, Rudder said some of their new T-shirts should be available on their website in about a week.