Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: ATO

Okkervil River – Call Yourself Renee (Music Video)

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Monday issued a series of notable streams from acts as varied as The Men, Very Fresh, Dark Blue, Lou Barlow, Lindsey Mills, Cave People, Fruit & Flowers, Beautiful Dudes, and Squirrel Flower. Additionally, there was a small list of impressive music videos that came courtesy of Slow Pulp, The Blow, Moby & The Void Pacific Choir, Louise Burns, and Black Kids. Finally, some exceptional full streams that arrived via Joyride!, Hillary Susz, Title Tracks, and Sun Angle rounded out the day in memorable fashion. Okkervil River found themselves snagging the feature spot on the back of yet another impressive music video from Away.

Following in the visually arresting footsteps of its Away counterparts, “Call Yourself Renee” sees the band delivering their most vivid — and undeniably modern — presentation to date. Centering around two protagonists, the Bret Curry-directed (and shot) clip opts out of a literal interpretation of the lyrics and presents a slice-of-life look at the characters. It’s a decision that pays massive dividends, imbuing “Call Yourself Renee” with a subdued sense of mystery, which keeps the viewer guessing at the clip’s final destination.

Only Away, the band’s most gentle work, doesn’t deal in tidy resolutions and understands that the journey can be far more important. “Call Yourself Renee” holds true to this belief, letting its characters find a way to an ambiguous, open-ended exit point. While the two principle actors — Tyler Bates and Joy Curry — give committed performances that are difficult to shake, the band does manage to make a few appearances, grounding “Call Yourself Renee” with a sense of place that tethers everything together.

By the calmly assured ending, the clip’s firmly established a spell of its own, creating a realistic world that’s practically impossible to want to leave. Even with the visual asides that find Bates and Curry posturing for the camera, there’s a soft empathy that slowly drives “Call Yourself Renee” towards an unassuming transcendence. It’s a remarkably tender clip and a comprehensive visual realization of Away, serving as a perfect complement to the band’s most relaxed tendencies. There’s genuine moments of humanism, beauty, and confidence in every frame, leaving “Call Yourself Renee” as one of the most unexpectedly mesmerizing clips of the year.

Watch “Call Yourself Renee” below and pick up Away here.

Okkervil River – Okkervil River R.I.P. (Music Video)

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Last night, this site started humming along again, focusing in on the best pieces to have emerged during its short absence from regular coverage. Today that mode will continue until Heartbreaking Bravery’s once again caught up to the current release cycle. To get to that point, there’ll be two more posts featuring music videos and two featuring full streams. This post’s dedicated to the former, which included strong releases from Batwings Catwings, Metronomy, Yassassin, Haux, Death Grips, Adam Torres, Chet Vincent & The Big Bend, and The Julie Ruin.

For the featured spot, this time around, there’ll be a brief step outside of normalcy to discuss an act that was monumentally important in shaping the foundation of this site: Okkervil River. After discovering the band’s early discography, I hit a point of near-obsession that was primarily driven by bandleader Will Sheff’s approach to songwriting. He was one of the first songwriters to successfully bridge nearly all of my core interests into the narrative threads of Okkervil River’s albums (especially The Stage Names, which I still regard as my favorite album of all time).

In Sheff’s songs, no matter what point of view he was utilizing or adopting, there was always a very apparent empathetic, humanist approach that anchored the proceedings. For all the bruises, damage, and fatal flaws of the protagonists and antagonists that so vividly littered the band’s works, there was an opposing, near-paradoxical beauty afforded to those subjects.

Over time, the band accumulated a great deal of critical acclaim but never seemed to break through to the massive audience they deserved, even as many of their lesser contemporaries were swept into those realms. It was around that time where I began to fully realize the divide between uncompromising artistry and the specific, tempered appetites of those greater throngs.

Whether it was Okkervil River’s cleverness, fierce intelligence, tendencies towards intellectually challenging narrative devices, or the intimidating density of their work that prevented them from securing greater fame is ultimately irrelevant. What matters is that their music struck a very deep chord with a large volume of people who, in turn, latched onto the band’s works with the kind of feverish admiration that the vast majority of bands can only ever hope to achieve.

Around that time was when I started formulating a commitment to the band’s that never got their due, forming the seed of an idea that would eventually become Heartbreaking Bravery.

