Tag Archives: Concerts

Japanther and the Harlem Shakes

Just got back from the first Olde Club show of the semester, featuring headliner Japanther with opening act The Harlem Shakes.

Things got pretty kooky pretty quickly, as a massive crowd of non-Swarthmore students began to assemble outside the building. Gradually, it became evident that many of these kids had congregated from the surrouding regions to see the band This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, who they thought were opening for Japanther. Unfortunately, they were wrong. One group of kids had driven over four hours from Maryland just to see This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, only to be severely disappointed to learn that they were not playing, and in fact were never scheduled to play in the first place. Asked by Pat to describe This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, one fan responded with, “They’re like a mix between Dropkick Murphys and Simple Plan.” We’re not totally sure why people would drive four hours to see such a band, but I’m sorry that they were let down. Maybe we should actually book This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb at some point, if it would drum up that much interest.

So first up were The Harlem Shakes, a New York band who basically sounded exactly like a New York band. Singer with the Hamilton Leithauser croon, reverb-soaked chords on the Telecaster, pianist doing his best Walkmen imitation: it was nothing I hadn’t heard before, but they didn’t do too bad of a job with it. I didn’t catch the title of their second song, but I dug the melodies quite a bit, and later in the set their song ‘Sickos’ was unbelievably catchy, and people were dancing all over the place.

But by far the most important aspect of the performance occurred halfway through the set, when the band broke out a bottle of champagne and decided to make a speech. Turns out, they wanted to play a cover, in tribute to a friend’s band that had recently broken up. That band was…The Management. They were breaking up because one member was joining Of Montreal.

My jaw dropped to the floor. If I haven’t told you this story before, please ask me about it in person. Basically, I saw The Management play several years ago in Carrboro, opening for Of Montreal, and it was the most absurd show I have ever witnessed, on so many different levels. Mr. Porcaro can also attest to this. I was pushing for Melissa to book them for Olde Club as well, and I’m not sure how that’s going to work now, which is a pity. The Harlem Shakes’ cover of ‘Kids’ was nowhere near as joyous as The Mgmt’s version, but I didn’t really care, I was just too stunned to speak. What a small world we live in. The Mgmt, R.I.P. I’m kind of surprised that I found out at all, much less at a random concert rather than off the Pitchfork news wire or something.

The crowd really loved The Harlem Shakes, and the feeling was mutual, as the band were clearly enjoying themselves, and stated that this was the best crowd they’d ever played for. Good for them, I suppose. We move on to Japanther.

I stood there chatting with Mr. Peters discussing the ramifications of the whole This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb fiasco as Japanther hauled their gear on stage, and as we talked the setup on stage just got better and better. First, a massive beat-up Marshall stack was assembled, with another speaker stack set up across the stage. A large Japanther flag was subsequently draped between the stacks. The drummer assembled his sparse kit right on the edge of the stage, with each piece emerging from this amazing nested case that reminded me of those Russian egg dolls, what are they called? The bassist checked to see that the tape deck was working, cassettes in tow. Telephones were placed on mic stands instead of microphones. The bassist couldn’t find a pick, and so a Swarthmore student opened his wallet and pulled one out. Wut. This was already turning into the greatest rock and roll show of all time ever. Mr. Peters and I stood there, seeing the massive amps, and the bass, and the drums, and the imminent destruction we were about to face. It was glorious.

Japanther turned out to be exactly as their setup implied, an incredibly abrasive and noisy drum and bass combo, one step above Coachwhips, one step below Lightning Bolt. I didn’t feel that their music was actually all that extraordinary, but it was perfectly designed to induce massive mosh pit freakouts, which Mr. Peters and I enthusiastically dived into. There was this one huge guy in the pit who was screaming the lyrics to every Japanther song in existence and annihilating everyone in the mosh pit. I found myself sandwiched between Mr. Peters and Mr. Stafstrom before the huge guy came barrelling through and pinballed me all the way to the side where I suddenly found myself in the acquantaince of my good friend Mr. Borkowski, how’s it goin dude haven’t seen you around much this is so freaking awesome, rock out, before the huge guy moved the whole pit and my momentum caused me to ricochet all the way across to the other side where I suddenly found myself surrounded by sweaty girls leaning into me and jumping on my back, hey this isn’t too bad, o no here comes huge guy and I blindly crashed out to the back edge, drenched in sweat, and watched the rest of the show with Pat in the back. As I emerged from Olde Club and walked back towards Hallowell, I faintly heard someone call my name, and swiveled my head around to find two girls walking down the path towards me, I had no idea if they were the ones who’d beckoned, my ears had no sense of distance or direction at all. Fortunately it turns out that I was right, it was Marissa and Beth, wanting to know how the show went, laughing at my sodden state, encouraging me and Luis (he’d just gotten off his movie shuttle shift) to grab some frosties from Wendy’s at this late hour. But I was tired, and so we said our goodbyes, and I walked back and took a shower, getting set for the long Saturday ahead. Why are my weekends infinitely busier than my weekdays, I ask my bottle of shampoo.

