Named for a neighborhood in Northern Paris with a large North African population, Barbés is a laid-back, hipster hang in the south end of Park Slope in Brooklyn. Its small, intimate space and large selection of worldwide brews is a fine draw, but it's the back room that pulls in the crowds. Known for almost-nightly performance sessions, Barbés pulls from the local artist and music community to highlight great happenings in Brooklyn -- as well as drawing international performers. When I got there last week, most of the patrons were out front smoking -- it was a gorgeous summer night in New York after all. But shortly after ordering a beer at the bar, wonderful jazz starting wafting from the back. Friends of mine who live around the corner have a true gem in their neighborhood. On any given night, they can stumble in to catch music ranging from Hawaiian steel guitar and Moroccon oud music to a multi-instrumental duo and traditional Brasilian rhythms. If you ever find yourself in Brooklyn, hit Barbés -- it's literally down the hill from the 7th Avenue F stop. It won't disappoint.
I love surprises. Not everyone does. But when I go out, leave all expectations behind and things unexpectedly and surprsingly unfold in front of me, a good night has been had. Earlier tonight, I hit Smart Bar, an underground mostly House venue in Chicago that serves Newcastle (always a plus in my book) to see Kid Beyond, a SF-based beatboxer who does things with his mouth and vocal chords that you can only imagine (he seriously sounds like he's being backed by a full band -- brass and all -- and it's all him). I was told he was going on closer to midnight, so when I showed up closer to midnight and he was on his second to last song and sweaty as hell, I was a little disappointed.
I had never heard of them before but my pal, Anika, knew them and said I had to stick around. I really had no idea what to expect: a live house band?! But when these three guys, all dressed in white shirts with skinny black ties, sat down at their keyboard, drums and bass and started in, the crowd went nuts. Apparently they've had a bunch of songs circulate throughout the House scene and they released their first album in March. They've worked with top DJs (Dimitri from Paris; Spinna) and remixed some soul sistahs (Vivian Green, Goapele) and collaborated with the hot hot hot Sabina from Brazilian Girls. I'm not sure how I've never heard them before, but there's a first for everything.
They played for more than an hour and it was really cool to see a House crowd get lit from a live band -- that sang too. Dropping in groovy soul, jazzy licks and some hearty basslines, it was hard to believe this was coming from a live combo. But seeing the happy on everyone's faces was almost as cool as just kickin' back and movin' with their sound.
While the boys are from Brooklyn, they travel all over and have played in places like Fabric in London and just hit Bonnaroo and Summerfest in Milwaukee (of all places), where they shared the stage with DJs Heather and Colette (who I love) and points throughout Europe this summer.
Check out some MP3s:
How's Your Life
On the eve of the worldwide release (except the US -- do we even have a release date yet?) of their highly anticipated second full length album, TV on the Radio played one of their biggest shows to date on their home soil -- and brought the house down. Two of my friends who live in the Slope (and who aren't necesssarily the most music savvy) were shocked at how packed the park was, despite my attempts at explaing who TVOTR are and their impact on the Brooklyn music scene.
Seeing Williamsburg's first sons play a show in their own backyard was truly a treat for me. I'd never seen them live and was looking forward to this gig all week. I've heard that their live set doesn't always deliver and this show definitely proved that wrong. But the show almost didn't happen.
Just after Voxtrot wrapped up and Matt Pond started setting up, the up-to-that-point clear sky started to fill with dark, swirling clouds. Midset, Matt Pond asked the crowd if we were scared and followed up with, "well, you should be. Look over your heads. Don't you see those clouds?" But he played on. And the winds kept swirling and the rain threatened ... but never came. While I couldn't hear Matt Pond's set that well from our blanket setup toward the back of the park, what I could hear was great.
More TVOTR after the jump...
A little more than a year ago, buzz started churning about an unknown band from London with a massive, angular guitar sound punctuated by throbbing drums and an underlying danceable beat. It didn't take long for the blogosphere to pick up on what was happening across the pond and before Bloc Party's debut even hit stores, they were already a household name, being featured on the covers of major entertainment and music magazines. Something glorious was truly happening.
It wasn't long before that prescient line -- "something glorious is about to happen" -- in "Positive Tension," the third track off Silent Alarm, rang true. When the band toured Stateside following the release of their album, shows across the country sold out in moments, showing the impact the Internet has on emerging artists with a unique sound.
Bloc Party is currently working on their new album, writing a bunch of songs, including "Waiting for the 718," "England" and "Perfect Teens," and working with a new producer, electronic music engineer Jacknife Lee, who has worked with U2, Editors and Pink. This album is hugely inspired by the idea of leisure and lead singer Kele Okereke is attempting to make guitar rock "less skinny and white."
SomethingGlorious.com, whose name was inspired by the ever-prophetic line, sat down for an exclusive interview with lead singer Kele Okereke on the band's rickety, ramshackle Winnebago parked just outside Chicago's Intonation Festival in late June. Turns out, the show would be the band's first-ever festival headlining gig, during which Bloc Party played two new songs, including the slow-building dramatic "Uniform" just after a light misty rain started to fall from the sky and cooled the crowd during the climactic "Modern Love."
Read the full Q&A below or simply stream it.
INTERVIEW WITH KELE OKEREKE
SomethingGlorious.com: Will you premiere a lot of new songs tonight?
Kele Okereke: We played two yesterday [in Toronto]. It was only a 50-minute set. Since it was an outdoor festival people wanted to hear the hits. It wasn't a headline show. We're going to save it for when we come back in August for about three weeks. We're going on tour with Mew.
SG: There was a lot of buzz before Silent Alarm came out. Do you feel a lot of pressure this time around?
KO: I think we'd be lying as a band if we didn't feel pressure. We're fans of rock music and we know how it's been in the music press for the last 10-15 years. A band can make a initial impact with a debut record then because of the nature of the industry ... we have to make it as best as we can.
SG: Do you feel like that pressure or expectation stifles creativity?
KO: The thing is that we've always had pretty high standards as a band. I'm not sure what it is about us, but we're not really comfortable doing anything the easy way. Even if the first album hadn't been a success, we'd still be trying to endeavor and become better musicians and performers. It's something we've been trying to do. Now we're more focused.
SG: It's like the outside pressure almost doesn't matter then - you put enough on yourself?
KO: It's been like that from the beginning really. I guess, as a band, we have a real ... one of the great things about us, between the four of us, we always strive to not do the thing that comes easiest. We push alternative ways of looking at things. It's the only way you're ever going to get any better.
more Q&A with Kele and pix after the jump...