PREMIERE: Brooklyn Supergroup Rhinestone Mine Campy But Heartfelt Country Aesthetic on Debut EP

Photo Credit: Elizabeth LoPiccolo

René Kladzyk says she’s always been drawn to melodrama – but some of the songs she found herself writing were almost “too embarrassing” to record, at least for her more esoteric, conceptually-driven musical project Ziemba. As she developed a taste for the oft-maligned country and western genre – particularly outlaw country courtesy of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, or the folk-adjacent Americana of Bobbie Gentry and Townes Van Zandt – she realized that its heart-on-your-sleeve lyricism lent itself perfectly to sitting with those uncomfortable emotions. The only problem was, she was living in Brooklyn, where the prospect of finding like-minded musicians to start up a country band seemed a bit like finding needles in a haystack.

While this pitiful position could’ve inspired another lonesome country-tinged tune, Kladzyk didn’t wallow; she turned to Facebook. “[My post] was like, ‘Who wants to join my weirdo country band?!’ and all these people reached out – none of whom I actually knew, we all just had mutual friends,” she remembers. From the first practice it was clear that the sort of people who would immediately respond to a post like that – and actually follow through – did so for the sheer love of playing music, and though the lineup changed slightly from those first practices, it solidified around an unlikely group of dedicated musicians, well-known in the Brooklyn scene for their involvement in rather disparate projects. These included: Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk alum Oscar Allen; Death By Audio’s Jay Heiselmann, who’s played in Grooms and Roya; and documentary photographer Samuel Budin. The EP also features John Bohannon (Torres, Ancient Ocean) on pedal steel, Casey Kreher on drums, and backing vocals from Jess Healy, the newest official band member.

Though Brooklyn might seem an unwelcoming place for a country band to flourish, the eclectic crew had a built-in audience. “Between our collective members, we already had kind of a musical following, so it was never as hard for us to bring out a crowd as it was for me when I was starting out with Ziemba,” says Kladzyk. “Because we have members with other active projects we’ve never played a ton. We’ve only played outside of Brooklyn once I think. We’ve never done a full tour. But within Brooklyn we’ve been able to play a lot of really cool shows over the years with really great bands. We’ve been lucky to have really great crowds who dance a lot, have fun, and rage.”

Rhinestone, in many ways, represents the growing appeal of country music well outside the genre’s typical demographic – whether that’s Kacey Musgraves’ critical acclaim, Orville Peck’s anonymous rise to indie stardom, the revelation of gender-flipping songwriting ensemble The Highwomen, crossover stars like Colbie Caillat making forays into country… the list goes on. Like Kladzyk, the members of Rhinestone were relatively late to the party, but they took that fateful Facebook post as a literal invitation.

“I had less than no interest in country music for most of my life. Right before I started high school, my family moved to Missouri, where I quickly fell in with a narrow vesica piscis of Nirvana obsessives, Lilith Fair attendees, and Toad the Wet Sprocket fans. My teenage filter regarded the slick insincerity of the exaggerated redneck accents leaking from passing pickups as a tool of the enemy,” admits guitarist Oscar Allen, who wrote the EP’s second track, “Maze of Love” and takes lead vocals on it. “Over time I realized that my beloved Roy Orbison, Breeders, and Leadbelly records hinted at an alternate history and deeper peeks behind that curtain revealed songs by Gillian Welch, Townes Van Zandt, and Neko Case more powerful than my prejudice against the label. Still, I went into that first Rhinestone practice with a bit of bemusement – I had to move to New York to finally be in a country band?!”

Healy came to classic country in the early 2000s via alt-country artists like Clem Snide. “I don’t think I would have sought out a country band to join prior to Rhinestone because I don’t identify with the idea I have of the culture of country being like, white dudes in cowboy hats kicking the tires of their Trump-stickered pickup, chewing snuff, and whining. I am not a huge fan of the shiny new country radiosound,” she says. “But Rhinestone feels more like campy traditional country – we put on costumes and personas and sing the shit out of the songs and it’s a joyful rollicking good time with some heartbreak thrown in. Rhinestone’s songs seem to extract the elements of country I like – the soulfulness and universality of heartbreak, straightforward melodies – while bringing in just enough Brooklyn weirdness to turn me on.”

Named for a film that sees Dolly Parton attempting to turn NYC cabbie Sylvester Stallone into Nashville’s next big star, the campy aesthetic is certainly integral to Rhinestone’s identity. Partly, it’s about world-building, creating an immersive experience. But beyond that, it’s pointing out an interesting irony specific to a genre that “often inhabits that space where it’s simultaneously really showy and flamboyant and campy but it’s also totally earnest and heartfelt,” Kladzyk says. “And that’s something that I really like about it. Some people think if you’re wearing sparkly or shimmery clothing then you can’t be sincere. I would be so angry at myself if I didn’t take advantage of this fashion opportunity. It’s like, why not go all the way there?”

“Very early on, René laid down a clear earnestness-over-irony mission statement and that, more than anything else, made me go all in,” Allen says. “It’s been fascinating to discover how this deceptively simple genre, with song forms older than Grimm’s Fairy Tales, holds a strange resonant complexity. You’re not solely bound to tropes and cosplay, but certain chord changes, word choices, guitar phrasing, and production moves will instantly announce themselves as unworthy.”

The four-track EP came out of an upstate recording session where the band set an album and a half’s worth of material to tape, on a machine they bought with licensing fees from a Sophie Tucker cover they recorded for FUSION TV’s Shade: Queens of NYC. “Among the songs we recorded, there’s four different songwriters and four different lead vocalists,” Kladzyk says. “Mixing and mastering the songs has been kind of a drawn out process but right now we have a whole additional album done. As Rhinestone releases more music, there’s a lot of different styles that we play even though we’re kind of framing it as country – country is a term that means a million things to different people.” Allen, for his part, refers to it as “David Lynch country.”

With an extensive playlist of references, Rhinestone hopes that their homage to music’s most misunderstood format might lead people down a rabbit hole of discovery. “If, through this project, that older-and-weirder world becomes even slightly more visible to people with the same preconceptions I used to carry, I’ll feel lucky and grateful,” says Allen. Budin, the band’s bassist, adds, “It’s solid pop music, and always has been. I hope [the EP] will inspire people to delve into the rich history of country music, which, among other things, is an integral part of the story of the American recording industry.”

Kladzyk says it’s also a transgressive history, despite its current-day association with a more conservative viewpoint. She points out that a lot of country music, particularly alt and outlaw country, was “responding to corporatized, highly commercial music and feeling resistant to that, so there’s a counterculture element that’s like, almost punk. There’s no straight lines and there’s no ideas that exist in silos. It’s all interconnected.”

“I guess I hope that Rhinestone can show others, as it has shown me, that there’s a flavor of country for everyone, and that beyond the stereotype are some deep roots to draw on and be inspired by,” says Healy, who credits joining the band with opening up her guitar-playing.

“If somebody likes Rhinestone, they should keep digging,” Kladzyk agrees. “I hope that if somebody listens to what we’ve made and likes it, that they feel motivated to deepen their relationship with the music in their life, cause it’s really fun. It’s like, a really nice way to live.”

