Thursday, August 31, 2006

From the MTV VMAs: After-Party Hopping

As I sit here in my Rockefeller Plaza office, primping as if I'm some VIP (even if only in my head) to the sounds of screams from Radio City Music Hall, just two doors down, I'm reminded of all the star-studded partying that will take place long after the at-home viewers have turned off their boob tubes and the Tivos have ceased recording.

The hottest ticket in town is currently AOL Music's own Welcome Home party for Lil' Kim. Not that I'm a Lil' Kim fan. Not at all, actually. But the fact that it's hosted by Russell Simmons, Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Marc Jacobs and (*gush*) Mos Def, among others, makes it tops in my book. Hang out by Nikki Beach at 151 E. 50th Street betwen 10pm and 5am, and you just may catch one of us slinking thru the door. (Not sure you'll recognize me? Check out my AIMpage pics.)

Didn't score an invite? Don't fret. I'll be sure to post some photos tomorrow, bright and early. And don't worry, there are lots more parties to choose from. In fact, we've compiled a list of all the MTV VMA After Parties going down in NYC on this fine late summer evening. Send some paparazzi shots, if you got 'em.

From the MTV VMAs: Celeb-Spotting @ the Style Studio

It's that time of year again, when the world readies itself for red carpet fabulousness, flashbulbs bouncing off bling, cooler-than-thou rockstars in skinny jeans, and cleavage-baring starlets masquerading as musicians. Yes, you guessed it -- it's the 2006 MTV VMAs!  Everybody clap your hands!

This year, TixGirl landed an all-access pass to the pandemonium that is the pregame show countdown to the Red Carpet: AOL Music's 2006 Style Studio. It's a two-day extravaganza of celebrities rubbing shoulders, getting inked, having hair and makeup expertly touched up, and grabbing as much free schwag as they could possibly fit in their oh-so-chic Tallulah gift bags.

The eye of the storm was definitely the table overflowing with the D&G and Miu Miu shades that made the All-American Rejects look so... so... well... um, ready for the slopes, I guess. (I coveted the blue Miu Mius with the shamrock detailing. Cooler than cool.)

The real standout of the afternoon was Snoop D-O-double-G and his 7-man strong retinue. Everyone had to stop and catch their breaths the moment he made his entrance, and it wasn't from the sticky-icky. He just has that kind of presence and star power.  Also in the hizzee was Entourage rapper Saigon, kicking it with America's Next Top Model winner, Nik. 

On the alt rock tip, pop punk posterboys Fall Out Boy and their associates from Panic! At the Disco were there to reprezent. Oh how cute! Spin art.

Daintily sipping my mojito, I spotted my boys from OK Go!  Totally made my day, as I replayed their spellbinding treadmill routine for the thousandth time in my head.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Jones was getting inked by world-famous tattoo artist, Mario Barth, next door. (I don't know about you, but the sound of a tattoo gun is like music to my ears.)

Speaking of tattoos, a parade of sleeves and skull motifs passed by as members of Biohazard, Hatebreed and Disturbed made their way to the gift tables throughout the day. We mustn't forget the tats sported by Pete Wentz and pretty much every other punk in the joint.

Then you have the pseudolebrities. For instance, the entire Hogan clan made a grin-infested appearance, presumably due to Brooke's impending superstardom in the pop realm. (Excuse me, time out while I convulse.)

Last night's private Perez Hilton After Party was like a non-stop reality show spotlight-hog fest. The entire casts of Laguna Beach, The Hills, and a bazillion others stopped by. Not my cup o' tea, so go check out Perez Hilton's blog for a recap. Better even than that, you can catch these and a ton more photos from all the festivities at AOL Music's Style Studio photo gallery.

