Pompous as it sounds, I consider myself pretty affected by the atmosphere in whatever given space I’m occupying, and last night the Bowery Ballroom was all douche. There were hipster douches, douchey douches, ladydouches — an entire Baskin Robbins 30-howevermany flavors of douche served as dessert for a sold-out beardo flannel fashion show, and though the place wasn’t full when former Year Long Disaster frontman Daniel Davies took the stage opening for Radio Moscow and Graveyard, it wasn’t long before the whole room was springtime fresh and I was fucking miserable.
Davies earned his stoner rock cred through a multi-album collaboration on vocals with Karma to Burn that, like most things that band touches, seems to have fallen apart. Sorry, and nothing against them, but Karma to Burn has the shittiest luck I’ve ever seen. Anyway, Davies reportedly got Brad Davis from Fu Manchu to play on his new solo record, Hidden Faces, and though I’d hoped Mr. Davis would join him on stage as well, no dice. Instead, it was Davies (who is the son of Dave Davies of The Kinks) joined by drummer Jess Margera and bassist Matt Janaitis, both of CKY. Small world sometimes, and it only occasionally makes sense.
The music was heavily indebted to ’90s-style alt rock, and not bad for what it was — Davies is a more than capable songwriter — but without even the vague notions of heaviness that Year Long Disaster hinted at in their chic way or the involvement of Davis‘ unfuckwithable tone, my attentions wandered elsewhere, and mostly in the direction of beer. I bided my time waiting for Radio Moscow to hit the stage and watched as the room gradually got fuller and fuller of people I was embarrassed to have anything in common with, especially music.
It’s been a hell of a week for Parker Griggs. The Iowan guitarist/vocalist of Radio Moscow was going to replace his rhythm section after this tour anyway, but on the seventh, he took part in an ugly on-stage meltdown that turned violent with drummer Cory Berry, who, after Griggs threw his guitar into his drum set, launched it back at Griggs‘ head, splitting it open and requiring a reported 14 stitches. The resulting video was a big hit Monday and Tuesday. I got two separate press releases about it, and though it doesn’t really make either Griggs or Berry look like they’re in the right, that’s rock and roll, so whatever.
But backed by new bassist Billy Ellsworth and new drummer Lonnie Blanton, neither of whom threw anything nor had anything thrown at them, the stitched up Griggs sounded dead on as he tore through a set of swampy whiteboy blues. I’d never seen Radio Moscow before, but they’ve been one of those names that there’s been no avoiding for a couple years now, and they served as a decent lead-in for Graveyard, with a clear affection for and (to an extent) emulation of ’70s rock. Listening to them jam out on material from their latest offering, The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz, you’d never know they’d only been a band for five days.
The Bowery Ballroom was full by the time they finished. I stood in the back by the door for most of their set and would remain there for the duration, on either side of the open doorway to watch Graveyard (once I was done taking pictures), who, in the interest of understatement, I’ll say were well received. They started out subdued with “Blue Soul” from the self-titled, but the momentum soon picked up with “Buying Truth (Tack och Förlåt)” from last year’s excellent Hisingen Blues, with which the crowd seemed more familiar and more ready to groove on.
Whatever you can say about their fanbase (and given the paragraphs I cut out of the beginning of this review, I could say plenty), Graveyard were killer. Guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson seems to still be in the process of coming into his own as a frontman, but the band was charismatic and the songs sounded excellent. Rawer than on record, particularly the Hisingen Blues material, but “Ungrateful are the Dead” might have been the high point of the night. I know it was for me, and although for many bands, there’s no way in hell I’d have put up with staying in a place that packed, Graveyard kept me there the whole time. I even tried to leave once and couldn’t bring myself to do it.
And I’m not interested in holding being popular against them — hell, that’s how a band like Graveyard gets to afford to come do a North American stint in the first place — but god damn. This tour’s in Philly tomorrow (Saturday, 01/14), and I just know that the demographic down that way would be totally different if I decided to get in my car and truck it south. I’d probably hit less traffic too. Rest assured, lesson not learned.
They finished after midnight, which was a surprise given Manhattan‘s curfewed norms, and sent the crowd out into the cold. By the time I got back to meiner bescheidenen flußtal, the rain that had been falling for the better part of the last 48 hours was thinking about turning to snow. I took out the garbage, ate some leftovers and crashed out with “Ain’t Fit to Live Here” stuck in my head, where it remains still.
Extra pics after the jump.
Tags: Dan Davies, Graveyard, New York City, Radio Moscow