Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Monitor Street

The corner of Monitor Street and Greenpoint Avenue is the location of Uncle Paulie's, a modest truckers' coffee-shop/pizzeria by day and recently the scene of live underground rock shows put together by the redoutable Todd P. Its location is right across the street from the Newtown Creek-Greenpoint Sewage Treatment Plant, the daytime aspect of which is suitably post-apocalyptic (you can check this Flickr set for more views) but at night, when the tops of its towers are illuminated in some kind of ultraviolet light and the neighboring buildings are all scrap metal yards with guard dog signs and concrete structures with their gates left open because they really contain nothing but the most unsalvageable refuse, you can feel that you've just arrived outside Mordor.

Fortunately a quick right turn (as you dodge the sweeping eye of Sauron) places you amidst friendly faces and interesting rock bands - most recently, on April 7th, Double Dagger drove up from Baltimore (I'll let you find their MySpace page yourself - hints for Googling: they are called Double Dagger and they are from Baltimore - you may not however, immediately find singer Nolen Strals' collaborative art blog 99 Drawings In 99 Days, well worth a look), Metalux drove in from elsewhere in Brooklyn and Green Milk From The Planet Orange flew in from Japan.

As the sole band about which I had no notion, Double Dagger proved to be the unexpected surprise which every evening out should have. A vigorous drummer and bassplayer, as the sole instrumentation, provided a necessarily minimalist but tensile backdrop to Nolen Strals' vocal and physical method acting - on record, his singing seems a little more conventionally emo, but live it's all pretty much transformed by his interaction with the audience. At first his persistent caroming around, singing right into people's faces and bumping into them seems like predictably confrontational tactics, but it becomes clear that he's too gentle about it for that analysis. Ultimately the effect he creates is more like one of the more manageable forms of autism, as if he is operating by a different set of rules about how to interact with people. It's still a bit disconcerting but any number of factors (from his between song remarks to the implicit social contract of the young artist circles in which the band travels where the weirdness tends to be rather contained) combine to make it feel more collaborative than threatening. Of the various approaches to challenging the performer-audience relationship, from G.G. Allin's ordure-flinging to Robert Fripp perching unceremoniously on a high stool, this one seems worth a return visit.

Also worth a return visit (now that I've completely run out of steam for writing about the evening) are Metalux, an electronics duo you should also have no trouble locating on the Web (add the term "carbon" to your search) - part of why they are great is they are not "electronica" - they play electronic music without an Apple logo in sight or an audible rhythmic pattern that could function on anyone's dance floor anywhere. Jenny Graf plays some guitar and has this amazing looking homemade synthesizer with alligator clip connections and a pre-digital era touch-pad controller, while M.V. Carbon combines keyboard and reel-to-reel tape loops made on the fly, which she then modifies by manipulating the metal reels as if they were turntables.

Green Milk From The Planet Orange are yet another Japanese power trio, of which there are currently quite a number - not as alien as Fushitsusha, as inventive as Minimokoto or as needles-in-the-red as High Rise, the three nonetheless purvey a high energy brand of drone/hard-rock psychedelia that was thoroughly convincing while it was happening. They sit down to play as well, which in a packed venue with no stage was a bit of limitation, although occasionally at the start of a song, they stood up on their amps, made the devil horns hand sign to the audience, swung their hair around - generally conveyed "we come to rock" - and then sat down again to resume their intricate finger motions.

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