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I've struggled to put Thursday night into meaningful words. All I can muster is a recap of the evening, rather than a bit-by-bit dissection of the performances. I know; I'm a bad person and a worse writer. Because all I've got for you are a handful of muddled adjectives and a loose count on the number of beers I drank.
Let's go back to 9pm on Thursday, before the Celtics had officially handed the Lakers their notice of Do-or-Die, when after a dinner of one cheeseburger and one Guinness, I found resident photographer Jenny Apples awaiting my scheduled appearance at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. At my arrival, she promptly stated that the confident and suggestive doormen had already offered her free admission to the show. If only it were so easy for the likes of us dudes. I picked up my press tickets and walked into the blue-lit hallway, wondering what a guy like me would have to do to catch the fancy of a bemuscled bouncer.
Stepping inside the Music Hall, the downstairs bar beckoned. The crowd seemed strangely out of place, swathed in khakis and sandals, though if we're measuring the Khaki Per Capita in ol' BillyBurg these days, it was probably right on target. I got a beer. I had to shout my wont to the bartender, and it turned out that my request was more or less directly into some guy's ear. I apologized, he glared, and after the eye-patched bartender and I exchanged stunned looks and shrugged, I moved on. First up was The Still Out, a psychedelic, dream-pop outfit whose recent album Crystallized even boasted a guest appearance from none other than Swervedriver's Adam Franklin. But, unfortunately for The Still Out, I was more interested in The Still Full cups of beer circulating through my paws. While the crew from Bowery Presents was stoked on the sounds of recent bartenders-cum-band-mates Josh Stoddard and Arjun Agerwala, the weight of booze and Jäger Bombs overwhelmed what ambition I had to make it up the half-flight of stairs. Later, after listening to a few Still Out tracks online, it sounded like I might have missed out, but hindsight is always 20/20, isn't it?
Soon a small flood of bodies bellied up to the bar and poured into the bathrooms, which could only meant the first set was done. I was quick to order another drink before the bathrooms cleared out and the second band began. Longwave, a band whose momentum seems the slow and steady kind, are riding a swell that's been building for years now. Though their 2005 album The Strangest Things has only recently been added to my own library - a late comer thanks to a playlist imparted by my girlfriend last summer - it is an album that has nonetheless slowly crept into the heart of my regular rotation. It's a thoughtful and charming album, so needless to say, I was really hopeful for these guys. Besides, Brooklyn's gotta show support for their own.
|Longwave [photos by Jenny Applebaum]|
Wasting no time the band, bathed in bright red, promptly took up their posts and set right in. Now, it goes without saying that the processes of recording songs and playing them live are two entirely different animals; from the sound of it, Longwave is a band that's a bit more comfortable surrounded by mics and mixers than a rowdy late-week bar crowd. Though he warbled more than once, Steve Schiltz, in all his floppy-haired glory, did his best to keep his vocals in check. More fun was watching Jason Molina sit with the kind of stiff-backed posture I'd only previously seen on DC drummer pal Dave Kanner (of Seamonster); so engrossed was I that the bottom of an empty cup was staring back at me in no time flat. Otherwise, Longwave lacked any type of magnetic connection with the crowd. There seemed to be little magic even for "Tidal Wave," which was okay, but certainly no better than when heard on big headphones in the comfort of my own Elvis-adorned living room. Might've helped to turn up the vocals a bit, too. The band was tight enough, the music was solid enough, but still the wave never broke. It never crashed on shore, or bowled anyone over, or really even made you worry you might lose your trunks. And the possibility of unplanned nakedness, whether literal or not, is kind of the best part of throwing yourself headfirst into a wave, actual or musical. My metaphoric trousers snugly in place, I headed back downstairs for another beer.
Now for the Swervedriver bit. Okay, so Nada Surf played a show in April that was really awful. They even played "Popular," but ran through it in about ninety seconds, a here-and-then-gone that was weird and uncomfortable, but that everyone loved just the same. I mean, people really fucking loved it. People also love American Idol. My friends and I made the "Oh no" face, including the requisite tug on the collar, and took shots of Jameson to dull the pain. Oddly, it hurt even worse when they threw in a Joy Division cover. We left before their set was done. That's pretty much what Swervedriver was like.
Really, Swervedriver are a much heavier, crunchier band than they're often given credit for. And that's something they did prove right away; that they've got a bit more muscle than the notoriety their oft-referenced shoegaze bent grants them. Gimme something off of Loveless or Psychocandy and I'll relish every stock-still, lace-looking note. Even something more alt-rocky with a bit more lucidity (Dinosaur Jr.'s Without a Sound anyone?) is welcome. But Thursday night with the Oxfordians I just felt utterly lost. In that regard, however, I was the only one - everyone else of course loved it. And by that all-encompassing pronoun I mean from Silver-Haired Sal to Can't Even Drink Connie. But where did they come from? And why is it that anyone under the age of thirty that proclaims affinity for Swervedriver is less than believable? And - AND - why is it that no one was making an effort to even talk about Swervedriver until, what, three months ago?
Although Swervedriver released four albums before the millennium and have a catalogue of songs that make bands like Rogue Wave and Black Mountain seem like weekend garage hacks, they were hastily tacked on to the Coachella lineup in April which, I thought, went largely unnoticed except by the kind of die-hards that surround themselves with vinyl and still make actual mix tapes for new girls while obsessing over old girls and mulling it all over in record stores with Jack Black. Maybe I just never got it. I tried. Sorry, Adam Franklin. Maybe bring back the dreds? Admittedly, I left during maybe the sixth song. But who could tell. I needed another beer anyway. SEE ALSO: www.myspace.com/thestillout
SEE ALSO: www.longwavetheband.com
SEE ALSO: www.swervedriver.com
SEE ALSO: www.musichallofwilliamsburg.com
Wearing plain black t-shirts, LAS contributing writer Pat Sullivan thinks a lot about a lot of different things. He likes thermoses but rarely has occasion to use them. He lives in Brooklyn.
See other articles by Patrick Sullivan.
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