Friday, July 16, 2010

Polite Sleeper and So Cow

I’ve been talking about going to the new Flywheel for months, but not doing anything about it. Last night, finally, we went to a show at the new space, which is, during the day, the Easthampton Town Hall. It’s a nice set-up, actually, with more room and much cleaner bathrooms than the old Flywheel. It feels actually, like a high school gym in some ways, a flag in one corner, tin ceiling painted over, wooden floors and large electric fans (which were needed last night, it was really hot).

So, anyway, we went down more or less on a whim, since Sean’s off from theater this week, and we don’t have to get up very early. (Also, my business has been dead in the water for a couple of weeks, hope it picks up when people get back from vacation.) There were four bands, two I’d heard of, two I hadn’t. The two I’d heard of were Polite Sleeper (from Brooklyn, though they play Philadelphia all the time and I’ve written about them) and So Cow from Ireland. I’m just going to talk about these two bands, because the first one, whose name escapes me, was notable mainly because the sound was lousy. It might have been some kind of Vivian Girls-Black Tambourine-Vaselines take on messy, girl-fronted pop, but really, all you could hear was the bass and guitar. The girl who sang was almost entirely inaudible. We left before the last band.

I was really glad to get a chance to see Polite Sleeper, because I’d been enjoying their CD, Lake Effect, off and on. The album is a keyboard-heavy, jittery, baroque pop, and, sure enough, they’d brought a pretty elaborate keyboard set, including what looked like the insides of a baby grand. The live set is quite a bit more nervy and punk than the recorded material, with the rhythms really pumped up and the lush, dreamy parts kind of disappearing. Jason Orlovich, the singer, he of the Darnielle-ish yelp and vibrato, has a very intense persona onstage, jumping around antically and dragging the mic stand all over the stage. The vocals weren’t really loud enough to hear lyrics, but I’m pretty sure they did “Driving Ohio,” but not my favorite “These Are Not Fall Colors”. It was really good, though, a lot more energized and cathartic than I expected…though, geez, wouldn’t you think I’d expect bands to be louder and rougher live by now?

So Cow was even better, also a trio. It sounds like it was originally kind of a solo project for Brian Kelly (no relation, I do have a brother-in-law with that name, but different guy), but for this show, it’s a trio, and the rhythm section is really good. Also crucial, because what So Cow does in its short, fast, intense blurts of song, is cram a whole history of punk rock in – with bits of ska, pub rock, hard-core and noise all jammed in together. It sounds like a mash, but really it’s not, and that’s where the rhythm section comes in, drum and bass, rough-housing over time changes and mood swings, intensely on all the time, so that you always know exactly where you are, and the hard stuff – change-ups, sudden stops, etc. – goes pretty flawlessly. They’re not polished exactly, but very, very tight…and a helluva lot of fun. If you get a chance, go see them. They’re at the Seaport tonight with the Ohsees (another awesome band, do it, NYC’ers) and then back to Ireland.

There are a whole bunch of MP3s at the Free Music Archive from a live show they did at WFMU. Go here to check them out.

I’m interviewing !!! today, and really not very well prepared, so I’d better get on that, hadn’t I?

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