LIVE REVIEW: Keep Shelly In Athens


If I did a one-word review of this show, that would be the word.

The first order of disorientation was procuring my ticket for the show. It was under another name, but nowhere to be found on the list. It was on the will call list, but in order to prove this I had to show an image of the ticket. I do not have a smart phone, so, the ticket in another name had to be emailed to my friend’s phone and then shown to the list lady at her podium, along with my ID, which had nothing to do with the name on the ticket.

That was the first five minutes.

The lineup for the night was supposed to be thus:


-Chad Valley

-Keep Shelly in Athens

So imagine my disorientation when the venue switched the order around and the last two bands refrained from introducing themselves, at least audibly. I knew the first band was Teletextile. They said so. However, their music was disorienting in the sense that it seemed out of place with the venue and headlining band. I can’t say Teletextile was a bad band, because that wouldn’t be fair. They all clearly knew what they were doing; they’re good musicians, write songs that are instrumentally textural, and put a lot of integrity into their performance… but I didn’t like them. Lead vocalist and harp-strummer Pamela Martinez was just a little too peppy for my liking. The songs were solid but there was something about her gleeful stage presence that made me skeptical of their depth. But maybe I’m just grumpy.

Next up was supposed to be Chad Valley according to the lineup. Yet out walked a band fronted by a tiny girl, who was wearing the same windbreaker donned by the lead singer of the opening band.

Oh, this must be Chad Valley.

The band immediately dived into a song I’ve heard before.

But, I’ve never heard Chad Valley before.

This song sounded strangely like one I heard at the AudioFemme office, but that song was by Keep Shelly in Athens.

I guessed both bands sound a lot alike.

Well, this Chad Valley band was damn incredible.

They sounded like Portishead meets My Bloody Valentine and The Stone Roses with a lick of Siouxsie Sioux, and dare I say, some early Moby.

You may have guessed this already, but this band was not in fact Chad Valley.

In fact, I did not care for Chad Valley. Ms. Martinez of Teletextile joined the set and it just wasn’t my cup. The only phrase that came to mind was Gleewave.

So now I’ll tell you more about Keep Shelly in Athens, the accidental sub-headliner of their own show.

They opened with “Time Exists Only to Betray Us” which is one of the most powerful tracks I’ve heard from a contemporary band in a long time. It’s a wall of sound, flitting with tension and anxiety slowed to 15 rpms of stoner-rock molasses. The lead vocalist, aforementioned tiny girl Sarah P, wails far beyond her weight class. She’ll start with a soft coo and stretch into a wide-mouthed snarl that carries through the ambient chaos of the music. It’s as if she morphs from Hope Sandoval to Patti Smith in one measure.

However, Keep Shelly in Athens isn’t just Sarah P. The band is co-fronted by producer RNR, who shows a lot of promise in my opinion. The duo has a rare ability to sound far better live than recorded, even though they still sound great in the studio. Their music is challenging, intoxicating, and perfectly mixed. It is one thing to be a band that writes great songs. It’s a completely different thing to be a band with a producer as one of the members. These guys know how to write, play, and perform, but they REALLY know how to mix, and that’s everything the other two bands were missing.

You know one last thing I really love about Keep Shelly in Athens? They’re actually from Athens.

I found that comforting amidst all the confusion.

CMJ 2012: Best Of, 1-3

CMJ is one of our very favorite music festivals of the year, because it showcases the best, brightest and unknown talents out there, hidden like diamonds in the rough. Over the course of five crazy days, NYC mines those diamonds for all the world to see. Though we witnessed an abundance of music-related shenanigans that we would love to tell you about, we wanted to first pay homage to the artists out there who we think, and hope, the world will soon experience much more of. Here’s a sample of 9 acts I liked best. Some are those diamonds, brand spanking new to the scene, and others are old favorites who continue to blow my mind every time I get to see them.



