It's been two and a half months since I moved back to New York City. And one of these days, the sense of wonder and awe that I get in this beautiful, marvelous city might fade, but we're not there yet. Each day is a chance to experience life anew...to see and do things that I never had the chance to do back home. And here's something we certainly didn't have in West Virginia: bowling alleys that were also major indie rock clubs. I'm no Jeff Lebowski -- in fact, I'm actively terrible at the sport -- but I love bowling. I clearly love music, and when we here at Baeble trekked to the Brooklyn Bowl for a Cutty Sark showcase which we helped capture -- be on the lookout for our video of the evening in the weeks ahead -- I reveled at the chance to not just catch good tunes but to be at the heart of what it is to be young, love music, and be in New York City.
The evening consisted of a three-set showcase: Slothrust
and July Talk
opening for Drowners
. But the acts were so varied and the energy they brought to the crowd so unique that the evening felt like much more than your usual "two bands open for another" deal. I caught Slothrust at Baby's All Right a couple weeks ago when they opened for Bully
, and if they caught my eye as a band to watch that evening, last week marked Slothrust as one of the most exciting garage-punk/post-hardcore acts working today.
Slothrust's Leah Wellbaum is a presence on the stage. She is a presence despite her occasional obvious discomfort about being beneath the spotlights. While one second she might be squirming uncomfortably, the next she is unleashing the tough but vulnerable bellow that is her husky voice. And even if she never sang a word of her powerfully confessional lyrics, it would be impossible to not reckon with her talents as a guitarist. Her fusion of southern style classic rock licks with noise, punk, and hardcore energy is almost without precedent. I do this for a living, and I can't name a band that uses their guitars quite the way Slothrust does, and when Leah lets her hair down -- often in front of her face so that you can't see her at all or she starts rocking the Debby Thornberry look (I'm a Millennial; I'm allowed to make The Wild Thornberries
references in my work) -- and sets into an electric, fiery groove on her guitar, she is a marvel to watch. Don't be surprised if the band's next record is the album that shoots them into stardom.
But Slothrust eventually had to leave -- though, as I've said, I could have listened to Leah play guitar all night -- and July Talk took the stage and while both bands are energetic, magnetic performers, July Talk brings a sexual intensity to their performances that is also without obvious precedent. July Talk's sound, Tom Waits with a touch of Jerry Lee Lewis and a dash of Nico, is impressive in its own right and their blues thunder was titanic. But that wasn't what I'll remember about that set when I think about it six months or even two years from now.
What I'll remember about July Talk was that I've never been so concerned that two members of a band were about to start f***ing on stage. July Talk's...thing (I hate to reduce their music to a gimmick but it helps frame the conversation) is the sexual chemistry between Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay. I don't actually know if they're a couple or have any romantic relationship whatsoever, but on stage, it's like Blue Is the Warmest Color
. The sexual energy is so powerful and intimate that watching them sashay back and forth across the stage and gently touch one another and stare into each other's eyes becomes almost too personal and voyeuristic. If you ever need to spice up your love life, take a romantic partner to a July Talk show and then afterwards say, "We need to top that." You probably won't, but even trying should shake things up at home.
And, then, Drowners arrived. Between Slothrust and July Talk, they had a massive bar to reach, but they succeeded. Drowners' angular, Strokes-esque guitar rock was the perfect counterpoint to the darker energies of Slothrust and July Talk. Drowners were rock music you could dance to and dance and move the fans did at Brooklyn Bowl that evening. It also doesn't hurt when you have a frontman as handsome as Drowners' Matthew Hitt if you want the younger fans in attendance (and some of the older ones) to swoon. The dude used to be a model. It's honestly a little unfair at this point.
We want to thank Cutty Sark again for putting this showcase together and for letting us be there, in the front row, taking pictures and capturing video and generally having a blast. Be sure to catch the video of the event when it finally goes live. It's an evening of fun you'll be sad you missed.