Listening


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Back at the end of March Will and I caught Neil Halstead’s show down at Union Hall in Park Slope. We were a little hesitant to go, as we both sort of romanticized the last time we saw him perform back in 2006 at Bowery Ballroom (at the helm of Mojave 3) and didn’t want to burst that bubble. No need to have worried; the show and crowd were as pleasant and earnest as ever, and the more intimate setting was perfect for his pared-back solo material. As you can see I was standing practically knee to knee with the poor guy and so didn’t take many photos because I felt a little creepy about it. Also (bonus!), I recently came across this video that someone (who must have been standing right next to me) took that evening:

I’m a little burned out on the whole blogging/updating thing, but am not quite ready to put this thing to bed, so I’m going to post a random photo from my Flickr site every few days. Sometimes it’ll have a brief explanation, sometimes not. Here’s the first one:
7th b/t 2nd & 3rd
I took this last Thursday as I was heading home from seeing Robyn Hitchcock at the Bell House on 7th Street between 2nd and 3rd Aves. in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn.

I never realized it until last night, but 1988 was the year I really fell in love with rock music. I was a music fan long before that, but my taste was a weird mixture of my parents’ preferences (Springsteen, Bee Gees, Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel), my brother’s taste (metal, classic rock), and random Top 40 pop (A-Ha, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit).

As I entered the tenth grade, though, a subtle switch was thrown, and all of a sudden I was on a strict diet of college radio and found the music that’s been speaking to me ever since. That was the year I really started listening to Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, the Pogues, R.E.M., Throwing Muses, the Pixies, X, the Replacements…the list is very, very long. Most of these artists were very well established by 1988, but my fourteen-going-on-fifteen mind was blown by how much better these guys were than what I’d been excited about only a year earlier. That year, I bought Only Life by the Feelies, and it immediately went into heavy rotation on my teen stereo and stayed there, along with their other albums, for several years. They were a perfect distillation of the jangly post-punk indie rock that I’d lately come to love, and I couldn’t wait for a chance to see them live; of course, by the time I went off to college (1991) and was old enough to get into the clubs where they played, they had abruptly broken up. So I was thrilled earlier this summer to hear that the band had just as suddenly re-formed and would be playing a series of shows in the New York area, and last night I finally had my chance to see them perform at the Bowery Ballroom, twenty years (ugh) after I first became a fan. Despite the obvious signs of age among the band, they didn’t disappoint; they were predictably surly (they could have been playing to an empty room for all the acknowledgment they gave the mostly 40-something crowd of cheering fans), but they sped their songs up to a furious pace and created an ear-splitting wall of sound. And, perhaps in a nod to their also-aging demographic (it was a Sunday night, after all, and we all had to go to work in the morning), they sent everyone happily on their way by midnight.

I love those days when you feel like it’s been sort of lazy, but in fact a ton of things happened. Today I woke up, made breakfast, ran 9 miles (another first!) at a surprisingly decent pace, then made a lunch of delicious tomato sandwiches, and worked for a little while. Then I took a quick nap and then headed out to Queens with Will to celebrate a friend’s birthday at the truly mind-boggling Spa Castle. Please, please follow the link, and know that it doesn’t do the facility justice. For three hours we soaked in a bewildering variety of tubs, got pummeled by waterfalls, rotated through half a dozen saunas of varying temperatures and materials (mud, salt, jade, gold, and ice), nibbled salads, sipped fresh juices, and saw how Korean families spend their quality time.

Once we were thoroughly relaxed and pruny from hours in the water, we showered, dressed, and headed into Manhattan to catch an early set at the Mercury Lounge of Antenna Shoes, one of our favorite bands of the past few months. Follow the link and listen to the first track (“Open Arms”). Singer Tim Regan (also of Snowglobe) is a friend of a friend, so we had a brief, pleasant chat with him after their set. Then we capped the evening with a snack at the always-awesome Katz’s Deli. Then home by 10:30. That’s what I call time well spent.

As those of you who have visited affiliated site SLUSHCITY may know, our household has become a catch basin for all manner of CDs, books, and other items that get sent to various magazines for review but never made the editorial cut. In many cases this is for good reason, but sometimes it’s a damn shame. Case in point is A Larum, the latest from British singer Johnny Flynn. Due to time constraints and the knowledge that Will is going to do a bigger, better review at some point, I’ll just say this is one of the better CDs I’ve heard this year. Mr. Flynn and his band sound a little bit as if Ray Davies dropped in to jam with Camper Van Beethoven circa 1989 to create some off-kilter, slightly jittery folk-pop. Check out their (ugh) MySpace here for a sample of work, and buy the CD if you can find it…

Johnny Flynn’s MySpace

Ooh, and I see they’re playing NYC next month. Count me in…

There’s a new blog in the Geode publishing empire: Slush City, devoted to reviews of cast-off freebies of the magazine world. Mostly it’s going to be Will’s views on music, but I’ve been invited to contribute occasional reviews of my own, which might include assessments of beauty products, books, and liquor in addition to music.

I’ve tried to avoid the lame round-ups lately, but things have gotten quite busy, so…

Eating: We went to a seder the other night with our friend Seth’s (the one who gave us the Fergus Henderson book) family. The food–huge amounts of chopped chicken liver, pickled herring, salmon, matzo ball soup, brisket, chicken, potato kugel, etc.–was fantastic and I was so full that I actually had trouble walking. Then last night we went to another dinner party with a much more spa-like menu of swordfish steaks, couscous, and mango salsa, finished with apple pie. As a result of all this, the running program has been stepped up a bit.

Reading: It’s allll work right now, and none of it very interesting.

Family: It’s crunch time, as I get the work projects out of the way to get ready for my brother’s visit later this week and early next. There will be some Watching during this time, as we take in a few screenings of the Tribeca Film Festival.

Listening: For the past week I’ve been obsessed with In a Cave, the new album from Elf Power, whom we saw perform a few weeks ago. I’m also wearing out Me and You, Snowglobe’s recent-ish compilation of odds and ends. Those guys have a *lot* of time on their hands, I think. Both of these treats are on vinyl, which has the added benefit of getting me up every 30 minutes or so to flip the record over. Otherwise I’d be permanently glued to my seat.

Watching: We’re making our way through No Direction Home, which has been rewarding so far. As Will has remarked, Dylan is remarkably straightforward in the interviews, which is probably a sign of respect for Scorcese, whom Dylan surely regards as a fellow wacko-genius. I’m sad to have missed the return of Desperate Housewives last night due to dinner party, but nothing will keep me away from the new episode of Gossip Girl tonight. Nothing!

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