Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I saw some great sets last week with some old and new favorite bands. The Monday night, August 10, residency of Local Natives packed Spaceland with the addition of a brace of Red Cortez fans storming the place, and they were rewarded with a powerful set of rock and roll from this amazing band
Red Cortez (above) just blazed through their material like a house afire. Unfortunately I got there after they had begun, so it was impossible to penetrate the crush of people up front. So I hung around in back where I could tell how great their set was, but also knew I was missing the full impact. I really love their new material and they continue to get tighter and tighter as a live band.

Local Natives came on and sang the hell out of their set. Can this band ever sing. Great vocal harmonies and solid songwriting combine for a terrific concoction of bright, shiny indie rock. I saw them in May at this venue, but with so many memorable shows this summer, I'm afraid I had forgotten how good they are. I have their EP, but I don't think it really hints at how strong they are live. Love the cover of Talking Heads "Warning Sign".

Wednesday, August 12, 2009, I unexpectedly walked into a super show at The Knitting Factory.
I wanted to go to show up for Avi Buffalo's first show ever at this venue, for The Parson Red Heads set, because they always sound great here, and to check out Roadside Graves, who turned out to be just as good as their myspace page suggested.

I'm sorry I missed the beginning of their set, but from the point I got there, Roadside Graves (above) made each song build on the previous one, so that, at first I found the band agreeable, then engaging, eventually intriguing and finally winning. The place wasn't packed, but those who were there were highly enthusiastic, greeting each song with increasing applause.

Avi Buffalo set up quickly and quietly and before you knew it, they were ready to go. And then they plainly and simply blasted off into the stratosphere, while we, back on earth, just stood there all agog at the magical display in the sky, over our heads.

I don't know what more this band can do, but this set achieved such a rare kind of musical brilliance that had me stunned, right down to the song order, that it's hard for me to imagine being topped. Usually after I've seen a band a dozen times or so, I begin to taper off, but this set, kind of like Red Cortez on Monday, makes me want to keep going to their every show.

Beginning with "Summer Cum" and moving through favorites like "What's In It For" and "Where's Your Dirty Mind", I was reminded at once of how beautiful their music is...hypnotically so. Matched by the entire band's astonishing mastery of their instruments and topped off by evocative lyrics that are simultaneously cryptic and direct, sometimes even confrontational.

So many stylistic elements are blended here, they're hard to pigeonhole, let's just acknowledge them as musical adventurers exploring uncharted terrain. The audience seemed to agree. I looked around after a couple of songs and the entire room was mesmerized. Ending with a new song, they left the audience hungry for more.

It takes a strong and brave band to follow a set like that, but The Parson Red Heads pulled it off. I thought it curious they began with a couple of quieter, slower song because the audience felt a noticeable drop in energy. But these are The Parson Red Heads and their songs have a tendency to build and build, sweeping the audience up with their growing ebullience.
They are pop song masters, but the songs are always anchored by their shimmering, psychedelic rock guitars that literally quicken the pulse, fed by the glowing harmonic vocals. By the middle of their set the audience was hopping and bopping all over the place. This was one spectacular show, that just sprang up out of nowhere, and it just reminded me how sorry I will be to see The Knitting Factory close in the fall.

(thanks to Doug Kresse for the Avi Buffalo and The Parson Red Heads photos)

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