The inaugural NY2LON show/party/ho-down went down at the FADER Trading Post at SXSW and was one of the hottest line-ups of the week. It also featured the only band of the week that I saw for the first time during the day then tracked down that night to see them play again. Lucky me, then, that the first NYC NY2LON event featured that same band. I’ve been listening to the Ordinary Boys’ Over the Counter Culture since Texas and was more than prepped to see them play Bowery on Friday night. Remember when Elvis Costello was on SNL in ’77, started playing “Less Than Zero,” then stopped the whole thing and made the band play “Radio Radio” instead? The first time I saw TOB that’s what I thought of - that spirit of fuck-all rock. TOB sound like My Aim is True era Costello fronting the Buzzcocks, with the Specials’ brass section on loan. Aside from having fucking catchy, well crafted songs with witty lyrics and undeniable hooks, what is most exciting about TOB is that you get the distinct, unnerving feeling that these boys are not making it up. They aren’t adhering to a particular sound because they think it will be the next big thing. In fact, the genre they seem to be aligning themselves with isn’t due for a renaissance anytime soon. But there it is, a ska influence over the record that works its way on stage, even without the brass section featured on such fantastic tracks as “Seaside” and the ridiculously catchy album title track.
The fellas covered the Specials track “Little Bitch” on Friday, in addition to ending with the ever-popular set-closer “The KKK Took My Baby Away.” In welcome change to much of the music coming out of the UK at the moment, the Ordinary Boys are not likely to be appearing in fashion spreads, singing along to backing tracks live, or hiring a stylist once they get some recognition. The Ordinary Boys are for real; they are here to educate (‘ska is not about old guys in baggy pants jumping around’ lead TOB Preston admonished on Friday), and to make you sing along. Yeah, just try to keep yourself from tapping your foot and singing along to "Boys Will Be Boys".
The NY-based highlight of NY2LON came from the not so secretly billed the Ligers*, now exposed web-wide as the triumphant return of Stellastarr*. The last time I’d seen Stellastarr* was their performance at a Motherfucker party in ’04. Long time to be away, but the NY2LON show was the perfect atmosphere for the return. According to +1/Bar Fly, NY2LON is a “reaction to the lag time of discovering new music from across the ocean,” with the vibe of a party, “rather than a showcase.” Stellastarr* rounded out the party with a slew of new tunes off their end of summer release, peppered with old favorites “In the Walls” and “My Coco.” To the bands’ credit, new tunes “The Diver,” “Born in a Fleamarket,” and especially “Sweet Troubled Soul,” had the hip kids dancing through the entire set. After a cursory listen of the tracks, the new Stellastarr* record has a new depth, much darker than their self-titled debut, without loosing the catchiness and memorability of the first releases tunes. In a perfect world, these godfathers of the current nu-wave movement will knock the current preening eyeliner/bow-tie/leather jacket posing crowd on their collective asses. Look out for TOB and Stellastarr* this year - if NY2LON (and good taste) has its way, these kids will be taking over the world.