Roseland Ballroom Is No More. Here’s Me, Not Shedding a Single Tear.

Today I read something shocking: Roseland Ballroom closed down for good last nightand people are sad about it!

I get it guys, we are all getting soft in our old age and love the nostalgic feelings we get thinking of our concert-going days of yore. But there is no way you will sucker me into a warm and fuzzy revisionist history of Roseland. (Next thing you know you will be trying to convince me that the horrible blue neon sign at Sin-e did NOT burn holes in your corneas when you accidentally looked at it.)

Look, I can’t vouch for what it was like there pre-2000, but based on my own personal memories and experiences at that place, I am pretty sure that ROSELAND BALLROOM WAS THE WORST VENUNE IN NEW YORK CITY. PERIOD. That place had horrible sight lines, terrible sound, and for some reason it always was full of mean frat boys who would spill beer on you. (Except for that one time I went to see David Gray with my friend Joe… then it was pleasantly filled with mellowed out DMB fans and lesbians.)

Do you want to know how I know this? Here are some examples from the archives re: dear ol’ Roseland:

May 2, 2006: Review of a Yeah Yeah Yeahs show:

Tonight’s Roseland show defo had more enthusiasm since many more people knew all the new songs, but the crowd was lame in that “Roselandy” way we are all too familiar. You know what I mean. Something about going to Roseland always brings out crazy dudes who just want to push little girls down to the ground. I saw two guys get into a fight as one guy was leaving. Seriously, who gets into fights just as they are about to go? Some drunk guy turned around, screamed at me and gave me a face full of his Jack and Coke scented breath as I walked out of the concert for no real reason. The wonderful Maxwell’s show it was not.

November 25, 2003: Post from the Little Room message board about a White Stripes show at Roseland:

Only towards the end did security stomp through the crowd and remove just 1 of the idiots. One poor girl had to be taken out of the crowd she was so banged up. Then during the encore, Jack announces they got 1 song left for us – It’s Boll Weevil.

They begin – and the crowd surfing has started to pick up. Jack tells Meg to stop. He says “We’ll just wait until this guy finishes (referring to a crowd surfer)”. Then he goes “So Everyone get their teenage angst out tonight?????!!!!!!” Of course he was being sarcastic but the idiots didn’t realize it. Bollweevil resumes. Then during a solo, that’s it. Jack has had enough. He throws down his guitar and leans over the stage and starts screaming at a crowd surfer. He gets back to Mic:

“I am sick of these Frat F*ckers crashing our gig! People are just trying to have a good time, not have some A**hole crash down on their neck!!!” He takes a breath. “And now the last verse, which is about myself”. And the show ends smoothly.

April 3, 2006: Describing the worst venue I’ve ever been to in the USA, the Electric Factory in Philly, in the only way I knew how:

I think it was a combo of the fact that the EF is the pit of hell (think of Roseland, but worse–luckily I was in the balcony.

So there you have it folks, I’m definitely not sorry to see that place go.

On a related note, congratulations to Terminal 5 – with Roseland no longer in the game, you now officially the worst venue in NYC!

IKEA Discontinues EXPEDIT Shelf; Offers Record Collectors KALLAX as an Alternative

When IKEA announced that the EXPEDIT bookshelf was being discontinued, devotees of the beloved storage system unleashed a torrent of disbelief across the internet.

The EXPEDIT is especially dear to record collectors, since its shelf dimensions are perfect for storing vinyl. Will record geeks be forced to spend money on custom shelving instead Vault subscriptions? Has IKEA pushed vinyl hoarders into a life of crime; striking America’s supermarkets in a spree of milk crate thievery?

Well, not quite. In order to quelch some fears, IKEA announced plans to replace EXPEDIT with a new, nearly identical bookcase called KALLAX. KALLAX looks very similar except for the fact its outer edge uses less wood, giving it a less hefty look. IKEA is quick to point out that even though the sides are thinner, the inner shelf dimensions will match that of the EXPEDIT.

IKEA EXPEDIT vs KALLAX

But why change the popular shelf in the first place? According to Gizmodo, it may have to do with IKEA’s desire to advance on their promise of sustainability.

The Swedish fast-furniture supplier accounts for 1% of the planet’s commercial wood usage, and likely sells tens of millions of EXPEDITs. Therefore shaving off an inch or two from EXPEDIT means less shelf, but it also means a lot more trees stay standing.

Although the EXPEDIT will be missed, you can’t really complain against saving a bit of forrest.

Purity Ring & Young Magic @ Webster Hall: January 11, 2013

I was very happy to have Purity Ring be my first concert of 2013 at their first stop on this leg of their American tour, at the NYC show at Webster Hall.

