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My Hallowe’ek of Music
by Jamie L. Rotante
I am of the firm belief that if you can’t celebrate Hallowe’en on all thirty-one days of October, you should at the very least celebrate the entire week of Hallowe’en. And this year I decided to take my own advice and keep the frightful fun rolling all week long—but instead of celebrating with pumpkins, candy, silly string, and decadence (all right, maybe just a little bit of the latter), I decided to kick off the highest of o’holy holidays with an overdose of adrenaline and a non-stop ring in my ears—that’s right, a whole week(ish) of live music from some of my favorite bands. I should mention that I’m based on the East Coast, so there will be much talk about New York locales. Now I present to you: my Hallowe’ek of Music.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013: Thee Oh Sees at Irving Plaza, NYC
Pro-tip: I would recommend to any one attending a show at Irving Plaza that it’s worth it to get there early to cash in at happy hour at the nearby Village Pourhouse (Don’t let the picture of Joel Madden on their website deter you. If you go in the early evening, you’ll avoid the shitty crowds and enjoy half-priced drinks.) followed by delicious cheesesteaks and jalapeno poppers from 99 Miles to Philly.
I’ve been to a few shows at Irving Plaza in the past few years and I’ve never really had a problem with the venue or the strange setup at the left-hand side of the room. My friends and I decided—after we arrived a bit late after indulging in low-priced brews and tasty cheesesteak sandwiches—that “left was best” as we got more beer (not so low-priced this time) and weaved our way through the packed room in an attempt to get somewhere close to the stage. We had a realization in the middle of our operation: there is no “left” side. Well, I mean, yeah of course there’s a left side, but since a large part of that side of the room is blocked off for staff and musician access to the backstage, it kinda turns things into a bit of clusterfuck. So we ended up a little further away from the stage than we preferred, but our spot wasn’t too bad and we were able to move up as the show went on.
Thee Oh Sees came on stage without any bells or whistles, launched right into “I Come from the Mountain,” and just straight up rocked our faces off. Jon Dwyer, Petey Dammit!, Brigid Dawson, and Mike Shoun definitely brought some San Francisco surf power to the chilly New York night, and there wasn’t a still body in the whole damn place.
I’ve noticed some people have qualms about Irving Plaza security. I can’t complain. Everyone was exceptionally nice to me. However, there was one kind-of major issue that brought the set down just a tad: sound issues. For one, the drum mic kept cutting out and Dwyer had to communicate with the sound guy to fix said issue. Well, to cut things short: issues were not fixed. Dwyer gave said sound guy a sound “fuck you,” and—unless my eyes deceived me—Mr. Sound Guy responded by hawking a loogie onto the stage mid-set. Needless to say, the set—which clocked in at a total of one hour and three minutes—was much shorter than previous gigs on this tour. Also, I’m at the ripe old age of twenty-five and— while I’m not necessarily looking for ear-bleeds—I was still a little bit shocked at how not loud the show was. Thee Oh Sees need some loudness to complement their fast-paced garage psych-rock fury. Unfortunately, Irving Plaza was just not accommodating of that.
Overall: I’d see Thee Oh Sees again in a heartbeat, just not at Irving Plaza. And if it weren’t for the nice door staff, I’d be hesitant to go to another Irving Plaza gig at all. (On a funny and ironic note, the show also happened to be sponsored by an audio company.)
Wednesday, October 30, 2013: King Khan And The Shrines at Webster Hall, NYC
Before the show, my boyfriend and I opted to walk to St. Marks instead of going for beer and grease again. We found ourselves at Cooper’s Craft & Kitchen on 2nd Ave. My feller ordered possibly the best fish tacos ever to grace the East Coast. Meanwhile, I’ve sworn off all burgers for fear that I’ll never have another as delicious as the one Cooper’s crafted up. I complemented my burger with an Autumn Maple from The Bruery, which was quite possibly the most fantastic fall beer I’ve had to date. I also bonded with the waitress since we were both wearing Beetlejuice shirts, which was pretty rad.
