Saturday, 22 June 2013

No Shit! An occasional series: No.3 - Manitoba's

Manitoba's is a bar everyone in NYC needs to go to and definitely one of my favourite haunts, owned by Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators (the man himself is there fairly often), the staff are very friendly and the walls are adorned with various band pictures and posters. They could do with a better ale or two on tap but my drink of choice at the venue is usually a Killian's Red, mostly because of the Nada Surf song! 

When I needed the facilities on this particular occasion I was almost disappointed to see everything looking fairly clean, my previous memories, albeit under a considerable influence of alcohol are of dripping floors, unflushed logs and impatient knocks on the door while trying to relieve oneself. 

My favourite Manitoba's visit was this February whilst entertaining family from back home, we'd taken in a boozy brunch at cafe cortadito in the morning and I had about 8 cocktails by the time we arrived at the bar in the early afternoon. I don't actually remember drinking anything in Manitoba's but my wallet certainly tells a different story being about $100 lighter by the end of the night, members of our party napped, threw up and managed to leave possessions at the bar which were thankfully turned in and retrieved the next day. 

Manitoba's is located at 99 Avenue B, just off East 7th Street (which is probably my favourite street in the city, which I may talk about in more detail at a later date).

Score on the floor...
Venue: 9
Character: 5
Functionality: 7
Hygiene: 7 (this time!)

Total: 28

Northside Festival 2013 review

I was fortunate enough to win a music badge for the Northside festival, via My Social List. The festival is a multi-venue series of events over the course of 4 days (then continues with a film festival) in Williamsburg and Greenpoint (in other words, the north side of Brooklyn).

Thursday 13th of June

The first day of the festival happened to fall on my birthday, which was nice, I went to see Pop Zeus, Butter the Children and Bleached at the Knitting Factory.

Pop Zeus is putting out some of the best power-pop around right now and is one of my favourites, absolutely check them out if you get the chance, I really can't speak highly enough (I've been meaning to make a separate post about them for some time).

Pop Zeus

Here's a video I took, not of this particular gig but it is from a previous show at the same venue (4th of April 2013).

I wasn't too impressed with Butter the Children, the sound was maybe a bit uneven and it's hard for anyone to follow Pop Zeus whose songs are so strong and infectious, I've since listened to some of Butter the Children's studio material and it does sound much better so I'm blaming Mikey and the boys for being so hard to follow! Bleached played a really nice set, I've only heard a few of their singles but the material is pretty immediate and singer Jennifer Clavin is instantly likeable. 

Butter the Children
I wanted to see A Place to Bury Strangers who were playing a few blocks away at the Music Hall Williamsburg so I headed there after the Bleached show, they were already into their set when I arrived but I was incredibly impressed by their intensity, some bands just make noise for the sake of it and you can sense it isn't terribly genuine but they were the real deal. Whilst I liked seeing Bleached, this was like a shot of adrenaline, maybe I've been watching too much regular rock and roll lately but my mind was blown. 

A Place to Bury Strangers

The headliners at this show were Danish band, Iceage, who had been getting all the press leading up to the first day of the festival. I have to confess I found them a terrible bore, all attitude but no actual songs of which to speak, singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt barked into the microphone and the crowd lapped it up, but talk about style over substance. 


Friday 14th of June

On Friday I had a few options, and was looking forward to taking advantage of a happy hour or two with free cocktails to loosen me up a bit before going to see Torche at 285 Kent Ave then seeing White Fence play a late show at the Knitting Factory. Unfortunately a few events made me miss the free booze and I first ended up at the South Street Seaport around 7'ish (not a Northside event), so I watched Paws play their set down there, who I quite enjoyed in a Dinosaur Jr/Swervedriver throwback way.


Afterwards I high-tailed it back to Brooklyn to 285 Kent Avenue, I missed openers Inter Arma but did arrive just before Lo-Pan took to the stage to deliver a solid slab of stoner sludge rock, I'll be keeping an eye out for them again.


Next up was Ken Mode, I was certain they were going to break through the stage as the singer hunched and stamped so often the boards were beginning to wobble... musically I don't think they were too memorable, lots of aggression but I'm not remembering any of the music after the fact.

Ken Mode

I didn't really know a whole lot about Torche but what I read about them sounded interesting, the one song I did listen to was a bit more sugary than the description but they really delivered a bludgeoning set and had the audience eating it up, I would definitely recommend them as a live band and will be looking forward to exploring the studio output. They have some intricate moments as well for the musos out there.


