Since I got to New York 2 years ago (is it 2 years already? Yikes) I’ve been managing to get to a lot more gigs than I ever used to do in the UK. Last year I went to 10 or so shows, including my personal highlight of the year of seeing The Police at the Virgin Festival (a special ‘between album’ show by Franz Ferdinand at the intimate Bowery Ballroom was a close second.)
This year is kicking off similarly as concert season gets up and running.
The first show of the year was Super Furry Animals (SFA) at the Bowery Ballroom, a quick 5 minute walk from my apartment. I’ve never been a fan enough to buy any of their CDs but I heard they were a decent live act. The show was definitely worth going to, the one disappointing part was the crowd who had pretty much halved in size by the time the band played ‘The Man Don’t Give a Fuck’ (pretty much the only song I know from hearing the band in other people’s college rooms in 1996(ish) .)
A week ago I saw Beth Orton on her first live tour for a couple of years. I remember first hearing Beth Orton on a Glastonbury show on the BBC in the summer of 96. Her first album, Trailer Park, came out later than year and has been a regular in my listening ever since, but I’ve never seen her perform. These days she’s dropped the electronica leanings she had back then (partly from her work with William Orbit and The Chemical Brothers) and her style is a very pleasing folk / indie crossover. Her live voice was a lot better than I thought it might be, she had a fun stage presence and I definitely hope to see her again in a few years time.
Finally for now I saw Hot Chip last night at the newly refurbished and renamed Music Hall of Williamsburg. Hot Chip’s ‘The Warning’ was the driving-force of the UK’s electro renaissance of a year or 2 ago. I liked it, but wasn’t overwhelmed, but this was another band I wanted to see because of the promise of their live act. Again, no disappointments here – they were energetic, unpretentious, producing a very tight show full of opportunities for the crowd to stretch their dancing legs. I think that seeing these guys in a couple of years with a little more experience under their belt at a bigger venue would be a fantastic experience.
All 3 of these venues are relatively small and it was nice to be able to get reasonably close to the artists at all of them. The Hiro Ballroom probably wins ‘best gig venue I’ve ever been to’ though – the sound was fabulous (especially for an acoustic show like Beth’s was) and the interior was lovely too, more than making up for the strange practice of keeping the crowd waiting outside for ages and only letting people in in small groups.
I already have several more shows lined up – the highlight of the summer so far is looking like the triple bill of REM, Modest Mouse and The National at Madison Square Garden, but it’s the unexpected surprises that I’m really looking forward to.