Last Night: Rosewood Was Slamming, Spotted Leo DiCaprio & Amanda Bynes

So last night I had a blast. It was a bit of a pleasant surprise how great the opening of Rosewood, 5 E. 19th St., turned out to be. The space Rosewood occupied was once many clubs run by many operators. In my opinion, none of those joints were any good. Dorsia, some people said, had its moments, but none while I was there, which I admit was rare. The redux of the space into Rosewood seems to be on the cheap but that often doesn’t matter as long as it’s comfortable, the flow is good ,and the overall feeling is positive. I had heard that Leo…yeah “that” Leo, was there at the "friends and family" event a few days before, and that last night other boldface names were expected. From my perspective in the DJ booth, I saw beautiful people committed to a good time, and one semi-celeb: the much-talked-about Amanda Bynes. As far as I could tell, she was behaving marvelously. Noah Tepperberg once introduced me to her at Marquee many years ago, and she was all smiles and sweetness. I like to think of her that way and try to dispel reports of her "Lohanisms.”

The rock-themed den had Kelle Calco following me. His following is so hot that I was left shocked and awed and honored to make them sway. They seemed to enjoy my rock and roll tip. Upstairs, DJ Danny Rockz put the well-heeled crowd into a frenzy. He was like a rockstar with most of the crowd, dancing while facing the DJ booth as he put on a show. The room was illuminated by the requisite sparklers announcing the presence of the sweet set. Rosewood was slamming last night and I congratulate all involved.
 
After my DJ set, I headed to Hotel Chantelle to congratulate the wonderful Luc Carl at his birthday party. Luc is the real deal. He was humble about the event which also had a rock theme, with DJ Ian El Dorado offering rock anthems and crowd pleasers. Tommy London, one of the night’s hosts, handed me a flier for his Bowery Ballroom Dirty Pearls gig on January 4th, 2013. That is the first event in the next year that I have been invited to. It’s kind of eerie. The Pearls are heading off on their first-ever national tour and it couldn’t happen to nicer guys. We scooted off to The Famous Cozy Soup ‘n’ Burger on Broadway off Astor for a late-night burger and coffee malted. OMG I shouldn’t have; it was amazing and I want more but must maintain my figure. Cozy was slammed with familiar faces and eclectic strangers. It reminds me of Kiev, back in the day. Great food and a New York downtown crowd winding down after all the bells and whistles of the infinite night.

Sunday is Funday again at the re-tooled GoldbarJonny Lennon, a rocker from Queens, is at the helm of this weekly must-visit. Jonny and I are getting bro tattoos soon. It’s like that.

Downtown NYC Festival Adds New Acts

With just under a month to go till the Downtown NYC Festival kicks off on May 10, two-day passes are already sold out, but $75 one-day tickets are still on sale. The event spans great venues including Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom, Angel Orensanz, Pianos, Cake Shop, Tammany Hall, Element, Capitale, and Rockwood Music Hall—and features some of the hottest emerging bands.

New additions include Andrew Wyatt (of Miike Snow) and hipster-fried R&B pioneer Autre Ne Veut, as well as Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire, who is likely worth seeing for the name alone. They will join such performers as Purity Ring, Earl Sweatshirt, d’Eon, Sky Ferreira, Ducktails, Beach Fossils, and the endlessly funky Teengirl Fantasy.

The festival will be hitting some other cities with modified lineups, but you know they won’t be as good. Though who knows? Some magnificent crooner might come aboard in the Vegas leg of the tour.

The Virgins’ Donald Cumming on the Band’s Comeback, His New Sound, and Being a Life-Long New Yorker

Donald Cumming has led and continues to lead quite a life. From the trials and tribulations of his youth to those that accompanied signing with a major label, the 31-year-old born-and-bred New Yorker has no shortage of stories illustrating his hustle, his hang-ups and his regrets.

Cumming’s cult band The Virgins—which loosely formed in 2006, was signed to Atlantic in 2007, experienced a meteoric rise in 2008, and continuously toured the world after that—has kept somewhat mum for a few years, but returns today with their sophomore album, Strike Gently, out now via Julian Casablancas’s indie imprint Cult Records.

In the interim since his debut, Cumming has overhauled his sound—essentially morphing from shiny pop to folk rock—and begun playing with three entirely new “dudes,” as he is wont to collectively identify his bandmates. Max Kamins (bass), Xan Aird (guitar), and John Eatherly (drums) round out the updated ensemble, which last month played an intimate set at Soho House and tomorrow plays SXSW. The remainder of March and early April the foursome will tour the US, and they can next be enjoyed in NYC at Bowery Ballroom on April 1.

Connecting with Cumming, who I’d feel more comfortable calling Donald, was particularly special for me, as The Virgins was the first band I ever interviewed. Last time, we crouched together at Highline Ballroom in the designated “VIP” section. Five years later we could be found at his studio space in the East Village—walls lined with blankets in an attempt to muffle their rehearsals—sitting on his beat up sofa beside an open window while he basically chain smoked. “It’s, like, my shame,” he told me, explaining that in part his shame stems from the fact that cigarettes are tested on animals and for the past few years he’s been vegetarian-turned-vegan.