A lot has changed for the duo since the first time I saw them in 2011 at CMJ: At the start of 2012 they were signed by 4AD and Last Gang Records, and in July of that year they released their stellar debut album, Shrines.

The difference was even clear from their stage setup – still the same arrangement — “percussions” on the left side of the stage for Corin Roddick, and a bass-drum type instrument that singer Megan James occasionally beats — but this time suspended from the ceiling were creepy/ethereal light cocoons that would light up in sync with the music.

20130111-PurityRing-WebsterHall-0096-SMCopy

The fact remains, everyone loves jazz hands!


The fact remains, everyone loves jazz hands!

The synth machine setup itself had gotten more elaborate, moving from a handy-man special of pipes and tubes, to a more sophisticated set of individual lanterns.

I’ve always been impressed by how no-nonsense and professional Purity Ring have been despite the band’s young age. As per usual, their show went off with not so much as a hitch — with Ms. James commanding the stage with her sweet, yet somehow powerful disposition. Diminutive in stature, with some of the tiniest hands I’ve ever seen, she often elegantly swiped her hand across the stage, as if to cast some sort of magical spell on the audience. When she wasn’t doing that, she’d sway up and down, ball-heeling herself to the beat, or grabbing a portable work light with a metal guard and holding it above and below her face for dramatic effect.

Purity Ring @ Webster Hall

They also performed a cover of Soulja Boy’s “Grammy” — giving the rap tune a totally new spin. Loved this version!:

Brooklyn band (and CMJ 2011 TMA fave) Young Magic also performed, although my enjoyment of their performance was severely hampered by the unbelievable bass-heavy sound system at Webster Hall, which literally had me dry heaving b/c my vocal cords were bouncing against one another with every surge of Young Magic’s drum machine. If you stand front and center at the main stage of that venue, and the band happens to be bass heavy, you are in for a world of pain. Every time a song would start and the bass kicked in, my stomach would hold on to the rest of my body for dear life. I kept thinking – “I don’t want to die at Webster Hall!” (Can someone, for the love of god, fix that sound system?)

Read more at: NYT, BV

CMJ 2012: Day 2 – JJAMZ @ Bowery Electric

I remember a time when I would be headed out to a show around 9 or 10 and someone in my family would say with exasperation, “I can’t believe you’re going out this late!” and I would kinda scoff and roll my eyes and think, “OMG, IT’S NOT EVEN LATE!” as I rushed out the door to meet my friends.

Today, as I was putting on my Chucks in my apartment at 8:50pm in preparation to head over to Bowery Electric to catch a 9:20 set by JJAMZ for CMJ, I found myself thinking, “OH MY GOD it’s so late! I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M GOING OUTSIDE.” As I made my way over to the venue this was the running loop of commentary:

“Why are there so many people outside?”

“How can that girl walk in those shoes?”

“Aren’t those girls cold? They’re not even wearing jackets!”

“Are those people eating ice cream? Should they be eating so close to their bedtime?”

“That girl looks like she’s on her way to a nightclub!”

The reason I found myself asking those questions has one very simple answer: I am old and never go out, so the idea that other people are out when I’m normally in bed watching last night’s “Daily Show” on Hulu is kinda a foreign concept to me. (BTW – The answers to those questions are: “Because it’s not even 9 o’clock.” “She can’t.” “They are drunk.” “Their bedtime is nowhere near.” “I believe it’s called a ‘bar’.”)

Anyhoo, as I approached Bowery Electric, I noticed a mass of people outside: people in bands, people who looked like groupies of bands, people who looked like they might be from LA — yup, I was in the right place.

I headed down the stairs and up to the front of the stage just as JJAMZ was starting. Perfect tardy timing!

What can I say about JJAMZ that I haven’t already said? As predicted, the band was a pop-tastic experiment in peppy, toe-tapping tunes. That’s the great thing about supergroups — you’re pretty much guaranteed a solid time — these people have proven themselves in other musical outfits, and you kinda know what you are getting.

I’ve known about The Like for quite some time, but have never actually seen them perform, so much of my observation was focused on Elizabeth “Z” Berg, lead vocalist of The Like and more relevantly, of JJAMZ. It wouldn’t take a genius to make comparisons between the physical likeness that Z Berg has with rock icon Debbie Harry, but I’m going have to go on record right now as noticing because it is a bit uncanny.

The chin-length blonde hair, the defined cheekbones, the perfectly pursed lipsticked lips, the lone lady in a band of dudes — all the pieces are all there. Wearing a pair of fire engine red hot pants, a snug fitting short-sleeved sweater with a bicycle printed on it, and a pair of deadly stiletto boots, Z Berg seemed to unabashedly be playing the part of indie rock pin-up girl, which for some reason (justified or not) seemed to me to be appropriate “LA” of her.

