All Points West, photo by Rebecca Smeyne
I’ve never been a huge fan of The Go! Team. I’ve seen the Brighton-based group a few times before, and I’ve really tried to like them, but I just can’t seem to buy into their superhero cheerleader vibe. I’ve never been big on school spirit, either. However, I will say this: Ninja sure can dance. And they’ve got energy out the wazoo, jumping around the stage and banging on their guitars. It doesn’t hurt that they have two drummers either. Still, The Go! Team is sort of like popcorn at the movies–its delicious during the previews, but by the time the opening credits come up you’ve had enough.
The New Pornographers, on the other hand, are underrated. Whenever I see the Vancouver-based band I’m surprised at just how catchy most of their songs actually are, and APW was no exception. Carl Newman, the redhead that fronts the group and writes most of their tunes, is like a Canadian Rivers Cuomo, which makes The New Pornos like Weezer but more melodic and not so unstable, quality-wise (Exhibit A: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4iTyHItFwg> “Beverly Hills”) Newman gets extra points for not taking himself too seriously, despite penning gems like “Your Rights Vs. Mine” and “Use It” which were the first two songs in the set. At one point he looked out on Liberty Island and said, “Shit, it’s the Statue of Liberty, eh?” in oblique reference to the classic Canuck beer movie “Strange Brew.”
Grizzly Bear, photo by Rebecca Smeyne
Next up was the Brooklyn-based folk-rock quartet Grizzly Bear, who rocked much harder in person than on Yellow House, their 2007 studio album. The heavier sound gave new meaning to the thick vocal harmonies on standout tracks like “On A Neck, On A Spit”, but the band was thankfully still all rounded edges and reverb. Ed Droste, the group’s original member and Rufus Wainwright sound-alike, owned up to never having played Jersey before, and then set out to make a great first impression, setting up cavernous sonic spaces and then bringing them crashing down, to the delight (I think) of the relatively staid crowd.
Look for Day 1: Part 2 later today, for reviews of APW appearances by CSS, Andrew Bird, Girl Talk and, of course, Radiohead.