After the period of time where their specific brand of defiantly subversive, strings-and-horns adorned genre-hybrid tapestries began to recede in the greater public’s respect and opinion, they’d already begun experimenting with a more oblique approach to their craft. While that more experimental-heavy era of the band essentially transitioned them out of that particular scene with their inimitable vision intact, several  of the bands that surrounded them before that time fell to the wayside, cruelly discarded by a society that’s overly concerned with things that are decisively of the time and rarely concerned with the things that could be qualified as timeless.

That’s the source of the astonishing amount of emotional pull that’s present in the band’s latest track, the quietly devastating “Okkervil River R.I.P.”, which ostensibly laments a set period of Sheff’s life — one that’s inextricably informed by his main vehicle — and greets those memories with a forlorn respect and deep understanding. In a recently released music video that stars Tim Blake Nelson, Sheff once again takes on a directorial role and imbues the visual presentation with an air of the kind of sadness that never tips into regret.

It’s a bold work with a strong central performance that feels like an act of small, purposeful bravery despite its lingering resignation. In some ways, “Okkervil R.I.P. is a surprisingly difficult watch and in others, it’s deeply reassuring. However it’s viewed, it retains the sense of beauty that made the band such a compelling act at the outset of their career. That they’ve weathered as many storms as they have and still managed to come out with a vital — possibly even necessary — piece in their discography is nothing short of a triumph.

For those looking for materials to inform the clip even more, the characteristically poignant statement Sheff issued to preview the band’s forthcoming record, Away, can be read in full below.

The new Okkervil River album is called ‘Away’. I didn’t plan to make it and initially wasn’t sure if it was going to be an Okkervil River album or if I’d ever put it out. I wrote the songs during a confusing time of transition in my personal and professional life and recorded them quickly with a brand new group of musicians.

I got together the best New York players I could think of, people whose playing and personalities I was fans of and who came more out of a jazz or avant garde background, and we cut the songs live in one or two takes – trying to keep things as natural and immediate as possible – over three days in a studio on Long Island that hosts the Neve 8068 console which recorded Steely Dan’s Aja and John Lennon’s Double Fantasy. I asked Marissa Nadler to sing on it and got the composer Nathan Thatcher to write some beautiful orchestral arrangements, we recorded them with the classical ensemble and then I mixed the record with Jonathan Wilson out in Los Angeles.

2013-2015 had been a strange time for me. I lost some connections in a music industry that was visibly falling apart. Some members of the Okkervil River backing band left, moving on to family life or to their own projects. I spent a good deal of time sitting in hospice with my grandfather, who was my idol, while he died. I felt like I didn’t know where I belonged. When there was trouble at home, a friend offered me her empty house in the Catskills where I could go and clear my head.

New songs were coming fast up there, so I set myself the challenge of trying to write as many as possible as quickly as possible. I wasn’t think about any kind of end product; the idea was just to write through what I was feeling, quickly and directly. Eventually, I realized I was writing a death story for a part of my life that had, buried inside of it, a path I could follow that might let me go somewhere new.

“Okkervil River R.I.P.” and “Call Yourself Renee” are good emotional transcriptions of that time. I wrote the latter on psylocibin mushrooms on a beautiful afternoon in early fall in the Catskills. I wrote “The Industry” quickly after getting some bad news. “Comes Indiana Through the Smoke” is an anthem for the battleship my grandfather served on during the Pacific Theater of World War II. Before becoming a private school Headmaster, my grandfather was also a jazz musician; he paid his way through college as a bandleader, toured with Les Brown and His Band of Renown, and spent summers playing a residency at a NH lakeside gay dance club called The Jungle Room that kept live monkeys in the basement. (You can hear his actual trumpet on this song, played by C.J. Camarieri from yMusic.)

“Judey on a Street” is a love song, sunny but written late at night when the woods are maximum spooky. We cut “She Would Look for Me” pretty shapelessly, with a lot of improvisation, and it’s also a love song. “Mary on a Wave” is about the feminine aspect of God but is in a very masculine tuning: DADDAD. It’s also a love song. I wrote “Frontman in Heaven” in an obsessive three-day streak of writing for 14 hours, going to bed, getting up and writing again. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I wrote “Days Spent Floating (in the Halfbetween)” by just jotting down the first sentence that popped into my head every morning in October immediately after I opened my eyes. At the end of the month I had a finished song. It was recorded as an afterthought as the last thing we did when they were about to kick us out of the studio. You can hear me flub some lyrics. But one take and we had it.

