Friday, April 18, 2014

Neutral Milk Hotel Played Albuquerque's Kiva Auditorium with Elf Power, 4/17/14


Last night I got a second chance. Back in January, right around my birthday, I got a nasty bout of the flu that prevented me from heading into Jersey City to see Neutral Milk Hotel. Brooklyn What frontman and Jersey Beat columnist, Jamie Frey, used my tickets that night and did a review of the show, while I sat home spinning cuts from my Neutral Milk Hotel vinyl box set.

A few months later, while planning our trip to New Mexico to visit CoolMom's dad, I went hunting for shows that we could see while we had built-in babysitting. And right there, smack in the middle of our stay, was a stop by Neutral Milk Hotel in Albuquerque, just 20 minutes from where we were staying. I jumped on tickets.

We left the cooldaughters with their grandparents and headed into the city for the show. After a few beverages, we headed into the Albuquerque Convention Center's Kiva Auditorium. There was a small merch table selling t-shirts, records, and tote bags. Sadly, I didn't find any copies of the show poster for sale.

We made our way into the auditorium. The 2300-seat, single-level space reminded me a bit of a high-school auditorium -- no painted ceilings or cornices, no elaborately detailed curtains. It was just a comfortable, nondescript, utilitarian performance space. We sat in a relatively sparsely populated section at stage left.

Neutral Milk Hotel's fellow Elephant 6 alum and 1998 tour partner, Elf Power, started the evening at about 8:10. They played a 45-minute set that covered everything from their 1995 debut through to 2013's Sunlight on the Moon. The crowd were very receptive to Elf Power's jangly, neo-psychedelic pop; but the seated show aspect of the evening seemed to exert a bit of a drain on the crowd's overall energy. This is no knock on the band who played an excellent set and managed to get more than a few folks out of their seats.

At precisely 9:30, the house lights dimmed; and a thin and bearded Jeff Mangum walked onto the stage to adoring cheers from the crowd. He launched into a solo version of "Two Headed Boy," and the now standing crowd sang along. As the song ended, the rest of Neutral Milk Hotel joined Mangum for instrumental, "The Fool." The band completed the three-song section from In the Aeroplane over the Sea with "Holland, 1945."

It was an interesting contrast to the solo Mangum show I saw at The Paramount back in 2011. At that show, Mangum -- clean shaven and playing his acoustic guitar -- remained seated for the entire set. We were left humming the well-known horn or singing saw parts ourselves. Last night's full-band arrangements, featuring those horns and saws along with banjos, keys, bass, and drums, fleshed out those familiar songs. Mangum stood the entire time and moved with the music. Scott Spillane and Julian Koster moved and mouthed the words right along with Mangum all night; while Albuquerque native, Jeremy Barnes, was a force behind the drums.

Other, earlier, non-Aeroplane releases also received attention last night. The set included On Avery Island tracks "A Baby for Pree," "Gardenhead," "Naomi," and a raucous version of "Song Against Sex" that roused everyone from their seats who had been sitting mesmerized by Mangum's solo acoustic delivery of "Oh, Comely." We also got EP cuts like "Everything Is" and "Ferris Wheel on Fire."

The songs from In the Aeroplane over the Sea, though, got the loudest receptions. "I ask you all to sing with me now," said Mangum as the band started "King of Carrot Flowers, Parts 1, 2, & 3." The theater erupted in song, and that continued right through "In the Aeroplane over the Sea."

Following the 1-hour main set, the band returned to the stage for "Ghost" and the instrumental "(untitled)." Mangum gave us a solo "Two Headed Boy, Part Two," and the band returned to send us off with "Engine" from the Ferris Wheel on Fire EP.

