December 17, 2004

Concert coverage concluded

Tuesday's concert: Brian Bonz, Beauty Pill, Travis Morrison.

This concert was at Northsix in Williamsburg. En route, a young fellow passed us, paused, and turned to ask if we knew whether some street or other lay in the direction he was walking. I asked, "Are you going to Northsix?" He was. I told him to carry on walking straight ahead.

We arrived around 8:45 and made a beeline for Northsix's small bank of seats, nabbing a prime spot right in front of the sound board. (A tip I learned from my friend Jim: The best sound in a concert venue is always near the sound guy.)

Brian Bonz started pretty promptly, with a pretty good solo number that used one of those loop devices used to such fine effect by folks like Andrew Bird. Then he brought up a band, and while they were fine, they would have fit right in on any early-'90s top-40 radio station, which is not the best thing you can say about a band, really. Pleasant, and with a decent sense of melody, but innocuous. However, it is possible that bandleader Brian was only 15 years old, which would make such sins a bit more forgivable. Why do I describe his youth as "possible"? Well, he made a joke about being 15, and he sure as hell looked like he was in eighth grade (and, seriously, if you're not in eighth grade but you look like you are, you really shouldn't wear one of those mostly solid polo shirts with the thin stripes)...but then he was wearing an over-18 wristband.

The highlight of Brian's set, from an unintentional entertainment standpoint, began when he brought his band onstage and apologetically announced, "These next two songs are total cock rock." The next two songs, suffice to say, were not cock rock. I felt like Andre the Giant going up to Wallace Shawn and saying, "That phrase...I don't think it means what you think it means." Rose and I decided that two ways you can tell if you are not playing cock rock are if (1) your song prominently features a tambourine or (2) your song prominently features a triangle. The second highlight was when he announced, at the end of his set, "Stick around for Beauty Pill and Travis Morrison!" Thanks for the tip! I thought I'd seen all there was to see.

Still -- give him a few years. He's (probably) only 15.

Beauty Pill was up next, and I enjoyed their egalitarian feel. (They explained at one point that they tried to make all their songs be androgynous; that is, that they could be sung by the boy lead singer or the girl lead singer.) I liked all their songs pretty well, although the song that inspired me to go to the merch table and buy all their CDs was "The Western Prayer", which featured lots of clanky syncopated percussion and the lyric "I want to foul the nest forever...I don't like cleaning up." Excellent.

Later, looking up info about the band, I discovered that Beauty Pill arose from the ashes of a previous band, Smart Went Crazy, which I had vaguely heard of but never listened to. And every time I ran across their name, it made me vaguely confused, because it always reminded me of the name of a Pere Ubu song, "Small Was Fast". They both have that adjective-verb-adjective-but-it-makes-no-clear-sense structure.

The audience was pretty thin for the first two acts, and I expected it would get thicker for Travis, but it pretty much stayed at about the same level. I was surprised, considering that Travis's old band, the Dismemberment Plan, sold out Bowery Ballroom two nights in a row on their farewell tour, but I guess the D-Plan fans aren't necessarily all on board with Travis's new stuff. I do feel that some of the songs on his new album are produced unsympathetically ("Born in '72", invariably one of my favorite songs when I hear it live, labors under way too many sound effects, for instance), but we're not talking about some major drop-off in quality, and I'm pretty fond of his new band, which has no name yet. (My suggestion of "The Partial Reconstitution" was roundly dismissed by Rose.)

Two new songs made an appearance -- "I'm Not Supposed to Like You (But I Do)" and "As We Proceed" -- both of which sounded great. Most of the songs from his last album come off pretty well with the band, but the album was recorded before they came along, so the songs had to be rearranged for them. Sometimes this improves the songs ("Change") and sometimes it doesn't ("Any Open Door"). The new songs, though, were clearly written for the current lineup (and may have been cowritten with them; I don't know), so the arrangements fit perfectly. I'm looking forward to seeing what else they come up with.

And now you can all have a break from my constant yammering about music (until I compile my year-end top 20 list).

Posted by Francis at 12:38 AM