Still To Come: More from the 2006 VMAs
Stay tuned for tomorrow's post, featuring a giddy TixGirl smiling sweetly with Gideon Yago, Tyson & his Reject cohorts, and the boys from Taking Back Sunday! (Holding tight as I wait with baited breath for the pics to come back from the photographers.)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT: Martha Wainwright

McCarren Park Pool: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 8/24/06

TixGirl caught Martha Wainwright performing live in concert at McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Anyone who has ever had the good fortune to see Martha Wainwright perform live can attest to the fact that she's a powerhouse. One of the most dynamic women in music today, she packs a punch like few performers can.
Sound like a wild boast? I assure you, it's absolutely true. She infuses her performances with such bare, raw emotion that even those who have never before heard a note from her are immediately drawn in, spellbound. As the rapt faces in the audience proved, her show at McCarren Park Pool was no exception.
TixGirl caught Martha Wainwright performing live in concert at McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The rain didn't deter her ardent fans from gathering early on a Thursday evening to see her open a girl-power trio lineup that also included Joanna Newsom & Neko Case. The weather was totally befitting of the occasion - a stormy day for a stormy lady.
Martha Wainwright has an incredible ability to convey the feelings behind her thoughts. The audience is not just hearing the poetry of her lyrics, but experiencing the emotional response to those thoughts. We live it right along with her.
TixGirl caught Martha Wainwright performing live in concert at McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
She's one of the rare few whose voice does her bidding no matter how extreme, raw, sweet, breathy, high, plaintive, ragged or raging the demand she might make of it. Wherever her emotions go, her vocals follow.
It sounds exhausting, I know. But on the contrary, seeing Martha live is absolutely exhilarating. Just ask anyone who saw her cameo appearance during brother Rufus Wainwright's landmark Carnegie Hall reenactment of Judy Garland's historic concerts.
In a brilliant moment of synchronicity, what song did she choose to sing? "Stormy Weather," of course. How apropos. In anyone else's hands, it's a beloved jazz standard that everyone in the house had heard interpreted and reinterpreted a million times over. But in Martha's deft hands, it was as if everyone was hearing it -- really hearing it -- for the first time. With her trademark translation of lyrics into emotion, it morphed from a sweet sing-along song to a heart-wrenching song of love lost. With nary a dry eye left in the house, Martha stole the show, receiving a standing ovation after performing just one song.
TixGirl caught Martha Wainwright performing live in concert at McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Seeing her at McCarren was a real treat. As I've said before, one of my favorite things about the venue is the ease with which one can angle their way right up to the stage. So there I stood, with nothing but a monitor between Martha and me. Her friendly, self-deprecating conversational style between songs made the performance feel personal for everyone there, as if we were all sitting in some intimate coffee house. And with the thanks she gave her fans for arriving early and standing in the rain just to see her, the appreciation and affection was real.
A gracious goddess in my book, Martha was still human enough to joke about being nervous in the face of opening for her idol, Joanna Newsom, and down-to-earth enough to sign our ticket stubs and CD covers after the show.
TixGirl caught Martha Wainwright performing live in concert at McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
An all-around class act, Martha has a pedigree few can boast: Her father is Loudon Wainwright III, her mother is Kate McGarrigle, and as previously mentioned, her brother is rising star Rufus Wainwright. But she transcends the bloodlines and stands on her own two feet. Her songwriting is intelligent without intellectualizing, centered around melodies that are both involving and hummable. But what you don't get when listening to her recordings is the warm humor, affable personality and sheer charisma that she exudes when in her element on stage.
Word to the wise: Never miss an opportunity to see Martha Wainwright live.
Alas, she informed us that this show at McCarren would be her last for a while, apologizing that she's leaving the road so she can head back into the studio and finally get to work on her next album. In place of the expected groans and argument, her fans cheered. Simply put, we're all desperate for more music from Martha. Even if we have to wait for it.
TixGirl caught Martha Wainwright performing live in concert at McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Watch TixGirl's videos from Martha's concert at McCarren:

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Keane Fans: Don't Despair

Yes, I too was heartbroken upon hearing the news that Keane had cancelled their Fall US tour dates. Not only because their vocalist had entered rehab for drug and alcohol-related issues, but for far more selfish reasons: I'm dying to see them, dammit!  (*sigh*)

Well good news, fellow fans! Keane's people are slowly releasing information about rescheduled tour dates. So folks like me (with my Hammerstein tix burning a hole in my pocket) can look forward to a make-up date.  Here's the info, direct from the horsey's mouth:

Hey folks.

