I split the beginning of Northside day 3 between standing at the L’s 2009 showcase at Spike Hill and wandering up and down Bedford Avenue, where the street was closed off and cars were suddenly replaced with tables, kids making magic marker drawings, and, at one point, the band Dinosaur Feathers singing really clutch harmonies. I did, however, make it back to the bar in time to see Darlings, who I haven’t seen much since their way early days playing NYU house parties, and they were super, super tight, and seem to have written some newer, more complex songs that stretch their garage-rock formula a little. I realized later that maybe they just weren’t as drunk at 3pm as they are in someone’s apartment at midnight, but either way, they sounded tight.
A few minutes later at Public Assembly, Henry Wolfe performed a suite of songs about – well, something, which I didn’t quite catch as a result of showing up about halfway in. It was a long story, and I gleaned that it somehow involved a cowboy. The songs were written by a guy named Peter Field and arranged for a string quartet and harpist by the conductor onstage, whose name I also missed. Wolfe handled vocals along with two professional backup singers. The music was beautiful – gentle and meandering, played by an unquestionably talented group. Especially considering Wolfe is probably best known in NYC as one half of the now mostly defunct indie pop band Bravo Silva, the performance was one of the more eccentric and unexpected I’d seen this weekend.
At this point, I ducked into Cameo Gallery to get out of the rain and check out the space, one of the newer venues that’s popped up in the area over these past few months. Getting back to the room involves walking through a maze of hallways, doors, and curtains behind the Lovin Cup Cafe until it feels like you’re either about to hit the kitchen or come back out onto the street somewhere on the Lower East Side. The band setting up was called Blame the Patient, playing as part of a showcase by Real Talk Teen, who, for lack of any real information about them, seems to be a group that puts together shows featuring really cool teenagers for the sole purpose of making audiences of twentysomethings feel terrible about their lives. The five band members all looked high school aged, and as they started playing I could only mutter “fuck” under my breath, audibly but not so loudly that it would be picked up by the video camera on a tripod nearby being operated by someone’s mom. Seriously, this band was good – tighter than a lot of the more professional bands I’d seen this weekend, and mostly confident enough to really rock out onstage. Clearly raised on Dinosaur Jr and the Pixies, someone has been looking out for their musical knowledge since day one, and it shows. I hope they stay together, but don’t actually achieve great success until people twice their age can maybe catch up a little bit.
Way later in the night, after sulking for about seven hours, I saw Cymbals Eat Guitars play Music Hall to a weirdly not-packed room, although Paul Dano was standing right next to me the entire time and I didn’t even notice until he left to get a beer. I also did not think Paul Dano was of legal drinking age for some reason. Obviously I was pretty out of it at this point, but the band played big chunks of their great debut record, which translated surprisingly well to the stage. The record is a trip, alternating quickly and constantly between sections of noisy chaos and soft, quiet come-downs, and though the band was clearly frustrated with the way people would tune out and start talking during the slow parts, they never held back when the noise was due. They’re still a pretty young band too, though not quite as literally, and it should be interesting to hear what they do next provided they don’t implode in a month like so many other Pitchfork-beloveds.