Saturday, August 05, 2006

In Da Club(s)

I remember occasionally picking up The Village Voice at a book store when I lived in Dallas, marveling at the music listings -- dozens of bands I wanted to see, all on the same page, all on their way to the same city. And when I first moved to New York, I was eager to take advantage of this ridiculous buffet of sonic offerings, and I did. But in the hard slog since, from 26 to 32, I've reached two conclusions: 1. I've seen the great majority of the bands I want to see at least once; and 2. Standing in the middle of rabid packs of 20-something hipsters during a mediocre opening-band's set has plummeted on my list of priorities, resting somewhere just above outdoor running in the summer and reading The Nation cover-to-cover each week. In the past year, I can barely remember seeing any concerts -- and the one I can remember, this past February, I left early out of boredom.

But I really need to make an effort to rejuvenate myself, because it's true that I find very few things as enlivening as a good show. Last week was a start. I saw Midlake and the Cold War Kids at a club in Brooklyn. Midlake is a band from Denton, Texas, and they put on a great show -- borrowing a bit from Radiohead and Granddaddy and, according to my fellow attendee, Fleetwood Mac. Cold War Kids, from L.A., were energetic and often locked into a pretty strong groove, but maybe relied a bit too much on their hipness quotient to put over their duller numbers. To my ear, they're heavily influenced by the White Stripes, and realizing there's a flight of new bands already calling back to the 2001 era made me feel, what's the word, ancient.

Then, Thursday night, I saw Calexico and the New Pornographers in Central Park. A smattering of rain passed through just as we arrived, which helped cool things off a bit (the four days leading up to that drizzle were just barely survivable around here, and it's pretty damn hot again -- fall, New York's best season, can't get here soon enough). Calexico was in good form, and the Pornos delivered a fun set, despite disappointingly being without sometime-vocalist Neko Case, whose voice is a force of nature.

Meanwhile, speaking of concerts, longtime rock critic and English mangler Robert Christgau recently had a piece in the Voice in which he recounts seeing 30 shows in 30 days. I have to give him credit, at his age, for being able to handle such an assignment. I'm half his age, and doubt I could go to a show each night for a week before gladly turning in my rock n' roll credentials. Still, it amazes me that people are (rightly) concerned about issues of torture around the planet, but no one is speaking out on behalf of Christgau's sentences. Take these two:
The mark of the letch is on Dulli, whose black attire lacks only the waistcoat his ample bay window requires, yet there's fascination in his endangered self-assurance.

Stylofone have one dynamite gimmick: doubled guitar leads on every hook, executed with joyous arena-rock everything-old-is-new.
Those aren't even that terrible by his standards, and I have to give him credit for these sentences elsewhere in the essay. They're pretty simple, but they get at something I relate to:
I'm a record guy, always will be. But records can't match the exhilaration of the best gigs. You walk home prepared to live forever.



Anonymous Kraig said...

I have nothing fancy to say...which might be because it's almost 7am and I've yet to sleep...but I thought I'd stroke your fragile ego by saying you write beautifully. Even the most complex ideas are expressed with a keen wit and crisp clarity that I totally envy. Just saying.

6:51 AM  
Blogger JMW said...

Kraig, please feel free to leave more messages when you're sleep-deprived and delusional.

But really: Thank you, from me and my fragile ego.

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't Christgau have an editor? Forget Christgau (I mean: who can blame him in this case for sinful writing? He just saw 30 shows in 30 days for crissakes), the editor is the real culprit here. I have no patience for people who don't do their jobs. -- Tavia.
p.s. I'm sorry I missed the New Porno show.

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Nick said...

At the risk of defending Christgau's (no doubt long-suffering) editor, if he translated that tortured and torturous prose into actual English, there's be nothing left but the most basic reporting. Like lots of culture critics (I'm talking to you, too, Michael Wolff), Christgau doesn't have much to distinguish him but his overwrought style. Take away the fisheye lens and he's just a cheap Nikon. So the only thing Christgau's editor could do to fix his pieces would be to fire him, which is probably beyond his power, no matter how lurid and satisfying his fantasies of doing so may be.

9:56 AM  

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