Monday, October 15, 2007

why? @ knitting factory, 10/14/07

with cmj coming up (and all the trappings of free music that go with it), frugality is definitely in vogue. but why?, the oakland folk-hop trio, played their hand wisely: instead of getting lumped in with the torrent of music that commences on tuesday, the shot their load early, playing a surprise show just for new yorkers. the nearly free ($1) show had been announced late on friday, but word got around - why? played to a full house earlier, an interesting mix of stingy voyeurs, hardcore fans, and, yes, every blogger in nyc (or so it seemed with all the flashbulbs exploding). a one-off show to build excitement for their new ep, the hollows, why? rocked, soothed, and then rocked again in what turned out to be a bummer of a short set, though the trio played many old favorites as well as exciting new songs.

opening for why? was the parisian quarter neimo. the post-wave imitators sounded more like their age-old enemies from across the channel than they might comfortably admit (especially with france's home-turf upset over the weekend) as they postured and strutted through their set. in town for cmj and clearly out to make an impression, neimo played with universal dance-punk energy, singer brunojoedallesandro (probably not his real name) throwing himself on the floor of the stage at every possible opportunity. even though they sounded like every other band on radio 1, neimo played well, cranking fans at the foot of the stage into what could pass as a frenzy in new york. sounding dreadfully alike, most of neimo's set blurred into sounding like one long song, though single "hot girl" stood out for two reasons, the most notable being its abysmal lyrics (the chorus was "hot girl hot girl!"), but also because neimo dropped a couplet from "daft punk is playing at my house" right into the middle of the song, jerking me out of my rather vacant daydreams. unfortunately, neimo's set dragged on and on, hitting at least the forty minute mark, but seemed to take much longer, thanks to brunojoewhatever's penchant for talking way too much. obviously, neimo isn't for me, but, hey, if you like athlete - take note.

half an hour after neimo left the stage, full of gallic cheer and thanks, why? was barely halfway into their setup. as frontman yoni wolf joked once their set had gotten underway, we had gotten the chance to see the behind the scenes footage - fifty five minutes of shifting drums, keyboards, mics, and all of why?'s other gadgets, of which there seemed to be at least four hundred thousand. by the time they were finally set up, utility fielder doug mcdiarmid's station was cluttered with an array of indescribable music thingys, with just enough wires and antennas to broadcast the entire concert on a ham frequency. despite the mess, the men of why? played with a happy efficiency, though they never ventured out of the few feet of space they had cleared around them.

highly idiosyncratic, why? were just as stylized as subtle had been a week ago, albeit in entirely different ways. doseone and yoni, brothers in cLOUDDEAD, obviously used wildly different tools to forge their individual sounds. incarnated as a three-piece just two years ago (why? operated as a solo yoni wolf project for two albums), mcdiarmid and the two wolf brothers performed together flawlessly, and (more commendably) equitably. while there is no doubt that yoni fronts this band, why? shared vocals, both harmonies and melodies, across the board. they worked together with an almost unrivaled fluidity, each man sticking to his own instruments, but drawing no such lines musically. i was often impressed by the license josiah wolf took on the drums - his crashing assault of skins and cymbals, to say nothing of the dexterity with which wolf intertwined his xylophone parts with his regular kit, frequently upstaged his brother on vocals. yoni was the only contributor of the raps that blur why?'s definition, but both mcdiarmid and the other wolf occasionally took lead vocals on choruses, and yoni and mcdiarmid traded leads on keyboards, bass, and guitar with a casualness that belied its uniqueness.

why? is firmly an anticon band, but their music frequently strays from the collective's mold. only a few new songs reflected the anticon aesthetic of sinister monotonic verses and eerie harmonic choruses, backed by offbeat drums; why?'s general attitude was one of positivity. wolf's lyrics rarely communicated emotion, but the group's music often sounded nearly twee, though without the cutesy connotations. the mind-boggling number of gadgets why? employed were used to make their sound cheerful, like a roomful of r2d2s whistling with pleasure, instead of thundering with anxiety.

why?'s set was nearly perfect - yoni candidly joked and interacted with the crowd, but never at the expense of the music, which was succinct without feeling quick. i found the new songs to be more appealing than why?'s older ones - more dramatic climaxes and electronics - but both were performed, and received, well. the night's probable highlight was a guest spot from james mcnew, who is probably more famous for his work with yo la tengo than as a why? coverer. credited as dump, mcnew's cover of "yoyo bye bye," from 2005's elephant eyelash, is set to appear on november's the hollows, and we were treated to a sneak peek of what it would sound like. basically, it's why? without yoni rapping. but mcnew did the song justice and the crowd was obviously thrilled to have him there, though his introduction by yoni was nearly drowned out by repeated calls for "stockholm syndrome."

there's no publicity like $1 publicity, and why? definitely earned themselves some earlier tonight. they delivered a solid, to the point set, to a crowd that came to hear something new. not an avowed why? fan before tonight, i will certainly pay more attention to this band in the future, and why bother with anything more than that?

buy all why? releases directly from anticon.

why? feat. james mcnew - "yoyo bye bye"

1 comment:

Bruno said...

Anyone who listens to the Fratellis should not be taken seriously.
Mes amitiƩs,
+++++
bjd