Live: The Go! Team Lead A Workout At The Bowery Ballroom
The Go! Team Bowery Ballroom Tuesday, April 12
Better Than: Trying to go anywhere in the spring monsoon taking place outside.
The pre-show soundtrack of Motown, Stax, and the Beastie Boys was a hint: The Go! Team's show on Tuesday was not going to be your run-of-the-mill indie rock gig full of stock-still spectators. But when the band's cheerleading squad finally took the stage, no further encouragement was needed; the audience was not content to simply observe and report. Nothing less than exuberant dancing, encouraged in no small way by Go! Team frontwoman Ninja, would suffice. Resplendent in a sports bra and stretch pants and mining a seemingly bottomless hole of energy, she led The Go! Team workout program, and shame on you if you were not participating.
On record, The Go! Team fuses garage rock, twee, hip-hop, soul, and spaghetti western soundtracks--a concept that seems like overkill on paper, but one that the band nicely mixes into a potent energy drink. The members constantly switch around their instruments, keeping the vibe communal and informal, while Ninja spends most of the night serving as the effervescent master of ceremonies, pumping her arms, kicking her legs, and working herself into a poised lather. The band played cuts from all three of its full-lengths, and Ninja made a point of asking who in the crowd made their introduction via the excellent new album Rolling Blackouts. Some of the best tracks on that record actually feature guest singers--Deerhoof's Satomi Matsuzaki sings "Secretary Song," Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast provides the vocals for "Buy Nothing Day," and the London African Gospel Choir helps out on "The Running Range"--but they were not missed, as multi-instrumentalists Chi Taylor and Kaori Tsuchida stepped up in their absence. (As Ninja put it, the Afro-Japo connection was in full effect.)
The Go! Team is an extremely fun band when providing a shaggy hip-hop backdrop to Ninja's simplistic but effective party rhymes. But something also really clicks when she takes a break and they lock into a distorted, lo-fi groove while Taylor or Tsuchida takes the mic; during these points, they transform from something of a novelty into a really good fuzz-pop band. These breaks in the workout give the crowd a cooldown period of sorts; when Ninja swoops back to center stage and re-ups the energy level to 11, the crowd's ready to amp it up too.
Founding member Ian Parton has been saying in interviews that this might be the band's final album and tour, and they certainly held nothing back, playing like it was the last time. Of course, it wasn't all perfect. Do they really need two drummers? Probably not. If the band didn't carry the cachet of cool that it does, might it teeter on the brink of cheesy genre-hopping? Perhaps, but there's a reason why The Go! Team are able to pull off what they do so well. There's no posturing; there's just pure, unadulterated, juvenile--and refreshing--energy.
Critical Bias: The Lakers-Spurs game that ensued during the show was less of a distraction than I thought it would be.
Overheard: During one of the slower songs, my friend succinctly remarked, "This is totally a great band right now."
Random Notebook Dump: Really, couple constantly making out in front of me throughout the show? You're going to sloppily kiss and dance the whole time?
Set List: "T.O.R.N.A.D.O." "Grip Like A Vice" "Huddle Formation" "Voice Yr Choice" "Secretary Song" "Ladyflash" "The Running Range" "Ready to Go Steady" "Yosamite Theme" "Buy Nothing Day" "Bust-Out Brigade" "The Power Is On" "Back Like 8 Track" "Junior Kickstart" "Apollo Throwdown" "Titanic Vandalism"
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