1. Chad Valley @ Le Baron


Chad Valley, the moniker of UK native Hugo Manuel (of indie rock band Jonquil), is a phenomenon that creeps up on you like a flash flood. Though I had heard a few of his tracks prior to the Ghostly/Cascine showcase, when I finally saw him at Le Baron my prior impressions were torn to shreds. He is possessed of an exceptional kind of talent that can only be apprehended through his live performance (one of the myriad great things about live performance). There are three aspects of his work that standout. First, he doesn’t really seem to give a fuck about how he’s perceived. He is accessible and unassuming, and doesn’t cultivate a hyper-stylized personae in order to distance himself from the audience—a commonly employed mechanism by “DJs” and other solo performers who lack traditional means of self-definition, like musical virtuosity for instance. This absence of self-consciousness, while it could perhaps be interpreted as impudence, is a breath of fresh air in this biz. Especially at festivals, you often feel like you might just choke on all the hubris floating around in the air. Second, his music is innovative but simple, in that the way that he creates an experience for the audience. You don’t grasp this from the recordings unless you are familiar with the fact that he doesn’t perform with a band. He stands behind a table of samplers and builds his songs from there, singing simultaneously into two microphones so that he can loop and layer his vocal tracks. Third, Manuel’s lung capacity alone transforms what could be formulaic electropop into true art, unrivaled by almost any similarly minded pop musician I can think of, save Antony Hegarty.

All this made for an impressive set of performances, which subsequently topped my list for the week. His songs are lush, melodic and complex, and each one gives audience members the sense that he’s intimating something directly to them about life, love and longing.

2. Doldrums @ PS1


Doldrums‘ Pitchfork gig at MOMA PS1 was a CMJ winner. Project of Airick Woodhead , Doldrums’ set brought visual art and inventive electronic music together seamlessly; and the performance was executed with an elegance that this particular genre often precludes, since it’s meant to challenge the musical aesthetic of the viewer in a way that can leave one feeling abandoned in the…um…doldrums. Doldrums’ set was entirely captivating though, accompanied by video installation that wrapped around the inside wall of PS1’s huge, white crystalline dome, in which he and his band performed. Though previously a solo project based out of Montreal, he played his CMJ shows as a three-piece. His music samples and layers together different, often opposing sounding percussion and a-melodic strings over (in this instance) live drumming, throwing in animal sounds, child sounds, the sounds of a modem starting, etc. Woodhead’s ethereal vocals tie it all together, and the result is tracks that are haphazard, yet never absent of a central thesis, which perhaps in his case is: controlled chaos is fertile ground for good music if you have the brains to compose it all well. And that Doldrums does. All of it makes for experimental electronica at its very best. We will surely continue to see more from this young talent, if he chooses to give us more.

3. DIIV @ Villain


Aside from nearly getting moshed to death at Villain, a pop-up warehouse venue on the Williamsburg waterfront where they performed, DIIV was an exceedingly good live band to watch.

Why there was a circle pit at a shoegaze concert at all is mystifying, and made watching DIIV feel like a weird dream that’s also kind of a nightmare. I know that shoegaze trailblazers like Jesus And Mary Chain have a whole damn album of super raucous jams that make people want to flail themselves at one another. DIIV, however—at least what I thought I knew of them—do not. All of the songs off their full-length debut Oshin, do not whatsoever betray a “fuck the world” ethos. Instead, listening to them makes me want to go for a run on a sunny autumn afternoon. But I don’t go for runs. I go to concerts. And this one got rowdy, it seemed, as soon as the opening chords were strummed. After adjusting my expectations and locking my knees, I began to actually “get it” though, because the songs themselves elicit an emotional reaction in people. It’s almost as if they were written to be experienced viscerally. The melodies are full of reverb, underpinned and carried through by jangling guitar riffs, making the vocals appear incidental. After listening for a few moments you do feel swept into their sound, until you’re completely out to sea, alone but happy, which I suspect could be exactly what Oshin is trying to achieve.


Chad Valley performs “Up And Down” @ Le Baron, 10/17

Coverage by Annie White,  for AudioFemme