I attended a pretty excellent concert last night, thanks to CMJ. It was a showcase for ROUGH TRADE records and included four bands, with the vague promise of a fifth. (belle and sebastian were rumored to appear as a "surprise guest" and they truly surprised everyone by not showing up. there might have been a replacement scheduled and, during one band's set i dreamed that replacement was the pixies and i could brag about it until i was dead but, after quizzing a couple audience members and getting no answers, i came up with no answers. because i'm old, i decided i'd just leave before a fifth took the stage and just take my chances on them either not showing, or sucking really hard.)
The Fiery Furnaces opened the show. It was the first time I'd seen them but I would see them a hundred more times, I think. They were super rock and roll, and I could feel the audience gradually getting a collective erection for the female lead singer. In rock bands, female lead singers, especially tall, snaky ones, are always erotically charged and this woman was doubly so because she played guitar, instead of stupid bass. I used have a huge crush on Freda Boner (later Freda Love) from The Blake Babies, mostly because she was a drummer. I'm not even sure I can remember what she looked like, honestly. It was just refreshing to see her banging away like a crazy, feral child instead of absent-mindedly plunking along on bass, another Robert Palmer back-up musician faking it. The woman from The Fiery Furnaces went nuts and didn't even break the fantasy by doing that thing many female leads are inclined to do onstage i.e. drape themselves all over their male bandmates and have sex with four black guys in zorro masks onstage. The Fiery Furnaces, you've got class!
The British Sea Power were up next, and I bought my ticket based solely on a desire to see them play live. They took the stage in lo-fi costume - white socks pulled up tight, stretched over jerked-up pantlegs, British WWI helmets and scarves and, in one member's case, a veil of plastic flowers hanging over his face like verdant bangs. The band was wonderfully, playfully pretentious and although sound mix problems set them off to a bad start, they had a really strong finish. By the end of the set, one member was shoeless, another had only one shoe remaining, and I had lost my mittens and thermos cap.
It made me sort of sick that The British Sea Power had to perform beneath Adam Green in the bill, but so be it. Adam Green was the kid who dressed like Peter Pan in his old band, The Moldy Peaches, and back when he was 14 he could be forgiven for being halfway retarded. Sorry, Adam, time's up. Now he dresses like Julian Casablancas, but still behaves like Tiny Tim. (and not the good, crippled one. the other one, with all the tulips and shit.)
Adam Green is frustrating. His songs are knowingly, winkingly inspid and awfully short. Their brevity is both a blessing and a curse, I suppose. At under 3 minutes each, for sure, and usually under 2 minutes, you know each song will be over soon but you cannot console yourself in this fact, because there might be twenty-five more of them before his set is over. He had some genuinely adoring fans in the audience, too, and they all sang along as he warbled about Jessica Simpson and putting pee pee in his poopie hole. Is it cool to like Adam Green? I want to know, because when I hear him I think, "hey, this would be an awesome song to hear...on the Dr. Demento Radio Hour." Why is Adam Green any different than, say, those guys who sang about dead puppies? His only distinction is his Lower East Side greasiness, and knowing how to wear the right rinse of denim.
The night's headliners, The Kills, get compared to the White Stripes, primarily because the band is just a boy and a girl and an electric guitar and a drum machine. (meg is sort of a drum machine, isn't she?) However, their stage dynamics are weirder, scarier than anything I've ever seen coming from The White Stripes. Whereas Jack and Meg seem playful, and celebratory, the skinny junky lady and the older British guy who probably burns his girlfriends with cigarettes and likes to put their heads in the toilet while he's having sex with them (sorry, but i don't know their real names) are angry, drugged, and deliberately sexually-charged. When they sing together on a single microphone, their lips almost intersect, like their trying to mouth-feed each other their pre-chewed lyrics. They were excellent to watch, partly because you weren't sure if the female singer would fall over, and partly because you wondered if they'd fuck right there, onstage. That makes for a fun show. I left the show thinking He was an abusive lover and she was completely dead inside. If they were The Carpenters, that would probably be the wrong way to enjoy the music. However, they're a loud, bluesy duo, so I'm sure they're pretty aware of the images they've conjured.
More and more now, I'm seeing people with digital cameras at these shows. They hold them lofted above their heads and from a distance and height (i was in the balcony for the first two bands) the illuminated view-finders held high look like flickering lighters. It's actually sort of nice, even if I know the end result will be that someone is snapping pictures, thinking, "fuck, I can't wait to blog this!" Kind of like me.