On The List :: Antlers, Dawes, Deer Tick, Pela, Tokyo Police Club @ MHOW [5.27.09]

If there was a bill in New York not to miss, it was this one. Kicking off at 8.30 with Antlers taking the stage in front of a nearly empty Music Hall of Williamsburg and closing with Tokyo Police Club hitting the stage at nearly 1.30 in the morning, this show didn't quit and it didn't miss.

Antlers took the stage and opened with an ambient progression of fuzz and held-keys. It was a quiet way to grab a crowd but this is a band that wrote an album about terminal illness. Were you expecting chimes and G, C, D progressions? The band is a little precious at times. Their lead-singer over-does it with his falsetto and the band is a little too in-love with being serious. "Two" was pumped up live, trading it's tragic reverence for double-tap drums and a pace the band rarely approaches in other tunes. Leaving the stage someone leaned over and said, "I liked that." He would later admit it wasn't that good. This sort of sums it up.

Dawes offered an inoffensive, if well-manicured, set of southern-rock. Roots rock doesn't always rub New York the right way but on this night the crowd bought in, stayed upstairs and sang along. Surely, this band has a secret collection of Neil Young records they listen to late at night. The songs are smooth and the band is tight. That doesn't mean it blew the doors off. But it does count for something.

The night turns during Deer Tick's set. From my native Rhode Island, the band brought the state flag on stage. The word emblazoned on it was unmistakable: "hope." But by the end of the set it very well could have said, "dance." Deer Tick, a throwback four-piece, are equal parts 1950s rock and 2009 folk. That's meant as a compliment. Using stand-up bass and tight-as-a-drum three-part harmony, the band got the crowd shuffling around. The lead-singer's voice is as harsh as it is cathartic - full of pain and pathos.

With considerable pressure, Pela took the stage announcing themselves as "The Pelas." It was a joke from their frontman, who looks like he could have played linebacker in college. The guy is an absolute train of human mass and energy. It's a wonder this band isn't huge. They are everything good about The National with none of the self-flagellation. With a clear desire to kill the crowd, Pela busts around the stage with little regard for their own equipment or personal safety (this is a band that canceled a tour after one member fell on broken glass and suffered a massive wound). The moment of the night comes in the band's second-to-last song: frontman, lit from the back, sweating furiously, with a rapidly burning cigarette in his mouth. The smoke pours from his mouth as the band thrash through "Tenement Teeth." It's after midnight in Williamsburg and you can be sure that this is everything your parents warned you about. Smoking, bars, loud music, personal injury, rock music - but Pela is the best band in the world in this moment, thrashing, moving and in control. There's nothing dangerous about passion, the pitfalls are at the periphery.

And Tokyo Police Club, well, it was 1.30 and after Pela the night was over for me anyways. I heard later that the set was good. For the best bill of the year, it almost didn't need a headliner.

Listen ::

Antlers - "Two"
Dawes - "When My Time Comes Around"
Deer Tick - "Easy"
Pela - "Waiting On The Stairs"
Tokyo Police Club - "In A Cave"

No comments: