Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Felice Brothers, 6/15/12, Brooklyn Bowl, NYC

The Felice Brothers, 6/15/12, Brooklyn Bowl, NYC

"Revelations come at you fast behind the Food Emporium." - Jon Bevo

It is impossible to discuss The Felice Brothers without first understanding where they hail from. The Catskill Mountains of New York, located below Albany and above Harriman, are not considered the "North Country", but they are the definition of "Upstate". Despite what you may think, this stretch of land is not just a collection of Thruway Rest Stops separated by 33+ miles each. The Catskills boomed in the 40's, 50's & 60's as a weekend getaway from NYC (Borscht Belt Comedy, anyone?), but that initial excitement eventually declined, as traveling farther distances became easier, more accessible, and less expensive. So, while the classic Catskill resort towns still exist, many been allowed to decompose. Passing through some of these towns can be haunting. Spooky seasonal resort towns aside, it is also an area of beautiful farmland and forests, where both Rednecks and Liberals reside, Blue Collar workers can afford to raise a family (though, the commute can destroy one's soul), artists can isolate and surround themselves with nature, and fringe individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder can find solace. A place where sects of Hasidics are considered landmarks when giving driving directions, "When you see the Jews walking, make a right." An area with ski mountains of convenience-- they're not great, but if you're desperate and don't mind incredibly dangerous ice that makes every hideous fall count-- they'll do. The Catskills contain many specific ingredients, that can leave their strange imprint on creative children who are bored/inspired/brilliant enough to invent the uniquely weird sound that The Felice Brothers have given birth to. Or perhaps they are merely channeling it?

A friend caught The Felice Brothers last Fall at Webster Hall and said it reminded him of doing whippits for the first time behind the Food Emporium when he was 14 years old. And after seeing them for the first time at Brooklyn Bowl last Friday, that all kind of makes sense. Though, I've never liked whippits, but it definitely felt like there could have been Moonshine, lighter fluid, and a Waldbaum's involved.

On a weekend where live music fans had seemingly fled NYC for Phish in Atlantic City, Brooklyn Bowl was PACKED (The Northside Music Festival may or may not have contributed). The crowd was interesting, dedicated, and really fun. They were definitely there for the music, which brought with it an energized vibe. The bar was also giving away free Heinekens for a brief time. This may have been like throwing fuel on the fire for a few folks, but to The Felice Brothers' crowds' credit- I saw more than a few people turn down a free Heineken, to pay for a tasty microbrew instead. We had a lovely dinner during the opening bands, who made no impression on either of us. Mark generously and graciously donated a little bit of his fried chicken skin to me (who says chivalry is dead?) as I hit up my regular Chicken Burger w/ Bacon & Cheddar.

And then the Felice Brothers took the stage and it was like a being sucked into a vaccuum-- WHOOOOOSH: TUNNEL VISION. Having nothing to do with the fine Rum Punch concocted by a really cute bartender, there was a super-charged jolt of energy and the band grabbed Brooklyn Bowl by the balls and yanked it around violently (in an enjoyable way). Cacophonous Irish Ragtime Dylan Pogues Clash Sesame Street Tom Waits Lou Reed David Bowie Pavementesque NOISE. It could have easily been an ether soaked dream sequence in Ye Olde Timey Western, where a bar brawl could break out at any second if you looked at someone the wrong way, so ONLY LOOK AT THE BAND. What lines do you cross? Is it safe to stand here? Why am I drinking sassafras? But everyone seemed to be behaving themselves and the band had 100% full control of the situation. They had hypnotized the audience with this strange Catskills Magic they do so well. Hoodoo? They do. It was quite profound. The Felice Brothers are Snake-Charmers. Witches. BURN THEM!!

I'm not familiar with too many song titles, and have failed miserably in hunting down a setlist, but they played favorites like Run Chicken Run, Fire at the Pageant, Take This Bread, and Whiskey In My Whiskey-- one of the handful of songs to which we were treated to a special singalong by a falling-over-drunk dude screaming at the top of his lungs at the back of our heads until his girlfriend/escort took him away. Fortunately, that was not before we got at least one memorable nugget of wisdom from him. For as the band were explaining that this was only the second time they've ever played at a bowling alley-- the first was at Lebowski-fest in Louisville, KY, our drunk hero belted out a hearty, "FUCK CALIFORNIA!!!"

My ears were ringing when I left, but I'm still sort of glad I didn't put the earplugs in, cuz I don't think I would have experienced every single layer of weird if it were 15db quieter, and I desperately needed to experience every single layer of weird that was going on, in a strange, compulsive way. Did you ever hear the stories about those really popular Chinese restaurants with lines inexplicably stretching for blocks, only to be revealed that they had been sprinkling Opium into their food the whole time? Yeah, that. I want more Felice Brothers in my life.

Stand on your head for 14 minutes and then have someone punch you in the face. This show was fucking fantastic. The Felice Brothers, 6/15/12, Brooklyn Bowl, NYC: 9.5 HUZZAHS!!! FUCK THE CORIOLIS EFFECT!!!

UPDATE: We've got a setlist, folks! Thanks to Sean on Facebook for the link to itrainmonkeys' post on Frankie's Gun Forum, and thanks to itrainmonkeys for the setlist.

All notes by itrainmonkeys. (I just wanted to type "itrainmonkeys" again)
itrainmonkeys' SETLIST:
Intro jam
Honda Civic
New song (I'm calling "Red Mustang" for now)
Ponzi > Take this Bread
White Limo
Back in the Dancehalls
Her Eyes Dart 'Round
New Farley Song (lyrics like "dream on what could have been" and "smiling faces, sweet embraces". features Ian on harmonica)
Got What I Need (Ian and James alone)
Fire at the Pageant
Run Chicken Run
New Song (i'm calling "Cumberland Gap" for now. They mentioned it being a bit of a square dance kind of song...lots of dancing on this one)
Loser Take All
Whiskey in my Whiskey
Frankie's Gun
Cus's Catskill Gym


Forever Green
Helen Frye

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Radiohead, 6/1/12, Prudential Center, Newark, NJ

Radiohead, 6/1/12, Prudential Center, Newark, NJ

"Last night was one intense set of music...I don't even know if I can comment on it being good or bad...but it was INTENSE. The production is stellar, and my eyes, ears, and a small section of my brain are a little sore this morning. ENJOY!" - Michael Weiss

"Remember where we are going tonight. This is not the type of event to just get drunk, dance, and show your friends the new t-shirt you bought at the merch table. This is here for you to elevate your humanity. Not in the sense that it will make you happier. You may leave feeling far worse than when you arrived. Worse in the sense that you will have absorbed the collective paranoia that encases our human experience. The unsolvable paradox that we are all one, but also trapped inside our mortal isolation. But where is there greater comfort than in feeling that you are not alone, even as you ultimately are... This event will not answer your questions, but it will help you to ask the correct ones." - Jon Bevo

"Do you feel anything weird? Because your neck muscles are twitching uncontrollably." - Greg, my Physical Therapist

Welcome Back! My bloggy and live music responsibilities were put on hold for couple of months while I was involved in a massive work project. Thanks for your patience. Let's go!

The aforementioned quotes were ones offered to me in the hours leading up to the 2nd Radiohead show at the shiny, new, Prudential Center in beautiful Downtown Newark last week. This was my first Radiohead show, and I had mixed expectations.  Basically, people who are really into them talk of their live shows as if they are the most orgasmic live music experience on the face of the planet (the Mole People would surely disagree-- they prefer Maroon 5) and I do have an open mind, but there's just no way.  Then you've got the people who don't like Radiohead and are not shy to share that opinion- ie, "At least the lights are pretty" - my friend Mark, re: Radiohead, 5/31/12. And so it seems, to the Outsider at least, that Radiohead don't seem to have many casual listeners-- you're either all-in, or all-out. I've really enjoyed a couple of their albums, but others, quite honestly, bore the shit out of me. Sometimes I just don't get it. My short attention span and desire to stay away from my dark and depressed philosophical side have really prevented me from pursuing True Radiohead Fandom. And this is why my expectations were mixed. I was confused. It's confusing.

Additionally, as you may have noted in the quotes above, it seemed that the crash gig I completed the night before (at approximately 11PM) left my neck muscles in constant spasm (still happening, btw-- good times). Between the physical and mental exhaustion, I kind of wanted nothing more than to eat ibuprofen and crawl into bed in my dark room for a week. Instead, I was headed towards what I feared would be an assault on every single one of my senses. I was in a very delicate state and just needed Radiohead to be kind. 

I met the crew around back of the arena at Brick City, where I completely avoided alcohol, due to the fear of falling asleep. We were having such a lovely time discussing Bath Salts and Zombies, we totally missed the opening act, Caribou. I was okay with this, as Caribou's official bio description includes the word "dubstep". That's one midget notch up from Raggaeton.

Upon entry, I spied a disclaimer that there would be strobe lights in effect during the performance, and felt relief in the fact that my migraine RX was on hand. We hit our seats just as the lights dimmed and the stage lit up. The stage design was pretty inventive, unique, and brilliant. Giant square LED TV screens were magically arranging themselves mid-air, and would continue to shift positions for each song. The band was essentially backlit the entire night, but there were some fill lights on either side of the stage, hitting them horizontally. Thusly, the light show consisted of various abstract flashing light patterns and CU's of Radiohead ROCKING THE FUCK OUT, on the giant back screen, the shifting floaty squares, and a banner of squares across the top of the stage. Pretty fucking cool.

