Tag Archives: Ben Goldberg

Beirut and WOOM play The Music Hall of Williamsburg

With his rotary valve flugelhorn (no, it's not a trumpet!) slung jauntily over his shoulder, Beirut frontman Zach Condon is a devil-may-care showman. (Photos copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

If you felt old at last night’s Beirut show at The Music Hall of Williamsburg, there was a reason. Elise, a fan in the crowd at my side pointed this out, saying that she felt like the oldest person in the room, even though she appeared barely older than the band’s 24-year-old frontman Zach Condon.

The boys of Beirut.

The explanation is simple: The first night of the two-night, sold-out stand at Beirut’s home venue was essentially designated youth night. Beirut’s record label, BaDaBing, arranged for Monday night’s show as an 18-and-older gig and a block of tickets was sold at the box office only for the bargain price of $9.99 to give young fans a chance to see what one critic has dubbed “the best indie rock band of the 19th century.”

BaDaBing head Ben Goldberg, explains:

Hey everyone, the first show on July 5th is an 18+ show, the second is 21+. We wanted to make sure all those of you without credit cards of your own or superspeed internet connections are able to potentially get tickets, hence why the $9.99 is only available at the box office and won’t carry any handling fees.

Looking forward to seeing all you pale skins’ post-Independence day sunburns!

–ba da ben

Last night’s show was simply amazing. Beirut played a solid 90-minute set, kicking things off with “Elephant Gun” and romping through a sing-along set of all the band’s best-loved songs. It seemed far too short, but satisfying all the same. (And selling out @MusicHallofWB for two nights in a row seems like quite an accomplishment for a band that hasn’t released a proper album since 2007 and probably won’t have the next one ready until Spring 2011!)

Zach exudes a charm and confidence that belies his age. He appears comfortable onstage and has the swagger of a latter-day Sinatra. He’s not so much electrifying as he is charming and seductive. His warm style and the band’s tightness won a lot of love from the audience.

If I had ever imagined that flugelhorn and trumpet would someday become this hip, I might have thought twice about giving up playing brass after high school. Zach and his bandmates are among a number of influential young musicians who have managed to make the rock world safe for old-school instruments — French horn, trumpet, flugelhorn, accordion, ukulele and trombone.

We didn’t shoot any video last night, but lots of other concertgoers had video cameras. Here’s one of “The Penalty” posted by a fan known on Twitter as @projectnrm. The sound quality doesn’t really do the performance justice, but no matter, the enthusiasm is there:

WOOM is always in motion. The band's scrappy, bare-knuckled sound is irresistible.

Openers WOOM, a silly but joyous husband-and-wife band, charmed the crowd with a nice set of DIY beats coupled with Sara Magenheimer‘s vocals and Eben Portnoy‘s scratchy guitar riffs.

In addition to their usual repertoire, they debuted their version of Elizabeth Cotten‘s folk tune “Freight Train” last night. Though it had some rough edges, it was an intelligent and entertaining deconstruction of a song that’s been covered by many artists over the years, including Joan Baez, the Grateful Dead and even Laura Veirs, with the highly recognizable chorus: “When I die, Lord, bury me deep/Way down on old Chestnut Street/So I can hear old No. 9/As she goes rolling by.”

WOOM’s first full-length album, Muu’s Way, is out today on BaDaBing. It’s available from Amazon.com and other music outlets.

Click through to the jump for more photos from last night’s show. Continue reading

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Reconsidering the encore: Jeff Mangum at the Chris Knox benefit

The lobby of (Le) Poisson Rouge, complete with fish tank.

Thursday’s magnificent Chris Knox benefit show at (Le) Poisson Rouge is one that will give music fans a lot to ponder for years to come — along with raft of great memories.

When I wrote yesterday that I wished Jeff Mangum had not done an encore to his spectacular mid-show set, I wasn’t criticizing him or his performance. After the encore was over, I was as thrilled as anyone in the crowd to have heard him do yet another song.  But before he started “Engine,” I was fearful that the perfect moment he created in his four-song set might somehow be damaged.

The Neutral Milk Hotel frontman seemed so happy to be playing in public to such an adoring audience that his return for an encore seemed natural rather than forced. I asked the show’s organizer, Ben Goldberg, about how it all happened organically.

Benefit organizer Ben Goldberg.

“It’s funny, I fully wasn’t expecting Jeff to play again once he got offstage,” Ben tells Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? “He seemed both elated and relieved it was over.

“But then he heard people screaming and was like, ‘Should I do Engine? You think I should do Engine?’ So, it kind of felt like a true encore – not planned.

“In fact, Dimmer [the New Zealand band that played next] was already coming out to set up. I had to stop them so he could play!

“I know what you mean about the encore being a bit of a tag-on, but I don’t know…everyone singing along like they did…it seemed special in and of itself.”

The experience clearly blew away Ben — just like it did the rest of the crowd. “It’s terrible to be the organizer of a big show like that and feel completely emotionally drained halfway through!”

The rock show of the year

Chris Knox

The year may be far from over, but Will You Miss Me  When I’m Gone? has a feeling that the Chris Knox benefit at Manhattan club (Le) Poisson Rouge tonight is very likely to be the highlight of the year for those lucky enough to have gotten in.

We may have lagged a bit it posting while we search for new funding sources to keep WYMMWIG? going, but that hasn’t kept us away from the clubs and concert halls of New York and environs. And, with a bit of luck, we’ll be back with some recent updates tomorrow.

For now, you’ll have to settle for this.

For starters, you might ask, who’s Chris Knox and why does he need a benefit?

Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can probably guess the answer to the second half of the question. Chris Knox is a musician, and, like most committed, full-time musicians, he doesn’t have adequate health care. (Not to be too grim about it, but the rock world has lost way too many of its best to the lack of proper health care — think Jay Bennett, for instance.)

The reclusive Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel is making a very, very rare appearance at the Chris Knox benefit.

Now, back to the first part of the question. Knox, 57, is a New Zealand rocker who with Alex Bathgate formed Tall Dwarfs, a pioneer of the lo-fi rock movement. He had a series of strokes last year, and now his musical descendants are lining up to pay him back for his tremendous influence by raising money to pay his medical bills.

Those musical descendants make up a list of indie rock’s’ best and brightest — and most reclusive.

The scheduled appearance of Jeff Mangum, the brains behind Neutral Milk Hotel, is stirring the most interest. He’s  been rather reclusive for the last 10 years, but is slated to play a short set tonight.

And then there’s the rest of the list (and organizer Ben Goldberg of BaDaBing Records says the lineup has been changing by the day), which includes: Yo La Tengo, the Magnetic Fields’ Claudia Gonson (can Stephin Merritt stay away?), TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone, Portastatic, The Clean, Sharon Van Etten, David Kilgour and who knows how many more.

Goldberg won’t even think about giving out a set list, so if you’re going, you need to get there early and plan to stay late. And don’t expect to see the usual host of photos on WYMMWIG? tomorrow, because all cameras are banned — there won’t even be a house photographer! Given how tightly this thing has been run, I pity the first jerk who’s caught taking photos during the show!

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