Husker Du? Bob Mould, Irving Plaza, New York City, March 13, 2008

BLISTERING.

Bob Mould played Irving Plaza last night. Oh. My. God.

Mould, along with Grant Hart, made up most of the hugely influential and revered post-punk band Husker Du, which slammed out of Minneapolis in the early 80s.

[The band was named for a Scandinavian “Concentration”-like memory board game briefly popular in the 70s. Said game is remembered mainly for its peculiar and opaque Euro-flavor TV ads. Think Mentos commercials.]

Husker Du means, “Do You Remember?”

Did I ever! Last night Fugazi Fan and I remembered a freezing snowy night in ’86 with Husker Du boiling up the mosh pit at Irving. And their final tour in ’87, at the Ritz. I remembered being tossed off the edge of the mosh pit like a piece of flotsam, my then-Olive-Oyl-like build no match for the crazed and beefy boys smashing around in the center.

Bob hadn’t played any Husker in a long time. Did HE Remember? He did come out on tour last year, and for the first time in probably a decade played a coupla Husker tunes and stuff from his second band, Sugar. And last night he did it again.

Stupendous. Opening with newer stuff, Mould built giant slabs of guitar brilliance, submerging the melodic lines beneath frenzied layers of speed and bass. His unmistakable vocals, mixing anger, hope, rue, passion, and white-hot energy, was too hoarse for the softer songs at the end. No matter.

“I Apologize” is still one of the most satisfying bitter no-apology breakup songs ever, and the band just screamed off the charts on the rest of the material. A huge “Celebrated Summer” led to the classic “Divide and Conquer”, its lyrics still resonant today:
“It’s not about my politics
Something happened way too quick
A bunch of men who played it sick
They divide, conquer

It’s all here before your eyes
Safety is a big disguise
That hides among the other lies
They divide, conquer. . .”

By the time they opened the second encore with “Chartered Trips” from Zen Arcade I was beyond bliss.

Thank goodness I was beyond the mosh pit, too. But not the memory. Screaming, speed, intensity, brilliance. Ahh.

Here’s the set list, thanks to twi-ny.com:
The Act We Act
A Good Idea
I Hate Alternative Rock
See a Little Light
Hoover Dam
I Am Vision, I Am Sound
Hanging Tree
Miniature Parade
Your Favorite Thing
Again and Again
Circles
Paralyzed
Can’t Help You Anymore
I Apologize (Husker, from New Day Rising)
Celebrated Summer (Husker, from New Day Rising)
Divide and Conquer (Husker, from Flip Your Wig)

Moving Trucks
Egoverride
If I Can’t Change Your Mind

Chartered Trips (Husker, from Zen Arcade)
Makes No Sense at All (Husker, from Flip Your Wig)

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Justice at WAMU Theatre, New York City, March 11, 2008

Well, I saw Justice back in October, at the CMJ festival in NYC.
And they’re back. And so is another review, with VIDEO! VIDEO! VIDEO!, as part of the “myspace music tour,” which signally failed to sell out Madison Square Garden and wound up ignominiously demoted to the WAMU Theatre instead.

Frenchmen Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay hail from Paris, France, where their success anchors the heavily self-promotional Ed Banger record label, known primarily for its particularly dirty, messy, over-the-top electrodisco dance aesthetic.

Satisfying their mainly youthful fans with MTV megahits “D.A.N.C.E.” and “We Are
Your Friends,” the duo put on a stupendous show, perched high atop stacks of gear festooned with flashing lights (most of which, i suspect, had no discernable purpose save decoration) and enthroned between perfectly matched twin banks of massive Marshall amps, their trademark glowing cross front and center.

Something so invidiously schticky-sweet about their show percolated thru the beats. The machine gun-speed loops, the hammering blips and bleeps, the high-frequency strobes and blazing kliegs. . . like eating crappy candy. I kept listening, even tho’ I knew I’d get a headache. Perhaps only video can communicate the true rock candy flavor:

Despite the sirens, pounding bass, a relentless four-on-the-floor disco rhythm, and crescendos that alternately call to mind airplane engines and helicopters, there’s a bit of hollow disconnect — they make no call for real justice; their cross resonates with no Catholic–or even faintly Christian–aesthetic. Justice is all about the mass DANCE and nothing else. Such purity may be refreshing, after all.