I feel that all the Japanther headbanging is negatively impacting both my coherence and my sanity, so I’ll just stop here and post some links.

  • At this hip new upscale Chicago restaurant, you can eat paper, and it’s absolutely delicious (use BugMeNot if a password is needed).
  • A beautiful rotating fireplace for your home. I really have too much space in my dorm room, and I’d love something like this to warm up those chilly winter nights, but something tells me the fire department wouldn’t exactly encourage me to pursue this.
  • Great discussion on the roles of wide receivers and running backs in football, and the characters who fill those roles.
  • Bid to have yourself placed in a Chris Ware comic strip.
  • Now that Pluto is no longer a planet, we must now refer to it as 134340.
  • Amazing photo of camels casting shadows in the desert.
  • A new species of Liocichla has been discovered in India!
  • A Flickr user is documenting their use of different types of toothpaste every day. I would really love to have a bizarre obsession like this. Then I remember that I just named my radio show after a strange nocturnal Saharan bird and considered this to be perfectly acceptable and within the norm. See also the above Liocichla link.
  • Site providing desktop wallpapers culled from satellite photos on Google Maps.
  • Some great high-res photos taken during tennis’ recent US Open.
  • A review of Charlie Kaufman’s new script for the upcoming film entitled Synecdoche, New York, which he is also apparently directing. Kaufman is probably my favorite current screenwriter; he’s the guy behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, and my favorite, Being John Malkovich.
  • Cellists and other symphony musicians are being struck down by airport security, and it’s hurting the global arts scene.
  • An unbelievably addictive game to test your mouse-moving skillz. Doesn’t sound too hard, right? Try it.
  • Learn how to throw a screwdriver like a ninja. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want to learn.
  • And finally, here’s an unbelievably beautiful short story, entitled On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning, written by Haruki Murakami, one of my favorite authors. It’s simply a beautiful story.

Emei-Shan Liocichla, the closest living relative of the newly discovered Bugun Liocichla. I’ve seen the endemic Steere’s Liocichla of Taiwan, otherwise I have no experience with this genus of Old World babblers. Photo from BirdLife International.

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Deerhoof etc

Went to the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro last night to see Deerhoof play, along with openers The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and Pleasant. I’d only heard rave reviews of Deerhoof shows, and was eager to see how crazy things could get. But first, there were the openers.

Edit: Now with great photos courtesy of Josh, thanks. For the full set, see Mr. Behrend’s facebook albums.

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade took the stage first, a band comprised of two tenor saxophones, an alto sax, a guitar, and percussion. The group looked at each other, lifted their horns, and just blew the roof off the Cradle. This was completely chaotic free jazz, Interstellar-Space-style, cranked up all the way to 11, with the three saxes just blasting through. Halfway through the first song, the tenor saxes leaped off the stage and started wailing their way through the stunned crowd. Truth be told, I was blown away, pretty much literally and figuratively.

Once the raucous din finally subsided, the group revealed that the piece they’d just performed was actually a Deerhoof cover. Go figure. The crowd was likely split between those who were impressed by their technical prowess but not the impenetrable wall of sound they created, and those who were more pretentious and pretended to really get into them, like me. Their original material was possibly even more chaotic than the opening cover, culminating in the final song. At one point, each of the sax players put down their horns and just screamed at the top of their lungs, and later in the piece one of the sax players played a tenor and an alto sax at the same time, Rahsaan-Roland-Kirk-style.

