Spring break, 2013! Sort of. It was cold and rain/snowing on Monday night in NYC. It's nearly a full moon. It's past time for legit nice weather to have healed some things. We're all a little cranky and tired. Hell, another strand of the goddamn flu is going around. And yet, there we were. Holding each other up because that's what we needed to do. Mount Moriah was holding a not-sold-out-but-not-sparse-crowd together for a couple of hours. Mercury Lounge continues to be one of NYC's greatest venues. It's small. It's intimate. The sound fucking rocks. This band from North Carolina was a good reminder that no matter what's going on in your little bubble-world, things are circular--they'll come around. Heather McEntire is adorable but in a genius kind of way--in a humble kind of way. She's got punk roots, which shine through from time to time. They can be rocking, and also very quiet. The night largely consisted of their new album, Miracle Temple, but they also took requests, thank goodness. We all needed some lament, some eureka, some bright light. –Micah Ling
Like every other band that matters, The Thermals are headed to SXSW this week; but fuck SXSW! They played a pretty sweet mini show in the lobby of the Ace Hotel today. Everyone likes to go to cool venues with perfect sound systems, but I'm a big fan of little random jams for the sake of people who appreciate slowing down and listening. What's better than a Monday afternoon with a cup of good coffee and a little break of great music? A few things, but not many. The Thermals are from Portland, Oregon: so, happy-go-lucky-punk-vibe. Being in the Ace Hotel is kind of like being in Portlandia anyway (the two women sitting on an oversized couch next to me were designing what seemed like very simple price tags for clothing, but they were way into it). Kind of a Death Cab/Built to Spill sound. They've got a new album coming out in April, Desperate Ground, and until then, you can check out a track off of it on their website. I wouldn't be surprised to see these guys move up pretty quickly, but I'll be happy to see bands like this in cool hotel lobbies any day. -Micah Ling
Well good god damn, NYC; for 3 reasons: 1. The Mercury Lounge, your sound is amazing! 2. The audience, you were quiet enough to make Joe Pug tell you not to be so quiet and then you responded by yelling, "It means we're paying attention" ...which was oddly perfect and metaphorical 3. Bhi Bhiman you're HILARIOUS, thank god, because it was fucking freezing in NYC Sunday night and we all needed to laugh. A lot. But that's the thing about Bhiman: his songs are funny, even silly sometimes, and he tells great stories, but there's also ache there. He writes the kind of song that can get you through the toughest summer of your life, on repeat. And when you tell him this, he'll likely give you his new album for free. That's what we do, some of us, sometimes, when we're not being altogether selfish: we give what we can--we react to honesty. Joe Pug was there, too: all of his Maryland/Chicago self. So Whitman. So dramatic. His shirt made him look like a fugitive, which he may have been going for. He certainly channels a bit of Cash--lots of other musical greats, too. -Micah Ling
One cool thing about living in a big city is that you get to see the biggest bands play the biggest venues (and sometimes pay big ticket prices). The cool thing about living anywhere, from Brooklyn to Bozeman, is that the Indie scene is alive and well. Musicians are working, making music, and loving it; and it's a relief to know we cannot escape that. Iced Ink played The Rock Shop in Brooklyn, and frankly, they rocked. Things overheard from the audience, "Even if you think you understand what these guys are doing, you don't--they are so well rehearsed." Also, "That guy [guitarist Mike Krenner] is heroin sweet." Which, yes, sums things up pretty well. Krenner really is incredible, and makes it look easy. They describe themselves as being surf-jazz-metal...but there's also pop and funk and rockabilly in there.
Assorted Animals opened the night, and played some wild covers of The Beatles, Elvis Costello, and others. Heldin was serious metal. Out-of-breath-is-this-even-possible-boarderline-Wayne's-World-heavy-metal. All in one night. All in one place. Don't miss out on this stuff: most of the time bigger is better (don’t kid yourself), but when it comes to smaller venues and lesser known bands, amazing things can happen. -Micah Ling
There's something to that name. Something about staring at those x's. Something sexy and dangerous: like, don't go there, except, do. Go there. I was recently talking to a friend about people either learning to play by the rules or learning to break them. We're all a balance, of course, but David Lynch said "We think we understand the rules when we become adults, but what we really experience is a narrowing of the imagination." This band does not lack imagination, and they certainly seem to be breaking some rules. Combining hyper-technology with old school mixing and raw talent. It wasn't so long ago that you couldn't even really find out about this band: they were doing their thing and people were catching on, but they didn't have a visual presence. (Plus, try searching “xx” back then, and, well…) They were like a Banksy band: who? How? Names? Pictures? I'd say that helped. Their voices do the work: filled with all that gives you pause. They still sort of hide in the fog and the lights. They come and go. All you know is, you feel kissed, and who doesn't need that? –Micah Ling