January 29, 2012

Rubblebucket / Superhuman Happiness / Prussia - Bowery Ballroom January 28, 2012


I'm not quite sure how to describe Prussia except to say they were definitely quirky. At points I felt like I was watching a preppy version of Jane's Addiction.  Frontman Ryan Andrew Spencer reminded me of a cross between Perry Farrell and Kevin Barnes (Of Montreal) sin the extravagant outfits or makeup. There was definitely a metrosexual feel to Spencer. (Metrosexual? Is that word outdated?)

Prussia opened up with "Girl Cops" which had a percolating bubble sound underpinning. The first thing I noticed when the band started playing was that Spencer neurotically dances around stage hunched over and quite often has his back to the audience. I also noticed that keyboard and guitarist, Brenton Bober had a weird devilish cartoon smile on his face whenever he sang background vocals.


"What Am I Gonna Tell Your Mom?" began with Spencer singing accapella as he shook the shakers which he kept taking out and putting back into his back pocket throughout the song. The song had a interesting hook that got repeated so many times, one would think it was the name of song. The lyric Spencer kept singing was "I'm not that kind of man."

As Prussia was ending their second song, Spencer bumped into something and there was thump on stage. Though he didn't need to, he apologized to the audience because as he put it "it's really close up here, I keep bumpin' into shit" The third song,"Mediator" though somewhat erratic, was my favorite. Each time the song came out of a slow passage, it seemed to flirt with calypso rhythms held together by bassist Kasey Press and drummer Drew Spencer.

Prussia did a few more songs including "My Marie" which, though it started as a dirge,felt like a pop song. Then Ryan Spencer announced "You can download our shit on the Internet," before going into the band's last song.

I enjoyed Prussia but I have to say they are definitely the type of band who's music one has to be acquainted with prior to seeing instead of after. Their performance was energetic but their music is far from straight forward.

Prussia Set List
1. Girl Cops
2. What Am I Gonna Tell Your Mom?
3. Mediator
4. Bleeder
5. Sleeper
6. My Marie
7. Annie

Prussia are:
Ryan Andrew Spencer - lead vocals and guitar
Brenton Bober - Samples and guitar and keys, vox
Kasey Press - Bass, samples, synth, guitar, vox
Adam Pressley - Guitar, bass, vox
Drew Spencer - Percussion

Superhuman Happieness

Superhuman Happieness is a side project put together by musician, composer and producer Stuart D. Bogie. Aside from working with other musicians on the Brooklyn scene, Bogie's main band is Antibalas and he is also known for his work as a featured Saxophone soloist in the Broadway musical Fela!

On Saturday night,Bogie started off the set my tapping out a rhythm on claves for the very soulful "See Me On My Way" sung by guitarist Luke O’Malley. I guess a person younger than I would have a different point of reference, put my first impression was that Superhuman Happiness reminded me of a modern day AWB (Average White Band.)

Most of Superhuman Happiness's music was instrumental but what I found great was the band kept the audience involved and the set moving along. For the song "Half Step Grind," the band got the audience to clap out a rhythm in the beginning of the song. Later on in the song, all the members of the band sat on the stage floor as synth player, Jared Samuel, played a solo part.

For the song, "Again again again (half step grind pt 2)" four members of the band including bass player Nikhil Yerawadekar sang a close but smooth harmony. Adding to the song's coolness was a horn part played by Bogie on sax and Eric Biondo on trumpet.

"Hounds" had funky groove that the entire band was in on, including horns, and was sung by Samuel on keyboards. As an aside, it's worth checking out the video for "Hounds"on YOUTUBE. It features a party filled with people wearing fake and overly long beards.

Before going into "Needles and Pins," Bogie announced that we were now at the "roller skating part of the evening." I know what he meant because the song definitely had a gliding along feel except for maybe the double time rhythm clapping part. The song also had a slight Passion Pit feel to it, but that's maybe because Samuel was doing a falsetto part above Bogie's tenor. I checked out YOUTUBE videos again and found a promotional video and a video of Superhuman Happiness's acoustic version - I loved both (see the acoustic version first - it's really cute!)

Superhuman Happiness did 3 more songs which I believe were new or at least new-er because I couldn't find them anywhere online. For the song "Second Heart" the band had the audience do a singalong to the lyric "there's s a second heart.." and for "Our Favorite Part" the song started with having the audience clap out a rhythm with Miles Arntzen coming in playing his kick drum underneath. The show ended with bass player Yerawadekar singing the last song "Hear You Calling."

Superhuman Happiness is definitely a band worth seeing. The music is great, the band has fun playing it and both those points are completely felt by the audience.