I feel that these guys were the absolutely perfect opener for Deerhoof, illuminating many of Deerhoof’s free jazz elements, in that both rely heavily on organized chaos and a tight group dynamic. Really, Deerhoof are just a melodic free jazz group who play rock instruments instead of saxophones, while The Abraham Lincoln Brigade are just a textural spazz rock group who play saxophones instead of guitars (plural). I went ahead and bought their self-titled album, curious to hear their studio sound. I was really surprised to find that it’s extremely similar to their live show in many respects, giving me a nice little memento of their unique and excellent performance.

Next up was Pleasant. I didn’t think there was any way these guys could top The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and I wasn’t really proved wrong. As their pedestrian name implied, the group was a fairly pedestrian indie pop/rock band, featuring a nerdy male guitarist harmonizing with a female bassist over late Sonic Youth guitars. I was a huge fan of the drummer though, who looked like a middle-aged office drone who just drove straight to the Cradle from his cubicle, but completely rocked his kit with incredible intensity. Mr. Behrend also tells me that he’s one of the few rock drummers he’s seen using a classical grip on his sticks.

By far the most unique aspect of the group was the old cello player they had on stage for a few of their songs, playing his parts from sheet music on a music stand. But you couldn’t hear him at all. Even when Mr. Behrend ventured up to the very front, he reported that you still couldn’t hear the cello. Tragic. It reminded all of us of the Cary Academy All-Stars, one of the more embarassing aspects of our esteemed academic institution, in which a prodigal conservatory-bound cellist was somehow involved in a boring high school stoner-rock band.

And for two songs, Pleasant was joined by a trumpeter and another sax player, not from the ALB. Both looked incredibly awkward on stage, looking down at the floor while nervously fingering notes and checking for sticky pads or valves as the rest of the band played yet another song that sounded like the last. But when they started playing, oh man. Pleasant suddenly became this incredible band, worthy of any and all praise possible; it was a glorious sound. I’ve never seen/heard such a dramatic transformation in quality; a boring indie rock band suddenly emotionally transcended music itself in the space of a single song. But as Bill Simmons eloquently stated with regards to the SNL Lazy Sunday skit, it was probably just a case of context. If you had to sit in a gym watching a basketball dunk contest between area hipsters for about three hours, you’d probably be lulled to sleep, but if Josh Smith somehow entered the building and then dunked blindfolded from the free throw line, the place would probably riot. I feel that’s an accurate representation of my feelings towards the wind entrances for Pleasant.

Sadly, it just lasted for just one song. The trumpeter left after that one song, receiving a solid amount of applause from the crowd. On the next song the saxophonist just played some long trills, nothing fancy, but it still blew away the rest of the Pleasant material by a good country mile. The band only played for about half an hour, but it seemed more like five, and not in a good way. I just stopped listening to their music after the wind and cello exits, and watched the faces of the band. They looked tired, and resigned to their fate as indie rock also-rans, never destined to reach any sort of stardom or fame. They all seemed to know it too, and that struck me as really…sad, I suppose. So why were they trudging on, or touring much less? For the fun, the enjoyment of making music in a band? I suppose so, and I guess that’s what counts, right? Maybe.

So then finally Deerhoof took the stage. As expected, it was completely ridonkulous. Tightest band I’ve ever seen perform live. Somehow they pulled off every arrhythmic start/stop absolutely perfectly. They were incredibly fun to watch too, as each member had such unique personalities and styles, obviously led by Satomi Matsuzaki’s bizarre hand gestures in the middle of songs.

The between-song banter was hilariously awkward as well, with Greg Saunier leaving his drum kit just to clumsily trip over to the mic and say “Thank You” and return to his kit. It was sort of fitting, coming in the organized chaos of their set. The all-too-short setlist was dominated by the recent Runners Four material, with just a few older songs thrown in to keep the diehard fans content. I don’t really have too much to say about Deerhoof, the show went off exactly as I thought it would, as a louder and more jagged take on their studio records, which was absolutely fine by me, as it was one of the better shows I’ve ever been to. Please see this band if you ever get the chance. They are truly one of the few innovators in rock music today.

Nothing’s been going on back home, which is sort of nice actually, it’s incredibly relaxing. The flipside to that is this massive cache of links that I’ve been stockpiling. I usually try and sequence my links in some sort of semi-cohesive flow, but that’s just not gonna happen tonight, sorry. Hopefully this will be enough to last for my few weeks away. I hope the rest of your summers go well! This is my Sandanista!: