November 05, 2002

Wake Up

[my imaginary tattoo]

To steal the last line from my previous entry... what a week. Having both the CMJ Music Marathon and the WFMU Record Fair hit on the same weekend caused me to jump from one thing to the next... buying records, seeing bands, (spending all my money buying records and seeing bands), hanging out with friends new and old, and running into people I hadn't seen in ages and ages. It was a crazy, wonderful four-day weekend that produced some funny anecdotes, parts of which are even suitable for writing about in this space, so grab a cup of coffee, get comfy in that chair and read on...

Day 1: Thursday

While there were three or four different shows that night that I'd have gladly attended, I'd decided to join my friend Kat for a night of post-Sarah Records pop at the Trembling Blue Stars and Aberdeen show at Southpaw. After stopping at a delightful bar in the neighborhood for cocktails and tapas, we arrived at the club right on time -- Tiara, the band preceding Aberdeen, were almost done playing their over-emotive, not terribly distinguished pop-rock. Ho hum. We picked a spot near the bar and scanned the crowd for familiar faces, looking for our friend Kardyhm or Kat's friend Harvey. I remarked how it was weird not seeing anyone here that we even remotely recognized, given that this type of NYC indie-pop show circa 1996 would have been the closest thing to our own social club.

Hey, wait -- there's Dave Kharas! Then Harvey and Kardyhm arrived in succession. After much hey, hello, and hi-haven't-see-ya-in-ages all around, we settled in to watch Aberdeen's set. Singer Beth took the stage in plastic rabbit mask, taking a drag off her cigarette through the mouth hole. Somehow I think she'd have wanted to keep the mask on for the whole set had it been practicable, as she was quite shy onstage, turning away from the audience a number of times throughout their set. Nonetheless, the band unfurled a string of dreamy pop tunes highlighted by Beth's sweet vocals and tambourine shakes. I only wish they'd played "Super Sunny Summer," their second Sarah Records single, which I used to play quite a bit on my radio show.

After Aberdeen left the stage, I witnessed what would soon become a familiar scene: the ritual exit/entry flow of CMJ badge-holders making their way to and from show to show. Hell, it was all free to them, as that badge was the magical all-access pass to NYC rock clubs for the duration of the Music Marathon. Fuckers. Actually, even if I had gotten a pass, I don't think I'd have been able to keep up the frantic club hop. One venue per night is pretty much my speed, and knowing that all the bands I was missing I'd have been able to see for FREE would have only made me grumpier. Much better to relax, hang out with friends instead of stand on some subway platform all pissed-off waiting for the train that never seems to arrive and thinking that unless it comes in five minutes you're not going to make it to the next club in time to catch anything but the last song by that band, the one you dragged your ass out of Brooklyn and back to Manhattan to specifically see. Y'know?

So I was content just talking with my friends and, before we knew it, Trembling Blue Star Bob Wratten appeared onstage with his guitar, along with Aberdeen's Beth, who in her dual-band role lends her vocal talents to TBS as well. It was therefore a quiet performance, though the audience seemed not to mind the lack of other instrumentation -- the faithful up front gave their full, silent attention to the stage for most of his set, applauding loudly in-between. Kat and I had been joking earlier that we should get Harvey to go up onstage to help fill out their sound, since he used to be in TBS (and also the Field Mice) along with Bob. She was ribbing him about it during their set, even pulling out a $20 bill and waving it in front of him as an inducement. Heh. I said he could pull one of those guitars off the wall of the bar and use that. Ah, but we were ultimately unconvincing. Oh well.

While Harvey went to talk to Bob after his set, Kat and I ended up chatting with this fellow indiepop fan who was visiting from Arizona. Soon Harvey came back over, so Kat introduced him:

Kat: This is my friend Harvey, he used to be in one of the bands performing tonight.

Guy: Oh really, which band?

Harvey: Trembling Blue Stars.