Rhinestone’s debut EP is out tomorrow, 6/30. 100% of sales from the first week of the EP release (plus pre-sales) will be split 50/50 between Movement for Black Lives and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. Follow Rhinestone on Instagram for ongoing updates.

60 NYC Showspaces That Closed in the 2010s

New York wouldn’t be New York without its creative community. And yet, even with this long-standing cultural identity, it’s incredibly difficult to open an event space with all the required licenses and permits. On top of this, New York’s rate of gentrification prices out venues and show-goers, creating a landscape where places open and close constantly. Thankfully, this doesn’t stop people from doing it anyway – most without a monetary goal in mind, creating spaces for the love of music, art, activism and bringing people together to party. As this decade comes to a close, it does feel like the assault on New York’s nightlife has become more severe, but like our beloved cockroaches and rats, DIY and the punk ethos are resilient. Here is a list of 60 show spaces – venues, bars, and community-run DIY spaces, that have closed their doors in the 2010s.

ABC No Rio (1980-2016, building new location)

The story of ABC No Rio offers some hope. After operating at their 156 Rivington Street location for more than 30 years as a community center for arts and activism with a show space, art gallery, zine library, darkroom, silk screening and computer lab facilities, ABC No Rio vacated their original location (which was demolished) and are building a new center. Over three decades, ABC No Rio cultivated the punk/hardcore scene in NYC with their Saturday matinee shows, and served as a home for organizations like Books Though Bars, the NYC Food Not Bombs Collective and COMA: The Citizens Ontological Music Agenda. ABC No Rio’s show space was entirely volunteer run and created a safe space at a time when punk and hardcore shows were so violent that other venues banned those genres.

This happy ending didn’t come easily. They fought legal battles from their inception on New Years Day 1980, when 30+ artists occupied the basement of an abandoned building with an art show that made a statement about NYC’s housing policies titled ‘The Real Estate Show.’ The show was raided by police, but the city negotiated and later gave the collective the storefront and basement of 156 Rivington Street. In 1994, when the city planned to sell the building, activists squatted in the vacant floors of the building, causing the eviction process to go on for years alongside protests and a petition to raise money and legitimize their collective. Ultimately, the city sold the building to ABC No Rio for $1 in 2006 in an agreement that the organization would bring the building up to code, requiring them to demolish and rebuild the structure.

Despite not having a current space, ABC No Rio volunteers “in exile” are continuing their programs at other venues. Their hardcore/punk collective books matinees at the People’s Forum, their Zine Library is now located at the Clemente, and their screen-printing shop is open every Thursday in Bushwick. Support the re-building of ABC No Rio by donating here, and visit their exhibit “No New Jails NYC – The Art & Design of a Movement” running through January 15th at MoRUS (155 Avenue C).

Big Snow Buffalo Lodge (2011-2013)

Run by Yoni David, Jeremy Aquilino, RJ Gordon, and Daniel Arnes, Big Snow Buffalo Lodge was located in Bushwick at 89 Varet Street at Graham Ave. Big Snow was entirely volunteer run (aside from hired security), and prided themselves on paying every band that played. The booking duties were shared between the founders, plus Luke Chiaruttini (before he left to focus on booking Shea Stadium full time). Ava Luna, Baked, Bueno, Lost Boy ?, Leapling, Celestial Shore, and The So So Glos were among the bands who frequented Big Snow, and the venue occasionally provided a space to record demos for bands as well. Big Snow unfortunately decided to close due to safety concerns after co-owner Yoni David was shot in the arm outside of the venue.

Cake Shop (2005-2016)

Opened by brothers Nick and Andy Bodor in 2005, Cake Shop was a long time staple stop for touring bands from all over the country and felt like the last cool place in Manhattan that your crappy lo-fi band could play at. My favorite part about Cake Shop was that they had vegan pastries and there was no cell service in the basement (sorry I missed your text asking for a list spot). Andy and Nick briefly opened a sister venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn called Bruar Falls from 2009-2011, which turned into Grand Victory (2012-2016). At their last show on NYE 2016, they talked about opening a new location, and in 2017 Andy opened a venue called Wonders of Nature at 131 Grand Street in Williamsburg.

Death By Audio (2007-2014)

Located at the Williamsburg waterfront on south 2nd and Kent in an old warehouse, Death By Audio was not only a venue, but also an effects pedal workshop, recording studio, record label, and living space. Originally founded in 2002 by Oliver Ackerman of A Place to Bury Strangers as a space to build his handmade effects pedals, with the help of Matt Conboy, they turned Death By Audio into a venue in 2007 that was booked by Edan Wilber. Bands that lived at the space included Grooms, Coin Under Tongue, Fuk Ton, Sister, The Immaculates, French Miami, Dirty on Purpose, Famous Amos and A Place to Bury Stangers. A fun fixture of their living space was a giant military surplus net that hung from the ceiling and connected to the lofts on the second floor, with a hammock hanging from the ceiling above it. In 2014, Vice bought the building to turn it into their headquarters, forcing DBA and Glasslands, who also shared the building, to move out. Death By Audio’s effects pedal factory moved to Ridgewood and still makes gear that’s used most notably by Nine Inch Nails, U2, Wilco and Lightning Bolt.

Matt Conboy directed the documentary “Goodnight Brooklyn: The Story of Death By Audio,” that you can watch here, and Famous Class Records released a 26 track compilation of live bands recorded at DBA called Start Your Own Fucking Show Space including many of the bands who lived there, plus Deerhoof, Parquet Courts, Shellshag, Screaming Females, METZ, Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees and more.

photo by Walter Wlodarczyk

Glasslands Gallery (2006-2014)

Housed in the same building as Death By Audio on the Williamsburg waterfront, Glasslands Gallery was created by Brooke Baxter and Rolyn Hu, who owned the space until they sold it to PopGun’s Rami Haykal and Jake Rosenthal in 2012. Glasslands’ origin story begins in 2004 with Glass House, an experimental show graffiti covered warehouse space at 38 south 1st street in Williamsburg, run by Baxter and street artist Leviticus. When they moved into a larger space they renamed the venue Glasslands and from 2006-2012, the venue held some of the first shows for bands like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT and Dirty Projectors.

When ownership changed hands in 2012, Glasslands became a solid stop for touring bands such as Angel Olsen, FKA Twigs, and Grimes. Their signature clouds were installed above the stage, replaced at some point by a light installation made of plastic tubes (though I personally prefered the clouds). They booked more DJ nights and late night parties around this time, and their final show was New Years Eve 2014, closing out their run with the secret line-up of DIIV, Sky Ferrera, Smith Westerns (final show), and Beverly. Popgun Presents continued to book shows at other venues like (le) poisson rouge and Warsaw, until they opened their new, much larger space, Elsewhere, in 2017.

photo by Sophia Louise

Goodbye Blue Monday (2005-2014)

Named after a Kurt Vonnegut reference in “Breakfast of Champions,” Goodbye Blue Monday was opened by Steve Trimboli at 1087 Broadway in Bushwick in 2005, after he closing his previous bars Be Bop Cafe in Tribeca and Scrap Bar. Goodbye Blue Monday began as a cafe / junk shop of things that came “mostly from dead people” and soon turned into one of the most underrated music venues in Bushwick. Due to their free open booking policy, it was a venue where many musicians had their first show ever. They never took a cut from the door (if there was a cover), fed bands that were touring, and held ‘Teacup Tuesday’ open mics every week. Goodbye Blue Monday was the perfect space for NYC’s misfit musicians and those starting out who didn’t know enough people to be booked at a more curated DIY space. Trimboli sold the bar post-bankruptcy in 2010, but lived above the bar and set up a few crowdfunding campaigns to help save the space. Goodbye Blue Mondays closed in November 30, 2014 when their lease was about to end and the landlord tripled the rent. The Looking Glass Bar opened in its place, and Nyssa Frank at The Living Gallery took over hosting Goodbye Blue Monday: Tuesday Open Mic The Way Y’Like Open Mic.