I'm glad I got a second chance to see Neutral Milk Hotel as a full band. I didn't get as emotional as I thought I would; but I attribute that to the generally more upbeat, less church-like feeling of the full-band concert versus the intimate solo set. And the show never felt like a cynical reunion tour. Instead, Mangum and the band gave the audience honest and sincere renditions of songs that still mean a great deal to so many people.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What's Going On: April 17th, 18th, & 19th, 2014

Hot Blood celebrate the release of No Kings on Saturday at The Lanes.
A Full Slate

Even from Rio Rancho, NM, with its DSL-only Internet and two-hour time difference, I've got you covered. Good thing, too; because this weekend is absolutely loaded with shows.

Tonight, Jeff Raspe's "Locals Live" brings Mad Feather Group, Lightning Jar, and Hey Anna to Langosta for a free show. Jersey City's Lamp Post Bar & Grill features, appropriately, some Jersey City rock from Polina & The Pyramids, Devi, and The Karyn Kuhl Band (also free).

Tomorrow night, Killing Horse Records celebrate their fourth birthday at The Court Tavern with Cicada Radio, Overlake, TV Sound and Asbury Park's Wreaths. The Saint features a night of goth sounds headlined by David J (formerly of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets) & The Gentlemen Thieves. In one of the most interesting events this weekend, Macaulay Culkin's Pizza Underground bring their set of pizza-themed Velvet Underground covers to The Wonder Bar.

Saturday presents some very tough decisions. The Ribeye Brothers play for free at Asbury Park Yacht Club, while Accidental Seabirds play a free show at Langosta Lounge. Chuck Ragan is at The Stone Pony. Local hardcore punks Hot Blood headline a stuffed bill at Asbury Lanes for a show celebrating the release of their Little Dickman debut No Kings.

I'll be traveling all day Saturday, but I may make it back to Asbury in time to catch Hot Blood's set (If anyone happened upon the Dino Jr. RSD singles box and picked it up for me, that could be cool). Tonight, though, I get a bit of a do-over as Neutral Milk Hotel -- a band I was too sick to see when they came to Jersey City -- bring their tour to Albuquerque's Kiva Auditorium.

Try to catch something this weekend and don't eat too many chocolate eggs if that's your thing.


*Kiva Auditorium (Albuquerque, NM): NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL, 7:30pm !!!!!!*

Asbury Park Yacht Club (Asbury): Sound Waves Presents: Tony Appleseed / Candace Schur, 9pm, FREE

The Brighton Bar (Long Branch): White Brazilian / Vine Street / The Graduates, 7:30pm, $7 (ALL AGES)

Court Tavern (New Brunswick): Jonah Matranga / Eyeswan / Brian Rothenbeck / Joe Galuppo, 7pm, $10

Lamp Post (Jersey City): Karyn Kuhl Band / Devi / Polina & The Pyramids, 9pm, FREE

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): Mad Feather Group / Lightning Jar / Hey Anna, 9pm, FREE

The Saint (Asbury): Lakehouse Music Academy Concert ft. Local Musicians, 8pm, FREE

FRIDAY (4/18)

The Brighton Bar (Long Branch): The Independents / Off White / After The Burn / The Damn Long Hairs / Joey Affatato, 7pm, $12 adv, $15 door (ALL AGES)

Clash Bar (Clifton): Big Daddy Lovin / The Skulls / Who Killed Bambi / Dampsquid, 8pm

Court Tavern (New Brunswick): Killing Horse Records Birthday Show: Wreaths / Cicada Radio / Overlake / TV Sound, 7pm, $10

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): Billy Hector's Electric Explosion, 9pm, FREE

The Saint (Asbury): David J (Bauhaus / Love & Rockets) & The Gentlemen Thieves / Disorder (Joy Division Tribute) / DJ Mick Hale, 7:30pm, $20 adv, $23 doors

The Stone Pony (Asbury): Runaway (Bon Jovi Tribute) / Joey Evans Band / Strange Substance, 7pm, $12 adv, $15 door (ALL AGES)

The Wonder Bar (Asbury): The Pizza Underground, 7:30pm, $18


Asbury Lanes (Asbury): Hot Blood (Record Release) / The Mischief Kids / Negative Traction / Negative Sky / Franchise / Corrina, Corrina, 7pm, $10

