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Langhorne Slim @ Southpaw
March 23, 2007

Written by John Proctor

 

(Opposite Photo Courtesy of Langhorne Slim)



East Williamsburg doesn’t exist. It was created by scenesters and artists venturing past the projects down Bushwick Avenue in search of cheaper lofts, and reinforced by real estate agents who quickly made those lofts expensive. East Williamsburg is Bushwick, the same way South Slope is Sunset Park.
That said, a lot of good has come out of Bushwick in the last couple years. Take, for example, Johnson & McKibbon Streets, the boho hipster’s wet dream with their post-industrial converted lofts, generally grey demeanor, and makeshift coffeehouses battling Danny’s Pizza for every twentysomething’s last three dollars. And there’s Asterisk.

Known as an “Art Space,” Asterisk hosts everything from gallery openings to record release parties for local musicians to all-night parties, with a makeshift bar inside and if you’re feeling daring enough to brave the fire escape, an adjoining deck with full bar. Large enough to support the L-Trainers from Manhattan and lo-fi enough to keep the regulars happy, it’s the kind of place a scene is formed around.


Langhorne Slim
Photo Courtesy of Langhorne Slim

That scene has now produced its first bona fide indie superstar in Langhorne Slim, who ironically enough doesn’t really fit the profile of the Asterisk crowd with his kinda-folk that sometimes sounds like the Pixies before electricity, and in his gentler moments like a long-lost progeny of Little Jimmy Dickens.
In late 2005 a friend from the Asterisk scene gave me a copy of his Electric Love Letter EP on downtown hardcore Narnack Records (he’s since signed with major label V2 for the recent Engine EP and his upcoming sophomore full-length), saying he was just my type. I never asked my friend what he meant by that, but he was right – I couldn’t stop playing the Langhorne live song “Cut Him Down,” and I immediately downloaded his full-length When the Sun’s Gone Down.
It wasn’t until last December that I finally bore witness to the Langhorne Slim stage show, and by that time he’d moved well out of his regular shows at Asterisk. I saw him at Northsix (now the unfortunately named Music Club of Williamsburg) and wrote a blog about the show that came down to one conclusion: The boy got devil. So of course I was excited to see him again this month at Southpaw.


Langhorne Sliim
Photo Credit Evan Sung


At least one of my Park Slope acquaintances has recently complained about the quality of the booking at Southpaw in recent months; I’ve seen a few good shows there recently, but one area that reinforces his opinion is an important one, in my opinion: opening acts. Langhorne Slim had not one, not two, but three acts precede him, and they were all varying degrees of shitty. The first sounded a bit like Mr. Slim – if Slim was a 78 rpm record that you played at 33 rpm speed. The singer moaned his way through a sludgy set, then immediately found a girl in the crowd and made out with her for the rest of the show.

Next up were the Felice Brothers, who seemed like they never spent more than a half hour at a time with their respective instruments. They started out with a sloppy but inspired traditional spiritual, then settled into mid-tempo hell for the rest of the set. I really wanted to like them as they were going for the old-time string band vibe, but they had neither the proficiency nor the humor to pull it off. There was an interesting chemistry within the band though, as the drummer seemed to only be able to keep up with a half-time beat, while the guitarist was obviously hopped up on coke and wanted to play as fast as he could before stopping to rub his nose and let the drummer catch up with him, and I couldn’t tell if the bassist was singing along, chewing gum, or had an inflamed tongue.
And rarely is a band so aptly named as the final opener, the Trainwreck Riders, a bland Uncle Tupelo knockoff with zero personality. While they did at least know how to play their instruments, my main complaint with them wasn’t so much that they were bad (I kind of expected it by then) but that they were both bad and loud, so we couldn’t even make fun of them while they were playing.

But in all fairness, maybe we were all just grumpy from the gauntlet of opening acts. By the time the curtain came up on Slim and his band the War Eagles, my own eagerness was tempered with a little resentment for making us wait so long. That quickly evaporated though with the full-on raveup “Honey Pie” kicking things in gear. One major difference I noticed about this show compared to the last was that he seemed a lot happier for this one, strutting about the stage, shaking his butt with some Elvis hip action, improvising lyrics on quite a few songs. And when a girl insisted on dancing onstage during “I Love to Dance,” he even invited the rest of the crowd up until the stage was so packed he couldn’t play his guitar.
One thing was clear by the end of the night: Langhorne Slim has arrived, in a big way. The crowd singalongs to some of his songs made me wonder if I was at a Bruce Springsteen show, kids were congratulating each at the bar and in the bathroom about seeing him this early in his career, and – this show much more than his last – he seemed to actually enjoy it.

To listen to Mr. Slim, go to www.langhorneslim.com or www.myspace.com/langhorneslim. His next NYC show is on May 12 at Irving Plaza.



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