45 Adapters at The Gutter
Since the last time I saw the 45 Adapters they have lost a guitarist, so their musical emphasis has shifted a bit towards the vocals. The thing is they've always been more about the vocals than most hardcore bands, probably because their songs were always a little bit smarter than most. These guys aren't kids (aside from perhaps the drummer), they've been "doing this for decades", they have opinions about life, and they want to make sure that you get to hear them.
They're still plenty loud of course. They are a hardcore band after all. But if you can imagine a hardcore band where the lead singer makes sure you can understand him as he's screaming the lyrics (and why he would bother to do so) then I think you can understand why 45 Adapters are kind of special.
Ice Balloons at The Gutter
If you don't know anything about Williamsburg this might be a good place to start. See, there are a lot of art school kids around here making art and music and what have you so they have to try really hard to stand out. In theory that is what makes Williamsburg (and Greenpoint and Bushwick) such a great place for artists. Folks can't get away with lazily copying the latest trends or each other. They have to be distinctive. Whether or not this actually happens most of the time is a matter of opinion but the pressure to be original is strong. You absolutely, positively have to be different.
So anyway, Ice Balloons are a band with a giant fly for a lead singer.
If Ice Balloons were aiming to create a spectacle then they definitely succeeded. That's B. A. Miale way over on stage left controlling the projections. Add to that two vaguely gothick dancers (one dancing on a trampoline), strobe lights, a smoke machine and various costumes and you've got quite a vitual treat. Yet surely the most noteworthy thing I saw this evening was somewhat famous person Kyp Malone (from somewhat more famous band TV on the Radio) on the ground towards the back of the stage doing... something musical? With electronics? It seems they're making their most famous band member hide in a corner. Or perhaps I just didn't notice his Wizard of Oz costume?
Ice Balloons' music is super-fuzzy. I assume the vocals sound that way because the singer is wearing a mask with no obvious holes! The band's whole sonic aesthetic seems to follow his lead. Note for example that they have a bassist but no guitarist, growls but no screams. They have a heavy, consuming sound punctuated by bleeps and scribbles from the electronic keyboard which add tension to them music. It is neither high-energy indie rock nor mellow stoner rock but rather more like an unstable mixture of the two. Some songs drew me in, others not so much. It is an interesting musical fusion but not one which works every single time.
But these guys are certainly distinctive. Nooooo doubt about that!
Billy Eli at The Gutter
Billy Eli must have been a little sick considering all the coughing he was doing before his set. Then he opened his mouth to sing and... not a hint of a problem. He wasn't even playing with his usual band (he was backed by The Rough Gems)! This guy is a real pro, despite which his songwriting stays pleasantly down-to-Earth. He manages to rock out while staying within a country idiom, not trying too hard to sound mainstream or "new country". Good stuff.
Zack Orion and Ardeshir Mountain at The Gutter
While the sound at The Gutter is certainly excellent, as a photographer I do wish the lighting were a bit more even. Here are some lovely portraits of Zack Orion sitting in the spotlight and his band Ardeshir Mountain standing in the dark. Fortunately most of us were there to listen to Zack Orion not to gaze upon him. That's a good idea, 'cause he and Ardeshir Mountain are damn good at playing their slightly modern, very catchy style of bluegrass.