I think this record was me taking my life back to zero and starting to add it all back up again, one plus one plus one. Any part that didn’t feel like it added up I left out. Weirdly, it was the easiest and most natural record I’ve ever made. More than any time in my life before, I felt guided by intuition – like I was going with the grain, walking in the direction the wind was blowing. The closer it got to being finished, the more the confusion I’d felt at the start went away. It’s not really an Okkervil River album and it’s also my favorite Okkervil River album.


Watch “Okkervil River R.I.P.” below and pre-order Away from ATO here.

Watch This: Vol. 59

Video mixtapes aside, it’s been quite a while since a standard volume of Watch This has been posted. This is due to some lingering technical complications but, rest assured, everything that’s been posted over the past few weeks has been studied and collected. It’s why tonight will see the posting of five new installments of the (usually weekly) series. Great live music collides with outstanding documentation in each and every one of the forthcoming entries. Ranging from full sets to DIY takes to stunning single song performances, the contents of this post- and the posts following- cover a wide breadth. All of it’s worth remembering. For the sake of time, convenience, and to avoid all of the inevitable redundancy, this current installment (Vol. 59) will be the only one to contain a written lead-in. All of tonight’s subsequent posts will follow the same pattern that the series has implemented all along: 5 great live-take videos that have emerged since Watch This‘ last five entries. So, as always, relax, turn on the speakers, turn up the volume, lean back, and Watch This.

1. Benjamin Booker – Have You Seen My Son? (WNYC)

Benjamin Booker had a breakout 2014 that saw him light up a number of festivals, earn the ardent support of outlets like NPR, and release a fairly extraordinary self-titled LP on a revered label. While all of that adds up to an impressive tally, it’s the live department where Booker and his cohorts excel. Teeming with determination and moxy, the trio also knows how to let its hair down and are capable of just going off at any given moment. For WNYC, they make their way through a raucous set that includes Benjamin Booker highlight “Have You Seen My Son?”- and it’s undeniably powerful.

2. AJ Davila Y Terror Amor (KEXP)

Beibi was one of the best records to be released by Burger Records this year- yet it never quite received the love it deserved. AJ Davila (also of Davila 666) put together a rousing collection of songs with the Terror Amor collective. KEXP recently brought the band in for a session and they made the absolute most out of the time they were given. Infectiously catchy and exploding with personality, this session doubles as a perfect introduction to the band for the uninitiated.

3. OBN IIIs (WKNC)

OBN IIIs are an absolute force to be reckoned with in the live department. It’s become nearly indisputable (especially following the incendiary Live in San Francisco) and isn’t all that surprising, considering the band’s collective pedigree. Here, they tear through a blistering 10-minute set for WKNC with ease and the overall performance eventually becomes something like a battering ram. If there’s smoke by the end of “Standing”, it’s either coming from the gun that OBN IIIs are holding in one hand or because of the lit fuse in the other.

4. Ex Hex (KEXP)

Mary Timony’s newest project, Ex Hex, was one of 2014’s more pleasant surprises. Rips, the band’s full-length debut lived up to its bold title with an excess of finesse. Yet, for as good as the record is, seeing the band live is an entirely different experience. Everything takes on a more visceral edge and their performances turn into showcases for tasteful showmanship. KEXP invited the band into their studios to film a live session that turns into a comprehensive document on how to do things right.

5. Lightning Bolt (unARTigNYC)

Much was made over the closing of beloved venue Death By Audio. The final weeks of shows there turned into hot-ticket events for everyone eager to preserve its memory. Tribute pieces trickled out and their were definitive look-backs that were published. Death By Audio took it upon themselves to create a documentary of the venue’s final days. A slew of think-pieces arrived and were guided by the hands of very capable writers. Another pair of hands held the camera that filmed the last performance in the venue from legendary noise-punk duo Lightning Bolt. Most of the set on display in this video captures the raw fury that’s constantly present in their music but takes a sharp left turn a little before the 9-minute mark where the video ceases becoming a document and starts becoming a statement. For more than 20 minutes, unARTigNYC loops drummer Brian Chippendale’s heartfelt two-word salute to Vice, the establishment credited with Death By Audio’s corporate takeover. “Fuck Vice”, over and over, an inescapable mantra that fully captures the mindset of a legion of people; some close to the venue and some far removed. “Fuck Vice”, over and over, looped into oblivion. “Fuck Vice”, over and over, until there is nothing left. “Fuck Vice”, over and over, echoing out into eternity. “Fuck Vice”, over and over, until everything fades to black.