Monster Island + Secret Project Robot: Kent Ave (2004-2011) / Secret Project Robot: Meserole Street (2011-2016) / Secret Project Robot: Broadway (2017-2019)

Founded by Rachel Nelson and Erik Zajaceskowski in 2004, Secret Project Robot is a not-for-profit artist run space that has lived in three locations and is currently looking for their next home. Before Secret Project Robot, there was Mighty Robot, a loft on Wythe Ave in Williamsburg run by Zajaceskowski, where they held art parties at the space as well as at the waterfront junkyards. Shows included large abstract visuals and hosted some of the first shows for the bands Liars, TV on the Radio, Lightning Bolt, Acid Mothers Temple, Panda Bear, and many more. In 2004, Zajaceskowski and Karl LaRocca found a larger, three-story space on Kent Avenue and named it Monster Island. The new building housed Kayrock Screenprinting, Live With Animals, Oneida’s O-Cropolis, Todd P’s rehearsal studio, and the new Mighty Robot space, then renamed Secret Project Robot. In this incarnation, Secret Project Robot teamed up with Rachel Nelson to focus on art installations and hosting events, including black light installations, drawing brunches, poster shows, and regular art shows along with their regular concerts. Monster Island was demolished in 2011 and was rumored to become a hair saloon, but the lot is still vacant.

Post-Monster Island in their “living art phase,” Secret Project Robot moved twice in Bushwick and created a bubble in their yard where artists could “recreate the world according to their liking, people could be free, comfortable and able to reimagine a further more perfect realm.” Rachel Nelson and Erik Zajaceskowski also founded Happy Fun Hideaway, a bar on Myrtle Ave in Bushwick, in 2013, and Flowers for all Occasions, a cafe/gallery/bar in 2015, both of which are still currently open!

Shea Stadium (2009-2017)

Shea Stadium was an all-ages venue founded in the spring of 2009 by producer Adam Reich and the band the So So Glos (who also helped build Market Hotel) with the mission to document the DIY scene by recording every set performed there. Nora Dabdoub and Luke Chiaruttini booked countless bands and the Shea Stadium website has over 1,000 sets archived, with the most popular including King Krule, FIDLAR, Frankie Cosmos, Wavves, Speedy Ortiz, and Diarrhea Planet. Their second floor loft at 20 Meadow Street in Bushwick felt like a second home for many artists, and when they were forced to close in March 2017 Aaron, Nora, and Luke launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised close to $100,000. Their landlord at Meadow street declined their request to re-open an up-to-code Shea in the original location, and they have been searching for a new home ever since. This has been a grueling task, with their last update explaining that they have “toured 30+ spaces, called hundreds of numbers and looked through thousands & thousands of real estate listings” so far, and as of “the second week of Sept 2019, we’re in negotiations on a space and if all continues to go well a lease could be in hand soon.” In the meantime, they are booking shows as Shea Stadium Presents. They recently hosted a benefit show at Trans Pecos for The Mark Fletcher Studio, a studio that will provide free analog studio time for musicians.

@PHOTOGRAPHYALEX

Silent Barn (2006-2018)

Silent Barn collective began in 2006 as a co-living space for artists in Ridgewood, Queens at 915 Wycoff (now the home of Trans-Pecos). They threw shows in their kitchen and basement (which was also a home for the video game collective Babycastles). When they were shut down due to coding issues in 2011, they launched a Kickstarter soon after that raised $40,000 to fund their move to a legal all-ages art space. In 2012 they moved to a three-story building at 603 Bushwick Avenue run by 70 volunteers, called “chefs.” The new location had a huge yard with a sculpture garden and a bar/cafe in their performance space, along with art spaces for Disclaimer Gallery, Casa Experimental, Vital Joint, the Title:Point theater company, Gravesend Recordings, Aftermath Supplies, and many other artist-in-residence studios who lived in the higher floors of the building. Educated Little Monsters (ELM), a program that provides “resources, artistic outlets and economic opportunity for youth of color,” particularly those who are local to the Bushwick neighborhood, met at Silent Barn since 2014.

When Silent Barn closed in 2018 due to financial strain, they felt a responsibility to help the ELM program find a new home with their community partners Bushwick Street Art, The Lab Recording Studio and Color Scenes. In their closing statement Silent Barn explained “Over the years, we’ve seen the role that D.I.Y. music venues play within the greater machine of gentrification, and how often the communities who would most benefit from these resources—the neighborhood’s native communities—are excluded from them entirely,” and encouraged their supporters to donate and become a supporting member of ELM.

The Glove (2016-2019)

The Glove was an all-ages experimental art space founded by a group of musicians and artists from a previous DIY space called Bohemian Grove. Along with their venue, the space had gallery exhibitions, a vintage shop, guitar shop, was home to the Bad Seeds by Stonie Clark hair salon, and a permanent psychedelic dungeon lounge art installation by ESTU Fabrication. Like many DIY spaces, The Glove fell into the bureaucratic hellhole of NYC coding laws, and temporarily shut down in 2018 after the city cut their power. They launched a GoFundMe and kept their doors open until their lease ended the summer of 2019, forcing them to close. Co-founder Dean Cercone, in an interview for Dazed, explained what so many other showspace owners feel: “Running a space like this in New York is as annoying as it is beautiful. As fruitful as it is scary. It takes precedence over a lot of things we do in our normal lives now.”

