the stills, february 27
Clearly, the angular post-garage explosion extends well beyond the greater New York area. The Stills are originally from Montreal but have got the Lower East Side grind down pat.
Their short CMW set Thursday at the Phoenix had heads nodding and was a nice, concise change from the unfocused community love-in of the Broken Social Scene. As attractive as the songs were, though, it was hard to shake the impression 90 seconds in that you'd heard all of this before, more recently than not.
the gossip, february 28
By 10:15 pm, the lineup for Vazaleen night at Lee's Palace stretched down the block and wrapped around the Tim Hortons for Arkansas-by-way-of-Olympia band the Gossip. They were listed in the festival guide as a featured event. So what was up with pass-holders being turned away at the door when it appeared that two-thirds of the people in the lineup were without passes? The claim that the listing was erroneous didn't offer much consolation to the freezing folks who couldn't get in.
Bodacious Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto blew the roof off during her band's set by strippin' down to her gitch in the middle of the mosh pit, offering this city's queer community enough masturbation fantasies for the next year. The unaffected Ms. Ditto played commoner for the rest of the evening, dancing her little heart out with the ecstatic crowd till almost 4 am.
dj krush, february 28
The unholy crunch that erupted from DJ Krush's 1200s as he began his Opera House set sounded like trouble. The annoying crackle was persistent enough to make it seem like the Tokyo turntable top gun had taken a sharp turn away from his usual abstract hiphop soundscapes into glitch technoise. But the frantic flitting of his concerned-looking assistant, who was tugging on cables, indicated that it was in fact a horrendous sound system malfunction. As much as we dig Aphex Twin, 15 minutes of sizzle and screech from Krush was enough.
stars, february 28
The recent tragedies in Chicago and Rhode Island have obviously done nothing to dissuade owners from cramming as many people into clubs as possible on a big night. Friday's Outside Music showcase at the El Mocambo was rammed to the rafters, reaching the suffocation point in the main room somewhere around the time Stars drifted elegantly through Elevator Love Letter.
No surprise that the between-song chatter was more about emergency exits and potential escape plans than about the bands.
radiogram, march 1radiogram, march 1
Something about Radiogram's Vancouver-baked brand of emo-country always rubbed us the wrong way, but we couldn't put our finger on why until their CMW showcase at the Silver Dollar. Watching John Bews, strapped with a six-string fretless bass, sipping brandy and puffing a cigarillo onstage between singer Ken Beattie's sensitive paeans to slacking suddenly made it all too clear.
the organ, march 1
Morrissey-mad grrrl ensemble the Organ provided a deadpan, note-perfect rendition of the moody 80s-style synth-pop from their self-titled debut. Offset by grainy projections on a stage-side screen and sporting cute handmade T-shirts with other bandmates' names on the front, the girls were musically faultless but a little dull. They'd be unstoppable if they could develop a stronger stage presence.
barcelona pavilion, march 1
Semiotic crusaders the Barcelona Pavilion at Sneaky Dee's provided one of the wackiest moments of the weekend. Their deconstructed noise-rock assault (replete with banshee screams) ain't for all tastes, and their lyrics (about tidying up and epistemic boundedness -- some in German!) can be tough to follow without a philosophy degree. But, man, are these guys ever captivating! Vocalist Maggie MacDonald, wearing a bizarro skeleton-painted full body stocking, danced and yelped her way through a plethora of performance personae from caustic dominatrix to disembodied PA announcer, while lithe guitar-toting bandleader Steve Kado perched on a speaker stack like a seagull gone mad. Amazingly enough, the entire room was dancing to their aggressive ripped-up melodies.