Bands, artists, friends, fans, curious onlookers and just those who wanted to gather for the community attended Brooklyn Bowl last night for a tribute/benefit/memorial concert for The Yellow Dogs.
The tragedy surrounding the band has been well documented here, and just yesterday we ran two opinion pieces on the subject (here and here). Speaking as someone from England, gun violence is almost an entirely alien concept, and even seeing armed security guards (I saw a couple last night) fills me with dread. These issues simply don’t exist where I’m from. I’m a fan of Yellow Dogs. They were my Artist to Watch just three weeks ago and I own both of their EPs, so what happened last week filled me with great sadness, as well as anger that any person, let alone someone mentally disturbed, can get their hands on such deadly weapons.
There was an odd vibe around the show beforehand, I lined up before the doors opened to see camera crews and journalists interviewing anyone they could.
To the side of the dancefloor was a memorial for band members Sourosh and Arash Farazmand along with their friend Ali Eskandarian. People wrote messages while images of the band projected onto the screens around the venue, candles were lit and I noticed many people embracing over the course of the night.
I’m going to begin my recap with the headliners, Nada Surf, and then run through the rest of the night from start to finish. I would have come to the show regardless of the lineup just to show support, but I am also a complete Nada Surf fanboi. We all have bands that we feel that are ours, that hold a special place in our hearts, above others. Nada Surf are that band for me. They were the first band I feel like I truly discovered on my own, and they have been a constant throughout my teenage years and beyond. I love their music dearly.
I was wondering if they had any connection with the Yellow Dogs at all, or if they were just happy to help in the aftermath of a tragedy. After opening with Clear Eye Clouded Mind, bassist Daniel Lorca spoke of how he knew the band. It was the most heartbreaking speech of the night, and he played the rest of the set in tears. As a result, I often watched their set through my own tears. They were clearly deeply affected by what happened and they ran the gauntlet of emotions during their performance.
Matthew Caws is a criminally underrated lyricist and has a penchant for delivering a particular line or two in each song that are just utterly brilliant, and they carried extra weight tonight. I always saw See These Bones as an atheist call for reality, that this life is all we have, but after hearing Matthew talk about the song it is even more than that; it’s a humanist song and we should celebrate our commonality as human beings in this fleeting, and only time we share.
Look alive, see these bones
What you are now, we were once
And just like we are, you’ll be dust
And just like we are, permanent
The rest of the night featured a good mix of acts but unfortunately had some problems, none of which came from the stage. I like Brooklyn Bowl, but had voiced concerns about coming here to watch more intimate sets, unfortunately I was right to be fearful. Heartfelt commentary and impassioned performances were almost downed out by the constant drone of idle chatter within the audience, along with the crashes of bowling balls knocking down pins. It seemed very disrespectful.
Johnny Azari got the night started, he told a story and read a poem his friend, Ali Eskandarian wrote, before playing a song that Ali gave him confidence in. It was a sombre, but beautiful start.
Next up was Mitra Sumara, a fellow Iranian who plays Eastern-twinged funk, I enjoyed their short set and the band was tight.
Helado Negro’s set was next, and whom I felt really sorry for because they were very quiet and the crowd were very loud. Helado would say how great it was to be in a room full of nice people in such a bad time, but even the people stood next to me at the front of the stage were talking. Helado had a fine voice and it’s always good to hear a double bass, they didn’t deserve to be ignored.
I think the Sal P & 178 Improvisation Product played afterwards, but I struggled to hear the name. They were earnest and gave a positive message, and their funky sound was a good pick-me-up.
Dirty Fences played a no-nosense rock and roll set and really gave it their all, maybe a little too much as they went over their allocated set time (I saw people at the side of the stage manically telling them to finish about two or three songs earlier than they did!) These guys would be right at home at Death By Audio or Shea Stadium If you haven’t seen them before, I would recommend them.
Shirin Neshat then came out and spoke a few words, including a message from David Byrne.
I don’t really know anything by Here We Go Magic, but I enjoyed Luke Temple’s couple of songs. He had a really soulful voice.
I think TV On the Radio are probably the best band of this millennium, so it was a treat to see Kyp Malone play (albeit only one song.)
Hamish Kilgour played a couple of songs as a trio. I’m a fan of The Clean, but the talkers in the crowd meant I could barely hear anything at all coming from the stage. Frustrating!
Habibi were up next. I’ve seen them a couple of times before and I think they are developing into a fine band. If you’re into 60’s girl group sounds with a bit of surf and garage rock thrown in then you should definitely check them out.
James Chance came out and noodled away over some backing tracks for about 5 minutes. It was hard to really get a sense of what he was playing and what was coming through the soundsystem, but he was into it.
And finally we had Nada Surf, who made all the previous frustrations wash away. I hope that the event raised plenty of money and maybe went a little way to helping anyone grieving during such an unimaginably difficult time. It’s a shame that a large chunk of the crowd didn’t seem that interested for the most part, but it was a good turn out. As Nada Surf say, “always love.”