He seemed to me to be in a better place, and said so. Married for two years to Canadian visual artist Aurel Schmidt, Donald, the only child who dropped out of high school, ran away, and did odd (and undisclosed) jobs to make ends meet, seems to have found his footing again. He was gracious and humble and open to talk. We caught up for an hour and a half, and what follows is the most meaningful, entertaining, and informative aspects of our conversation. Donald discussed a number of things, including his take on The Virgins’ audible departure, what he’d do if he didn’t have his music career, and how, despite a challenging childhood and professional woes, he feels ever so fortunate.

Tell me a bit about this switch. New members, new sound…
It’s been a minute. The dudes [and I] wanted to do different things. I love those dudes, those guys are like family to me, [but] we were ready to move on. We changed a lot. These guys, I’ve known them a while. We played together in a country cover band. When I was writing new songs, I started playing with these guys, and it felt really good. It just made sense that, since we were friends—we’d been hanging, playing music—they would be the dudes I worked with. It was a cool vibe; when we started writing new stuff, the songs grew naturally. It worked right away. I love these dudes and the way they play. We don’t have to tell each other much. Everybody does their thing.

What was the process of bringing the album together?
We’d been writing songs, started playing around the city. Because we had an opportunity to do a one-off, we had a single. We had, like, half this record written and started recording. We didn’t know who was going to put it out. We probably thought we’d end up putting it out ourselves. Through a mutual friend we found out Julian [Casablancas was] interested. We played him songs, talked about what [we] wanted to do, and he [told] us about the label. It felt really cool. The vibe was good right away.

Sounds pretty painless.
It was. This experience has been amazing. A lot of painful shit happened with the last album, with the label we were on.

What compelled you to maintain the name while transitioning the style?
The first thing I ever made was a demo in my room. I started giving [it] out and put “The Virgins”—I thought it would be cool to be in a band. Then, when I got a deal really quickly, I didn’t have a band, so I put the band together [and] made the EP. Things were progressing logically, except we had [signed with] a major label. When we went to make the record, a lot of stuff didn’t fit for me. It changed our direction, without us having control. We started having to deal with the business model and projected earnings and all the things that come with being on a big label.

It’s the name of my band. It was my name before the label, before the record and, after, it’s still the name of my band. When we started making this record, it was like going back to when things flowed naturally. We made what we felt like making. It didn’t feel like a change of direction. It felt like getting back on track. Personally, [“The Virgins”] doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s a name. I don’t have any attachment to it, emotionally or aesthetically. It just seemed like it would be more trouble changing it than leaving it alone.

Why the aesthetic shift?
For me, the music isn’t different. It’s just songs I believe in. I was deciding whether or not I even wanted to make music anymore, the conclusion I came to was, I’m not interested in doing anything I don’t believe in. It wasn’t a decision to change the style. I had to make what I wanted to make. I couldn’t have done anything else. If it throws somebody off, there’s not anything I can do. There might be fans that are like, “Oh, this sounds different.”And I understand. It definitely does. But, it just sounds like the way we play. We’re just doing it, and it sounds different. It’s not an ideology where we have to present a new thing. We didn’t say, “Let’s do it differently.”

Can you share a bit about your uncertainty surrounding continuing to make music?
Making the record with Atlantic was kind of crazy. I don’t want to go into it, but we all felt [that] wasn’t what we were trying to do. It affected all of us. Then we toured extensively. It was a strange experience. It wore away at me. I couldn’t identify with the music [anymore]. It got to the point where I was like, “I hate this. I hate this whole thing and I don’t know how to fix it.” So, I guess I had a bit of a spiritual crisis. [Laughs]

That was 2008?
’08 through ’10. Maybe ’11. It went on and on because we just kept touring.

Did you do anything else between then and now?
A ton of shit, but I needed to get my brain together. Besides getting married, finding out what means most to me, follow[ing] goals to their logical conclusions. There’s always somebody with an opinion, a reason you shouldn’t do what you want. Most times in my life, when I haven’t done what I wanted, I’ve ended up regretting it.

When I saw you perform last month, I kept thinking about Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. Have you gotten that before?
No. It’s great to hear. Everybody has their own take. So far it’s been stuff I like. It’s cool with me.

So, where do you like to play?
I love Mercury Lounge. I’ve enjoyed every show we’ve played there. It’s my favorite spot in the city. It sounds good. It feels connected. You’re sharing an experience with a room full of people. Obviously it’s cool when we play bigger venues, but the bigger the place the less personal things feel.

Do you become homesick pretty easily?
No. I really like traveling. It’s one of my favorite things about being in a band. Making records is amazing—it’s its own special thing—but the fact that you get to travel is quite cool.

And you grew up in Manhattan.
I grew up a few places, but I lived on Canal and Greenwich when I was a kid and, when my parents split, I [divided] my time between [there] and Astoria, with my mom. I’ve probably moved 10 or 11 times.

You have a favorite neighborhood?
I love Chinatown. I don’t live there anymore, but it’s peaceful and I like that. It’s gentrified, but doesn’t look like a mall. It’s heartbreaking to walk around the city and see how fucked it is. But, I love New York.