Incredibly enough, their hit “D.A.N.C.E” with its little-kid sing-song alphabet vocals, won Best Video at the MTV Europe Music Awards, so pissing off Kanye West that he went onstage to complain about it. Their show verges on the cartoonish at times–piling obvious hokey reference on reference, and throwing a LOT of heavy metal/rock allusions around, what with the giant amps, ambulance lights, and dry ice “smoke” and all. A good part of their schtick depends on the Metallica in the mix, along with the “Billie Jean.”

But sample spotting was not the main attraction, as insane bass lines at huge volume thudded thru everybody’s insides, pounding the audience into a joyful, sweaty, booty-shaking electrorockdisco climax again and again. The WAMU Theatre was formerly the Felt Forum, home to many a powerful boxing match in its day. Tuesday night, Gaspard and Xavier pounded the turntables as hard as any boxer ever pounded an opponent — and pretty much emerged victorious.

Chromeo at WAMU Theater, New York City, March 11, 2008

Chromeo at WAMU theater, New York City Fun, fun, fun, but what a wacky venue! Dance music hotties Chromeo and Justice played Tuesday nightat the WAMU theater in nyc’s MSG, as part of the “myspace music tour” .

What the hell is that? Well, the “myspace music tour” is about as superannuated as I felt at the show. The “myspace” tour seems to have hit after myspace itself was hot. Cuz the WAMU is a little theater – a side room of Madison Square Garden. (That side room was originally known as the Felt Forum, back in the day.) A MUCH smaller venue than MSG itself. Kinda had a “playroom downstairs” feel.

Justice and Chromeo were booked for the “big room” –the stadium — but ignominiously failing to sell enough tix to fill even 1/4 of the World’s Most Famous Arena, they were demoted to the dinner-theatre ambience of WAMU.

But it felt kinda like the playroom, as oh-so-rock-star Dave Maclovitch, the guitarist of Chromeo, struck some tasty poses

for the teens and tweens and 20-somethings in the crowd. “We’re Chro–me–oh and we are here to get you DOWN!” He and bandmate Patrick Gemayel’s

infectious sampling of oh, say every p-funk and Prince riff to ever hit the radio, plus some judicious Hot Cherry licks, got everybody bouncing. The insane subsonic bass on “Fancy Footwork,” introduced by an invitation for everyone to two-step, came hot after “Bona Fide Lover” with its hilariously deadpan guitar solo opening. No one was sitting in the comfy seats.

Too much fun! Chromeo knows their shit, and they dj the electrofunk with so much good nature and enthusiasm I had to love ’em. (Plus I love p-funk and 70s funk stuff so much that if they just played a bunch of old 45s I’d be happy.) Wikipedia note: I learned that Dave is A-Trak’s older brother (A-Trak is Kanye West’s dj)- that prob helped this Montreal-based duo get a leg up.

A leg up –Har har! Their gear was perched on goofy leg stands – inevitably calling up memories of that “major award!” of Christmas Story

Chromeo judiciously mines some of the most stupid-ass irresistable hooks from 70s and 80s radio staples – including the opening to the “logical” song by Supertramp, which they wove into “Momma’s Boy” (I think that’s the title.)

Dave made a rueful allusion to their demotion by saying, “I guess we are playing Madison Square Garden! and I thought if I ever played a stadium, I’d have to play this — and they rode off into Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. The crowd didn’t believe it, and next song was back to the booty-shaking evocations of Bootsy Collins-era funk that played. . . before these kids were born.

What the hell. The incredibly cute little blonde chick next to me kept asking if my hubby and I had any pot, offered to share her beer, petted my hair and apologized when she drunkenly fell on me, and well, the kids are alright. They always are.

The interstitial music included the original “Logical Song” from Supertramp, plus LCD Soundsystem’s immortal “Daft Punk is playing at My house” and Goldfrapp’s “Ride a White Horse” – a perfect segue into Justice’s set. Review of said set, with ORIGINAL VIDEO! VIDEO! VIDEO! will be up in thisspace tomorrow. Stay tuned!

[credit all fabulous photos to This Week in New York Many more up on the separate and fabulous This Week in New York flickr site.

2008 PLUG Awards – Dizzee Rascal and Nick Cave

Last night I had my hands on a ticket to the PLUG Independent Music Awards on Thurs night. The show sold out in minutes, weeks ago.

Why? Who cares about a bunch of self-involved hipsters congratulating each other and engaging in petty rivalries in the tiny, overheated faux-mom’s-basement world of alt/indie music?

No one does. Host Patton Oswalt could barely keep the crowd focused on the awards, delivered via self-consciously lo-fi, yet still painful and pitiful graphics projected on what strongly resembled a 70s filmstrip screen.

