It could be easy to dismiss Wye Oak as another band for the denim shirt crowd—mellow, buttery dream-folk churned to the point of blandness. But the Baltimore duo, who played at Warsaw in Greenpoint Tuesday night, have some seriously un-bland musical chops—they’re kind of a reverse White Stripes, and that’s a good thing. Where The White Stripes had grit and a lack of polish, Wye Oak sound and look totally put together, as if they’ve walked out of a J Crew catalogue, if J Crew was trying to lean into the indie musician angle this season.
Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner have been making music together for 10 years, so their on stage collaboration is truly comfortable. Musically, they finish each others’ sentences. Andy keeps the rhythm rolling, simultaneously playing synths with one hand and drumming with the other, while Jenn is the mouthpiece for the band (Andy isn’t even mic’d) and shreds on the guitar. The pair are truly making gender-balanced rock: even though the vocals are female, their music isn’t feminine. Most of the time Jenn’s voice is melting into the back of the soundscape, creating a lush, oceany resonance. And when her voice isn’t buried back there, she sounds like a nymph-like ghost. It’s haunting, romantic and powerful music. Continue reading →
Bill recently played New York in April, supporting the famous Iggy Pop on tour, with a drop-down at the United Palace Theater, uptown.
A prolific singer and songwriter, Callahan, active in the lo-fi New York scene for well over 20 years and only in the last few recording under his new name, has, perhaps, as Pitchfork has pointed out, maintained a kind of mystical aura, thanks not only to the minimalism of his music, writing, and interview repartee, but also because-up until recently-not many people had heard his own recordings. Callahan’s songs have been taken up by noted artists such as Gil Scott-Heron, Flaming Lips and Cat Power.
In a recent profile, The Washington Post described Callahan alongside three other major singer-songwriters as, “asserting their gravity in the North American mystery zone where cosmopolitan sophistication and folk mysticism overlap”.
Come see for yourself when Callahan plays Baby’s All Right this month.
Bill Callahan June 26 through June 28
Shows at 6PM and 9PM each night.
Baby’s All Right, Williamsburg Tickets
On a crisp, first-glimpse-of-summer night, with nigh a sk8rboi in sight, Jon Hopkins and electro company kicked off the annual free concert series at House of Vans (25 Franklin St) in Greenpoint.
Exceedingly referential with sponsored “street” artandalight “installation” that referenced a once-flickering warehouse marquee, Vans’ branded millennial pandering was never a distraction from evening’s chilled-out vibes, free orange-vanilla seltzer, nor the gaunt and smiley Hopkins’ superb set. Hopkins music, often slow to build, develops meditatively through repetition. You could even hear someone scream, “where’s the drop?”
Outdoor music, while often exchanging sound quality for experiential novelty, has the unique quality of gathering diverse groups of people together, especially when free.
Back in May, I took off my headphones and interrupted the otherwise continual loop of Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool to preview Day of the Dead – the Grateful Dead tribute album curated by The National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner – at an album release party at Brooklyn Bowl. May, your new music game was pretty on point.
I’ve now had two “dad knew what he was talking about” moments at Brooklyn Bowl within the last year. The first, during the Grateful Dead’s 50th Anniversary shows in Chicago over last Fourth of July weekend watching Trey Anastasio fill the role of late great Jerry Garcia, and doing it quite well at that (at which moment I couldn’t help but think that Dad would have to think, Courtney was right too). Continue reading →
The latest un-popular fashion trend is Tropical Goth—and it’s exactly what you think it is. Picture Charles Manson wearing a Hawaiian shirt stumbling into a backyard BBQ grill. Flaming flamingos and casual-day-for-cutters aside, you may not know that Tropical Goth is also a Brooklyn-based record label and dance party (of course it is). The Tropical Goth crew emerged a couple years ago from the minds of a couple of Bushwick’s Bossa Nova Civic Club DJs. The maestro of Tropical Goth is Shredder aka Chris Video, with Publicist, Food Stamps, Marcus Webb, Deadontheinternet and other tortured tiki souls dropping beats at select parties. Somehow they manage to blend beachy island vibes with dark industrial techno better than the best pina colada you’ve ever had on a drug-fueled bachelorette party in Puerto Rico. Continue reading →
In a world full of bullshit and bullshitters, Danny Brown is as clean as a whistle. In fact, his authenticity is perhaps as pure as a baby bull’s shit. No matter how it’s put, Danny Brown is a true artist, and there’s a new documentary out tonight that will school you on the matter.