MOURN – Otitis (Stream)

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Yesterday this site’s coverage was exclusively dedicated to the premiere of Mutts’ incredible “Black Ties & Diamonds“, ensuring that there’d be quite a bit of material to catch up on today. There weren’t a lot of full streams to emerge but the ones that did made it count. Among them: Cloakroom‘s incredible new 7″, Michael Rault‘s sprightly psych-pop cassingle, Cross Wires’ spiky Your History Defaced EP, and Trust Punks’ snarling post-punk ripper Discipline. Each of those are good enough to have a shot at appearing in a few year-end lists and enhance each respective artist’s profile considerably.

In single stream territory, things got relentless with no less than 11 great songs fighting their way out into the world. These included another look at Cellphone‘s upcoming Excellent Condition with the blistering “No Wind In Hell“, Quarterbacks‘ completely revitalized full-band version of Quarterboy highlight “Center“, A Place To Bury Strangers’ unrelentingly aggressive industrial post-punk bruiser “Straight“, and Seagulls’ airy left-field pop number “You & Me”. Colleen Green teased the upcoming I Want To Grow Up with a career-best in the form of “Pay Attention“, Soft Fangs revealed the quietly mesmerizing “Dead Friends“, Elvis Perkins made an unexpected return with the lightly damaged pscyh-folk of “Hogus Pogus” in advance of the upcoming I Aubade, and Leapling celebrated their teaming with Exploding in Sound via the compelling bizzaro pop of “Crooked“. American Wrestlers teased their upcoming 7″ with the driving lo-fi psych-pop of “I Can Do No Wrong“, Noveller revealed the characteristically beautiful “Into The Dunes“, and Two Gallants unleashed a preview of their upcoming We Are Undone with the vicious title track.

Music videos were just as eventful thanks to efforts like Desperate Journalist‘s strikingly minimal clip for their arresting “Control“, an absolutely gorgeous turn-in for Blonde Redhead‘s “The One I Love“, and Belle & Sebastian’s playful nostalgia in the black-and-white-turned-multicolor “The Party Line“. Elvis Depressedly celebrated their Run For Cover Records signing with the endearingly weird video for “No More Sad Songs“, Dizzee Rascal continued his unlikely hot streak with the visual medium in the  supernatural-tinged kung fu revenge tale contained in “Pagans“, and Hey Elbow conducted an unnerving psychedelic visual collage experiment for “Martin“. Viet Cong created an intensely disquieting clip to serve as an accompaniment for their excellent “Continental Shelf“, TOONS went the simple-and-charming route with “Sittin’ Back“, and Angel Olsen deliver the absurdly stunning Rick Alverson-directed “Windows” (which featured startlingly gorgeous cinematography) to round things out in a manner so stunning that it very nearly earned today’s feature spot.

Enter: MOURN. The young band recently became one of Captured Tracks’ most exciting acquisition since site favorites Perfect Pussy. Immediately standing out thanks to their surprisingly young age(s), MOURN seems to have caught just about everyone off-guard thanks to the enviable strengths of their songs. None of those songs landed with as fierce of an impact as their barn-burning “Otitis”. Unfailingly bleak and deeply impassioned, “Otitis” never goes for anything but a merciless kill. All of this played into why the song was previously featured on this site in the 53rd installment of Watch This, where the song grew even sharper fangs. MOURN has been available digitally for some time and comfortably stands as one of 2014’s most exhilarating releases with “Otitis” being its definitive exclamation point. From the wiry verse progressions, to the cavalcade of sharp hooks, to the intuitive harmony work, to the intimidatingly dark chorus, “Otitis” has put MOURN firmly on the map. All of the excitement rests in watching where they go from here.

Listen to “Otitis” below and pre-order MOURN from Captured Tracks here.

