“That one’s trouble,” my friend Catherine said warily, nodding toward a girl in leather barreling through the crowd at Warsaw Saturday night in Greenpoint. “You can tell.” Right Catherine was—shortly thereafter, the fan in question anointed Liars’ frontman Angus Andrew with her beer, splattering his raspberry-colored suit before he ever opened his mouth; lit up a cigarette halfway through the performance, angering the generally humorless Warsaw security; and screamed, “You bitches better keep playing!” for her take on an encore request. Andrew, of course, loved it. He eventually awarded her a dedication for “Plaster Casts of Everything,” his skinny fingers pointing her way as he wailed, “I wanna run away/I wanna run away/I wanna run away/I fuckin’ wanna bring you, too.” She was pleased as punch.
It wasn’t the only dedication he threw out Saturday night, explaining not long after he took the stage that the band’s Brooklyn homecoming show was a special one—so much so that he’d covered his wrists and forearms with the names of everyone he wanted to mention. There was a “love song,” as he called it, played for one Kate Murphy in the audience, and another specialty for his sister. “She lives here in Brooklyn with her husband—they have two kids,” Andrew began, before advising that couples with kids occasionally lock themselves in the bedroom and “Freak Out,” launching into a louder, more frenzied version of that song from last year’s Liars.
In fact, that’s how the band played just about everything: their brand of blurry, atmospheric rock made brighter, clearer. “Houseclouds,” which sounds like it was ripped from Beck’s little pacifist mitts on record, was mesmerizing live. Andrew intoned, “I won’t be gone,” but it sounded more like “I won’t be God”—an imagined lyric made more intense by the spread-armed stance his six-foot-six frame took. It was a pose he repeated throughout the night, when he actually took to his feet—he played nearly half the show from a wooden chair due to a recent back injury, but that didn’t stop him from taking down a heavy Polish flag from the side of the stage to wave throughout the closer, “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack.” (I thought that was only my favorite Liars song; I didn’t realize it was everyone’s.) Visibly grimacing a few times throughout the show, he stumbled to grab a towel at the back of the stage, looking like he might puke. In fact, the band canceled its date in Philadelphia the next night. (“One of us contracted a gnar gnar stomach flu that made performing without projectile vomiting virtually impossible,” read the bulletin they sent out. “It really sux coz we’ve been fantasizing about your brotherly love all tour.”)
Even with those troubles, the Australian-born Andrew is a consummate performer. Intense and piercing one minute, charming and disarming the next, he’s forever in control of the crowd—he knows just when to bring them to fever pitch and when to settle them down. Jack-of-all-trades Aaron Hemphill switched effortlessly between drums, guitar, and synth; drummer Julian Gross literally left me speechless. (And who, might I ask, was that handsome touring guitarist?) I don’t think there was a disappointed fan in the sold-out house.
Of course, they had the benefit of following No Age, who couldn’t have had more fun onstage if they tried. Playing a mix of songs from 2007’s Weirdo Rippers and unreleased tracks from Nouns (due out May 6 on Sub Pop), the punk-rock twosome (guitarist Randy Randall and drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt) are kinda like Matt and Kim for the teenage-boy set, but with more stage banter. “Thanks to all of our new Polish friends out there!” Randall offered, laughing at his own joke when much of the audience wasn’t sure where he was going with it. “Our what, dude?” Spunt asked. “Dude, we’re like at the Polish Community Center,” Randall replied. “These people are all . . . Polish!” Randall grinned maniacally throughout much of his performance, bounding from one side of the stage to the other and playing to the cameras, passing his guitar out to the crowd and jumping off speakers. Spunt, meanwhile, had to move his kit back after each song as it inched forward with his force. The songs are short and fierce, and if the new ones aren’t quite as practiced as the standbys, no one seemed to notice. “We haven’t played this one yet,” Randall warned at one point. “So just clap along. Like you’ve heard it before.” They’re adorable.
And boy, love was in the air, mingling with the stench of pierogies. Maybe it’s the general high-school dance ambience of Warsaw, but if I saw one couple making out prior to the show, I saw 10: I suspect one memorable flannel-
shirted duo had partaken in what Emily Valentine might call “euphoria.” (This chick was straddling her boyfriend. On the floor. I shit you not.) Then again, I never went to any dance with such scary chaperones—the security guy I stood next to at the front of the stage yawned loudly during the breaks between songs and couldn’t have cared less if anyone was bothered by it. (I wasn’t, since he was keeping me safe from the leather girl.) Consider also the random old men filing out of a space from behind the bar in twos and threes to fix the ATM machine when necessary, the pretty Polish barkeeps offering Zywiec (or was it Okocim? I can’t remember), and a cafeteria serving up the aforementioned dumplings—Warsaw is so totally one of the strangest music venues in the city. But you can’t really help but love it.