Friday night solidified Silent Barn’s status as my favorite music venue in New York. It’s certainly not the painful PA or the absence of a line of sight beyond the first few rows of spectators, nor the jungle ecosystem that sprouts once the kitchen (moonlighting as a performance space) fills up. It’s sort of the sum total of its rough fringes (not to mention acts that pass through), that amount to an antithesis of what it means to play a Manhattan venue these days. While that still means the odor of commerce is not quite as pungent (the bar and the door are cheaper, the bands perform next to a refrigerator and a kitchen sink), the media seems slowly to be creeping closer to the venue, or perhaps Todd P shows at large, to cover something that at least feels more legitimately punk. There was a Vice camera crew on Friday, a staffer for the Village Voice, and most importantly, me.
Actually, Karen O. That was much more important.
Missed photos of Black Moth Super Rainbow. Their CanAir synth-heavy vocodor glide is gorgeous and accessible and held the crowd in silent sway. They recently collaborated with Austin’s Octopus Project on an album and the results managed to blend the more chipper, amped up energy of the Octopi with their Pennsylvania-based brethren’s trippy head nod music.
I always assume that only music dorks and jazz heads like Dirty Projectors. Boy, do I feel like a snob. There were frat dudes in the front and man did they love it. It’s like they’d been cooped up in frat prison for a few years and only been allowed to hear “unplugged” takes on 90s alternative music. They couldn’t stop slapping the drummer high five and bumping into the guitarist as they gesticulated wildly to the music. Todd P asked them politely to not scream during the performance. That didn’t work so well. They were so excited it seemed certain someone was going to get punched in the face. At one point Dave Longstreth, mastermind behind the mic, called one of them a drunk asshole, to which drunk asshole replied, “I’m the drunk asshole who pays the bills!” Whose bills he pays was never established.
Beyond the one side comment, it was like the drunk assholes were only there for the rest of the audience, the band suffering no distractions. Their ecstatic vocal harmonies were flawless and confident and the stripped down four piece sound has never been as clear. I find that the music sounds more intricate with fewer layers, since I’m able to hear the bits of extravagant finger picking and hairpin turns in the dynamics with greater clarity.
Awesome Color was next, and, by the end of the set, their Iggy Pop-driven jam-rock had taken a turn for the dark and dissonant, sort of Led Zeppelin with the inevitable inflections of Sonic Youth, to my personal pleasure. One trip to the bathroom and recapturing a picture-taking sight line proved totally mission impossible.
Finally, Deerhunter. While it was sort of hard to stop myself from taking picture of Karen O the whole time, (who had brought along, or perhaps been brought along by Yeah Yeah Yeah’s drummer Brian Chase), Deerhunter offered up plenty of their own visual distractions. Their “savage” live show sustains its inexhaustible aural wash, with Moses Archuleta’s tireless drum-battering allowing the guitarists the freedom to wander about, mostly playing, sometimes falling, always grinning like the drugs they were on were some secret no one else knew, and allowing plenty of space for front man Bradford Cox to shock and awe us all into never looking at microphones with quite the same level of comfort.