Watch This: Vol. 43

It’s almost hard to believe that there have been 43 weeks since the first installment of Watch This was posted. Over the course of that time, this series has boasted a variety of recurring staples, one of the earliest of which being the “Band/Artist to Watch” segment that was devoted to the fifth and final slot. After being dormant for the vast majority of the series, that particular stamp re-emerges today in anticipation of an incredible release from an artist that’s been too-frequently described as a “best kept secret”. Along with the re-emergence of that sub-series, there’s a return to Little Elephant, a look at NPR’s Field Recordings series, yet another video to be featured from Exploding in Sound’s takeover of Serious Business, and a recent portrait of a band that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked. What it all winds up amounting to is one strange, wonderful capsule that explores some of the finest artists of the moment delivering performances worth remembering. So, sit back, turn the volume up, adjust the visual settings to personal preference, take a drink of something refreshing, focus, and Watch This.

1. Benjamin Booker – Have You Seen My Son? (NPR)

It’s been said before on this site a few times but it bears repeating: Benjamin Booker absolutely tore his set up at the Horseshoe Tavern at NXNE back in June. His debut self-titled record on ATO lived up to some fairly high expectations, revealing him as an extremely worthwhile new talent- and while it does have a sense of vulnerability, it’s usually buried underneath gnarled tones and emphatic gruffness. Here, Booker strips standout single “Have You Seen My Son?” to its barest form; an acoustic ballad. Add in some gorgeous cinematography, courtesy of NPR, and it’s required viewing.

2. Mitski – First Love / Last Spring (Bandwidth)

Every once in a while, there’s an artist that manages to appear on a variety of trustworthy sources but, for some reason or another, gets overlooked or forgotten. Mitski had the misfortune of falling to the latter category a few times this year by virtue of coming up on days that were already ridiculously over-filled with content. After seeing the light perfection that is this utterly enchanting performance of “First Love / Last Spring”, it’s difficult to not want to go back and ensure the mistake of overlooking them was never made to begin with. “First Love / Last Spring” is as sweet of a song as anyone’s put out this year. So, to Mitski: sorry for being late to the party but thanks for sticking around; life’s better with this music in it.

3. Shy, Low – Saudade (Little Elephant)

There haven’t been too many Little Elephant videos to appear that warranted consideration for the Watch This series since Mansions’ thrilling two-song set from way back in May. Fortunately, Shy, Low have provided enough water to make up for that particular drought. “Saudade” is a fascinating mixture of shoegaze, post-rock, golden-era emo, math, and a cavalcade of their connected fringe sub-genres. Every note gets played with investment and commitment while still being technically impressive, which is a medium that a lot of bands strive for but few ever achieve so concisely. “Saudade” is the perfect example of the more aggressive kind of music that’s incredibly easy to get lost in.

4. Baked (BreakThruRadio)

At this point, it’s probably safe to assume that if a video emerges from the Exploding in Sound takeover of BreakThruRadio’s Serious Business series, it will wind up being featured here. Virtually all of them have been nothing short of praise-worthy and Baked’s session continues that trend with ease. Baked themselves have come ridiculously close to landing feature spots on this very site numerous times for their eccentric take on some of this place’s most-frequented genres. In their session, those eccentricities are on full display in both their interview segments and their live form, making for some incredibly compelling viewing.

5. John Davey – Grand Emporium (Xack Gibson)

There are certain performances that manage to stick with a person and John Davey’s capable of delivering them. That’s said with no shortage of authority, having seen Davey deliver a solo acoustic set in a small WI basement to next to no one only a handful of years back. It was a relatively truncated set but it’s proven to be unforgettable thanks to the spellbinding nature of the songs. This being the case, the “Artist to Know” final slot section of Watch This is being revived to feature a gorgeous  black-and-white video that features Davey performing one of his most impressive songs: “Grand Emporium”. Not too much has changed since this video was shot four years ago; Davey’s songwriting remains as nuanced and gripping as ever while allowing some subtle growths in terms of production. All that can be heard on Davey’s sophomore effort, Living Is Trying, which can (and should) be pre-ordered from Dilated Time Records here. “Grand Emporium” also provides a good platform to give this reminder: Heartbreaking Bravery would be nothing without DIY ethos and the artists that embody them across a variety of genres and fields. If a song in a genre that’s not typically covered here manages to come off as transcendental and provides an opportunity to feature an extremely impressive emerging talent, it will get featured. Here’s one of those songs- and one of those talents.


