Thursday, May 31, 2007I'm in New York, It's Thursday
New York hasn't been short of adventure, that's for sure. I was hit two days ago by a whirlwind of of technological disasters. The first wasn't really technological, but it was a minor disaster. Between catching the L train in the morning to the city, walking around the financial district, chilling in Battery Park, finding my way north up to China Town and Little Italy and then into Soho before heading onto Greenwich Villiage...I lost my Metrocard. My 30 day Metrocard which I had only bought the previous day. Which cost $76. My feet were in no position to stomp home so I bit the bullet and bought another one. I should say something about Metrocards before I carry on documenting my technological disasters. Metrocards are really hard to swipe. With Oyster you just hit it near the sensor and voila! you're in. Metrocards need to be swiped lengthwise to access the turnstile. I've learnt that it's all about the motion, following it through, believing in yourself, being confident. You need to focus but it needs to be natural. I'm getting there - I've had a run of three first times today.
The technlogical problems are that my UK>US plug adaptor does not convert voltage and so all my various chargers are unable to work. This leaves me phone-battery-less and needing to by batteries for my camera shortly. The final technlogical blunder is that the lens protector on my camera is not closing properly. Canon will be getting a strongly worded letter on my return. So it's really not all that bad, it just means I have to be more selective with my snapping and take more care to protect my lens in the short term.
Last night Deborah and I went to see Bright Eyes at the NY Town Hall. It was his fourth of seven dates there and at each of the three dates he had had special guests on stage - Lou Reed, Ben Kweller, Norah Jones and Jenny Lewis. Halfway through Conor announced our special guest...NICK ZINNER OF YYYS. Deborah and I squealed! And got over our respective jetlags. And then Maria Taylor (of Azure Ray and also Conor's girlfriend) came out. And when we thought it was all over in terms of surprises BEN GIBBARD of DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE and POSTAL SERVICE came out to sing We Will Become Silhouettes, 4.05 and I Will Follow You Into The Dark! And then everyone came back on for a crazy encore. It was the best Bright Eyes gig I've ever been to - and it was nice to come out feeling elated rather than a bit depressed. It goes to show how much has changed over these past few years. D and I are also going again tonight and have row A seats. We are excitedly guessing who the secret guest(s?) will be.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007It's hard to adjust your sleeping pattern to the city that never sleeps
New York is awesome so far. I have spent hours and hours walking to the extent that I wish I had brought more supportive shoes than my lovely canvas plimsols. I am staying in Greenpoint, just North of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. It is a real traditional working class Polish nabe and provides me with endless smiles - on the street I hear people speaking Polish all the time and all the shops' signage is also in Polish. It reminds me of those Higher Modern Studies classes when we learned about Salad Bowl and Melting Pot theories of integration in the American perspective. It's crazy that you can walk from one block to the next and be on another leaf in the bowl, or maybe a lump of feta, or even some cold rice. For there are many different variations of salad, after all.
What is most surprising is how friendly everyone is. I'd always had the estimation that New Yorkers were all fast-paced and hardened, but you get some amazing banter on the subway, behind you when you are eating breakfast in the diner and just crazy people on the street. I love the Brooklyn twang, being asked if I want any more cawffee and melting their hearts with my British accent and awkward tips (I am still a bit unsure about all the ettiquette). Other teething difficulties include managing to swipe my (My My) Metrocard right - it's all about a motion in time with your body, but it isn't as easy as Oyster, that's for sure.
I am so excited to have another three weeks here. Wow. More soon!
Friday, May 25, 2007In defence of Patrick Wolf
Much has been written about Patrick Wolf in the last few months. It has, indeed, been a strange couple of months for young Patrick. Having signed to Polydor's 'indie' imprint, Loog last year, Patrick has been receiving more attention and praise than ever before; he's also been touring more, doing more interviews and even appearing on the Charlotte Church show. Things got a bit crazy when he played at Miss-Shapes (NY) and hit and sacked his drummer on stage, announcing two weeks later on his messageboard that he would be retiring from this kind of way of musicking at the end of the year. Cue: the story spreading like wildfire around the internets, Record Company Men calling up Patrick and bringing him to his sense, an explanation to Pitchfork and commencing the touring. Phew!
As a long time fan of Patrick Wolf I thought it important to point out a couple of things in the face of the criticism he has received. Patrick is a human and a young one at that. Self-doubt and insecurity are inevitable traits, as are reactions and actions in the heat of the moment which may later be regretted. As a multi-instrumentalist solo artist he is used to having full control over everything; it is conceivable that the pressure of promotional schedules, conquering markets and making public appearances takes a while to get used to. Finally, the stress of meeting all the high expectations placed upon him is clearly affecting. For these reasons, I say don't judge Patrick Wolf on his recent actions. Listen to his music instead.
And what wonderful music he has given us. Three fantastic albums: 2003's Lycanthropy electro-y folk (my favourite), 2005's Wind In The Wires - a luscious, sweeping and mystical folk record, and 2007's Magic Position which is a carnival of different pop sounds. He's playing festivals all over Europe and Britain this summer and some more US dates in the next few days.
Thursday, May 24, 2007We're all cold war kids
It is absolutely shameful how long it's taken me to blog about Cold War Kids' excellent show at ULU on 5th May. When I read a review of their 21st May Koko gig I realised I'd gotten too far behind with this whole thing. On a personal note, I am now finished my finals at UCL and am very excited about flying off to New York and Montreal for a month of discovery...in 4 full days, wow. I'll be seeing the Pipettes, the Long Blondes, Bright Eyes, CSS, maybe the Horrors, maybe Keren Ann, maybe Au Revoir Simone, maybe Loney Dear!
Cold War Kids though. I hadn't known what to expect. Their tour sold out in a matter of days, but then there were hundreds of surplus tickets floating around on eBay. Five minutes before doors were supposed to open at their first "proper" headline London show and only a small group of non-plussed attendees had gathered; sure, there was a big football match on, but this was strange. No bands came on until 9pm and the first support act came in the form of Derrick Brown, a poet, reading his involving, funny and then suddenly touchingly bittersweet writings to the growing crowd. He came on again, just before Cold War Kids took to the stage and prove the most warming of warm-up acts. People booking dire and derivitive support acts take note: this is much better.
There remained a slightly staid atmosphere in the venue and my feelings during the first few songs were mixed. CWK's stage show was very Californian, based on all the Californian bands I used to watch live; lots of motion, lots of skulking around stage, lots of bass, lots of showmanship. When you are so used to seeing twee indie-pop or shambolic indie-rock bands, this kind of professionalism can seem disingenuous and detached from the music. But their songs are so consumingly emotional and Nathan Willet's vocals are so soulful and powerful that this culture-clash was soon over-ridden. I forgot that there were other people around me and was completely absorbed by their on-stage antics, all four members occupying their own little worlds and occasionally re-surfacing to perform a guitar dual or swap instruments.
If you are anything like me, you have probably gone in phases with Cold War Kids - I loved the album when I first heard it, then I doubted its sincerity, but since giving it a second burst, there's no turning back.