You’re a lifer.
Oh yeah, for sure.

Me too. So, of course this city influences your music.
Of course. All my memories are here and all my friends are here. Every place reminds me of somebody or something. It has an affect on me.

You didn’t finish high school, did you?
No.

And no college.
Yeah.

You’re self-taught. How many instruments do you play?
I attempt to play the guitar and the piano. That’s it. I’m not that guy who masters instruments. I get by. Shit’s not sounding so crisp anymore, you know what I mean? It doesn’t have that pop. I’m not the world’s tightest rhythm guitarist. Any little addition to my repertoire feels like a big achievement. [Laughs]

What’s been the biggest challenge?
Getting back to a place where I [can] express myself and feel like [I’m] making music for reasons valid to me. I didn’t know if that would happen again and was prepared for that not to happen. I feel grateful to have had the experience [of] making this record and excited to make more and play with these guys. I just feel really fortunate.

Do you do anything else apart from this?
I mean, I’m not really qualified to do anything else.

If you couldn’t make music, what would you do?
Honestly, without wanting to be overly romantic, washing dishes. That was [a] job I had that felt pretty all right. But you can’t support yourself doing that. Well, obviously people do. I don’t want to sound flippant. I’m lucky to make music for a living. But, when I washed dishes, I had some good friends and some good times. That’s a job I look back on without frustration or anger. A lot of things I’ve done for money in my life I really regret.

Regret?
[Deciding] to do something because I needed money, as opposed to believed in or wanted to, that stuff stayed with me. I’m not resolved. I needed money, so it was good to alleviate whatever problem I was having. But, I don’t have that money now. And those things are indelible. So, is it worth it? I don’t know. When I was younger, I avoided all work all the time. I was always broke. Beyond broke. No money whatsoever. I would paint myself into corners. If an opportunity came up to [make] money, I had no choice. I feel like it was cosmic punishment for not working. Like, you do shit for money you don’t want to do. I’ve got hang-ups about this obviously. [Laughs] I’m grateful to be a professional musician, to support myself with music. But washing dishes was a job I don’t have bad feelings about. I just got into tight situations. You do what you gotta do.

Did you receive monetary support from your family at all? Were you “privileged,” as they say?
No, not at all. My dad had a liquor store, my mom worked in an office. My dad was an alcoholic and basically went bankrupt. Closed the store. Moved in with his boyfriend. He was a committed alcoholic and died when he was 41, 42. I was maybe 11 or 12. My mom worked in Jersey, I went to school in Manhattan and we were living in Queens. She would take me, then get on a bus and go to work. It was tiring for her. When I was, like, 14, she met this guy from Florida and moved there. I went with, but didn’t get into it. My life was here. So, I ran away. I left home and moved back when I was almost 16. I had a little bit of money from social security—from my dad dying—and I started renting a bedroom from my friend’s mom. I got a job working at a coffee shop and was trying to go to high school. But I stopped going to school. I stopped working. That led to figuring it out. I wouldn’t trade it or change anything.

Wow. So, no regrets?
Only petty stuff that fucks with my ego and shit. I regret not going to school. I regret not going to college. I’ve always had to do shit on my own. It might have been cool to have a professor and be with other students, finish an assignment, and get feedback. I would have been down. But, I was way more focused on the opposite of that. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Switching gears, you’ve got a certain look. Can you comment on your personal style?
I only buy used clothes. I don’t believe in manufacturing clothes. It’s a drain of resources, putting all that shit into the world. I believe in secondhand. I’m vegan. I don’t wear animal products that are new. There’s definitely enough clothing on the planet, not only to clothe everyone, but [also] to stop fucking with animals, stop polluting the world, stop using plastic, stop exploiting people—all that shit. Like, I’m just not down. I could go on and on.

Didn’t see that coming! What prompted the veganism?
I bought The Animal Rights Handbook: Everyday Ways to Save Animal Lives by Linda Fraser at a secondhand store, because I liked the cover. I was already vegetarian and it was on my mind. I felt super guilty eating cheese and was like, “Fuck, I know I shouldn’t be doing this.” I didn’t know what was going to be “the thing,” but I knew it was coming. I started reading this book and that was it. I have never thought about going back. It’s not difficult at all. It makes perfect sense. It’s quite strange how willing people are to not give a fuck. 

Itinerary: A Brooklyn Travelogue With Matt Young and Kenny Vasoli of Vacationer

It’s an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon. I am en route to Clinton Hill, Brooklyn after a pleasant jaunt up to Washington Heights, where I discussed life, love, babies, and new beginnings with an old friend. The day has already begun to transform into one that I will later recognize as a defining moment of 2013. I am about to meet up with Matt Young and Kenny Vasoli of the band Vacationer. Their debut album, Gone, is a soothing journey inward from start to finish. I dove into it months ago with a couple friends while upstate contemplating life’s choices and the paths we were all on. Gone played for 48 hours straight on surround sound and penetrated our minds in ways only the individual experiencing it would understand. The doors were wide open with no intention of closing, the grass was plush, and the sky was the clearest blue I may have ever seen. Summer had begun.

