Extra Life + Drunkdriver at Less Artists More Condos in W. Village, New York

Post Author: Nate Dorr

Less Artist More Condo’s crappy sound and Zagat-rated ambiance are a refreshing contradiction in terms. But don’t try to make sense of what Drunkdriver or Extra Life just played.

Just when you thought that all the real action had been pushed out of downtown Manhattan, suddenly here’s the diagnosis and prescription: the West Village’s Les Artists More Condos. Sure, I’m overgeneralizing here, and ignoring consistent highlights like the Tank and Cake Shop (neither of which should ever be ignored), but, I mean, even downtown standbys like the Knitting Factory are planning to leap the East River to Brooklyn. D.I.Y. spaces continue to shift further down the L and J lines, and we’re a very long way from the sort of Village loft party scene that thrived decades ago.

None of this will be fixed by a lone spot like Less Artists More Condos, but still, it is a welcome anomaly. Located near West 4th, the large, residential space is not only convenient, but should easily sidestep normal D.I.Y. travails like noise complaints and police visits: it is situated above a bar providing plenty of cover noise until late into the night, and this is not a neighborhood where crowds on the street outside will ever draw unwanted attention. In some ways, it is a perfect situation. As for the space itself, it’s almost too nice. The stylish red walls, clean kitchen, and strange room design are admittedly jarring to the basement punk show-trained eye, but also serve as a kind of palette cleanser after so many lower-fi locations. I wouldn’t want all my venues to be so lavish, but it is an undeniably pleasant place to hang out, and I am in fact impressed that the four residents should be so willing to open their doors on a regular basis.

In fact, my only complaint of the night was the sound. Strange that after spending so much time around decidedly makeshift PA systems I should especially note it here, but as compared to Death By Audio and other similar spots, LAMC’s sound seemed decidedly blown out. This is perhaps less a concern for more abrasive, kinetic bands like Drunkdriver, whose devastating guitar was the single melodic element anyway (I can’t really call lead singer Berdan’s voice “melodic”). With simple arrangements seemingly designed to tear unsubtle holes through the audience, I’m not sure the band would have been noticeably different on a better sound system. On the other hand, I know from their recorded work that there are actually interesting chord progressions going on which were much harder to pick out live.

Extra Life, a five-piece with more intricate instrumental interplay going on, seemed to suffer a bit more. I have a feeling that given their balance of subtle melody shadings and dissonant intensity Extra Life may be a difficult band to run sound for live, but they’ve sounded fantastic in the past at other spots like the afore-mentioned Death By Audio. Not that they sounded bad in any way. The members remain extremely talented musicians, churning through a varied selection of tracks from strenuously rhythmic avant-epics to simpler pieces of equally rewarding borderline pop, despite having done away with the sheet music they relied on in the past. I would say that the best way to experience such a detail-oriented band would be recorded (a recent split 12″ with Nat Baldwin sounds great) had I not already seem them in live in full, clear intensity. Then, flawless execution only amplified the effect.