Every show space has a unique legacy. Support small and community run venues that are still open today & walk down memory lane with this list of 50 more spaces that have closed in the 2010s:

94 Evergreen (2012-2014)

285 Kent (2010-2014)

AVIV (2014-2016)

Body Actualized Center (2011-2014)

Brooklyn Bazaar (2011-2019)

Brooklyn Fireproof East (2006-2014)

Bruar Falls (2009-2011) / Grand Victory (2012-2016)

Cameo Gallery (2009-2015)

Cheap Storage (2010-2015)

Coco 66 (2009-2011)

Delinquency Blvd (2012-2012, re-opened as Sunnyvale in 2015)

Don Pedro’s (2001-2017)

Emet (2013-2014)

Fat Baby (2005-2017)

FreeCandy (2012-2015)

Galapagos Art Space (1995-2014: relocated to Detroit)

Hank’s Saloon (2005-2019)

IDIO Gallery (2014-2017)

Kings County Saloon (2006-2015)

Leftfield Bar (2012-2017)

Legion Bar (2005-2018)

Little Skips (2009-2019)

Living Bread Deli (2012-2013 renovated + reopened as Rosegold in 2017)

Lulus (2010-2014)

Manhattan Inn (2009-2016)

Market Hotel (2008-2010, reopened in 2015)

Matchless (2002-2017)

Nola, Darling (2014-2015)

Palisades (2014-2016)

Party Expo (2010-2013)

Passenger Bar (2013-2015)

Public Assembly (2008-2013) / Black Bear Bar (2014-2016)

Radio Bushwick (2010-2014)

Ran Tea House (2011-2014)

Santos Party House (2008-2016)

Showpaper 42nd street Gallery / Babycastles Arcade (2010-2011)

Sidewalk Cafe (1985-2019)

Spike Hill (2005-2014)

Suburbia (2011-2017)

Surreal Estate (2010-2011)

The Acheron (2010-2016)

The Continental (1991-2018)

The Flat (2012-2015)

The Gateway (2016-2018, re-opened as The Broadway in 2019)

The Hive (2011-2018)

The Living Room (1988-2015)

Tandem Bar (2008-2015)

Trash Bar (2010-2015)

Zebulon (2002-2012, re-located to LA 2017)

ONLY NOISE: The Weird World Of Jerry Paper

Jerry Paper

You always notice growth in a plant or pet when you haven’t seen it for a while. The little evolutions we undergo are lost to the everyday eye, but reveal themselves as blazing metamorphoses to the intermittent onlooker. The latter is also true in the case of Jerry Paper, at least according to my eyes and ears. Jerry Paper is a music-making entity, who’s earthly birth name is Lucas Nathan.  Like most of life’s best offerings, JP drifted into my frame of awareness with bizarre ease, at first entirely by accident.

Two summers ago I was just dipping my toes into the loungey sound-pool of Sean Nicholas Savage, who was headlining a gig at the late and great Death By Audio. Manning the slot just before Savage was an unlikely looking fellow with big, wire frame glasses and a purple lei ’round his neck, a storage unit’s worth of effects pedals and cables tangled at his feet. It’s hard to say if he looked at the crowd once, but I do remember his fanatical immersion in each song.

After a fair share of “live” gigs whereupon the stage is taken over by a man on a date with his laptop, you can become a bit underwhelmed by this sight. And yet Nathan’s music negates the stereotype married to such a setup. I didn’t realize at that point in time that Jerry Paper was more than a stage name reminiscent of 80s power pop. I wasn’t privy to the mythology of Jerry Paper-that Lucas Nathan was merely a host-body which Jerry possesses in order to generate tunes.  Nor did I know that Nathan was originally a student of philosophy; though a brief leafing through his lyrics could have informed me so, as he discusses the likes of simulacra, fuzzy logic, and “the settings of the synthesized mind.”

That first set knocked me out completely. Despite the sterile stage layout Nathan was writhing with groove, seemingly possessed whenever a song commenced, and back to normal upon its completion. I remember thinking at the time that he reminded me of Elvis Costello, but it wasn’t just his glasses; something in the depth of his voice and the quiet arrogance of his stage presence. It was perhaps the impression that his performance was a 40-minute revenge act from a man who’s much smarter than everyone in the room. I rushed to the merch table immediately after and bought a copy of his 2014 LP Big Pop For Chameleon World, which I’ve been listening to ever since.

One of the things that make Jerry Paper so special is his potential capacity for cynicism and his subsequent denial of it. Though wearing the guise of empathetic AI and employing tools of the Muzak genre such as keyboard saxophone and elevator synths, he manages to make sincere, and more importantly good music that is relatable to humans and algorithms alike. Nathan is the first to admit in interviews that yes, he does find synth sax hilarious, but he also truly enjoys the sound of it, or else it wouldn’t get anywhere near the record to begin with.

Seeing Jerry Paper perform at Secret Project Robot this last weekend, it was evident that a lot of things have turned in his favor in only a couple of years. No longer an obscure opening act with only his machines for sonic scaffolding, he was playing a headlining gig backed by a full band. The lineup touted local “non-country” outsider Dougie Poole and the aforementioned bizarro crooner Sean Nicholas Savage, the latter of whom predominantly sang cover songs with a backing track (unfortunately). Dougie Poole was also accompanied by a backing track, but interspersed the noise with guitar phrases and pedal manipulation. Poole’s dopey pigtails only made the melancholy of his ass-dragging cowboy act all the more blue. He is seemingly in character, but it’s a heart-rending effect nonetheless. It was an evening of undeniably odd birds, but what a wonderful thing to see when so many modern bands  are required to be ultra slick and fronted by supermodels. Poole resurfaced as a funkified bassist in Jerry Paper’s backing band, which indulged in great versatility via keyboards, guitar, pedal effects, and flute. But it was Nathan who truly rose to his headlining post for the evening. Sporting a fine and shiny spandex body suit he looked like a deep-sea diver-or a black seal maybe, as he was bobbing around the stage with similar grace and silliness.

It seems as though Nathan has undergone a fair amount of change since I first saw him at Death By Audio in 2014. Two full length albums (2014’s Big Pop For Chameleon World and 2015’s Carousel) and 3,000 miles (he recently relocated to his home state of California), the evening was a celebration of his latest record Toon Time Raw!. And it was the first celebration: the record release party, the first gig of the tour, and I believe the first time Nathan has ever been backed by a full band; this last little fact seeming odd as Jerry Paper was evidently born to front a band.

JP is a wildly charismatic entertainer, his interpretive dance gestures conveying equal sincerity and hilarity. His on-stage banter is wonderfully deadpan, an air that is contradicted by his nervous and polite off-stage presence. “It’s great to be alive,” he droned into his headset microphone. “But having a body is sooo annoying.” Jerry’s jab at his own host body earned a hearty laugh from the room. “But you are a body, so…fuck it,” he concluded.

Nathan’s lyrics and performances seem rife with these sorts of blasé aphorisms that wink at his education, but don’t force it down your throat. Conceptually the music of Jerry Paper could be coined as abstract or out-there, but the inherent groove is what makes it approachable. Much like Daft Punk are robots with beating, blood-pumping hearts, Jerry Paper is code with soul. This combination of the perceived coldness of technology with the foolproof warmth of human music is part of what makes Jerry Paper so compelling; he describes the phenomenon best in an interview with The Editorial Magazine:

“What the fuck is more human than a computer? That doesn’t happen outside of humans. Electronics are purely human tools. I think a lot about the separation of humans and nature and why we think like that instead of thinking of humans as part of nature. I hate to sound like a douchebag but it’s very Cartesian/mind-body dualism. We think of electronics as not natural, but if humans are natural then our tools are also natural.”

Agree or disagree, it is an irrefutably relevant perspective, especially considering that so much of our budding technology is used for social purposes, including the making and sharing of music.

Toon Time Raw!, as with last Saturday’s performance are markers in the upward motion that Jerry Paper is riding high. The LP, out on Bayonet Records, picks up where Carousel left off, but lets things get even warmer, even groovier, proving that Nathan is a legitimate pop songwriter with beauties such as “Ginger and Ruth,” “Zoom Out” and “Stargazers.”

