Friends of Riff Raff
Love Is All
Rocky’s 351 Kent, Williamsburg
Download: “Talk Talk Talk Talk” [from the forthcoming 9 Times The Same Song LP]
There aren’t that many “I was there” moments in the city anymore, seems, partially because there aren’t the venues to contain them. Glasshouse I like, Tommy’s Tavern, one loft from my Wburg daze, this bar at 351 Kent which has had so many different names (Rocky’s, Rock Star Bar, Mermaid too I hear?) that Swedish pop-rockers Love Is All just listed the venue as “Local Bar at 351 Kent”–really any place not designed especially for live music, and the more incongruous or anti-musical the better. Promoters like Todd P try to do D.I.Y. in a big way, but as one friend who did Boston D.I.Y. scoffed, the dude still makes sure to have portapotties outside: “And what am I going to do, take a piss in a portapotty? That’s not D-I-Y.”
Granted, at this point the I Was There/D.I.Y. infatuation has grown out of a curious made-for-mainstream mythology of sounds, images, and video. D.I.Y., if you trust the media feedback loop, happens exclusively in basements or cramped spaces of some sorts, unadvertised, young and sweaty and terrible sound, built off an exclusivity vibe and at its most rapturous, the guilty belief that we’re in on something that doesn’t deserve to be a secret. Just saying, the D.I.Y. rhetoric, the promise of “real music,” the fundamental belief that “real music” is a possibility–all share the same tragic flaw, something like myopia.
It’s nice to believe sometimes though, and everything about Love Is All caters to I Was There. The band plays this really upbeat cross of New Pop, crunchy indie along the lines of Life Without Buildings or Unrest or Fuck, and early naughts Brooklyn art-rock. Technically speaking, the songs seem just slightly more complex than the band can handle, and the amateurist tension to match their own compositions translates really well live. The lead singer’s chirpy speak-sing voice–which surely nets her Karen O comparisons, at least from the people who’ve never heard LWB–cuts through the P.A. with little tweaking, the back-up vocals always sound about a quarter-step out of tune. Enough can’t be said about the horns in this band, which add the same mad dash of color that James Chance used to mop over his stark black+white no-wave numbers.
But here, mistakes are forgiven because we don’t know who or what’s responsible–and forgiveness is a really powerful thing, a lot left unspoken about it in the live setting. It shorthands intense familiarity, friendship even, with the performer, as if we’re doing them a favor by not complaining about the circumstances. Everybody’s really chummy at these things–guards drop like dominoes, and regardless of the nature/nurture media-driven instigations I was talking about above, people freak out for real.
And in that sense–unlike the Go! Team, who in most ways are just a shitty Love Is All–it is truly all about the enthusiasm, man, and crucially more too in the case of Love Is All because their songs are actually good. You can shit on people who thrive on these moments, because a lot of those people care more for the cachet than the music itself. But for the people who don’t chase bands like Love Is All for self-serving h*pst*r*sm only, the I Was There moment is less about the “I”, more about the “There.” It’s about the belief that even at a time when the indie world’s become so homogenized and systematized and cannibalized–when every indie band in the world has a goddamn publicist–that concerts can still be atomic, unique, undemystifiable. That not everything in our lives is depressingly out-of-the-box; all too quickly we find out most things are.