Guy: What did you say your name was again?

Harvey: Harvey. Harvey Williams.

Guy: OMIGOD! I have your records! Harvey from the Field Mice?!? I am SUCH a big fan...

Mr. Field Mice Fan continued to gush in this manner for a bit as Harvey turned quite pink with embarrassment and Kat and I exchanged amused looks. This went on for some time, as Mr. FMF called up his fellow FMF friend in Arizona on his cell phone because his friend would just not believe this and he wanted Harvey to say "Hi" to her. Kat just said, "Harvey, you're a STAR," which caused me to laugh out loud in the middle of the next band's oh-so-quiet set for the second time. I think this would have irritated more people if there had been enough of them left in the club by this point, but I guess I wasn't the only one getting verrrry sleeeepy listening to their morose chamber pop music.

On the way out of the club, I nabbed a bunny mask and a couple of copies of the sampler CD put together by Candy Gram Booking, who likewise assembled the night's lineup of entertainment... the musical kind, that is.

Day 2: Friday

The day of (mostly) rest. I'd been planning on seeing Lou Barlow and Imperial Teen at Southpaw that night, but ended up taking a pass. A serendipitous decision, as I later discovered via an entry on Douglas's site where he recounted going to Southpaw only to find out that the show had SOLD OUT, so while he could get in with his CMJ badge, his wife Lisa was shut out. Boy, would I have been upset at travelling all the way out to Park Slope only to find that out, as I hadn't gotten advance tickets either. And then I found out from Fluxblog that I missed a free afternoon show by Imperial Teen at the HMV in Union Square, but since that conflicted with the record fair I wouldn't have been able to go anyway.

So while Imperial Teen were no doubt setting up for their show, I headed over to the Metropolitan Pavilion for the WFMU Record Fair a bit after three o'clock. Doors opened at 4pm for the early bird admittance, which I was determined to make after skipping it for the spring record fair and consequently not finding anything good when I showed up for Saturday only. I know some people think it's nuts, but it really is worth shelling out the extra $16 to get free admission for the whole weekend and, most importantly, first crack at the records.. well, along with all the other pathetic collectors also willing to pay extra. (Though I notice that phrase "pathetic collectors," in reference to early admission, was actually missing from the WFMU Record Fair postcard this year. C'mon, we can still laugh at ourselves!)

As I was about to get in line, who should I see but Harvey (not really a surprise since he said he was doing the early admission thing too) with our friend Keith, who promptly darted inside for some pre-fair record wheeling-and-dealing, a privilege he was able to exercise as a seller at the fair. I glanced around as I got in line with Harvey and yup, sure enough, I was the only woman in line... AGAIN. So of course I had to tell Harvey my fall 2001 record fair story, which seemed to amuse him. However, a little later I did notice one or two women had joined the line, which now stretched as far as I could see to Sixth Avenue. Finally!

Once we got inside, Harvey went to find Keith and I began slowly wandering up and down the aisles. Somehow I find it hard to get all worked up like I used to, where I'd madly sprint from one table to the next, consulting my map of the floor and crossing off dealer names once I'd visited their tables. Too stressful.

However, early on I happened upon an amazing table of records -- a great selection of post-punk and new wave LPs, most in pristine condition. Seminal post-punk Rough Trade label comp Wanna Buy A Bridge?, the first Orange Juice LP, a sealed copy of the Go-Betweens' Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express... I pulled out record after record until I had a $100 pile sitting in front of me. Shit, shit, shit. I hadn't brought that much money as I expected a repeat of my experience at the spring fair in May, when I didn't find much. But reaching into my bag to see how much cash I still had, I noticed I'd accidentally taken more money with me than I'd thought. Yeah, now I can buy all of 'em! And I should, right? Must be a sign or somethin'. Riiiiiight. At least that's what I told myself.

Naturally I ended up finding even more records (and some CDs) in the next few hours, leaving me with nothing but pocket change by the time I stumbled out of the Metropolitan Pavilion in a record-shopping daze, fingers grimy from flipping through dusty LPs and shoulder aching from the weight of my stuffed record bag.

After getting home, I briefly contemplated going to the Magic Marker Records showcase at Pete's Candy Store in order to see the Gazetteers, a new band featuring Rob Christiansen of Eggs and Frank Boscoe of Wimp Factor 14 and Vehicle Flips. But by the time I checked the bar's web site to see start times for each of the bands, it was already too late to make it out to Williamsburg in time to see them, as they were apparently going on at 8pm. Too damn early.

Day 3: Saturday

Having done the early bird entry thing the day before, I didn't feel compelled to get up early enough to be at the record fair for Day 2 when doors opened at 10am. Time for extra sleep... zzzzzz... Woke up at around eleven and made plans to meet a friend at the fair a bit later.

But first things first -- I needed to take a trip over to Mercury Lounge to score tickets to a few upcoming shows. The day before I'd checked the listings for sister club Bowery Ballroom on the TicketWeb site, only to find that tickets were already unavailable for the 12/20 Interpol show! (Incidentally, it looks like they've since made available more tix online since you can now get them for both Interpol shows, at least as of this writing.) Cha-ching! was the sound of money exiting my pockets and into the Mercury Lounge cash box as I got tickets for me and my friends for both Interpol shows, plus tickets for The Rapture + LCD Soundsystem. Hey, I could always scalp my extra tix for beaucoup bucks once both shows sell out, which I'm sure they will if prices like this and this on eBay for Interpol recordings are any indication. Insanity! But don't worry friends, I wouldn't do that, no never, nah...

Got to the fair, which was jam-packed with music lovers, including plenty more women than were in attendance yesterday. Met up with my friend and a friend of his not long after arriving. We browsed a bit together, then apart, then together and so on -- our musical tastes are quite different, so this made sense. Also ran into plenty of people, including a couple of former co-workers and Harvey and Keith (again).

It did seem like the day was more socializing than shopping, as the only thing I bought was a 7" single for $3. Then again, probably a positive thing to only have spent that much. My friend found a few things, but only one that ended up being any good, he decided after we listened to some of his finds later. I don't know a damn thing about techno, but even I could hear that the one good record was good and the rest were crap.

Before I knew it it was evening already and time to get ready to go out for another night of music, to see Turing Machine at Luxx. I'd hoped to catch one or two of the other opening acts, but the club schedule indicated that the show started at 6pm (!), and, well, I was busy earlier, goddammit! That's no proper time to start a rock show. So the friend with whom I was going to the show and I decided to meet up a little beforehand then head over to Luxx in time to catch Turing Machine, who were scheduled to go on at 9:30pm.

We got to the club a little after 9:30pm, absolutely no later than 9:45pm, only to find that Turing Machine had already started playing. Aw, bands aren't supposed to hit the stage on time! What's more, the guy at the door said they'd already played about four songs, which means they'd been playing for awhile since their songs tend to be pretty long.

So we moved up front for the last two or three songs, which I really enjoyed. Very propulsive, tight, instrumental rock, with an lots of time signature changes and intricate bits that kept getting woven together before being split apart again. (I would say it's pretty much "math rock," but apparently the band hates that term, so well...) Loved the bassist's drone-y, feedback effect used for song intros/outros. And that drummer is rock-solid, providing the perfect back-drop for the guitarist's hammering rhythms, riffs and lines. Virtuosity.

Once the band had finished, they announced that they were giving away free CDs. Cool! After they broke down their equipment and were wandering around the club, we managed to grab the bassist long enough to get a couple, even as he said (somewhat apologetically), "It's just a rehearsal." No matter -- I've been listening to the disc all day today and it's good, even more (dare I say?) tuneful than their album, A New Machine For Living.