Superhuman Happiness Set List
1. See Me On My Way
2. Half step grind
3. Again again again (half step grind pt 2)
4. Hounds 
5. Needles and Pins
6. Second Heart
7. Our Favorite Part
8. Hear You Calling

Superhuman Happieness are:
Stuart Bogie - Saxaphone
Eric Biondo - Trumpet
Jared Samuel - Keyboard
Luke O’Malley - Guitar
Ryan Ferreira - Guitar
Nikhil Yerawadekar - Bass
Miles Arntzen - Drums


Rubblebucket was formed sometime in 2009 by trumpeter Alex Toth and sax player Kalmia Traver. From what I've read, both are from the east coast and met as music majors at the University of Vermont. I'm not sure how I would classify the band, except to say that they classify themselves as Afro-beat/Indie/Visual. I'm not sure what the visual part means, maybe it refers to the giant puppet robots that were walked into the audience during the middle of the show. However they classify themselves, I heard an indie dance feel as well as some of the same elements of Superhuman Happiness that went beyond similarity of both bands having horns.

Rubblebucket opened up the show with "Worker" which had a feel that reminded me of a cross between something by Tom Tom Club and Nile Rodgers. Trombone player Adam Dotson, Toth and Traver sang harmony for the song. But regardless of whether alone or singing with others, Traver's voice was always unmistakably recognizable in a very like-able way.

During "Breatherz" was the first time I noticed Toth and Dotson dancing around between singing background vocals and before the end of the song. Toth was in the habit of doing a stuttering robotical dance between center stage and his spot. He did it several times through the evening.

"Landing" was one of the songs in the set where I could hear Rubblebucket's world music influences. Travers started off the song with her baritone sax. In the middle of the song when Travers and Dotson played their sax and trombone parts, Toth did his very cute quasi-break, quasi-crunk dancing. The song is built around some weird sounding intervals which made it both interesting and enjoyable.

As you can see from the set list below, Rubblebucket did 2 new songs.  I wrote their publicist who advised the names that they gave for both songs was temporary.  I enjoyed the songs while listening to them but since there is nothing to jar my memory that's about all I can say - except maybe that the second of the two really had my attention (memory not withstanding).

The audience gave a out giant cheer once they heard the unmistakable 70s intro of Ian Hersey's jangling guitar for "Silly Fathers." I could see from my seat in the balcony that the entire audience was now dancing along. From that point on, an already happening show seemed to take off.

Immediately after "Silly Fathers," Travers told the audience that she was getting ready to get her dance on. That's when Rubblebucket did their "Heart of Glass"-"Rapture"-"White Lines"-"Caverns" mashup. Travers doesn't have to work to sound like Debbie Harry because she naturally has that little girl quality in her voice.

"Bikes" was another one of the songs with a funky world music feel, especially with that "la, la, la" riff that Travers sang during the song. Travers also walked into the audience during the song but she didn't get very far. She had the audience repeat some of the sounds she was singing after her. I'm not quite sure why she went into the audience, it just didn't feel like anything special at that moment.

Travers announced "Trangular Daisys" as going out to all the love triangles in the house. It was really cute to watch her whistle during the song. I already liked the song but there something about it live that had a lot more punch - meaning it didn't seem as laid back as the recording which may be attributed to the fact that the band have been performing it for a long while.

Toth introduced John Altieri on Sousaphone before Rubblebucket went into "November." This time Toth took over the whistling and Travers just sang without a sax in her hand. Before the last song,"Came Out Of A Lady," Toth said that unfortunately the love tunnel was broken, so there would be no love tunnel that night. Fortunately, I didn't know what he was referring to and therefore didn't care that it was missing. Toth then dedicated the song to his cousin Brian for his birthday. Needless to say the song had the audience dancing on the floor and in the balcony. Toth did a little body surfing during the song and was safely returned to the stage.

Rubblebucket left and came back for an encore.  But rather then tell you about it, I included two videos I took of both encore songs. The videos are a little dark and need to be edited but should give you an idea of how wonderful Rubblebucket is in concert.

Rubblebucket Set List :
1. Worker
2. Raining
3. Breatherz
4. Landing
5. More Deeper Range (New Song - Temporary Name)
6. Silly Fathers
7. "Heart Caverns" (Heart of Glass/Rapture /White Lines/Caverns mashup - Blondie/Grandmaster Flash/Liquid Liquid)
8. Bikes
9. Triangular Daises
10. Ooh Waa (New Song - Temporary Name)
11. November
12. Came Out of a Lady


13. Down In The Yards
14. L' Homme

Rubblebucket are:
Alex Toth - trumpet, background vocals, bandleader
Annakalmia Traver - lead vocals, tenor and baritone saxophones
Adam Dotson - background vocals, trombone
Darby Wolf - Hamomnd B3, Juno, Moog, Clavinet,
Craig Myers - n'goni, woodblocks, percussion
Ian Hersey - guitar, background vocals
Dave Cole - drums
Jordan Books - bass
John Altieri - Sousaphone

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