Thursday, October 30, 2008

Future of the Left, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists--Webster Hall, New York City

Tonight, I was that guy who was at the show only to see the openers. I was that guy who thumbed his nose at the headliner and wondered (sometimes aloud) how the openers could possibly be opening for this other piece of shit band. Tonight the openers were Future of the Left and Ted Leo & the Pharmacists. The headliner? Against Me! That exclamation point is part of the name of the band. Now, I realize that Against Me! actually has a little bit of cred in the music snob community, and I realize that calling them a “piece of shit band” is a liberal use of hyperbole, but I will not see, and will certainly not abstain from making fun of, a band whose name officially includes an exclamation point. To bands whose name includes an exclamation point: I am Against You!

I got to Webster Hall a little after the doors opened at 6 already a little drunk (another reason why I ditched out on the headliner was that my friend was turning 30 that night and we all got started early). I quickly got myself a Red Bull and vodka and made my way to a pretty good spot in front of the stage. Then I noticed that I was probably the oldest person in the room by maybe 10 years (I’m 29 - barely). Apparently, Against Me! draws one kind of audience: teenagers. Not 5 minutes after I planted my feet in my show-watching spot, two of these teenagers (they were girls, and, dudes, the answer to your question is no) tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I could buy them drinks. Christ. I asked what they wanted. Long Island iced teas. Of course that’s what they wanted, because do teenage girls drink anything else? I went ahead got them their beverages because I’ve been in their position before (fucking 10 years ago) and I think I’d rather be that old guy who was nice enough to buy drinks than that old guy who was an asshole.

It’s going to be hard for me to write the rest of this without it sounding like a love letter to McLusky. Actually, fuck that, lets get this out of the way.

Dear McLusky,

I love you. When I first heard “To Hell with Good Intentions” about 5 years ago I was smitten. It was loud, nasty, confrontational, abrasive, and completely fucking awesome. I listened to it maybe ten times in a night and went to buy McLusky Do Dallas and the awesomely titled The Difference Between Me and You is that I’m Not On Fire the next day. I listened to them immediately and have not been able to get them out of my head since. You have one of the highest perfect-song to recorded-song ratios of anyone ever. I challenge any band to match the brilliance of the end of “She Will Only Bring You Happiness,” and I think you are criminally underappreciated. I admit I only fell in love with you after you broke up, and I hate that I never got a chance to see you in person. When I heard that your lead singer, Andy Falkous (Falco) and drummer Jack Egglestone formed a new band with ex-Jarcrew bassist Kelson Mathias called Future of the Left, I was pretty excited. I was a little disappointed by the album, Curses, at first, but then it grew on me to a point where I like it very much. When I saw that FotL was playing in NY I was a little surprised that they were opening for some band I’d never heard of, but I decided to get a ticket anyway just to see if they were a good substitute for you. That doesn’t mean that I love you any less though. We’re still cool.


Ok, now that that’s out of the way, Future of the Left was exactly what I expected them to be: loud, tight, and funny. They opened with “Wrigley Scott,” which was kind of a surprise, and played through most of Curses. Falco played a guitar for the first few numbers, then moved over to a keyboard for a few including “Manchasm,” my favorite on Curses. Apparently it’s some other people’s favorite, too, because, hey, look! Other non-teenagers! I knew you guys would be here - I bet you love McLusky, too. In fact, I know you do because why else would you be here and shouting along to “Manchasm?” Good to see you. After a few songs at the keyboard, Falco moved back center stage with his guitar for a few more songs before they had to stop. The few new tunes they played sounded pretty solid - nothing too different from what’s expected, which is a good thing. My only complaints are that I wish they could have played longer and would have played “The Lord Hates a Coward.”

FotL looks great on stage - Egglestone bangs away with great energy, Kelson is funny looking - tall and bearded - and has typical bassist moves (don’t ask me to describe them - you know what I mean), and Falco has an awesome front-man stance. Not quite as awesome a stance as Mike Ness’, but pretty close. Their stage banter was tough to make out, but the pieces of what I did hear were hysterical - something about someone’s mother and “fist love” was the highlight. It’s even funnier with those Welsh accents. Aside: have you seen Welsh written in Welsh? It’s preposterous.

I would have loved to have seen McLusky back in the day, and after seeing FotL, I realized that, barring some sort of unlikely reunion, I never will. FotL is not a McLusky replacement - they are their own band. Sure, they sound a lot like McLusky, but it’s not right to compare them in terms of quality. Before I left, I grabbed FotL’s tour-only live EP, made a few more snide remarks about the opener, downed another Red Bull and vodka and…decided to stay for Ted Leo.

I wasn’t planning on staying for Ted Leo because I had to meet up with some friends and I’ve never really gotten into his stuff. But I also kind of felt like I’d have to turn in my music snob ID card if I skipped out on someone like Ted and realized that it was only about 8:00. So I stayed. I’m glad I did. I don’t know enough about Ted to know what songs they played - I know one of them was a great version of “Little Dawn” and some of the others were off of Hearts of Oak, which I’ve listened to a few times. He was really struggling with his voice tonight, but he was a total trooper. The only times I could tell that his voice was fucked was when he said so. Actually, come to think of it, I think I might be bad luck to Mr. Leo. The only other time I saw him was during the 2006 Pitchfork festival when he spent an ample portion of the show with blood streaming down his face. Sorry about that, Ted.

Ted and the Pharmacists are all great performers - the band is excellent and Ted always looks like he’s having a great time, even with a shot voice and even with a face full of blood. I wish I was more familiar with their catalog - I would have enjoyed them more than I did (which was a lot). I’m going to spend some time with his studio output in the next few months. He also seems like a pretty cool guy - I heard that after his set, he was down in the crowd for the headliner’s set. Don’t know if that’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

After Ted Leo played, a lot of people left, leaving the venue to teenagers who now had no one to buy them booze. On the way out the dude at the door who was supposed to stamp the hands of people who wanted back into the venue looked confused as to why no one wanted his services. The music snobs, including me, laughed at him.

--Jim Powers


Davey said...

Three is the magic number, and so I have three responses for you:

1. Knowing your disdain/distaste/disapproval and outright disgust for the exclamatory mark of punctuation, I wait with bated breath your review of !!! (compete with commentary on the preposterousness of that translating into the sound "chik chik chik").

2. You introduced me to Mclusky, and it has only brought me happiness. I am forever in your debt for that and for the Futureheads. I will preemptively thank you for introducing me to Future of the Left as well, for its awesomeness is assured by your nod of approval.

3. How could you not stay for a band with a song called Bleeding Powers? It almost forces one to think of little Jim drops cascading down to the floor and then running amok. The road did indeed lead you somewhere, and I, for one, am happy you stayed on it long enough to experience Ted Leo.

You do me proud.

Alex said...

I just want to point out that buying underage kids drinks is by no means endorsed by NQL. For instance, I would have taken their money, bought some beer for myself, and then spent the rest of the concert hiding from them on the other side of the venue.

The Dong Machine said...

While I agree with with your punctuation comnment, I have to state that Against Me! is a solid band. Check out the song Thrash Unreal. Just because they have a "!" in their name doesn't make them Panic! at the Disco.

Jim P. said...

Solid band or not, "Against Me" is a better band than "Against Me!". I mean, think of any band. Now add an exclamation point. Voila, the band is now worse. Given the exact same catalog, Radiohead! is worse than Radiohead. Modest Mouse! The Kinks! (Actually, I kind of like that one). (I'm not disagreeing with you here, just another observaton).

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