Darren Hanlon/Dean & Britta/Alessi’s Ark/PVT/Hooray for Earth/Marnie Stern/Heidi Spencer/Calibro 35
Friday, October 22
Better than: Reading newspapers.
Who says you can’t do this 24 hours a day? We stepped into the basement of Bowery Electric at around 11:50 yesterday morning, and made it through all six hours of the Village Voice/Redeye Distribution Day Party, as fans and artists popped in and out, likely on their way to another nearby event. Marnie Stern, for instance, finished her set at Bowery Electric at 4:15, then quickly quickly headed off to the Brooklyn Bowl for another #Offline set, scheduled for 5:45.
Australian folksinger Darren Hanlon began the day’s events at 12:06, qualifying as an afternoon start only by technicality. Accompanied by his guitar and harmonica–and for one song, a backup singer and her newborn baby–Hanlon breezed through a set that could pass for material off an upcoming Mermaid Avenue, Vol. 3. His sense of humor enlivened both the audience and his songs, one of which even featured him acting out a Laurel and Hardy routine midway through. This was followed by an especially afternoonish performance by Dean & Britta, who played as if they were still a bit sleepy and wished the audience were too. You know it’s bad when “I’ll Keep It With Mine” serves as a set’s liveliest tune.
At first glance, one wouldn’t have expected Alessi of Alessi’s Ark to provide much of a lift. Her happiest song, she claimed, was one about a robot who plays scrabble with her and whose “soul is beautiful.” In truth, none of her songs are really happy, but none are sad either–they’re more about navigating the confusing and melancholic space in between these poles.
PVT then followed with the most technology-dependent set of the afternoon–before, that is, Hooray for Earth entered for the third of their four CMJ dates. Although Hooray For Earth prominently feature ethereal keyboard patterns and plenty of reverb on the vocals, they write songs, and not soundscapes; during their regrettably brief performance, their guitars reliably ripped in and crashed over any would-be chillwaves.
The aforementioned Marnie Stern, much beloved in these pages, played next, and it was at this point that the crowd size reached its apex. Despite her busy schedule and the early hour of the show (“How do you talk about vaginas in the morning?” she asked, as the hour approached 4 p.m.), Stern picked her way through as many songs as she could in the half-hour allotted for her set. The above inquisition was followed her first album’s “Transformer,” and the performance climaxed with the newer “Her Confidence,” which featured Marnie hammering away at her fretboard and the drummer mauling his kit, arm over arm.
After that, much of the crowd went upstairs into the daylight, and the lineup returned to traditionalism with another folksinger, Heidi Spencer. Many of those who decided to stay moved towards the bar, their chatter making many of the lyrics inaudible, leaving Spencer’s music sounding pleasant but ordinary. Italian retro-funk band Calibro 35 closed it out, playing jams built around a heavy, distorted groove that would pass from instrument to instrument. They didn’t do anything very new, but they did everything well. They finished, and at last, the crowd could leave the basement and who knows, maybe catch another show or two before heading home.