The next scheduled band was Secret Machines, whose set opening for Interpol back in September I'd missed, so I was curious to check them out. We grabbed a couple of seats along the wall in a raised area enclosed by circus-cage style brass pole bars, which was a bit odd, but it was good being high up enough off the main floor to be able to see around the tall people, of which there were far too many in the club that night.

Secret Machines started playing their first song, which was kind of moody, guitar rock, with Flaming Lips-style pop-psych interludes. But in the middle of the song, all of sudden -- poof! -- the sound abruptly stopped and stage went black. Showmanship? No, power failure! The club staff scrambled to get the power back on and the band continued through their set without incident. At least until near the end of what might have been their last song anyway -- power failure redux! That was it, show over. The band left the stage, even though power was once again restored in short order.

We stuck around for awhile later, sitting around talking and listening to Trompe Le Monde play over the sound system in its entirety while wondering if there was going to be another band, since it looked like the stage was being cleared off. Finally someone from the club stepped up to the mic and announced that the headlining band, A.R.E. Weapons would not be performing. They made it sound like the band cancelled or couldn't make it, but I gotta wonder if they were in fact there and just didn't feel like having their set interrupted by even more power failures. Can't say I'd blame 'em.

Sucked for the club though, as we joined the exiting throng soon after the announcement. But given that there would be no more live music at Luxx that night, I couldn't believe what I overheard the door guy saying to someone who was just entering:

"That'll be $10."

Day 4: Sunday

I wasn't planning on doing much Sunday -- maybe going to the record fair, possibly going to see Lou Barlow at Maxwell's that night -- but my vague plans ended up materializing quite solidly, as I managed to find my second wind sometime during the day after getting, quite frankly, not nearly as much sleep as I'd wanted.

Stopped in at the fair for the third day in a row at around 2:30pm, not expecting to find or see much that I hadn't in the previous two days. Every time I've gone on a Sunday it's been less crowded and much calmer, and this day was no exception, as there were far fewer people. Also fewer of the kind intent on elbowing me out of the way to flip through the box of records directly in front of the one I happen to be working on.

Saw a few more people I'd missed on the previous days, including Douglas, who was manning a table spread with releases on his label, Dark Beloved Cloud. Douglas was giving out free "imaginary tattoos" -- mine is the pic at the top of this entry. On the Poloroid he snapped, a blurry close-up of my inner forearm, he drew my requested tattoo: a 45 RPM adapter. I said it kind of looked like a biohazard symbol, hence the addition of orange ink and "Danger!" I should carry this around so the next time I find myself in one of those conversations where people ask each others about tattoos they do or don't have I can brandish it proudly. See!

Though I didn't stay too long, I did find even more things to buy, all bargain-bin items ranging in price from 50 cents to three dollars. Good stuff, too, incl. a Jazz Butcher LP and the new Gazetteers CD, which helped make up for having missed their show the previous night.

After coming home with even more music, I stacked it all on my kitchen table and picked out a few to listen to that night. Weekend over, right? No, no, no. I kept thinking of how I missed seeing Lou Barlow on Friday, so I should really go tonight, esp. since Maxwell's was just a quick bus ride away. I would be kicking myself if I missed it, right?

Hell yeah, I would have kicked myself if I'd missed it and had to find out from someone else how GREAT the show was. But I was there -- I managed to motivate myself off the couch and into Hoboken, arriving at around a quarter to eleven, which I thought would be shortly before Lou Barlow's set. I actually arrived very early, not long after the second (of four) bands took the stage. So I caught most of Alaska's set -- they were fun, somewhat emo (no, really? opening for Lou Barlow?) three-piece pop-rock.

Not thrilled at the prospect of standing around for the next 45 minutes for the next band to set up and play, I headed on over to Benny's for one of the biggest slices of pizza you'll ever see for $1.75. But when I got back less than 40 minutes later, Lou was already onstage, though I think I only missed a song or two. Half the floor was still taken up by people sitting down, so I stood near the back.

