Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Last weekend, Kevin and I attended the Across the Narrows festival, a two-day indie-scribable concert event occurring simultaneously on Coney Island and Staten Island (we went to the Coney Island show both days.) Here’s the highlights from day the first:

We arrived halfway through Death From Above 1979, a raucously earsplitting duo that’s essentially a metal band with a name and album cover designed to convince hipsters they’re not uncool for listening to them. There’s only a drummer and an electric bassist, both playing and yelling as loudly as possible, so they basically sound like if the other two Ben Folds Five members just went fucking berserk. The crowd was sparse at 4 pm, but that didn’t reduce the amount of death that came from above; their music was fist-pumping and heart-pounding and pounding-pumping-hearts-with-fists and I’m sure they’d be a blast at a smaller venue. In short, I Death From A-Loved them. ARBITRARY GRADE, to take the fun out of all this: B+

Talk about tough act to follow, after those metalheads came Rilo Kiley, a quirky, folk-tinged crew with a cute female lead singer. They opened with a string of quality tunes off their recent major-label debut, then continued to get more and more country as their set went on, peaking when they played “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and the Dueling Banjos theme simultaneously while drinking moonshine. Actually, they closed with their single that isn’t called “Bad News,” though the fact that their innocent little indie outfit managed to score a major label deal and a hit single is certainly not bad news to the rest of the festival’s up-and-comers. In short, they Rilo Kind-of surprised me. GRADE: B+

The lone black eye of the two-day festival were indie-stalwarts Built to Spill, a mid-90s alternative group that doesn’t so much write songs as they randomly play a riff four times then play another one on and on for six minutes. They sound like if Stephen Malkmus and his talent were divided up into five people. They’re not bad, but I can’t listen through a full album of theirs, and their slothlike live show didn’t change that (I wish actual sloths had been involved.) By the time they were done, more eyes in the crowd were looking at watches than at the stage. In short, they were Built to Kill…the concert’s momentum. GRADE: D :(

After years of telling people and being told “this is a rip off of Gang of Four,” it was sort of surreal to see the massively influential British quartet intact before my very eyes, and to this day, these grown up lads from Leeds pack a punch that completely justifies their past decade of retrospective worship. Yes, they’re influential—you can still hear Franz Ferdinand’s entire career within every one of their effortless riffs—but they’re just as listenable today as they were to stunned post-punk audiences two decades ago. Lead singer Jon King was an absolute lunatic, dancing as hilariously wackily as you’d expect a 60-year-old Brit to dance while constantly dropping the mic, running around the stage, and eventually smashing a microwave with a bat as the beat to a song. In short, they were the highlight of the concert, first and Gang-of-Foremost. GRADE: A+

The headlining Pixies hit the stage with blindsiding punctuality (actually earlier than they’d been scheduled on the bill) and after opening with a blip from “In Heaven” and a ballad version of “Wave of Mutilation,” they blitzed into a one-two punch of “Where is My Mind?” and “Vamos” and the crowd was off and moshing like crazy, instantly reminding me why I don’t like a lot of people that like the same music I do. The band’s pace was sickeningly swift as they cut through more than half their entire catalogue in a little more than an hour; after “Mr. Grieves,” “Nimrod’s Son,” and “Broken Face,” I was prompted to ask the rhetorical question, “does this band have a bad song?” Rhetorical answer: no. The moshing was distracting, particularly this drunk/high dude in a Yankee hat who kept intentionally slamming into people, promping me to steal his Yankee hat and have him immediately start drunkenly pummeling me. Fortunately, I was able to grab his lapel and throw him, and he went down like a Yankee free-agent-pitcher, came back to his feet, shook my hand, got his hat and left. During all this, “Debaser” was playing, which made it surreal to the point where I no longer believe it actually happened. Throughout the set, the band pretty much just stood there, with Frank Black’s Herculean physique in the spotlight and the rest in darkness until Kim Diehl played “Gigantic” as the encore. In short, despite a performance that didn’t add much over the albums, these guys are still my Pix as one of the greatest bands of all time. GRADE: A-

(Stay tuned... Beck, Belle & Sebastian, and the Polyphonic Spree to come, whenever I get around to writing it!)


At 2:07 PM, Blogger Sly Revolutionary said...

Hey guys.

I'm flattered that you'd use my photo of Gang of Four in this post. Could I possibly get you to slip a credit into that paragraph somewhere? "Photo by Adam PW Smith" with a link to would be greatly appreciated.

adam pw smith


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