Tommy Tavern’s is an anomaly in Greenpoint, a neighborhood gentrifying faster than you can say “is the G train running this weekend?” It’s more dive bar than you’ll find almost anywhere; the kind of place where your vodka tonic is a glass of rubbing alcohol topped with a splash of stale sugar water. Two dollar Schaffer’s are the house specialty and the only thing in the place that has been replaced or cleaned in the last decade is a shiny digital juke box, which spews Bon Jovi, Phil Collins, and if you’re lucky, Queen. At the back of the bar is a door that could lead to a closet but instead opens into a amorphous room painted in haphazard crimson. Inside is the bar’s bathroom, and a “stage”. When I entered, the lead guitarist of the night’s headliner, Pop. 1280, was collecting money at the door. The vibe in the room was pretension-free. Everyone was just waiting for the music, noticing little else.
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Before Danes Oh No Ono took the stage, the Mercury Lounge capacity crowd was treated to a sporadic set by Brooklyn locals ArpLine. Their electronica sound, regularly augmented by guitars and other live instruments, had the bouncy qualities of Javelin but lacked the complimentary zeal. They came out flat, unable to register a single melody in my head.
In the backwoods of the imagination lies Mike “Yes Yes” Ersing, nestled somewhere between Daniel Johnston, Kimya Dawson, drug addled dreams, and a healthy portion of crooner meets beat poet. Perpetually shifting between wistful and angry freak folk with occasional country undertones, this Buffalo native played on Tuesday January 5th to an intimate crowd at Arlene’s Grocery.
Once Ella Fitzgerald immortalized the “A” train in that famous tune by Sir Duke, few could resist the idea of shuttling uptown to experience Harlem’s fervent jazz scene. “Take the A Train” is still a beguiling invitation, though heading downtown on the “A” train promises just as memorable a time these days, especially if you disembark at the West 4th street station, one block from The Blue Note.
Massachusetts alternative rockers Dinosaur Jr. proved to a sold-out Phoenix Concert Theatre that they are hardly extinct. The band, having just performed a free show at Sonic Boom record store, blew fans away with an energy packed performance highlighted by front man J Mascis’ guitar wizardry. Standing before a tower of Marshall amps, Mascis barely broke a sweat while coolly working a bank of effects pedals and making his guitar scream effortlessly. Lou Barlow, who also opened the evening plucking solo heart-felt folk songs on an acoustic guitar, reappeared on bass guitar and played like a possessed man. Unable to enter Canada, regular Dinosaur Jr. drummer Murph was replaced by Kyle Spence who’s tight work on the kit meshed into the performance beautifully. Fans were treated to new material from off the group’s 2009 release, Farm, such as “Pieces”, “Imagination Blind”, and “I Don’t Wanna Go There”. Older fan favorites like “Feel The Pain” and “Freak Scene” also made the cut. The evening concluded with encore performances of “Kracked”, “Sludgefest”, and “Chunks”, during which Fucked Up vocalist Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham joined in. Although 2010 has just begun, I can say with certainty this show will make my top 5 list for the year.