Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Live Review: Born Ruffians, The Spinto Band, Turf War - Brooklyn Bowl - June 16th, 2013

Brooklyn Bowl hosted a compelling ensemble of bands Sunday night: Turf War, The Spinto Band and Born Ruffians. The most interesting storyline of the evening, for me, is my own association, or in this case, dissociation, with The Spinto Band—directly in correlation with Born Ruffians. They had an album, Nice and Nicely Done (2005), that was very symbolic of my move from Michigan to NYC, and was in constant rotation in the same vein as Red, White & Blue (2008) by Born Ruffians a few years later. I would say 2005 and 2008 were Indie Rock “baby booming” times in my life, where I took on a shit-ton of new bands in a music feeding frenzy of insatiable portions. These particular albums were staples of said times, yet my fan-ship of the bands didn’t seem to latch on, which is sad, because both bands carried on without me. Not to say they should have stopped, but I am certainly glad they didn’t, and am elated to hitch myself back on based on these rock shows I’ve seen. Nostalgia transcends itself beautifully into new music merriment.

I think the best way to approach this show, is to respect the ensemble cast and unveil the evening like an ascending red carpet of rock goodness…

Turf War 

Image stolen from: www.rollograndy.com
 They are a five-piece indie pop punk band from Augusta, Georgia. One can certainly feel the southern slather to their easy-on-the-ears punk sound. I was kind of taking their set in from the distance while my group of friends arrived, and as the Game 5 of the NBA Finals was beginning, but even without isolated attention their music seemed legit. Definitely a great opening band, setting an upbeat tone for the evening. Being the most “rocking” band of the evening, things were off to a proper start. They have a great classic rock sound and many of their songs, I felt like I could pick up and sing along, though I had never heard the songs before—a handful had catchy “ooo-oooh-oooh,” and “Yeah-yeah-yeah…” type backing vocals. I chanted along from a distance when I could.

The Spinto Band

I can’t believe I forgot about The Spinto Band!?

I still reference that album all the time in rotation and conversation, as I love to frame a situation warranting much fanfare with a quintessential, “Nice! And Nicely done!” in direct reference to that “Zerfas classic.” 2005’s Nice and Nicely Done was a breakout album on Bar/None Records, after putting out four albums on their own label Spintonic, dating back to their high school days in the late 90’s when they were just getting started. The single “Oh Mandy” (played towards the end of the set...) was used for a commercial by Sears, and subsequently funded the bands European tour. Somehow I missed the follow-ups with intriguing album names: Moonwink (2008), Shy Pursuit (2012) and Cool Cocoon (2013).

Shy Pursuit is just a lovely album name, reminding me of my all-too-patient and quiet puppy dog crushing. Sigh. And Cool Coccon just makes me want to snuggle with someone, with a melodic and relaxing musical backdrop, which coincidentally, is exactly what the album’s tone conveys. I wouldn’t mind a cuddle convoy right now. Throw it on and line ‘em up! 

It seems the band is at a creative explosion lately, putting out two albums in consecutive calendar years, again returning to their own label, Spintonic. Shy Pursuit and Cool Cocoon have a matured sound from the Strokes-y sound so many bands had in that ‘05ish period. The band has moved to a more relaxed, electronically driven sound, much in the way of Born Ruffians, with crystal clean worldly vocals reminiscent of Vampire Weekend.

The Spinto Band seems to have a great dueling dynamic to the band, with the more mature lustrous sound coming from guitarist Nick Krill and the more driving, dance-y songs coming from the buoyant stage presence of bassist Thomas Hughes. On this evening he was flannelled up and rocking his ass off, in an upbeat jubilant manner, contagious as hell. It was near impossible to not want to dance right along with the set. They had a very commanding, stalwart stage presence, reminding me that they are, in fact, veterans of the game. Not underground greenhorns. Not to be ignored. These guys can play and these songs are so pretty.

I can only hope this spark in creativity and recorded music is more than just a last hurrah for a band that deserves much more acclaim than they’ve been given (myself included) over the years. The Spinto band is a dynamic live presence and versatile force in the studio—it baffles me they don’t have a more universal audience. I know I will ratchet my fan-ship up a notch and cusp faith these boys will catch fire. They are worthy of the cause. 

 Born Ruffians 

I was debating whether to go to this show or not, being that I just saw Born Ruffians at Bowery Ballroom in April. I figured they would play a similar set, but given that Brooklyn Bowl is one of the GREATEST places on Earth, the show was affordable, my nostalgia for The Spinto Band—I figured if I had the night free, this was the place to be. And I was right, however, I didn’t expect such a reciprocal set from Born Ruffians.

I use the term “reciprocal set” to mean a set that perfectly compliments the previous set. Often times useful if you see a band a number of nights in a row, or on the same tour, when you can find different things about the show that you missed the first time—to complete the experience. Typically, this is done with a varying setlist. Recently, I missed one of my favorite bands Say Anything as they toured with a concept of playing “rarities and b-sides” on their latest jaunt. That would have made the perfect reciprocal set to the Anarchy My Dear set I saw last time.

This particular occasion, Born Ruffians played, I’m pretty sure, the EXACT same set from the Bowery show, and most of their tour really. This typically would kind of bum me out, but the audience reaction at Brooklyn Bowl was completely different. The Bowery Ballroom show seemed to be PACKED with diehards, and anytime an old song would be played, the place would go berserk!? When Born Ruffians opened with “Badonkadonkey” the crowd was actually kind of quiet and seemingly not very amused. 

Luke Lalonde’s voice at times can be quite shrill, especially on those old numbers. I love it, but following some of those glossy Spinto Band songs, it kind of echoed through the darkness with unease. I assured my friend they would “win over the crowd.” Slow and steady, that’s exactly what the Canadian quirky quartet accomplished, song-by-song in methodical fashion, the crowd came around. The rallying cry this time though was the newer, more electronic, more of today’s era cuts off 2013’s Birthmarks. At the Bowery show, the Birthmarks songs were certainly well received, but the anticipation for the debut album was undeniable. 

The first three songs were off their debut EP and LP respectively. After that, there were a number of cuts in a row off Birthmarks that continued to gain steam with the audience. By then, the songs were soaring, the disco ball was spinning and Lalonde was floating from stage right to stage left and vice versa, jamming on stopping for an occasional, well-timed “HEY!” into the microphone. It was a beautiful evening to be at Brooklyn Bowl. Not quite as dance-y and eccentric as I would have expected, but it’s a wonderful thing to watch a band at their craft. I don’t even know why I was worried, or had a hint of doubt, I realize these guys are professionals and this is what they do, but I can’t help but want good things for these guys.

If they were born ruffians, they certainly have proven to grow up to be refined dignitaries—gentleman of their craft. 

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