Asbury Park Yacht Club (Asbury): Ribeye Brothers, 10pm, FREE

The Brighton Bar (Long Branch): MS Benefit: Red Eye Flight / Kiirstin Marilyn / Purple Suns / Casualty, 6:30pm, $10

Clash Bar (Clifton): Jon Caspi & The First Gun / Asphalt Green / Red States / Panda Jam, 8pm

Court Tavern (New Brunswick): Ashes of Your Enemy / Lower The Veil / Shadows of Dawn / The Enemy Is You, 8:30pm, $6

Holdfast Asbury Park (Asbury): T.V. Tramps Live In-Store, 3pm, FREE

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): Accidental Seabirds / Sir Prize, 10pm, FREE

The Saint (Asbury): Jerry's Bones / Diego Alessandro / Space Rooster, 7:30pm, $10 adv, $12 door

The Stone Pony (Asbury): Chuck Ragan & The Camaraderie / White Buffalo / Jonny Two Bags, 7pm, $16 adv, $18 door (ALL Ages)

The Wonder Bar (Asbury): Open Mic, 8pm, FREE

Monday, April 14, 2014

Post-Julie Ruin, Screaming Females, Shellshag Land of Enchantment Blogging

Rio Rancho, New Mexico

When you're a family of four, you have to hunt out the best deals on air travel. In planning this trip to New Mexico, I thought I was being really smart by saving us a whole bunch of money when I booked our flights. When the alarm went off at 4am on Sunday morning and I thought about our trek to LaGuardia, though, I didn't feel so smart.

Saturday night, The Julie Ruin, Screaming Females, and Shellshag played Asbury Lanes; and I, of course, had to be there for all of it. Every band was great. Shellshag always play with a level of sincerity and simplicity that just leaves me feeling happy. I got to spend some time with Shell and Jennifer near the merch table, and they are two fantastic people. Screaming Females burned up the Asbury Lanes stage once again in a set that felt too short. Kathleen Hanna and The Julie Ruin sent the crowd into a frenzy and more than did justice to their excellent debut Run Fast.

Our flights ended up going off without a hitch, and I drifted through yesterday in a bit of a daze. I managed my first dose of green chile before crashing, and woke up bright and early this morning. My family put up with the first few Breaking Bad stops of the trip: Delta Uniform & Linens (Gus Fring's underground meth lab), The Dog House, and Java Joe's (Tuco's hideout). Off to Roswell in the morning.

Upload speeds are a little slow here, so the usual double upload I do to make HTML5 slideshows isn't gonna happen. Instead of the usual slideshow, therefore, I direct you to the Flickr gallery for some pics of Saturday night.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ropetree, Bacon, 2013

EP Review

I've written quite a bit about the 1990s revival that's been happening. I've focused, though, on stuff in my own wheelhouse: that Indie / lo-fi / jangly strain of the 90s characterized by acts like Pavement, Built to Spill, and Lou Barlow or the noisy shoegaze of bands like My Bloody Valentine. The most enduring sound of 1990s music, though, is probably the heavy, melodic, more mainstream alt-rock.

Ropetree are a Toms River-based quartet who deliver well-produced and meticulously arranged hard, alternative rock. October 2013's Bacon is a five-song set showcasing the diversity of the band's sound, from the broodingly explosive "Dark Enough" to the melodic and hook-filled standout "Finally" to acoustic closer "Intoxicated Love." Billy Harrison Mielnik laces his vocals with enough emotion and from the gut sincerity that Bacon avoids falling into the trap of sounding cold and distant that I think plagues a good deal of music in this genre.

The success of bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains back when I was just a twentysomething spawned an entire genre made up of lots of bands that tried to duplicate that success by playing around with the sounds without necessarily having the songs. Ropetree bring solid songs and some serious musical chops to the table to provide some much-needed freshness and local flavor to hard rock. And when that local flavor is bacon, can you really go wrong?

You can stream / buy Bacon over at Ropetree's Bandcamp page.