Watch This: Vol. 40

Welcome to the 40th installment of Heartbreaking Bravery’s Watch This series, a weekly examination of the best live videos to have surfaced over the past week. Volume 40 has no shortage of riches to offer and may be one of the strongest offerings of the series to date. From two fiery KEXP sessions to the late night performance of the year, there’s a little something for everyone. Acoustic sessions and feedback freakouts are all contained within and, as is always the case, every band to have secured a spot this week puts on a live show that’s worth seeing multiple times over. So, sit back, focus, turn the volume up to deafening heights, and Watch This.

1. Benjamin Booker (KEXP)

With his now (rightfully) hotly-anticipated record just around the corner, the timing on this KEXP Session couldn’t be more perfect. After Booker’s stunning NXNE performance, the amount of verve on display here isn’t the least bit surprising. ATO Records dug up a diamond with Booker and if he winds up making as much of an impact as he deserves, radio stations will be better off for it.

2. Black Wine – No Reason (Don Giovanni)

Last week Black Wine released the excellent Yell Boss, which included the standout cut “No Reason”. Here, Don Giovanni captures the band running through a brilliant acoustic rendition of that song while also operating as a perfect document of a band having fun just being a band. It’s a riff-happy stomper that showcases the band at their absolute best, making it a can’t-miss affair.

3. Sharon Van Etten – Serpents (Pitchfork)

There are very few voices on the planet more arresting that Sharon Van Etten’s, which is a fact that’s loosely evidenced on record but becomes irrefutable fact in a live setting. Van Etten’s also an artist that can do wonders with a shifting sonic template and when she taps into her darker side it’s usually enough to stop just about anyone in their tracks. “Serpents” found her perfecting that aesthetic and has only grown as a song since its first reveal, which is something that winds up on full display with this performance from Day 1 of last month’s Pitchfork Music Festival. 

4. Ty Segall – Feel (Conan)

It seemed like ever since Future Islands’ career-making turn on Letterman, people have been desperate to anoint the “late-night performance of the year”. The War On Drugs’ “Red Eyes” run-through (also on Letterman) had a lot of people talking as well (as did The Orwells’ Letterman turn) but none of them have felt as furious, as vital, or as sincerely impassioned as what Ty Segall and his band pulled off on Conan O’Brien earlier this week. Previewing “Feel” off of his outstanding new record, Manipulator, Segall and company fearlessly make their way through some vicious solos, a percussion breakdown, and a barrage of insane falsettos before finally pulling off one of the most memorable television performances in quite some time.

5. Cloud Nothings (KEXP)

In all honesty, this entire write-up could be dedicated to what Jayson Gerycz pulls off behind the kit here. That kind of talent is rare enough that it borders on something approaching the realms of the inhuman. That it doesn’t overshadow what Dylan Baldi manages to accomplish with his unbelievably intense vocal/fretwork/lyrical onslaught is nothing short of astounding. Cloud Nothings are operating at an obscenely high level right now, with their live shows consistently outstripping what they managed to accomplish with the 1-2 punch of Attack On Memory and Here and Nowhere Else– two  of the finest records of this decade.  In short: see this band as soon as humanly possible.

NXNE: Day 3 (Review, Photos, Videos)

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Since there were a lot of personal allowances factoring into Day 3 for me, I’ll forego the usual narrative rule and allow myself the use of first-person for this paragraph (and the last). My entire decision to attend NXNE hinged on the lineup for what would be the only show I would see on June 20, 2014; the show at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern- which was re-branded Budweiser Music House at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern thanks to some (admittedly frustrating) corporate sponsorship. What was initially supposed to be an incredible lineup featuring site favorites Greys, Benjamin Booker, Viet Cong, Speedy Ortiz, Swearin’, and, of course, Perfect Pussy, generated even more interest when word leaked out that Spoon was added on late as a secret headliner. This would cause some complications and push the venue past capacity towards the end of the night- but also ensured that as many people bore witness to Perfect Pussy delivering one of the most genuinely unforgettable sets I’ve ever seen (this being the case, it will be covered as a full review in an additional piece). It was the night’s defining moment but didn’t detract from what would be several outstanding performances from each of the other featured bands.

These performances kicked off with Greys, who wasted no time in setting the night’s tone; fiery, intense, full of verve, and impassioned as hell. Every band would live up to this and deliver their own variation on it but few would have a moment as incendiary as the perfect, manic transition of “Guy Picciotto” into “Use Your Delusion“. Greys’ set was twice as fiery as they were at their impressive Day 1 appearance and despite their set being shorter, the reception was still incredibly strong. Once again, their cover of Mission of Burma’s “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate” proved to be a set highlight that helped sustain their incessant momentum. By the time they exited the stage, they’d done everything a young band was supposed to- and likely won a few more converts along the way.

