Father John Misty @ Maxwell’s, May 17, 2013 – And Commotion On 6th Avenue

It’s a risk every time you leave the house.  Step off the curb…you’re hit by a bus.  Catastrophist?  Yes.  But on the way home from the Father John Misty show Friday night, we stepped off the PATH train into this.

We had finally reached the West Village after an arduous journey.  Walking down 6th ave from the 9th st PATH train stop, all we could do was exclaim how great it was to be back in New York.  Then, just in front of Gray’s Papaya…we heard a loud bang.  The block went silent for a minute.  The crew of party boys on the corner exclaimed “Yeah, that’s how we do it in the hood!”  They were obviously joking around, the consensus was that it was an M80.  There was a general feeling of unrest though, so we crossed over towards Greenwich Ave.  People seemed ready to dismiss it, but a man ran straight into traffic to hail a cop.  Within the time it took us to get to 7th st, one block south, there were 5-6 police cars on the scene.  We even saw the undercover police taxi.  If anything, it has given me renewed faith in the NYPD.

We saw no action, and had no idea what happened until the news trickled down through Twitter, but you could feel the commotion.  It was an unsettling end to an unsettling night.

The question that has come up most often recently is “What the hell is wrong with people?”  A few weeks back during a friend’s show at Brooklyn Bowl, some jerkoff unloaded a fire extinguisher during the final song.  Everyone thought it was a fog machine until it became difficult to breathe.

This lead to the venue being cleared out, 2 fire trucks called to the scene, a good portion of the venue covered in fire resistant powder, and instruments damaged.  A gigantic waste of resources at the behest of some entitled hipster fuck.  What the hell is wrong with people?

Over the past year, I have evangelized Father John Misty every chance I get.  It took a minute to warm up to his debut album, but once it connected, I was all in.  It’s a mix of great songs and showmanship, a magical combination.  And with the next New York show being at Prospect Park’s “Great Googa Mooga (which will forever have a giant shitstorm cloud hovering over it,) followed by the West Side Highway cavern known as Terminal 5, I jumped at the chance to see him across the river at Maxwell’s in Hoboken.  Despite Hoboken’s reputation as Murray Hill literally on steroids, I’ve had nothing but good experiences at Maxwell’s.  It’s so far north, that the bro’s usually find some trouble long before they reach the quiet northern streets.

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It was billed as a Solo Acoustic show, and I was willing to give Misty (Josh Tillman)  the benefit of the doubt.  Seeing songs performed by one person with an acoustic guitar is like a look behind the curtain.  If a song can’t stand up to this bare bones arrangement, then it’s just sauce without a sandwich.  So while there would be no Freddie Mercury style dance moves, we would get to the essence of the music, and I was ok with that this Friday night.

A friend’s father was a police lieutenant in Jersey City, and told us no officer wants to take the Hoboken shift, because the bro’s don’t think twice about fighting a cop.  I have no doubts about this.  I am a Hudson County defender.  As a former 5 year resident of Jersey City, there are plenty of things to love about New York’s annoying little brother.  Great food, cheaper rent, lovely views…but it’s hard to defend Hoboken.  While standing on line for the bathroom at Maxwells, I heard this exact conversation:

“Dude, we’re two short guys with muscles, we’re definitely starting a riot tonight.  Someone’s gonna wanna fight us.”

“Yeah Bro!”

Had I been a more instinctual and spontaneous decision maker, I would have left right there.

The show was sold out  – The place only holds about 200 people, and the man sold out Webster Hall, so this was to be expected.  But the crowd was still a surprise.  Usually at Maxwell’s, people who want to talk and whatnot hang towards the back, so up front you get a good experience.  But this was no holds barred. Upon taking the stage, Misty (let’s refer to him as this from now on, because it sounds better than Tillman) invited the crowd to sit on the stage.  The phrase “oooh, mistakes were made!” was uttered from the crowd.  He immediately seemed to regret the decision.  “Now, don’t abuse your privileges!” he muttered.

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An adorably sad looking girl clutched the giant stuffed white tiger, perched on a stool as a stage prop, and clung to it for the remainder of the evening, singing every word.  A more enthusiastic yet lyrically challenged girl sat directly behind Misty, throwing herself fully into only the verses she knew.  And just to her other side, the VERY bro who made the “short guys with muscles” statement, plopped himself directly on the chair set up for Misty to sit on.  The guitar tech kindly asked him to sit on the floor, much to the bro’s dismay, and he proceeded to drunkenly knock over said chair, and sit with his feet just inches from the performer.  Not the best of omens.

