Thursday, December 01, 2011


Maxwell’s is a music venue and restaurant in Hoboken that has the distinction of being one of the few non-yuppified places in that community. It’s become one of the only places in New Jersey to see classic punk or post-punk bands, and a lot of random weirdness. My friend Liz told me about a concert she attended there, where the opening act was a Japanese band. The singer spoke no English, screamed a lot into the microphone, and proceeded to strip down to butt-nakedness throughout the set.

I went to Maxwell’s on Sunday with Liz and her brother Joe. We were spared any naked Japanese singers, as we were going to see Chameleons Vox, which consists of Mark Burgess and John Lever from the original Chameleons, and three other non-original members (Ray Bowles, Neil Dwerryhouse, and Chris Oliver). I’d heard music by the Chameleons in the past, and I’d always liked them, though I probably wouldn’t have known about this show if it wasn’t for Chris Oliver. If you may recall from my England trip postings, Chris Oliver is on John Foxx’s tech crew. He gave me the tour dates while he was setting up for Foxx’s gig in York. So, I wanted to hear them live, and I wanted to say hello to Chris again. Black Swan Lane opened for them, and we agreed that we liked their sound—clearly very Chameleons-influenced, which is not surprising, as Mark Burgess was involved in at least some of the songwriting.

I’ll just cut right to it—the gig was spectacular. I’m used to British performers who are much like John Foxx—they get onstage, they say hello, they do their set, maybe introduce the band, then say good night. There’s not much, if any, banter with the audience—it’s all “business”. Mark Burgess is the exact opposite. He seemed to be acting out every song, was very chatty with the audience, and during “Second Skin”, he made his way around the audience before returning to stage. While the band had a setlist, they made at least one on-the-fly change by special request, and made some on the spot decisions when they came back for an encore, as they didn’t have any encore numbers prepared.

You can see the first few numbers of the gig in this video, taken by an audience member:

I was just stunned by the end of the gig. They were just really, really mindblowing-ly good. My friend Anna said that Mark Burgess always seems so happy when he’s onstage, and that may be a part of it—his demeanor and energy was infectious. Anyone who could have walked away from that gig and not liked it would have to be the sort of person who kicks puppies and pushes old people down the stairs.

Two days later, on a rainy and windy Tuesday night, I found myself in Brooklyn. It’s probably been ten years since I’ve been there. There was a certain incongruity between the warmth of the evening and the fact that someone bought a live Christmas tree and brought it onto the L train. On the plus side, it made the subway car smell nice, not something you often hear anyone say about subway cars.

I searched for a place to have dinner, and found a restaurant that met all of my criteria (dark and atmospheric, preferably lots of wood décor, must not be fussy or vegetarian, and must have beer). I was serenaded through dinner with Rush’s greatest hits. (No, not Rush Limbaugh. The Canadian metal band Rush). I found this to be a huge improvement over the usual garbage I have to listen to while I’m digesting my food. I particularly hate listening to “soft rock” while I’m eating. I don’t know why people find it “soothing” to listen to some melodramatic male singer who sounds like someone’s taken a cheese grater to his member. Or a female singer who sounds like she’s trying to hit every possible note in the human vocal range. Or the Eagles. Tara Busch posted a tweet last week about a trip to Whole Foods, where she was subjected to the sound of Rod Stewart covering an Eagles song. (And they had no coffee). There should be federal punishment for that.

After dinner I went to the Trash Bar, where my friend Mark’s band, Some Awful Bridge, was playing. They were playing 1980s era Iron Maiden at the bar outside the venue room, a la “Number of the Beast”. I read a critique of the Trash Bar where people complained that the music they played was “too old” and they didn’t know the songs. I knew every song. Which probably means I’m old. The Iron Maiden songs formed another strange contrast with the first artist who played that night, Myles Manley, whose music is more on the folk side.

I knew Mark had a band, but I’d never heard them before last night. Their Facebook page describes their music as a “Pretentious new wave-y, gothy, shoegaze-y atrocity”. That’s probably the best description (not really pretentious, though), as you couldn’t pin their music to a specific genre. You can get a sense of what they sound like here (though be warned that the MySpace player is not the greatest when it comes to streaming audio).These guys are very good, and do a good live show. (I’m not sure I get the pig and accordion bit, but hey, I don’t have to understand everything). It would have been nice if they had a bigger crowd, though Tuesday night in Brooklyn is a rough time slot. So, if they’re playing near you, be sure to go see them and buy their stuff.

This week has been fun, but of course that never lasts. My cat developed a "problem" last night that made him climb the walls, try to pee on my bed, and caused him to frantically dig at the front door. Since this is decidedly odd cat behavior, I took him to the emergency vet at midnight, and it turns out he had a blockage (if you don't know about cats, that's potentially fatal if not treated). So, Shiva is in the hospital as I write this, looking a bit like the stereotypical spinster:

This has left me in a decidedly distracted state of mind, and has disrupted my week at a time when I could least stand to be disrupted. Life is like that, I suppose...

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