at North Six
First and foremost, having never been there before, let me just say that North Six blows. The sound sucks (and it's way too loud, the bathroom situation was appalling (I had to wait 10 minutes just to use one) and it's really hard to get around on the main floor since whatever numbskull designed it decided to put in seats (they elevate up to the sound booth) in the middle of the floor instead of in the back or off to the side, thus making getting around when it's sold out considerably harder than it should be. Furthermore, it seems like they half-finished it on purpose (it looks like half rock club, half dilipidated warehouse which is what it probably was before it became a club). Also, the girl behind me in the coatcheck line slipped on one of the stairs going down into the basement (it had snowed the day before and so it was slippery from all the slush outside) and hit her elbow, so it's a safety hazard as well. I mean, granted, I don't like it when clubs are TOO nice (see BB King's), but North Six was just too much for me.
Now onto the actual music. Openers I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, despite having one of the best band names in all of rock (indie or otherwise), were a pretty mediocre post-punk band who reminded me of The Sound and Joy Division on one hand and on some of their songs, of My Bloody Valentine and other similar shoegazer acts from the early '90s. The problem was that even though their influences are great, they haven't figured out a way to trascend them, so they don't sound particularly distinctive. Furthermore, their vocalist was undistinctive and annoyingly, kept asking for his vocals to get turned up and that he couldn't hear himself. On one hand, I understand his complaints since the sound there did indeed suck, but judging by how long it took them to get onstage, it was still annoying. I mean, you're playing North Six, not Madison Square Garden.
Fortunately, Longwave took the stage and blew everybody away. They played mostly new songs from their new album, There's a Fire
, which is set to be released in May and judging by what I heard, it should be great and they also played some oldies from 2003's great The Strangest Things
and last year's Life of the Party
Oh and if you're in the area and you like vinyl, I highly recommend stopping by to visit Academy Records
. Although their site doesn't even list its Williamsburg location, I can tell you that it's on North Sixth Street about a block or two from Bedford (towards the East River). Its exact address is here
. I found a vinyl copy of Tom Verlaine's Dreatime
album for $4 and the staff is knowledgeable, friendly and obviously love music.
Also, the bar directly across the street from Academy Records had drink specials all night (including $1 PBRs) and a really cute dreadlocked bartender (sigh).
On the way back home, I ran into Nick from The Star Spangles and when I told him that I'd just been to North Six, he told me that his band had played there only once and also didn't think much of that club, so I'm glad that it's not just me. Also, he told me that their new record will be out in May. They wanted Ian Hunter to produce it, but he turned them down, so they got someone (sorry I forgot his name) who produced The Donnas and The Explosion and used to be in The Meatmen and short-lived '80s DC hardcore band Double-O to produce it instead.
at The Hook
The next night, Joss, a great local band who I've written about here before, played at a club in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn called The Hook. In order to get there, I had to walk 15 minutes from the nearest subway stop (the F and G stop at Carroll St.) and over a foot-bridge that took you over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The club is a very nice space that must hold about 400 people or so. Unfortunately, there were only 15-20 people there and all of them seemed to be friends of the band members. After 2 tedious bands who played before (one was a band called The Bad Touch who sounded at times like The Libertines but other times like Nirvana and another one was a singer-songwriter named FM) them, Joss took the stage and played well, though they got a better crowd reaction at their Pianos show a few months back. They're playing a place in Prospect Heights called Freddy's Backroom
on Saturday March 19th. More info is here
. Oh and thanks again to Chris and his wife for driving me all the way back to upper Manhattan after the show. I can't even begin to imagine how long it would've taken me to get back home otherwise.
at Mercury Lounge
Although they played mostly new material, this was far superior to the previous 2 times that I've seen S-K. For one, it was amazing to see them in much a small place (the Mercury Lounge only holds 150 people or so) and to see drummer Janet Weiss hanging out in the always too crowded bar area when the openers were on since the 2 previous times I've seen them have been at the Siren Festival in 2002 in front of thousands and at Irving Plaza last year. While both of those shows had their charms and were both good, this was another level. If their live show is any indication, the new songs seem to be among the most experimental that they've ever recorded. One song was a 7-8 minute (at least) free jazz and Captain Beefheart-influenced romp and another one was a rare ballad that featured Janet on harmonica. Furthermore, guitarist Carrie Brownstein sang much more than I'd ever seen here do before and she's obviously the star of the show with her rock star theatrics. In addition to the new stuff, they played one of my favorite songs ("Youth Decay") from 2000's All Hands on the Bad One
(my favorite album of theirs) and the 2nd song they played was "Faraway" from their last album, 2002's One Beat
. Maybe it was because I'd had one beer too many at that point, but when they played it, I started to swell up inside because that song is about 9/11 and their reaction to it and it brought back a flood of memories. It was very emotional and it's always a special moment when a band's performance can take you out of yourself and into another realm.
and Shonen Knife
Well on a lighter note, Visqueen (those of you who read this thing on a regular basis know that I think they're one of the best bands on the planet right now) opened for Shonen Knife at Maxwells on Friday night and of course, they absolutely destroyed. It was my 2nd time seeing them and this time I bought a t-shirt (which I'm wearing now incidentally). They played "Mrs. Elder" this time, but still no "Zirconium Gun" (maybe next time?). After the show, Rachel recognized me and said hello. Such nice people. Oh and Shonen Knife played after them, but honestly, they were just an afterthought after Visqueen, though of course the crowd didn't think so. I don't know. I just don't get them. They were cute and enthusiastic, but to my ears, they just weren't all that good. I mean, any band with song titles like "Making Plans for Bison" had to be worth checking out and I'd heard so much stuff about them for years, but just not paid that much attention to them, but they just didn't deliver the goods. Imagine a 3-piece comprised entirely of Japanese girls in matching outfits playing Ramones-style pop-punk songs and you're on the right track. Fittingly enough for their encore, they did a version of "I Wanna Be Sedated". And it's not that I thought that I think that the idea of an all-girl Japanese punk band is a novelty. I actually rather like the 5,6,7,8's and Supersnazz, for instance, so I don't know what it is really.
I would've seen Visqueen again at The Knitting Factory, but there was a Gold Streets
show at Pianos (the biggest place they've played in so far) and I wasn't missing it. Anyway, although they had sound issues, Gold Streets were really good and debuted some new songs, including a 7-8 minute epic that starts off with the drummer (who sings about half of their songs) singing a cappella. I already can't wait for their next show. After them, I caught a little of The Gentlemen's set. Having never heard them before but being curious since they contain one member of great new-wave, power-pop revivalists The Figgs (who have toured with Graham Parker on several occasions and who just recorded a new album with him), I was a bit disappointed with their brand of early '70s Stones/Faces style boogie rock. It wasn't bad, but not quite distinctive enough for it to make a real lasting impression on me and definitely not as good as The Figgs. Oh well.