Ah, the Black Box compilation. A long, loving, hard-earned ode to the power of music and community. Not terribly surprised to not see any other music journalist types in attendance–though, truth be told, I left early. Some day after my dissertation is done, I tell you… I’m not saying that a comp CD is the end-all-be-all of human existence. Just saying it wouldn’t kill us to recognize hard work from some of our own, especially when it features many of the bands that are currently doing the hard work of repping our fair city across this great land.
Vitro was up first. They play 50s and 60s garage pop with a smattering of soul, trashy psychedelic skronk and bluesy swagger. The crowd at this point was relatively sparse but appreciative, with a few brave souls flaunting convention and doing a little twist. I don’t particularly care for self-conscious “revival” stuff, but Vitro was honest and unpretentious in the way they went about it. Good for them.
Japanese Sunday was up next. Their album, Tap Tap Light Out, was one of my favorite surprises of 2006. It distills the best parts of MBV, Mogwai, Hum and Interpol into one challenging, engaging listen. Tonight Eric’s voice seemed a little hoarse, but the band sounded good and their guitar interplay was impressive as always.
Swim Party is a band I’ve known of for a long time. JR’s girlfriend, Melissa, knows them, and has always spoken highly of them. Her tendency to be effusive about these things may have delayed my checking their out by four or five months–which means four or five months of missing the boat for me.Whimsy isn’t something to which a lot of boys (outside of the fey, indie pop circuit) with guitars aspire. Swim Party has it in spades. They also have strength, integrity, and blindingly good songs. I was very happy to hear that the EP I’d just purchased had the song “Sunlight and Sprawl,” which really had me floored. I can’t remember the last time I thought of 764-HERO. I also can’t remember the last time I thought of the Cure, the Format, and Ian Curtis at a child’s tea party, smoothed out by Paxil and really digging on the high society conversations of teddy bears and china dolls. In fact, I’m pretty sure outside of myself–and maybe Swim Party–the thought is a completely novel creation. I’m instantly a fan, and am relatively convinced that their 20 minute set in the Atari Lounge was one of the first sets I’ve seen in a long time that really made me smile. They even played a Yo La Tengo cover. My buddy (and presumed reader) Kelly Wurtz and I always chide each other because he loves the indie pop and I’m too closeted to admit that I admire its charms. I think Swim Party may be the sacred territory over which we bury that particular hatchet.
Homeboy’s bass playing reminded me a lot of Zach from Pinback. That’s a good thing.
Sirhan Sirhan was up next. Sirhan Sirhan is like the weird D&D kid from high school that disappeared into an engineering degree and weightlifting in college, only to emerge whip smart and scary as hell. Though I only got to see their first five songs (mom and grandmom are in town, and their itinerary starts early), they were sufficiently strangling to suggest that not a beat was missed due to drummer Alex Organ’s recent exile in Kansas City. It boggles the mind that the Bronx are up the street in LA and turn out 200 lunatics each time while Sirhan’s right here in town, kicking ass and taking names. Makes a man want to reach for a gun.
All in all, a great night. Thanks to Mike and Mario for making it happen.