First off, the vibe in the room was just so... comfortable. We were all clearly fans who had schlepped out to Hoboken on a Sunday night and spent actual money to see his show. (This wasn't a CMJ event -- no free pass for badge-holders.) What's more, Lou was damn funny! I think I forgot that, or maybe Lou just always seemed more serious because the other guys in Sebadoh were the ones clowning around, but he was plenty entertaining, just him and his guitar onstage. Honest to god, it was the most personally engaging performance I'd seen since Neil Finn's show at Irving Plaza this past summer, and it was miles apart from the Trembling Blue Stars show on Friday, even though Bob Wratten likewise had just his guitar. Sure, Maxwell's is a more intimate performance space than Southpaw, but some people just know to create a rapport with an audience.

A few bits and pieces that I can remember, some more paraphrased that others:

Lou: Okay, the next couple of songs are really depressing ones...

Audience: Yeah! <cheering and applause>

. . . . . . . . . .

Lou: You know why i don't like being here now? CMJ. I feel like such a has-been.

Audience: Awwwwww!

Lou: I've been reading all this music press lately about these up and coming bands, I see people wearing Bright Eyes shirts and think... <feigning emotional choke-up> I should have grabbed my moment!

. . . . . . . . . .

Lou (after playing "Soul & Fire"): You know, being on tour, people come up to me and I hear a lot of stories. So this guy was telling me how his girlfriend had left him, and as she was moving out her things, he played that song for her. While it's nice to know my songs mean something to people, it's also kind of... I think of all the poor women who have to listen to that... my songs are being used to inflict pain on these women!

. . . . . . . . . .

Lou: Jason [Loewenstein, Sebadoh bassist] said he was going to be here. Is he out there? No? Huh, I was at his show last night. <grin>

As entertaining as the acoustic set was, it turned out to be only part of the set. Lou called out for his drummer and bassist to come onstage, playing an impromptu Ratt cover ("Round and Round") while they prepared. And then the three of them launched right into...

..."The Freed Pig"! A crowd-pleasing, familiar kick-in-the-pants for all of us to get up and start moving, as the sitters sprang up from the floor and I climbed up to the top step of the riser against the wall for a better view. Those guys bashed out a fucking energetic, enthusiastic rendition of my favorite Sebadoh song, and it nearly brought me to tears, I was so overcome with nostalgia. Aw, man. And then three more electric songs, all oldies and crowd-pleasers, including "Rebound," another favorite of mine.

Encore, encore! And despite the lateness of the hour, and his self-professed tiredness, Lou delivered one, playing three acoustic numbers, ending with "Magnet's Coil."

I was feeling so exhilarated after the show that, even though I only had fifteen minutes before the last bus back to Manhattan, I bought a CD and went up to the stage to talk to Lou. I grabbed his attention, just said "hi," that I really enjoyed the show, and that it made me nostalgic for early 90's Boston. As soon as I said that last bit, Lou stepped back a bit and started looking at me funny, and was all like, "wait... I know you..." I just laughed and said I seriously didn't think he would have recognized me at all. I mean, it had probably been ten years since I'd last seen him and even then I was just a friend-of-a-friend. He was still trying to figure out who I was when I finally said, "I used to work at In Your Ear... with [ex-Sebadoh drummer] Bob Fay." "Oh yeah!..." So we talked for a minute or two, then I said a hasty good-bye so I could get the hell out of there in time to catch the bus.

I boarded the bus, the only person on the #126 back to Manhattan that night. After disembarking at Port Authority, I skipped home on a musical high before crashing into bed and sleeping for a long, long time.

Posted by nstop at November 05, 2002 01:04 AM


secret machines are one of my favorite live bands right now. their album doesn't do them justice, though. you should try to catch them again.

keep on rockin.

Posted by: dave on November 12, 2002 12:13 PM

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