The White Fence show at the Knitting Factory was sold out when I got there, but thankfully I could get in because of my pass, so that was good... I missed opening act Honey so can't comment on them, the next band up was Las Rosas, who I have seen a few times before, they play a solid set but I think all the various members of Wild Yaks/Las Rosas/Daytona have stretched themselves a bit too thin with all the various bands and lack a consistent body of work. 

White Fence sound like they worship the Nuggets boxsets, which is no bad thing and they seemed to revel at the late set time (they came on stage at 1am), they played for about 90 minutes and had complained about the strict stage and curfew times they had just experienced in Europe (though I was just talking with someone the other day that headliners tend to get more time to play in the UK (a normal headline set back home is 90 minutes), while in New York most bands don't play for more than an hour and encores are rare).

White Fence

With all the subway works going on I decided I really couldn't be bothered to try and tackle that way home at 3am in the morning so stumped up for a cab back to Ditmas Park.

Saturday 15th of June

Saturday the 15th was a non-Northside interlude as The Zombies were playing at Central Park, I had seen The Zombies in London back in 2004 and while I would have liked to see The Walkmen at McCarren Park there are very, very few bands who have put out something as truly wonderful as The Zombies Odessey and Oracle. While the band perhaps faff about a bit too much with side-projects and noodle a bit on occasion, the O&O material is utterly enchanting and Coline Blunstone still has a magnificent voice. Here is a video I took of one of my favourite songs of all time, Care of Cell 44.

Adam Green and Binki Shapiro opened the show and played an endearing set, with Green in particular an enchanting frontman, with his baritone vocals a fitting lullaby to such fantastic weather. 

Adam Green

Second band, Django Django were a forgettable boppy and dancey rock band, it all seemed a bit obvious which was disappointing because I'd heard good things about them. The show finished at 10pm and there was no late show worthy of the travel effort at Northside, so I headed back home. 

Sunday 16th of June

I had a reservation for a Jameson's event at midday, free booze can be a dangerous thing that early in the day. It was an interesting event but one that would have been immeasurably improved if I had company but since my social skills are about as good as a chocolate teapot that isn't easy. I managed to get into a blending session which felt like a science class, which was fine for me. I made my own blend but I am a single malt scotch drinker, although booze does tend to taste better if it's free.

The band scheduled for that session were Spires, who I enjoyed, they play a 90s shoegaze/britpop blend of rock and mentioned how difficult it was to be up so early!


I did pretty well not to be absolutely off my face by 3pm and wandered over to Muchmore's, which was a new venue for me and scored points immediately as the guy on the door struck up a conversation with me for wearing my James Gunn's Slither t-shirt, one of my favourite movies. I had been wanting to see The Teen Age for a few months now but had always managed to miss them, they did not disappoint and played a fine short set. 

I Also saw Sewing Machines, Bugs in the Dark and Ula Ruth. I enjoyed Bugs in the Dark in particular and will try to catch them again.

Ideally I would have liked to have seen Lambchop at Europa and then gone to 285 Kent to see The Soft Moon, but I was outvoted and ended up at Shea Stadium to see Psychic Blood, Big Ups, Destruction Unit and Nü Sensae. The evening was mostly an intense and moody night, with each band having strengths and flaws.

Psychic Blood
The Big Ups
Destruction Unit
Nü Sensae
Would I pay for a Northside Badge? I'm not sure, it felt good to have one but it's something you really do have to commit to experiencing full on to get value from it, The Zombies show would really have put a spanner in the works if I'd paid for a badge and something like that is quite likely to happen each year. As it was all the shows I did attend probably didn't amount to the cost of a badge (I think the shows would have totalled around $75, the badge costs $80, so I would have done it had I done something on Saturday) and of course I only went to some of them because I had a badge, although it would be worth it if the more expensive shows happen to be ones you go to. I think they could improve the schedule if they staggered the event times each night so you had a bit more option to go to and from shows, having some shows start earlier and finish later would mean you could fit more in. The White Fence show was an example of an overspill from the other shows of the night as it was the only late event worth going to and some people must have been turned away. 

All in all, it's a pretty well-run thing and they have been growing each year, I'm excited about next year even if I do end up just going to events a la carte.