17 December 2007

Weston And The Unlovables

Not so long ago the New York pop punk scene would have been crawling out of the woodwork for a show like this one, but in the past year or so, shows and parties have been proliferating at such a rate that people no longer consider it inconceivable to stay home even when there's something pretty special happening.

Thanks to Hallie's nightly duties in Fuerza Bruta, the Unlovables haven't played since last summer, and while Weston, after a loooong hiatus, have been popping up to do the occasional show here and there, this was the first time they'd played Brooklyn in, at least according to what I heard someone say, 16 years. The venue was the unheated back room of a hipster bar on N. 8th Street, and even by the time three bands (the middle band was the Besties, who Carla Monoxide said sounded like Go Sailor, and I'm not sure she meant that as a compliment) (Carla is very P0NK) had played and a lot of people had done a lot of jumping around, it was still pretty chilly.

That was nothing compared to what it was like outside, of course, where some truly foul winter weather had set in. No snow, and the temperature wasn't even that low (about 30F, -1C), but the wind was vicious, and that may have helped keep some people at home, as did the fact that much of the New York scene had been to shows and/or parties in Jersey, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan on the previous two nights, and many of them had already seen Weston in either New Brunswick or Hoboken.

For me, however, it was my first time ever seeing Weston play electrically (those of you with elephantine memories will recall that I saw them do an acoustic set back in October). Back in the 90s Weston were perhaps the East Coast's premier pop punk band, and if there were any justice in the world, should have been on Lookout Records and been a lot more famous than they were, but I dropped the ball on that one, at least in part due to the anti-East Coast prejudice that was rife in the Berkeley scene in those days (fanned in no small part by myself) and also due to the increasing pop punk burnout that by the mid-90s had me unable or unwilling even to listen to more demo tapes and records.

Now the band are talking seriously about reviving their career, and though I'm no longer in a position to help them, plenty of other new up-and-coming record labels and their respective moguls are, and I not only wish them all the best, but predict a good deal of success if they keep at it. My one criticism, and this seems to apply to a lot of old school bands who come back for the second time around, is that it's not necessarily a good idea to play every single song you ever knew just because it's been a while since people have seen you. I think when a band's been gone a while, and unless they were VERY famous (like Rolling Stones-famous), an hour-plus set is only going to alienate many potential new fans. No matter how well-loved you were back in the day, to many people in the audience you're a brand new band, and new bands are best advised to pick out 20 to 20 minutes of their very best songs and leave the fans hungry for more.

That being said, the Weston boys were having a ball, and so were most of the audience. I'd heard many of the songs before, first at last summer's Bottomfest campfire singalong, then at the aforementioned acoustic show, but it was much more exciting hearing them with a full band, and it was a special delight to my buddy Dave, who plays guitar, mugging for the crowd and doing all his ultra-slick rock star moves. What people may not realize is that he does this constantly, even when he's not on stage, but it all looked slicker and more glamorous under the lights. I couldn't stay to the very end to congratulate him, but I got at least an hour's worth of Weston, and I'll be back to see them again next time.

The Unlovables were in fine form, too, especially considering their five or six months off. The Steinways' Grath McGrath once again joined them on second guitar and really adds a lot to the band, as does the busiest and best punk rock drummer in all of the Northeastern United States, one Mikey Erg. I was musing, though, how unfortunate it was that in all of NY/NJ's burgeoning pop-punk scene, there seems to be only a relative handful of people who can actually play the music, leading many bands to have to share musicians, and in turn resulting in frequent schedule complications, the inability to do shows because so-and-so is on tour with someone else, etc.

Anyway, I really liked the Unlovables' set. Not sure I could say the same about the Besties. Carla was right; they did have a certain resemblance to Go Sailor, including the two girl vocals and the foofy lo-fi indie sound, so normally I should have been all over them (I mean in a fanly way, of course). And they started out brightly, with a number called "What Would Tim Armstrong Do?", which sounded good but raised an eyebrow if not a hackle on my part because Tim's a friend of mine and I got the impression they might be, oh, I don't know, kind of making fun of him. But then I wondered if I was being unnecessarily thin-skinned, concluded I probably was, and enjoyed the Besties for the next several songs.

After that, though, the songs seemed to drag on a bit, and become a bit too resolutely and shambolically indie. I was probably just impatient for Weston to come on, and, old man that I am, for the night to be over so I could scurry on back to my snug little burrow and wait out the winter winds. When I finally got there (home, that is), however, I discovered that though the radiators were hissing and clanking away full blast, it wasn't enough to offset the winds blowing right through the cracks in the walls and floors, and that in other words, my little burrow wasn't quite as snug as I'd imagined.

In fact it's still like that this morning; every time I heard an especially virulent gust of wind howling overhead, it's followed a few seconds later by a cold draft swirling through the room at floor level. And here's me just about to set out for the park to do my t'ai chi set, probably bundled up in so much fur-lined long underwear and the like that I won't be able to move. Anyway, here's a photo of some of the faithful scenesters who made it out last night:and a shout-out to some of those who didn't and who I sorely missed seeing: P Smith, Chris A., Oliver and Stephanie, Johnny B., Bill Moon, Rich Grech, Michelle Shirelle and the normally ubiquitous Chadd Derkins. Next time, okay, guys?

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