This Weekend In New York: Brooklyn Gets Into The Seasonal Spirit With Solo Projects And Post-Punk
In Waste Of Paint, our writer/artist team of Jamie Peck and Debbie Allen will review goings-on about town in words and images.
This weekend we learned Manhattan has no monopoly on holiday cheer. Sure, the decorations on Fifth Avenue might cost a little more, but not even the gaudiest department store display shines as brightly as the talent, creativity and camaraderie we found at Shea Stadium and Secret Project Robot.
Friday we hit up Shea Stadium for solo projects by Amy Klein (ex-Titus Andronicus), Greg Fox (ex-Liturgy), and Dan Friel (soon-to-be-ex Parts and Labor). Composed of Amy Klein and Catherine Tung, Hilly Eye is the type of riot grrl duo I'd love to see more of in the male-dominated indie rock scene; Klein reminds me a little of a young Carrie Brownstein with her confident riffs, interest in psych-rock, and the untamed way her voice can dance around a note. (See also: her progressive politics, which she articulates gracefully on her blog.) Unfortunately, the sound system at Shea was not on her side that night, and slow-building opener "Jersey City" lacked both women's voices. "That's our first song with no vocals," Klein joked. "We're already stripped down because we're a two-piece, but that's taking it to the next level." Despite numerous people's efforts to fix it, her voice remained somewhat underamplifieded throughout. But I still saw sufficient evidence that Hilly Eye's in-the-works debut album has the potential to be great.
GDFX is the solo project of Greg Fox, who up until recently provided the brutal, relentless percussion underpinning the polarizing avant-metal band Liturgy. GDFX's completely electronic sound might seem like a huge departure from his past work, but Fox has actually been making this type of music on the side for years. It reminded Debbie of the dark drum and bass she encountered in her rave-going youth, while I heard shades of Black Dice in the looped layers of glitchy, menacing samples that seemed to constantly be slipping and catching. Fox bobbed his majestic beard over numerous knobs and pedals as he performed a short-ish, half-improvised set; at one point, he shook a water bottle over what appeared to be some kind of motion-sensitive theremin. There were certainly some entrancing moments, although some trippy projections would greatly improve the live GDFX experience.
Following an energetic set from underrated space rock/new wave/dance/prog/glam outfit Dinowalrus, Dan Friel delivered a gorgeous set of one-man digital wizardry, augmented by projections (yes!) from video artist Todd Bailey. Friel solo is a whole different animal than his other band, using a home-built rack of synths and processors to create looping drum sounds over which he plays chords on a keyboard while simultaneously twisting a knob to create melodies, the timbres of which he modulates with yet more knobs. I wouldn't be surprised if he was trained as a classical pianist with the amount of complex stuff each hand was doing at any given time. The feelings evoked went from cute ("I'm in the first level of a video game!") to sinister ("I'm in the castle level of a fucked-up video game in some alternate demon dimension!") and back again, all while retaining some of Parts and Labor's soaring majesty.
Saturday, we hit up Death By Audio's holiday party at the new Secret Project Robot space in Bushwick. A bearded volunteer in a Santa suit greeted us; we quickly learned that he was but a doppelganger of DBA booker Edan Wilbur, who sported a full on Santa-outfit while spinning new wave and hip-hop. Much of the old Secret Project Robot was present in the new space: neon cardboard monster faces, octopus-like chandeliers made out of Mardi Gras beads. Scene stalwart Vashti Windish slung drinks behind the bar, where partygoers could also find oranges and Christmas tree-shaped cookies.
Before A Place To Bury Strangers played, a girl in a Cookie Monster sweatshirt came on to tell us that a large portion of the night's proceeds would go to help Jonathan Toubin, who remains in serious condition after a freak accident in Portland The announcement was greeted by cheers and worry, and A Place To Bury Strangers lifted the room's spirits the only way they know how: with dark, pitch-perfect post punk. Frontman Oliver Ackerman runs a pedal shop out of the Death By Audio space, and it shows: from ringing melodies to squalling walls of sound, the man wields his custom pedals with precision. Starkly booming bass and drums laid the groundwork for dancing, and Ackerman's slick intonations came off like an American singing like a Brit singing like an American. High on sugar, folks bobbed and swayed and danced with strangers. Multiple Santas took pictures with digital cameras. Strobes flashed, smoke machines smoked, and black-and-white projections flickered merrily. It was Christmas refracted through a Brooklyn lens, and not a single "bah humbug" could be heard.
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