Now a near seven months after that weekend, I am about to embark on yet another journey with Vacationer as they pass through town and gear up to play a sold-out show at Bowery Ballroom. Their tour—in support of Niki and the Dove—began earlier in the week and extends through the rest of the month. The idea of alone time when in constant motion is almost unfathomable, and so, in an effort to not allow the band to sit still, together we set out to explore our city surroundings and dive into what makes Vacationer chill out.

Brooklyn Public House, 2:05 PM

247 Dekalb Ave., Brooklyn, NY, 347-227-8976

I’m with producer Matt Young at the quaint Brooklyn Public House in Fort Greene. We secure a booth while we wait for lead singer and bassist Kenny Vasoli. Young is fresh off a red-eye flight from Las Vegas where he was doing a series of promotional events with his other project, Body Language. Having lived in the neighborhood for two years, Young enjoys spending his winter months in this fine establishment: "They did a really good job at capturing the vibe of a true English pub,” he tells me. “It’s never too packed out or too loud—it’s just really cozy and nice. They have a really great beer selection and velvet wallpaper.” While I was off stroking said velvet, Vasoli arrives frazzled and “in a tizzy." Twenty-eight-years old-and standing at a delicate 5’8” frame, he carries an aura of coy, youthful sensitivity. I notice a single round band-aid under his right eye. Excited, and with a tinge of hesitation, he mentions, "A lot of this is going to be a learning experience,” an indication that he isn’t too familiar with the borough. Kenny settles into the booth alongside Young; they are reuniting for the first time in 2013.

Brooklyn Promenade, 2:45 PM

The afternoon has shifted to show Vasoli a new side of Brooklyn. In a quick decision moment, Young directs our cab driver to the Brooklyn Promenade. "It’s really beautiful this time of year,” Young explains. “You can always catch a really good sunset." We arrive and head down toward to the water, but sadly, there is no visible sunset today; the day is beautifully gray, and lower Manhattan is enveloped in a thick fog. The Brooklyn Bridge is prominent in our eye line. We pause to stare at the wondrous city, fixating on a skyline many look out to and envision their dreams, future, and endless possibilities. A self-proclaimed “homebody,” residing in northern Philadelphia—where he has lived his whole life—Vasoli shows little inclination of plans to move. "I like New York being a place I can weave in and out of when I need to," he says

Zombie Hut, 3:15 PM

273 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY, 718-875-3433

Standing on a random corner near the BQE overpass, there’s an awkward moment while we figure out our next move. Eventually, we make our way to Zombie Hut, a Tiki-themed bar in the heart of Carroll Gardens. The bar is dimly lit and the music is blaring like a Manhattan nightclub at those familiar drunken hours. It’s a little too early for the flaming fishbowls they are known for, but Young throws caution to the wind orders a Mai Tai. "Out of all the places in Brooklyn this is probably the most analogous to the mood we were going for with Vacationer,” Young says. “A lot of the records that we drew inspiration from were 1950s and ’60s Tiki Hawaiian records." I ask what factors played a part in bringing them together, to which Vasoli tells me his friend and former band mate Matt Watts—with whom he played alongside in pop punk outfit The Startling Line—sent over a list of bands that were making electronic music in Brooklyn. “I wanted to do something different, sort of a hybrid indie-electronic record, and Body Language was on that list,” he says. “It was really the only music that I gravitated toward. I reached out to them and had a blind date session.” Young interjects, “The first day, we already had a track and it was just uphill from there.” In what, I gather, is a longing for Vasoli to break out of the mold he’s inadvertently been put in amidst “the scene” and catch the next wave of life, he says, "I have such a great time doing this, especially after going and playing a bunch of shows with The Starting Line. It’s like going from a cold pool to a hot tub."

Grand Morelos, 4:00 PM

727 Grand St., Brooklyn, NY, 718-218-9441

The temperature is dropping and the sky is turning deep charcoal. We swiftly jump into a cab and head to Willamsburg. We’re exchanging New Year’s stories when Young flashes back to a moment in the wee hours of 2013 at a 24-hour Mexican diner, Grand Morelos. “It was six AM. This place was my last stop, and it was packed. People were yelling ‘Tacos! Tacos! Tacos!’ During the day it’s really relaxed, and after midnight it’s just a zoo.” Bouncing off the topic of New Year’s, I’m curious to know if there was one defining moment in 2012 that they’re carrying into the new year, and what they’re most excited for in the coming months.

Young chimes in first. “Iceland was really amazing, it was the first time that band has gotten out of the country.” Vasoli adds, “I’ve had such a charmed year: the record came out, we started touring in the incubation of Vacationer. It’s been a red-letter year for us. I still can’t believe it. It seems like every time I think, ‘Oh, that’s really cool that that happened, there’s no way it can get topped.’ And then Matt, our manager, calls me every week with something new that’s always really exciting.” The two then mention that 2013 will have them writing new material—hopefully, bringing a new album to our ears.

