Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
NYC Popfest with Allo Darlin’, The Ladybug Transistor, The Wave Pictures, and White Town at Littlefield in Brooklyn
Frank YangNYC Popfest is wonderful for many reasons, not least of which is a built-in excuse to jet off to New York for the May long weekend. I did so back in 2009 when The Radio Dept. as headliners were enough to get me out to two nights, and while I was already planning on being in town this year regardless, the opportunity to see Allo Darlin’ – who were skipping Toronto on their tour in support of Europe after visiting last year – close the festival out was to be happily accepted.
The Sunday itinerary was a marathon of sorts, starting mid-afternoon and running into the night. I had other stuff to do that day so I only made it to Littlefield in time for the last four acts, starting with White Town. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because England’s Jyoti Mishra has had more worldwide hits than pretty much everyone else on the Popfest lineup – which is to say, one. “Your Woman” was a smash way back in 1997 and while to most White Town is the epitome of one-hit wonder, it was nice to see Mishra happily still making music and releasing records, his flukey brush with success achieved on his own terms. A funny and genial fellow, he performed solo and acoustic overtop pre-recorded backing tracks and proved to have equal facility with twee strummy pop and more electronic-based compositions and you know what? “Your Woman”? Solid tune.
I feel a bit ashamed that I hadn’t ever heard Leicstershire’s Wave Pictures before this evening, despite them having released double digits of albums – the latest being Long Black Cars, collaborated with the likes of Hefner and The Mountain Goats, and were touring with Allo Darlin’ for the past month. But better late than never, yeah? They came with all the hallmarks of good British indie-pop – clever lyrics, sharp melodies – but distinguished themselves with a few forays into crooning ballads and David Tattersall’s serious guitar chops. This isn’t a style of music that you’ll often hear guitarists step up and tear off an extended solo, but Tattersall’s leads were really stylish and interesting, and not just to other guitarists (I would hope). Excellent stuff, and I’ll be dipping my toe into their extensive discography soon enough.
Watching The Ladybug Transistor, I had a sudden sense of deja vu, and that’s because I saw them right here in New York – okay, Manhattan – on a whim back in 2009 at The Cake Shop. Since that show, they’d released a new album in Clutching Stems and though I haven’t heard it – I’ve only a very passing familiarity with their stuff – it was a good set, with their American-ness very much contrasting with the other acts’ British-ness, though not quite in the way you might expect. Their style of pop was very ornate and sophisticated while the other acts’ rawer, C86-ish roots was still evident. They closed their set with a dedication to Robin Gibb, who’d passed away earlier in the day, and in the process were the bearers of bad news to some fans who’d been sequestered away in this corner of Brooklyn all day. Alas.
Every time I’ve written up one of Allo Darlin’s records, the gist of it has been how despite their being an indie pop band, the strength of their songwriting comes from a wistful, melancholic streak. Which is all well and good, but fails to point out that the reason they still qualify as an indie pop band is because they’re a damn good indie-pop band live, what with the big, bouncy, hand clappy pop moves. Their set largely stuck to the uptempo notes of their two records – “Capricornia” and “The Polaroid Song” being highlights, as was Elizabeth Morris trading her ukulele for a Fender Mustang for a few songs of added rock power – and certainly made my night by playing both sides of last year’s “Darren” 7″, including their cover of The French’s “Wu Tang Clan” which I thought would have gotten more of a response from the New York audience, but maybe the Popfest crowd just isn’t down with the Wu. They did slow it down to open the encore with Morris playing the lovely “Tallulah” solo, but closed out on the highest of high notes with members of Wave Pictures and Ladybug Transistor’s Gary Olson subbing in for Monster Bobby on “Dreaming”.
Photos: Allo Darlin’, The Ladybug Transistor, The Wave Pictures, White Town @ Littlefield – May 21, 2012
MP3: Allo Darlin’ – “My Heart Is A Drummer”
MP3: Allo Darlin’ – “Dreaming”
MP3: The Ladybug Transistor – “Clutching Stems”
MP3: The Ladybug Transistor – “Breaking Up On The Beat”
MP3: The Ladybug Transistor – “Splendor In The Grass”
MP3: The Ladybug Transistor – “The Reclusive Hero”
MP3: The Ladybug Transistor – “A Burial At Sea”
MP3: The Wave Pictures – “People In My Sleep”
MP3: The Wave Pictures – “Front From The Front”
MP3: The Wave Pictures – “Notes For A Book On Buster Keaton”
MP3: The Wave Pictures – “I Saw Your Hair Between The Trees”
MP3: The Wave Pictures – “Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor”
MP3: The Wave Pictures – “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
MP3: The Wave Pictures – “Long Island”
MP3: The Wave Pictures – “We Sugared Our Apples”
MP3: The Wave Pictures – “Chinese Takeaway”
MP3: The Wave Pictures – “Leave The Scene Behind”
Video: Allo Darlin’ – “Capricornia”
Video: Allo Darlin’ – “Tallulah”
Video: Allo Darlin’ – “My Heart Is A Drummer”
Video: Allo Darlin’ – “If Loneliness Was Art”
Video: Allo Darlin’ – “Dreaming”
Video: Allo Darlin’ – “The Polaroid Song”
Video: The Ladybug Transistor – “Always On The Telephone”
Video: The Wave Pictures – “Spaghetti”
Video: The Wave Pictures – “Eskimo Kiss”
Video: The Wave Pictures – “If You Leave It Alone”
Video: The Wave Pictures – “Blue Harbour”
Video: The Wave Pictures – “Little Surprise”
Video: The Wave Pictures – “Sweetheart”
Video: The Wave Pictures – “I Love You Like A Madman”
Video: The Wave Pictures – “Just Like A Drummer”
Video: The Wave Pictures – “Strange Fruit For David”
Video: White Town – “Invisible Elastic”
Video: White Town – “Missing Her Again”
Video: White Town – “She’s A Lot Like You”
Video: White Town – “Cut Out My Heart”
Video: White Town – “Make The World Go Away”
Video: White Town – “Undressed”
Video: White Town – “Your Woman”
Belfast post-rock maniacs And So I Watch You From Afar will be at The Horseshoe on July 14, tickets $10.50 in advance.
How do we know The xx have a new record in the can? They’ve announced an intimate North American tour that brings them to The Phoenix on July 28, tickets $30, on sale Friday. It counts as intimate because they could easily play a room three times that size; I mean really, they already have.
Video: Hot Chip – “Night & Day”