It’s a rare thing to locate genre-less music. They majority of hype bands seem to fit into some sort of self-referential box labeled with a bygone genre.  Just check “dream pop” or “psych rock” or “surf-girl-group-garage” and you’ll get someone’s attention.  But Jerry Paper, be he your cup of tea or not, won’t be squeezing into a box any time soon.  And for that, I tip my hat to him.

 

 

 

LIVE REVIEW: Yonatan Gat, PC Worship @ Mercury Lounge

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For all of the venues we’ve lost in the past couple of years: Death By Audio, Glasslands and 285 Kent to name just a few, I sometimes find myself creeping back into Manhattan in search of a cozy room. The Mercury Lounge is one of those spots that, despite its address in the oft-maligned Lower East Side, has yet to fail me as a concert hall. Where else can you see acts as disparate as Nathaniel Rateliff and Ty Segall? Where else is there an intimately sized space with a soundman who actually knows what the hell he’s doing? Where else would Yonatan Gat be able to order half the crowd to mount the stage while the rest of us encircle him and his band on the floor?

I went into Friday night not quite knowing what to expect, an outlook I’ve always believed yields the best results. I had never seen Monotonix in their heyday, but of course was well aware of the legacy…and the riotous, hedonistic, often-flammable sets they played. Would the night end in sirens? Fisticuffs? Human sacrifice? None such luck for the sadists, but I can say us music lovers were well pleased as Yonatan Gat and Co. delivered the best live performance I’ve seen this year.

Warming the crowd for Gat was local band PC Worship, who I’ve been hearing good things about for a while now. Their set was somber and hard-hitting, with more complexity than you see from most openers. Right off the bat I catch sight of drummer Shannon Sigley, who I can’t help but liken to a young Sandy West. Aside from being ace behind the kit, Sigley is no doubt the charismatic core of the band-with a kind of sex appeal that isn’t tawdry, just plain badass. What can I say? I love a lady drummer!

Vocalist Justin Frye manages to be the technical bandleader while giving his fellow musicians enough breathing room, which makes all the more sense when you learn that many PC Worship members were once New School jazz majors. The length and the freedom of their songs speak to that fact-at one point I split for the restroom mid-track, only to return to the same song, still droning.

PC Worship is a difficult band to genre-baste. Their music is far too texturally interesting to sum-up in one word. There’s punk, jazz, shoegaze, grunge, kraut rock, space rock, jam band…space jam? Whatever you want to call them, you have to hand it to a band who’s bassist doubles as a squealing sax man, and who’s rhythm guitarist can opt for the conga while sat on a cinderblock.

I wasn’t entirely paying attention to the set up between PC Worship and Yonatan Gat, and I have my companion to thank for noticing in time that Gat’s gear was being assembled on the ground. Audience members formed a circle around the instruments and a sharp green light beamed from its nucleus. By the time Yonatan Gat, drummer Gal Lazer, and bassist Sergio Sayeg took to the…floor, there was a tangible buzz in the air.

Something I think of far too little as a music journalist is the crowd – and what an integral part of a show they are! The séance-like encircling of Gat’s band provided a panoramic view of the fans and a chance to stare into the eyes of your peers while sharing the excitement of this one moment in time.

And what excitement! We got 45 minutes of near-unpunctuated noise. Yet another genre-swapping band, the trio volleyed between psych-rock, garage, punk, surf, jazz, and just general sonic mayhem. Both Gat and Sayeg were wizzes on their respective strings, but the drummers stole my heart that evening: Gal Lazer was off the chain.

An immensely skilled percussionist, Lazer looks like Iggy Pop and drums with the thrashing insanity of Keith Moon-a sort of precise madness that you don’t see too often. His style was sexy, staccato, punk-jazz genius. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him…or his unzipped fly, the latter of which may have distracted me from the fact that his brilliant playing was emanating from a toy drum kit. He played so fast that I originally thought he was working a double bass pedal, but I don’t think those have saturated the Fischer Price My-First-Drum-Kit market quite yet.

The colorful workman’s lamps set up by each band member suddenly flicked off, leaving us all in darkness for a moment. As cheers swelled the band remained fixed. Eventually the lights slapped on again to the sound of Gat saying “thank you, very clever.” As it turns out, encores are just as exciting when the band never leaves the room in the first place.

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INTERVIEW: Meet the Founders of The Gateway

Just a few years ago, if you talked about the Brooklyn DIY scene, you’d likely focus on a stretch of Kent Avenue in Williamsburg. There was the tiny but true-to-its name Death By Audio, the more spacious and artsy Glasslands, and of course, 285 Kent. But now that the waterfront street has succumbed to Vice offices, condos and rising rents, musicians, along with their venues and fans have moved East. More specifically, to Broadway in Bushwick. There’s Palisades and Silent Barn near the Myrtle/Broadway stop, and a few stations away on the J train, a brand new venue: The Gateway. 

The trio behind the venue are Ned Shatzer, Nelson Espinal, and Robert Granata, who spent the month of September renovating and painting the space before its October 1st opening. A few weeks later, I got to take a look. Having heard and seen nothing about The Gateway, I showed up to the venue expecting to be led into some kind of dark basement, but that wasn’t the case. Before the three musicians transformed it, The Gateway was a fully-functioning nightclub called St Lucian Paradise. And while it does have a (huge) basement, it’s receiving some finishing touches, so the upstairs is the main attraction: dimly-lit, with most of the light coming from a beautiful stained glass panel above the bar (it and some leaf-like spirals are meant to be reminiscent of the Italian horror movie, Suspiria, according to Ned).  Above the register hangs a single red, high-heeled boot that they found inside of a podium downstairs, and a sword that Nelson’s brother donated. You can see why after playing there, Pepto, the vocalist/drummer of the local band Psychic Selves, described it as like a “Chinatown karaoke bar, but with a real welcoming vibe.”

On October 15th, the Philadelphia psych band Creepoid headlined at the venue, now filled with listeners and smoke from a fog machine. Even though the show took place during the CMJ festival, a time when music fans were scattered all over the city, there was a sizable audience. Even better, everyone was close to the stage, listening attentively. The shape and size of the room seems to naturally force focus on the stage – as Pepto says, “The second floor is tight enough for the audience to be engaged with the band.”

And since it’s run by musicians- Nelson plays in the local band Stuyedeyed, and Rob in The Makeout Club – the venue focuses on what matters to music lovers: not just looking good, but sounding good and giving all bands an opportunity. “He loves music and wants other bands to play and be given a chance to be heard,” Pepto said about Nelson, who currently books for the venue. “That’s what it’s all about.”

How did it all begin, exactly? Check out a Q&A with the trio below. 

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AudioFemme:How did you begin booking shows?

Ned: I said, “Nelson, I want you to book Thursdays.” And within like two hours he had all of October booked for Thursdays. So I said, fuck man, why don’t you just go ahead and get moving on this and anyone else can go through you. So, within 48 hours he had 17 shows booked.”

