Concert Review: Needle Points @ Golden Tea House (May 22, 2014)

By Esmail Hamidi

If you’re a punk kid from Philadelphia, chances are you know of the Golden Tea House. Several nights a week, people from far and wide flock to this oasis of good times and cheap, all-ages, relateable music. The kitchen is where it all goes down. Bands set up opposite the stove, the refrigerator, the microwave, and the audience. Bring earplugs, because the PA is terrible. If you by chance forget them, the door guy probably has some spares, but be chill about it.

The illustrious House has been holding shows since at least 2012, which is grandfatherly in punk years. That whole time, it’s been cursed by terrible, oblivious writings about it (the article about DIY venues on Myspace is a glaring example). That said, here’s my shot.

Last Thursday, I went out to see Pujol, Needle Points,  Ruby Buff, and The No-No’s. It was a curious bill, for sure. The No-No’s were first on for their first show ever- trading virtuosity for attitude and energy. The pint-sized girl lead singer yelled about all kinds of things. The drummer was loose and liberal with tempo and the dual guitars sounded like unhealthy chainsaws, but watching them was the most punk thing I did all week. They played a song called “I Wanna Hit My Head On The Radio,” which kinda rules. Seeing them made me want to start a band like them.

Ruby Buff took the form of a power trio taking cues from powerpop, post-punk, and other twinkly guitar music. They were really tight, and they had a singing drummer who got the job done.  Their guitarist looks a lot like the guitarist from another great band, The Joint Chiefs of Math. They might be the same person, but my cursory internet research appears to indicate otherwise.

Needle Points appeared in the kitchen dressed in full psychedelic garb, to the delight of the modest Thursday night crowd. There was glitter, leopard print, eyeliner, and tribal paint. They truly pulled out all the stops. As an ensemble, they are an experience – two standing drummers playing a hodgepodge of random drums and cymbals, fuzz bass, slapback guitar, and a howling, possessed lead singer evoking equal parts Iggy Pop,  Peter Zaremba, Syd Barrett, and Sky Saxon. All of this stews together into something that will make you dance your ass off.

They aren’t just some imitation revival act – I find that they bring an addictive energy and originality to live psychedelic garage music. I don’t know how these beautiful people found each other, but they did, and the results, in the form of Needle Points, are exquisite. I hate to attach something so immaterial as the beauty of Needle Points to material goods, but you should get their self-released record on your turntable soon because it rips. If you’re too cheap for that, get a very solid approximation of their live set and “studio” work from their live set on WKDU (see below).

Now, full disclosure, I had to leave before Pujol played, but they are worth mentioning. To me, their recordings sound like Wavves’ second record and Diarrhea Planet – straight ahead rock’n’roll out of Nashville with hipster tendencies and a rough, self-deprecating voice. Their new record, titled Kludge, is worth checking out.

Sorry for no pictures. I was too busy rockin’ out.

Be sure to check out our live in-studio set with Needle Points!

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Concert Review: Future Islands @ First Unitarian Church (April 29, 2014

Courtesy of 4AD
Courtesy of 4AD

By Esmail Hamidi

Last Tuesday, I was fortunate to see Future Islands headline the First Unitarian Church. Accompanying me were WKDU DJs Dr. Plotkin and Peter Liu, of The Love X-Perience and Hear Hear Mix respectively. Supporting were Ed Schrader’s Music Beat and Chiffon. Soundwise, the bill was pretty darn diverse, but all bands had their hometown in common: Baltimore.

One cool thing about the Baltimore scene is its interconnection – the music might be wildly different, but the musicians are all uniformly skilled and versatile. Dan Frome and Denny Bowen, both of weird noise rock quartet Roomrunner, were spotted filling in on bass and drums for Ed Schrader and Future Islands respectively. I’m normally used to these guys playing totally different types of music, but they still killed it in this setting.

All groups on this bill played perfectly. Chiffon caught my attention with a weird hipstery take on 90s radio R&B and BMORE CLUB that got me movin’. Their beats were very, very reminiscent of the programming on WERQ Baltimore 92.3 FM a.k.a. 92Q JAMS, a station that is best listened to cruising the streets of West Baltimore around 10PM in a late-model Cadillac.

To me, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat always sounds like The Monkees on PCP, and this was no exception. Every time I’ve seen them on the home front, this two-piece always succeeds in turning the floor into a swirling mosh pit. Unfortunately, this did not happen in Philadelphia. For further weirdo cultural experiences courtesy of Ed Schrader, check out the Ed Schrader Show on YouTube.

Lead singer Sam Herring mentioned that he was feeling a little under the weather that night. He was definitely holding back, but still delivered a great performance. He is a conduit for the music – gyrating and radiating sexual energy like a balding, bodybuilding Elvis gone new wave. Bassist William Cashion lashed out with expressiveness that a lot of bass players could take a lesson from. As the main live instrument in the mix, Cashion simultaneously anchored the band and played singing leads.

Synth player Gerrit Welmers’ compositional skills play a huge role in the Future Islands sound, and Denny Bowen’s always a clock on drums. Their live personas were somewhat less expressive than those of Herring and Cashion, but steadfast nonetheless.

That night kind of embodied why everyone needs a good show every so often. I know I did. It was…refreshing. Also, sidenote, I ran into Liz of Liz and the Lost Boys afterwards. You can peep the session they did with WKDU (and that I engineered, woo soundz!) here.