Sunday, February 3, 2008

team robespierre @ death by audio, 2/1/08 (record release party)

i've never been the kind of person who can enjoy live music just anywhere, and i doubt i'm the only one. as you might remember from previous live reviews, i've made a point of discussing the relative merits of any venue i've never been to before, from new york to glasgow, because i think it's the space music is performed in is almost as important as the music itself - after all, if a venue has shitty sound or cramped floor space or allows reckless behavior, that's what's going to draw your attention, no matter how much you love this band. this was only my second time at death by audio, todd p's premiere semi-legal brooklyn venue, but i hope it will be my last. even attending this show was a sort of moral chore, one that i did because its reward (i.e., directly supporting the artists and non-corporate business models) was, well, more rewarding than its process (i.e., actually going to death by audio). ethically, i'm a strong supporter of todd p's efforts to deindustrialize the music industry, promoting niche bands to all-ages crowds (always), and i'm sure he doesn't skimp on paying the bands who play there. however, the ultimate consideration is whether it's about the band or about the viewer. on a grander level, of course the band does, because people who really love them will see them anywhere and love it, but when you go to three, four shows a week, there's a lot less magic in the live experience, and comfort becomes an important criteria.

maybe i'm a little coddled here in new york, where there's a live music venue on every other corner on the l.e.s., and i can choose to see a band based on where they're playing. most bands i'm interested in playing new york at least twice a year, whether back-to-back or months apart, and i do have the relative luxury of saying, "no, i don't really like that venue. i'll see them somewhere else/next time." however, as a fan of team robespierre and, as i said, an ethical supporter of todd p, i put aside my doubts from the last time i was at death by audio and went. what a mistake.

death by audio is not a good venue. certain pitfalls, like the lights and sound (which, if you stand close enough, might actually kill you) can be attributed to, and pardoned by, the venue's shoestring existence; after all, it does seem to double as warehouse space and is definitely not licensed by the city. however, death by audio's reluctance to allow people to congregate outside the venue (which attracts cops) means that its squalid, poorly ventilated, and unbelievably cramped interior was choked with cigarette and marijuana smoke nearly as soon as the show began. new york city banned smoking indoors for a reason, and it would really have been great if death by audio's anti-establishment platform consisted of a little more than blatant health code violations and a large degree of disrespect for its clientele. another thing i absolutely love (loathe) about death by audio is their absurdly unnecessary delay between doors and starting shows. both times i've been, doors have been at 8 and the show hasn't started until after 10. the venue's mostly anarchic setup means that bathroom waits often exceed half an hour, underaged drinking is rampant, and (one of its rare upsides), its liberal in-and-out policy means that you can easily go outside for some desperately-needed fresh air (or walk to the bodega during especially awful sets - see ninjasonik for more). a night at death by audio can turn you from hale & hearty to wheezy & sniffly without breaking a sweat.

sweating is, of course, the mostly ultimate goal of any punk show, and regardless of my personal feelings towards death by audio, it was probably the best place in the city for team robespierre's record release party. after all, the band isn't exactly known to embrace law & order (see "ha ha ha"), and the close confines of death by audio incited the kind of wanton and reckless audience participation team robespierre thrives on. by the time the headliners took the stage, the room was a sauna of body heat, thanks to the noble efforts of the night's three openers, vivian girls, the golden error, and ninjasonik. disappointingly, the quality of the music (of the openers) seemed to decrease as the night wore on, peaking at opposite ends with vivian girls' reverb-y punk and team robespierre's electropunk. i got there towards the end of their set, but dug what i heard, an intelligent blend of post-punk and garage punk. the golden error, on the other hand, played rather unexciting punk-punk, some songs bearing a garage sound but, on the whole, rather derivative. however, they did manage to get the crowd moshing, so that's probably a good sign. ninjasonik were definitely the biggest disappointment of the night - two guys and the world's largest posse smoking blunts on stage over what were actually pretty good beats, but were ruined by their terrible lyrics - i only stuck around for a couple songs (before going to the aforementioned bodega) and felt compelled to leave when they started singing "somebody's gonna get pregnant" ad nauseum. not recommended.

at long last (for such a small stage, it certainly takes a long-ass time to set up between sets), team robespierre came on to absolutely thunderous applause. it's been a great year for these guys, having been literally catapulted from nothing to one of the most legit buzz bands (here's looking at you, vampire weekend) from new york. a year of building up fan bases in dank basements and crowd diving in warehouses with little more than a few mp3s to go on ended last week with the release of their first album, everything's perfect, on impose records - a staggering eighteen minute opus that makes up for its frighteningly short duration with ten of the hardest hitting tracks this side of the hudson. so good, that i don't even mind that half the tracks are from the fake gold sampler that i talked about a couple weeks ago. anyway, the place was totally fucking nuts for team robespierre's set - so crazy that the band scarcely had a chance to engage in their trademark rambunctiousness. vocalists ty and tomasz tried to crowd surf multiple times and just got pushed back towards the stage - the place was so packed (definitely above fire code, but it's not like death by audio HAS a fire code) that there wasn't even room to dance, just to sway back and forth and try to avoid the crowd-surfing bodies. a credit to team robespierre's skill was the number of fellow brooklyn musicians who showed up - i counted matt & kim (of matt & kim) and despot, but i'm sure there were more.

the show was great, and team robespierre were as good as i knew they would be. i'm still psyched to see them opens for foals in two weeks, and though i'm still a little trepidatious about their set at bowery, at least i know i'll have some degree of personal comfort there (no smoking, no ridiculous bathroom lines, and, most importantly, not a ridiculous amount of people so there's actually space to dance). long live team robespierre!

"solid gold"

buy everything's perfect from impose records.

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