CMJ: Tee Pee Records Had A Party, 10.18.07


Blackstrap + The Warlocks
Club Midway
Day 3: October 18

By Michael D. Ayers

If I had to do it all over again, I might somehow strive to wind up associated with Tee Pee Records. They seem to have their act together, but not in the conventional way we’ve come to think. Like I’m sure they don’t have a book keeper, and never have 401k’s in mind. They choose good artists and seem to have interesting, cool people hanging around them that talk about the future. Ideas, man.

These day parties sure have been fun to attend; no one is ever there, except the bands, their girlfriends / followers, and I’m guessing yesterday, the Tee Pee folks. A lot of them look like they just stepped off Grateful Dead tour, or are gunning to be extras in Almost Famous 2. Straggly hair, disheveled beards, jeans and t-shirt types. If you’ve ever seen the Brooklyn band VietNam, they’re the closest thing in look that I can think of at the moment, to what was mainly milling about.

Oh, and they seem to attract extremely good looking ladies; when I was in high school, the long hairs, the bearded ones, the dudes that knew how to change a distributor cap on a VW bus were not praised with attractive friends, so in some weird twist of fate way, I was happy to see this. Yet, Tee Pee caters to heavy, shoegazey, fuzzed out bands that draw on psychedelia bearing no resemblance to The Grateful Dead, Allmans, etc. Bands on Tee Pee probably get a “RIYL” The Velvet Underground and My Bloody Valentine more often than not, but I like those groups, so it doesn’t bother me that Tee Pee and crew are still digging drugged out distortion in 2007.

Blackstrap went on around 4:30, and I’d heard a track on Myspace that reminded me of who they say they like, the Jesus and Mary Chain. JAMC were tops in my books a long time ago, but after their lame excuse for a reunion gig at Webster this past May, I wasn’t that thrilled about seeing someone rehashing a band that recently annoyed me. Good thing is, they didn’t. There is one track I heard that does remind of JAMC, but live they were a whole other beast. The aforementioned reference points are there (you can add early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club too, if you want) but unlike the JAMC I saw in May, Blackstrap plays tight rock and roll, with hints of haze and atmospheric sounds in the background. Their bass guy looks like Jeremy Shockey, if Shockey was skinnier and didn’t have tattoos. I didn’t know any of Blackstrap’s songs, but I liked it. It was loud, and the band was adept at making quick, tight rhythm changes- just enough to keep you from getting bored. The droneyness of shoegaze bands can wear one down, but Blackstrap kept the energy up, even for the twenty-five of us scattered about.

They have a keyboardist who doesn’t seem to do much- she stands rather motionless and is no doubt easy on the eyes, but as the set wore on, I think I figured out that she was providing some sort of distant hum through her keys. Either that, or she was turned way down, so you couldn’t really tell what she was contributing. But she did sing at times, and her voice was high, sweet, and complimentary to the gruffness of her lead singer’s. I was left thinking that I’d like to see if a majority of their recorded stuff matched the powerful feeling of their live show. Nice work, Blackstrap.

Rounding the Tee Pee party was The Warlocks, a band that I haven’t thought about in awhile. I was really into their Phoenix Album a few years ago, but their subsequent releases failed to grab my attention. They took the stage at about 5:30 pm, and even though we know that it’s still very much daylight outside, the band turns off all the stage lights except for a soft glow in the back of blood red, hoisted above the drummer. You can’t see them, is what I’m getting at. Then comes the smoke. Fire, you think? No, the mass quantities of smoke that filled the stage, and also the tiny room, emerged from the smoke machine they were rocking late afternoon. So, they have a stage show. And because so much smoke filled the room, it started to get real difficult to see the person standing a few feet away from you.

Halfway into their set, they kicked in a fast strobe light that pulsated at the loud, end parts of their tunes, all the while, you still just staring at silhouettes. Yet, all of these “antics” forces you to focus on their music, and they’ve gotten better since I last saw them. They feel more melodic at times, and they’ve stopped relying on special instrument effects as a defense mechanism. They seem to have made a conscious effort to push themselves a bit, while maintaining their original feel they’ve cultivated over the years.

The Warlocks have a new record coming out this Tuesday called Heavy Deavy Skull Lover and are streaming the track they seem to be most happy with, “So Paranoid” at their Myspace page, as well as Tee Pee Records homepage.

Both bands play tonight at Luna Lounge, as part of Tee Pee’s official showcase. Warlocks will be back on November 6th, at Knitting Factory, and Blackstrap won’t be back for awhile.

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