Despite a few weird sound adjustments in the beginning of the set, it was great to see these stripped down arrangements.  The hits were just as exciting.  Also a slew of new material was performed, and it’s fun to guess how they will sound on record.  It’s reassuring to see that he’s still a magnetic performer in this setting.  There were times when the rowdy crowd was enraptured, unable to text, talk, or take Vine’s with their smartphones.  The highlight of these included a slowed down version of “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” which is not one of my favorites from the record, but tends to be favored as the one to belt out at the show.  But slowing it down without the admittedly awesome broken sounding electric on the record, the song came through. And that’s a great chorus.  Even the meat head enthusiastically erupting with laughter at every remotely sarcastic lyric was stunned silent.

The performer was aware that the vibe felt off.  The on-stage-chair-knocking-muscle-bound-tiny-bro began talking to the girl next to him.  And texting.  While on the stage.  Yeah.  Misty had had enough.  He turned around before a song….

“Oh my god, SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

The little stout and surly fellow looked stunned, and shifted uncomfortably.  While tuning, Misty paused again….

“You’re SO close to me right now.  SO CLOSE!”

It continued this way for a bit.  When someone is on stage with an acoustic guitar, and there is a sold out crowd there to see them, just use some fucking manners.  That’s really all there is to it.  Yes, sing along at the big parts.  Laugh at the jokes between songs.  But relax with the fucking iPhone videos every song.

Recently, I’ve begun to turn the brightness on my screen all the way down before the show.  Then, I allow myself a few quick photos.  I don’t take videos, and it’s not hella distracting.

It was a startling evening.  The fashion/freak  show that is Washington Street in Hoboken on a Friday after midnight is astounding.  It was a mad dash for the PATH.  Couples were fighting (possibly about who was more tan,) dudes were sniffing each others asses and asserting alpha male dominance.  Something is in the water over there.

Closing the night with a hate crime shooting in the West Village…well I don’t know what to think about that.  At least we made it home unharmed.  I’m going to let it stir for a minute.

Dawes at Maxwell’s, 12/7/2011 Review

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Well, this makes two posts about the same band fairly close together, but you know what?  I don’t even care.  You want a wide variety of editorial content centered around pop culture and bands who dress like homeless crackheads set loose in a party store, then go watch Morning Joe.  OK?  Glad we’re past that.

After the Dawes show at Webster Hall, two very small shows were announced at Maxwell’s, one of the 3 greatest venues in the New York metropolitan area.  If you have never been, Maxwell’s is a hidden gem in Hoboken, NJ, a mile square city of dudes in white baseball hats who work in finance.  It became famous in the 90’s, hosting bands like Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, and approximately 2 billion others.  Hoboken had a vibrant music scene at the time, yes, I know it’s surprising if you look at it now.

Maxwell’s has a feel like no other.  It is not filled with pretentious people, the food is actually good, and the drinks are not expensive.  On this particular evening, I trekked the 12 blocks north in the pouring rain from the PATH, and Joe Strummer’s “Coma Girl” was on the juke box.  I took this as a good omen. I had an extra ticket, and the doorman found me a person looking for one.  That’s not going to happen in Manhattan.

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The feel of the show was a bit ragtag, in a good way.  The band seemed relaxed, maybe they had enjoyed a few beverages, not over rehearsed, again, all in a good way.  It was like seeing your friends band play a local bar.  But not like that friend’s band who takes themselves too seriously and just wants to rip 15 minute solos over “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  More like those guys you think “I feel kind of lucky to be seeing this”

One thing I seemed to have missed at the recent Webster Hall show is what great technical musicians these guys are.  There were quite a few guitar solos by Taylor Goldsmith, but none were gratuitous, all supporting the melody, not just mindless shredding.  Great interplay between all of the musicians, lots of listening going on.  Also great bass lines.  Almost reggae sounding – not in the bouncy Bob Marley way, but in the “the bass feels like a giant blanket engulfing me with happiness” way.

Also, I’ll bet that bass player listens to a lot of Lee Sklar, the famed LA studio musician, most known for his work with Jackson Browne.  Browne has been hanging around with Dawes recently, they played a song at Occupy Wall St together.  I mean, that relationship is probably good for all involved.  Browne gets an excellent young group of musicians, Dawes learns from one of the master American songwriters, we all get to hear the results, and I’m sure the environment and foreign economies benefit as well somehow.

I’d love to see what the future holds for a band like this.  They put on a great live show, and their first album was fantastic (I haven’t fully explored their latest release.)  Maybe a collaboration album with Browne?  A random cover?  I feel like a live EP would be a great idea, just record it at any of these shows, the entire crowd singing “When My Time Comes”  you can’t feel left out.  Thats just my two cents, I’ll send you an invoice for the consultation fee.

On the way home, I wasnt going to walk the 11 blocks in the rain once again, so I hailed a Hoboken Cab ($5 flat rate anywhere in the city!)  Annnnd….this was the interior:

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You really can’t ask for more than flashing Christmas lights inside your cab on a rainy Wednesday night.