We got to the show just in time to catch the tail end of HellShovel’s set. I caught King Khan And The Shrines last summer at Bowery Ballroom, and I’ve noticed that the opening bands don’t always appropriately set the tone for the full-on groove fest dancypants party time that’s about to occur. It makes sense that HellShovel was an opener, since it features Bloodshot Bill of the Tandoori Knights, but the bumpkin noise-rock slowness (their words, not mine) didn’t really appeal to my tastes. Not to say that they’re bad, just not my cup of tea. However, DJ Jonathan Toubin followed and his little-known ‘60s doo-wop and surf Hallowe’en playlist successfully got me in the mood to dance, sing, and have a blast. I want that guy to DJ my wedding, for real.
As mentioned, I’ve seen Khan live once before and it was the dance party to end all dance parties. That said, this show must have been the dance-pocalypse. The Shrines (the hardest working band in the world) was on-point as always, and the King himself was entertaining, charismatic, and absolutely raucous and fun. Songs like “Luckiest Man” and “Bite My Tongue” from Idle No More sounded awesome, mixed in with the old favorites like “Land of the Freak” and “Live Fast Die Strong.” Even the new soulful and somber tunes dedicated to the late, great Jay Reatard contributed to the amazing vibe of the whole show. I’ve been to plenty of shows in small, cramped rooms with sweaty walls and overzealous pit-members, but I’ve never been to a concert where the whole floor was literally moving from so many dancing feet. It was fantastic and I had such a rush after leaving there I wished the set could have lasted even longer.
Overall: Seriously, if the Shrines come to your neighborhood—do not miss out. You don’t even have to know any of their songs to have the best night of your life.
Thursday, October 31, 2013: The World/Inferno Friendship Society at the Warsaw, Brooklyn
Hallowe’en is a great day. It also happens to be my significant other’s birthday, which is perfect for a Hallow-freak like myself. He realized that this year marks his tenth anniversary of listening to the World/Inferno Friendship Society and his nostalgia pangs were indicating that going to Hallowmas would just be fitting. I conceded. It had been a while since we had seen them last and it meant that there would definitely be something fun to do on the night of the Devil’s Ball. We invited our two friends which worked out perfectly since they love Ted Leo, who opened for World/Inferno. Ted Leo’s solo set was a lot of fun. His banter was hilarious and he sounded great. I was a little bummed at the lack of a Sticks And Stones cover, but did appreciate his rendition of “Angelfuck.” It seemed, sadly, that the crowd wasn’t as into his set, but I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Funny thing that happened on the way to the Warsaw—my boyfriend proposed. I said yes. To be completely honest, W/IFS could have played the worst show ever that night and I wouldn’t have noticed. I pretty much felt as though I was floating on a cloud the whole time.
Fortunately, World/Inferno did not play the worst show ever. In fact, it may have been one of the best shows I’d seen (as a “newer” fan, it was up there with the secret show at Death By Audio in Brooklyn two years ago, which featured a reunion with the one-and-only Franz Nicolay.) The theme of the show was a funeral for Jack Terricloth’s friend “Grace Talicious,” complete with a corpse in a casket near the entrance of the venue and all. Original keyboard player Scott “Powder” Hollingsworth was on stage manning keys along with current player Matt Landis, which was a nice treat for the old-crew Infernites. They opened the set with a new song, which was bold, but it sounded great. Their set may have been the longest of any show I’ve been to (damn near two hours), which was a bit harsh on my friends who weren’t familiar with their discography. Nonetheless, it brought me great joy seeing my pals happily waltz next to us during “Heart Attack ‘64.”
Inferno dug out a lot of great hits from yesteryear that I’ve never heard live. The encore featured (kind of awkwardly) bringing the coffin on stage while a choir sang a chilling version of the already-unnerving “Millicent Didn’t Want to Wait for It to Get Better” before ending with, appropriately and traditionally, “Pumpkin Time.” I thought the whole show with the coffin at the end was a bit drawn out and clumsily done, but it didn’t take away from how fun the rest of the set was, and how much fun the band had playing it.
Overall: Again, my night would have been great no matter what, but the World/Inferno Friendship Society successfully enhanced my already-wonderful Hallowe’en.
I hope everyone had a great Hallowe’en! Now, how the hell can next year top this one?