November 12, 2011

The Naked and Famous / The Chain Gang of 1974/ White Arrows - Webster Hall - October 27, 2011

The show was advertised on the Bowery Ballroom calendar as starting at 8PM. However, White Arrows started their set at 7:30 which was 5 minutes after I arrived. Since the audience-right side balcony was open, I checked out what it would be like taking pictures from there. But I soon discovered I would probably like it on the floor in front of the stage better. Yet, once I got in front of the stage, I wasn't much happier. There is something about the lighting at Webster Hall that is funky. In photos, the performers faces always end up in darkness. A professional photographer would probably have a handle on it, but I don't.

White Arrows

The White Arrows walked on stage without any fanfare, starting their set with "Needles, Needles." The first thing I noticed was that they were definitely a guitar driven band. And though guitarist Mickey Church's vocals, backed by bass player Steven Vernet's, weren't the strongest they worked within the context of the band's indie sound. The two songs that followed were pretty much hard to remember and must be songs the guys are working on because when I requested a set list, the songs were noted by the band as "untitled."

"Coming or Going" was a pretty cool song in White Arrows set. I could tell by the audience, there at that point, were enjoying the song as much as I was by the way they were bopping along with their heads. The song has a cheesy keyboard sound played as a riff that is reminiscent of Glenn Miller's "In The Mood," but it still somehow works.

"Get Gone" was a song that was equally as interesting in that it started with sort of popcorn sounding keyboard rhythm played by the hoodie hooded Andy Naeve and eventually got picked up by drummer Henry Church on toms while Mikey Church sang in falsetto. The following song was a Fleetwood Mac cover which White Arrows made their own by giving it the same type of rhythmic treatment as the previous two songs, basically taking the song out of it's original acoustic guitar realm.

White Arrows ended with "The Woods" which was very different from the previous songs. It started with Naeve singing a melody (wow-oh-oh-oh) in falsetto before the band kicked in with a straight forward mid-tempo breezy feel and M.Church sang lead. The song concluded with competing guitar solos before coming to an abrupt end.

Once White Arrows finished their last song, they simply stopped and broke down. There was no this-is-our-last-song warning before the last song, and if there was a goodnight after the song - it may have been mumbled.

Although I wasn't quite ready for them, I thought White Arrows had an interesting sound. However, I think they need to work on there presentation with regard to the way they feature their songs and themselves.

White Arrows set list
Needless Needles
Coming or Going
Get Gone
Save Me A Place ( Fleetwood Mac Cover)
The Woods

White Arrows are:

keyboard/vocals - Andy Naeve
guitar/vocals - Mickey Church
guitar - John Paul Caballero
bass - Steven Vernet
drum - Henry Church

The Chain Gang of 1974

Kamtin Mohager, the solo artist who goes under the name The Chain Gang of 1974,walked out on stage to set up with his band not long after White Arrows broke down their equipment. Once they were set up, the band walked off stage and came back 3 minutes later to perform. There wasn't a costume change but I did expect Mohager to take off his raincoat. But when I saw he kept his raincoat on for the first 3 songs of his set, I then realized he was wearing it for affect. .

Once The Chain Gang of 1974 opened up with guitar & bass riff on "Devil Is A Lady," I automatically liked what heard. During the first few moments there were elements in their music that brought 3 very different bands to mind. The first 2 were Led Zepplin and Nine Inch Nails (which once I saw Mohager's physical stance almost goes without saying.)The third band that came to mind was Talking Heads because the song's hook reminded me of  "Crosseyed and Painless."

I thought the next song "Matter of Time" was equally as brilliant. It also had a guitar and bass riff which this time was locked into a steady backbeat. Mohager sang in lower register almost in unison with riff on the song's verses.

It wasn't until "Undercover" with it's classic disco beat that I thought "okay, now I get the 1974 reference." Mohager finally took off his raincoat for "Heartbreakin' Scream" which enabled him to emote a little bit more and break into his dance moves at the end of the song. "Tell Me" also had a dance beat going on as well as a lyric that asked the question "Can you feel it?" Oddly enough the guitar work reminded me of early U2.