Noorman’s Kil, 5:15 PM

609 Grand St., Brooklyn, NY, 347-384-2526

Our time together is winding down and we end with an evening cap at Noorman’s Kil. The walls are lined with the widest selection of whiskey any of us have ever seen. Vasoli is reminded of a Breaking Bad episode where they were drinking one of his favorite spirits, Whistlepig. Young deems himself a whiskey enthusiast. “Last time I was in here, I had a Pappy Van Winkle,” he says. “It was amazing, just so smooth.” The two peruse the hefty menu and land on a Mitcher’s Rye. We order three and cheer to a delightful day. They need to be heading to the venue soon but sip their drinks casually. Kenny, impressed by the atmosphere, chuckles, “This is my kind of place. I’m gonna get into drinking more, become a big drinker." We finish off our round and head to Bowery Ballroom. I thank them and part ways upon arriving as they unload for sound check. 

Bowery Ballroom, 9:30 PM

6 Delancey St., New York, NY, 212-533-2111

Vacationer takes the stage. Vasoli’s nervous energy has seemingly diminished. He stands out in a bright red shirt while the band bleeds into the deep blue lights. He’s no stranger to the stage, exuding a confidence that reads as if he knows this is exactly where he belongs. While watching the, now full five-piece, I realize Vacationer is more than just band—it’s a passion. It’s a group of individuals coming together with the same drive to live out their dreams. It’s become clear to me that I too am exactly where I needed to be and that all of my potential is also unfolding. I’m reminded of an earlier conversation about "sympathetic oscillation"—the scientific law that theorizes: any medium pulsating at their natural pitch will simultaneously oscillate with the same frequency. We are consistently weaving in and out of places, even through friends each at our own pace. But it’s in those moments, in those encounters, where we pulse at the same speed, that we learn something about ourselves to carry us onto the next level or phase of our lives. A wave of gratitude comes over me and I thank the universe for how the day had unfolded, at which point Vasoli invites the crowd to “take a dive off the chill coaster” and join him in paradise. 

Follow Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez on Twitter

Monday Funday: Tonight’s Top Events

So it’s the first day of the work week and there are four more days to go. I get it. But why ruminate when you can start to make Mondays the best night of the week? This weekly column is devoted to finding the best events across NYC hosted by individuals and places that are doing amazing, crazy, wild, sexy things on Monday nights. And I am here to honor them. Here are tonight’s top events.

See a play about crime, threesomes, and wild animals:
The last Monday of its run, the acclaimed Grimly Handsome delivers a bewitching dose of theatre that’s part crime drama, dark comedy, and whimsy. Expect a cast full of sinister Christmas tree salesmen, detectives, and wild animals running loose in the streets. But no one is who they say they are, so go in there believing nothing but this: there will be threesomes. Play by Julia Jarcho. Running through Sunday, Jan. 20th   at St. Mark’s Church, 131 E. 10th St. 6pm, $18. All the details here.

Celebrate your favorite nightclub stars:
The Nightlife Awards are tonight, but what makes it a completely different breed from last night’s Golden Globes is that it’s the only all-performance award show in the world. Yes, there are no acceptance speeches. The cabaret winners (such as Marilyn Maye, Faith Prince, James Barbour) have to perform to prove why they were chosen, making it New York’s most showy and eccentric awards show. But what else do you expect from nightlife? And when you’re done, 7pm. $25+. The Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd St. All the details here.

Watch an 18-year-old with a #1 debut album in the U.K. perform:
British, 18-year-old singer/songwriter Jake Bugg, who’s been coined “the new Dylan,” hits the America’s Lower East Side at Bowery Ballroom with his usual cigarettes, hipster clothes, and don’t-care-what-you-say swagger. Yep, he’s a teenager. And whether you’ve never heard of him, or just want to see what all the fuss is about, this intimate concert will tell all. It’s sold out but… you can find a way. 9pm. $15. Bowery Ballroom. All the details here

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Last Night: Rosewood Was Slamming, Spotted Leo DiCaprio & Amanda Bynes

So last night I had a blast. It was a bit of a pleasant surprise how great the opening of Rosewood, 5 E. 19th St., turned out to be. The space Rosewood occupied was once many clubs run by many operators. In my opinion, none of those joints were any good. Dorsia, some people said, had its moments, but none while I was there, which I admit was rare. The redux of the space into Rosewood seems to be on the cheap but that often doesn’t matter as long as it’s comfortable, the flow is good ,and the overall feeling is positive. I had heard that Leo…yeah “that” Leo, was there at the "friends and family" event a few days before, and that last night other boldface names were expected. From my perspective in the DJ booth, I saw beautiful people committed to a good time, and one semi-celeb: the much-talked-about Amanda Bynes. As far as I could tell, she was behaving marvelously. Noah Tepperberg once introduced me to her at Marquee many years ago, and she was all smiles and sweetness. I like to think of her that way and try to dispel reports of her "Lohanisms.”

The rock-themed den had Kelle Calco following me. His following is so hot that I was left shocked and awed and honored to make them sway. They seemed to enjoy my rock and roll tip. Upstairs, DJ Danny Rockz put the well-heeled crowd into a frenzy. He was like a rockstar with most of the crowd, dancing while facing the DJ booth as he put on a show. The room was illuminated by the requisite sparklers announcing the presence of the sweet set. Rosewood was slamming last night and I congratulate all involved.
 