Nelson: I’m in a band, I’ve played a whole bunch of shows, and it’s just a community you become a part of. “Hey man, you wanna play a show? I’m booking at a venue now.”

Do you consider The Gateway a DIY venue?

Rob: We built all this, this was four guys. We did it all ourselves, it’s very much the definition of that. But we’re focusing on giving the illusion that it’s not DIY, that it’s bigger than life. Like, you can escape and get out of here. We put a lot of thought and time into it, so it has a cool feel. We put a lot of time into the sound, too, because we want the bands to sound good, and be happy with the sound. DIY spaces do that too, but we really focused on it hard here.

Nelson: All the bands I’m booking, we all come from playing house shows. A lot of the kids that play here, they’re like, “We just played a basement last week!” Well, we wanna bring you out of the basement and put you on a nice stage. We want to be that hand, that brings you into a bigger playing field.

Rob: I feel like this place has a little of what Glasslands had, where you can have smaller bands and also mid-level bands play. A lot of venues, it’s just mainly mid-level bands. We’ll try to get some bigger bands in here, too, and give an opportunity for local bands to open – that’s your goal as a band anyways, to open up for bigger bands.

Nelson: I think for us this place, is kind of the best things about all of the places we’ve played at. The things that we like, and the place that we’ve always wanted to play. My band played the opening night, and I walked off stage and was I like, this is what I’ve always wanted to do.

How did you find the space?

Ned: I was looking at this area for a long time actually, and I had a spot across the street that I was going to take. That fell through because they didn’t want to build another fire escape. The realtor that I was speaking to and I kept in contact – he’s from St. Lucia as well, like the owner of this building – as soon as it came up he called me first because he knew I was looking for a spot. And this just happened to be what we wanted, but a lot more stuff. But this place just happens to have the right zoning, all of the stuff you need to have a venue. We can be loud here. As soon as he told me about it I was like, we can’t not do this. I don’t know how we’re gonna do it, though… (laughs). And the first people I called up were these two guys.

What kind of changes are in The Gateway’s future?

Rob: We want to be able to do seven days a week. When we open the downstairs, you’ll be able to come in, have a beer, and hang out when there’s no shows. There’ll be something going on every night. We just want people to come and have fun too. Not feel like they’re at a club, or at a bar, or anything. Get lost and wander around. Up here will have a crazy French disco tech vibe, and downstairs will be totally different so you’re not stuck in one environment all night. We’re going to get a pool table too, probably. We’re kind of just building as we go… it’s kind of like a massive space.

Nelson: We’re all kind of crazy, so we have all these crazy ideas.

To stay updated with The Gateway’s eclectic events, including a Bernie Sanders benefit on December 10th, follow them here.

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Creepoid at The Gateway, 10/15/15
Creepoid at The Gateway, 10/15/15
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INTERVIEW: Sam Owens

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Celestial Shore is a Brooklyn trio that cites bands like the Zombies and the Pixies as influences, but whose sound has never been anything but their own- spacey, floaty, always-shifting rock. When we talked to the band’s guitarist/vocalist, Sam Owens, they were preparing to book it to Austin for SXSW. We chatted about the early and last days of Glasslands, the drawbacks of email, and the time Deerhoof insisted on opening for Celestial Shore in a Syracuse basement.

AF: I really liked Enter Ghost as an album name. What inspired that?

SO: It happened one night when I was in Brooklyn, and I was driving in a cab through all these parts of town, going back to my apartment in Ridgewood. I was thinking about how all the corners I was passing- I was with my girlfriend, Cassandra, and it was very late one night- and we were thinking about how we were driving through all these areas that we had inhabited, or had moments in, and how they were kinda like ghosts. And also, it’s from when Hamlet’s father, when he enters- he’s dead- anytime he enters the stage, it says “Enter Ghost.” He always like, proclaims this evil, revenge plot that Hamlet gets obsessed with, so I kinda thought that was interesting too.

AF: Is Celestial Shore planning any new albums?

SO: Definitely. We’re going to SXSW in March, and then immediately after that I think we’ll record a third album. We’ve been writing and getting songs together, and we’ll test them out on our tour, then just hopefully jump right into the studio in April or May.

AF: Who are you touring with?

SO: For the first four shows we’re playing with Rubblebucket. They’re funny, and I’ve known them for a  long time. It’s a new crowd for us, so that’ll be fun.

AF: You played one of Glasslands’s final shows. How do you think the closing of that venue, and others like Death By Audio and Goodbye Blue Monday, have affected our local music scene?

SO: Oh man, that’s a big question. I had a “so be it” attitude about Vice buying up that corner, and Glasslands going away, and 285 Kent going away, and everything going away. I was driving down Kent avenue two weeks ago and basically, every area of this place, in NYC, in Brooklyn, is going to be void of any young, spirited, artistic culture. Forever. Which is terrible. Despite its irregularity, Glasslands- and Death By Audio- all these places were huge for so many people. I slept in a couch in the back of Glasslands the first couple of weeks I moved to New York, and my band had a practice space there, and [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][the owners] Jake and Rami are really sweet. It’s sad to see them go, but it’s also the way things go. The sad thing is that what’s there now is going to be void of anything valuable except for financial, corporate interests. Which is a very small example of what’s happening in the whole country. This subject totally barrels out of control and anyone who talks about it for more than five minutes sounds like a huge asshole. (Laughs) Ultimately, I feel really sad about it.

I guess the reason I moved to New York is that I put out the first Bandcamp EP in 2011, and I got an email six hours later from these guys in London that said, “Hey, we want to put out your record” and my mind was totally blown. Then Jake and Rami emailed me, “Hey, we want to book a show in New York,” and I was like, but I don’t even live in New York yet- I guess I should move. So… I moved to New York, because we had a show on August 3rd, 2011 at Glasslands. Now I feel old.

AF: Can I ask how old you are?

SO: I’m 25.

AF: Yeah, that’s not old.

SO: No wait- did I tell you I’m 25? I’m totally 26. Holy shit. Yeah, I am old.

AF: You must be, since you’re starting to forget things!

SO: That’s from smoking too much pot in college.

AF: Yeah, that’ll do it…

SO: I can’t tell you how much I appreciate a phone call versus another-

AF: Email?

SO: Email thing. Cuz you know, your PR person sets up these interviews, so you get an email from someone you’ve never met with these really basic questions: “How did Celestial Shore meet? Why do you guys play music? Tell us about your sound.” Why I appreciate of course, the idea of being interviewed in the first place, which is a crazy, strange idea, I think a phone call is way cooler.

AF: You probably sound way different now than you would in an email.

SO: I could be the worst person in the world on an email. Because maybe, I was writing it on my cellphone in the subway with my thumbs. I’m so tired of emailing. Ready for my rant? My life goal, as a human being on earth- and this is going to make me sound like a huge asshole, but I don’t care- is to get a landline, and never have a cellphone, and to not be accountable on my email account. It’s incredible how accountable we’re expected to be throughout the day. If you don’t respond, then you’re the worst person ever.

You read all these great accounts… Lou Reed wrote a song about it- I mean I guess he was waiting for his drug dealer- his frustration about waiting for someone. I think it’s way more mystical, and magical, and sweet and romantic if you can just make a plan and try to do it. That’s my rant. Everyone’s email tone has become so camouflaged… Everybody is like a chameleon. Including myself.

