Friday Night In Williamsburg: Male-Female Pairings, Baseball-Related Queries, And Joyous Looping
In Waste Of Paint, our writer/artist team of Jamie Peck and Debbie Allen will review goings-on about town in words and images.
As New York problems go, this is not a bad one to have: there was so much good stuff going on Friday night that we wished we could clone ourselves. The Babies and Times New Viking at the Knitting Factory! Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles at Glasslands! Some weird stuff with loops at Monster Island Basement! The solution: Hop between all three venues.
Co-fronted by Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls and Kevin Morby of Woods, The Babies is a low-key collaboration between friends who already have a lot going on in their lives. Ramone can show off the side of herself that has nothing to do with Vivian Girls' punk-rock outbursts and girl-group theatricsand as it turns out, that side loves Americana, not to mention occasionally showing off her high, pretty head voice. Morby, a member of the ultra-chill yet sunny folk band Woods, met her in the middle by rocking a bit harder than he's used to. When the two pals affectionately traded vocal lines on "Breakin' the Law," the Knitting Factory's sterile atmosphere dissipated, and the room felt like a campfire singalong. Debbie thinks The Babies would have been good listening while we were in high school, smoking joints in some rural basement. I concur.
Next, headliner Times New Viking delivered a long and energetic set of reliably competent garage pop. They made quite a bit of noise for a band partially named after a font, but their well-crafted melodies shone through. As Adam Elliott and Jared Phillips pounded away, Beth Murphy cut through the squall, banging out keyboard lines and letting loose a strong, clear voice. As you can see in the picture, everyone in the band was dressed simply in jeans and solid-colored shirts; this might hint at a refusal to let style distract from substance. "Do you guys know if the Reds won?" asked Elliott, the Ohio trio's primary banterer, as brows all around furrowed in confusion. "No? You guys don't care about the Reds?"
After TNV closed things out with the messy, catchy "Teenage Lust," we scurried over to Glasslands to catch some of Crocodiles and Dum Dum Girls. Although it was billed as an acoustic show, the husband and wife team of Dee Dee Penny and Brandon Welchez (front-people of DDG and Crocodiles, respectively) were both playing electric guitars when we arrived. "Stripped-down show without all band members present" would've been a better description, and this was a good thing, because even though no one was moving around much and the crowd was below capacity, it was stifling inside Glasslands. (The club apparently installed a $20,000 AC unit just a couple of days later; mazel tov to them.)
"This is a Jesus and Mary Chain cover," Welchez deadpanned, then launched into Crocodiles' very "Head On"-like "I Wanna Kill." This probably fooled some people (including me, at first), but he was actually making a joke about how often he gets accused of ripping off the iconic Scottish outfit. Crocodiles do sound an awful lot like the Jesus and Mary Chain, but that's OK with me; I like the Jesus and Mary Chain quite a lot, but can't generally catch them at Glasslands for $8.
Welchez then left the stage so his better half could perform some Dum Dum Girls songs by her lonesome, and the nowhere-to-hide set really highlighted Penny's skills as both a vocalist and a songwriter. "This is the first single off the next Dum Dum Girls record," she said, then played "Bedroom Eyes," a lilting, slow, and sweet track adorned with a few Karen O pigeon coos. I was surprised at how rich and interesting Dee Dee's unadorned voice was; maybe she'll take a cue from Frankie Rose and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and amp things up for her next album?
She later dedicated another great love song to her husband, who had reportedly returned the favor earlier that evening. Is it wrong of me to have imagined the sweaty, triumphant, rock-star sex they had later? They should put these two in PSAs to show godless bohemians how cool marriage can be.
Our last stop of the night was Monster Island basement, where we arrived just in time to catch Dustin Wong from the rowdy Baltimore trio Ponytail play eight pedals and one guitar. Wong pieces together loops with an impressive compositional mastery; his music has an impressive sense of structure and dynamics, but beyond that, it possesses the same childlike joy at being able to make noise that makes Ponytail so thrilling. Just when one pattern threatened to get tedious, he'd switch it up with something completely different, taking the audience on a trip through outer space, tropical islands, and bad drug trips turned good. Debbie noted it sounded like "journeying through a crystal labyrinth inside an 8-bit Atari game."
Afterwards, we asked Wong if he had some image or journey in mind during his writing process. "That's your job," he said, smiling.
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