After my DJ set, I headed to Hotel Chantelle to congratulate the wonderful Luc Carl at his birthday party. Luc is the real deal. He was humble about the event which also had a rock theme, with DJ Ian El Dorado offering rock anthems and crowd pleasers. Tommy London, one of the night’s hosts, handed me a flier for his Bowery Ballroom Dirty Pearls gig on January 4th, 2013. That is the first event in the next year that I have been invited to. It’s kind of eerie. The Pearls are heading off on their first-ever national tour and it couldn’t happen to nicer guys. We scooted off to The Famous Cozy Soup ‘n’ Burger on Broadway off Astor for a late-night burger and coffee malted. OMG I shouldn’t have; it was amazing and I want more but must maintain my figure. Cozy was slammed with familiar faces and eclectic strangers. It reminds me of Kiev, back in the day. Great food and a New York downtown crowd winding down after all the bells and whistles of the infinite night.

Sunday is Funday again at the re-tooled Goldbar. Jonny Lennon, a rocker from Queens, is at the helm of this weekly must-visit. Jonny and I are getting bro tattoos soon. It’s like that.

Brooklyn Duo Tanlines Close Out A Successful And Buzzy Year

For Tanlines, 2012 will go down as a monumental year that opened and closed with equally epic New York shows. Back in April, the euphoric rhythms of the Brooklyn-based alt-indie duo—who had just released Mixed Emotions on True Panther Sounds a couple of weeks prior—may as well have served as invisible puppet strings. Each chorus and bridge conducted the fluid movements and raised hands in the room, while “All Of Me,” “Yes Way,” and “Green Grass” united one happy, hustling crowd underneath the fractured light of the Bowery Ballroom’s disco ball.           

“We started off the year with that tour in April, and that show at the Bowery Ballroom was a big moment for us,” recalls Jesse Cohen. “There was a lot of love. It started the whole year on a good foot that really propelled us.” Since then, Tanlines have gone on to play a handful of festivals and put their passports to good use, meandering through the country while playing for small rooms or thousands of people depending on the day. Sometimes people danced, sometimes people didn’t, and most of the time (as we’ll get into below), Cohen and his cohort, Eric Emm, disagreed about whether or not any given set was a great one or a bust.

One thing the pair will likely concede is that their upcoming engagement at Webster Hall is set to match the Bowery show for its energy and encouraging vibe. Before taking the stage on 11th Street, we asked Cohen to take us through the past year in order to get an unfiltered look at what 2013 may have in store for Tanlines.

What’s your relationship like with Mixed Emotions as a pivotal body of work for you guys? Have your feelings towards your debut record changed?
I think all of the songs have grown since the album came out. It feels like its just getting better and better, you know? It feels like every time we play somewhere there are more people who know the music. I think the more we play the more confident we are, and I think we’re getting better. We’ve done some festival shows now which was a new thing. I think playing live has been a huge part of this project, and I’m really happy with that.

What’s a concrete set list choice for you, a no-brainer pick to kick off a show with?
We open some shows with an almost acoustic version of “Rain Delay” which is totally different than the album version. It’s kind of a quiet and intimate way to start the show. I’ve been happy with that. We stretch some things out and make them longer than they are on the album. Playing live was kind of a big surprise for us, actually—before this album we were just kind of making songs and putting them on the Internet. It’s only when we started playing live and people liked us that it really pushed us forward. I think we were better live than we expected to be. On paper, we’re just two guys making live electronic music—that can be pretty boring. One way or another, I think we’ve stumbled onto something that works, and I’m really happy about that.

As far as electronic music is concerned, do you ever feel like you’re subscribing to a genre that you don’t fully identify with? How do conversations about genre go between you two?
I think that most musicians wouldn’t want to give themselves a genre—you want to feel free to make whatever kind of music you think is interesting. We’ve really tried to put our personalities at the front of the project so that people really get to know us and trust us when we make the music that we want to make. When we did this album, “Green Grass” was a rock song, and there are songs on Mixed Emotions that are upbeat and songs that are kind of downers. It’s important to us to have all of those on there. I don’t know what genre it is. I just let people who write about music decide. I think that one thing that comes through is the mix of stuff that’s on there. There’ll be a song that’s got a 4/4 electronic drumbeat with a country guitar line. The mix of stuff is what I think is important to the music, a mix of happy and sad and different styles. The mix is what I’m interested in doing, and that’s definitely part of who we are. We listen to a lot of different kind of music, and I think there’s a sense of humor and sadness to it.