Everyone in the place was there to see DIZZEE RASCAL and NICK CAVE. (So skip to the bold if that’s all you care about!)

First, a nice set by St. Vincent, whose super-cute, minute, black-haired vocalist won best Female Artist. Mixing a rather Robert Plant-like “In the Evening”-style delivery into songs that started melodic and devolved into arrhythmic screechy noise, St. Vincent managed to evoke Sonic Youth without actually sounding like them. Or as good as them, tho’ my companion liked them quite a bit more than I did. Next, the Forms delivered a limp and forgettable set, while I got some free candy in the ladies’ room. Not THAT kind– there were bowls of sponsor Dell’s Funtime chocolate wafer bars. Ewwww-w-w-w-w. Tasty food, bathroom stalls. That’s a bad equation there, young marketing whizzes.

Jose Gonzalez, nominee for best “Americana” album or artist or something, sat lonely in a spotlight strumming his acoustic guitar.

Much hyped, much loved, Jose and his “Americana” cohorts mystify me. I just want to pull a John Belushi-on-the-stairs with those children’s fucking acoustic guitars. Stop fucking gazing into the distance and plucking melancholic tunes. Just STOP. Stalwart concert-going pal Leyla turned to me during the set and said, “I just keep thinking Jose Feliciano.”

Dizzee Rascal finally took the stage.

in a cool black t-shirt and white cap (cap back of course), he delivered a blistering four-song set. The first tune was only a snippet; the second, with its lyrics “on the 3s and 4s” got stronger and stronger. By the time he was folding, flipping, and twisting the English language, putting it thru paces and places it has not been before, the crowd was roaring. Last song, his hit “Fix Up, Look Sharp” (an MTV Shortlist winner in 2005), picked up maniacal speed and perfect cadence – and ended.

I saw Dizzee gesturing off backstage left — looked like he asked for more time, but no go. He marched off stage right to the only calls of “Encore” heard all night. Really sucked, cuz by all reports he tore up the place at every British festival where he appeared last summer. That kind of brilliance onstage throws massive shade on everything else – and last night was pretty dim already.

Stalwart concert-going pal Leyla begged off at 9:45, as the dull, dull show droned on. Oh, the pain!

But at 9:50 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds took the stage for a nine-song, 45-minute set that was worth all the waiting.

Nick’s menacing, hollow, booming delivery hasn’t changed too much over the years. (I’ve been a fan since Birthday Party days, when oh yes, I thought he was so ugly fucking crazy dirty hot. Reorder those adjectives anyway you want, and they still work.)

Stalking the stage last night, still cadaverously slim but sporting a VERY unfortunate porn stache below his megalocephalic expanse of forehead, Cave called up images of lone, tubercular, Western gunmen, as his theatrical baritone intoned images of blood, murder, the Sandman, little children, God, and the rest of his particular, peculiar Gothic universe.

Cave does American and calls out the dark in it, something the youngsters twee-dling their way thru Iron & Wine and Jose Gonzalez don’t. It’s not lace and loneliness and winsome sad trailerparks, nor sweet bluebirds of Appalachia, it’s black-hearted men and women and violence and greed. It’s the “Deadwood” aesthetic over a punk beat, with some powerful rock ‘n’ roll guitar pounding down the nails. Cave’s always been able to find that edgy echo to his Australian outlaw wilderness in our American West.

For the fans: set opened with “Midnight Man,” followed by the excellent, rather post-modern lyrics of “We Call Upon the Author” and its insistent chorus demanding an “offer to EXPLAIN.” Next, “Red Right Hand” (with some fine snake-oil theatrical arm gestures) from 2004’s Abbatoir Blues featured two crashing climaxes, mid-song and end. Then “Tupelo,” with its images of “the Sandman.. . the little children know,” and the refrain “Oh God help Tupelo” brought out the eerie. “Lie Down Here and Be My Girl” next, and as we commented on Cave’s dark, cautionary tales, what’s up next but Cave’s stupendous interpretation of “Stagger Lee” with a “bucket of blood,” a Colt .45 and a deck of cards. And at last, a rollicking encore of “More News from Nowhere.”

More news from nowhere; well, LOL — you can find that list of PLUG award-winners elsewhere. I was there for the show.

oh, also appearing:

The National (whom I like – see my review of their South Street Seaport show this summer) showed up to actually claim an award, as did a mega-weird fave of mine, Battles (also reviewed here re: their South Street Seaport show). YAWNNNNNN.