Monday, July 18, 2005

Dinosaur Jr/Broken Social Scene/Radio 4/Magik Markers. July 14 de Julio, Central Park Summerstage (NY)

For those who haven't followed the saga or if you're back paging or if you googled a concert review and find yourself here without previous knowledge of this blog or it's author, well i'm on vacations from the big, tiring and stressing task of living in Mexico City and chose a very exotic and different enviroment to what i'm used to, so that's why i'm in New York (that's sarcasm for you!) and that's why i'm telling the story of a concert i went to which happened way farther than where i usually attend concerts.

I arrived at Central Park at something like 5:30, the show was scheduled to start at 6:00 but doors were supposed to open at 4:30, something which kinda tipped me to hurry and get early since there was a lot of expectations, i thought. 5:30 was the earliest i could arrive, i was kinda slowing the pace that day i think; so i started roaming the lands that were fenced up to house a stage, some trailers and other commodities to make it look like a real concert ground, people who were already there were tanning on the sun, stretching on the ground, lying down, relaxing, speaking to each other, there were even some guys playing hacky sack (give me a fucking break is right). i went to the merch area, were they offered a great variety of products and memorabilia, a Broken Social Scene cd, the Dinosaur reissues, J Mascis' and Lou Barlow's solo shit, shirts, caps and copies of the reissued "Freak Scene" 7"; to my sadness, there was no Magik Markers merch, so my hopes of scoring a limited edition cd-r or a copy of my shopping list-topper I Trust My Guitar, Etc. LP soon faded, so i settled for a Dinosaur t-shirt and the "Freak Scene" 7", thinking i may come back for a cd. While walking around the land i noticed in this backstage area, which was a barricaded part of the park by the side of the stage were some trailers were parked, that J Mascis himself was there talking to people, which seemed cool, to watch one of my favorite guitar heroes be a person and doing human stuff so near to me, like talking; what i just wrote sounds too pretentious and like i think this guy is a god or something but that's not what i meant, the thing is that i'm finally seeing someone i have seen in videos and in pictures on magazines, the internet, etc. not possing but just chilling out, he didn't seem nervous at all. Then out of nowhere (to me at least) comes a giant blonde skinny guy and approaches J, it was Thurston Fucking Moore and he looked and acted exactly as i expected, laughing, all cool, in good spirits which was intimidating, he was just a few feet from me and i could have gone to the barricades and yell "Thurston" so maybe i could thank him for being such a big inspiration and a motherfucking killer artist but i frozed, because he impressed me so much as the way he is, which is exactly as you'd expect it to be. Then, when i thought it wouldn't get any better, Kim Gordon walks over there too, i couldn't believe i was seeing 2/5s of Sonic Youth so near to me; if i sound starstrucked that's because i am. I'm not trying to be a super geeky groupie fan when i say it but, to me, they seemed like rock royalty visiting a mighty event in music.

While trying to find a bit shadow from the trees around the area, i saw a tall red haired girl walk over onstage with guitar in hand, a curly haired guy sat behind the drums and another girl in this crazy, thrift store dress (or at least it looked that way), the Magik Markers were setting up!!! i recognized Leah in a second and most people weren't aware yet of what was going on so i could just walk up to the stage, in front of the barricade, for the first time a long time i was at the very front of the stage (at left, to be more precise). An anouncer started to inform about the Central Park concert series and about this particular show, making it known that Dinosaur haven't played with this very line up since 1989; then asking for an applause for the openers, the Magik Markers.