The music itself was pretty rockin' too, and the energy level was high enough to keep me interested throughout the entire set. They slowed it down a couple of times, which I believe were the "crawl into fetal position and contemplate your puny status in the Universe" moments that I typically avoid. But these were quite pretty and they mixed the high-energy Rock into it enough that I really enjoyed the entire set. They also peppered some new stuff in and I didn't notice many people jetting for the bathrooms (we'll come back to that).

Every time Thom Yorke did his wacky possessed noodle dance, the crowd went apeshit. There is a direct correlation there. I got pretty excited too. It's like he's got a Tesla Coil strapped to his balls, but he's learned to use it to his advantage and our entertainment. He was also sporting a teeny little man ponytail, which didn't quite do it for me. We wondered out loud if he's ever been confused with a bird that got trapped in an oil spill, and if Greenpeacers ever tackle him and wash him down with warm water and Dawn Liquid Soap. "Just HOLD STILL! Stop squirming! Soon you will be free, little bird! FREEEE!!!" CAAAAWWW!!!

But the peak of the night was most definitely Idioteque, in which they really got the crowd really pumped and moving around.  An amazing energy filled the arena, and at the absolute climax, Yorke announced, "Fuck it." and walked off stage, leaving a stunned band, and a puzzled audience in his wake. A few minutes of silence followed before they eventually returned to stage for "Encore 1"

Idioteque. Thom York gets cranky around 3:20.

His crankiness was supposedly due to a combination of sound problems and the fact that he was sick and hadn't slept at all the night before (not sure if this also explains the hair). I feel ya, Thom. He then sang How To Disappear Completely. Oh, you ol' so and so, I get it! To end "Encore 2", they did part of REM's The One I Love, which was cool, and then one by one, the band walked off during Everything In Its Right Place.

It was a cool show, which I enjoyed way more than I expected (especially since I tried not to bob my head so much and irritate my neck muscles any further-- HAHAHA tried.). So much so, that I didn't bother taking a bathroom break, and by the end, I was seriously ready to burst. Much to my surprise and dismay, the bathroom line was really long! I didn't realize there were so many chicks into Radiohead. "I peed myself in GA!" said the Drunk Jersey Girl in her 20's in the bathroom line ahead of me after the show. "Recently?" I inquired, thinking "GA" meant "Georgia", and guessing she was On Tour or something, but apparently she had meant "General Admission" aka, the floor. "5 minutes ago!!!  It was all so awesome--- and then I just peed myself!!!" She and her friend were both excited and impressed by her fortitude/devotion. Then she showed me the $200 worth of merch she'd purchased while the line slowly moved along. I bring this up not only because it was an interesting exchange, but also because it may have proved the first part of Bevo's earlier quote wrong.   Hm…

Weiss was on-point, the show was definitely "INTENSE". Also, pretty great. I'd totally see them again. Probably not for more than $60… and I'm never going to be at the level where I'll be reaching out into the air to dramatically grasp the music and then piss myself. But, yah, I will totally see them again.

The night definitely pushed me over the edge of physical exhaustion and/or I caught whatever Thom Yorke was suffering from, because I have been sick ever since. Or perhaps this is just the 2nd half of whatever the fuck Bevo was talking about, incubating in my body? If that's the case, I definitely don't get it. People enjoy this? "Elevating (my) humanity" feels like I've been hit by a truck. Fuck that. And when I was finally able to get to sleep on Friday night, I had some seriously fucked up nightmares that included spiders spinning my skull in their web like a dying fly they were about to feast on. Then another nightmare about work. UGH. Then some more nightmares about some other crazy shit. Eventually it was 10AM and I realized my plans to go to Mountain Jam and rock out with American Babies were realistically: batshit nuts. I could barely lift my head up, let alone get in a car for 2 hours (Greg would not be pleased). That's why the next post on the blog will not be a review of Saturday at Mountain Jam-- because instead of attempting to have more fun, I ate some tylenol, went back to sleep, and had more nightmares. Does this make me a Radiohead fan? Or just a better person?  I'm still confused.

Thom Yorke Flu.  Fuck you, Thom Yorke, for making me sick. But still, thanks for a really exciting and cool show!

So, the burning correct question is: Can one be a casual Radiohead fan? Methinks: yes. Maybe. Radiohead, 6/1/12, Prudential Center, NJ: 8.3 HUZZAHS!!!

15 Step
Kid A
The Daily Mail
The Gloaming
Pyramid Song
Morning Mr. Magpie
Lotus Flower
The National Anthem

How to Disappear Completely
Go to Sleep
Paranoid Android 

Give Up the Ghost
The One I Love/Everything In Its Right Place