The Nightrats @ Southpaw 05/21/09

Before I launch into this review of one of the most innovative, exciting and fabulous bands running about the NYC area (well, I’m not sure if they run, but they do make some mighty fine music), Mr. Neil would like to say sorry for being so incommunicado.

Mr. Neil has been busy. This review and the other three following it, are, for want of a better few words, really bloody late. There’s no excuse, except for the fact I was busy. There are lots of sparkly bits and bobs and things to be…shined, in the Mr. Neil fiefdom. Sometimes these things are very important and they make the sharing of great musical experiences run quite late.

But I think we’re back on track.

ANYWAY, BACK TO THE NIGHTRATS @ SOUTHPAW!

OMG! The Nightrats!

Having a Thursday night headlining gig at an Indie Mecca spot like Southpaw was a great boon for The Nightrats, and I was excited for them. I got on my bike and trundled over to Park Slope.

They had two acts before them, Golden Bones and Miracles of Modern Science (MOMS). The bands were all very different, and for some reason that worked perfectly. The crowd grew as the night went on and by the time The Nightrats were ready to play, the audience was more than ready for them.

Last time I heard them, they had two other members. This time, it was just the two of them, Randy Frey and Chris McMillen… and old Mozart’s rusty squeezebox, supplying us with their samples to go with their songs.

Thing was, it didn’t matter. It just didn’t matter; in fact, it may have been more powerful because of this.

Whether it’s two people, or our two leading men and a whole ensemble supporting them, I’ve seen enough of their shows to know they are always true to their music while still being able to be free and organic in their musical growth and output on the night

I always go back to 50s Paris when describing them, but seriously, they invoke, no matter where they are, what the space or the mood and size of the crowd, an intimate musical experience that is at once pure art and fantastic entertainment.

The acoustics at Southpaw are great, but even if they weren’t this band would have still owned the crowd. People stopped talking and started listening when they took the stage.

They nailed it. The space was big, their musical style is intimate and yet they managed to fill the space with their sound and presence while still making everyone there think they were one of a few privileged people listening to something underground, hip, happening, ultra smooth-cool, and listening to it way before anyone else would be, for a while.

I don’t call them rock stars, or rock star wannabes. They have too much talent, integrity and artistic vision for that (not that there’s anything wrong with being a rock star, or wanting to be, these are simply very different visionistic styles and also different musical styles. But, it is very easy when you’re on the stage to launch into ego-assuaging moves without thinking once about what you want to give, only wanting the accolades).

The Nightrats are artists who have that factor to appeal to the general public, once they catch on.

The thing is, I say listen to them now when you have the chance before you find yourself having to fork over many a pretty penny to hear them play. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • The Nightrats are playing tomorrow night (Saturday!) at Public Assembly, in Brooklyn, at 8pm, sharp. It was meant to be in the back room, but now they’re taking the mainstage That’s 8pm, Public Assembly, 70 N 6th St, Williamsburg.

Neil Diamond Seal of Approval? 4.89 out of 5 Stars.

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The Monte Vista @ The National Underground 03/27/09

The Monte Vista rocking out @ The National Underground

by DJW

This was my first viewing of The Monte Vista live and they did not disappoint (which is a good thing, because Mr. Neil does not like to be disappointed, since it’s always just so…disappointing).

After hearing their CD I’d marked them as a band to watch for. It’s a great CD, and they promised a good live performance, but they exceeded my expectations.

The National Underground’s cave-like space doesn’t work for every band’s style and vibe. But it suited The Monte Vista down to the ground. The space is small, but not intimate, and it’s the kind of place if you don’t have the ability to hold your audience then they will slip through your fingers.

The Monte Vista held our attention tight from the first few bars and the crowd moved in around the stage. The only other act with the same ability I’d seen that night was The Nightrats, and each for their own, distinctive reasons.

Good music is open, honest, vibrant, and those that hear it know it. No matter what umbrella it comes under, it’s that undeniable truth we all seek out.

