Friday, October 8, 2010

Abundance of “cool” bands coming to Northampton in the weeks ahead; a reluctant hipster's checklist.

The cornerstone of being an indie rock fan is constantly being snarked on for your taste in music. It was no different back in the pre-internet college radio era. “Dude, you’re lame. The Dream Syndicate sound like the freakin’ Doobie Brothers these days. You gotta check out Thin White Rope.” We didn’t have Pitchfork but we had magazines like Matter, Conflict, Maximum Rock & Roll, Trouser Press, and NME to take our cues from.  We being me, a 47 year old teenager.

These days the speed of the Internet has amplified indie snobbery by giving everyone with an opinion a forum. People go to music blogs, from Pitchfork to Stereogum to Brooklyn Vegan, expressly to opine on the latest bands they claim have “sold out” and to notify bloggers that their taste in music sucks. An extreme example of a former fan calling a  band out is Seattle’s James Burns who so wants to see the permanent end of the band Weezer that he is willing to put $10 million (mostly other people’s, in $12 increments) on it. “This is a roundabout effort to figure out why the media is still interested in this band despite them not releasing a decent album in over a decade (or I would say, ever.) … Even my girlfriend, the world’s biggest Weezer apologist, concedes that they should have packed it in after side one of The Green Album.” The band has responded, “If they can make it 20, we’ll do the “deluxe breakup!”
 We ask ourselves sometimes, “is consciously striving not to be cool perhaps an even higher level of cool, and therefore pointless?” If the majority of indie rock fans stand fixed to a spot, slightly bobbing their heads, and even swaying at times, can one tell with an untrained eye, which of them are cool and which are through being cool?  Can’t we say, as the Stiff Records band Madness declared in the punk era…
Well, at the very least we are dancing on the inside, and we book shows with our ears, as immune to hipster dogma as possible, and we’ve booked some bands this Fall that are truly magnificent and/or remarkable. They may also happen to be cool, but that’s not our concern. Probably. Here they are: 

The Bowerbirds, Sharon Van Etten- Thursday, October 14th, 8:30PM- Iron Horse
Bowerbirds are a boyfriend and girlfriend with acoustic guitar and accordion singing earnest songs filled with natural imagery that espouses a belief in the deep inter-connectedness of human beings, animals, and the Earth. But Phil Moore and Beth Tacular aren't trying to guilt you into making a donation to PETA, and they aren't trying to take you on some lysergic-fueled trip. Certainly these two have a particular worldview, but it's largely because of that purity of vision that the group's music succeeds, creating an immersive listening experience that can yield beauty and magic for anyone who isn't wholly given over to cynicism. Bowerbirds' second LP, Upper Air, like their debut, is filled with sublime melodies, absorbing lyricism and delicate harmonic interplay.

Sharon Van Etten is possessed of a remarkable, arresting voice. Emotive without being naïve, Sharon’s music, like her personality, is wise beyond its years. Her songs strike a balance between American and English folk and rock music, and her down-to-earth approach is refreshing after the onslaught of ethereal folkies in the last decade. More Anne Briggs than Vashti Bunyan, Van Etten’s extraordinary talents bode well for our ears.

Angus & Julia Stone, Dennis Crommett- Monday, October 18th at 7PM- Iron Horse
 Having spent the last two years touring the world in support of their critically acclaimed debut – A Book Like ThisAngus and Julia Stone return with their eagerly anticipated sophomore release Down The Way. Thy make their debut as producers, and develop their sound without losing the spirit of their debut. There’s been a subtle shift in gear, evidence of a growing confidence - the music gravitates from sparse to rich and textured arrangements yet never loses its etherealness and charm. Travelling has been an integral part of the Stone's musical story so it's not surprising they opted to record in a number of diverse locations around the globe - an old sawmill on the river banks of Fowey, Cornwall, a studio in Brooklyn, a water tank in Coolangatta, their second home - London - and Queens in New York. Once again the duo share song-writing duties – their individual styles juxtaposing yet complimenting the other. Themes of lost love and yearning weave through Down The Way. These two are going places.

The Books, The Black Heart Procession- Friday, October 22nd at 9PM- Pearl Street Ballroom
The Books started working together in 2000. Residing in North Adams, Massachusetts, they do all of their own sample collecting, composing, writing, recording, mixing, and mastering in their home studios using PCs running cheap software and the ragtag equipment that they've pieced together over the years. What you hear on their records is exactly how it left their hands, with no producer, engineers, or sweetening in between. What you hear onstage adds a dimension to the process that seizes the moment and delights all in its radius. The Books' legendary live show has always incorporated video as a primary element, creating an experience somewhere between a rock concert and a film. In a way the video serves as a kind of "frontman" for the band, rather than a typical ambient backdrop. As with the majority of the audio samples, the video is mostly culled from abandoned VHS tapes from the 1980's and 90's. The video is tightly synchronized to the band's live performance and the effect is exhilarating for the senses of both the audience and the band. The Books present the innocent wisdom and surreal charm of  their wonderful new album The Way Out in a way that is both technically faithful and emotionally revelatory.

The Extra Lens featuring John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats and Franklin Bruno of The Human Hearts, John Vanderslice - Saturday, October 23rd, 7pm- Iron Horse

The Corin Tucker Band (of Sleater-Kinney), Hungry Ghost,  Big Nils - Sunday, October 24th, 8:30PM- Pearl Street Clubroom

Sleater-Kinney frontwoman Corin Tucker’s new album “1,000 Years”  just out (on Kill Rock Stars, of course) reveals the one-time Riot Grrrl nearly 20 years after she began her career: as a full-grown Riot Woman. Old enough to trace the complexities of adult life, love and family, but still young enough to know better. Corin Tucker is nobody’s machinery. She’s a wife, a mother, a songwriter, a singer, an artist devoted to identifying the sound of real life, and turning it into music. She’s the woman at the heart of “1,000 Years,” with distinctive vocals, plenty of punky guitar shredding. In other words: pure catnip for S-K fans. And check out Pitchfork’s 5-10-15-20 interview with Tucker to read about the music of her life, including Joan Jett, Bikini Kill, and Fleet Foxes.

Also coming soon:

Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu, Father Murphy- THIS Saturday, October 9th 9PM- Pearl Street Clubroom

Beats Antique, LYNX, Dan Correia- Saturday, October 23rd 9PM- Pearl Street Clubroom

Besnard Lakes, Wintersleep, Fiesta Brava-Wednesday, October 27th 8:30PM- Iron Horse

Black Prairie (with members of the Decemberists), Sarah Jarosz- Thursday, October 28th 7PM- Iron Horse

Matt & Kim, Saturday, November 6th 9PM- Pearl Street Ballroom

Joy Formidable, The Dig- Saturday, November 6th 10PM- Iron Horse

Bob Mould, Tuesday, November 9th, 7PM- Iron Horse, yes, Bob Fucking Mould!

One EskimO. Thursday, November 11th 7PM- Iron Horse

Mountain Man,  Red Heart The Ticker- Thursday, November 11th, 10PM- Iron Horse

Tickets for all shows are available at the Northampton Box Office, 76 Main Street, 413-586-8686 and online at

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