ZT scribe Avi Pitchon visited New York City last August, and unlike many who generally tend to ‘holiday’ to get away from it all, this dyed-in-the-wool music journalist had other plans as he took in as much live music as possible while he was there. From Death Vacation to Neurosis, Avi Pitchon gives us some bite-sized chunks from his Big Apple live experience.
Allow me to be personal. Growing up an Israeli punk in the 1980s, the beacon of utopia for me was UK punk, from the Pistols to Exploited to Subhumans to Discharge, with a healthy serving of Motörhead, Girlschool and Venom. An anglophile to embarrassing proportions, yet mostly for a good reason: with the notable exception of Dead Kennedy’s, US punk/hardcore sounded either too melodic or too samey. All that changed after surviving adolescence, but more importantly, all that evolved after my first ever fave band: quintessential New Yorkers Kiss. Still, while I was squatting in Stockwell as early as 1994, I only made it to NYC for the first time in August . Better late than never! I can speak volumes about what it feels like to gaze at the Chrysler Building and munch on a Twinkie, but instead I’ll share the elation of seeing a bunch of amazing gigs. Spoiler: I’ve seen Neurosis twice, two days in a row. But let’s do it chronologically.
First stop is the fine Brooklyn establishment, The Acheron. Symbolically enough, my first ever NYC gig is by a city native band called Death Vacation. Fronted by Michelle who displays both massive lungs and dreads, DV deliver freshly putrid crust sprinkled with noisecore chops, making for an awesome combination of familiarity and unpredictability. Next stop Alphabet City and a cellar called Elvis Guesthouse for all-female duo Chaos Chaos and all-female trio The Prettiots. The former playing lo-fi R’n’B-tinged electronica, and the latter lo-fi ukelele-led riot grrl angst, neither are within ZT’s sonic remit but both made of very young and independently-minded spirits, thus serving a highly rewarding peek into the idiosyncratic inner worlds of the city’s ‘kids of today’.
Next stop around the corner, The Bowery Ballroom. Chain And The Gang [pictured] are the current combo fronted by veteran Washington DC radical Ian Svenonius. His hilarious yet hard-hitting sermons are backed by bouncy, angular, nervous garage punk’n’roll. His captivating stage presence overshadowed, flanked by ultra-cool ice-queens Francy Z Graham and Anna Nasty on guitar and bass respectively. Headlining tonight is Thurston Moore. Somehow, with the staggering amount of side and guest projects he’s been in alongside and following Sonic Youth, I neglected to check out his solo stuff. Tonight makes for a breathtaking introduction as we’re showered by ingeniously dynamic walls of melancholy yet overwhelmingly powerful riffage, evolving SY’s titanic legacy of outsider guitar mastery.
Now back to Brooklyn for the highlight of this visit, and of life in general. Neurosis at the Warsaw Bar and Lounge. Having seen them only once, exactly a decade ago at London’s Forum, it’s been too long a wait. I mostly remember two things from that [London] gig: Jarboe coming onstage with her eyes upturned showing only their white, and the band hitting one final earth-moving riff and exiting without a word. The Warsaw Bar show is on YouTube in its entirety [embedded in this post]. They played ‘Locust Star’, ‘The Doorway’, and they fuckin’ finished with ‘Through Silver In Blood’. The documentation and full setlist are out there, but…there are no words. Just a gaping jaw, choked up tears, and an equally elating and horrifying sense of having spent an hour or so in a parallel dimension of distilled sorrow and nobility. A kid is handing out a flyer on the way out. Turns out the band will play again the next day at the very intimate setting of the Saint Vitus Bar. Last night’s titanic closer is tonight’s opener. ’nuff said.
One day before flying back, a sniff of the suburban. A train to New Jersey’s Starland Ballroom for a taste of very specific strand of contemporary post-hardcore, that’s imbued with a considerable dose of that original ’90s form of emo; a completely different entity to the emo we all detest. Funnily enough, one such proponent of current heart-in-hand hardcore is Basement, from Ipswich. Both theirs and headliner Title Fight‘s sets leave me slightly sceptical. I might just be a bit too old for this, as proven perhaps by hundreds of hardcore kids cramming the large venue. Many are picked up home after the gig by their parents or older brothers and sisters. The anthropological experience tonight eclipses the music.
Oh yeah, and I saw Die Antwoord in a baseball pitch in Coney Island. Fuck do they rule.
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