Benjamin Booker took up the torch that was set ablaze by Grey’s and held it at a slight disadvantage; people haven’t heard his debut album- or really know who he is at all. Greys at least had the benefit of a local draw- but Booker had the support of a stellar bill around him and knew he’d have quite a bit to live up to. He delivered, on all accounts. After his incredible appearance on Letterman, though, it was hard to expect anything less. His New Orleans roots were clearly evidenced in his music’s tendency to lean towards being a punk-tinged rock n’ soul throwback (or, in less confusing terms, everything The Black Keys are supposed to be). With a self-titled debut due out on ATO Records, expectations for Booker are high- and if that’s fazing him, he didn’t let it show. It was a triumphant set that hit all the right notes and created a lasting impression. Booker’s last song, in particular, was a noisy, chaotic stunner that was the heaviest song in the set- a trend that would be enforced by every band on the bill. That last song also prompted the very first “one more song” chant of the evening, while Booker’s dropped guitar was left onstage feeding back. He’s a rare talent that has genre sensibility in spades, and infuses his music with a deeply-felt blues. It won’t be long before his name’s appearing in a lot more places.

By the time Calgary’s Viet Cong took the stage, the venue had started to get a little crammed. Viet Cong’s Cassette has been generating a lot of interest in a lot of circles- and given people who loved the short-lived band Women something to love again. After seeing their live performance; it’s earned. All of the critical acclaim and adulation that the band’s certainly going to be receiving throughout the year- it’s all earned. Deftly combining spiky post-punk with a commitment to creative minimalism while emphasizing a tone more somber than celebratory, they’ve landed on a recipe for success. An apathetic demeanor slips in and out of their music, lending it a certain tension and dread that some bands spend their entire existences trying to find. While these songs sound great on record, they breathe in an arresting new way in a live setting. No matter what small setbacks their set experienced (sound difficulties were another unfortunate trend of the evening), the band found ways to manage them. Most memorably, after guitarist Scott Munro broke a string, vocalist/bassist Matt Flegel spearheaded a tribal minute-and-a-half song and followed it with a bit of snark: “If it was [other guitarist] Danny breaking a string on the spot, I wouldn’t have made up a song on the spot, I would have called him a showoff.” It was a welcome bit of unexpected humor from an almost terrifyingly precise band. Viet Cong ended their set in a blaze of fury and chaos and left no uncertainty to the fact that this is a band fully intent on heading places.

Returning to the playfulness of Viet Cong’s broken string reprieve was Speedy Ortiz, who took the stage all smiles and full of quick jokes. Throughout their set they would introduce songs as being about some of the following: The Toronto Raptors, birthdays of band members (that weren’t celebrating their birthdays), and LMFAO- who they gave a well-informed history lecture on (specifically the fact that the duo share a family relation- they’re uncle and nephew). Best of all, though, was their song about “beating Viet Cong up behind the Horseshoe Tavern” after expressing excitement over sharing a bill with sharing so many of their friends- and promising to beat up the ones who weren’t already. On a separate instance, they spent a solid two minutes trying to figure out where the term “hoser” originated from and if it was derogatory or not and eventually deciding it was something to do with gardening or hoses. As great as it is to reminisce about great banter, the fact that Speedy Ortiz delivered one of the most complete sets of the evening- if not the festival- should not be understated. “Doomsday”, “Bigger Party”, and a chill-inducing “No Below” all stood out as highlights in a particularly explosive set. Guitar heroics and sharp drumming were on full display. While sound continued to be an issue, they managed their levels as well as they could and played their hearts out. It was the kind of set that inspires people to starts bands.

Swearin’ was next at bat and wound up being as perfect as ever. They’re a band that’s meant a lot to a lot of people and the support surrounding them was clear. The only thing that even partially marred what was another flawless set was the continuing prevalence of frustratingly low levels for the vocals (this would ultimately come to a head with Perfect Pussy and will factor heavily into the ensuing post). With a discography-spanning set that was equally kind to What A Dump, their self-titled, and Surfing Strange, the band took advantage of the night’s atmosphere and played harder than ever. All of their songs came with a hint of either menace or vulnerability, depending on which route they decided to go (“Empty Head” was the highlight in the case of the latter, while “Dust in the Gold Sack” was the former’s high point). Wasting little to no time on banter, they tore into every song of their set with an intensity more common of a hardcore band than one playing 90’s-leaning basement pop. It was another extraordinary set that hit its peak with the 1-2 What A Dump double punch of “Irrational” and “What A Dump”. By the time guitarist/vocalist Kyle Gilbride’s straplock came rocketing out into the audience during those heavy “Kill ‘Em With Kindness” breakdowns, the band looked like they were ready for anything- and kept the evening pushing forward at breakneck pace.

