This past Friday night (at The Delancey) Neon Lights put on the first of what I'm hoping will be a long run of fantastic shows. Those of us who attended were treated to some very fine live music as well as
three two of the best darn DJs this side of the Mississippi. No, I'm not talking about Prince Paul's set upstairs - I'm talking about DJ Colleen Crumbcake and DJ Fluxblog.
The bands: so, I went to the show not knowing much about the four bands I was going to see, other than that they were all D-approved and that they all share some sense of a love of synthesizers. Of course, that's really all one needs to hear to get excited right? Works for me. I figured I'd listen to each band a tiny bit before getting some songs for my own DJ sets in mind, and I did. Then I stayed as far away from the bands as I could so as to have as pure of an experience as possible. Okay, all except for Lismore. I kind of already posted about them back when my plan was to find out TONS about each of these bands before seeing them at this show. First one plan then another. I voted for posting about all of these bands before I voted against it. A flip-flopper...you got me.
Bell was the first band to take the stage. All I knew about them before the show was that they'd recorded an excellent (but too short) cover version of "Moonriver". I knew this because Colleen posted it about a week ago and I listened and then waited to see how the band sounded live. Well, it turns out that "they" only describes the band in terms of live shows and that Bell is really the work of one Olga Bell (lead singer/Juno player in the picture). It also turns out that Bell put on an amazing show on Friday night, afterwhich I realized that Olga Bell happens to be my new favorite musician in New York. Is that an exaggeration? Perhaps, but sometimes hyperbole is extremely effective in conveying a message and this is one I'm going to need everyone to pay attention to: Olga Bell has a very bright future ahead of her in the world of music. You're doing yourself a disservice by not listening to, and not going to see, Bell.
In recorded form Olga Bell's songs are delicate sparse bedroom recordings. Low-fi goodness that sounds as if it would've been very comfortable hanging out in the '90s with Bjork and Folk Implosion. In a live setting, however, Bell's music reached a completely different level of excellent. Olga's voice is simply amazing. She has this beautiful warm lilt in the way she sings that seems to cut right through the darkness of a venue as if she's singing just for you. Plus, she plays a mean (borrowed, which resulted in a few minor miscues) keyboard. Don't let her tell you, though, that Bell's set wasn't a success just because she made a mistake during the beginning of one song. Being able to display vulnerability and a sense of humor on stage is something more New York bands need to learn how to do and the moment when she stopped a song to start it over again only served to let the audience grow a bit closer to Olga and her band.
The band she surrounded herself with was perfect. The rhythm section not only kept things together nicely but knew how to shine at just the right time when the moment allowed for it. Jessica (from Via Audio) brought her usual vocal and stage presence, as Bell's backup vocalist, and I was rather impressed to later find out that this assembly of musicians isn't a full-time band. Given the collective joie de vivre with which they breezed through their set, highlighted by a totally awesome cover of Ski Lo's "I Wish", I would have thought that they've been performing together as Bell for years. No? Good. That means they've only just begun and I've still got a chance to see Bell again before the rest of the world wants a piece of them.
Lismore was the second band of the evening and they immediately took things a bit more towards the darkness. While Bell offered a warm take on '90s influenced indie-pop Lismore brought a sound more cold in nature. Winter-pop. Yeah, that's the ticket. Beautiful winter-pop. If only it would finally start acting like winter then maybe Lismore would be the perfect band to provide our seasonal soundtrack. Get with it weather!
As Lismore took the stage, and I saw their Prodigy and other synthesizers, I realized that they were going to be doing quite a bit more than the previous band to sate my desire to see a band get all wicked synthy. Have I mentioned how much I love synthesizers? Well, Lismore does too - thank goodness for that. They played through their set with a shy professionalism emphasizing mood and sound. I thought their performance was very good, and their material clearly well rehearsed, but I think I still had Bell a bit too much on my mind to give my full attention. At any rate, Lismore is a band I'd love to see again.
Thieves Like Us
With a name like Thieves Like Us you better bring the goods. I mean, you can't just go and name your band the same name as a New Order song and not have the chops to back it up, right? Well Thieves Like Us has got it going on and played a very fine set on Friday night. As the night was progressing, and the bands seemed to be moving towards even more synth-based sounds, towards more dark music, it was only appropriate that Thieves Like Us have the stage lights turned down so that you could barely see them. This set up an unavoidably appropriate atmosphere. Watching them I felt as if I was in Manchester in 1982 seeing an up and coming new wave band blossom before my eyes. Or maybe I mean Sheffield. Yeah...Sheffield. If there's any one criticism I'd offer about the band it's that their sound rarely strays from sounding like early New Order/early Human League fronted by Larry Cassidy (from Section 25). But how can that be bad really? Those are only some of my most favorite bands ever.
Sadly, having fulfilled my DJ duties and aiming to try and see another band at another venue I ended up leaving before I could catch The Ballet. This is no excuse for you to avoid checking them out, however, and I suggest you do so right now. Don't you fear, I'll be going to see them live in the near future and I'll give you a full report then.
- Listen: "I Hate the War"