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What's Up For Today?

New York Cool - Ask Miss Wendy

New York Cool - Music

The New Pornographers
With Opening Band Midlake
River to River Festival
Battery Park
July 4, 2007

Written by Julia Sirmons
Photographed by Amy Davidson

Opposite Photo: Neko Case

Fleetwood Mac. Strange that a band forever marked by the stigmata of their well-documented, so-very-‘70s excesses – let’s not even get into that Behind the Music episode – should be the main topic of conversation among a group of hip twenty-something audiophiles on their way to see one of the most feted indie rock bands of the moment. But when the 4th of July falls on a damp rainy Wednesday and young working stiffs only have one day off, strange things happen.

And wipe that snide look off your face, young hipster. Fleetwood Mac is actually an awesome band whose famous singles don’t reflect the complexity and general awesomeness of their entire catalog. Don’t believe me? Check out their retrospective box set The Chain: 25 Years and hear for yourself.

At any rate, the Mac was first and foremost in our collective minds as I, clad in slicker and rain boots, led the posse through the slick paths of Battery Park. I believe I kicked things off by mentioning that New Pornographers’ singer Neko Case’s voice’s often reminds me of that of a young, pre-coked-out Stevie Nicks. Meanwhile, my friend mentioned she was looking forward to the opening band, Midlake. My good pal the Musicologist chipped in, saying that he hadn’t heard any of the Midlake oeuvre, but that chatter on Pitchfork had likened their music to the work of Mick Fleetwood & Co.

Soon after we settled into our slick plastic folding chairs in the VIP section – distinguished only from the Regular Old People by said chairs and a barbeque-esque buffet spread that, considering the occasion and the meteorological factors, was sadly lacking in both beer and coffee – the Musicologist and I watched as Midlake took the stage. They apparently hail from Denton, Texas and want to make damn sure you don’t forget it; they mentioned the fact after practically every song they performed.


Tim Smith of Midlake

Midlake Midlake

After a few of their ambling, mellow, atmospheric numbers, I turned to the Musicologist for a little confirmation.

“So do they sound like Fleetwood Mac to you?” I queried.

“Well, in the sense that there songs are kind of long and they do a lot of stuff with guitars, I guess so.’

I was just glad I wasn’t the only one. To be fair to Midlake, they tried really hard, and their ambient somnambulistic tunes are more suited to chilling around in your den or bedroom than a major concert venue. But the sad fact was that the combination of the super-mellow tunes and the dreary weather made for a bit of
a downer.

After Midlake made a grateful exit, the crowd was brought to a fever pitch of anticipation waiting for the New Pornographers to come on. The VIPers in front of us wondered whether Neko would be performing. Comedian and regular Daily Show correspondent Demetri Martin checked out the action in the VIP section and passed the time chatting with a comely redhead in a purple ensemble.



A C Newman of The New Pornographers

Finally, an announcer revived the damp crowd’s enthusiasm by introducing the New Pornographers. And there was much rejoicing, for in spite of the weather, the band gave it their all, putting on a damn good show. Neko was indeed there, resplendent in madras shorts, shaking her tambourine and belting out with all her might. Notably absent, however, was Dan Bejar (known in his other musical pursuits as Destroyer). However, homage was paid to him in a fantastic rendition of “Jackie Dressed in Cobras,” which Bejar penned.

The set list included almost all of the best songs from their 2005 album Twin Cinema, including the title track, the afore mentioned “Jackie,” “Use It,” “The Jessica Numbers” and absolutely awesome renditions of “The Bleeding Heart Show” and “Sing Me Spanish Techno.” This reviewer’s other favorite was “All The Old Showstoppers” (one of the many songs on the set list from the band’s new album, Challengers, to be released on August 21.) “Showstoppers,” the Musicologist astutely noted, borrowed what he called its “oo la oo la oo las” from a Fleetwood Mac song, “Walk a Thin Line,” off the Tusk album. Coincidence? We thought not. Also on our list of favorites was a performance of “Go Places” (another track off of Challengers) made unforgettable by Case’s languid, haunting vocals and the string and horn accompaniment.


Kathryn Calder of The New Pornographers

Speaking of horns and strings, there were a hell of a lot of backup instruments on the stage, some of them hard to find (“Is that a flute?’ I asked the Musicologist at one point), and others hard to hear. (Also on the inaudible side were the vocals of keyboardist Kathryn Calder). Still, it was an impressive assembly and the extra instrumental harmonies added a lot to many of the songs.

The band sent the crowd off with a great show-stopping encore comprised of a trio of anthem-like, sing-along favorites: “These Are the Fables,” “Testament to Youth in verse”, and finally “The Slow Descent into Alcoholism.” While the Musicologist had some misgivings about the quality of the vocal harmonies, he was happy that “they really nailed the cool bell-like thing in ‘Testament.’”

So in the end, everyone left wet but happy, still enthused and humming along. When you think about it, it was all very “Don’t Stop” (thinking about tomorrow). Stevie and the gang would be proud.

For more information about The New Pornographers, log onto: thenewpornographers.com and for more information on Neko Case, log onto: nekocase.com. For more information about Midlake, log onto: midlake.net.



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