Original headliners Perfect Pussy played next- and, as mentioned previously, will be covered in full in the post that follows this one. A quick summation for the sake of providing Spoon’s review context: Perfect Pussy played most of their set before a bass head caught fire, no one came to help them despite their most earnest pleas, bassist Greg Ambler snapped his bass and left it to the audience, guitarist Ray McAndrew joined Ambler as he walked off, Shaun Sutkus’ synths and Garrett Koloski’s drumming urged on vocalist Meredith Graves as she slowly sunk to the floor repeating an important mantra with every inch of herself over the chaos, looking very much on the verge of tears and in a state of overwhelmed frustration, the audience reacted- some with unbridled vitriol in an urge to see Spoon (an unbelievably disgusting chant of “Fuck off and die” was repeated several times by at least one individual)- some in an outright trance waiting to see what would happen. They were abruptly escorted off the stage, one-by-one, and Spoon’s set-up time began shortly after. It was a moment of unhinged insanity that bled passion and wound up feeling like a religious experience.

By the time Spoon took the stage, the venue had started spilling out past maximum capacity and the vocal problem was fixed after some communication between the stage and the soundboard revealed the vocals were being run through line 2 rather than the acoustic channel (whether or not this was true for the entire evening is unclear- but it certainly was for Spoon). By the time Spoon took the stage, the mood still felt hostile after the aftermath of the unforgettable ending of Perfect Pussy’s set and made the atmosphere uncomfortable. With the privilege of some inside information regarding the behind-the-scenes going-on’s of the night, it became increasingly difficult to stick around for Spoon’s entire set. Spoon, for their part, played extraordinarily well- each a magnetic presence with Britt Daniel, especially, exuding charisma and star magnetism. After approximately five (admittedly excellent) songs, the preceding events kicked in and I left my spot at the front of the stage for someone who wanted it more- and to check in on my friends (and was subsequently assured everyone was alright and led to a story that will- again- factor into the ensuing write-up). After watching a few more songs from the wings, I wound up meeting up with Speedy Ortiz who spun even more horror stories about the events of the evening. Speedy Ortiz would wind up waiting hours past Spoon’s closing time to load their equipment out thanks to what was essentially, frankly, a disgusting technical condition. After hearing every side from every angle, one thing was clear; it was a frustrating evening for just about anyone that played- but everyone played with everything they had, leaving it, at it’s worst and at it’s best, an incredibly memorable evening for everyone involved.

Videos and links to the photo galleries of Day 3 below.

NXNE Day 3: Greys, Benjamin Booker, Viet Cong (Photo Gallery)
NXNE Day 3: Speedy Ortiz, Swearin’, Spoon (Photo Gallery)

NXNE Day 3: Greys, Benjamin Booker, Viet Cong (Photo Gallery)

Viet Cong II

Once again, an apology for a delay in posting is necessary. Radio silence in regards to new content has gone on far longer than it should have. It should be noted, though, that during this latest silent interim, photographs were being assembled, run through, and edited in a variety of programs. Looking through the old posts, an unusual loading time was noticeable for the featured photography. In an attempt to amend this, all night tonight Heartbreaking Bravery will be running photo galleries. Now that Days 1 and 2 are both firmly in the past and set in stone, everything posted will be broken up into galleries that will have full reviews written for them in the near future.  Day 3 will be an exception due to the fact it yielded the most photographs. To that end, the first of these photo galleries will focus on the first half of the show that wound up being the festival’s main draw for a great many people and the gallery devoted to the second half of this particular lineup will run soon after- with one exception. There will be an entire gallery dedicated to Perfect Pussy’s set (easily the year’s most memorable) as well as a full review. So, without further ado, here are a selection of photographs from The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern (which was re-named Budweiser Music House at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern for the evening). Enjoy the visuals now and expect the written content to appear next week.