The night before I take off for SXSW. Do I pack? Nope. Do I get a good nights sleep? No again. Do I give my liver a rest? Sadly no. Do I attempt to see 5 bands in 3 venues, all within a 3 minute walk of each other. Yeah, that’s the one.
First up, Blackbud. For their first ever performance in America (and on a rental guitar because lead singer/guitarist Joe Taylor’s axe had been lost in transit), Blackbud unquestionably conquered Pianos. Bringing to mind everyone from Muse to Jeff Buckley to Thom Yorke to the Veils to Remy Zero (yeah, I said it), Blackbud are distinctly British and, for a three-piece, kind of epic. Joe’s voice is the star of the band, but Adam Newton’s blues-infused bass and Sam Nadel’s animated drumming are what make this band really special. I know it’s kind of pointless to recommend checking out a band at SXSW, but they’ll be there, and if you happen to be at a venue and they’re up next, stick around for some tunes.
My Best Fiend, a New York band I’ve been seeing for a couple of years now were up next at Cake Shop. You know when you watch a band evolve, add members, write new and different songs and get progressively better at performing and you get a sort of sense of pride? That’s pretty much where I am with My Best Fiend. Every time they play in New York I go see them because it’s always amazing watching them. Making someone forget they are in Cake Shop is a hard thing to do and last night I completely forgot where I was during the My Best Fiend set. And final song “Maniac” is fucking great. You can hear it from a live performance on their MySpace page.
Then it was a jet over to Mercury Lounge to see the Guillemots. The Guillemots’ From the Cliffs has been my favorite walking to work in the morning record for the past couple of weeks and their live show confirmed how solid they are last night. Their bass player looked like she got lost on her way to Lincoln Center, dressed all classy and rocking an upright bass, which was great. My favorite bit of the show was towards the end lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield stepped in front of his microphone to sing without the aid of electronic amplification and did an entire song using just his foot stomps and hand claps as accompaniment. After I heard Jeff Buckley rock that on the Live at Sine on “Be Your Husband,” I’ve had a thing for singers acknowledging that they’re in a tiny room where that’s possible.
Back to Cake Shop for sets from Levy and Soft, two more NYC bands that I’ve been seeing for a while and continue to love the more I see them. Levy played a looser set than they did at their solid performance at Mercury Lounge on Friday with songs off Rotten Love mixed in with new tracks that continue to impress. James Levy’s voice is one of my favorites in New York at the moment and even though the ability to hear oneself on the ‘stage’ at Cake Shop isn’t so much there, they delivered a great set. Soft. What to say? They are made to play arenas. Go see them and tell me it isn’t so. You can check out songs at their MySpace page, but get a pint of beer, get in your Oasis mode and go check them out.