What’s the anatomy of a great dance song for Tanlines?
One thing I believe in is that the worst vibe you can present to an audience is “Why aren’t you guys dancing more?!” How many times have you been somewhere where someone’s like, “Why aren’t you dancing?!” and you’re like, “I just don’t feel like it and dancing is only fun if I feel like doing it!”, right? We’re not really thinking about it that much. If a song works because it has an up-tempo beat, then that’s what that song becomes. If it works without us dropping beats, that’s what that becomes. We don’t talk about writing dance music; we just try to write interesting pop music. No part of the goal of the band is to make people dance—it’s to write good songs that people like listening to for as long as possible. We don’t think of ourselves as a dance act; we think of ourselves as alternative indie songwriters who use a lot of the same instruments that people who make dance music use. I don’t even like the genre name “dance” because I think there’s an expectation for how you should listen to it—if you’re not dancing to it, it means that something is wrong. Like I said, I don’t want to do that. We play great shows where no one is dancing, and great shows where everyone is, so you’ll always feel something. That’s really the goal: you make something to help people feel something, and that can be a lot of different things that are all equal.

Do you approach your collaborations and remixes the same way?
When you listen to our remixes, most of them aren’t danceable at all—they’re just sort of, like, songs. The Au Revoir Simone remix that we did, we slowed it down and did a half-tempo thing that turned out to be a cool song by a, like, fictional band. Our approach there was to write new music that would stand on its own. year.

If you could single out one hallmark moment from all of the shows you’ve played this year, which one would it be?
We did the F Yeah Festival in Los Angeles, and it was one of the best shows we’ve ever played. Something just happened: everything lined up right, it was the right time of day, we were in the right mood … I’m not sure what it was. Usually, when we finish playing a show, we walk off the stage, and I’ll say to Eric, “Hey, that was great!” and he’ll say “THAT WAS TERRIBLE!” Or he’ll say “That was pretty good!” and I’ll say “No, it was terrible.” We walked off the stage at that show and we were both like, “That was incredible.” It felt great. was when we felt that we can do this, that we can walk up without much preparation and play for thousands of people and everything will sound great, and people can walk away from us going, “That’s a really good live band.” That day felt like a turning point for us.

What are you looking forward to the most in this homecoming show?
I really hope that it feels like a bookend to the Bowery show, going into Christmas and the New Year. We’re slowing down with touring and stuff, so I hope it feels that way—I hope it feels like a bookend to something that started a long time ago. I hope that it propels Eric and me to the next stage, which we’re going to start writing soon.

Follow Hilary Hughes on Twitter.

Eternal Summers Debut Video For “Good As You”

Roanoke, Virginia-based trio Eternal Summers released one of my favorite albums of the year, and I’m not saying that just because I went to college with lead singer Nicole Yun and because she once cut my hair senior year (although that certainly didn’t prevent me from telling all of my friends to listen to the band). Today the band released a gorgeous video for "Good As You," a fuzzy, slow jam from their sophomore release Correct Behavior. If you dig it as much as I do (and why shouldn’t you?), and you happen to live in New York, you can catch Eternal Summers open for Nada Surf at Bowery Ballroom later this month on December 14. Check out the video after the jump. 

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

Indie-Rock Quintet Milo Greene Harmonizes Across America

California indie-folk fivesome Milo Greene—consisting of Robbie Arnett, Graham Fink, Andrew Heringer, Marlena Sheetz, and Curtis Marrero—have had a banner year. Well, year-and-a-half, actually, as it was March 2011 that they officially emerged as a united front, after having each been part of other outfits. Since then, it’s been nothing but smooth sailing—audibly anyway. They’ve had a few hiccups, as you’ll learn a bit about below, but, as a professional collective, both commercially and critically, the quintet has situated itself quite nicely in the likeable limelight.

From Carson Daly to Conan, Letterman to who knows what’s next, Milo Greene has been repping themselves successfully on late-night TV, as well as at venues, where they’ve been consistently selling out, across North America. One song in particular, “1957,” has given them much mileage, as this catchy single at once tugs at the heartstrings and demands we dance. (I’m willing to bet you’ll play the addictive-meets-emotive anthem at least twice over before moving onto the next number on their 13-track debut, Milo Greene, which dropped mid-July on Chop Shop/Atlantic.)

As for the band breakdown, Arnett, Fink, Heringer, and Sheetz share lead and backing vocal responsibilities, reeling us in with melodious harmonies, and swap instruments ad nauseam during live appearances. Marrero foregoes the madness, manning percussion while the others expertly negotiate who will play what when.

For firsthand experience, tune in tomorrow evening at Housing Works’ Bookstore Café on Crosby. The West Coast act will be co-headlining a benefit concert alongside Texas-based singer-songwriter Kat Edmonson. Or, if Wednesday’s no good for you, consider catching their set the next night at Bowery Ballroom.

In the meantime, get to know these guys (and girl). While in New York for a one-off private performance at the end of August, I had the pleasure of connecting face-to-face with Fink the afternoon following the promo show. Over Coca-Cola and vegan chocolate-chip cookies from City Bakery, we talked all about the group’s meteoric rise, Fink’s relationship with fellow Cali talents Local Natives, and a near death experience that in hindsight proves more hysterically funny than anything else. Read on for a few laughs, including an entertaining back-story surrounding the faux—but impressive—persona that is their namesake.

First of all, how did this ensemble cast of bandmates come together?
We were all in different bands, but were getting to know each other [and writing music together]. Long story short, we found each other, and, after a few songs were written, we realized this band was special. We all quit the bands we were in, and here we are adventuring. We played our first show last March [2011]. That’s when we announced ourselves to the world, if you will. It’s been a pretty insane year-and-a-half.