"Stop" had a bit of psychedelic feel but was once again played over a driving beat. But the only ballad in The Chain Gang of 1974's set, "Don't Walk Away" sounded like it came straight of the 80's. As matter of fact, so did "Hold On," which was the last song of the band's set. Mohager sold the song by going into the audience and then returning to the stage.

All of the songs The Chain Gang of 1974 played were from Wayward Fire, a CD definitely worth having if only for one reason and that would be remembering how good he and his band are in concert.

The Chain Gang of 1974 Set List
Devil Is A Lady
Matter of Time
Heartbreakin' Scream
Tell Me
Don't Walk Alone
Hold On

The Chain Gang of 1974 are:
Kamtin Mohager - Vocals and guitar
Guitar: Jacob Bond
Drums: Brandon Anamier
Bass: Adam Halferty

The Naked and Famous

I check the Bowery Ballroom calender on a regular basis and occasionally I will check a band's website if the band's name peeks my interest. Such is the case with The Naked and Famous, a band from the Auckland area of New Zealand. I listened to their MySpace page, got a hold of their newest CD and made arrangements to see them. I'm really glad I did.

The Naked and Famous began their set with soft cushiony synth pads, sweet vocals and an electric guitar lead played by Thom Powers for the song "The Ends." The soft beginning was the calm before the distorted chaos commencing with Jesse Woods slamming out a beat for "A Wolf in Geek's Clothing." Alisa Xayalith fluctuated between tambourine, the keyboards to her left and her vocals in unison with Powers. As members of the band gyrated to the forceful sounds they were making, it became evident that their set was off to a powerful start.

Keyboard player, Aaron Short started off the next song joined by bassist David Beadle on keys as well. I have to admit that though I like the song "Punching In A Dream," it sounds more like an MGMT song than anything on MGMT's second CD.

Somewhere during the show Powers told the audience what a trooper Xayalith had been. He said she had been pretty sick and had been running a fever but stilled managed to perform. That may have been the case but it wasn't evident in her vocals especially when she sang "Spank" or danced around during the musical breaks on many of the songs.

Unless my digital copy of their CD has the songs mixed up, "Source" comes before "The Sun" but on Thursday night it came after.  Either way, the 2 songs are an interesting combination. I love the sort of whispered chanting vocals that eventually circle around and overlap each other. After the song, Powers announced the band was going to do something old which was "Bells" from their EP No Light.

If there is one thing The Naked and Famous can be known for, at least in my mind, is the way Xayalith and Powers overlap vocals. It's something they do during "Frayed" as well as the previously mentioned "The Sun." That's not to say that the mixture of their voices isn't equally as powerful when singing in unison; I loved when Xayalith and Powers sang together for "All of This." It was at that point that I noticed there was a group of young women around me singing along with the band and continued to sing when the band performed "Eyes" and "Jilted Lovers."

When The Naked and Famous did "Birds" the audience members stopped singing. I guess it was evidence of being another song from their EP No Light. Thursday was my first time hearing the song and I was surprised that they didn't release it on their first full length studio CD. It's a cool song with 50ish feel and a driving backbeat.

When The Naked and Famous finished out their set with "Girls Like You," which I was happy to finally hear. The band came back with something obscure by The Mints Chicks. Not a bad song, but at that point I didn't want to hear something I didn't know. However, The Naked and Famous did redeem themselves with "Serenade" which was another old song, this time from their EP "This Machine." Though I never heard "Serenade" prior to the show it had a poppy feel, a kick drum that kept heads bopping and was unmistakably by Xayalith and Powers

The crowd cheered as soon as the keyboard part began for "Young Blood." But during the performance of "Young Blood" I kept thinking, there is no way of getting around the fact that, it sounds like it could be a Passion Pit song. I heard the comparison in my minds ear every time Xayalith and Powers sang "yea -ee, yea-ee, yea-ee, yea" Nonetheless, It was a great song to end a really wonderful evening of music.

The Naked and Famous Set list
The Ends
A Wolf In Geek's Clothing
Punching In A Dream
The Sun
All Of This
No Way
Jilted Lovers
Girls Like You

Crazy Yes Dumb No (Mints Chicks Cover)
Young Blood

The Naked and Famous are:
Aaron Short - keys
Alisa Xayalith - vocals, keys
David Beadle - bass
Jesse Wood - drums
Thom Powers - vocals, guitars

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