Following the postponement of several North American shows earlier this week, we can now confirm the new dates for two of the shows.

- Boston, Bank of America Pavilion - was Sept 16th, moved to Sept 24th
- NYC Hammerstein - was Sept 14th, moved to Sept 27th

Further rescheduled dates will be announced soon.


Keane HQ

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

ON SALE THIS WEEKEND: Killers, Stones, Death Cab, Paul Simon, My Chem, GNR, Decembrists, Wilco, More

Some big dates going on sale this weekend, so set your alarms!

Pictured: The Killers, The Strokes, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, The Rolling Stones

The Killers
Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/25
San Francisco, CA   10/8-9
Seattle, WA   10/12
Denver, CO   10/15
Chicago, IL   10/17
Philadelphia, PA   10/23
New York, NY   10/24

Paul Simon
Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/25-28
Seattle, WA   9/29
San Diego, CA   10/3
Los Angeles, CA   10/4
Berkeley, CA   10/6
Santa Barbara, CA   10/7
Denver, CO   10/10
Minneapolis, MN   10/12
Rosemont, IL   10/6

Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/25-27
San Francisco, CA   9/20
Anaheim, CA   9/21
San Diego, CA   9/23

Death Cab for Cutie
Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/25
Belle Vernon, PA   11/11
St Louis, MO   11/27

John Legend
Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/25
Hollywood, CA   9/13

Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/25-26
Philadelphia, PA   9/29
Hollywood, CA   10/5
Las Vegas, NV   10/7

My Chemical Romance
Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/26
Philadelphia, PA   9/6

Rolling Stones
Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/28
Oakland, CA   11/5
Phoenix, AZ   11/8
Los Angeles, CA   11/8

Toby Keith
Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/26
Bristow, VA   10/7-8

Alice in Chains
Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/26
Las Vegas, NV   9/22
Corpus Christi, TX   10/4
Niagara Falls, NY   11/4
Omaha NE,   11/4

Guns N' Roses
Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/26
Reno, NV   9/30
Sacramento, CA   10/2

Chris Brown and Ne-yo
Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/26
Englewood, CO   10/2
Oakland, CA   10/6
Seattle, WA   10/10

The Strokes
Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/25-26
Columbus, OH   10/5
Hampton Beach, NH   10/8

The Decemberists
Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/25-26
Philadelphia, PA   11/1
Boston, MA   11/4
Pontiac, MI   11/7
Cleveland, OH   11/9
Minneapolis, MN   11/12
Denver, CO   11/4

Brad Paisley
Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/26
Atlanta, GA   9/22
Columbus, OH   9/29

Find Tickets
Date on Sale: 8/24-26
Huntsville, AL   10/9
San Antonio, TX   10/13
Latrobe PA,   10/20

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fave Venues: McCarren Park Pool

There's a new kid in town on the live music scene, and it's here to give it's siblings a run for their money. Lo and behold, it's not in the scenesterish Union Square environs, nor is it a Times Square haunt, nor a ballroom or converted theater. Nope, get a load of this. It's an abandoned pool on the edge of nowhere, beyond Williamsburg, in Brooklyn: McCarren Park Pool.

Being in Williamsburg, the hamlet of hipness defined, it should have come as no surprise that McCarren would be the hotspot of summer 2006. But who would guess that a decrepit old community pool, all cracked concrete, chipped paint, spraypainted walls, and splintered wood beams, would be the draw to NYC for some of the biggest names in alt rock today. Not I. But Ron Delsener sure did.

One of the touring industry's biggest heavy-hitters, Ron Delsener Presents (a division of Live Nation, formerly Clear Channel Entertainment), saw its potential as a fantastic performance space for their more cutting edge artists. All that would be needed to restore the pool to its former glory is a mere $40M. (Yikes!)