What’s it been like, since things took off?
It’s been crazy. We did a tour with The Civil Wars, which was huge for us, because it gave us a fanbase throughout America. Their fans are amazing. And, our album’s out, which is really exciting. It seems like the response to this band has been overwhelmingly positive from the beginning, and that’s a nice feeling. We’ve all been [playing music] a long time and now we’re touring on our own and filling rooms in Madison, Wisconsin. Places we’ve never played are full. That’s what you hope for. It’s still a really tickling feeling.

Madison, huh?
That was the one place that stood out because we had never played there or even been there. We were like, “This is going to be weird.” We got there and it was sold out. Madison was awesome.

Experiencing a live set, there’s a lot of shifting instruments.
The four of us are guitarists first and foremost. When we started this band, we all had to adapt and play other things. We move around like crazy people. When we were getting the songs ready to play live, we jumped around and, when something felt right, we stayed there. We’re all on different stuff throughout the set.

But you’re all vocalists.
All four of us were lead singers in past projects. We knew we wanted to be harmony-based and vocal-based.

I have to admit, when I first listened to you, I heard Local Natives.
We get that a good amount. There’s harmonies. It’s pretty vibe-y. I think it’s a normal comparison. We have similar influences; Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Maybe it’s a product of California music-making. Funny thing is, those guys are actually good friends of mine. I’ve known [them] since we were teenagers. Before they became Local Natives, they had a different band. My old band and [their old band] would tour together. We played, like, roller rinks throughout California.

Small world! Roller rinks?! Dude.
The roller rink really takes the cake. There was a guy named Bruce, with a handlebar mustache, who ran the concerts at [one] roller rink. There were probably 25 people there. They set up this immense stage in the middle. I think people could still [skate] around [the stage] while the show was happening.

That’s a riot. I can just picture it. On the topic of Cali: L.A. versus New York? Go.
I’m biased because I’m born and raised in L.A. It’s not just L.A. It’s home. Family, friends, childhood, life. Everything. I love living in L.A. and visiting New York.

I’m just the opposite. Back to funny stories, anything Milo Greene, rather than roller rink, related?
We almost drove off a cliff in the Grand Canyon once. This bug flew into the van. It was, like, a winged prehistoric creature. It looked like a dinosaur-turned-fly. It flew onto Marlena’s hat. She was sitting right behind Curtis, who was driving the van and trailer and all of us. I’m sitting next to her and I watch what she’s about to do. I see her thought process. She thinks to shake it out the window. But, by shaking it out the window, she’s reaching over the driver’s head, who, you will find out, is deathly afraid of insects. She shakes it off over his head and it flies directly into his face. We’re going around canyons and this entire van and trailer is swerving back and forth. I think for sure it’s going to be the end of the entire band. Like a Billy Madison moment.

“O’Doyle rules!”
[Laughs] Luckily, we survived that.

Indeed. So, do you fight over what to listen to while driving?
Driver picks.

What do you pick when you’re driving?
I usually get Robbie to deejay for me and play, like, nineties hip-hop. He’s good at assembling nineties R&B and hip-hop. TLC, Eazy-E, Ice Cube. If I have my druthers, he’s pulling that up for me.

Amazing. Love the classic jams.So, this is a little tangential, but what did you study in college and does it apply anymore?
I studied psychology, and you bet your ass I use that on a daily basis being in a band with these bozos. It’s helpful to have that background because [of] interpersonal conflict and the stresses of being in close proximity all the time. I tend to be a moderator, a source of positive energy and sanity, when I can. I’m not perfect, but I try to be a calming force in the band.

Who’s the whip-cracker?
That would also be me. I’m the funny man, and I tend to, when we don’t have a tour manager, take over most of the tour manager duties by default. If anybody has to crack the whip, it’s usually me.

Lastly, why the name Milo Greene?
When everybody was in different bands, Robbie and Andrew didn’t have access to a real publicist, booking agent, or manager. [They had] an idea to [fabricate] a publicist to seem more professional. They invented him in, like, ’06. They made up an email account and a MySpace for a man named Milo Greene who would reach out to clubs and promoters to book shows for their separate bands. Then, when we started writing together, it made sense to pay tribute.

Was everyone down with it?
It was never really a conversation. It was just the name for the project from day one.

What would Milo Greene be like if he were real?
He actually has an identity. He’s British. He wears a three-piece-suit. He wears a monocle. He’s albino. He has chops, sideburns. Every time we do an interview, he gains attributes. When Robbie would originally make calls to booking agents and stuff like that, he would put on a British accent. It started British and it’s kind of evolved over time. But, he’s confident, charming, well read, well spoken. He’s a gentlemen, the kind of guy we all aspire to be. Other than Marlena.

Perhaps that’s whom she aspires to be with!
Touché! And Milo Greene’s partner is Johnny Lauderdale. He’s from Florida. He’s a very different persona. I can’t do it justice, but Robbie puts on this voice. [Proceeds to imitate.] That sounds more New York than Florida. You get the idea.

Photo by L Gray