AF: I’m glad I got you on the phone then, so I’m interviewing the real Sam.

SO: Yeah, maybe. Totally. I don’t know, I’m feeling pretty nostalgic tonight.

AF: What’s your source for finding new music?

SO: My source would be my friends, and the people I admire. I’ve been doing this thing with a couple of close friends where you just write down 30 artists, or songs, or videos, any kind of content you want to share. Not a link, just the name or whatever, on a sticky note. Then you have 30 of these sticky notes, and you give them to your friends. It’s really neat, because you have this physical thing that you can put next to your bed, and wake up in the morning and be like “Oh, yeah, I haven’t checked him out.”

I’ve been listening a lot to country music from the 1950’s, particularly Ernest Tubb. I keep coming back to it. I’m in one of those full circle periods, where I’m going back to 50’s country. The Carter Family, Johnny Cash, all these people. Ernest Tubb, yeah. Listen to his song “Thanks A Lot.”

Also, I’ve been mixing a lot of records, so I end up listening to the records I’m mixing a lot, out of necessity. I’m mixing an old time band right now. The week before that I was mixing this band called Friend Roulette. They’re from Brooklyn and they’re like, chamber pop. My ears are kind of all over the place.

AF: This is a typical interview question you’ve probably heard before, but—

SO: “How did your band meet?”

AF: Do you have a favorite venue to play at?

SO: You’ll have to let me think about this one for a minute… Can I tell you my favorite show I’ve ever played?

AF: Yeah, that’s a way better question.

SO: OK. So in April, we were fortunate enough to go on tour with Deerhoof, and they’re really dear to me. (Laughs) Oops. I’m not into puns, that much… I can’t say enough about Deerhoof, they totally changed the way I think about music. We had a day off, and this kid- his name is Phil Steiger, and he was going to school at Syracuse University at the time- had contacted us about playing a show in his basement. And we were like “Yeah, of course.” We were having Thai food with Deerhoof in Pittsburgh, and they were like, “Hey, what are you doing with your day off?” And I was just like, “We’re playing a show tomorrow.” And they were like, “Oh, Where’s the show?” And I said, “It’s in a basement in Syracuse. Do you guys want to play?” and they were like, “Yeah. We’ll talk about it and let you know tomorrow.”  So we were driving and I get a call from John, and he was like, “Yeah, so we’re down to play the show with you. We’ll play as long as we can open for you.” Because we’d been opening for them every night. Which was, surreal and hilarious. That’s Deerhoof. So I called this kid Phil and I was like, “Phil. Deerhoof’s coming with us. They’re going to play. They’re going to open for Celestial Shore.”

Phil’s a film student, by the way, and has since moved to L.A. and will shortly be premiering the video he made for us.

And then I fell asleep on the floor of the basement, Satomi ran off to find a tire swing, John was playing soccer in the street, it was such as wholesome experience. And since then, Deerhoof has told me that they mixed their last album with that concert experience in mind…I think it drummed up some old feelings of DIY shows they used to do. So anyway, that’s my favorite experience. So far.

AF: So far.

SO: Yeah.

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LIVE REVIEW: Landlady @ Death By Audio

Landlady

Landlady are more like the upstairs tenant making an excessive racket than the curmudgeonly old woman banging on the ceiling with a broom handle from downstairs that their name suggests. That being said, it would hardly be out of character for the Brooklyn-based band to incorporate the broom-banging technique into their already experimental percussion – in fact, it’s the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to songwriting that has garnered the band so much buzz of late. On the heels of releasing their much-praised sophomore record Upright Behavior and a grandiose appearance at Rough Trade last month that saw an additional 25 musicians added to an already effusive five-member lineup, Landlady kicked off the biggest tour they’ve yet undertaken last night at Death By Audio in Williamsburg.

The place wasn’t packed but it was profusely sweaty, prompting nearly half the band to remove their shirts after only a few numbers. Lead-singer Adam Schatz  was a bit more coy, promising to undo a shirt button for each tune played after beginning the set with “Under The Yard.” The song’s opening sing-along provided an almost religious call-to-arms; like the dimming of the house lights to signal the end of intermission, the harmonies were a clue that something major was about to happen. And that’s how Landlady approaches music-making: every moment of it is a life-altering event. They don’t shy away from anything, whether it’s a key-change or stylistic shift or unflinching lyrics. They just go with it.

Schatz appeared a bit jittery at first, his between-song banter more than a little self-conscious. But if the shout outs and introductions were a bit awkward, his vocal delivery was hardly that. “This is a song about what you’d do if your sex robot was malfunctioning,” Schatz sputtered, and the band launched into “Girl,” arguably one of Landlady’s most accessible jams. It’s as fidgety and anthemic as the rest of Upright Behavior, but manages to bottle up its mood swings and distill its movements in a more concise way than the record’s most sprawling efforts.

Landlady does extravagant very well, to be sure. There were very few moments during last night’s show that didn’t feel epic, and through the continuously shifting sonic motifs, “epic” was really the only constant.  There were lush harmonies, bouts of blues rock, funkified bass solos, hushed and folksy moments, dissonant breaks, even hints of post-punk here and there. If the band’s aim is to keep listeners on their toes with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it genre mish-mashing then they’re doing an excellent job, and there’s no idea they’re unable to tackle with gusto and talent. For some, that’s Landlady’s biggest asset.

For a listener with specific proclivities, though, the rapid-fire change-ups might not dovetail seamlessly. The someone who loves the watery reverb dripping through the pulsating, urgent percussion that propels “The Globe” might feel lost in that track’s meandering choruses – though “chorus” sometimes feels like too basic a term when talking about this band – wherein everything but Schatz’s eccentric vocals drop off, and further confused by the caterwauling build to the bridge. There’s something for everyone, yes, but at what point does it become an indecipherable melange that’s could be seen as pandering, banking on the fact that someone, somewhere, is going to like at least one part of any given song? Landlady are certainly more earnest and interested in their art for that to be the case, but either way it can be almost to exhausting to keep up with. If you’re not actively listening, you’ll lose the thread very quickly.

And it seems that active listening and audience participation truly are Landlady’s ultimate goals. Like someone nagging her tenants for rent, Schatz implored the scattered audience to move toward the stage, get close to one another, sweatiness be damned. He ramble-shouted about being thankful for the existence of Death By Audio, ruminating on the fine details that come together to run a DIY space in Brooklyn, thanking everyone from the in-house booking to the muralists who painted the walls. He asked the audience to interpret the room as a collective energy, and led everyone in a chant of “ALWAYS” as the band finished out the set with “Above My Ground” (at which point his now-unbuttoned shirt came flying off as promised). If felt more than a little schmaltzy, but Landlady isn’t a band to shy away from sentimentality. Like similarly sincere and self-aware band-of-the-moment Ought, Landlady ask their fans to exist with them in the very moment, eschewing the passive norm. Landlady give particularly powerhouse performances, and because their wide range of styles will appeal to pretty much everyone at least some of the time, their upcoming tour is not only their first, but likely their last before they start headlining huge venues and hitting the festival circuit.

