MFNW ’11: No Pause (Day One)

My hair started growing, my face became yours.

And so it begins.

Last year was exhausting. Last year, I saw 20 bands over the course of the five days. Last year, I thought, “That was nuts, I don’t think I could survive that again.” This year, I feel as though I should build a time machine, and go back and find myself on my way home from seeing The National, and kick myself in the face for saying such a thing. This year, I wrote my schedule, and realized that I could simply see bands at venues close to the ones I was already going to be at, thereby making everything more intense. It put my total at 30-something bands. I honestly don’t know what the final tally will look like. But I digress.

Last year, I wrote a single blog about every band I saw. This year, I decided to make it a daily thing, and share with you all of the sights and sounds I’ve experienced over the course of my days. Day one consists of a single show: The Kills, and their openers. I started my day late (for the last time this week), and arrived to the Crystal Ballroom around 6 o’clock. After a beer, a good hot meal, and great company, I’m ready to start!

Mini Mansions are the first band off. Keyboards, bass, and a bare drumkit are all they’ve got. Their sound gets tremendously repetitive, but not in the worst way. They embody a certain kind of almost circusesque vibe, and it works well for them. They’re not a band that I’d go out of my way to see, but they are good nonetheless.

Then comes Elanor Friedberger. I don’t exactly know what separates Elanor Friedberger and her four-piece band from her real day job, indie mainstays/roving crazy people The Fiery Furnaces, but the sound isn’t anything to write home about, to be fair. What has always made Fiery Furnaces wonderful is that they were the kind of indie band that Deerhoof are, where their weirdness somehow circles around to the point where it takes itself seriously (kudos to Jeph Jacques for pointing this out). As a solo artist, however, it comes across like Sky Larkin, if Sky Larkin lost all of their wit and charm. This is by no means a way of saying that it was bad; Friedberger on her worst days is still a gem and a wonderful singer and songwriter, but the performance came off just a little too distant. She does, however, have a solo record out, so maybe it makes up for this. We’ll see.

Lastly, we have The Kills. What they have in common with Mini Mansions and Friedberger solo is that I had not once heard them before seeing them. That’s right, I have managed to go the length of their career without so much as bothering with them. Not even when The Dead Weather started existing (though, to be fair, I only ever cared about The White Stripes, and blatantly ignored Jack White’s other projects, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather) did I even muster the bother to see what I was missing. And it turns out… I’m still not sure if I missed anything. Their performance this evening, make no mistake, was powerful. Just like Mini Mansions, The Kills bring forth a specific vibe, and they take that vibe, and run away with it. This can be found in The XX, and it’s not always a bad thing, and it’s not a bad thing here. The band’s stage presence is somewhat captivating, and for what it’s worth, their grungy, bluesy sound is definitely good. The crowd around where my friend and I were standing was populated with some of the worst people I have ever encountered in my years of showgoing, and because of this, I just didn’t enjoy myself as much as I could have. How much jumping around can you do when a man nearly twice your size is trying to steal your spot, and all you want to do is avoid crushing two women who are half your size? If not for this, I would have gotten more into things. As it was, however, I almost feel bad for ignoring The Kills for so long. They’re the opposite side of the coin that The White Stripes once populated, where the blues-rock Americana that they once perfected can be taken down a dark, seedy road, where Alison Mosshart’s Brownstein-esque wail can take you in some interesting directions. All in all, it was a damn good show.

This daily dispatch was started at 4am and, as of this writing, I am running on zero sleep. Tomorrow, I will be watching bands for a large chunk of a 14-hour stretch, so… I may not get tomorrow’s update done… quite straight away. I may come home from Archers of Loaf and simply pass out. I might die at Brand New. Who knows. Stay tuned.

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