With a girlish voice, that got rough around the edges during the end of phrases, even vocally Berg seemed to be channeling her patron saint of music. (My assumption that Debbie Harry is someone she looks up to is not without proof — earlier this year she told Harper’s Bazaar that her personal style is “somewhere between Twiggy, Debbie Harry and Cher Horowitz.”) I’m not sure if her onstage pouts, frequent hair tousling, satisfied just-woke-up-from-bed stretches were designed to give me a clear indication of what Berg must be like in bed, but that’s what they achieved.

At one point a dubious beer-bellied character wearing no shirt, got on stage between songs and soy bombed the JJAMZ set with a plug for a booze for charity event he (or someone) was running at the upstairs bar, after which Michael Runion quipped, “Hey Z Berg, someone who is wearing less clothes than you on stage!”

There set was over after 7 or so songs — their time was up, and they were headed to Santos for another gig. I was headed towards the door as soon as the last chord was strummed by Alex Greenwald.

CMJ 2012: Who’s On My Hot List to See This Year

Believe it or not, this will be the 11th CMJ I’ve attended (yes, that’s right, I started going to CMJ when I was 11 years old. Amazing, I know). During the time I first started attending the annual event, things were very different. CMJ felt really really important to me at the time — this was the age of Napster, and the Velvet Rope message board, and loads of other stuff that will make me feel old to remember them. This was before SXSW blew up and Coachella was a two-week affair. It was where I was introduced to bands like the Walkmen, Interpol, Ida Maria, Hospitality, and more recently, bands like Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Grimes, and Purity Ring, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

So every year, without fail, I dust off my old lady body and try to stay up late with the kids for a few nights. Here are the bands worth me dragging my lazy behind out the door and into the brisk NYC fall weather:

Opossom

I’ve been keen on this Kiwi outfit since catching their album, Electric Hawaii, on the Rdio new releases list. The collaboration between Kody Nielson and Bic Runga has produced some wonderfully beachy, laid-back tunes that in their poppier moments remind me of the opening credit soundtrack for a 1960s screwball romantic comedy.

10/18 – Pianos: 9pm
10/20 – Pianos: 4pm (Free Bowery Presents CMJ showcase)
10/20 – Cakeshop: 9:45pm

Sky Ferreira

My knowledge of Sky Ferreira extended to her being some model who somehow always seems to end up in Terry Richardson’s photos, so I was honestly surprised to find out that she also (apparently) has a budding music career, with an EP coming out on Capitol Records this week. I was even more amazed that the single “Everything Is Embarrassing” is actually very very good — with its seductive ’80s sensitive pop ballad throw-back vibe.

10/18 – Bowery Ballroom: 8pm
10/20 – Pianos: 5pm (Free!)

Psychic Twin

This two-person songwriting team (Erin Fein and Brett Sanderson) produces music that leans synth-mysterious (I realize that’s not a real musical genre). For some reason they sound like Warpaint meets Neon Indian.

Night of 10/16 – Pianos: 1:20am
10/20 – Pianos: 9:45pm
BTW, the CMJ schedule is totally wrong, they are on at 1:20am according to this tweet from Lefse Records:

Little Green Cars

This group of Dubliners have got a pleasing toe-tapping quality to their fellow Glassnote Records labelmates, Mumford and Sons. Their pedigree is impressive, having worked on recording their debut album this summer with producer Markus Dravs (who has also worked with Mumford and Sons, Coldplay). This month will be the first time they will be performing in the US. Looking forward to see them live!

October 16: New York, NY – The Living Room (WFUV Presents)
October 17: New York, NY – The Slipper Room (Glassnote Official Showcase)
October 18: New York, NY – Openhouse Gallery (GOOGLE MUSICIANS GALLERY)
October 20: New York, NY – Pianos (Bowery Presents)

TOPS

Fellow Montreal native GRIMES is a fan, so I think you can imagine what they sound like. I saw somewhere on the internet someone describe them as the XX, but happier, and it’s a pretty fair assessment.

10/17 – Shea Stadium
10/19 – Arlene’s Grocery
10/20 – Death by Audio

JJAMZ
What would a CMJ be nowadays without a superband performing? This time the collage of talent comes from a California base — comprised of Jason Boesel (Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes), James Valentine (Maroon 5), Alex Greenwald (Phantom Planet), Michael Runion (solo) and Z Berg (The Like). Their resume’s are impressive. Expect solid pop music to please your ears.

October 17 @ The Brooklyn Bowl (The Hype Machine Showcase) – 7 PM
October 18 @ The Bowery Electric (The Audio Perv Showcase) – 9:20 PM
October 19 @ The Studio at Webster Hall (CAA Showcase) – 10 PM (headlining)
October 20 @ Spike Hill in Williamsburg (Baeble Music Showcase) – 9 PM

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