I said it in my review of their CD, and after hearing them live, I shout it out. They have the soul of a Melbourne (Australia) pub band (which to those of you sadly not in the know, is a damned good thing).

I think Crowded House, Hunters and Collectors, Paul Kelly, even Midnight Oil. I’m not saying they are the same musically as The Monte Vista, but they all share a realness, a commitment to their vision that’s not tainted by gimmicks, mirrors or names. Just no-holds-barred talent. Pure and simple.

The Monte Vista‘s high energy, no bullshit performance draws you in. Edgy, sharp and eminently watchable.

They are a band who are able to sound different live yet stay true to their recorded sounds. Edgier and darker than their CD, the intensity is a pulsating neon sign that belongs in a smoky, beer-stained bar, with people who know the score.

Their front man, Jesse Lent, is a rocker who has the fine distinction of moving from sub-genre to sub-genre without compromising his artistic vision. And the bassist and drummer know how to do the same. The band is smooth crooner melded with raw Iggy Pop honesty. Their grunge-tinged edge made the entire room rock out and the girls lean in.

The Monte Vista were pure single malt whiskey, straight up, from the bottle. Fire in the belly, uncompromising yet smooth.

I don’t know when they’re playing next, but if you haven’t heard them, check them out, both on their website, and on myspace. And then, head on down to their next show. You won’t regret it.

Neil Diamond Seal of Approval? 4.65 out of 5.

The Nightrats @ The National Underground 03/27/09

The Nightrats using dark magic to transport you to Paris....

by DJW

When The Nightrats took the stage in their black Chairman Mao uniforms, it was a tiny nugget of dramatics that perfectly complimented their unique music to come. A great entrance is always welcomed and in a space like The National Underground, where the stage is a cave at the back of the room (and not elevated), this feat can be somewhat hard to do.

And, their little army is swelling (I knew it!). They have a drummer now. I was told he approached the band after their gig at Goodbye Blue Monday about drumming for them. That gig, if you remember (or care to go and read the review listed upon our hallowed pages), was a mere ten days ago, but listening to them play, you’d never realise – the drummer melded seamlessly into the band and they sounded as good as ever. In fact, it sounded as if he’d been with them forever.

It did, however, give The Nightrats a slightly more organic feel. Without having to rely on and, indeed, keep in step with their prerecorded drums, I felt there was more room to explore. It wasn’t better or worse; simply different, and that’s always a good thing.

But they did still have the samples that give them their vaudeville/Coney Isle edge, for which I am most pleased. In fact I can see them playing at one of those tacky places on Coney’s boardwalk on a rainy pre-season day, with a bunch of grizzled old men drinking whiskey…

The National Underground (the cave of a stage not withstanding) was still a step further away from my dream of the hole-in-the-wall Parisian hangout where they play for my delight (damn it), but The Nightrats took the space and made it all their own.

Being a band with an intimate feel working with a space that is not intimate at all (simply small), they were more than able to adapt to the space’s vibe.

Their sound was different, more spiky energy, something a place like The National Underground demands if you want to be able to keep your audience interested. And keep their audience interested, they did.

The sound was dark whiskey and melted ice with a splash of Brooklyn chutzpa added for a more robust flavour.

Still evocative, still addictive, still alluring, but more than able to stand up to whatever comes their way.

The Nightrats prove themselves to be a band that can work the vibe of the room as easily as if it were nothing more than air. They are a flexible, organic entity that can continually offer forth quality in familiarity’s cloak and yet always promise and deliver new gifts that surprise and delight.

Seriously. This is one extremely talented band. Their music is unique, addictive and hot. So do yourself a favour if you haven’t sampled The Nightrats. Give them a listen through their myspace link. Buy some songs – you’ll be more than glad you did.

They are next playing at Zebulon Cafe, 258 Wythe St in Williamsburg, 9pm, April 18.

Be there or you’re gonna kick yourself (also you’ll be square, man, SQUARE.).

The Neil Diamond Seal of Approval? 4.65 out of 5 stars (and they are all golden.)

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