Elisa Ambrogio told the crowd that this was a hardcore show and tried to taunt the crowd to "fight" her, but since it was still early during the day, people weren't very up to it. What really struck me about the Markers was the state of their instruments, most of which seemed to be crumbling, Leah's guitar had a shattered pickguard and Elisa's left handed guitar wasn't that far off, but Pete Nolan's drumset was the stuff of legends, something you have to see and hear to be believed, he played with a cracked cymbal, the stand of the other cymbal was tour-fixed by taping a broken drumstick to the end of it so the cymbal would stay; plus, i don't know if this was just a cool idea or nessecity being the mother of invention, but i also noticed that the bottom cymbal on the hi hats was a bigger cymbal, a crash or a ride. The other thing that struck me about the Magik Markers was how much of a racket they did with such small means, by which i'm referring to Elisa's small (for stage use) Fender combo amp; since the go, they sent wave after wave of aggressive distorting noises, sometimes recalling the no wavey sound of Teenage Jesus and The Jerks or DNA and at times kicking into a hardcore kind of adrenaline high, topped off with buried vocals or/and accompanied with frenetic screaming; by all means this is way good and the music coming from the stage was excellent but i felt something was missing, they weren't spewing out the kind of energy i have seen from the videos i have been downloading from the Ecstatic Peace site, probably because they're used to play places were there's no stage, they are at floor level and having true interaction with the crowd; not that they didn't try to reach out, Elisa pretty much was tip toeing on the edge of the stage the whole time, sometimes falling and sometimes leaning to the front, and when a security guard was trying to keep her from falling to broken rib-ville she reached her hand for him to take, god knows what for, but the guard wouldn't play along. The band ended their set at the same place they started it and it was disappointing that the finale was so anti climatic, even if the set was far from bad. As the band gathered their gear, i overheard the security guard saying to somebody in the crowd "that was the worst fucking music i have ever heard in my life" and everytime someone says something like that to band like the Markers, an angel gets his/her wings.

Next up were Radio 4, which i had heard basically two things about them: 1) they are yet another band trying to imitate the post punk sounds of Gang Of Four, Joy Division and early PIL (like their name suggest) but come off sounding more like A Flock Of Seagulls and Billy Idol and 2) they suck. My suspicions grew larger when i saw they were setting up keyboards AND percussion; most bands that use percussion blow (with the clear exception of De-Loused era Mars Volta, but then again look at what they have become), it's pretty hard to have that self impossed handicap and come around it. The band did sound like an 80's arty but dancy new wave band, and played a predictable set, which kinda sucked (knowing that most of the other Dinosaur dates had Bardo Pond opening); but, to their credit, they played with energy, unlike other rock revivalists who are here to save rock n' roll who just like to stand there looking "cool" in designer-approved clothes. They rocked, but it was all been there, done that.

I didn't know much of Broken Social Scene except that they were a sort of Canadian collective, and i had an idea of what they could sound like, yet i didn't expect to see 10+ people, most of which were going to play guitar, pretty much all who were going to sing together at some point and even have a horn section; but before that, one of the guys in the band said that they were two guys short, which seemed a bit Spinal Tap to me, i thought they were joking, especially when he told the audience why they were missing, they were arrested for trying to score weed on a public park; everyone in the crowd laughed or clapped at the idiotic thought, and even the guy in the crowd concluded that, indeed, it was idiotic [Edit:: turns out the NYPD weren't too kind to the guys, check out the Pitchfork articule about them getting beat up by the the cops; to borrow a Buddyhead phrase: Shoot Pigs In The Face!]; they played a crowd pleasing (i do mean crowd pleasing, since most everyone was bewildered by them) set of shimmering, optimistic indie pop that was good but not extraordinare, in my opinion, they were fun to watch and to listen to but it didn't make me want to run to the merch table and buy their cd. They were ok, and that was that.

Since i arrived, and during breaks between bands, the PA was playing a variety of music which ranged from ancient folk recordings (you could tell they were ancient) to a drum n' bass version of "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!" by British '77 punks X-Ray Spex, or was it an "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!"-sampling drum n' bass song? Anyway, to me, the highlight of these in between songs was Black Flag's anthem "Wasted"; the roadies got everything ready for the band to come up onstage and destroy; J had the coolest amps ever, they were both full Marshall stacks, one of them all purple, the other half orange, half black, both old as fuck and showing it, i have decided since this show that the greatest looking gear is fucked, worn as hell stuff, Lou had two stacks as well, one topped with a power amp and the other with a Marshall guitar head (i think), it did look like one of the loudest things to be experienced, J has a rack-like box were he can plug all his analog pedals and switched them on and off with a MIDI remote footswitch, he had his usual arsenal of Jazzmasters and a Fender Strat; the drumset was small.

