Friday, June 22, 2012

Anamanaguchi, Hooray for Earth and Yellow Dogs at Tammany Hall, June 19th, 2012. (eMusic Selects Showcase)

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Anamanaguchi when they played live at the quaintly named Tammany Hall as part of the New Music Seminar (NMS) presented by eMusic. In my head, I pictured a bunch of “gamers” getting up to towering parallel Nintendo stacks, while dramatically holding the classic black, red and gray controllers for showmanship, before launching into classic tunes from their first album Dawn Metropolis. Then, I remembered, the band plays actual instruments as well. Quite well, actually.

For those that haven’t heard the band, their brand of music is typically referred to as “chiptune,” which in the case of Anamanaguchi means they derive synthesizer sounds from 1980’s era Nintendo gear, giving their music a driving eerily nostalgic cadence. They mix in live drumming, bass and electric guitar for a melting pot of nerdy goodness.   

While the show didn’t feature any singing, as all the songs are instrumental, there was a projector featuring images of anything from Nintendo folklore to furry little kittens. The band looks; exactly how you think they would look, donning Mickey Mouse shirts, bed head hair and stage banter dry enough to brittle a leaking waterbed. For instance, when they came out as the special guest for the eMusic showcase, they proclaimed, “we’re the Beatles from New York City.”

I guess if you classify them as the Beatles of chiptune, they were accurate on both accounts.

The succinct set gave head bobbers, jumping thrashers, IPA sippers and nostalgic nerds alike everything one could ask for.

The opening acts were alums of the eMusic Selects program, whose mission is to find and spotlight new up-and-coming bands, Yellow Dogs and Hooray for Earth.

Yellow Dogs opened the night with a furious, danceable set that featured a keyboard player that looked like an Iranian John Oates and an overall sound that stuck out, much like how I would imagine the Bad Brains did during the punk hey-day of the 80’s in DC. Worldly in context and bouncy in vernacular, their music comes with a fun anecdote. The band was formed in Tehran, where rock music is illegal. They played under constant threat of arrest and punishment until they left the country, moving to Brooklyn in 2007.

It’s certainly a story one can rally around, if not the uprising spirit and riot act their infectious sound brings to the landscape.

Hooray for Earth was a throw everything, AND the kitchen sink at the audience act. There didn’t seem to be a moment when the band wasn’t flexing their sonic muscles to force the audience on their heels with the sheer physics of rock waves. I didn’t walk away from their set with any hooks in mind, but they held an entertaining presence and are a band to keep an eye on.

All in all, bravo to eMusic for a fun night of music and I look forward to the next NMS and other collateral bands eMusic drums up for my listening pleasure. 

Yellow Dogs:

Hooray for Earth: 


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Tryptics at the Church for All Nations, June 9th, 2012

My musical mind continuously ponders evolving bastions of melodic drivel. One of my favorite quandaries is an age-old debate: Muse or Radiohead?

Does anyone else like this one?

I’ve always favored the rock sensibility Muse provides, but find myself drawn to the artiness and pretty proprietary Radiohead has seized on electronica and rock meddling. This deed was signed much in the way (and time) that Google became the ONLY search engine. I think the vocals of both bands are remarkably similar, and unfathomable to match, but nobody ever thinks of Muse as one of the BEST bands in the history of the universe. All the while perception of Radiohead is well documented.

Regardless of the changes both bands make album to album, they sound very similar to me. The depth, range and richness of the vocals backed by ever-omnipresent beats make these two bands top-shelf benchmarks in production and execution. Their uniqueness stands alone, together, even if you don’t agree with me that the margin is close.

That brings me to a new band that’s recently crossed my viewfinder. The Tryptics. I’m actually not sure whether it was intentional or not, but their sound seems to have found a greased slat between the rock sensibility of Muse with the electronic fortitude of Radiohead.

Now, I know this is ridiculous. I don’t even want to write it seriously, because it’s not fair to do to any band. Nobody with that preface would give any band a fair chance. If you say LeBron is the next Jordan, anything short of five titles is a failure. And, although, comparing bands to other bands is one of my all-time favorite past-times, I still reiterate that I do so with extreme caution.

With that said, this is some serious fucking music. The Tryptics brand is very mathematical and scientific seeming. The white sectional upside-down equilateral triangle, of egalitarian implications, in a black circle, is insanely catchy. I’m reminded of when Jim Halpert went around posting “Join the Fist” poster with a simple black and white fist to upend of Dwight Schrute’s management style. If you take one down, two more show up. I love it and it certainly accents the ubiquitous electronic rock you’re about to consume. This is a cult and I’m now on the bandwagon.

If you look at some of the song titles: Tadpoles in a Pond, Wormhole, Red Pill, and Andromeda…you would certainly think you’ve picked up a bootleg Radiohead mix-tape. I can’t help but think any other way about it. The vocal prowess is even there!  

Lead singer Charles Preston certainly has the tortured troubadour to a T (well, a modern electronica troubadour-ic version?). Their new song “Hologram” opens lovingly with, “Do you get the feeling you’re all alone? Left to obsess over the unknown!?” While “Go With the Flow,” a song Preston described (live at the Church of All Nations) dryly as “a song about going with the flow,” chants, “if I could truly be myself, I’d never make it through. Sometimes I feel like I’m an alien. It’s no wonder you’re a scrooge, with that kind of attitude.”

That, actually, is a “flow” I can relate to as a maudlin mope myself. I believe that was a FB status I used at some point last week.

