Northside Day Two: Mike Conklin on The Albertans, Shilpa Ray and Much More

06/13/2009 12:39 PM |

I spent the first half of yesterday dealing with nonsense and writing incredibly stuffy official statements, which is sort of the worst job ever—especially when you know no one will let you say what you want, which is, simply, “Hahaha, this is so stupid, and also that flyer they distributed reads like it was written by a freshman (person?) in high school.”

By the time I finally got down to Williamsburg it was nearly 5:30. The humidity had broken, the sun was shining, and The Albertans were getting ready to play their surprise acoustic set on the sidewalk in front of Cameo Gallery. They played five songs—mostly new, and one that they’d never played before. Joel Bravo played acoustic guitar, there were two drummers, assorted percussion, and at least two dedicated background singers, yet the focus was on quieter material. They’ve become an incredibly tight band of late, with a staunch respect for the dynamics of their songs—instruments are allowed to breathe, so Bravo can be heard even when he’s barely above a whisper. He also got a sweet new hat.

After that, I made my way down the block to the registration center for a few minutes before Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers were scheduled to play out on the street. When they finally got set up, we were treated to exactly the kind of set we’d envisioned when we decided to do this impromptu outdoors thing in the first place. There was beer being drunk from plastic cups; there was an audience that stretched almost the entire width of N.6th Street; there were almost car accidents and bike accidents because everyone kept stopping to see what was going on; and there were even more babies than there were yesterday at pow wow. We’ll have photos and video up a little later, so make sure to come back and check.

I spent a few hours bumming around the registration center, ostensibly working at the badge pickup tent outside, but really just drinking beer and making jokes about the people who were actually doing things. The weather had turned perfect, and I was momentarily paralyzed with happiness, when my wife reminded me that I couldn’t sit there all night, and that we should probably go see some music.

With everyone and their mother at Studio B for Sunset Rubdown, I headed instead to Public Assembly for Grooms, which is basically the Muggabears but with a new drummer. They were a late going on, so I went to the backroom to see The Rabbits. Dude was wearing rabbit ears, which, as someone pointed out to me a little later, seems like a bit of a copout. You know, if you’re gonna do it, you may as well go full-body costume. Regardless, they play a nice, fidgety type of post-punk that I’d have been happy to see more of if I didn’t have to catch Grooms.

And I’m glad I did, because they sounded better than I’ve ever herd them, with all the blaring but surprisingly beautiful guitar they’re known for, but with a heightened sense of playfulness and melody that, frankly, I think they lost sight of for a while there. They have a new drummer, too, whose name I didn’t catch, but he is an absolute monster.

Then I saw The Tallest Man on Earth. I think everyone saw The Tallest Man on Earth. And I think everyone also wrote about The Tallest Man on Earth, so I won’t, other than to say, whoa, The Tallest Man on Earth is fucking wonderful. Also managed to catch the Beets and Screaming Females, both of whom were amazing.

I’m gonna cut this short, beause it’s Saturday, and I assume about eight people are reading this. Also, we’ve got FIVE more special surprise outdoor shows for you today, and the first one starts at 1:30. Oh, and surprise: It’s Dinosaur Feathers.

Be there.