Earlimart: Mercury Lounge, 11-10-04
Disclaimer: my friend Joel plays guitar in Earlimart. This is partly why I have refrained from writing about them before now. However, to be brutally honest, the other reason I have refrained from writing about them before now is:
I didn’t like them. There, I said it.
I saw Earlimart for the first time in July, at a show at the Frying Pan here in NYC. Now, the Frying Pan is an old boat that has parties and shows, and it wasn’t exactly conducive for a rock concert. To tell the truth (again), I walked away from that show thinking “Well, clearly I’m not cool enough to understand this,” because the band had so much critical acclaim, and a following to boot.
When the album (Treble & Tremble) was released at the end of September, it did nothing to assuage my overall feeling that my tastes were just too pedestrian to truly “get” this. I could appreciate stellar musicianship, impeccable production, the care it clearly took to construct miniature sonic landscapes – sure. But generally, I like my rock and roll bleeding on the stage.
All of this changed when I saw the band last week – first at the Mercury Lounge, and then at Maxwell’s. The first thing I was impressed with was the ability to transition this music from a studio environment, where you have absolute control over everything, to the live setting. It didn’t allow for tremendous spontaneity, but it did permit for strength in individual performance. The sense of humor (there is one) was clearer, the personalities came out, and again, I will always have respect for musicians who can play (okay. so I also respect people who can’t. There is a difference, though, between raw, celebratory naivete, and arrogant posturing hiding workman-like skill at best, which far too many indie bands suffer from – they can’t really play, but try to act like they can). And, finally, I have to call out special props to Davey Latter, for being a drummer with fucking chops, not to mention POWER, both rare things in indie-rock-land, in my opinion.
(Please, prove me wrong. Postcards only please, usual address.)
The Merc was packed, Aaron made jokes about The O.C. (which included their song “We Drink On The Job” – god I hope they made a bundle of money from it!), and it was a triumphant, celebratory gig, which the band earned.
Maxwell’s, Hoboken, NJ, 11-12-04
I used to live in Hoboken, Maxwell’s was my old stomping ground 20 years ago, and so of course I am going to make the trek out to see the band my friend plays in. However, it was a horrifically cold, windy, rainy, frigid night, and clearly not that many other people found similar motivations; the crowd was a little sparse, and odd – yelling for older material that the band – judging by their reactions – clearly didn’t want to play.
Later in the set, Aaron Espinoza begins singing:
“New Jersey Turnpike/riding on a wet night…
The opening line of their fantastic cover of Springsteen’s “State Trooper.” To completely reinforce the international reputation of the state of New Jersey, some yahoo in the crowd has to yell “WOOOO!” as though he was at Giants Stadium. To quote Bruce himself, “I have never understood why a geographical location rates applause.” But, it will give you an idea as to the crowd setting.
The band was plagued with sound problems that were clearly painful to them, but not noticable to the audience; if they hadn’t mentioned it, we wouldn’t have cared. The performances were still solid, the songs seemed even more expansive and beautiful, and I left the show a confirmed fan.
Opening bands: It’s been a while since I’ve seen any worth mentioning, but I do have to mention the Silversun Pickups, who seemed to fall in this odd but interesting space between Kyuss and Radiohead, but with far more humor and melody, almost pop-like at times; and also Midnight Movies; the lead singer (and drummer!)’s voice was haunting and Nico-like and the songs amazingly solid.
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