three shows, nine days

1)  Widowspeak at Billiken Club, September 14, 2011.

Some months back, I blogged about how hard it is to review NYC bands without, somehow, reviewing my own past.  That was my trouble when seeing the Vivian Girls this past spring and the Pains last month.  But listening to Widowspeak‘s debut album, it occurred to me that there are at least two kinds of NYC musical memories for me.  There’s the Pains and Vivians, which remind me of being at a show, surrounded by friends and liquor, having what passes in indiepop for a rowdy good time.  Then there’s the music for quieter moments.  These usually occur late at night, either riding the subway home or hanging out in some 24-hour restaurant or coffee shop – but really, they’re not bound by time.  These are some of my favorite moments of my whole life, and Widowspeak provides a great theoretical soundtrack.

I’d only heard a couple of songs at their Billiken Club show, but was quietly blown away.  For a taste of Widowspeak at their best, though, you’ll want to check out their two NYCTaper sets from June and August 2011.  Performing in front of an audience of friends and fans, they seem much less introverted, much more relaxed.  Makes me wish I was there.

2)  The Raincoats/Grass Widow at the Double Door, Chicago, September 19, 2011.

The Megabus is spartan at best.  On the trip up to Chicago, the driver kept playing the same Smokey Robinson CD at least four times at a loud volume; on the way back, the air conditioner didn’t work for half the 6-hour trip.  What do you expect for $20 round trip?  Still, I was glad to discover that I could manage a 1990s-style indie-rock road trip even at my advanced age, and I’ll definitely be back in the future.  Kirstin and Joe couldn’t have been more accommodating hosts, making me fish tacos for dinner and letting me sleep in their clean guest room (complete with computer!).  Seeing the Raincoats for the first time since 1996 felt like being home again.  We go back a long way.  I first wrote about them in 1989, at least 6 or 7 years before you could’ve just checked online for info, and Ana and Gina have been very kind to me and my obsessive nature ever since.   They are always revelatory live; tonight, playing Chicago for the first time, I was surrounded by rabid fans, young and old alike, who appeared amazed that they were actually seeing this band in person.  The next morning I wandered around K&J’s Ukrainian Village nabe, eventually stumbling toward the Milwaukee Avenue el station.  Chicago is a huge, sprawling place, and I’m sure it will take me many more visits to really get a handle on it.

3)  Psychedelic Furs/Tom Tom Club at the Pageant, September 23, 2011.

I don’t have a connection with either band.  I like songs by both of them, but never owned their records or anything.  The Furs played at Rutgers the year before I arrived, I think.  I walked into this show not sure what I would get; I had nightmares of Totally Awesome Eighties Night at the local karaoke bar, or perhaps the new-wave version of those ’60s package tours with, like, one singer from the Drifters or Temptations and a bunch of ringers.  Both bands turned out to be solid enough.  You can probably tell from the review that I was a bit bored by the Furs, but Tom Tom Club was a good time.  Complete with bonus sociological sophistry inspired by Simon Reynolds’ Retromania.

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