words & photos by Jacob Blickenstaff
(It was this photograper's first Todd P show in NYC, I guess I'm quite late getting on the bandwagon, but oh well.)
I checked the address a couple times before opening the door of the unmarked building across from an auto salvage, somewhere in the back of my head asking 'what would Liz Lemmon do in this situation'.
An hour after doors was apparently still a couple hours early to get there. The three bands on the bill from Philly (all except Gary War) were delayed by the crummy spring rain storms that befell the region. Todd P paced around, making eclectic selections on his iPod and announcing to the small crowd distributed on the couches that there was a rain delay. It was cold and damp, wind blew in through the open and broken windows and a resident orange tabby climbed in and out making its way over to a Fender amp to use its grill as a scratching pad. Spirits picked up for Todd and his crew when the pizza guy arrived.
Expecting unhinged DIY bacchanalia, the vibe turned out to be subdued and mellow. The opening band, Birds of Maya, was the last to arrive. There were reports they had gotten lost in the no-man's-land of outer Bushwick/Ridgewood. They set up quickly and played a short set, hard rock riffs with impressive 'dee-da-lee dee-da-lee waaaaah' guitar solos. Next was U.S. Girls consisting of Megan Remy and a red suitcase containing a cassette recorder and a couple pedals. Her voice and reminded me of Cindy Lauper even through the distortion and chant-like structures of her songs. Gary War was third with a three-piece outfit playing fast-paced punk stuff with some kind of underwater/Aquaman sounding effect on the vocals.
Now to Kurt Vile - I liked this guy. Underneath the codification of his music as psych, lo-fi, bedroom music, etc. is a very good singer/ guitarist/songwriter. Kurt played acoustic guitar, run through a bit of effect and echo, and sang. He started and ended solo, and had two additional guitar players with him, one of whom also played a mean harmonica on one song. Led by the guitar and the lyric, the music was much more direct than anything I had heard of on his recordings. Some of the songs did have a cyclical, drone structure but there was movement within it, and the lyrics and delivery pulled me in like Lou Reed singing a Leonard Cohen recording with the Band in the basement of Big Pink. The guitar work owed a lot to John Fahey (and I mean that as a compliment) with the finger picking, echo effect and alternate tunings. I hate to throw such big names around, but there is something special to Vile's songs and music and I hope the music world will see it all come together soon.
More pictures from the show below...