Directed by Andrew Cohn (of Medora fame), Danny Brown: Live at the Majestic captures raw moments with the indie rapper as he prepares for a homecoming show at The Majestic Theatre in Detroit. With 21 cameras, Cohn’s crew captured full coverage of the live show, but the documentary also includes intimate footage with Danny in his own hometown.
Andrew Cohn, whose career initially started with screenwriting in Los Angeles, but who is now based in Brooklyn, enjoyed much success with his first documentary, Medora. The heart-wrenching doc follows a seemingly hopeless small-town high school basketball team through their losing streak in Medora, Indiana. The film premiered at SXSW, and it won an Emmy last year.
Danny Brown: Live at the Majestic is one of Cohn’s newest documentaries (he also just finished Night School). This time, as with Medora, he seems to have been born to make this film. As a Michiganian, Cohn was a fan of Danny Brown before the rapper’s fame hit global proportions — before XXX or Old hit the charts — back when Brown was just a drug dealer in Detroit trying to make it as a rapper. Cohn says he remembers when it was a big deal whenever Danny was featured on the cover of “Metro Times” in Detroit. As a fellow Midwestern artist, he’s enjoyed seeing Brown’s fame rise as his own filmmaking success has evolved.
I had the chance to catch up with Cohn about the documentary — how it came about and what it was like working with the creative force that is Danny Brown.
Greenpointers: What made you decide to make a doc on Danny Brown?
Andrew Cohn: It kinda came about as a side project because I was in the middle of making Night School, which I was in Indianapolis for. I had been in touch with his manager about doing a doc… and had lots of ideas that just fizzled and nothing came of [them]. But when I was making Night School… his manager approached me and said, ‘Danny is doing this show…it’s his first time doing a solo show in Detroit in a long time and we wanna film it, and want to talk to you to see if there’s something bigger you want to build around it.’ And immediately I was like ‘That sounds great, I’m close, I already have a crew and a ton of resources in Detroit and Michigan since that’s where I’m from’…So, first thing we wanted to do was shoot the fuck out of the live show…we wanted to just totally blow it out… And then I went back [to Indianapolis] to finish [Night School]. And, obviously, I spent about three days interviewing Danny while I was in Detroit… then had the idea to follow some fans who were at the show, and spent a few days with them, and slowly, slowly it started coming together… It was about a sixteen-month process from the first day of shooting.
GP: How did you find the fans who were featured in the film?
AC: Danny put out a Facebook post asking for fans who were going to be at the show who might be willing to be filmed…and we found some really great characters, you know, his fan base is super, super interesting… I think for Danny, he has a lot of fans who aren’t hip hop fans, a lot of them are punk rock fans. You’ll see a lot of mosh pits at his show. But I think that’s what’s great about Danny — he brings that vulnerability to his song writing. It’s not all braggadocious. He has that street credit, but he also has a punk rock mentality. Like, he refused to sign to a major label, he has this independent streak in him where he just does things his way, and I think the audience really reacts to that. He just has a really wide audience…like a lot of kids that come to his shows, I don’t think they’re gonna see a Drake show. He speaks to people that feel maybe disenfranchised, or people that are attracted to that kind of honesty.
GP: I was really impressed with how open and honest he was [in the film]. Was it easy to get him to open up like that in the conversations you had with him?
AC: Surprisingly so. I’ve done some profiles on some bigger artists and there’s always this kind of wall. They give you the PR spin of, like, an athlete after a basketball game, ‘Both teams played hard’ — this kind of sound byte stuff. But as soon as I met him — and I’m a huge Danny Brown fan — I totally understood why people love him so much. He’s so open and so honest and so vulnerable and raw. There’s none of that fake bullshit.
The first day I met him, we were filming late at night at the EL-P show, and they were all going to go back to Danny’s house and hang out after, and I [asked to come and film] and he was like, ‘Yeah of course!’ But I didn’t have car. I was trying to figure out how I would get back to the hotel…and he was like, ‘Oh, you can spend the night at my house! It’s fine.’ It was the first day I met this guy and he was inviting me to crash on his couch. At the time it didn’t seem like a big deal, but now, looking back, I’m like, ‘Damn, that’s crazy. That’s crazy.’
GP: So, why did you approach his manager initially? Was it just because you’re a big fan?
