We were going to hold off on doing any show reviews until Monday in order to have a massive post-CMJ wrap up. Well, we're still going to do that, but last night I saw a band that you need to know about NOW. They're called The Rakes. They're from London.
Those in the know, I mean REALLY in the know, have had this band on their radar for a few months now. We actually put the band's latest single, "Retreat", on The Player .060, so hopefully you've at least heard that. Their first stateside show was last night at the FADER [adult swim] Project on the Lower East Side and since I arrived in New York on Monday night, I heard the whispers... "My friend from the UK told me to go see The Rakes". Well, they were right. The Rakes performance wasn't just good, it was great. It was special. It was one of those moments where everyone in the room simultaneously "got it". This IS the next great band to cross the pond. The Futureheads, Maximo Park and now... The Rakes.
OK, so now that that's cleared up. Let me set the scene. The FADER [adult swim] Project is set up in a vacant retail space on the Lower East Side. The walls are white and glossy and on one side two giant projectors beam old FADER and Player covers, various photos and the event's schedule onto the wall. The drinks are free - Red Stripe and Sparks. No water. Water is for pussies. It's small but doesn't feel cramped. The stage is set up along the right wall of the long and narrow space allowing the vast majority of the audience to be less than 15 feet from the stage. It's loud. The crowd is a hodgepodge of music industry types - friends from Domino, Ryko, Jive, Fat, Equal Vision, Astralwerks, Bar/None, RCA, Girlie Action, Touch & Go, Fanatic, CMJ, Vice, etc. etc. etc. - as well a number of various scenester kids, corporate peeps and such. These people have been there, done that. Impressing them is hard to do. Making them dance is damn near impossible.
But The Rakes did just that. Frontman Alan Donohoe, guitarist Matthew Swinnerton, bassist Jamie Hornsmith and drummer Lasse Petersen took the stage without a speck of self-doubt or an ounce of timidness. Donohoe commanded attention from the very beginning with a quirky, Ian Curtis-like robotic freak out and kept the crowd mesmerized throughout the entire set with his banter, his energy and that je'ne ces quoi that is essential in every truly great frontman. Swinnerton looks like the love child of Graham Coxon and Louis Skolnik from Revenge Of The Nerds, but his guitar playing... oh, his guitar playing makes him the coolest looking dude in the room. Seemingly with the same effort one would put into tying a shoe or chewing a stick of gum, Swinnerton unleashes riff after riff after riff that could be called nothing less than flawless. The rhythm section of the subdued and understated Hornsmith and the spastic Petersen provided the foundation for the skyscraper of danceable, punk-tinged rock & roll that kept the jaded NYC crowd dancing - hard.
When The Rakes finished their set, it was like that scene from Back To The Future where Marty McFly is playing guitar at the prom and Chuck Berry's cousin (or brother or something) runs to the phone, dials, and says "Hey Chuck, you know that sound you been looking for? Listen to this!". The phones came out and within minutes the word was out. The Rakes just kicked New York City in the ass.
The Rakes will release the Retreat EP on October 11 in the US via Dim Mak. Yep, Steve Aoki has done it again. Their debut full length, which was recorded by Paul Epworth (Bloc Party, The Futureheads, Maximo Park), is up for grabs at the moment, though I'm sure the bidding war has already begun.
For more on The Rakes, visit their website.