I actually believe “Go With the Flow” is the best song I’ve heard in a long time. It has a stifling clapping percussion that gives its transitions emphatic hype. And of course, any Zerfas classic has to build into a rage-a-holic meltdown/breakdown/build back up. Do I hear cowbell? Yes. Yes, I do. Winding guitar work? Check. This tune has all the elements of greatness.  

Recently, I was able to catch the band live at a church in the UWS. It was picturesque inside, pleated with shadows and serenaded in candle lit romance. It was the perfect scenario to take in electronic rock excellence. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to TOTALLY invest myself in the show, as I was obsessed with the ending to the 7th Game of the Celtics-Heat series and bitter that so many things in life happen all-at-one-time. I found the band impressive nonetheless and knew I needed to know more. I took the deliciousness home in a Ziplock bag (the Ziplock bag of my mind!?) and opened the music up—taking in a big whiff the next chance I had.

So, I have tied much of this writing together in retrospect of the live show and curiosity from the EP I was handed at the show. Next time I’ll be more prepared. And so should you.

They put on a rockin’ show with serious music in ways just about anyone can relate to. There’s no way you’ll convince anyone in the Tryptics should have any other job than making Tryptics music. No way, no how…LIGHT UP THE STAGE!  

Go to the website and let's take these guys to the next level!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Man Man at Brooklyn Bowl, June 5th, 2012

Two entities came together Tuesday night at Brooklyn Bowl that are immense memories of Zerfas past. 1) Free shows 2) Man Man Live. Often times, the two came together, packaged, like mashed potatoes and kernel corn making the transition from Michigan summers to NYC summers all that much easier.

Man Man, a five-piece from Philadelphia, is a real hard band to put into words. I hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing their well renowned live show for a block of years now. Certainly, not since Life Fantastic was hypothesized, created and released. The album is true to its namesake—it’s fantastic. It shows maturity that one may not have ever come to expect if they were at the same catawampus, yet wildly entertaining, live performances I came to see in my early years of concerting in NYC.

I feel the need to be self-aggrandizing and reference myself, like every good writer does, out of my blog (then on Myspace…yeah.) from the first time I saw Man Man at Siren Festival in Coney Island:

July 16th, 2006

  • I was running late…all I could think is MAN…we’re not going to see MAN MAN, oh man, that can’t happen, man! (only a workable thought the FIRST time you see this band, everyone goes for the low hanging fruit Man Man joke…you have to)
  • The lead singer (Honus Honus) looks like a 70’s porno version of Richard Pryor donned in tribal war paint
  • Everything on stage was some kind of percussion. Literally. The stage. The speakers. Other band members. Chicken maracas! 
  • Chicken maracas!!?!?!?!? (they were so cool. I saw a posting on FB to which HH was begging whoever stole them at a show…to bring them back. Even citing a reward. They are no longer part of the 2012 show. Boooooo….)
  •  Five band members have microphones…they all use them.
  • The intro could only be described as five minutes of noise. I would say 100 people left during this intro. More would leave throughout the performance in pure awe. Families were running away!!! (it was a festival…people were just chilling in Coney…you know?)
  • Screaming. Lots of Screaming.
  •  Honus Honus unscrewed his microphone several times, but still sang into it.
  •  I would estimate 60 different instruments or things were used as instruments.
  • They shot each other with cap guns at random times throughout the show.
  •  HH left his keyboard to grab what looked like the top of a pot. He held it up in the air waiting for a silent part of the song, struck the pot, and threw it off stage.
So, as you can see, I enjoyed the zany brand of rock concert. Over the years, I've come to appreciate the intricate musical side of Man Man and what makes them such a dynamic band and not such a "pirate ship experiment." Obviously, with my own maturity, the band also matured, so we’ve grown together in a musical alliance making way for new years, better times and continuous delicious music for all my senses. The showmanship, however, will always be their calling card.

On this particular night, I presume we were seeing a band practice for Bonnaroo. I’m fine with that. I’ve always wanted to go to Bonnaroo, but still delightful to catch bands in tune-up mode sans heat, sand, dirt, hot sand, hot dirt and hot girls wearing nothing. Alright, it’s not all victories and spoils. 

I do love Brooklyn Bowl as a venue. Put it in my Top 5 in the city, just for the ambiance. You have a bowling alley. A great kitchen. A fantastic selection of beer. And the layout is architectural genius. I love it there. I would love to spend as much time as possible pillaging this fine establishment.

The sound is pretty good too. The opening band Diamond Doves, reminded me of time slipping away in life, but when Man Man took the stage, it had all the joy and wonderment of years past with the spiritual growth of a band continuing to improve itself. That’s all you can ask for.

They opened with “Van Helsing Boombox,” which I thought was a very interesting choice. Is that not the quintessential Man Man depressing set wind-down!? They followed with “Piranhas Club” a song that is bound to be an Adult Swim cartoon montage masterpiece. That’s just an awkward transition. When they cracked into “Mister Jung Stuffed” and “Top Drawer” I let out and “awww yeaaah…this is more like it!?” The live arraignment of “Hurly/Burly” is brilliant. Obviously, that’s one of those songs that’s tough to recreate live, but the way they are playing it right now, tastes slightly like Burt Bacharach multiplicity. Honus Honus made several outfit changes as per usual—red capes, women’s stockings, black bags, feathers, clinking keys, confetti and chaos. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Either way, this man, cannot live without Man Man. Yup, apples off the ground taste good too! Life IS Fantastic.

Sorry. I didn't write it down. It's tough with all their weird song titles and jams that actually are on the albums with weird song titles. I'll work on that for next time. 

Ryan Kattner aka Honus Honus
Christopher Powell aka Pow Pow
This guy is an animal!
The backing band.