Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Mar 23, 2009

With two upcoming sold out performances at the Bowery Ballroom, The Airborne Toxic Event (TATE) – a five-piece band from Los Angeles—arrived in New York City to expand their audience base. TATE’s eponymous debut album won acclaim from the NME while U2’s Adam Clayton praised their song “Sometime Around Midnight”, but the audience might have been more familiar with a damning review that bashed the album for basically assimilating the sounds of other major indie acts, provoking controversy but adding overall intrigue to the band’s rock credentials. People could pick a side or take the opportunity to form their own opinions. And yet TATE’s hour long performance on Sunday, the first of two shows, may not have been enough to sway the audience from any preconceived notions.


As TATE took the stage, the opening swells of “Wishing Well”, which could have flowed from the calming currents of Death in Vegas’ “Girls”, turned raucous and roused the crowd. The thrashing guitar riffs of “Papillon” and “Gasoline”, which followed with Strokes-like aplomb, persuaded people to jump and stomp about.


The highlight of the evening was the back-to-back pair of string driven stories that would play well on pop-rock radio. “Sometime Around Midnight”, where singer/guitarist Mikel Jollett practically speaks as the music verges to climax as he gets to release with a roar, and the majestic “Innocence”, which slowly colored the venue with Anna Bulbrook’s soaring violin as the band looked towards the sky.


An encore break after these songs allowed TATE to change up the pace; during “Does this Mean You’re Moving On?” instead of pensive gazing, Bulbrook lead the crowd to clap along before teasing the them with her tambourine and then diving in. The final song allowed people to swarm up to the stage; Jollett got to share his microphone with some guy (whether he wanted to or not) as people danced, jumped off amplifiers, and even made attempts to crowd surf.


Just like the album reviews, the audience gave off mixed vibes. Some obvious fans held their own through the show; one youthful group stood front and center in ecstasy and another girl repeatedly shouted her love to bassist Noah Harmon. Yet several people on the sides and back attempted conversations with little regard to the concert. For me, the show did not bode well for future TATE interest; nothing about it seemed particularly memorable. TATE may prove as ephemeral as cheap chic clothes—flashy, disposable, and out of style fast. But maybe for all their talent, TATE could meld their influences more cohesively, rather than emulate them, and fine-tune it into a sound of their own.


 


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Mar 23, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

I’d been hearing about Black Joe Lewis before I hit Austin, and wanted to make sure to see him. Other shows kept getting in the way, though, so this was my last chance: a 1:00 a.m. set on the last night of the festival. What a way to end the week! Lewis (and his seven-strong Honeybears) delivered a show that felt like a classic R&B/soul revue.  Heavy on horns and guitar, it recalled the up-tempo work of the Stax label, although Lewis added his own touch of Texas blues guitar to the sound. Lewis is a charismatic frontman, working the crowd with ease, exuding flawless cool one moment and launching into moanin’ and groanin’ soul shouter mode the next. It was a fun set, one so charged that it made me forget the exhaustion from four straight days of music, and made me want to start again the next morning.


 


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Mar 23, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

This one was a nice surprise. We’d rolled in to Buffalo Billiards to close out the week with the much-talked about Black Joe Lewis, and ended up getting an opening set from Solange (Beyonce Knowles’ sister). Backed by a funky band and two backup singers, Solange delivered a highly enjoyable R&B/funk show that borrowed heavily from the girl groups of the ‘60s. With her backup singers dancing in unison behind her, Solange cut loose with a dancing style that was part Tina Turner, part Diana Ross, and part vintage Axl Rose. The set slowed down when she performed her MTV-successful modern soul ballad, but for the majority of the set, she was cutting loose (even jumping into the crowd at one point, much to the dismay of her numerous—and large—handlers). Hopefully, Solange won’t be talked into giving up this aspect of her career (although it’s obvious the better money is in slick new-fangled R&B).


 


 


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Mar 23, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

Former Flat Duo Jets frontman Dexter Romweber has the most played-to-hell guitar I’ve ever seen. The finish is worn off of practically every edge on the instrument, and the paint is bubbling up on the face from presumably countless hours of playing. It’s no surprise, because Romweber is a fiend on the guitar, recalling the glory days of giants like Gene Vincent, Dick Dale, and ‘60s border radio. Backed by his sister Sara Romweber (Let’s Active) flat-out swingin’ on drums, Romweber (in his own guitar-playing world, his back often to the crowd) delivered a solid set of soul-influenced ballads and guitar raveups.


 


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Mar 23, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

I’ll be honest: I can’t make up my mind about Ha Ha Tonka. Their high-points, such as “St. Nick on the Fourth in a Fervor”, are catchy, but many of their songs strike me as not quite living up to the band’s potential. Their set during the Bloodshot showcase struck me the same way, although it certainly had a full head of steam by the time things were done, beginning with their standout a cappella rendition of the traditional “Hangman”.  The band’s harmonies, when all four members are participating, are startling enough to make you think that they really underutilize this aspect of their music. It also came in handy on “St. Nick”, which had most of the crowd singing along.


 


 


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements
PopMatters' LUCY Giveaway! in PopMatters's Hangs on LockerDome

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.