AC: Yeah, I mean I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. I remember Danny Brown before he was big at all…he was just another rapper from Detroit. He just opened for people – he was just one of the dozens of rappers in Detroit doing their thing…To see him transcend that and be really big was really really fun to watch. And so when I approached Dart, his manager, I showed him Medora, and he and his wife really loved the film, and knew that they would be in good hands. And I just started this relationship that ended up taking a long time to come to fruition, but I think in the end there was a trust there — like we’re from the same place, we have the same point of view, you know. So that’s what was cool about doing the doc…I didn’t have to sit down and Google ‘Danny Brown’ and do research on who he is…I already knew his full story, so it made it easy when we were interviewing or talking, because I understood where he was coming from.
GP: What made you decide to have the world premiere through Rooftop Films?
AC:Just because I know Dan [Nuxoll, Program Director], and I know that they put on amazing screenings. The screening they did with Medora was unbelievable…so I knew I would be in good hands. They said that they had requests for 2,100 tickets in like three hours, or something like that, so I knew they would be able to handle the volume and accommodate Danny’s fans. I think that was really important to us — to have something where Danny’s fans have access…[something that] was going to be free, was going to be open to the public…all ages, 18 and over. So that was important to us. And you know, New York is a big market for him, so it made sense.
GP: Most of your work seems to revolve around people in low-income situations. What draws you to that landscape?
AC: I think that I love stories of underdogs. I’m not exactly sure why. I enjoy giving a voice to people who might not be given that platform. I think that there’s a lot of people out there in that part of the country who are really overcoming a lot of odds that don’t really get credit for it. So to be able to shine a light on people who wouldn’t have their stories told is really important to me. I think everyone is attracted to different types of material, and I like just making movies about real people who are trying to live in the real world, you know, and I think there are really courageous stories in that space. And I’m from the Midwest and obviously I love the Midwest — there’s just the frankness of the people — they’re very forthcoming and honest — and so I like telling stories about that part of the country — that part of the world.
GP: What are you working on now?
AC: I just finished my other film, so [I’m] figuring out the rollout with that. I’m doing something for MTV, Vice, ESPN, doing some television stuff, then basically taking a break. This will be my fourth feature film in three years. I’ve been going pretty hard for the past two years, so I’m going to take a break and see what’s next.
GP: Do you have an idea of what you would want to work on next?
AC:Yeah, I want to take a stab at doing a narrative film. Get back to screenwriting and hopefully direct something narrative. I have a couple ideas for docs. There are plenty of opportunities coming my way and it’s hard to say no, but I need to do laundry, and just get my life back on track.
GP: Get back to the basics.
AC: Yeah, exactly.
GP: I mean, that’s a good problem to have as a filmmaker.
AC: Yeah, I’m super grateful. Especially for the opportunity to make a film about your favorite rapper…it seems so surreal. I’m just grateful to have the relationship with him. He’s just a great guy, you know.
Yeah! I know.
Attendance for tonight’s show is on a first come, first serve basis, and doors open at 7. Screening starts at 8:30, followed by a Q&A with Danny Brown and Andrew Cohn. Danny performs at 10PM. House of Vans is located at 25 Franklin Street in Greenpoint.
At first Tommy James, DJ and live music curator at Good Room on Meserole Avenue, comes off as just another humble British expat living in Greenpoint. Only upon researching this piece did I discover his many musical accomplishments. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that in some circles Tommy James is even something of a legend, but one thing is certain: success has not jaded him, nor dimmed his passion for music. And it’s this passion for music that has helped make Good Room an epic venue for live music.
“Sotto casa” is an Italian idiom that translates roughly to something like, “below the house” or “on your doorstep”; in English the closest phrase we have might be something like “just around the corner.” Italians Laura and Luca Arrigoni opened their first Sottocasa pizza restaurant in Boerum Hill quite literally “below the house”—it’s situated on the ground floor of an old residential building. But the pair were in love with more than the literal meaning of the name. They wanted Sottocasa to become a neighborhood joint just around the corner: an inclusive, homey space where everyone feels welcome. Continue reading →
ElevtrTrax is a Greenpoint-based music & video blog created by Brooklyn native/artist Nadeem Salaam. His experience in the local music scene for 10+ years and community organizing gave way to a music blog. The site got endorsed by HypeMachine and DoNYC, and most recently video content they’ve made for local bands Journalism and Madam West have premiered on MTV and highlighted on NPR’s Tiny Desk Submissions.