This Weekend In New York: The Immaculates Keep Cool, Ill Fits Begin To Gel


In Waste Of Paint, our writer/artist team of Jamie Peck and Debbie Allen will review goings-on about town in words and images.

This past weekend continued to make me wonder where everyone had gone. Do half the people in Brooklyn have secret summer homes they escape to on the weekends? Is everyone simply too hot to do anything but sit around getting drunk off frozen margaritas? Or are we just seeing all the least popular bands? Regardless, this weekend resulted in quality winning out over quantity; the diehard scenesters were out and having fun, and Debbie and I discovered some good new sounds.

Friday night found us at the newly air-conditioned Death By Audio, where we saw the Memphis quartet Bake Sale; this is such an amazing name for an all-girl indiepop band that I can’t believe no one’s thought of it before. With black glasses, a long braid, a tattoo of a flying buttress and socks pulled all the way up, singer/guitarist Charlotte Watson bears a striking resemblance to the Pretty Ugly Girl who eventually gets relieved of her glasses and ponytail in teen dramas. They reminded me of a less garage-y version of early Vivian Girls with their pretty three-part harmonies, ’60s girl-group influences, and stock-still standing while trying not to fuck up. Also: their trick of switching instruments with one another.

Next, The Immaculates hit us with an intense blast of pitch-perfect neo-soul. Dressed in spiffy matching suits (a recent upgrade from polyester outfits), the group kept it simple while singer Jay Heiselmann came off like a young, white James Brown as he chopped the air with his hands, flung himself on the ground, and jumped down into the audience to boogie. “This song has a dance to it,” he announced toward the end. “It’s called the Greedy Goose, but we don’t know what the dance is yet, so feel free to do your own interpretation.” To his great delight, people did.

Saturday, we hit up northside joint Cameo to see Ill Fits, Sundelles, and Rewards. Following a competent (if slightly subdued) set from Sundelles, Rewards filled the space with their swelling take on new wave revivalism. With his long blond hair and boyish countenance, frontman/mastermind Aaron Pfenning looks like he came from the early ’90s, but when he opens his mouth he sounds like Robert Smith, David Bowie, and Daniel Ash rolled into one. And if he has good taste in sensual, breathy vocals and heartbreaking synth lines, he has even better taste in friends. He invited his buddy Blood Orange (a.k.a. Theophilus London/Solange Knowles co-writer Dev Hynes) to sing the achingly lovely “Asleep With The Lights On” with him; Knowles, who sings on Rewards’ forthcoming single, enjoyed herself up front.

By the time Ill Fits came on, the crowd had filled out considerably; friends and scene associates were eager to catch the second show of the sorta-supergroup. (Ill fits contains members of MGMT, Amazing Baby, and Foreign Islands, and it’s fronted by Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson.) They deal in a tasteful kind of midtempo pop that has shades of new wave and a hint of Genesis. Each member of this band is a consummate professional, but they were still working out the kinks as a group, stopping and starting at a few points. Robinson was a strange mood; whether he was compelling despite or because of this, I’m not sure. He threw a few screeches into his cool intonations, banged his tambourine on the stage, spilled multiple beers, and delivered a whole song lying down, then put the whole mic in his mouth. “Are you having a good time?” he asked the audience. We replied in the affirmative. “Not as good as me!” he answered back.