It was my first time at Santos Party House. The club, famously shut down last year for dealing drugs, resides in that not-quite-Chinatown, not-quite-financial-district section of Manhattan below Canal St., down by where the Knitting Factory used to make its home on Leonard. It’s kind of a nether-region in New York, at least after 6PM when all the suits have gone home. Stores close. There’s parking. Santos seemed to be doing alright anyway for attracting a crowd; last night’s was the most packed Weedeater show I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a few.
Over in the Webster Hall basement, The Brought Low and Puny Human were opening for Danko Jones and if I’d had half a brain in my head or a memory to retain what goes into said brain, I would have headed into the city early to catch their sets before hitting up Santos, but no, I was playing it cool, waiting to get to the club at around 9:30. Clubs in NYC can go either way these days. In Brooklyn, you’re more or less guaranteed a late night, but you never know who in Manhattan is going to decide at 11PM that it’s time for the dance party to start. To Santos‘ credit, the dance party was downstairs by the bathrooms and Weedeater, ASG and Naam played upstairs. A few years ago, that would have been the other way around.
Naam were on stage when I got in, bathed in blue light, playing songs from their self-titled Tee Pee Records debut and Kingdom EP, which, try as I might, I still can’t find a copy of on CD. They had the vinyl for sale, but any disc smaller than that was a no dice. I’ve seen them a couple times now, and as they make ready to head over to Europe for a Tee Pee label tour that includes a stop at Roadburn, they sound ready for it. “Kingdom,” which they closed with, sounded especially killer, beardo bassist John Bundy‘s backing vocals giving that last chorus an extra push behind guitarist Ryan Lugar.
There are printed signs posted all around the club with messages like, “Santos Wants You To Be Happy” and “No One Knows Who You Are” and an attendant in the bathroom to hand me a paper towel, so there were some mixed messages in terms of what the vibe of the club overall was supposed to be, but I could easily see it being a rave-type place. Still, a ton of people came out for the show, and young people, and girls. Not just girlfriends, either. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know quite what to make of it.
For their part, ASG — who share Weedeater‘s hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina — were heavier than I thought they’d be. I vaguely recall their 2008 Win Us Over debut on Volcom, and it was passable in terms of West Coast-style riff rock, but nothing really landmark. Likewise, their live set was full of killer guitar work, and crowd ate it up each time drummer Scott Key locked into a half-time groove (who could blame them?), but overall, I was left somewhat cold by the performance.
When the lights came down at the start of their set, guitarist Jason Shi took an extra five minutes to check and get the levels on his mic, feeding back into the crowd and apologizing for it, but doing it anyway. Maybe I never got over that. Not to hold wanting to sound as good as possible against the guy, but come on dude, at some point it just has to be what it’s gonna be. I’m sure thinking that makes me a prick. I’ll live.
The last time I remember seeing Weedeater (which, since it’s Weedeater, isn’t necessarily the last time I saw them) was a few years back in an Alphabet City basement that’s not there anymore called Club Midway. Or if it’s there, they stopped putting on this kind of show because they weren’t making any money. Anyway, the place had a decent amount of people in it — not a crowd by any stretch, but a good showing of the NYC faithful. Santos was jammed. I guess the people who’ve moved to the area over the last five years, mostly Brooklynite hipsters, but some humans as well, are of a different mindset than the last generation of showgoers — mine — and more open to this kind of thing.
Part of me wants to be the grumpy old man and tell the damn kids to get off my lawn, but on the other hand, fuck it, good for the bands. If Weedeater can pack a house in NYC and have people moshing to songs on an album that isn’t even out yet, maybe Manhattan will start getting more shows again. And if that saves me driving two hours to Brooklyn at any point, it can’t be all that bad.
Weedeater opened with the start of their new record, Jason… the Dragon, which they were also selling in advance of its release date. “The Great Unfurling” intro led into “Hammerhandle” led into “Mancoon” led into “Turkey Warlock,” and it was a violent, energetic start to the set. Guitarist Dave “Shep” Shepherd sounded huge through a spraypainted Marshall stack, and recent Obelisk interviewee “Dixie” Dave Collins might have the best bass tone in sludge. His cackling vocals seemed to be swallowed up in the distortion and groove surrounding, but he managed to cut through well enough, on more or less equal footing on the stage with Shepherd and be-dreadlocked drummer Keith “Keko” Kirkum.
The highlight of the set and the night for me was “Homecoming,” which Collins introduced by saying something like “Here’s a new song, I hope you fucking hate it.” That riff is one of the best they’ve ever come up with, and whether or not the audience had heard the track before, they dug it hard. Moshing at a stoner show. I guess that’s what happens when the kids show up.
Some bands act angry on stage, posture and look pissed off, but there’s something about the contempt with which Collins delivers his performance that makes me believe it’s genuine. And being in New York, I’m used to bands coming through who hate the town — half the time I’m there, I feel the same way, and it’s only going to take me an hour to get home — but with Weedeater, it was more than that. Some kind of drunken misanthropy-turned-rage that only got more visceral as the set wore on. Toward the end, when Collins said, “We’re gonna play a couple old songs now,” and then launched into “God Luck and Good Speed” from the 2007 album of the same name, I wondered if maybe there was a little extra edge of “fuck you” in his voice, as Weedeater had two albums out before then that, in all likelihood, the crowd wouldn’t know nearly as well.
Their Skynyrd cover of “Gimme Back My Bullets” followed “God Luck and Good Speed,” and they closed with “Weed Monkey,” also both from God Luck and Good Speed, and at the end of the set, Collins — if I heard correctly — advised everyone to “get high as eagle pussy on stilts.” Sound advice, and a little ironic after I watched Santos security drag a dude out by his hair presumably for smoking something he shouldn’t have been, but I didn’t take it.
Instead, I headed down the block to the car and drove back to the valley to be up for work this morning, the wackiness of my recently-purchased Leeches of Lore CD keeping me company along the way. I wound up with a bunch of extra pictures from the show, so if you want to have a look, feel free after the jump.
Tags: ASG, Brooklyn, Naam, New York, New York City, North Carolina, Southern Lord, Tee Pee Records, Volcom, Weedeater, Wilmington