coloring the indie rock universe
  • FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 04, 2009

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A coloring book; an Indie Rock coloring book at that. It's the kind of concept that could be used as a loaded weapon for cynics and critics of the oft-precious ways of the genre and its' devotees. And let's face it. A hipster-coloring book isn't going to stave off any of those constant accusations you've heard before. You know the ones where people assert that this here group of juveniles refuses to grow up? Yeahfile this idea right next to kickball and cupcakes.

Of course Wednesday evening's benefit for the Yellow Bird Project's latest act of benevolence was never meant for the naysayers. It wasn't organized, booked, and executed with highbrow taste in mind. No, YBP's launch party for The Indie Rock Coloring Book was an event designed for the true believers. It was a celebration for all those who feel (with good reason) that the music they love could probably benefit from a little splash of color every now and then.

For those unfamiliar, the Yellow Bird Project is a Montreal based nonprofit that has spent the last few years enlisting the artistic talents of some of independent music's most well-known artists (Bon Iver, The National, Of Montreal) to design exclusive T-Shirts for sale, with all proceeds going to an array of charities, each chosen by the individual musician. The organization's latest idea is a hot off the presses coloring book, inspired by the work of a variety of artists and musicians you probably know and love. In celebration of its' release, YBP held a NYC benefit concert this past Wednesday, with members of Ra Ra Riot spinning songs on their laptops, and featuring a special solo performance from another YBP T Shirt contributor, Elvis Perkins.

Held at the Housing Works' Bookstore, the setting for the show was perfectly cozy and intimate for the hundred or so people lucky enough to file through the stores slightly chipped, hunter green doors. Distinct, rosy wood pillars prop the place up (though here, they're role was one of obstruction), endless shelves of books obviously line the walls, and in the main expanse, a small stage, flanked on the front and sides by a number of folded chairs, graces the store. Most in attendance resigned to standthat or they propped themselves up in the store's small balconies, or collapsed in the spiraling staircases leading up towards them.

Though Ra Ra Riot's "DJ Set" failed to drive the crowd into a pre-Elvis frenzy (picture a few members of the band staring at Mac books, somewhat lackadaisically pulling songs from their I-Tunes), Perkins - he of the unkempt stubble, long stallion brown hair, spectacles, and the evening's must have grey, YBP logo tee wouldn't disappoint. Minus his band Dearland, the LA folksy singer songwriter provided an appropriately stripped down, 30-minute set for the polite and attentive audience gathered before him. Memorable moments would include "Slow Doomsday" and "Shampoo", and he even coaxed the crowd to join him on a chorus or two.

After Perkins' tidy performance concluded, the crowd would slowly disperse, picking up buttons, bookmarks, t-shirts and, of course, those glossy covered coloring books before spilling out into the late summer streets of Soho. And though the event was intimatethough it was a bit too hushed, and maybe even a touch too stiff, hopefully Wednesday's is the start of something more significant; a celebration of the wider, social possibilities for independent music. And I for one can only hope that the Yellow Bird Project will continue to find new and interesting ways to continue to color the Indie Rock universe. - David Pitz

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