Quips and summaries from experiencing and appreciating music in a city that is as foreign and familiar as they come - New York. So here is to music anywhere and everywhere. Starting from concert one on week one after the move in 2009.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Phoenix! Phoenix!! Phoenix!!!

6.22.209 - Terminal 5 - New York, NY - Amazing Baby (pass!) and PHOENIX (Yes please!)
The French band Phoenix has really been causing headlines since debuting their newest album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. However, this has been a tour de force band for years, trust me (this is their fourth album + one live album). For those of you that really like the movie Lost in Translation, you have already been exposed to a Phoenix song - Too Young is on the movie's soundtrack. That is because lead singer Tommy Mars has been dating the director of the movie Sofia Coppola for several years; they have a daughter together and live in Paris. As if Sofia's life could get any worse, seriously, I feel bad for that Coppola.
I am settling for the ability to have seen an incredible show put on by Tommy and crew this past Friday. I ignored the four avenue walk to Terminal 5 which might as well be in the Hudson River; I bypassed the sold out crowd waiting in long lines for drinks and I battled the Francophones to get as close to the stage as I could; I had to concentrate hard but I blocked out an introduction to the evening by still bald DJ Matt Pinfield from WRXP 101.9 AND the mediocre opener, Brooklyn band Amazing Baby. I will admit that the guitarist for Amazing Baby was pretty damn good and entertaining, partly because he was a true hard rock hair band guy that didn't seem to know he was in an indie band where the lead singer and the drummer wore headbands. 
All the typical New York annoyances slipped away when Phoenix came on right at 9:45pm and pounded out three great songs in a row - Lisztomania, Long Distance Call (love this song), and Consolation Prizes. That got the crowd near Jonas Brothers decibel level and they stayed enthusiastic for Phoenix even through a few weird instrumental songs in the middle of the set, even Tommy Mars left the stage for a song. However, in their defense it was pretty cool electronic pop and it is what Europe loves them for, they are often compared to Jamiroquai,  but the U.S. only knows their lyric-friendly songs so it was a classic case of jumping on the band wagon. By the time Phoenix came back on the stage for the encore you could tell they were fucking loving controlling that big of a crowd in the U.S., so much so that they shed their too cool French air (think Robin Williams' impersonation "Here the baby is smoking. Does that piss you off"?!) and smiled and thanked the crowd and just let us scream for a bit. 
If you are new to the band here are a few little nuggets:
- They are from Versailles, the same place as Air and Daft Punk. In fact, they got their start as the backing band for a few Air songs. 
- Their first two singles came out in 2000 and are still two of my favorite songs of theirs - If I Ever Feel Better and Too Young.
- They were the soundtrack for a Dior Homme fashion show
- They have lyrics that are easy enough to pick up after a few listens, catchy and fun to sing. The lyrics are also smart enough to not be disappointed when you learn the lyrics enough to translate what the songs are actually about. For example, I absolutely love the Kings of Leon and my cousin and I both love their song Soft, but go learn the lyrics and then you can tell me what it is about and see if you keep singing the lyrics out loud.
So go see Phoenix. They are coming to almost every town near you (except for you Seattle, take it up with the band). New Yorkers they are coming back around in September to play Central Park with the too hot too handle for their first album, Passion Pit.
It was a great concert and a great night, even if it ended with me standing under a sign that said Western Beef. Don't ask, New York is weird man.
video
The first 90 seconds if Phoenix's setlist - the song is Lisztomania
Phoenix Setlist:

Lisztomania Long Distance Call Consolation Prizes Lasso Napolean Says Funky Square Dance Rally Girlfriend Armistice Love Like a Sunset Run Run Run  Too Young Sometimes in the Fall Rome

ENCORE:  If I Ever Feel Better 1901

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

David Byrne in Virginal White, in Public, with Interpretive Dancers

... this is how I spent my favorite Monday of 2009. On June 8th, David Byrne and Company (dance and music) played a free concert to kick off Celebrate Brooklyn, a summer concert series in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. He had everyone onstage wear white, play white instruments, and not only keep good rhythm but demonstrate rhythm via dancing. 3 dancers ran on and off the stage performing interpretive dance/ballet/acrobatics; at one point they danced while sitting on office chairs and David participated in the choreography. They were David's New Age sprites.
Image of David <span class=
Mr. Byrne is currently on a year-long world tour performing the music he has created with Brian Eno throughout his career along with a few Talking Heads favorites like Once in a Lifetime (my favorite song in 8th grade) and Burning Down the House - phew because I am pretty sure 67% of the people would have said the show was only fair if he had not played that gem. Side note - does anyone really know the words to that song, really?
David greeted the very diverse, very Brooklyn crowd by saying, "I'll be your waiter tonight. My name is Dave and here are the specials." He then launched into Strange Overtones, one of my favorite songs from their recent album and tour title 'Everything that Happens will Happen Today.'
I read up on David Byrne and had no idea the versatility of this artist: Obviously the creative force of the Talking Heads; he directed and starred in the cult movie True Stories; partnered with Twyla Tharp for a Broadway show called The Catherine Wheel; he won an Oscar for best composition in the The Last Emperor and has been featured on multiple soundtracks; he is the founder of Luaka Bop which is a world music record label; he launched an internet radio station called Radio David Byrne; he is also a visual artist with several installations both to his name and anonymously, including designing bike racks in 2008 in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
AND he manages a web site where he frequently posts personal comments http://www.davidbyrne.com/. Permission to feel like a lazy schmuck granted.
Go see David Byrne because he is the coolest and most versatile 57 year old guy on the planet. He can still sing, dance, and entertain, and you will be surprised by how many of the songs you will know even if you don't think you know his Brian Eno collaborative work because it runs consistently through his career. So buckle up for a good summer ride. I am jealous of you Coloradans that have the luxury of seeing him at Red Rocks on June 20th.
My final note is a personal comment that David Byrne posted on his web site in July 2007. I think it sums up the current situation/dying of the traditional music business. My thoughts exactly:
"There was another piece in the Times today about yet another 20 percent drop in CD sales. (Are they running the same news piece every 4 months?) Jeez guys, the writing's on the wall. How long do the record execs think they'll have those offices and nice parking spaces? (Well, more than half of all record A&R and other execs are gone already, so there should be plenty of parking space). They, the big 4 or 5, should give the catalogues back to the artists or their heirs as a gesture before they close the office doors, as they sure don't know how to sell music anymore. (I have Talking Heads stuff on the shelf that I can't get Warner to release.) The "industry" had a nice 50-year ride, but it's time to move on. Luckily, music remains more or less unaffected — there is a lot of great music out there. A new model will emerge that includes rather than sues its own customers, that realizes that music is not a product in the sense of being a thing — it's closer to fashion, in that for music fans it tells them and their friends who they are, what they feel passionately about and to some extent what makes life fun and interesting. It's about a sense of community — a song ties a whole invisible disparate community together. It's not about selling the (often) shattered plastic case CDs used to come in." - David Byrne
Thanks to lala.com for bring the factual goods to the table this time around.