Rooftop Films has been showing underground films on rooftops throughout Brooklyn since 1997. They have been getting bigger and better every year and I’m excited for another great year. There’s something special about watching a film outside with the Brooklyn skyline in the background. This night they invited John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats to play a special acoustic set. Before starting he told the audience to get out of their chairs and to huddle around the stage. Sitting indian style around the music on a rooftop in Brooklyn was like an urban campfire evening under the stars. His simple guitar strumming and imperfect voice took us through some crazed and demented life stories. The Sunset Tree just came out and he played Magpie, Lion’s Teeth, and a great acoustic version of Dance Music. Because he was alone he played more subtle songs from his previous albums. He even played a few that he admitted he’s never played before. Unfortunately the movies shown that night were quite terrible and not worth writing about.
Sam Beam is simply a wonderful songwriter and musician. I started listening to his lo-fi country-folk albums for quite some time now and the grainy quality of his recordings just added to the charm in his songs. I imagine that being a film teacher helps him shape his songs into poetic journeys. I was a bit shocked that he had sold out not one but 2 shows at the large venue Webster Hall. How could a man armed with only a guitar sell out 2 shows? After seeing him live you’ll understand his power. I was bummed that he was playing such a big venue and not a more intimate one where his music would better be suited. Nevertheless, he put on a beautiful show despite the terrible sound system. He was very humble and quiet on stage, but when he started to sing, the crowd became entranced.
A video of one of my favorite songs. Naked As We Came.
Juana Molina had been gathering a lot of press lately. While I was in Buenos Aires she was mentioned in many of the music magazines applauding her success of her new album Tres Cosas. In the states it was ranked as one of the top 10 albums by the New York Times and garnered response from David Byrne who I believe wound up signing her to his label.
Juana Molina was a very successful comic in Buenos Aires and abandoned her very successful career in television to pursue her musical endeavors. Her off-kilter electronic sounds and guitar rhythms create a vast and strangely comforting world. And her humor sometimes pokes through in her lyrics and especially live. You’ll always be surprised with what she has to offer.
Arriving at Joe’s Pub I was very happy to hear that the show had sold out. It was a very eclectic audience from young to old and different ethnicities. However, that meant the space was way too crowded but I got lucky with a spot in the back. I was surprised to see her alone on stage with only a guitar and various electronic equipment. Her albums are so dense and layered that I was expecting a full band. She politely and bashfully introduced herself and played a song off her new album. Her voice was beautiful and I was amazed at the range she had. She would jump back and forth from keyboards and guitars. She would loop her voice, guitar, and keyboard using the various electronic contraptions around her to create these very complex soundscapes. She would build upon these layers with poetic lyrics and guitars, all live and in real time. It was incredible to see her pull off the songs from her albums live.
As of now, Gimme Fiction is my pick for the best album of the year. Britt Daniel created a jewel of a record making up for their lackluster attempts in previous years. They gathered the momentum from Girls Can Tell to create a more confident rockin and rollin album. By far the most expansive album to date showcasing the bands broad range of styles. So how did these Texans do on their live performance? I’m sad to say they were terrible. Maybe it was the time of show, maybe it was the terrible venue, maybe it was the high price of the ticket. Nevertheless, the music had no life to it and the band didn’t display the energy that’s in their album. I was expecting so much more. So far the biggest disappointment of the year.
Say Hi To Your Mom is Eric Elbogen and he makes quirky bedroom pop songs on his home computer in Brooklyn. His albums are filled with slow monotone vocals with overlapping guitars and analog synthscapes. His songs are very catchy with playful lyrics that reference everything from robots, vampires, and aliens to the nostalgic things we grew up with in the 80’s. The lyrics are more silly than clever but you’ll catch yourself singing along. Looking at my itunes play count, I’ve played the song “Laundry” well over 50 times this week.
I was bummed he didn’t play that song live but he worked in some oldies into his new set. It was kind of strange to see this “band” live which was basically Eric on guitar and a girl fiddling around a Korg machine. Although his music isn’t necessarily the type of music you’d get excited to see live, it’s still fun. You’ll feel guilty admitting to like this geeky pop, but I’m ok with it and so should you.
I have been quite crazy about the Wrens latest album, “Meadowlands”. The band has been on a hiatus for over 5 years and I was overjoyed to hear that they were actually going to play live, considering the album is over 2 years old. First off, the album is an intense, emotional, and dark masterpiece. The songs are complex and on further listens offers up more sonic nuances. Every time I listen to album it conjures up emotions of loss and turmoil, which must reflect the tumultuous years the band had undergone those previous years since their last.
I had no idea what to expect from them live. These guys are in their late 30’s and wasn’t sure if they were going to rock like in ages past. The sold out show at Bowery was filled with fans, young and old. There was a lot of energy in the room waiting for them to come out. They took the stage with a hearty applause. They proceeded to play through the songs of Meadowlands with more passion and tension than on the recording. The band was so intense gaining more and more momentum as the night went on. They did several instrument switches and vocal arrangements to capture the variety of musical styles found on the album.
I was so impressed. I left the show with that feeling of witnessing a grand event. Truly a great night and hopefully the beginning of more from this stellar band. You’ll find it hard to remove the album from your player and you just HAVE TO see them live to really capture their musical power.