Thursday, March 26, 2009

Live: Beluga + Hunters, Oh No! and the Tiger Pit, Trouble & Strife

When: 3/20
Where: Cameo

Hunters - From the first pounding note of their set, Hunters demand attention. A New York-based four-piece, Hunters' music is difficult to classify. It's definitely punk, aggressive and heavy hitting. But it's also got Sonic Youth-influenced artsy experimentation, and to further confuse matters, some crazy rock'n'roll guitar. Like "no wave" bands, they walk the line between overt intellectualism and punk rock nihilism.

All four members are great musicians, particularly Derek Watson on guitar and Odell Nails (also of Mahogany) on drums. The whole band plays a mile a minute of their angular, in-your-face music, and their stamina alone is impressive. The set did seem to slow down a bit as it wore on, growing a little tiresome by the end. Still, I'm definitely eager to see them again.


Oh No! And the Tiger Pit - Oh No! is a classic example of a band of excellent musicians trying a little too hard to be edgy. The band played all kinds of rock'n'roll but all with vocals that sounded alternately just like the Pixies' Charles Thompson and just like Pere Ubu's David Thomas. They topped this off with some ironic girl-group moments and random animal noises.

The band was enjoyable and very talented, but the whole thing had the feel of "let's be in a band that's really weird," not "we're genuinely crazy and are genuinely trying to express ourselves." The music was fun and well-played but it didn't make it to a deeper level than that. Oh No! are fine for a party, but in terms of enduring artistic merit, they are only a pale derivative of the bands they parrot.


Beluga - One of my favorite NYC bands, Beluga rocked the house. Their music is punk, with a slight post-Nirvana grunge tilt to it and wisps of indie pop tucked in here and there. Frontwoman Isabel Ibsen sounds like Courtney Love waaaay back when Courtney Love was still awesome - whether hushed or screaming, her voice has a rare ability to convey absolute rage. She's a great frontwoman too, jumping in the audience, slithering and rolling on the floor, screaming her head off.

The band was obviously having a few technical problems throughout the show, but they still played well. Unfortunately, it wasn't at all a jumping/moshing/dancing/flailing sort of crowd, and under those circumstances, its difficult for a band like this to build up their momentum to its fullest. But they did an admirable job in the face of adversity.

Last time I wrote up Beluga, my complaint was that other than Isabel, the band didn't move at all. Someone named "Jared" commented that he liked the contrast, and I hadn't thought of it, but when put that way it sounded kind of cool. With that in mind, I was able to appreciate the band better, and the band also met me halfway - while still not a very active band, the three women backing Isabel were definitely showing more energy, even if they turned that energy inward towards their guitars. (Drummer Elliot Glass also showed energy, but of course, it's hard not to when you're on the drums.)

It was probably not Beluga's best show ever, but as always, they kicked serious ass.


Trouble & Strife - This hard-rocking band played a punk rock like classic rock - or maybe it was classic rock played like punk rock, I'm not sure which. They were vastly talented, particularly drummer Max (I don't know his last name). The guitars were killer as well. Only one problem - the frontman. Singer S. Sinclair's 1970's rockstar posing was just plain off. It seemed completely staged and hit a particular low when he crushed a beer can with his hand. Playing up the sex appeal by constantly flashing the frayed crotch of his jeans probably kept some of the audience interested, but in the end, he seemed like an impostor. The rest of the band would be better off without him.


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