Take a listen to “Above My Ground,” check out tour dates below and catch them while you can.

08/09/14 – Champaign, IL @ High Dive
08/10/14 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club
08/11/14 – Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium
08/13/14 – Billings, MT @ The Railyard
08/14/14 – Spokane, WA @ The Barlett
08/15/14 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
08/16/14 – Portland, OR @ MusicfestNW – Tom McCall Waterfront Park
08/18/14 – San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
08/20/14 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst
08/21/14 – San Luis Obispo, CA @ SLO Brewing Co.
08/22/14 – Visalia, CA @ The Cellar Door
08/23/14 – Los Angeles, CA @ Satellite
08/24/14 – Flagstaff, AZ @ The Green Room
08/26/14 – Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
08/27/14 – Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s Upstairs
08/28/14 – Baton Rouge, LA @ Spanish Moon
08/29/14 – New Orleans, LA @ Hi Ho Lounge
09/02/14 – Nashville, TN @ The Stone Fox
09/03/14 – Atlanta, GA @ 529
09/04/14 – Raleigh, NC @ Hopscotch Fest
09/05/14 – Richmond, VA @ Fall Line Fest
09/07/14 – Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
09/24/14 – Columbus, OH @ Double Happiness
09/25/14 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Tavern
09/26/14 – Cincinnati, OH @ MidPoint Music Fest
10/15/14 – Knoxville, TN @ Pilot Light
10/16/14 – Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone
10/17/14 – Norman, OK @ The Opolis
10/19/14 – Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
10/20/14 – Phoenix, AZ @ Rhythm Room
10/21/14 – Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
10/25/14 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
10/27/14 – Kansas City, MO @ Record Bar
10/28/14 – St. Louis, MO @ Old Rock House

SHOW REVIEW: Jacco Gardner at Death By Audio

There was a brief period of time when some friends of mine were trying to get me to move to Chapel Hill, NC.  We took a little road trip out that way to check out the tri-boro area and I remember stopping at this record store that had all these great British psych-folk records from the late sixties and I was so overwhelmed that all I could do was buy a couple comps with the most obscure-sounding bands in the tracklist I could find because hey, we’ve all got to start somewhere.

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Jacco Gardner
Jacco Gardner at Death By Audio

Listening to Amsterdam’s Jacco Gardner feels something like getting those records home and and onto a turntable for the first time.  Like I’ve discovered something precious and mysterious, like I wandered too far into the wood at twilight and magical things have started to happen. The band recently wrapped up their second US Tour at Death By Audio to a very enthusiastic audience (I overheard a guy in a leather jacket and gold chains compare them to Love with the addendum that “that’s one of the best compliments I could give a band”).

On Gardner’s debut LP Cabinet of Curiosities (available now from Trouble In Mind Records), he’s credited as producer and multi-instrumentalist.  On stage he minds the keyboards and synths, with help from Jos van Tol on drums, Keez Groenteman on guitar, and Jasper Verhulst on bass.  The boys are in their mid-twenties but have the look of a still more youthful band, sweetly thanking the crowd after the applause faded, with a special nod to their booking agent; Gardner gushed in his bashful Dutch accent “This tour has been the best time of my life”.

The timeless sort of tunes that Jacco Gardner plays aren’t throwbacks so much as visits to a completely different era.  The sound is so perfectly distilled and replicated it’s a task to remember your exact position in space and time with all the fanciful lyrics and lilting guitars and frolicking harpsichords washing over you.  That Gardner is able to stitch together such whimsical narratives without losing his vision in pastiche is one remarkable feat, and he’s accomplished quite another in translating that so skillfully to live performance.  Gardner will return to the states sometime in the spring, likely with new material; in the meantime, you can stream Cabinet of Curiosities on bandcamp.  Personally, I felt compelled to grab a copy on vinyl – I’m saving it for a rainy day when I need to be utterly transported.

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SHOW REVIEW: Eric Copeland and U.S. Girls

As a founding member of Black Dice, Eric Copeland has been melting my face for years.  I’d seen them live a handful of times in the early- and mid-aughts and had fond memories of sweaty thrashing and abused cilia.  I was overjoyed when they were announced as openers for Animal Collective’s Celebrate Brooklyn show last summer and pleased that they were just as great as ever, even though the venue was not the sort I was used to seeing them play.  Even though I enjoyed Eric Copeland’s solo material I’d never gotten a chance to see what it is exactly that he does by himself in front of a crowd.  At Death by Audio on Sunday, I found out.

I was in a somewhat poisonous mood despite being very excited about the show.  August was not a kind month to me, and it was beginning to wear me down; my hope was that the show would lift my spirits.  I was jazzed up for opener U.S. Girls, whose moniker is misleading in that is is actually just one girl.  That girl, Meghan Remy, layers her sultry but detached vocals over fuzzy electronic beats and looks damn chic doing it.  She’s released a handful of records, done a split with Dirty Beaches, and has an album, entitled Gem, coming out on Fat Cat in September.  She was also selling some pretty rad little collages at the merch table.

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Meghan Remy of U.S. Girls

Musically, the production values remain lo-fi enough to add a little grit to a glamorous ethos that clearly informs her work.  There weren’t tons of people filling the DIY space for her set, but those who were seemed to be under a kind of spell; heads bobbed but eyes were glued to the stage.  She closed with her lead-off single from Gem, “Jack”, a cover of a somewhat obscure glam-rock jam from 2004 by a band called Danava.  Remy also performed an awesomely perverted version of Monica and Brandy’s 1998 smash hit “The Boy Is Mine”.  While you would think R&B doesn’t have much to do with the swirling, dubby haze Remy creates, it’s actually a pretty appropriate reference point; though her distorted, witchy vocals and hazy compositions are far from slickly produced pop top forty, the diva swag is the same, and the jagged spines of these songs are sheathed in beats just as infectious.

Eric Copeland was certainly more unassuming than the audaciously blonde Remy in her leopard-print wedges, dressed as he was in a dark cap and ragged shorts.  Every so often, Copeland would croon into a microphone, his voice a distorted moan, and during those moments he’d direct his gaze briefly and furtively into the bizarro dance party he’d given rise to.  But mostly he kept his head down, sometimes whipping it back and forth during particularly turbulent rhythms.  Much like Copeland’s work with Black Dice, his solo work is layered with mashed loops and whacked-out samples, and it has followed a similar trajectory.  Copeland started producing his solo records right around the time that Black Dice moved away from the harsh feedback and persistent drone of their early material, replacing it with something no less experimental but certainly a bit more synth-oriented.  With the release of this year’s Limbo, Copeland’s created something that embraces that more playful ethos.  The beats are almost bouncy, layered in psychedelic repetitions and oozing pitch-shifted samples.  It’s still a challenging listen at times, due to its more disconnected moments.  But in a live setting, you could actually pull out some weird dance moves and shake to it.  I don’t think I’ll be walking into a dance club anytime soon to hear a DJ spinning “Fiesta Muerta”, but attending this show was a reminder that there are all types of grooves, and sometimes the kookiest ones are the most rewarding.

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