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Archive for October, 2011

(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

Jeff Mangum’s story is familiar: A talented young artist creates a masterpiece only to shun the public and seek seclusion. In Mangum’s case, the great work is In the Aeroplane over the Sea and the exile, recently broken, lasted roughly a decade. Like in the case of authors J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee, his fame grew with his continued absence—a compelling narrative. Mangum, however, chose to return, and his sold-out show at Town Hall on Saturday night proved that his fans have never left.

Mangum, dressed in a denim shirt, tan pants and a newsboy cap, began his performance promptly at 9 p.m. His setup, positioned in the middle of the stage, consisted of a chair flanked by four acoustic guitars, each serving a specific tonal purpose dictated by the given song. A particularly twangy guitar was used for the sing-alongs “Holland 1945” and “Two-Headed Boy.” But, the most moving moments came when Mangum used a rich-sounding chocolate brown guitar, which created warm instrumentation as a counterpoint to his sharp vocals.

For it is Mangum’s voice—inflected, emotive and mysterious—that makes his music so compelling. And when he chanted such lyrics, as “I love you, Jesus Christ” from “The King of Carrot Flowers,” the audience could not help but answer the call. Everyone loves a comeback story.

Photo courtesy of Will Deitz

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For Yotel: Trivial Pursuit

Mornin’ Playtonics,

Today you should check out my tenth post for Yotel NYC’s blog. I went to trivia games around the city and in the post I highlight my favorite ones.

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(Editor’s Note: This is Dan’s first post for Playtonic Dialogues)

Ten years of Minus the Bear have passed and there is still no obvious way to categorize them. Not merely what genre of music do they fall into, but everything about them seems to be a bit of a contradiction. For a band led by a singer who looks like Jim Morrison at the height of his acid years, the group hardly matches their visual aesthetic. Instead, they play with a relentless energy and almost mechanical precision more often seen in electronic music than fellow scruffy guitar-driven rock bands.

Starting off the concert with the choice opening lyrics of “Let’s get the fuck out of here” from their 2001 classic “Hey, Wanna Throw Up? Get Me Naked” had a tinge of irony. Playing with an infectious dynamism of repeating and interwoven guitar riffs created a momentum that steamrolled the audience into submission, bringing even the most mild-mannered fans to bob their heads. Accompanied by pulsating strobes and twirling colored spotlights, no one could imagine “getting the fuck out of there,” let alone even think that a world outside that show existed.

Marking their 10 year anniversary as a band with a celebratory tour, their Wednesday night show at Webster Hall relied heavily on their earlier work from the era of unfortunate song titles (my personal favorites include “Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!” and “Thanks for that Killer Game of Crisco Twister”).

“For those that don’t know, we’re playing one of our records entirely through,” announced lead singer Jake Snider, three songs into their acclaimed 2002 album Highly Refined Pirates. For their final song, “Let’s Play Guitar in a Five Guitar Band,” they brought out fellow genre defiers and tour-mates The Velvet Teen, providing some much welcomed vocal oomph to the final chorus before the band came back for an encore of their more recent releases. The show ended with “Pachuca Sunrise.”

When most bands announce an “Anniversary Tour” and rely heavily on older material in their catalogue it’s seen as a sign that the band might be entering their twilight years. But for Minus the Bear it seems more about seizing the opportunity to reinterpret their older songs with the infectious live energy they’ve developed over the past few years of touring. This band isn’t slowing down anytime soon, but we can at least be thankful that their song titles have improved.

Photo by Dan

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Playtonic Dialogues welcomes another member to our writing team! Dan, like many of us here, is corporate by day and musical by night. Look out for his upcoming reviews (one to be posted today) and make sure to follow him on Twitter.

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Mornin’ Playtonics,

Today you should check out my ninth post for Yotel NYC’s blog. I discuss new music from old hip hop legends. Snark included.

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(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

Odd Future—the short form of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All—is a hip-hop collective, although that doesn’t properly explain the group’s appeal. About a year ago, they emerged from Internet stardom and began performing their playful creations to small crowds. But with a combination of crude lyrics paired with sinister beats and ecstatic live shows, their profile rapidly rose. The tipping point came in February when two of the group’s members—de facto leader Tyler the Creator and supercharged menace Hodgy Beats—performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. And now, at the height of their popularity, Odd Future filled Terminal 5 on Wednesday, a school night for many of the all-ages attendees.

Mythology, symbolism and style surround Odd Future’s culture. A motto, “Free Earl,” appeared on numerous T-shirts, and a sheet hung over the back of the stage with a Photoshopped cat in the clouds and the OFWGKTA cross on the bottom. And when the group flooded the stage, most members were dressed in their signature style: skater shoes, tube socks and baseball T-shirts.

The band seemed humbled by the size of the venue. “This is a lot of fucking people,” said an initially bemused Tyler. But, as the show progressed, most members adapted their energy to engage the fans. During showstopper “French,” Tyler and Hodgy threw themselves off the second-floor balcony and into the crowd, a thrilling sight. And, while Tyler seemed agitated to perform his YouTube sensation “Yonkers,” most knew the lyrics and answered the call to rap the first few lines. Because second to Odd Future’s music is participating in the movement.

Photo courtesy of Alexis Maindrault | www.rockinpix.com

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Mornin’ Playtonics,

Today you should check out my eighth post for Yotel NYC’s blog. I cover things to do in New York this fall. I’ve got some good tips!

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