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by Vijith Assar

22 Oct 2009


Suckers
Bowery Poetry Club, New York City
If there’s any way to graciously play 90’s alternative rock at this point, this would be it.  Kaleidoscopic projected visuals emulating quilts and snow-capped mountains give way to vaguely homosexual encounters between cartoon peacocks with harps for tails; meanwhile, the performers gradually move between emulating the Foo Fighters and the better aspects of Better Than Ezra (that last one is indeed meant as
praise.)  I’m as nostalgic for those days as anybody, but a contemporary glaze kept the word “retro” firmly at bay.  Good for them.


Fool’s Gold
Bowery Poetry Club, New York City
Driving this band is former soloist and current front man Luke Top—who recalls a young David Byrne in both looks and stage impact.  The proposition that a set like this is another example of indie-rock’s continuous co-opting of Afropop (also Byrne-like, actually) is perhaps a tenuous one in the wake of you-know-who, but it’s nevertheless pretty hard to resist.  The performance, that is, not the idea.  But yeah, that too.

by Thomas Hauner

21 Oct 2009


Mon Khmer
Cameo Gallery, Brooklyn
A quintet of shoegazers, Mon Khmer were going somewhere in their music, but slowly.  So slowly that the sometimes beautiful sounds they crafted after layering two guitars and a pedal steel guitar never materialized.  The occasional coalescence of harmonies was further diminished, however, by muddled and confused vocals.  But whenever the group did seem to hit its stride (pulsating tom-tom rhythms under blending, repetitive guitar lines) the transformative capabilities of the pedal steel stalled, the player caught looking up and just admiring his own band mates.  Hunker down and join the party already!

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

Photo by Thomas Hauner

by Jonathan Kosakow

21 Oct 2009


Warpaint
Mercury Lounge, New York City
You probably wouldn’t say that the members of Warpaint came on stage looking ready for battle.  In fact, based on how they dressed on stage last night, you’d be more inclined to say they look ready for bed.  But put you to sleep is the last thing the mostly–female quartet did on Tuesday (three of four musicians are women).  Their haunting bass lines and drumbeats kept a steady groove as their ethereal guitar parts and vocal harmonies elevated above the room.  The juxtaposition between psychodelia and dark pop came together smoothly and left you wanting more.

by Vijith Assar

21 Oct 2009


Kingston
Red Bull Space, New York City
The sort of indie rock band that probably has no problem labeling itself as such, Kingston is led by a shaggy-haired frontman apparently so chosen more for his love of the attention than any other obvious qualifications.  Engaging drums, but between the words “thank” and “you” during that last climactic fill I somehow forgot literally all the lyrics and riffs from the songs they’d just performed (I know because I was trying to write this down at the time).  I give this two kiwis out of a possible five, but to be fair, I was getting pretty frustrated trying to figure out what this image had to do with New Zealand, CMJ, indie rock, or, you know, anything.

by Kirstie Shanley

19 Oct 2009


This is one duo whose music is equally as interesting as their story.  Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero began in Mexico City and traveled to Ireland to make their way in music.  From busking to officially breaking into the music scene, they garnered a following devoted enough to guarantee their success.  Selling out Chicago’s Riviera Theater was no shock for what are now accomplished musicians, but what may have been surprising is the utter joy that accompanied their obvious talent.

Like fellow musician José González, Rodrigo y Gabriela are incredibly proficient in guitar, capable of performing with daunting layers of intricacy.  Unlike González, however, you get a much fuller sense of personality with Rodrigo y Gabriela, which makes their performance richly entertaining and more complete.  Often, Gabriela seemed blissful while Rodrigo kneeled to play or went out to the lip of the stage.

What all three musicians have in common though is how thrilling it is to watch their fingers move on their guitars.  For those in the back, or in the balcony, who weren’t able to see, these motions were emphasized with large silhouetted visuals behind the pair, making for a vivid visual setting.  Needless to say, they also showed a great sense of chemistry between them, with Gabriela often looking at Rodrigo intently or with a lovely smile.  No doubt this connection helps keep their guitar rhythms so accurate.


Rodrigo y Gabriela draw from an eclectic array of songs to construct both covers and medleys of various recognizable guitar riffs.  The pair has been called by some “Flamenco Metal,” which does partially describe their sound.  Their 100-minute long set felt fluid and dynamic, each song rushing into another seamlessly and with very little banter.  The prominent riff from The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” got some applause early on.  From classical music to metal, it was also heartening to see such a diverse crowd enjoying an equally diverse set of musical references.


Overall, their set weighed most heavily on their third release, 2009’s 11:11, which was very well received by their fans.  When Rodrigo announced that they’d be focusing on playing songs from this album, he got an enthusiastic response.  The most exciting surprise of the night, however, was when they brought out Metallica’s current bass player, Robert Trujillo, to perform “Orion” with them as a trio.  He helped elevate the song to epic proportions.  Rodrigo’s use of a beer bottle for a slide also succeeded in creating a spooky sort of effect.

The sold out crowd was active throughout the night, spontaneously clapping and dancing as the group’s dexterity created a landscape of sound that often evolved from gentle musings to intense anthems.  It was easy to feel that their proficient renditions were complete even without the well known vocals that originally accompanied many of the songs.  Rewarding the crowd with an encore that included Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” they brought the night to a satisfying conclusion. 

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