After a few minutes of anxious waiting, J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph took the stage, and started playing almost on the go, rocking hard, right after J thanked everyone for coming; i was standing right in front of J, who was wearing a Discharge shirt, how's that for punk?, and at first, the band wasn't as loud as i thought, but then, whenever he stepped on his pedal board it made the volume jump from concert loud to almost-pain in your ears kinda loud; sure, the fact that it was an open venue concert made it seem less loud but it was certainly very loud anyway. And right from the beginning things started to escalate, the second song they played was the Lou-showcase "In A Jar", who was rocking a Rickenbaker bass; i was startled to listen to them play and think of my Dinosaur bootlegs from '88 and '87 and realizing theat it sounded the same, as if they had never broken up and the reunion happened in 1991 instead of 2005. Song after song, it was great, loud awesome rock, most featuring those face-melting solos (J is definitely one of my favorite guitarists, and i don't like guitarists much); after Lou fooled around with a bassline after hearing a request from the crowd the band launched into the one song i classify as "the one i want to hear but probably they won't play" (it happens at every concert), which in this case was "Little Furry Things" which was fucking ecstatic; watching J play all the little fills and expansions of the chords made me realize that there's so much more to his great guitar playing than just his screaming solos, it was something you can only learn at a concert; the band was playing so hard that Murph lost his glass sometime during the show and they ended up in the crowd, the security people made the kid who had them give them back and when Lou noticed they were putting a pair of glasses onstage, he went "glasses?" not knowing what was going on, then realizing they were there drummer's; the band was in amazing spirits, Lou and Murph were constantly smiling and i'm pretty sure i saw J break at least one smile. At some point towards the end of the set, some guy managed to climb the barricade, reach for the stage, get up, run a little and jump into the crowd; problem was, he chose to jump exactly where i was standing; as i was just thinking that i had a t shirt and a fragile vinyl 7" disc in my hands, i instinctively ducked and stood back and by some kind of miracle i avoided getting whacked in the head by a boot, even if i still felt a leg whistle past me, and it sure was strange to have Kim Gordon looking to my direction while she smiled for the stagediver.

After a brief absence following their last song, the band came onstage again and started to rip thru one of their best known masterpieces: "Freak Scene", they played it aggressively, with J switching between a flange and a tremolo during the first instrumental break on the song and when the solo was supposed to start, J just switched on the flanger again and threw his guitar, letting it ring without us noticing that he actually broke a string, he picked it up to mess noisily with it before his roadie gave him another guitar just in time; as the solo time ended, J started to sing the bridge of the song but soon his voice was drowned by that of everyone else's singing: "sometimes i don't thrill you/sometimes i think i'll kill you/so don't let me fuck up will you/'cause when i need a friend it's still you", which felt amazing since this wasn't a sing along kind of show, J even smiled right there and then, i felt those lyrics as if they were happening at that same moment, and so did happen to everyone singing along, it was definitely a special moment. After that song, the crowd went crazy yet again, when they followed "Freak Scene" with their cover of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven", which everyone, being the good indie kids they are, knew by heart; i remembered for a brief moment one of the very first moments of the whole show, when Elisa Ambrogio said this was a "hardcore show", for it became one for just one chorus, when everyone screamed "you!!!" and pointed their fingers to the band during the chorus of that song, not to mention that a mosh pit was way undergoing for a while. They left the stage and returned once more to play "The Lung", then "Chunks" and then it was complete, over and amazing.

At the end of the show, i was driven to buy one their cds but the line was e-fucking-normous, proving that those albums will arrive to people who might have all but ignore one of the greatest bands ever.

SETLIST:

Gargoyle / In a Jar / No Bones / Mountain Man / Little Fury Things / Raisans / Budge / Kracked / Tarpit / Repulsion / Bulbs of Passion / Forget the Swan / Sludgefeast * ENCORE 1: Freak Scene / Just Like Heaven * ENCORE 2: The Lung / Chunks

Others who had something to say or have something to show you about this show: Brooklyn Vegan, New York Times.

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