To get the fundraising ball rolling, 2005 saw the first performance in the space -- an experimental dance project. But 2006 is when it finally reached a wider audience. With free "Pool Party" concerts each weekend, featuring the likes of Beirut, Deerhoof, The Detroit Cobras, and other up-and-comers, hipsters have come out of the woodwork to enjoy a summer flush with free music. Then come the ticketed concerts, like Bloc Party, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Shins, Neko Case, Gov't Mule & Wolfmother, and you've got a venue that registers on the radar in a really big way. The booking agent is giving Irving and Hammerstein a run for their money, being that the pool can accommodate everything from a nice, intimate evening to a massive sold-out crowd of 5K (i.e. Bloc Party or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Mighty impressive for an upstart in need of a serious face lift.

Pictured: Iron & Wine, Questlove, Deerhoof, Bloc Party

I've already been to 3 shows there in the last month, and have another 3 to look forward to before the end of summer. Huzzah, I'm happy to head back. With its clear-as-a-bell sound, and setup that allows you to head right up to the very front, or pull up a beach blanket and relax anywhere across the pool, it's fit for most anyone's concert-going preferences. Just don't forget to drop a buck in the buckets at the entrance, so McCarren can get the refurbishing it deserves.

A word on transportation, which I found a bit daunting my first time. Take the L train to the Bedford stop, which sneaks up on you quickly, so keep your eye out. Walk Northeast from 7th St up Bedford. Continue beyond 12th St. along the baseball diamond that is the first of McCarren Park's many playfields, and continue beyond the second playfield containing the jogging track. The pool is the large, brick red structure just beyond the track, at the intersection of Bedford, Nassau and Lorimer streets. You can bring blankets and picnic stuff, but leave the booze at home, as you can get Brooklyn Brewery's many beers on tap for $5 a cup. (The Weiss Bier is particularly good on a sweltering hot summer afternoon.) Too hot for comfort and the beer isn't cooling enough? Soak yourself on the slip-and-slide, and get in touch with your inner Peter Pan. Or further relive your childhood with a rousing game of kickball between sets.

Upcoming McCarren Shows:
--Ticketed shows
--Free shows

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Good Gossip: Damon Albarn's new band

Fans of Britpop genius and Gorillaz/Blur mastermind, Damon Albarn, will be as intrigued as I am to learn that he's forming a new band. (I hate the word "supergroup," don't you?)

Called The Good, The Bad & The Queen, they'll have their first live show at the BBC's Electric Proms festival on 10/26. No hints as to when they'll head stateside, but we can look forward to them launching their first album next year.

Get a load of who's in the band:
--Clash bassist Paul Simonon
--Former Verve guitarist Simon Tong
--Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen
--Danger Mouse, of Gnarls Barkley, Grey Album, and Gorillaz fame

Monday, August 14, 2006

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT: Questlove, Beirut & Friends

McCarren Park Pool Party, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 8/13

What's better than being belly up to the stage when Questlove's doing DJ duties? Few things, I can assure you. Such was my great luck on Sunday, seeing Quest spin disk in-between sets at the McCarren Park Pool Party, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I know, I know, everybody else was there to see buzz bands Beirut and Deerhoof. But not I. No, me and my mad crush on Quest saw the DJ sets as the big draw. What can I say?

His first set, between The Harlem Shakes and Apollo Sunshine was one old-skool hip-hop jam after another. His Kid 'n Play t-shirt was apropos, but I dug the old Beasties beats the best.  Catch some video footage I shot here:

DJ Questlove at McCarren Park Pool Party

Questlove at McCarren Part 2

The second set, between Apollo Sunshine and Beirut emphasized old school funk, with James Brown peeking out here and there. I loved that he spun the original funk masters whose hooks have become known only as samples in latter-day hip-hop and R&B hits, like the horn section from Beyonce's Crazy in Love. That's right, he didn't spin Beyonce, he spun the original from which the sample was snagged. He schooled us younguns on some funk history. Between Beirut and Deerhoof, he brought out the R&B and disco era gems. My heart went pitter-pat when Earth Wind & Fire, and then Stevie Wonder hit the speakers. (*sigh*) But he didn't stop with the 70s. Oh no, he even spun a Soft Cell standard into the mix. It's too bad people weren't showing him the love he deserved, as it was a master mixologist at work.

