Archive for February, 2010

Where to Rock Fat Tuesday: Fort Useless in Brooklyn

February 17, 2010

Boy Genius at Fort Useless by 1015 / J.L. McVay.

If your goal is to celebrate N’Awlins with all of the jambalaya (and great music, of course) but none of the obnoxious crowds, here’s an off the beaten path option for you to consider.

DIY music venues are now just as significant in the New York indie scene as the more traditional bar venues. Brooklyn’s Fort Useless opened its doors in mid-August. The man behind this operation is Jeremiah McVay, who’s been putting together shows all over the city as part of his StereoActiveNYC.com project for years. Through this website, he covers shows and news on local bands. It’s like BrooklynVegan but more personal, more local, and more underground.

Hailing from the Bayou State, McVay is particularly amped for the Mardi Gras event he’s put together this coming Saturday, February 13. The night will include a stellar line-up of performances by Holy Moly!, Dinosaur Feathers, Ava Luna, and Flying Pace.

Fort Useless, like all DIY spaces, is an unexpected experience. The room is incredibly intimate, helping provide a solid connection between the artists and the audience. In addition to rock shows, Fort Useless holds art openings, comedy nights, poetry readings, and a monthly Songwriter’s Salon featuring acoustic performances by members of established local indie rock acts. The vibe at the Salon is akin to a campfire where friends sit around and share songs with each other. This spirit of musical support is a real special quality that promotes community, positivity, and artistry.

In this case, DIY doesn’t equate to grimy and shambolic as can frequently be the case. The décor is simple but tidy, the sound delivers a solid honest mix, the atmosphere is laid-back, and the room is always full of people who care deeply about music. That means when a song breaks down to a quiet part, audience chatter will not drown the tender musical moment.

You’re not going to find cheaper beer unless you grab a sixer at the bodega and stay at home. All these factors make Fort Useless a rare and welcome gem to the live music landscape in Brooklyn. It’s no stretch to call this place a music sanctuary.

How to get there: Fort Useless is at 36 Ditmars Street in Brooklyn, one block from the Myrtle Avenue/Broadway stop on the J, M, and Z trains. Like many DIY venues, the front façade may have you questioning if you are in the right place. But trust the address, and bravely walk in. There will likely be a flyer of some kind indicating that you are indeed in the right place. For more information, you can visit their myspace page.

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Architecture In Helsinki “Like It Or Not EP”

February 2, 2010

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Polyvinly

Architecture In Helsinki have evolved considerably with each release in their relatively short career.  Places Like This embraced their growing presence as a live entity.  Grooves, dancing, rejoicing, and having fun brimmed out of their sonic melting pot. This progression was kind of beautiful in a way as the music now had the sort of Ladysmith Black Mambazo celebration of humanity kind of spirit behind it.  It also brimmed with more confidence.  That feeling is preserved on this EP that features some new remixes of a couple Places Like This tracks.  Like a good live band that truly cares about it’s fans, they included the previously unreleased live-show fan favorites “Beef In A Box” and “One Heavy February 2008.”  Prior to the Places stage, Bird had moved from Melbourne to Brooklyn.  The in-your-face intensity of the city that you can hear come through many New York groups whether it’s The Ramones or Wu-Tang, kicked in for the formerly shy Aussie farm boy. Bird has talked about the influence of the Puerto Rican community around his South-Williamsburg apartment, from late night Reggaeton to street barbecues, on the music he makes.  You can honestly hear this influence on every track.  You can feel the humidity of a New York summer night and the energy of people living it up while the smell of heated trash lingers in the air.  The pulse of the city life and the harmony of a stoop party infect their sound.  It’s the sign of a truly talented and honest artist that their music can be a reflection and extension of their life.  Shortly after the release of Places Like This, a friend of mine forwarded me a video of AIH performing in the streets of Paris.  The line between the street crowd and the band blurred and it really felt like a neighborhood event in the spirit of the early days of hip-hop at street parties in the Bronx.  That video seemed to perfectly capture the essence of what’s important to the band.  Honest music shared with good people with the soul purpose of making your body feel all kinds of positive things.  Their sound may have evolved but the heart hasn’t.  The Like It Or Not EP will remind you to grab your friends, get outside, fire up the grill, bang a beat on whatever’s around, and let your voices soar.

Originally published in Impose Magazine.

Figurines “When The Deer Wore Blue”

February 1, 2010

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Wow.  “Childhood Verse” starts us off with an instrumental intro that surges with Danny Elfman-like haunted symphonic-pop grandure, takes a left turn to a simple Daniel Johnston-esque verse, then transitions back to haunting and dramatic.   Figurines makes these sharp turns feel natural and the effective is compelling.  It does exactly what a first track should do in that you can’t wait to hear what the rest of the album is like.   And When The Deer Wore Blue lives up to its great first impression.   You can hear different influences popping up throughout the record, yet the sound is still fresh, unique, and totally their own.  Figurines lead singer, Christian Hjelm, sings with a yearning and desparation that balances its fundamentally quirky by nature.  Figurines on a whole weave together some of the most refreshing arrangements indie rock has seen in a while.  In pop music, the term “classically trained” has become synonomous with singer-songwriters who can play piano pretty fast. The instincts and creativity employed in giving these songs unique and varied musical colors that swell and dip with varying feeling reflects a deeper and more sophisticated relationship to classical arranging and musicality that is often missing in most bands. Many indie-rock artists stick strictly to using the distortion-guitar color palate,  while Figurines have crackeds a new code that better utilizes the potential range of every rock instrument and how they collectively interact. Despite the myriad talents Figurines has to offer, the songs don’t hover aloofly above the listener but are rather very accessible through the various song genres they visit.

Originally published in Impose Magazine.