Citay, Queening, The Temps, Free Clinic
Monday March 29, 2010 at Helter Shelter
What a night; this was such a crazy evening, in terms of locating the venue and the show itself. I only happened to find out about the show about a week beforehand via a poster on the stairwell leading up to Wicked Discs on Craig Street. I was walking upstairs and did a double take: “What? Citay!? How did I not know about this?” Seriously, there was pretty crappy advertising for this show, and even with what there was, I had a damn hard time finding the venue (this ad was not in the print version of the CP and I only discovered it after the fact when Topekaing to find info on the openers and the venue). But you'll read about that below. The only reason I was even going to Wicked Discs (other than the fact that I go there every couple of months just to see what they have on vinyl) was because I saw on their Facebook page that there was a newly-acquired used Velvet Undeground album called A Symphony of Sound, and I had never heard of it and thought it was worth checking out. Turns out that it's a live recording of (what seems most likely to be) a practice session with Lou, Mo, Sterling, John and Nico (and her son who's pictured on the cover and plays tambourine, haha) in Andy Warhol's Factory in NYC in late 1966, preparing for a show of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. The album consists of roughly 50 minutes of instrumental song, split on two sides, full of reverb and experimental sounds. It's interesting to listen to, and seems to be a nice collector's item (numbered 961/1000 and put out by a record company in Osaka, Japan and labeled as an “unofficial” release). Anyhow, I bought this record after discussing it with owner, and I also bought a vinyl version of Television's Marquee Moon, one of my favorite all-time albums.
So, thankfully, I learned about this show. I also knew about a show at the Brillobox by Miles Kurosky, former lead singer of Beulah (one of my favorite bands, and part of my fortuitous introduction to the Elephant 6 collective in college), happening the same night, and apparently I missed a great show, but I'm glad I got to see Citay live. I first found out about them about two years ago via the “recommended artists” algorithm feature on eMusic and downloaded (and greatly liked) their album Little Kingdom. It's mostly instrumental, and has been a perfect accompaniment for work-time in the office, but their new album (and the live set we saw) features more lyrics yet maintains the same musical sound and offers the same enjoyment, for me. This exact phenomenon reminds me of Saxon Shore, another band I've always liked and thoroughly enjoyed seeing live (3 times in college; I have an mp3 of one of those performances if you're interested) and whose instrumental albums are great but whose newest one features more lyrical content, in a good way.
So anyhow again, I was excited for this show. I was on campus until 6 for class and then went out to the Union Grill for dinner with a prospective math grad student. I thought I knew where the show was happening (The Nerve) based on Citay's MySpace page and had an address for it (off Liberty Ave. in Bloomfield) so I biked there ahead of time to scope it out. What I found was a desolate and rundown residential street, and the address corresponded to an abandoned warehouse next to a fenced-in schoolyard. Okay . . . I guess somebody was wrong. I biked back to Liberty and ordered a caramel latte at Crazy Mocha to use their interwebs and research the current venue problem I was facing, and Lisa met me at the coffee shop. I found a phone # on The Nerve's MySpace page for the owner/manager of this gallery/performance space and called. A woman answered and I said I was inquiring about the concert and she sounded . . . confused, basically muttering to herself that she oversees many venues and can't keep track of them. “For tonight? Do you mean April 1st?” she asked, and I said that I hoped it wasn't a premature April Fool's prank, and that the website listed tonight as the correct date, at The Nerve. She corrected me and said, “It's called 'The Shop' now” and said there's a different address (which explains the abandoned warehouse, I suppose). She gave me the phone # for a guy named Ed to call for more info (after accidentally hanging up on me while searching for the # on her phone). I called the new # and got no answer, so I went back inside to Google some more. What I realized was that The Nerve's MySpace page does say that they are moving and changing their name to The Shop and having an opening ceremony in May of 2009. (Update your website, please! Change the MySpace name! Do something to avoid this confusion!) Also, the little excerpt of the page that shows up underneath the URL in the Google search takes text from a comment on the MySpace page by some random person posting info about an event happening at The Nerve in 2009 before the move to The Shop. Why is that the extracted text? Jeez Google. Anyway, I found an address for The Shop and it was on Main, only 2 blocks from the very coffee shop where we currently were, so we decided to walk that way and see what's there.
Naturally, the address corresponded to an empty building on the corner of Main and Liberty. I thought it was about time to try calling Ed again, and this time he answered. I told him I was standing at “The Shop” hoping to find the Citay concert, but he said matter-of-factly that the show is “actually happening at Helter Shelter”. Okay, how am I supposed to know that? He gave me an address, near the corner of 50th & Butler and told me how to walk there from our current location, which was nice, and said I should call back if we got lost, which was even nicer. So despite all the confusion up to that point, I had a good feeling that it was going to work out. We set off on foot straight down the hill to Main & Butler, then took a right and walked the long 11 or so blocks to 50th Street. We passed some interesting shops and restaurants and bars, and it reminded me how little of Lawrenceville I know and how much I'd like to explore it. We passed the Allegheny Cemetery and I thought about giving my friend Joe, who works there, a call, but I decided we were in a semi-rush. So when we finally got there, at the corner of 50th & Butler was a local business of some kind (insurance, I think?) and we could see down to the end of 50th and it looked quite dark . . . so we decided to walk another block or two just to see what else was around. We noted a bar on the corner of 51st and then more restaurants and shops, so we just turned around and decided that we must have missed something at the end of 50th. And we did. Walking down 50th into the darkness was interesting; it seemed like we were heading into the middle of a residential street (which we were) and then we saw a group of 3 people standing in front of a white van smoking and I said, “Ooh people, that's a good sign, right?” So I was thinking that the van was a good sign of musicians on tour, and those people could very well be a band between sets. However, Lisa was quick (and correct, verily) to point out that a group of people on a dark street standing around a nondescript van smoking some unidentified substance is not necessarily a good sign. We forged ahead anyway and discovered two groups of people who also seemed very confused about whether this was the right place for the concert. I should have asked them more about how they found out about the show and how they got there, but at that point I was just happy to learn that the concert was, indeed, happening at this place (someone's house, actually) and that they were just waiting until 9:00 to start. We could peek into the back entrance and see an empty room with red walls and a drumkit and amps, and through the window of the main entrance we could see into the kitchen where a sizable crowd of musician-y looking people were standing around talking and drinking.
We ended up deciding to walk back to that bar on the corner of 51st Street for the 20 minutes or so until 9:00. It was called the “Blue Moon” and it still had a neon Blue Moon (beer) sign in the window. We walked in to find a mostly empty barroom with no one seated at the bar (everyone was at circular tables on the side) so we plopped down just inside the door and ordered some Yuengling on tap. It was only then that I took stock of our surroundings: the TV was showing some RuPaul reality show, there was a large rainbow flag over the bar, and when I went into the men's bathroom there were pictures of penises everywhere. Yup, a gay bar. I chuckled to myself in the bathroom (as strange as that sounds) for not being so observant upon first entering the bar, and then realized I didn't care. We ended up staying for another beer (when I slid my glass away from me apparently that meant “I want another one, thank you”) that I drank quickly, and then I bought a 6 pack of PBR to go, since we realized that if the bands were chilling in the kitchen of this house before the show, this was probably going to be BYOB. We walked back there and wandered into the house via the drumset room; no one was in there. It was a tall-ceilinged room with red-painted walls and not much else, save for the aforementioned drumkit and amps, and a keyboard/organ. This room was still creepily empty so we wandered further into the dining room area, and still found nobody: everyone was in the kitchen.
We decided to just plop down awkwardly on the couch in the dining room (yeah, there's a couch in there) since we didn't know anybody. Shortly thereafter, people started milling about in both rooms as more people walked in after us. Somebody walked up to us and introduced himself as Ezra and asked if we were in one of the bands; we said no and then learned that this was Ezra Feinberg, Citay's main man. Cool. I didn't recognize anyone else in the band, but as it turned out, a majority of the people there either were either performing or lived in the house (or both). Finally, it was music time. Sorry for the meandering narration here, but it really was quite an adventure even getting to this place.
A local trio played first, Free Clinic. They had a drummer and two guitarists, one female and one male and they both sang. Well, they both yelled. There were some melodies somewhere, but mostly it was pure, sloppy, live rock; it was actually kinda perfect for the time and place, but I'm glad they played a short set (under 15 minutes). At that point everyone migrated back to the kitchen/dining room for 10 minutes until the next band came on. The Temps were a 4 (maybe 5?) piece with guitar and keyboard and drums. For their introduction, the singer declared, “We're 'The Temps', for now . . .” Har har. They were slightly less sloppy than Free Clinic but just as loud and punk/poppy. I liked what they keyboard added to the sound, but other than that they were kinda forgettable. Apparently most of the people in this band lived in the house, as told to us by one of their friends, Sean, who was quite friendly. He even gave both of us some beer later on, and told us about some other shows around town in the near future. The third band was Queening, from Brooklyn. They fit in well with the sloppy punk rock genre of the two openers but had a much tighter sound. They had a male drummer and a female guitarist/singer, and that's it, but their sound really filled the room and didn't feel thin. Again, nothing particularly memorable about them, but it was quite enjoyable in the live setting.
Finally, Citay took the stage around 11:30. They played a fairly short set (at least it felt short and Lisa's post-show shout of “Come back and play some songs you haven't played yet!” had no effect) of songs from the new album, of which I ended up buying a vinyl copy from one of the singers afterwards. The songs are superbly uplifting, with lots of strummed guitar and vocal harmonies, but they add some flourishes, like a swirly-psychedelic guitar on the opening track “Careful With That Hat”, and a faithful-yet-unique cover of Galaxie 500's “Tugboat” (which they may have played that night without me recognizing it). It was a good set, really quite different from the preceding three bands, and I think they really wowed the crowd with their ability to play loudly but not out of control and mix catchy pop hooks with a full 7 person sound. Oh yeah, they squeezed seven people (three guitars, drums, keyboard, multiple singers) onto that tiny stage (i.e. corner of the room)! I was both incredibly excited to be able to see them live and in such a setting, but it was also unfortunate that it wasn't a bigger, more widely-known venue so that others in the citay (hah) could see them. Oh well. I'll definitely be on the lookout for the next time they roll through town. After the show we milled about the dining room a little longer and ended up talking to one of the female singers for a while about math concepts and math education, of all things. Neat. Eventually it was time to go, and we made the long trek back down Butler Street then up Main and Liberty back to Shadyside although, in retrospect, it didn't seem so distant at the time. I got home around 1 or 1:30 and collapsed into bed, tired from a long walk and a good night of music and adventure.
I actually can't find any internet info about the first two openers, and Queening only has a MySpace page.
Band profile and album review, with streams of 3 tracks
“Little Kingdom” live in NYC
“Eye on the Dollar” music video
Live in Seattle