Of the bands to play, Beirut was the real discovery of the afternoon. I've been listening to theiralbum on repeat ever since. They're 50 percent Smiths, 25 percent Balkan Beat Box, and 25 percent Decemberists. A huge band, featuring an impressive horn section, a lone female on fiddle, plus a spare mandolin here and an accordion there, they are eclecticism at its best. Imagine Morrissey fronting an Eastern European gypsy band, singing sea chanteys. Give 'em a try. You won't be sorry.

Straight outta Boston, Apollo Sunshine brought the jam band vibe. They have a decidedly Western Mass approach to mixing blues, bluegrass, and noise rock into their own sticky paste. I dug 'em so-so. Lots more people dug 'em moreso.


Gotta give 'em kudos for the sheer audacity of a double-necked guitar. After that, the guitarist sat down to a pedal steel, which is pretty darned cool. But the biggest laugh factor goes to the bassist/vocalist for the falling-apart bass cab from whence his fuzzed out bass lines emitted. He had to have had a Big Muff at his feet. Then again, maybe it was the random dangling parts that gave him so much more feedback and fuzz than most bass players can muster.


Last, and in my opinion, least, was Deerhoof. Um, no thanks.

An IM conversation I had earlier today went a little like this:
TixGirl meanwhile, i'm still perplexed by deerhoof
TixGirl:  what the heck do you call that, anyway?
TixGirl:  is "arty" just a synonym for inaccessible?
TixGirl's Far More Patient Friend:  art noise - its mostly no wave, post rock, noise pop
TixGirl:  okie, i'll go with that

You decide for your self, with this little video clip:

Deerhoof at McCarren Park Pool Party

And there you have it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT: Brazilian Girls

Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, 7/11/06

Brazilian Girls live in concert at Fort Greene Park
One doesn't normally associate a band with its sound firmly rooted in Euro trip-hop with the sight of bright blue skies or picnics in the park on hot summer days. On the contrary, the genre seems more suited to getting funky in darkened dance clubs with synchronized light shows, or getting funky at 3am with your honey in an entirely different way. Thus, I was quizzical as I approached Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park to see the brilliant Brazilian Girls on just such a sunshiney, mid-week afternoon.

Musically, I knew what I was in for. I'd caught them the previous year at Irving Plaza, and was instantly entranced by their undeniable, hip-grabbing rhythms, their spacey, mood-altering synths, and the smokey, seductive vocals of lead singer, Sabina. Not to mention her supremely bizarre onstage behavior. I'd been listening to them religiously on record and hoping to catch them again live, ever since.

Brazilian Girls live in concert at Fort Greene Park
Their sound takes the head-bobbing, hip-gyrating house of traditional electronica, a la Zero 7 or Frou Frou, and gives it a distinctly transcontinental flair. Though there's not a single Brazilian girl in the bunch, there's more than enough multi-ethnic might to merit such an out-there name choice.

Sabina Sciubba, born in Rome, and raised in Nice and Munich, singsin an impressive six languages (French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and English). Synth svengali Didi Gutman hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina (close, but not quite Brazil). Then you have one of the most heavenly rhythm sections ever to grace a stage, and who are, shockingly, both Americanos. Jesse Murphy, arguably my favorite bass player of the moment, hails from California. Drummer Aaron Johnston, who manages to make a live kit rival the highly syncopated layerings of multi-tracked techno "drums," sprouted up in Kansas, of all places. How did these wandering minstrels find each other and develop one of the most stylishly hypnotic, playfully quirky sounds ever to hit NY? Thank goodness for downtown club Nublu, a venue whose free-form policy of chilled-out jamming has made it a mainstay of the East Village club scene, where the band found each other and their carefree, sensual sound.

