These days in New York, it's just band after band of skinny white guys with too many secondhand sequencers and synths and a lot of post-punk, new wave styles. And enough with the porn-stashes!
I had to get that on record. Anyway, L.A.'s Silversun Pickups and Portland, Oregon's Viva Voce dropped the pretense and brought rock back to Bowery. Guitars ruled the night with a couple of expert players showing off their sweet licks.
Tonight's show was an upgrade show, with the bands outgrowing the tiny confines of Mercury and being bumped up to the mid-size luxuriousness of Bowery. For Silversun, it's kind of symbolic, having been kicking around the L.A. scene for about four years. Now with a little help from their indie label, they're getting the exposure they deserve with their second effort, Carnavas.
You don't have a be a hardcore musicologist to figure out that the Pickups take their calling for early to mid-90s guitar based alt-rock from the likes of Pixies (with bassist Darling Nikki Monninger as Kim Deal) and Smashing Pumpkins without the self-absorption. Led by wildman Brian Aubert, the band rocks hard without looking hard. They play loose without bring sporadic, but in tune to create catchy foot stomp worthy rock ditties.
God bless Brian for shutting up the drunk people in front of the stage tonight without putting them down. He spent most of his banter time pinching himself for the newfound attention and playing the Bowery. Well, next month the band will be playing Hammerstein Ballroom with Wolfmother. That's not a bad upgrade at all.
So I get to Bowery just before Viva Voce takes the stage, I'm walking up the stairs to the main floor when I hear over the speakers, "You're going to have to eat that before we start." Uhhhhhh, okay. I make my way to the stage where I see Jerry Yeti and 3xWes eating fruit. Next thing you know, I'm handed a banana. You can't go wrong with a banana. I wanted to keep the peel, have the band sign it and keep it with my setlists, guitar picks and drumsticks.
Anyway, add Viva Voce's Kevin and Anita Robinson to the growing list of couples who are a rock band. Look what the White Stripes have started. The team makes that trippy, garage-y Kevin Shields style, sunny, space-y rock music. They remind me a lot of my buddies Joy Zipper. It has a west coast vibe. Even though Viva Voce sings, "We Do Not Fuck Around," they do it sweetly and with that heavy guitar fuzz. Their latest effort on the Barsuk label is We'll Suck Yr Blood Out.
I was really impressed with Anita's guitar prowess. She's very tight and controlled, but able to make her guitar go from A to B while making it look easy. She's not very flashy, but she can kick out the riffs without resorting to stereotypical guitarists tricks. Kevin is the master of the multi-instruments. He'll be banging away on his drum set and cowbell, then quickly switch to acoustic guitar while queuing the pre-programmed sound effects.
I always look around the crowd to see if people were enjoying it and I saw lot of happy faces. You can tell where they are coming from and what effect they want to have. It's good that both bands keep it light and easy, because all too often these days, bands are driving a wedge between themselves and their audience. It works sometimes, others not. Viva Voce are out to rock and hope we come along for the ride.