Brazilian Girls live in concert at Fort Greene Park
When I caught them that fateful night at Irving, I was blown away by the sheer, bald-faced, dance-club danceability of their grooves -- which isn't all that common in a live band. The fact that they could turn out music that sounds like lushly pre-programmed electronica with live, breathing, flesh-and-string instruments immediately made me sit up and take notice. But the real kicker and impression-maker is Sabina.

An incredible raven-haired beauty, in the slyly sophisticated, aloof way that only European women have, she adores playing with her image and persona, toying with the audience's perception of her. It's as if she fancies herself a performance artist, using her odd clothing choices less as fashion statement and more as costume. She's downright strange. But in an intriguing way that just serves to draw the audience in. Case in point: My first ever impression of her was as some outlandish gypsy from outer space, entering the Irving stage swathed in scarves over a black bodysuit, with mini lightbulbs strategically placed over her nipples. They bounced and danced throughout the show like little glowing eyes against their black backdrop. A year later at Fort Greene Park, she enters in an all-white outfit whose top, all padding and dangling straps, evokes a straightjacket Gaultier might make, and whose belt includes a long string trailing a semi-deflated soccer ball like a dog on a leash. With her black bowler hat, the overall effect is of a Droogie straight out of A Clockwork Orange. All of this with a wink at the audience, as if to say, "Can you believe?" Don't question it. Just smile and go with it. In fact, that very sentiment encapsulates the whole vibe of the band.

Sabina Sciubba of Brazilian Girls
But how would their off-beat sophisticate sense of humor fly in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, playing to a crowd made up largely of after-5 Grups and Yups on picnic blankets, many of whom had tots in tow? It's a testament to the strength and accessibility of their songwriting that, in such an out-of-their-element setting, they could pull in the audience of blanket-sitters and have them caught up in the vibe and on their feet dancing in a matter of 2 or 3 songs.

Sabina's antics may have taken a while to translate, being that she comes out of the gate completely over the top, rather than easing the crowd into it. But to her credit, she is amaster persona manipulatrix. With so many languages at her beck and call, she simply dons whatever accent will be best at drawing the audience in at any given moment. When she wants to seduce us into joining the fun, she becomes an Italian femme fatale. When she's disappointed by the level of enthusiasm, her accent becomes that of an authoritative German cabaret girl, like a Marlene or Greta, informing us our sing-along prowess disappoints her and that we can do better than that. What's fascinating is its efficacy. People immediately comply and follow her orders, for she's far too foxy to risk letting her down.

Brazilian Girls performing live in concert
Yet again, I was blown away by their strength as musicians. With such a strong aesthetic and theatricality, a lesser band might have been tempted to rest on their laurels as statement-makers. But with music like this, they really suck the audience in with their sound, and Sabina's antics are really just an added bonus. In a mere few minutes, I realize that this music is perfectly suited to sunny, outdoor settings like any good jam band, but with a hip-gyrating groove that makes the sun feel sexy, like a Bond Girl frolicking on a Caribbean cay. Mid-way through their set, with the crowd up off their blankets and on their feet dancing, they even managed to get the crowd singing along to the provocatively-worded refrain of "Pussy, pussy, pussy, marijuana." No mean feat. And later, the chant of a soccer-esque oh-way-oh anthem had the entire crowd singing along fully without incitement. It's moments like this that I appreciate the power of Brazilian Girls, and their potential. With such a compelling front woman, infectious, funkified house grooves, and sexy, sing-along melodies that transcend language barriers, they truly could be huge. HUGE. And I will do my part, forever a fan, spreading the word wherever I can.

See Brazilian Girls. Like the Girl from Ipanema for the modern era, you will leave feeling sated with good grooves and ready for good lovin.

Brazilian Girls performing live in concert